Friday, January 27, 2006

I'm pleased. I made a recent sale to 'The Dalhousie Review'. Actually, I'm ecstatic. I've made some other recent sales too, to which I also feel gratified. While writing books, the short stuff keeps circulating, and in the circulating, comes the sales.

I've had it with winter. I drove through the parkway this morning, noting how the sun cast the snow into sequins, and how the stark branches of trees look like dark capillaries spreading out against the sky. Beautiful, yes, but I yearn warmth. I want to be able to lounge on a porch, candle lit, bare feet resting upon a stool, to take in the greenery of arriving summer. I miss the hickory scent of barbecues; the drone of evening cicadas.

Soon, I shall post some writing to the site. Life is hectic, blending the days between work and writing, family, and finding that rare quality of moment called 'down time' where you can stop for a few minutes, or longer, and not feel compelled to have to 'do' something.

I wonder if retired people often find themselves with too many 'down' moments and push themselves back toward a sense of structure?

Outside, the wind tosses windchimes into each other, and the sky has turned to the color of ash. In stores, shelves of forced tulips, crocuses, and daffodils forge a sense of greenery and spring for the price of $2.99 a bundle.

We need color in the winter. The landscape is devoid of most of it, save for swatches of dried grasses and evergreen set against alabaster.

Soon, it will be time for all of us to awaken from our slumber.

Goodbye winter; hello spring.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Into the new year

One day into the new year, and into the usual scattering of accompanying resolutions - some writing-related, some life-related, some day-to-day related.

I've concentrated a lot on writing books over the last few years, but let the shorter work slip while doing so. Recently, I've begun to write more short fiction again (completed a short mainstream collection, "Dark Heart" recently, and made a recent poetry sale, as well as a non-fiction writing article sale. The poem, "Burial" will be out in January's "Poe Little Thing 4" published by Naked Snake Press, and the article in this June's edition of "The Canadian Writer's Journal". I have been prolific over the holidays, having produced a half dozen non-fiction articles for marketing while tinkering with the fiction end of things.

I look forward to joining a local writer's group this winter, a compendium of local authors with serious mindsets toward writing and publishing. We need more of this around here. Cheers to the venture!

In another week, classes begin again (sigh); they can be time-consuming, and lately my energy has been depleted by too many things. I'd been walking an hour a night for months, but found that I got the chance to do little of this during the month of December. The reasons were varied: poor weather, viruses, work schedules, and the ruckus of the holidays.

Truthfully, I'm glad that the holidays are done and now I can get back into the regular routine of things. Plow through winter (no, I'm not a skier, nor do I own a Skidoo) but I am a kayaker and look forward to the spring with much anticipation of the warming thaw, and the opening again of the riverways and tributaries. I am also a hiker and bicyclist who covets the clear paths through woodlands and valleys.

Set the boat in the water and step in, using the oar to push out from the river's edge. Immediately, fine mist and the river embraces you. You float out, slowly, moving the paddle just enough to forward your momentum into the current. The river deepens below you. You look down and watch the water deepen in hue as river grasses expand and rise up, forming mountains of emerald filled with tiny fish whose shadows ripple along the bottom of the river. A faint aroma of brine and water fill the air. In the distance, ducks take flight at your approach, their wings beating a path over the water's surface until they rise into the air, silhouetted against the pink sky. Sunrise on the river. In the helm of the kayak, dry bags contain fresh vegetables and fruit, energy bars, a small cookstove that will be lit upon the flat surface of a dry rock upon reaching a distant shore. Hours of paddling inspire a hunger and thirst.

Nothing quite equals the sheer joy of being alive than to sit in soft grasses by the water's edge in a place far from the regular flow of human traffic; far from highways and trails, on the lip of an island out in the middle of the river, with metal coffee mug clasped between hands, kayak pulled out of the water so that it's tip rests against sand, the waves rocking it a little, to watch the morning wane toward noon.

After a morning and afternoon like this, I come home and write. Writing keeps me sane, and kayaking ties the package together like a silken ribbon, putting the final touch around the day.

I did walk this morning; husband and I set out with dog into the woods, skirting the frozen surface of the landscape coated in last week's ice rain offering. We walked, collars pulled up high around our cheeks while dog bounded ahead, back legs scissoring with precision between front legs, canine-style. Snow crunched and collapsed under our feet, creating miniscule craters depicting our passage through what had otherwise been virgin snow until our walk. We watched our breath form clouds ahead of us. The air was as crisp as the snap of a dry branch. The colors of the land were alabaster, ochre, and the subdued brown of wood bracing itself against this often merciless season. Somewhere, a hint of wood smoke, a promise of warmth hidden inside a hearth. At one point, ice hid beneath a dusting of fine snow and compromised my footing. I did an involuntary little pirouette before righting myself. The river flowed ahead of us, mostly frozen, save for meager patches of cobalt where the current stays active.
"We could kayak in that," says husband.
"Simply run with it, allowing the kayak to float across the ice and out into the pool," says I. Wistful thinking, that.
With a smile and a shrug, we turned around and headed back to the car. Dog bounded ahead of us, unpeturbed by this yearning to paddle, or the weather.
Home to a hot toddy with a generous dollop of rum.
And now, the anecdote shared, of a winter morning that inspired me to write.

Happy New Year to those who have stopped in to read. May the year be generous to you, and may you discover your own island in whatever it is you choose to do.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Everyone must be gone for the holidays...

It's that time of year, when everyone gets ready to shut down for the holiday season. I've had some short stories and other stuff out circulating since the summer and am still awaiting word from various editors; with luck, in the new year, or shortly thereafter.

We were hit with the first behemoth snowstorm of the season two days ago; woke up to five inches of ice along walkways, filling each crack and crevice of doorway, windowsill...had the joy of driving to work in snow so deep it was akin to plowing through a foot of icing sugar, barefoot. Imagine. At least icing sugar is sweet, and warm.

For the last three weeks I have been buried under the weight of academia and homework correction, and so have seen my writing and marketing diminished while I plowed through other paper. It'll be good to have some extra time over the holidays to get back into a routine of writing daily again. I don't know if I'll have as heavy a teaching schedule, come the winter. On one hand that's a good thing; it'll allow me more breathing room to write on a schedule that will please me, but on the down side, will cut back on some of the salary to which I've become accustomed.

I have one agent still hanging onto a book with interest, and hope that this may bring some final, good news into the new year. Have had an editor invite another novel; and so life moves forward, one day at a time.

That is how I approach most things, and have for the past while: one day at a time.

So, in the lull of the approaching holidays, I bid you all the best for the upcoming new year. Here's holding a mug of cold beer in salute to another twelve months of annual resolutions, the passing of the cold season, and to the continued penning of more tales.

Winter's kiss is but a whisper along bone
as cold sets in and casts us into sleep
Flakes linger and drift, to come to rest
upon closed eyelids
Waiting for warmth of longer days
When rebirth allows us to stir and take
a deep breath, once again

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Waiting on word...

It has been a while since I've posted anything. The summer has flown past, its weather volatile and far too unpredictable. Now autumn presents itself the same way: one day balmy and appealing, the next coating us in wet snow or freezing rain.

I've been busy writing, squashing deadlines for writing projects in around my day job - recently completed a dark mainstream short story collection called 'Dark Heart'; it is composed of six short stories and one novella.

I'm waiting on word back on many writing projects; a novel with an agent in NYC, another with a mid-sized publishing house; still others are short stories circulated to independent magazines, some as far back as last mid-July...uh-huh - but then, a four to five month wait on a reply isn't unusual. It is simply a gift when the replies come sooner.

Snail mail is something wonderful, yet becoming increasingly rare. Electronic mail is fun, snappy, and definately efficient, but nothing can beat the tangible feel and sight of an 'actual letter' in the mail box. That's the nice part about being a writer, even if too many of those S.A.S.E's contain a 'no thanks, this isn't quite for us' style of reply. It's pure marketing. If one can't use a piece of work, you simply try the next potential on your list.

So now we head into the drizzly, fleece-required, autumnal weather. Today rain blows agains the attic windows, moving along the glass in steady rivulets of near-freezing water. The sky is morose, its clouds closer than usual. Most of the color in the landscape has blanched to recent winds, leaves having been knocked from their host trees (what a beautific sight a few weeks ago, traipsing in the woods while leaves canopied and see-sawed with each gust). Now branches are bare, grasping veins against the sky. While walking the other evening, I noticed a few homes already displaying outdoor festive lights for the approaching holidays. Against the dark night pinpricks of green, red, white, blue, and yellow create a sense of home and hospitality.

When the rain stops, I'll put my own lights up outdoors. In the meantime, I sit inside and create new stories; venture out to the mail box and peek inside; write more stories. It is a cycle, a most wonderful cycle despite its occasional frustrations, and one which I cannot think of existing without.

Happy Holidays. I hope to post something again before December - if time permits.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Almost, the end of the summer...

Where did the time go? Here we are, halfway through August already. Given the heat we've had, combined with so little precipitation, everything has that late-summer, spent look to it. Gardens and lawns lean toward ochre; fruits on trees have reached their prime, and around here in farm country, most crops are being, or have already been harvested.

When you walk into stores now, alongside the reduced bins for summer merchandise, you find all the back-to-school supplies and the first of the Thanksgiving and Halloween decorations being put out on the shelves. That's right, folks - put away the summer pastels in favour of the autumnal russets, golds, and cerise.

Already the days have begun to shorten so that we now see dusk by 8:30 at night, and the air grows somewhat cooler. Woodsmoke from the camp grounds drifts past, lending a spicy, almost desolate feel to the breeze. We sat out on our back deck last night, feeding chunks of wood into our chimnea, watching the first stars poke holes into the sky.

And as the autumn descends, so does the mood change toward the writing; summer settings will be replaced, in some cases, by those dipped in autumn - the baring of branches, the heating of warm ciders, and the skeletal click of bones leading us by the hand toward the cold season.

Have had a request for an entire manuscript from a very significant NYC agent; have another editor perusing another full mss. I sit with fingers crossed. Still more queries continue to circulate re: other works, and the mail box beckons.

As the colder, more winterly winds arrive along our doorsteps, I'll don a warm fleece and gloves, to tred to the mail box, kicking dry leaves ahead of my path. As the rains begin, runneling along windowsills and gutters, I'll listen for the sounds that always inspire the writing while finding comfort in the basic securities of life: home, family, writing, a touch of wine or a good beer to celebrate the day, and a fire in the hearth.

Come autumn; come, and take our hands.

Pick up the pen, applying the kiss of its tip to the silken skin of paper, and let the words flow.

On a separate note: we purchased our first kayak and equipment this week: a Wilderness System 'Tsunami' boat; 14.5 feet long, brilliant yellow. We are ecstatic. We've spent the summer kayaking with rental boats, finding joy along the water's surface - perusing the depths of the St. Lawrence. On a clear day, with the sun overhead, one can look down through fifteen feet of water and see each stone, clam shell, and ribbon of river grass. Shadows of fish skating by ripple along the bottom.

Soon enough, when the mosquitoes die down and allow easy passage through the woods again, I'll take to the trails to note the turning of the leaves; the sweet, slightly decaying miasma of summer matter turning to spoil; the last drones of late-season dragonflies.

Celebrate in the seasons, do. I am inspired.

Friday, July 29, 2005

As the summer progresses...

Here we are, almost into August already. Where did the time go? I spent half of June and all of July teaching a condensed credit course. The money was good, but it cut into way too much of my writing time - however, given that the computer was 'in the shop', all writing had been conducted by hand, in journals, or simply working out ideas in my head.

I've begun several new books that will take me through the autumn and into the winter. As well, I'm working on a short story collection that I will market, come the late winter. I have numerous queries out on various pieces and expect that I'll hear back on most of these by some time in September.

Sent a collaborated novel out to a small house back in mid-April; got high compliments on the writing, but the book wasn't quite what they were looking for - despite their enjoying reading it. It means keeping the work circulating, again and again and again, untl it finds a home.

This is the nice thing about writing short fiction while working on longer projects. Books tie you up; they're fun, and I love writing them, but a great attribute of short fiction is it's ability to be written within a short period of time and out circulating while you work on the longer stuff. Getting these little successes each time you place a short story helps temper the long waits and often frustrating rejections that come with trying to place a novel within the highly competitive book industry.

I'm on the hunt for a literary agent who is versatile enough to be willing to handle both genre and mainstream/literary writing - because I'm versatile enough to write in more than one area. The search continues...

As well as writing fiction, I've begun circulating queries for a narrative non-fiction with a good stab of dark humor in it. Trying to find a good agent isn't easy.

On a non-writing front, I've acquired three new rats this month: a hairless named Toby Crinkles, my lovely fawn-colored boy named Stanley, and most recently a little dark-haired female we've named Misha Guinevere. I purchased a small animal cage and mounted it to the front of my bicycle. I can now take my rats out for daily runs on the bike (love that scenery and fresh air) - noses pointed into the wind, tails braced for any bumps along the route.

Soon enough summer will give way to the first hints of autumn, when the nights cool and the colors of the landscape begin to deepen in hue. Woodsmoke in chimneys casts a spicy pall over the night air. Already, while in a dollar store the other day, we turned and corner - and came across none other than Hallowe'en decorations lining an aisle. Pumpkin faces and autumnal leaves in garlands. A bit strange in July, but not surprising, given commercial marketing trends.

I sign off for now.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Finally back on line

Finally back on line again after going a month without my computer. New computer (only ten months old) but it required a new motherboard and modem due to repeated problems that often left me without an ability to connect to the internet.

I wrote stories via pencil and paper for a few weeks - this just goes to show how spoiled we are with computers. No cut and paste with pencil...old fashioned editing everything (okay, I kept the first draft and waited for the computer to return) can be a tedious thing.

Several short stories and two novels are out circulating at the moment; summer months slow things down, but with this heat - no small wonder. Days have hit the low thirties (Celcius) with high humidity and spats of thunderstorms.

Two new books on the go, as well as numerous short stories. I'm finishing teaching a summer applied communications course next week; it'll be good to have my time to myself again for August and the first eleven days of September before the whole cycle starts over again.

Got two new pet rats recently; a young beige and white male who is about eight weeks old (arrived on July 6th) who is named Stanley. Today, a four week old hairless blue male who we have called Toby (short for Tobias). These animals make great pets. I can't imagine life without rats. I am now the proud co-habiter with seven rats and five mice.

That's about all of my news for now. Evenings on the front porch, enclosed with screen and Victorian woodwork, candles lit, cold beer or glass of wine in hand are appreciated on days like this in this fine, balmy season. I've been practicing highland drumming, along with the playing of my African djembe drum.

Life is good. Yeah.