I lost my voice in Red Deer. An amazing day where I spoke with more than 800 kids all told, between Red Deer and Cochrane. Loved every minute of it. Enjoy a photo dump below. I will write more about this day later in the week when I am not half asleep and googling ways to get my voice back.
March 17 - 3 days before beginning of spring
And my lawn looks like this:
It's not what we were looking for. A couple of weeks ago my lawn was starting to signs of being green again. In fact it was mostly bare of snow. I'm told every year that March is cold and snowy and although I understand this, I have hope.
Since I've last checked in here I've read some interesting books (be my friend on Goodreads if you get a chance). With the driving I do I am getting through a lot of audio books. A History of Western Philosophy was my non-fiction pick for the month. I've always wanted to read this but 'reading' is often difficult to do. As in, finding that peace of mind to quietly sit and read. Not that I can't find it, just that the world interrupts it. Listening while driving has become my absolute go to experience. I also read and already want to re-read Bill Beverly's Dodgers which I would suggest to anyone who enjoys crime fiction. Not 'mysteries' but the life of people who happen to be living on that other side of the law. The YA novel I am currently working on fits nicely into this genre as well. One I feel is under exposed in YA. My one worry is the slim role for female characters in this book. The truth of it is, though, the kind of stupid things these guys do, girls don't tend to do. Which is certainly a part of what I'm examining in this book. There are still important female characters here. I make certain that my characters fit the circumstances of the book. For instance, I'm not going to put in a character BECAUSE of sex, race, religion, &c. I'm going to put a character in because I am interested in his or her arc. Because I want to create a life for this imaginary person. I feel if I put a character in a book BECAUSE of sex, race, religion, I'd create a caricature of the 'ideas of that sex, race, religion'. For instance, Dashawn came to me as a character before the ideas in A Dark Truth did. That book is Dashawn's story, not the story of racial prejudice or #blacklivesmatter or police brutality. Dashwan returns in a book I am working on at the moment as well! So his story is not finished.
And I finally got to George Saunders Lincoln in the Bardo I say finally because I've been waiting for this one for a long time.
Years ago I applied to Syracuse University's MFA in Creative Writing program, which is run by George. I'd loved everything he'd written and had felt a kinship to his style. I was told that writing the GRE was necessary, but that the results were not all that important. Did I study? No. I had a full time job at the time. Did I go in and write that exam by randomizing my answers (A,B,B,A - I actually just spelled things with my answers. I remember that. Questions which necessitated actual fill in the answer blanks were creative writing projects for me) yes, I did exactly that. It was my belief that those on the other end would see nothing but my score. Which would be awful. But, it was just something that had to be done..... So....
I received my rejection directly from George. He liked my writing. It had potential. But I'd come into a strong year of candidates. The funding for my studies would not likely be there. So, please try again in the years to come. Then a PS.
PS. What was with that GRE?!
I used to believe that things happen for a reason. Not as if our lives are pre-ordained, or some mystical dude in the sky is leading us along. But that if this didn't happen it is purely because this is going to happen later on and that second thing will make you much happier than that first thing. I don't believe that any longer. I believe we make the most of our opportunities and, sometimes, through laziness or a lack of understanding of what something could potentially mean, we miss opportunities. How would things have been different had I gone to Syracuse? I have no idea. But they would have been.
Regret isn't useful either.
All that being said, I feel I could have learned a great deal from George. Things I very well might know now, but could have known earlier. Although, I feel I managed to get a pretty great education from Rick Taylor, Tom Henighan, Paul Quarrington, and Timothy Findley.
Writing wise I've put Superheroes aside again. This time because I accidentally discovered a book which is WAY too close to what I am doing with that book. In theme, form, and even motion of the story. I've ordered said book, and there's a movie as well which I'll watch some day, and it's by a New Zealand writer and, and, and... Anyway. Luckily, I have another book which was really close to completion but didn't feel right. I've revisited it and it now, absolutely, feels right. It took adding another character, another voice, and switching up some ideas, but that's writing. It's something I sometimes forget about writing. Writing is re-writing. It really is.
On top of that, I have been watching this video at least a couple of times a day. What it is about that video I have no idea.
Maybe it's because things are so messed up down in Canada's pants, and watching a bunch of pandas frustrate a woman is soul saving.
And not to suggest ignorance, but sometimes it's a good idea to take a break from breaking news.
February 11, 2017
Time flies some times. It whips past when you aren't looking. And the next thing you know it's February and everyone's talking about having colds and flus and Facebook fills up with sunny photos from beaches all over the place and then you have to leave Facebook because outside your window it's nothing but ice and snow and somehow that gets you to writing run-on sentences.
Nevertheless. I finished a first write (by the way that means pretty much an 8th write, but first you want to show to anyone) and sent it to my amazing editor. This novel is called Shark and is on Orca Soundings. It's about a billiards phenom who runs into someone who wants to use his talents for his own gains. This year Up North comes out, the sequel to Coming Clean.
Annnnnnnd here's the cover!
Love it. Another amazing cover from Orca.
With Up North finished, and Shark out for edits, I am getting back to a book I have been working at on and off for about three years. Maybe four. It's been awhile. The book is tentatively called Superheroes and is not about anyone who can fly or shoot things from their wrists. I haven't been able to finish this book for a number of reasons. Time has been a factor. Other novels. I've been developing courses at Algonquin College. Life. The actual contents of the book which keeps on ripping my heart out. But with the amount of this book which is already done, I feel like I'm a step away from having something good to get in and re-write and edit.
So that will be next. Although there are ideas brewing for a goalie novel in the Orca sports series. My youngest is a goalie and they need love too. I know there are a lot of hockey books out there (at least in Canada), but few of these have a protagonist who's a goalie. One goalie for every 10 players in the NHL so, therefore, there should be one goalie novel for every ten hockey books.
It's time to even out the numbers.
I was just watching John Green's video about following up The Fault in Our Stars.
This struck some nerves.
He names at least 3 books he has started and abandoned. He goes into discussing all the other things he is doing and how much he enjoys all these things. The idea that he will never publish another book is kind of ridiculous, HOWEVER, I know where he's coming from. Whatever level of success you find in writing feels like you've won a Nobel. Because it is such a hard dream. All these people are making up stories, putting them on paper; what makes yours better? I've begun and abandoned a half dozen novels in the past couple of years. I now try and decide against actually working on an idea before I start writing. I have enough ideas that I actually try to see, from a publisher's point of view, how this book could be marketed, where it would sell, what kind of audience it might find....
My Anticosti novel, Henry & the German, which I feel is one of the best books I have written, has not found a home. I haven't really sent it out a lot, but so far it was rejected (nicely) by my publisher Orca (for very good reasons, luckily not based on the quality of the book). Then it was rejected again by another publisher (again, not based on the quality of the book, but rather the ability of anyone to sell it). Somehow this book about a kid abandoned on Anticosti Island in the middle of WWII cannot find a home. I'm not entirely certain what I'm going to do with it now. Luckily I believe it is a good book (I usually don't when these things happen), but I had no idea that it would be so difficult to sell an historical middle grade novel. I guess this might have something to do with researching the market before getting into writing a book. But Henry's story grabbed me and I had to write it which is what I have done for every one of my books. I have another idea that I would love to dig into, but am uncertain if it would work or not. It is historical, and it's about a few things that I'd have to do some serious research, and I just don't know if it'll be worth it. Luckily I have a lot of story ideas that I am dying to work on.... so.
I am stuck again with my present novel Superheroes. I think I can write my way out of it, but the central idea is elusive at the moment. I keep going one way and then another. Is it a love story? maybe. And if it is.... how do i pace it, &c. It's actually really annoying as I had a clear idea when I started the thing and now it seems to be all over the place. [On a side note, I am writing this book very differently. I have a much longer commute than I've ever had before, so I am dictating the book as I drive. It is very freeing as when I sit down to type out what I have said, it's like a second write. I can really get going as well, but the order seems to, sometimes, be all over the place and organization has never been my strong suit]. I really want this book completed. Which means I simply have to put my head down and write, get a first draft done, and see where I stand.
On the 'Hey, that's better news' front, High Note is out there and I love that that's a thing. THAT book turned out exactly how I wanted it to. Next up, in October, is A Dark Truth which, as well, turned out exactly as I wanted it to. My 2017 release is running along as well as I wait for edit to come back (This is the sequel to Coming Clean called Up North). Which gives me a bit of freedom in making certain Superheroes continues to be what I want it to be.
That's your end of the month update. Here's to hoping that the end of October will bring a 'HEY SUPERHEROES IS FINISHED' post...
That's it for now. Stay tuned for further updates!
Oh no, I've become one of those guys. The last time I posted here we were under three feet of snow. I've been noticing more hits on the website (because even though I don't update even close to often enough, I still want to know if anyone is visiting. It's kind of like a restaurant never throwing out a different menu and expecting new customers to arrive). So I feel all the things every blog abuser feels. Guilt, regret, procrastination...&c.
There are so many things I want to talk about, but I'll keep it brief.
1. High Note comes out September 13th. I really love this book. It does a whole lot of things I wanted it to do. The writing is where I wanted it to be. And I believe the messages in it are useful but don't over-ride the flow of the book. Plus, the cover. Man, that cover.
2. A Dark Truth comes out in October and I am equally happy with it as well. It's exactly the book I wanted to write.
3. I'm working on a number of projects although I took more of the summer off than expected. Sometimes life takes over and that's a good thing. I find when I am forced to take a few weeks off skateboarding I come back and manage to land things I couldn't before. It's about re-setting your mind. About letting your muscles forget what they have been doing and re-programming them. It's about letting go and letting yourself learn. I think the same might happen with writing. On that account -THINGS I'D LIKE TO FORGET ABOUT WRITING: Believing it's not going to work. Believing it sucks and will always suck. Believing I've dug too deep a hole and will never find my way out. Believing it's a story not worth telling.
4. When will Markus Zusack release The Bridge of Clay. I know this is a ridiculous question, and one he is not answering, but I think about what it is he's doing with that book constantly. I get distracted by new ideas every eight seconds or so, and Markus has been on this book for over 10 years. What is happening there? Is it perfectionism? I don't know. These are the kinds of things that keep writers up at night, though.
5. Today is my 15th wedding anniversary. That means I've spent 15 years married to my best friend. The woman who I dedicate all of my books to because without the security, love, and encouragement she's given me over the years, I doubt I'd be up to 10 novels now. And my life would be so much less than it is. If I have any advice for writers it's marry well if you're going to marry at all. Find someone who believes in you and hold onto them. Don't try their patience by bouncing ideas off them. Don't drive them insane with your 'what-if's' and don't expect them to care about the imaginary people in your head until they can read the final finished copy of your novel. But know they want you to succeed and love what you're doing. They also want you to bathe, not talk to the cats too much, and put on pants now and then.
6. I have a passion project (again? finally?) and it's taking all the time it needs to get done. It feels important so I don't want to rush it. Or rush it just enough.
7. I will write in here more often. (yeah, right)