A BLUSTERY DAY….

Image

It’s a blustery day here, not cold though…at least not yet. Mum Nature is dressed in the latest fall colors and is teasing us with unexpected niceness. I’m sure that sister winter is behind the mountain checking her look in the mirror but for now I’ll appreciate the moment. I’d planned to rake a few leaves today but every gust drops another bushel or so onto the lawn so why bother?

Instead I’ll find something to fill my time. There are always projects around the house…cleaning, painting, repairs and the like…and I have many hobbies. I bought a 1/8 scale plastic model two years ago. It’s a 32 Ford (Big Deuce, they call it). I worked on it every spare minute for a month or so and now it sits, unfinished, on my desk in the hobby room. Standing beside it is a re-issue model of the Alien from the 1979 movie…started but not finished. I seem to start a lot of things….

The point is I always seem to be doing something. Some of it is relaxing and enjoyable yes, but I still have to be doing something.

A part of “White Wolf Moon” recounts a brief time in my life when I lived with five other people in an old house in Edmonton. On weekends we would travel to a pioneer log cabin in the hills on a property owned by the parents of one of the kids that I lived with. It was beautiful up there with rabbits, deer, and the occasional porcupine. We’d arrive with our picnic baskets and wine and spend two days without electricity or running water (save for the creek that ran through the trees and settled into a pond at the edge of the clearing). We would strum guitars and sing out old rock and folk songs around the fire in the evenings but during the day we’d find our own little corner of paradise and paint, write, work on crafts, or read. A couple of us usually ended up down by the pond stretched out in the grass with our book-of-the-moment. Mine was an old red canvas covered “Catcher in the Rye” and while I honestly don’t remember much about the book I do remember how relaxed and at ease I was. The wine probably had something to do with it but I think it was the overall atmosphere of being at one with nature and good friends that created such peace.

I think that was about the only time I wasn’t looking for something to do. I would set Holden Caulfield down in the grass, look up at the clouds and do…nothing.

I think I’m going to treat myself and try to do nothing. I’m going to upload this blog and shut the computer down for the rest of the afternoon. The television shall remain darkened during this rebellious act of personal disobedience. I have a book by another self-published BC author sitting on the end table which I really should read…tomorrow.

Today is for stretching out on the couch and doing nothing.

Okay, I’ll probably end up having a nap but that’s kind of doing nothing isn’t it?

Advertisements

WINE, BRAUTIGAN…AND THOU

I’m sorry but an ereader on my coffee table will never replace the overstuffed bookcases against my wall and clicking over a title on my monitor will never have the same appeal as browsing through the shelves at a used book store and finding a new (old) Richard Brautigan to add to my collection. Reading a book written in the sixties that was printed in the sixties is a big part of the magic for me. The book itself becomes a part of the experience and that’s something that a plastic reader just can’t provide. There’s a feel to an old book. The browned paper is not quite as smooth as newer books and each scuff, crease, and scratch bears witness to all those readers with equally good taste that have gone before. Someone told me recently that there’s a way for people to turn the screen on their readers light brown to simulate an old printing. Seriously?

Ereaders are here to stay and that’s okay…it’s the way everything is going. On a positive side people now have more access to more writing than ever before (I still have trouble calling them “books”) and if they’re comfortable with the sterile nature of the product they’ll probably read more and this is a good thing. Authors too can benefit from the new technology. It’s relatively easy to self-publish an ebook and there’s a lot of content out there now that would never have seen the light of day through traditional publishing.
So I welcome, although I won’t embrace, the new technology. If it brings new readers and new authors together then that’s fine, in fact it’s great. But give me a quiet evening, a glass of wine, a comfortable armchair, and my latest trade-size copy of The Hawkline Monster over a sterile backlit screen any day. It was published in 1974 and is in remarkably good condition…no creases on the spine, some light wear to the edges, and a gentle crease on the front cover. Someone once cared for this book as I will now care for it and yes, the pages have browned because, well, it’s the real thing.

I’M A GEEK…

Yup, geek, nerd…whatever. I collect Hot Wheels. It’s just a hobby, a nice inexpensive hobby. There are those that “invest” in Hot Wheels and buy up every new release assuming that they’ll be able to turn them around in the future and retire. Yeah…no. You’ll be lucky if you get back what you paid. Yes you might make a bit by specializing in rarer versions or better yet by tracking down those older ones from the early days but you’ll never put your kid through college or retire to that ranch up river on Hot Wheels. You should be collecting solely for the fun of it…if something nets you a few bucks then that’s a bonus.
The same applies to writing that first book, novel or otherwise. You do it because you want to, not because it’s going to get published and you’re going to spend agonizing weeks deciding which film company has come up with the primo offer for your best seller.
When I talk to people about “White Wolf Moon” the majority of them tell me they’ve always wanted to write a book. “So…do it,” I usually say. “Grab a writing pad and pen or fire up the laptop and do it.” One lady told me that she loves writing and she tries to write something every day, even nonsense…then she looks at the housework she didn’t get done and feels guilty about the time she’s wasted. I think it was John Lennon who said if you enjoyed the time you wasted then it wasn’t wasted…or something like that.
I’d written a lot of stuff before this book was published, most of which will never be seen by anyone else but that’s okay. I did it for my own enjoyment.
“White Wolf Moon” is a personal story for me, a semi-factual diary if you will. As such, I never intended on putting it out there. A friend convinced me to have a go at it and I’m glad he did. It has already made a little bit of money…nowhere near recouping the cost…but that’s not really the issue. Yesterday a customer at the bookstore was standing at the counter reading my book. He was giggling as he flipped through some pages, dead serious on others. He’d been there for perhaps half an hour, which prompted me to ask if he was going to read the book here or did he want it to go? He then said some pretty nice things about it (modesty prevents me from repeating them here) and asked if I’d read it. I told him only about forty or fifty times then pointed to my picture, which is beside the display. We had a good laugh…he bought it…I signed it. Yes, I made about five dollars, but the fact that someone else enjoyed something that I enjoyed creating…that’s one of the really cool things about having a book.

 

Misguided tips???

Some of the nicest compliments I’ve heard about “White Wolf Moon” revolve around the characters and dialogue. When I hear that the people in my book seem “so real” or that they’re “folks I’d like to spend a weekend with” I know I’ve done okay. I even had one woman tell me that if the real Evan Morris walked up her path she’d toss her husband to the curb. Now that is character identification!
I’m not sure how many plots or basic story-lines exist in the world of fiction. I know that if I settle in to read a mystery the chances are good I’ve read at least a couple with a similar story-line.  What makes each of these novels different is the skill of the author and his/her ability to present the story-line in a fresh way, with a twist. That twist is usually provided by the characters. How they react to a situation is what makes them, and the story, unique.
My characters are based on real people that I knew back then (as are some of the events) so it’s easy to picture these people in my mind and know how they will react in different scenarios. I’ve also blended a little of my own personality within each of them, male and female. It’s the familiarity factor and it also gives me an opportunity to live vicariously through each of these people, especially Evan. He is the one most like me. His attitudes and philosophies are mostly mine so it’s easy for me to identify with him which makes it easier to create a character that the reader will identify with.
People talk and so do characters. Someone told me that my dialogue is so real and natural that they felt like they were eaves-dropping. With “White Wolf Moon” it is the dialogue that drives the story. I use narrative to provide minimal scene-setting…just enough description of a beach or bookstore so that the reader can picture a beach or bookstore that is familiar to them. When it comes to describing a character I let another character internally provide the description. As for dialogue, I have no formula. I just listen to how real people talk. As well as all the “ums” and “ahs” there’s very little logic or structure to a casual conversation. It’s all improv. One word sends it off in a different direction and that’s the way my characters talk. I use a digital voice recorder and literally talk to myself (when no-one else is around) to create the dialogue. I’ll type it up then record it again, using what I’ve written as a cheat sheet. I always end up making slight changes in the delivery and changing some of the words. This usually takes me in another direction totally unrelated to the original conversation but that’s what makes it real. It was difficult and uncomfortable at first but now I can carry on a real conversation between Evan and Marie and have all the natural little quirks that make it more realistic. Again it’s that important familiarity with the people that makes this possible. My character Annie (a lady living out of a shopping cart) is based entirely on a woman I saw at a park. I didn’t have to make up anything…she’s just that real and flamboyant. Study strangers at the mall or just walking down the street…take note of their physical appearance, posture, and overall body language to create believable physical characters. Listening in on conversations and learning speech patterns will provide insights into the way we all talk and the way our characters should talk.

As Evan Morris says, “Observation is the key to everything.”

ONE DOOR CLOSES…

The above photo shows my poster for “White Wolf Moon” in the window of a Kamloops bookshop. I’ve spent the last twelve years of my life sorting, shelving, and selling books there. Now I have my own book in the store. Ironically one of the signs beneath my poster was put up at about the same time. A further irony is that At Second Glance Books is featured as a scene in “White Wolf Moon”.
Is this an example of one door closing and another opening? If so, it’s a lousy example.
A bookshop closing, any bookshop, is sad. It’s easy to say “well, it’s just testament to the times and the technology…time to move on…” but having been behind the counter and experiencing the social atmosphere of a bookshop I can tell you it isn’t that easy. Bookshops are where people meet, compare notes on titles or authors and, more importantly, interact with each other…and the staff. It’s a true social network, one on one, face to face.
I have become friends with some of the regular customers and the news we would be closing the doors has fostered some pretty emotional responses. The obvious first question is ‘why?’ and while there may be many answers we could offer, the simplest and most accurate is…it’s time.
There will always be books, real books, and there will always be some courageous individual behind the counter of a small bookshop tucked away on some side-street. I, for one, will be seeking them out.
I’m getting ready to head to work. I’ve just seen a copy of the Downtown Echo, a local newspaper. A week ago they ran an article about the store closing…today I’m looking at the front page…the full front page. There I am, photo and all, promoting my book.
One door closes….

JUST CATCHING UP….

By starting this blog I find myself being dragged backwards into the 21st Century. It’s not that I dislike technology…I just don’t understand a lot of it. I’m getting there though.
Thankfully most, like WordPress, offer an easy way to get your feet wet, one toe at a time. I think I’ve got the “White Wolf Moon” facebook page sorted out, now to see what damage I can do here.
I was one of those people that bought a hand-held calculator when they first came out. Even though I really didn’t need a calculator I thought they were cool. I think it was from Radio Shack and it had a red LED readout that could light up an entire darkened theater. I remember I’d punch in a lot of numbers then press one button to find the square root. I was amazed at how quickly this was accomplished even though I had no idea if it was the right answer. I’d test it by punching in 9 and it got that one right every time so I have to assume it was correct on the other numbers.
I’ve looked at many blogs and have seen some pretty interesting features and I wonder if I can do that. So I click on my dashboard and, of course, I can. I just have to figure out how. Yes I know about the ‘help’ feature but I’m a guy…I don’t ask for directions unless I end up in a field surrounded by lonely cattle.
Beginning this process with the setup page I discovered a new language. RSS, widgets and the like. The two I recognized were dashboard and mobile although I always thought a mobile was something you didn’t want to be in during a tornado. Obviously I figured out the dashboard and I know now that the mobile is my cell phone except…I don’t have a cell phone. While I’m sure I will have one in the near future I see no real need for one now…unless I end up in a field surrounded by lonely cattle.
So here it is…my second actual blog. The basics are worked out. I’m a bit more comfortable with the process now and I’ve already met some interesting people.
This is good.