OF MUSIC, LIFE, AND DEATH

Such an interesting and emotional day today. We’ve been under the threat of heavy rains since last night but so far there have only been a couple of showers. It’s coolish, dark, and damp…grey clouds surround me. I was going to spend the day on the laptop hopefully to get close to a wrap on the sequel to “White Wolf Moon” but my characters aren’t doing anything of interest. Marie is taking advantage of the dull day to clean the kitchen. Evan and Danny are in Evan’s study working on a new song and Ginn (the wolfdog) is stretched out in front of Evan’s desk taking up about a quarter of the floor space. Carol is lying on the couch “reading” although her glasses are on the end table beside her and the book is nowhere to be seen. It’s probably tucked into the small space between her and the cushioned couch back. Jenn and Matt? I’m not sure what they’re up to…perhaps preparing for their trip back to Edmonton. There’s really nothing that any of them are doing that can add to the story-line so I decided to let them be for the day.

I went downstairs to the basement to begin a thorough clean of my collectibles room (almost a warehouse actually). On the way to this room I stopped and put an old Bob Dylan lp on the turntable. I didn’t make it back to the room. I sat and listened to “The Times They Are A Changin’” and began a walk down memory lane. When I was much much younger I shared a house with five friends (my characters are based on these people) and we’d occasionally head out to a cabin and spend the weekend cavorting and playing music. Chris was our resident folk singer and this Dylan song was one he’d always do. He had an interesting voice, rough and graveled due to an accident that resulted in his throat being impaled on the branch of a tree. His parents were told that if he recovered he’d probably never be able to talk. He recovered and sang like a bird, albeit a gagged crow. I turned off the record player and picked up an old guitar that I leave downstairs just for times like this but I couldn’t remember how to play that song. Most of the others we played on those warm Alberta nights around the fire came back quite quickly but not that one. Chris passed away about ten years ago and I still can’t listen to that song without thinking of him. It’s so incredible how music can bring back so much. As I sat strumming those old chords I thought about those others that have passed on in my life. As well as my grandparents, dad, mother, and sister there have been countless (literally) friends and co-workers that have left me over the last sixty-something years. Then I remembered something Evan had thought in “White Wolf Moon”:

They were all dying now, those he grew up with and worked with through the years. He guessed that part of the natural order was for those left to accept each passing with less emotion. He and Jack had been close at times and had Jack been the first to go Evan would have been devastated. But death had now become almost routine.

There was something wrong with that.

Then I realized that I had touched on the same scenario in the sequel, this time with Jenn and Danny:

“Marie told me about Carl. How are you doing with it?”

Danny shrugged his shoulders. “And another one bites the dust. I’m fine. I’m going to miss him but I’ve reached that age where it’s just a part of the deal.”

“That’s sad.”

“That’s life.”

My previous blog was titled “Will It Go Round In Circles” and that blog didn’t…I should have saved it for this one.

Recently a local author named Peter Grauer (Interred With Their Bones – a history of Billy Miner in British Columbia) passed away. I didn’t hear about it until yesterday. I didn’t know Peter as well as I would have liked to…he frequented the bookshop where I worked, gathering research for his new book which will be published soon. We’d talk (mostly I’d listen) about writing and life in general. He always had a twinkle in his eye and a lot of encouraging words for me when he found out I was writing my own book. He couldn’t be at my book signing but he left me a wonderful hand-written note which is the first page in my archive binder. He signed it with the words “Pleased to know you…”. I went back upstairs and read that note a couple of times. Then I thought about my book signing.

It was one of those events that will forever be a special memory. So many nice people came to wish me well, to shake my hand…my fifteen minutes. And then I thought about a couple of local female folk-singers that volunteered to perform at my signing. They were great and the most genuine pair anyone could ask for. They gave me a moment to remember the rest of my life but they gave me a little more than they realized.

The first song they sang was “The Times They Are A Changin’”.

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Why do I do this to myself?

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My book-life seems to be fraught with dilemma lately and I find myself asking “Why am I doing this?” If it’s just because I have something to say there’s always the letters to the editor…and it’s certainly not about the money.

I’m happy with the way the $3.99 downloads are working but lately I’ve been checking out bookstores that might stock White Wolf Moon hard copies. Most are quite willing to put it on their shelves but at a 40% consignment fee. My books (including shipping) cost me about $14.00 apiece. The suggested list from those in the know is $27.99 ($28.00 since we lost the penny) but having worked in a bookstore for many years I know that’s too high a price, especially for a first-time author/title. Most trade-size novels hover around the $20 mark so that’s where I chose to price mine. I had a deal with the store where I worked and made a few bucks through them but since it closed I have to find at least one new outlet. Obviously losing 40% off the top of a $20 book isn’t workable and while I do believe I’ve sold more at that price than I would have at $28, I obviously have to rethink my pricing.

But again, why do I do this?

Someone got in touch with me yesterday and asked if I could sell her another copy of the book for a birthday present. Silly question, of course I could. I hand delivered it to her at her place of employment and basked in the praise she piled on me in front of everyone there. She told me how much she laughed and how much she identified with those ‘crazy people’ in the story. She even came around the counter and gave me a hug. I signed the new copy to her sister-in-law then took a quick look around the room and realized that seven people were sitting and smiling at me. Seven new people had just heard about my book and from a satisfied reader, not from me. A few of them waved and said good-bye as I left and I realized that this is one of the main reasons I do this. Yes it’s an ego thing but hey, my boat’s afloat.

Whether it be painting, writing, sculpture, pottery, photography…any of those self-satisfying pursuits…it’s all about the doing, the passion, and the love of creation. When other people share our creation and appreciate what we’ve done there’s a warm feeling of acceptance that is pretty hard to explain.

I do what I do for the same reason that anyone who takes up a creative endeavor that is unlikely to reap huge monetary rewards does.

I love it. It’s as simple as that.

JUST DO IT!

There was an interesting discussion at my book-signing last Saturday. A lady mentioned to me that her daughter has been thinking about writing a book for some time and I was asked for advice. I simply said to do it. Everyone has a book in them and they should get it down on paper (or laptop) whenever the spirit moves them. I also suggested not to wait until you’re sixty-five like me. A gentleman spoke up and said that he thought it was better to write at an older age because you have more life lessons under your belt and that experience could make what you write more significant to the reader.

Who’s right?

In “White Wolf Moon” it’s the experience of Evan Morris, the central character, that fuels the storyline. I draw on my experiences from the sixties (and up to today) to allow Evan to relate his philosophies on life. I’m not sure I could have written this is if I wasn’t sixty-five unless I’d done a lot of research and even then I don’t think I would have had the same slant on life in general. So concerning my book, that gentleman was right…but you have to keep in mind that “White Wolf Moon” relies heavily on my recounting real people and events in a fictional setting.

Fiction is imagination. As long as you have one you can create a story, poem, screenplay…whatever. If I was twenty-five now I couldn’t create something like I did to my satisfaction but I could perhaps write a sci-fi book. I’m sure that everyone has some pretty interesting characters around them and more than enough interesting situations to create a series of short stories or a full novel.

I have grandkids in the early grades in school. Their little one-page crayon stories are filled with boundless imagination and creativity and, while some of the stories don’t make sense to me, I see the value in allowing their imaginations to soar. Too soon their minds are cluttered with the realities of life and the more technical side of education.

It all begins with one sentence. Even if you’re not ready for prime-time the experience of creating your first story can only add experience to subsequent projects.

If you can think it, you can write it…at any age.

So that makes us both right and two rights can never be wrong.

LAYTON & I…TOGETHER.

The undulating universe of cosmic coincidence strikes again!!!

About three years ago I wrote a scene in “White Wolf Moon” that took place in a bookshop (At Second Glance Books in Kamloops). At the time there was an Irving Layton bio atop the poetry shelf. I described it this way:

“Evan moved back to the poetry shelves where a thick Irving Layton biography dominated a stack of thin, self-published works. He initially thought that it was sacrilege that Layton should be lumped in with those unknowns but then he thought better. Layton himself would have been the first to congratulate them for the perseverance and gumption they possessed to get even this far. Irving would have been right.

He leafed through the biography cluttered with fluorescent yellow highlighting and penned margin notes… a student perhaps. He was always curious about what other people deemed significant enough to underline or otherwise deface a book. He quickly browsed a few of the ‘important’ paragraphs. All of it had to do with the writing and not the man. As with all authors Layton was more than what he wrote and the more was usually far more interesting and insightful than the percentage of his soul bared in the work.”

Last Saturday I sold quite a few of my books at the signing. One gentleman, about my age, had me sign it for him. He was back in the store today and made some wonderful comments about the book. He told me that he’d laughed more than he has in years and that I’d done something that no other book has ever done…one scene brought him to tears. But the coolest thing about him buying my book? Three years ago he had bought the Layton book that I described. Now “White Wolf Moon” sits next to Irving Layton’s bio on his bookshelf.

Once again, one of the neat little things about having a book out there.