THANKSGIVING (the second)

Here in Canada we did the Thanksgiving thing a while ago which prompted me to dig out something I wrote for a community newspaper many years ago. Here’s a part of that article that I wrote back in the seventies.

Once a year we gather together to give thanks for all that we have attained both emotionally and spiritually. Of course some people lean toward material stuff like the new big screen TV and digital satellite but these things really aren’t worth terminating a turkey over… although it does give the menfolk something to do while the womenfolk are steaming up the kitchen.

The tradition started back in 1621 when Governor William Bradford decided that the Plymouth colonists had really busted their butts during the harvest so it was time to have a feast and thank the Lord for the bountiful booty the earth had wrought. Actually I think Governor Bill just liked to party. About the time they were trying to figure what to serve for the main course a wild turkey wandered into the clearing. Blamm, blamm… pass the jam and the turkey has been the traditional meal ever since. Thankfully the skunks and porcupines were smart enough to hide in the bushes.

In the spirit of co-operation Old Bill invited the surrounding tribes to join in the bountiful booty boogie and even though he told them to “…just bring yourselves…” the guests brought corn and stuff. Just like a block party without the streets… and cops.

For the first couple of years the whole gang partied hardy but then came the drought of 1623. It had been a bad year and although the crops were minimized the crowd still gathered to give thanks for what little they did have. In the middle of the prayer it started raining so Bill, who figured he’d stumbled onto something, proclaimed the event Thanksgiving, a celebration that continues on today in various forms around the world. Here in North America it means a day off work, except for the cook, and a time to pause and reflect on the previous year.

Kind of like New Years without the snow and Check-Stops.

What am I thankful for? Pretty much everything except mosquitoes, slugs, snakes, the parking meter guy, and telemarketers. I’m thankful for baby animals (aside from the aforementioned species), friends, family and all the nice people I know. I’m not rich but I’m thankful that I’m not broke. I’m thankful that I have the capability to think creatively and the skills to translate those thoughts into words or photographs. I’m thankful that I have a knack for building things, from scale models to furniture. I’m also thankful for my ability put it all on the back burner and be within myself.

Because most of all I’m thankful that I am.

Today? Well, my day is plodding along as usual. I have finished filling, sanding, and priming all the kitchen walls so my part is done until the new countertops come in next week. I’m really on a roll with the sequel as the introduction of the new character (previous blog) has opened up some different directions which necessitates reworking some of the existing storyline. Another 2,800 words or so in the last few days.

I also discovered that somehow the brightness on my laptop was set on ‘high’ which explains why writing has been a literal headache for the last little while.

I wish my American friends and followers a happy and safe day filled with all the good stuff you deserve. Be merry, eat, and rest…gotta store up that energy you’re gonna need for Black Friday!

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DIALECT EH?

I love reading dialect but I’d never tried to write serious dialogue in dialect until now. It seemed like it should be easy, scatter a little slang and colloquialism into the conversation and there you have it. I do it all the time on my facebook page, just clowning around.

A few days ago I had one of those off-the-wall images pop into my head. I envisioned a greyed wooden house decaying somewhere in the backwoods surrounded by tall grass, old cars, and trucks. The more I thought about this scene the more I knew I needed to include it in the new book. As I am using the same basic characters from White Wolf Moon I needed to move them into other environments and the old car graveyard not only provides this outlet, it ties in with the original storyline.  I announced my revelation on my facebook page this way:

“Bagged me an epiphany last night…been huntin’ one of those for months. It stumbled noisily up the basement steps and stood by the kitchen island glaring at me through hunted eyes glowing and frozen in the ambient halogen track lighting. Pow…gotcha!! The final piece of the puzzle called ‘sequel’….”

It isn’t the final piece. Working with this new scene opened up a few options in other areas…options that add elements of mystery and excitement that were lacking both in this book and the first one.

The caretaker of this property was the first new character introduced and I wanted him to be unique, totally unlike any of the regular folks. A separate, individual voice with a questionable past…the mystery factor.

The writing process was an invigorated frenzy, pounding out 3,800 words in two days. It was a breath of fresh air (unlike the stench surrounding that old house I was writing about) and the character called Lucas came to life quickly. He needed a dialect to be distinct and to sublimely tell his story in his own voice, without narrative.

I discovered quickly that there is a fine line between creating a character and creating a caricature and had to reign in on his spoken peculiarities. In this case less says more. I spent yesterday smoothing and deleting and while it still requires a bit more tweaking, I’m really pleased with the result.

In 3,800 words Lucas goes through almost every possible emotion and tells his own story without me telling it. Lucas is defined by what he says and how he says it, much the same as in real life, and it doesn’t take much for us to figure out where he’s coming from:

“Waste a time that dreaming was, my mama used to say. While you’re busy with that dreamin’ life comes sneakin’ up and ass slaps ya good.”

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WELCOME TO MY WORLD….

It’s a world of unfinished projects, seemingly shorter days, lost memory sticks, and general mayhem.

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We had been considering renovating the kitchen so we went out merely to gather some info, get some prices, and then decide what we would do. By the end of our ‘fact-finding’ mission we had purchased new countertops and appliances for our space and now the tearing asunder of the old space has begun. I tell you this merely to explain why I have neglected this blog and I do apologize. I actually enjoy renovating. It’s one of those things that, when complete, casts a whole new light on life and I think we all need a new light now and then. I do not necessarily enjoy all the trials leading up to that completion though, especially when whoever owned this house previously decided to do their own renovations as well. A good deal of the time that will be spent on my reno is going to be repairing what wasn’t done right that other time. A quick example…pulling the old tile of the wall has revealed many large holes in the drywall underneath…some areas have no backing for the tiles whatsoever. Other parts have been filled with what looks like window screening, paper towel, and a pound of spackle. These areas will all have to be replaced with new drywall. If you’re going to do something…do it right!

The lost memory stick? That disappeared before all this reno-confusion. It’s one I use to transfer files between computers and also has a folder of idea-starters that, for some reason, isn’t on either of my computers and I can’t remember what they were. Seems the stick isn’t the only memory that’s lost.

As far as the sequel to White Wolf Moon, it’s knocking on the door of the wrap-up stage. I’ve started reading through parts that I wrote months ago which is both good and bad. Mostly I find myself giggling and thoroughly enjoying what I’ve done but last night I came upon a scene that now drives me nuts. Perhaps that’s the problem with not writing from beginning to end. I usually write individual scenes then drop them into the appropriate place in the time-line. I’ve never had a problem doing it this way but this scene doesn’t flow the way it should. It’s a casual conversation explaining the lineage of the wolfdog Ginn but it comes off as almost a scientific lecture rather than conversation. I wanted to get more into her background (and the traits of these animals generally) because some readers of the original book felt it should be explained and I agree but the way I’ve done it doesn’t feel right. It’s time for a complete re-write of those pages.

Still no new title yet but I’m trying not to think about that. I’ve reached the point of chaos in both my fictional and real worlds and I don’t do well with chaos. I have no problem with organized clutter but having the contents of my kitchen spread out all over the floors and tables in the rest of the house drives me nuts. I like to be able to walk from here to there without stepping on toasters and I like to be able to find the bread when I’m hungry.

Okay, I’ve vented a little and thank you for bearing with me to this point (if you have). I’m heading back to the kitchen to continue what has become a major job. I’m spending all my time on this task but once dinner time rolls round I shall be done for the day. My evening is already filled though…I’ll be catching up on all the blogs I follow and hopefully getting a start on the aforementioned re-write.

Then it’s off to bed to get some sleep before starting the whole process again.

WHAT’S IN A NAME….

Wow…the power we creators of characters possess is mind-numbing.

A half-dozen people live in my little world and I control their very thoughts…not to mention their eating habits, wardrobe, and sex lives. They become real to me in the hopes that they seem real to the reader and, for whatever reason, I have managed to pull it off.

About a year ago a reader condemned me for what I did to Jenn, one of the characters in both books. “How could you put that sweet young girl into such a terrible situation” was the comment. While I reminded her that it was just fiction I felt pretty good that this lady had come to love Jenn as a person and not just a character. To have a reader be just as involved with one of my people as I am is flattering. I have to admit that I was actually uncomfortable putting Jenn into that situation but then she’s a big girl…she can handle it.

Jenn’s boyfriend Matt was to be introduced in ‘White Wolf Moon’. He was to accompany Jenn to the photography exhibit where she uncovered Evan’s secret but in one of the final edits I changed his character into a female roommate instead of a boyfriend and edited him out of later scenes. Having him around that early would have eliminated the possibility of any exploration into Evan’s feelings toward Jenn so…bye bye Matt.

In this sequel I introduce him to the rest of the characters and it actually goes quite well except for one small detail.

“Matt” was a filler name. I hadn’t given any thought to it and I’m not sure why I even used it but I knew it would be changed later when I could came up with something better. He was still Matt up until a few days ago when I decided to go for a stronger name. Among others I tried “Jason” and “Ken” (subtle family references here) but I decided that “Mark” sounded good so I hit the find/replace button and in an instant Matt’s life, as he knew it, changed.

So did mine.

I have a mental image of all the characters I have created…how they look, their mannerisms, and voice. Every time I read something Mark had said or done I pictured Matt. As silly as it sounds this guy isn’t “Mark”…he is Matt.

So find/replace again and Matt’s life is back to normal. Jenn really didn’t mind, or so she says. She’s just happy she has a boyfriend and a ‘cutie’ at that. If she’s happy then so am I…but I also know she’s just humoring me. She prefers “Matt”.

It’s amazing how we identify with the people we create. I’ve just completed a particularly emotional scene with Evan. He is gripped in sadness throughout most of it and is twice drawn to tears. While I wrote the first draft I was fine but during the last reading I felt the sadness that he felt. I won’t confess to shedding any tears although I’m not saying I didn’t. Evan goes through a myriad of emotions this time around, from melancholy to outright anger and I’m with him every step of the way…as I am with all my “people”.

I’m now working on what might be the final showdown, a confrontation between Evan and his old nemesis. Evan usually avoids conflict (although he has already had a bit of a physical altercation in this book) so I have to create a situation where the bad guy leaves him no choice but to react well outside his character. This also means outlining the villain for the reader but drawing out a malevolent character isn’t something I’ve done before.

To try and see life through evil eyes and to use what I’ve learned through those eyes to intentionally provoke a character that is inherently peaceful and innocent is going to be tough but I’m actually looking forward to getting into the mind of a personality totally foreign to me.

And this is what’s exciting about writing…blogsign