What rhymes with Poetry Day?

March 21st is World Poetry Day. This year and every year. Here are things you can do to mark the occasion:

  • take a poet to lunch

  • take a book of poetry to lunch

  • try some blackout poetry

  • write a note to a poet whose work you admire

  • rearrange the magnetic poetry on your fridge door

  • pick up a pen and let your raw emotions flow onto the page

  • buy a book of poetry—please, your local poet could use the support

  • write a poem in a different language

  • write a backwards or giggle poem

  • go to an open mike event and try a slam poem

  • go the library and read poetry there

  • read your favourite poem aloud

  • memorize a poem then recite it loud

UNESCO recognizes the unique ability of poetry to capture the creative spirit of the human mind. Poetry is one way to open your imagination—what have you got to lose?

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Slam poem is recited by Toussaint Morrison of the Minneapolis band The Blend for a crowd at the 2007 Mifflin Street block party by The Moose

Stolen any good lines lately?

Every so often I read something I’ve written and think, “This is quite good.” It’s an infrequent occurrence and my second thought usually is, “I wonder where I found that?”

When you read enough, certain phrases and images will embed themselves to the point where they become yours.

In the liner notes of the album Bringing It All Back Home, Bob Dylan wrote, “the Great books've been written. / the Great sayings have all been said” 

Along the same lines, French writer André Gide said, “Everything that needs to be said has already been said. But, since no one was listening, everything must be said again.”

Those messages are the same—writers are free of trying to be original. They can and should embrace influence instead trying to insulate themselves from it. (Austin Kleon, paraphrased).

When I wrote the flash fiction short story Choosing Destiny a few weeks ago, I thought I was stealing an idea from a meditation exercise I’d done a few years before. I didn’t know that I was also stealing from Neil Gaiman’s book American Gods.

My short story told of a young man walking down a corridor of doors, trying to pick the one behind which he would spend eternity. This was taken from a meditation practise of imagining a row of doors. Open one and you’re on the edge of a vast sea.

Coincidentally I was reading American Gods at the time of that particular flash fiction challenge. But I was only half-way through the book. Imagine my surprise when I later read this passage where the character Shadow is dead:

“I want to rest now,” said Shadow. “That’s what I want. I want nothing. No heaven, no hell, no anything. Just let it end.”

“You’re certain?” asked Thoth.

“Yes,” said Shadow.

Mr. Jacquel opened the last door for Shadow, and behind that door was nothing. Not darkness. Not even oblivion. Only nothing.

Shadow accepted it, completely and without reservation, and he walked through the door into nothing with a strange fierce joy.

I couldn’t (wouldn’t!) set out to plagiarize anything as blatantly it may appear in comparing my fragment of fiction to that excerpt. But independently from Gaiman’s fabulous story, I stole from his work. In advance of reading it.

Have you ever written something, only to find someone else has said the same thing, used an identical theme, or chosen your title for their book before yours got to press? Did you accept it as what Carl Jung calls synchronicity or did it seem more calculated than that?

 

Picture from Wikimedia Commons: The Steal by Dawn Nuczek

Got a free minute?

Recently I found this tool that shows how much time you’ve wasted on Facebook. Did I log in and shake my head over the result? Not a chance. I took the-ignorance-is-bliss approach and gave it a wide berth. As I will do if any such tools pop up for other social media.

The test made me think of other activities that I don’t want a cumulative time record for:

  • looking for recycling symbols on packaging

  • waiting in voice queues to speak to the next available representative

  • learning the latest version of software just when I’ve nailed the old one

  • looking for things that aren’t where they should be

  • trying to make shoddy merchandise function so I won’t have to return it

  • returning shoddy merchandise to stores

  • searching for a sales assistant who knows less about a store’s products than I do

  • standing in a room, wondering what I came in for, and feeling convinced if I just stand there another minute, I will remember

  • going back to that room five minutes later because I finally remembered what I wanted

  • saving recipes that will never be made

Browsing websites is a better way to spend time than anything on that list. It connects me to the world and opens the portal to daydreaming. Neil Gaiman said, “As an author, I’ve never forgotten how to daydream.” I hope I don’t either. It’s an essential springboard to making stuff up.

Now the University of Pennsylvania recognizes that unfocused internet surfing may be productive time. “'[…] distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting' might prove as creatively fertile as automatic writing was for the Surrealist writers,” according to Professor (and MoMA Poet Laureate) Kenneth Goldsmith.

Are you going to click on the link above and see how much time you’ve wasted on Facebook? Or do you realize that actually it’s time invested, not squandered? How many opportunities would you have missed if you hadn’t taken time to be part of the worldwide web and all it has to offer?

 

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Salvador Dali, Profile of Time in Arkady Wroclawskie Shopping Centre by Julio.

Terrible Titles Blog Hop

The incomparable Alyssa Brugman has tagged me in this blog hop.

The job is to find “eight terrible titles” from my work in progress by scrolling randomly through my manuscript and letting my cursor stop where it will.”

So, from my novel about three teenagers hiking on Mt. Rainier, here are eight random lines:

  1. Got my Nudies.

  2. I’d rather try to get honey away from a bear.

  3. A slightly singed squirrel lies on the ground below it.

  4. Conversation is harder to find than the mythical emeralds.

  5. I shake my head to get rid of the zombie-freeze that has sucked out my free will.

  6. Maybe super heroes or D1 Drifters?

  7. Her skin feels reptilian, leathery and smooth.

  8. I fling my arms around in wild windmills

 


Photo by: Alan Bolitho


Are You Resolved?

How many things did I plan to do and not get done in 2014? Lots. But I’m not going to dignify those missed targets by listing them here. Okay, I’ll admit to having let my blog slip into erratic intervals. Maybe I didn’t advance my work-in-progress novels as much as I would have liked. It’s also possible I spent far too much time on the internet.

Word count: 451                                                                                      Reading time: 1-2 minutes

A person can feel quite defeated by only looking at what didn’t happen, so I decided to concentrate on the things I did do:

  • Packed up part of our North Vancouver house to make it pretty for selling.

  • Completed the purchase of our Victoria home.

  • Sold the North Vancouver place.

  • Shipped most our possessions into storage and found temporary accommodation for the five months of renovations.

  • Led the Young Writers’ Club of North Vancouver until March, when I handed it over to the talented Lisa Voisin.

  • Launched my debut novel Lockdown.

  • Worked with builders and tradespeople through the demolition and renovation. Every day at the job site I sat at a folding table in the middle of the dust, noise, and disruptions, and wrote something.  

  • Travelled back to the mainland to read with the gracious Steven Galloway at the North Vancouver City Library.

  • Participated regularly (mostly by phone) with my critique group in North Vancouver.

  • Moved into the new home and settled in (this seemed to take forever).

  • Took a YA writing course at UVic, taught by the fabulous Robin Stevenson.

  • Attended meetings and seminars hosted by mystery writers, romance writers, and all-purpose writers.

  • Promoted my book through social media and local contacts.

  • Assumed the position of Treasurer of the Lynn Valley Literary Society.

  • Went to the Victoria Writers’ Festival.

  • Wrote twenty-eight flash fiction stories.

  • Read over fifty books and dozens of short stories.

Looking at things that way, maybe keeping a regular blog wasn’t such a priority after all. As Steve Jobs said, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” If I’d tethered myself to regular blogs, maybe other important things would have gone.

So now I’m going to take my cue from the Roman god Janus, whose two faces look to the past and to the future at the same time. Much more might have been accomplished in 2014 but I laid the groundwork for 2015’s goals. I won’t shoot for too many though. Too strict an agenda can exclude the joy of serendipity and new paths that open before us.

As the year draws to a close, have you taken time to reflect with satisfaction on the things you did? What do you plan to accomplish in 2015, in writing and the rest of your life?

Photos from Wikimedia Commons: Red colour flowing into the waters of Sydney by Rajwinder Singh and Bust of god Janus, Vatican Museum by Fubar Obfusco

 

Recognition

In case you missed this on the Lockdown page, here is the latest news on this novel:

Lockdown has arrived. It is listed in the Fall 2014 magazine Best Books for Kids & Teens, published by the Canadian Children’s Book Centre. (p. 27)

Cover Reveal - Angel killer by Lisa Voisin

 

About THE ANGEL KILLER

Coming January 5, 2015

DESCRIPTION

Now that she’s found him again, all Mia Crawford wants is some downtime with her fallen angel boyfriend, Michael. But the call of duty keeps him away—from school and from her—with more demons to smite than ever.
When Michael is mortally wounded by a cursed sword, Mia must perform an ancient blood ritual to save him. But the spell exacts a price. Haunted by visions of war, torture, and despair, Mia discovers the world is in more danger than she ever imagined. Behind the scenes, an evil adversary pulls all the strings.
After redemption, there’s Hell to pay.

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23420120-the-angel-killer

About Lisa Voisin

LISA Voisin_Author Photo.jpg

A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fiction.

Lisa is also a technical writer, a meditation teacher, and the leader of the Young Writer’s Club, a local writing group for teens in her home town. A self-proclaimed coffee lover, she can usually be found writing in a local café. When she's not writing, you'll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains to counteract the side effects of drinking too much caffeine!

Though she’s lived in several cities across Canada, she currently lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats.

WEBSITE | BLOG | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | GOODREADS | MAILING LIST

Website: http://www.lisavoisin.com

 Blog: http://lisavoisin.wordpress.com

 Twitter: https://twitter.com/lvoisin @lvoisin

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/lisavoisinauthor

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5837868.Lisa_Voisin

Mailing list: http://lisavoisin.us6.list-manage1.com/subscribe?u=3845a001b6170d0681adfa77a&id=bd90f09ba9

THE EXCERPT

Michael leaned against the building’s stucco wall and rested his hands on my hips. Light from the store cast a warm gleam in his crystal blue eyes. He leaned in, and the draw to be close to him was a gravitational force. “Hello,” he said.

“Hello.” I had to get a grip. It’d been so long since we’d talked, I tried to focus on all the things I wanted to tell him. “We went to see Fatima.” His fingers caressed the sides of my waist, sending happy tingles through me. “You know, in her store…” To my own ears, my voice sounded raspy. I trembled.

“Cold?” He drew me closer, his mouth crooking into a grin.

Lost in him, I forgot all about Fatima. “You know damn well that’s not it.I twined my arms around his back and touched the spot between his shoulder blades where his wings connected. Its warmth thawed my fingers.

He leaned in and brushed his lips along my jaw line. Thought that was just me,he whispered, and his breath tickled my neck. Ive wanted to do this for three days.

Our lips met, and I melted into him, not caring that we were on the sidewalk, outside a deli with families shopping inside. Nor did I care that, being an angel, he had to follow very strict rules about contact with humansespecially contact of the relationship variety. Angels had the ability to enthrall humans with their touch, something Michael had to constantly keep in check. But I didnt have to be enthralled to want to kiss him. That was my own doing. All that mattered right now was that he was here. With me.

He pulled me closer and the buzz of his energy filled me heart and soul, blocking out the rest of the world. My hands sought warmth under his leather jacket and found bare skin. I could feel the shiver from my touch surge through him. His mouth pressing more firmly against mine, he brushed a hand along my cheek and tangled it in my hair.

A dreamlike blur of light and color filled my thoughts. But then the image shifted to blood. His.

THE GIVEAWAY: One print copy of The Watcher (US/CA/UK) OR One pre-order copy of The Angel Killer (when available) AND One $10 Amazon Gift Card. Enter here:

Rafflecopter

 

 About THE WATCHER (Book One in The Watcher Saga)

3D Render-TheWatcher.png

DESCRIPTION

Millennia ago, he fell from heaven for her.

Can he face her without falling again?

Fascinated with ancient civilizations, seventeen-year-old Mia Crawford dreams of becoming an archaeologist. She also dreams of wingssoft and silent like snowand somebody trying to steal them.

When a horrible creature appears out of thin air and attacks her, she knows Michael Fontaine is involved, though he claims to know nothing about it. Secretive and aloof, Michael evokes feelings in Mia that she doesnt understand. Images of another time and place haunt her. She recognizes thembut not from any textbook.

In search of the truth, Mia discovers a past life of forbidden love, jealousy and revenge that tore an angel from Heaven and sent her to an early grave. Now that her soul has returned, does she have a chance at loving that angel again? Or will an age-old nemesis destroy them both?

Ancient history is only the beginning.

Series: The Watcher Saga #1

Release date: March 4, 2013

Publisher: Inkspell Publishing

Pages: 556

Formats: Paperback, eBook

 Find it: Goodreads | Amazon |Amazon.CA | IndieBound | Kobo | Chapters / Indigo

Trailer: http://youtu.be/ukoCDlW05-Y 

Lest we forget

These are two bittersweet poems about war from men who died fighting them. When will we ever learn?

 

Dulce et Decorum Est

 by Wilfred Owen (1893-1918, 25 years)

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,

Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs,

And towards our distant rest began to trudge.

Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots,

But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;

Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots

Of gas-shells dropping softly behind.

 

Gas! GAS! Quick, boys!—An ecstasy of fumbling

Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time,

But someone still was yelling out and stumbling

And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime.—

Dim through the misty panes and thick green light,

As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

 

In all my dreams before my helpless sight,

He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

 

If in some smothering dreams, you too could pace

Behind the wagon that we flung him in,

And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,

His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood

Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,

Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud

Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,—

My friend, you would not tell with such high zest

To children ardent for some desperate glory,

The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est

Pro patria mori.

NOTES: Latin phrase is from the Roman poet Horace: “It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country.”

From: http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/175898

 

In Flanders Fields

by John McCrae (1872-1918, 26 years)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

    That mark our place; and in the sky

    The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

 

We are the Dead. Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

    Loved and were loved, and now we lie,

        In Flanders fields.

 

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

    The torch; be yours to hold it high.

    If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

        In Flanders fields.

 

http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/176818

 

Happy All Hallows Read to the lucky winners

A huge thanks to all the people who participated in The Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. The random winner, as selected by Rafflecopter is:

Judy Cauthan who has the blog Musings and Ramblings

Because one particular person entered and tweeted so many times, I decided to award a second prize to:

Mircea Puscas

I wish it were possible to send a prize to everyone who entered! Thanks again for your support.

 

Image from Wikimedia Commons by Patrick Hoesly

 

Spooktacular Give Away Hop

I love scary things—why else would I write a book about a rare great earthquake hitting the Pacific Northwest?
Halloween is one of my favourite times of year. To celebrate the haunting season, I invite you to join the fun at this event for a chance to win many different treats.

By clicking the Rafflecopter link below you will be in the running for the prize of a print copy of my novel Lockdown.
The competition is worldwide so enter now and enter often!

Spooktacular Hop.jpg

Who's your worst enemy?

My agenda today: write a short story, write some flash fiction, and polish the current work-in-progress. I also needed to unpack one more box in the basement, reconcile the last two months’ bank statements, etc. I started with the domestic chores, which may not come as an enormous surprise.

Because of that decision, some of my ambitious writing plans have slipped onto tomorrow’s list. As Fran Lebowitz put it: The act of writing puts you in confrontation with yourself, which is why I think writers assiduously avoid writing.

Of course this type of self-sabotage isn’t unique to writers but I think many of us are masters at it, because of the way writing moves us outside our comfort zones. That can be scary. So we do the things we’re good at and comfortable with.

If we don’t try, we can’t fail.

If we go to a writing group where we are asked to share our work, we simply pass. Maybe we wrote something really good last time and we want to be remembered for that.

Coasting on past victories is stagnation, pure and simple. Playing small like that doesn’t serve the world, to quote Marianne Williamson. I’m too smart to stand in my own way but I do it, all too often. To be a better writer I need to use willpower and discipline to build bridges between my goals and my accomplishments. I have to practice that every day but it can be the hardest thing to do: silence off the external noise and write. Too often I am my own worst enemy.

What is the hardest part of writing for you? When the dull domestic world wants your time and energy, how do you turn off that sense of duty?


Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Arch Enemy’s Angela Gossow 2009 by Roman Hornik



What do you stand for?

The renovations are over. Our home looks better than my most hopeful dream. My desk is planted in front of a bay window where an interesting parade of people passes all day long: monochromatic Goths, purple-haired Emos, aging hippies, teens in retro gear, girls on bikes in long flowing skirts, oldsters on walkers, and many people in various shapes sizes. Sometimes I just sit and stare.

In a true ‘every silver lining has a gray cloud’ way, this happiness comes at a cost: I never want to leave it. Contentment may be hazardous to my creative life. It may isolate me here with these physical comforts.

Einstein said that feeling and longing are the motive forces behind all human endeavours and human creations. That’s mildly comforting because I always long to write a better page, write a more suspenseful story.

Still I have this strong resistance to leaving my cocoon. I want to stay here and revel in the changes that I watched happen, nail by nail, inch by inch, for six months. So maybe I’ll sit down at my desk and open that novel that is slowly taking shape. If I do that, what will I bring to it from my protected shell of modern living?

What is that voice I hear? Could it be Henry David Thoreau whispering across the ether? How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.

It may be time to stand up and go somewhere. To walk on a different beach or take a bus downtown and recharge the creative juices.

Are you feeling dangerously content today? Or are you away from your desk, your laptop, or your notebook, improving your writing in other, less obvious ways?

***

Photo from Wikimedia Commons: White Rock Lake Dallas Dock Feet by WroteOddly 

What moves your writing?


After five months of waiting, we’ve finally taken delivery of our worldly belongings. My husband and I have gone from living in a construction site to coping with the chaos of organizing the contents of over a hundred boxes that were unloaded into every available space in our house. The challenges go on.

Over 200 messages have stacked up in my inbox. A three-foot high pile of paperwork needs filing now there is a place for it. In every nook and cranny of our house, boxes loom like muggers waiting to catch us unaware. I carry a cleaning cloth in one pocket and a knife the other. Things stored for months in a warehouse arrive dusty with the packing tape is baked.

While demolition and construction phases often involved unexpected twists in the road, I naively thought unpacking might be less problematic. Ha! There are still surprises in store. Even though we’d worn a path from our old house to the SPCA thrift store before we shipped things to storage, we still have too much of everything. As we unpack, there are many moments of why did we keep this? Soon our car will be able to find its way to the WIN donations centre unassisted.

My desk is in place now which inspires me to work again. It’s so much more comfortable than sitting at a folding camping table. The house is quiet; no more builders, electricians, and plumbers bustling around—as wonderful as they all were. Once again I can control the volume of my life.

For two weeks, I’ve barely touched my novel. To keep fit during the last weeks of mayhem, I’ve written weekly flash fiction. I’ve jammed my iPhone with notes for my work-in-progress. But before all my writing life settles again, I must first make one more trip to the donations centre. In life, as in writing, there is always more culling to do. Have you downsized recently, either your life or your work? What were the most difficult and most rewarding parts of that process? 

Do you write by design?

When interviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, George RR Martin said [There are] two kinds of writers. There are architects and gardeners. The architects do blueprints before they drive the first nail, they design the entire house, where the pipes are running, and how many rooms there are going to be, how high the roof will be. But the gardeners just dig a hole and plant the seed and see what comes up.  

After living through renovations for the past four months, I find this reasoning, well, flawed. We spent months in the planning stages. We looked at many 3D models of our kitchen design. I’ve spent more time in plumbing shops than I have in the library in the past year. Ditto flooring, lighting, and tiling.

We measured. Our builder measured. Suppliers measured. The electricians consulted on all aspects of light and power supplies. We handed our ideas back to our designer. She revised and we forged ahead.

Now, as we move into the home stretch on this extended process, I hope the words, “Excuse me, do you have a minute” will occur less often in my life. Because no matter how much thought was put into every step, how many blueprints were drawn of each room and hallway, there were many decisions that really couldn’t be made until the project was underway. Building is an organic process.

Likewise the architect-vs-gardener thinking implies that a gorgeous garden is an accident of randomly-placed seeds. Also not my experience. The most beautiful gardens are the result of years of experience, lots of planning, continuous hard work, and an element of luck.

I suspect the best approach to writing is a hybrid, an architect-gardener mix. All disciplines have to be creative to solve problems and capitalize on unexpected developments. As Stephen Hawking put it, “Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” Planners revise their course when new events arise. Gardeners have to plan so the seeds and bulbs are sown at the optimal moment.

This is the old plotter vs pantser question, isn’t it? Do you fall firmly on one side of that dichotomy? Do you outline your work with slide-rule precision? Or do you write by following whatever evolves as you type? 

At the hop - blog tour on the writing process

Thank you Jenny Watson, author of Prove It, Josh for inviting me to this blog hop. Jenny's extensive sailing experience shaped her compelling middle grade novel about 11-year-old Josh who has a race to win and a major obstable to overcome.

Jenny and I met in 2013 at a seminar hosted by the Society of Children’s Illustrators & Book Writers. Now that I live in Victoria, we are getting to know each other better. You can read Jenny’s answers here.

1)    What am I working on?

First of all I have to admit to being a bit superstitious about talking about work in progress. When the story is still incubating in the Petri dish, I fear its tentative energy will evaporate if exposed to the bright light of open scrutiny. 

I’ll say this much, it’s a contemporary adult novel about loss and forgiveness, set in Australia, with its resolution unfolding in the Outback. It’s a favourite project which has been in process for a number of years. I’m uncovering its secrets slowly.

2)    How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Years ago two friends of mine were walking down a dark street in the early morning hours. A man trailed some distance behind them. He came closer and closer. When he was right behind them, they both turned back to face him. One friend looked at his face to see if she recognized him. The other looked at his hands to see if he had a weapon.  He didn’t. He was an exhibitionist playing with his wedding tackle. The moment they confronted him, he ran away. When they reported the incident to the police later they gave wildly varying descriptions of the encounter.

Similarly every writer’s work is unique. I see things differently than the person next to me. Even if we look at the same object, we carry away personal impressions. Go to any writing workshop and listen to how people respond to the same prompt. Ask twenty writers in a room to describe the colour, texture, smell, taste, and sound of sorrow and you will get twenty highly diverse answers.

My debut novel is classified as YA but is that a genre or an intended audience? I’d say that Lockdown is speculative fiction. It could happen on planet Earth. Some say it eventually will. But there is no fantasy, paranormal, or space travel involved. Two of my three novels for the YA market are contemporary fiction; that is they are set in modern times and have no fantasy element. How will these novels differ than those from other writers? Simply: they will be focused through the lens of my life’s experiences.

3)    Why do I write what I do?

I write for the same reason many writers do: to stay connected, to explore the ideas that haunt me, to put order into chaos, and to find out how I think about things.

The what is a little harder.I write YA fiction because I love it. I write contemporary fiction because a few stories have wrapped their tentacles around my heart. Ideas find me. I play with them and when they stick, a story starts.

4)  How does my writing process work?

Most of the time it’s glacial slow. Even more so now that I’ve been living out of a suitcase since February. It involves rewriting and lots of it. Taking characters out, enlarging the remaining ones. Cutting many scenes, adding others. Cleaning up the diction and deleting weasel words.

However, I can write fast when pushed. A couple of my short stories emerged in a single writing session with very little revision. I have laid down three draft novels during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month—50,000 words in 30 days). Lockdown was one of these.

My process is also experimental—never the same colour twice. I’ve tried writing off the top of my head (see above comment about NaNoWriMo). I’ve used the Snowflake Method where I’ve done eight page character studies that identified everything from childhood illnesses to favourite socks for the main characters.

Currently, my approach is a bit of a hybrid between a well-mapped plan and a wander to wherever the story takes me. I find plot twists and character revelations develop over the course of the novel.

I have thick notebooks and big files of photos and other visual prompts that help me stay in touch with my imaginary world. Sometimes a particular piece of music evokes a mood I’m trying to capture so I’ll play that repeatedly. Mostly I try to visit my work every day so the characters and their dilemmas stay with me.

While I’m developing a novel, I continue to read books on craft because it’s important to be reminded of the basics. I like to do Sarah Selecky’s daily prompts with pen and a notebook for practice—like playing the scales.

Through all this, I keep reading. Usually I read one short story and one novel a week.

Then there are those other writing things I do that looks suspiciously unlike writing: I clean house, go for walks, do the laundry, visit with family and friends, take in a film or concert—things that let new ideas bubble to the surface.

***

I’ve tagged three wonderful authors to follow me on this blog tour. They are:

Lynn Crymble who became a writer because she didn't want to have to be accountable to anyone else or explain what, exactly, she was doing. Also, Lynn is commitment shy. Not to her husband as they have been married, like, forever. Rather, since she has been dealing with the unpredictable nature of a really fun disease called Multiple Sclerosis! - it is probably a good thing that she doesn't have a boss yelling at her. Or deadlines. No, Lynn enjoys the void and vacuum of grinding out words, hoping that one day, someone might actually read them.

Her first novel, It Can Happen To You, was miraculously published by HarperCollins in 2009. She lives with her husband and daughter in North Vancouver.

***

A Canadian-born author, Lisa Voisin spent her childhood daydreaming and making up stories, but it was her love of reading and writing in her teens that drew her to Young Adult fantasy. In addition to being an author and technical writer, Lisa also facilitates the Lynn Valley Young Writers’ Club to assist young authors in finding their writing voice. In her spare time, she teaches meditation. So when she's not writing, you'll find her meditating or hiking in the mountains to counter the side effects of drinking too much coffee. She lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her fiancé and their two cats. Her first novel The Watcher, is a paranormal romance.

***

It was probably on the ship coming from England to Canada that Karen Dodd’s destiny to become a writer surfaced. Even at the age of four, she could spin a wildly believable yarn that ensnared a member of the ship’s crew into helping her search for hours for her missing “doll,” who turned out to be her invisible friend. She could read before she started kindergarten and by the time she was in grade school, she struggled miserably at math and science, excelling at composition. After publishing hundreds of articles, Karen’s critically acclaimed debut novel, Deadly Switch: A Stone Suspense was released in December, 2013, and she is currently working on the sequel.  

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Blog photo: Euro in spinfex, North Flinders Ranges Australia by Alan Bolitho, leading man.

What is your hummingbird?

There is one major problem with our new home. Hummingbirds. They come to feed on the fuchsia plant hanging outside my window. When they do I am lost. I have no hope but to sit and watch them dart in and out of the flowers.

Then I have to go online and read about them or watch videos made by local Eric Pittman Hummingbirds Up Close. And we all know what happens when a person when you start searching the next.

Word Count: 449                                                               Reading time: 1-2 minutes

While I’m on the subject of things that distract me at this new house, I’d like to add the following:

  • Cats. There are a few of them in this neighbourhood and it’s entertaining to watch them face off on the street out front or cadge a pat or two from someone walking by.
  • Raccoons. Aren’t they meant to be nocturnal? So what are they doing, cavorting in the driveway across the street, forcing me to lift my eyes from my work?
  • Dogs and their walkers. At least a dozen different breed and mixes of dogs walk past this house everyday. My favourite is what Aussies call a bitsa, bits of this, bits of that. His top half looks like a lab with a long, golden body and a handsome head. His legs are basset hound short. His winsome face charms me from thirty feet.
  • Deer. There were lots here in the spring but they seem to have found greener pastures now that we are close to summer. Just as well. I have work to do.
  • Characters. Different people in wonderful outfits parade past every day and often I want to do nothing more than watch them.
  • Cooper’s Hawks. Granted, I’ve only seen one (once) and that was just this week, but I hear them all the time so I’m on the constant lookout.
  • Lastly there is an occasional rabbit and I have to stop what I’m doing and wait to see where it’s come from and where it’s going to. I’m always in the mood for a tea party.

Sometimes it’s good to lose myself in the passing tide of life, to meditate while a frenetic green bird drinks nectar. Other times the imaginary world I’m creating blinds me to all but what is on my screen or in my notebook.

Where do you write? What are the distractions flicking into view that take you from your work? Do the distractions also serve as real life reminders of the magic you are trying to create? Does the man sitting across from you in the coffee shop figure into that scene you are writing now? Or does his image hover and dart out of view?

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons: Annas Hummingbird, Calypte anna in flight by Calibas