03 December 2009

Happy Christmas, XO Pumpkinhead

I think my favourite move is at 1:13, where Pumpkinhead semi-covertly pulls up his leotard. Awesome.

Via Videogum. If you're not reading Videogum, you don't love bunnies or hugs.

02 December 2009

Trading Up

Two years ago, I decided to rearrange my life around my writing. Some people work a regular job and do their creative work on the side. I am convinced that I am not one of those people. A lot of different things factored into my decision, but a huge part of it was hitting my late thirties and realizing that I didn’t want the rest of my life to look like the first part of my life. I wanted to make creative work the centre. I had always wanted that, but how I came to own my desire is a little bit of a story.

Here it is, in case anyone wants to know.

I’ve always wanted to write. My real passion for it began when I was in grade three and Mrs. Thompson gave me three gold stars for my story about a duck. She even let me write it out in huge letters! in magic marker! on a giant pad of paper! so everyone could read it. I guess that counts as my first publication.

I took a degree in English and Philosophy after high school. I finished my undergrad in 1993 and said goodbye to school. I jumped head first into a dysfunctional relationship that would last for most of the nineties. Despite my crazy love life, I wrote on and off during this time. I did manage a few publications, mostly in homemade magazines with bad artwork and utterly gross aesthetic sensibilities – right up my alley.

After a few years of freelance editing, I decided that the whole school thing wasn’t so bad after all. I went back for more. During my Master’s degree I flirted with minor intellectual stardom. I was a medium sized fish in a small pond. I liked it.

My dysfunctional relationship couldn’t share space with my burgeoning academic career, so I took the cat and moved into an apartment all my own. I took a PhD in English Literature, specializing in Renaissance Drama. I replaced my crazy ex with a crazy thesis supervisor.

All the while, I was studying tai chi and various other forms of energy work. These two different worlds – academia and the mystical – didn’t quite mesh, but I was okay with that.

Throughout my years of study, I always meant to do creative work, but there was just never time. Grad school really crushed the creative urge out of me: since you’re supposed to be publishing constantly, there’s little time for any writing beyond the academic. In my field, it’s article writing or nothing, so I wrote articles. I told myself that it was enough of an outlet. All the while, a protest was building in the hidden chambers of my soul. Because I was busy, intellectually and emotionally engaged in school, and under the special kind of pressure that grad school brings, it was easy to ignore.

Things began to turn around when I finished my degree and won a fellowship to do two years’ further research. Part of the deal was spending winters in Washington DC. Through a mixture of stubborness, determination not to be separated from my cat for three months at a time, sheer good luck, and kismet, I ended up renting a Victorian house on Capitol Hill for those winters.

There was something magical about my time in Washington. The cat and I had this huge, rambling place all to ourselves, I had all the free museum access I could handle, and there was enough cash to keep me going without having to worry – at least for a little while.

Most importantly, for the first time ever, no one was watching me. I was a little bit accountable to my new supervisor (who was lovely and not crazy in the least), to let him know what I was working on. I worked steadily, but slowly. I gave myself lots of space and time to fiddle around. If I didn’t show up at the research library, people did comment, but my funding was from an independent source, so it really didn’t matter. Most of my time was my own.

Sometime in these Washington winters, I started to play with creative work again. I meditated and I practised tai chi in the tiny garden at the back of the house. Slowly, I reacquainted myself with the magic of words on paper. Once I started, I didn’t want to stop.

A realization was beginning to simmer at the back of my brain: if I wanted to be a writer, I couldn’t be an academic too. I’m sure some people can. Some people are way more amazing and capable of multitasking than me.

But I have to say that I’ve also seen a lot of academics who are battered down, unhealthy, and drained dry by their careers. The average English department is chock full of frustrated creatives who just don’t have the time or energy to play with writing. Those people scared me. One of my mentors – one of those people who seemed to be balancing creative work with a professorship – ended up in the hospital with a serious illness. When I asked senior faculty members what their careers were like, they did nothing but complain. I saw a possible future me in those people.

At the same time, the academics of my generation who were getting tenure stream jobs were the ones most incredibly driven to succeed. They worked tirelessly at their research and nothing else.

The academic job market that was supposed to be wide open by the time I graduated was tighter than ever. I found myself competing for the few available jobs with people who had been at it for years. They wanted it more than I did, and I knew that. I’m sure the committees who interviewed me knew it too.

As someone who had outside interests, I was an exception. I knew sooner or later I would be forced to decide between my academic work and the rest of my life.

Slowly, I started to make a decision. This was in no way something I rationally thought through. It’s more like my heart broke open one day and all this stuff came flooding out. I couldn’t put it back in, not without causing myself some damage.

In September 2007, as the academic job market was gearing up, I went up north to our family cottage, sat by the lake, and cried my guts out.

When I was done, I walked back up to the cottage and told my partner that I wanted to quit academia.

He nodded. “I know, it’s making you miserable,” he said. “What else would you want to do?”

I think telling him that I wanted to be a writer took more courage than just about anything else I’ve done in my life. Admitting it to him meant admitting it to myself.

I’ve been working at it for two years now. Mostly it’s been a downhill ride in a shiny red wagon. I'm not where I need to be if I'm going to make writing a career. But I know what I want to do and I’m giving as much of my time as possible to doing it. I have rearranged my life around writing.

I won’t lie: this is a crazy tough road. I’m living with a ridiculous degree of instability. There is nothing right now on which to base the kind of future plans that most people make. I’m working very odd jobs. I would say “to make ends meet”, but at this point I’m really just hoping that ends agree to talk to each other sometime in the future before my line of credit runs out.

For the first time ever, I have peace. My insides feel right, and that is something you can’t buy.

I’m unsure that my creative career will ever go anywhere. But I do know that it wasn’t going anywhere before, and I do believe that if you put positive effort into something, it will grow.

Into what, that’s not for me to say. But I’m going to do my best to make it something awesome.

30 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty-Nine

Word Count: 50 740
Victories: several

Is it tacky to post my winner's badge here? You know, I don't think I care.

Well! There we go. That's one way to get a novel draft out. In terms of the draft, I'm really happy with where it's gone. It's a solid effort and there are lots and lots of things for me to work on, and several creative ways I can see adding to my word count. Since I'll be filling in gaps, I think Draft 1.2 will be a little easier to work on than the last 30 days of slog has been. And here we are, on one of the few super late nights I had to pull during the month.

It doesn't hurt that I'm really in love with this story. Yes, that is most definitely a good thing.

29 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty-Eight

Word Count: 45 422
Radical narrative shifts: 2

One of the fun things about doing a full draft - meaning a draft of a story with a beginning, middle, and end - within November is the length of the thing. I'm just not capable of going much beyond 50k in one month without having some kind of nervous breakdown / horrendous lapse of personal hygiene. What this means is that there are enormous gaps in the narrative that are waiting to be filled in later.

One consequence of this situation is that as the climax approaches, I'm throwing everything and the kitchen sink into the mix in order to make sure that my heroine arrives at the end (mostly) intact, if profoundly changed.

So I'm seeing a proliferation of deus ex machina right now. If I were writing a play for an ancient Greek audience, it would be a massive hit, no doubt. Or at the very least, satisfy some of their aesthetic criteria. As it stands, the work of December (and possibly but hopefully not beyond) is going to be to carefully seed all this last minute information into what came before. Presto, chango! Deus ex machina, gone!

(What's the plural of deus ex machina, anyway? Dei ex machinae, or something?)

27 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty-Seven

Word Count: 42 162
Leaping grandpas: 1

What can I say? I'm writing my way through the end of the story - and I have no idea how all this is going to get resolved. I suspect several characters will die, undie, redie, and / or spontaneously combust. Three more days; 7838 words to go. Not a cake walk, but totally doable now that the weekend is here.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Days Twenty-Five and Twenty-Six

Word Count: 40 464
Lily livered heroes: 5

I'm sending my people into the House of Bad for the big finish. Telling this sort of thing in retrospect - because the outcome is already known to whoever's survived and is writing it down - is proving to be a bit of a fun challenge.

I'm planning to pour it on over the weekend - I aim to have NaNo mostly if not totally in the bag by the end of Sunday. Nothing like the spirit of competition / feeling jealous of others who have already crossed the finish line to make you want to work!

25 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty-Four

Word Count: 38 533
Set-ups to big events: 2

Okay, I'm looking at how much is left to go and I'm taking Chris Baty's advice to start winding things up. I'm at 11k shy of the ultimate goal, I know that's not a whole lot of word count left to work in a big finish.

Gotta love big finishes!

24 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Days Twenty-Two and Twenty-Three

Word Count: 38 047
Bitch fights: several

Okay, most of the bitch fighting has been going on in my head and / or with actual people. But there's been some pretty good face slapping going on in the novel, too!

Seriously, yo, on Sunday I wrote a grand total of 21 words. Somehow there's something a little bit sad about those 21 words, as opposed to days where I just don't manage to crank out any. Well, it'll all be over in six more days - at least for this draft. I'm hovering below par by about 2k, things are getting a little intense with work-work, but I think it will all work out just fine.

22 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty-One

Word Count: 35483
Strategic uses of the cat: 2

35k is supposed to be a magic number in NaNo terms. And yes, it does feel to me like everything is going to be totally okay in terms of reaching 50k by the end of the month.

So I'm already worrying about what December is going to look like. I want to finish this baby! And although I've got lots of ideas rattling around right now about how to fill the very substantial holes in my story, I'm worried about running out of steam. Plus the holidays...they always throw a wrench into the works, don't they?

But you know there's that old zen saying about worry: worrying is like putting a horse on top of another horse and trying to ride.

21 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twenty

Word Count: 33 574
Great Conjunctions: 1

I'm trying to plot my plot so that it completes its arc within November. By the time I hit 50k, I want to have a beginning, middle, and end.

I've been comparing notes with fellow WriMos, especially girlwithapearl, on this bit of NaNoWriMo strategy. I'm leaving holes - big ones - as I go, with plans to retrace my steps and fill in later with appropriate pieces. Some of these I know about and am taking notes on as I go. Some of them - well, hopefully they'll come to me later.

The idea here is that November is such a magical time, that I don't want to be left with a partially finished story arc at the end of it. I want to feel not only that I've completed 50k, but that I've completed a draft, however gap-laden, of my novel.

Now that exciting events are taking place in the world of my story - events with dire consequences - I'm glad for that decision.

20 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Nineteen

Word Count: 31 114
Vamp dinner parties: 1

That's almost 3400 words today. Much, much better. Lord, NaNo is such a trip!

There's a thing about vampire stories, I'm sure you've noticed: there tends to be an elegant sort of trickster / villain / badass vamp who turns up in these things and takes over the show. I'm talking about Charlaine Harris's Eric. Anne Rice's Lestat. You know what I'm saying. That bad man.

I'm trying to see if I can keep my equivalent figure from stealing my book away from me, since my determination from the beginning has been that this will be about female vamps.

I'm wondering if his interminable strangeness is going to do the trick.

19 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Eighteen

Word Count: same as the day before
Sadness: 1

Wednesdays are busy for me. In my other life I've taken on a ghostwriting job and there are long phone meetings to be had as we discuss strategies for making my part of the work all that it needs to be. There are writing classes to go to. There are tai chi students to teach. There are my own tai chi lessons to learn.

It's weird to me how time always manages to contract around your obligations, so there is never enough of it. Because I'm a night owl, going to bed is always a struggle. It always feels more like giving up than taking care of myself.

Last night, I decided to opt for an early bedtime. Nothing got done on day 18.

Now today - the 19th - is grey and ugly, and I'm feeling bummed out. It's one of those typical November days - it seems like the sun never exactly rises, and a long, slow drizzle falls all day long. Upsetting for small dogs who need exercise. And bad for hiking. But maybe good for writing and reading.

17 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Seventeen

Word Count: 27 718
Breaches of etiquette: a baker's dozen

This seems to be the year for Hamilton NaNos to hate their plots and characters. Lots of people have been complaining that they really don't like what they're writing, or who they're writing, and some have switched gears to get away from baroque plots and insipid wretches.

For me, I'm liking my people more and more. And not just one or two of them: lots of them. It's an ensemble cast of lovelies. I can't wait for them to team up, saddle up, and go to war against the big bad!

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Sixteen

Word Count: 25 410
Mentions of the Big Bad: 2

In a story where bloodsucking fiends are the protagonists, who gets to be the antagonist? It's been an interesting question for me, and I think I've got it figured it out.

This novel is only getting more fun to write as time goes by.

16 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Days Fourteen and Fifteen

Word Count: 23 687
Stallings and unstallings: 4 or 5
Narrative errors: 3

Friday and yesterday were crap for my word count: I think I did about 700 on Friday, absolutely nothing yesterday. Today was good, though: 3900-ish words! Gotta love Sundays.

Because I'm writing by hand - I love my rotring fountain pen too much to give it up - I am also counting by hand. This gives me a chance to sort of revisit what I wrote without reading too closely or being tempted to revise.

Maybe because today I was focussed on a big action scene, I dropped a lot of details from page to page. Lola was included in the action. Then she wasn't there all of a sudden. That sort of thing. You know?

We're gonna need a bigger plot nurse!

14 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Thirteen

Word Count: 19 783
Tenuous teen romances: 1

I am loving being able to switch voices as I write this novel. Since it consists the collective documents (diary entries, memoirs, blog posts, forum chats, email messages, etc., etc.) created by the characters themselves, it's mandatory that I change things up as I go.

As I work with one of my younger vampire characters, who was turned at the tender age of 18, I'm find myself recalling, partially reproducing, and revising the love letters that I wrote when I was much, much younger. I think my first big (very ill-fated) romance occurred largely because I met someone who adored receiving long, metaphorically ambitious, seductive, persuasive, and semi-argumentative love letters, and who enjoyed writing them as well. Ours was a literary affair long before it was a literal affair.

Of course I don't have those letters any more. I never retrieved the ones I wrote, and would probably have been refused if I'd asked for them back. I threw out my own collection long ago. But they seemed completely fabulous at the time.

13 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Twelve

Word Count: 19009
Betrayals and Revelations of Betrayals: 1 current, 1 impending

Oh how I love to betray my characters! How divine it is to watch their confusion as they discover they've been swindled, double crossed, undone, lied to, and cheated.

I guess this is the glee that the amazing Gale reports when she talks about torturing her characters. Nice.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Eleven

Word Count: same as the day before

Yeah. Sometimes it just doesn't feel right to keep writing. Tuesdays and Wednesdays suck for NaNoNovelling; and it all comes together on the weekend. Sundays have been awesome so far. I am so, so happy that there are five of them this month.

10 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Ten

Word Count: 17354
Secret diaries: 1
Sweaty encounters: 2

Oh what bliss, setting up a character to make an unpleasant and life altering discovery later on down the line!

I never know when I'm writing a sex scene: is this hot, or is it totally ridiculous? I'm not getting into the throbbing gristle or anything, nothing too porno, but you know, because what I'm writing is more...sensation based, I'm not sure if my own proclivities and tastes are, to put it delicately, colouring the text too much. And you know, my proclivities and tastes might not be everyone's proclivities and tastes. In fact I'm sure they're not. Oh well: what can you do?

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Nine

Word Count: 16135
Bags of blood: 10
Mugs full of gently warmed blood: 3

Major moment of hypocrisy on the part of my main character. I think I'm finally figuring out how to express major plot points through this whole diary / multiple first person format. It's tricky, but it's all about playing narratives off each other. Good fun for a recovering academic like myself.

08 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Eight

Still from Les Vampires, 1915

Word Count: 14 283
Vampiric conversions: 1
Broken ankles: 1
Grossed out sidekicks: 3

Ah, the ups and downs of NaNoWriMo! Apparently what I needed was a solid day where I spent most of my time writing and a write-in to inspire me. I wrote 3662 words today, and am now officially above par.

My story, though, is not nearly as light as I'd thought it would be. As I said to fellow NaNo-er girlwithapearl today, it's turning out to be emotionally based. I realize that a lot of what I've been writing in the last little while has centred around conflict in action: will the good guys keep the bad guys away from the interdimensional fort? Will the ambiguously morally oriented creature decide to fight on behalf of humanity? Will the all-girl punk band kidnap the barely disguised Paris Hilton proxy and deliver her safely to the record executive on the other side of the paranormal wasteland? know. Regular plots like that.

The crux of the conflicts in this year's NaNo novel are emotional. The dilemmas are classic psychological double binds. I find myself caring about these characters because they represent shades of things I've felt. I'm digging a little deeper.

Gotta love vampires.

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Seven

Word Count: 10600
Disastrous attempts at apology: 1

I realize I don't really know how police reports are written. I'm faking it for now (because that's the NaNoWriMo way), but will research this more thoroughly when it comes time for The Great Rewrite / Filling in of Massive Gaps.

07 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Days Five and Six

Amorous Old Woman and Young Man, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1520-22

Word Count: 9281
Semi-geriatric romances: 1

There are so few genuinely engaging - by which I mean sexy - romances about older people. I'm thinking Harold and Maude is a good example of a film that broke a major taboo in that arena. What is it about us as a culture that we only want to think about perfectly smooth, unaged bodies rubbing up against each other? Seriously? For those of us beyond the perfectly smooth and unaged portion of the program, this whole issue can be a real downer. That goes double for those who never really managed to achieve perfectly smooth in the first place.

Bah. I'm writing the hottest 80-year old granny character ever.

04 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Days Three and Four

Word Count: 6748
Philosophical waxings on predator/prey relationships: 1
Erotic waxings: ha ha, none, exactly
Eroticism based on predator/prey relationships: yes.

I'm just above par if my goal is 50k, which is great, since Tuesday and Wednesdays were wipeouts for me this week. Wednesday will continue to be.

Good times.

NaNoWriMo really does change your life, I must say. Due to sleep deprivation, my general tolerance levels are much lower than they usually are. Because of this I booted a knobbish student out of one of my tai chi classes. Should have done so long ago. I can't guarantee that my knob bootage wasn't also driven in part by writing a genuinely strong female character. I'm loving writing her.

02 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day Two

Word count: 5061

Vamps with blogs: 1

Vamp message boards: 1

Characters named Count Chocula: 1

I have to admit I'm finding the first person narration deal a little awkward, no matter how many contrivances I come up with to make it work. But it sure is easy to lay down some serious word count when you're pretending to write someone else's journal.

Escape Clause

Escape Clause, which includes my short story "Five Dragons", is now officially available. This is a lovely volume and I'm honoured to be a part of it. Clélie Rich and Kit St. Germain have made an awesome contribution to speculative fiction with this book.

You can order a copy here:

01 November 2009

NaNoWriMo 2009 Day One

The plot thickens! The coffee brews! The fun begins!

I guess I'm blogging this month, since this is a fun way to track progress.

First of all, people, I have to say, if you're NaNoWriMoing on your lonesome, don't. It's far easier to tap into the amazing collective consciousness that is NaNoWriMo if you're in touch with your local people.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, here:

But hurry! National Novel Writing Month began about 25 hours ago!

Day One Stats:
Words: 3066
Vampiric attempts to write personal ads: 1
Cheesy pickup lines: 2 or 3
Cheesed off vamp wannabes: 1

As you can see, there's a lot of cheese this year. Don't worry: the quality violence is on its way.

08 June 2009

Revenant Army Map

I'm beginning work on my summer novel, a modern-day horror piece I'm tentatively titling Revenant Army. It looks like it's going to be a blend of The Seven Samurai, Northern Canadian hijinks, and the dual legacies of the Hudson's Bay Company and Dr. Frankenstein.

Lo, another treeless vista, milady!
I've been collecting images from our North, like these of Prince of Wales Fort, which stands across the Churchill River from Churchill, Manitoba. This fort was built out of logs in 1717; the stone structure that still stands today was begun in 1731.
I wonder if, given the right kinds of weapons, a modern group of vigilantes could hold off something nasty in an old Northern outpost like this one?
ETA: Apparently not. Evidently in my education as a proper Canadian youth, I skipped a significant Vignette!

Now I've got a travel bug as well as a research bug (not to mention a plot-devising bug...).

In any case, as suggested by the first of the Summer of Fantasy challenges, I've been playing around this afternoon with mapmaking / animated gif construction. This is fun, people. I've found some potentially useful fun facts and a hole. First the hole:

Summer of Fantasy,the hole,Revenant Army
And now the fun facts (courtesy of good ol' Wikipedia):
When Earth's gravitational field was mapped starting in the 1960s a large region of below-average gravity was detected in the Hudson Bay region. This was initially thought to be a result of the crust still being depressed from the weight of the Laurentide ice sheet during the most recent Ice Age, but more detailed observations taken by the GRACE satellite suggest that this effect cannot account for the entirety of the gravitational anomaly. It is thought that convection in the underlying mantle may be contributing.

01 June 2009


If I'm doing chi kung (qiqong) meditation at home, I have a little routine I like to follow. First I do a little chanting. If I need to, I stretch. And then I sit meditation.

When you go into a sitting chi kung session, you often go very deep. Numerous fascinating things happen: you see colours throbbing and pulsing in front of you. Reality goes in and out of focus. Sometimes there are special guest stars: I recently watched as globs of light dripped down from the ceiling of my room, and two sets of luminous footprints laid themselves out in a counterclockwise circle around me.

When you come out again, you have to settle back down into yourself before you can stand up and walk around. You've been in touch with another, higher level of consciousness. Plus in my case, I've been sitting in half lotus, so things are...numb. I usually have to take a minute or two of just sitting with my legs stretched out before the feeling returns, my energy settles, and I can stand and head out into my day.

One of the things I have on hand for this time is Deng Ming-Dao's book 365 Tao: Daily Mediations. This is a cute little book that gives you a word, a Chinese character done in a gorgeous calligraphy, a snippet of verse, and a prose extension of the snippet of verse that tie in with the word for each day of the year. During my wind-down time after sitting, I'll read the entry for that day and think about it.

The word for June 1 is "Sleep". The poem I thought I'd share because it's uncharacteristically horroresque for a book of cute daily meditations:

Sleep is like a swift train
Plunging into long black tunnels,
Slicing day with red and black light,
No worry about the skeleton engineer.
Head to pillow is like head to track,
Listening to the rumble of destiny,
Knowing that the opening will come.
In sleep, as in the tunnels,
The sound seems ever closer.

28 May 2009

Stringing Words

Sometime over this past winter, I began to realize that I was lacking a solid writing community. "Twist," I said to myself, "there's just no excuse for being a solitary writer these days." So I checked in with my local NaNoWriMo region and began stalking some writers.

If you're looking for writers in your home area, National Novel Writing Month's regional forums are a great place to start. (And why aren't you NaNoWriMo-ing? It's fun, addictive, and often wildly productive.)

Our local region here in Hamilton is great. Throughout ScriptFrenzy, we had regular in-person meetings that were really helpful. One of my fellow screnziers and I are still soldiering on with weekly meetings, which is awesome.

Of course there's also the online writing community. Through one of the Hamilton region writers, I was introduced to Stringing Words, a writing forum that she and two other women founded. This is an awesome group. There's a huge range of experience and ages here. There's a core group of people who it seems have been around for a while, and let me tell you, these are nice people with great senses of humour and an impressive passion for writing. They are writing fiends.

So if you're looking to hop on a bandwagon, these people will let you call shotgun and tell you you're gonna fly that thing to the moon.

Right now, plans are cooking for something called "The Summer of Fantasy". It's looking like it will be a three-month extravaganza. June is dedicated to world-building exercises, and July and August are set aside for drafting a fantasy novel based on what you build in June. I'm ultra excited about it. Come join us! I dare ya!

Forums are mostly members-only, so you'll want to join to get a full browsing experience in.

22 May 2009

Five Dragons

I got word from the good people at the new anthology Escape Clause that they've accepted a piece of mine called "Five Dragons". I'm bursting with pride, especially because this is a Canadian speculative anthology. And, you know, we're a speculative nation.

07 May 2009

Spring comes to the woods

Hey, it's spring. Let's take a walk.
Come on!

Come on!

Everywhere, the trees are bursting with life.

Winter's back is broken. The old gives way to the new.

What was frozen flows again.

The trees reach for the sky.

These are trout lily leaves, poking up out of the forest floor. Our friend Wendy showed us that these are edible. They taste a little like sweet peas (the bean, not the flower!). You can eat the roots, too. They're nice in a salad.

Here's a bunch of them, growing at the base of a tree.

They also flower (hence the name, I suppose!). Isn't it beautiful?

These tiny purple flowers started growing everywhere a week ago.

Some of the things that grow here are a little strange. This plant has rust-coloured flowers. I can only imagine the insects that are attracted to this!

Even the slightly nasty plants are growing like crazy.

Look, an alien pod!

There's still the meadow up ahead. Come on!

Come on!

The meadow grass is slowly greening.

It's time to celebrate spring. All the best to everyone this season.

27 April 2009

Danse Macabre

Try not to cut yourself on idarem's cheekbones while you watch this.

15 April 2009

Something Useful

I recently followed the advice of Dr. Wicked on "Writing and Technology: Finding Your Place" and purchased an AlphaSmart 2000. This is the durable but less flashy older brother of the Neo, for those who aren't familiar with this cool little device. Basically, we're talking about a super lightweight smart keyboard that remembers up to 64 pages of text and retypes it into the file of your choice when you want it to. It runs on three double-A batteries for a billion hours. Dr. Wicked explains it extremely well if you need more convincing.

I am (and shall remain, I boldly declare) a steadfast believer in pen and paper. I write first drafts by hand. As a lefty, I experience an intuitive connection with the page that is quite different from the balanced intellectualism of keyboard work. And I love the grace and ease of certain pens. I work with a Rotring fountain pen and Aurora or Noodler's ink, which is a much more economical option than some of the roller ball pens I worked with as an academic. At two and three dollars a pop, disposable pens end up costing a whole lot more over time. (To compare, a seven or eight dollar bottle of fountain pen ink lasts a year even with heavy daily use.)

But enough about my pen fetish...

The point is, when it comes to getting text off the handwritten page and into a word processor, I find I often get sidetracked (Videogum, I'm looking at you!). So the idea behind the AlphaSmart purchase was that I could separate my writing time from other, superfun, but perhaps less productive activities. I'm thinking a super lightweight portable keyboard is also a better option than my big old superheavy laptop for transcribing research in the library, for taking out to the coffee house, for dropping on the floor accidentally, and for traipsing about the wilds of Northern Ontario. (Our family cottage doesn't have regular hydro service. There's a generator, but we don't run it 24/7 and it's loud and unreliable.)

So the point of all this, is that I ordered an AlphaSmart from some dude on eBay for $9.95 US, and it came today. They tend to go for a little more than that, but not too much more. I purchased a simple cable that you need to upload files from the AlphaSmart to your computer, and I was ready to rock and roll.

The point to this story is that the AlphaSmart was previously loved by a school that used it to help kids work on their writing (or for all I know, their typing). As it turns out, files do not get deleted just because the device doesn't have batteries or a connection to power. When I turned it on, I found that two of the files had, uh, content in them. Reading these made me immediately want to go out and get some schoolage kids of my own.

The first item:

Dear Mrs. Losey

we would like your approval to have an’end of the year water party’the we would like to set up are water balloontoss,quismo,gallonfill,freetime if you let us do this we will be on are best behavor and we will clan it up.

I have no clue what half of this stuff is. Quismo? Sounds diabolical. But at least this child is promising to honour his Scottish roots. Or maybe his supremacist roots.

I also found this short story? essay? about a touching weekend camping trip:

When me and my uncle were at a forest I was throw rocks I hit something and that something was a Camodo Dragon.It chased us intill my uncle found a stick and hit him with it.Then he died,he picked him up and droped him on his head again an again to make sure he was dead.Then raped him up and was heading home.I sat in front cause I didn’t know if he was still alive.

I love that it becomes unclear whether the kamodo or the uncle dies and gets "raped up". Powerful use of ambiguity, that. Seriously, kid, if you're out there and this is your work, I hope you kept writing. I can only imagine what kind of sick stuff you'll cook up after you experience the horrors of dating and life after high school.

14 April 2009

They Drink Us in Our Sleep

The editors of The Devil's Food Anthology have accepted my short, "They Drink Us in Our Sleep".

That just makes me feel...about as awesome as watching dancing dogs!

27 February 2009

My Illuminated Agenda

Currently writing 2k a day, five days a week while I wait to see if I've got employment for the summer. If I act like a professional writer, will I be paid like a professional writer? (Hundreds of cents coming my way!)

I've been making art to use as inspiration for the short stories I've been drafting. "Making" is sometimes only a rough approximation of what I've been doing. Sometimes I'm printing out old woodcut images and colouring them by hand (I'm into pencil crayons right now). Today I messed around endlessly in a photoshop knockoff. I ripped the various images of the fish with legs, cavorting fetus skeleton, and woodcut mushrooms from various online sources, and stamped and manipulated the heck out of the resulting collage.

Internet, your images are not safe with me!

09 February 2009

Art Under Pressure

Five months ago, I took a vow of going-into-debt, and allowed myself space and time to get back in touch with my inner writer. I highly recommend doing something similar if you're at all able to. This time has been absolutely invaluable to me. I've remembered all the reasons why I wanted to do creative work in the first place. My bank account has a bit of a rash on it, but my shadow is in much better shape than it's been for a long, long time - maybe ever.

Now the six months is almost over, and I've got bills to pay. Although I was willing to play daredevil with my finances, it isn't fair to my partner to continue to draw on our mutual resources as heavily as I've been doing. And yeah, without him, I'd have had to place much stricter limits on the duration of this experiment.

Reality sux, my friends.

The nice thing, though, is that I now have some solid writing time under my belt. I feel much more legitimate in my claim on the name: I'm a writer. I have three short stories out on the market right now, and half a novel draft. And even though I'm looking at taking another teaching contract for the summer, I'm not giving up my dream for anything.

Now that I've fastened on it, I won't let go.

That's what five months of space and time have given me. Was it worth it? Hell yeah. Now I can move forward with some good, solid tools at my disposal. The ability to think more creatively about my life. The idea that there are options. A much better sense of how the craft of writing intersects with who I am right now, and my experience. And a solid plan for building a writing career: build portfolio, complete novel, find agent.

I couldn't have asked for more out of this time.

19 January 2009

Art without Pressure

Today I want to speak up as others have done before me and proclaim that the image of the solitary genius in the garret, scribbling away at the Best Novel Ever while simultaneously hairpulling and starving and sacrificing relationships and personal wellbeing is a crock. Art does not equal suffering.

Discipline is necessary, yes. But discipline and punishment are not the same things. I'm not talking about conflict and drama and hard times that you've been through that become your source material for art. (Although hopefully you're also sometimes thinking about the good times too while you write.) I guarantee you that you'll suffer enough just by living to make a million tons of great art. But you don't have to suffer more because you're making art.

I want to share something I've been working on. It's inspired by a book I read while writing my PhD thesis, called Writing Your Dissertation in 15 Minutes a Day, by Joan Bolker (highly, highly recommended if you're in grad school and facing the task of writing your diss.).

On days that I've got a story to tell, which isn't every day, even if I don't feel like it, I write for twenty minutes.

Some days, I write for twenty minutes and I'm done for the day.

Other days, those twenty minutes get me into it enough that I want to keep going. So you know what I do?

I still get up from my desk at the end of the twenty minutes. I do something else for a little while. And then I go write for another twenty minutes.


Because you have to give space for inspiration to come through.
Because there's chili and cornbread to make.
Because the dog needs walking.
Because I still haven't folded my laundry.
Because most people can only concentrate for twenty minutes, max.
Because by giving space, there's room for the story to interpenetrate everything. So it will work through you while you do everything else, and improve itself.

Twenty minutes on, ten minutes off. This is how I do it.