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How Does Your Garden Grow?
May 06, 2013 07:33AM
Spring is here and frankly, it could not have come soon enough. It's been a rotten winter, full of ice and snow and cold (not like the winter we had here in southern Ontario last year) and I'm glad to say good riddance to it all. And with the advent of warm weather comes that pleasantly irresistible itch to get out in my garden and get planting. I've written dozens of poems on the theme of gardening and I have a feeling there is more to come. There is nothing more soothing than getting down on my hands and knees in the dirt and planting seedlings and watching them grow into a bountiful harvest. All I need is Mother Nature's cooperation; like most deities, she tends to be a fickle goddess. Someday, in some dream world alternate universe, I want to buy a nice plot of land up north and raise my own vegetables and perhaps even have a chicken coop full of little feathered cluckers.
Tending a garden, I find, also feeds the creative process. It allows the mind to wander and bloom with new ideas. Each seed I sow in my flower beds and vegetable garden is the germ of yet another story, essay, poem, whatever musings come my way. And I know eventually I will reap the rewards of my hard work. It's no wonder many great writers were also avid gardeners. Agatha Christie comes to mind, and so does my all time favorite, Sylvia Plath who tended a garden when she lived in Devon, England in 1961. Creativity can come from many sources, and to me, the greatest inceptions come from my garden.
March 20, 2013 06:44AM
I've always wondered why us writers are such a superstitious lot. I'm convinced that a work will be accepted for publication if I submit it a certain way, or if I place the stamps on the SASE upside down or if I say a little prayer to God or Jesus or Buddha or Allah or Mohammed or whoever is in charge up there before I drop the envelope in the mailbox or hit the send button. I'm convinced that I will have a good day of writing if I wear my lucky underwear or not change my jewelry for the day. It's silly, I know. I mean, what difference does it make? Will the order of the universe really be altered if I perform a certain ritual or wear a certain item of clothing or jewelry? Probably not. Yet I still adhere to these superstitions and I know I'm not the only one. Us writers are creatures of habit and ritual.
Lately, I find my writing to be somewhat stalled. It's not that I have been at a loss for ideas. My mind is always racing with thoughts of new projects. I've been working on the still untitled sequel to "The Alicorn" and it's been slow going. I want each word to be perfect, each chapter a page turner. But I know these are impossible ideals. I've been getting some positive feedback from the members of my writing group and that has helped somewhat. Now all I need to do is sit my butt down in the desk chair and get to work. I know it needn't be perfect the first time around. I just need to get the story out and the words down. The rest I can work on later. Now, all I need is a good luck charm and perhaps my lucky underwear to get the words flowing!
Hurry Up and Wait!
January 16, 2013 09:29AM
I was getting worried. When I first received my publication offer from Whiskey Creek Press, I was told that an editor would be contacting me within the next 90-120 days. By the first week of January I still hadn't heard back, not a peep, from anyone at Whiskey Creek Press and I was beginning to think they had forgotten all about me. Then lo and behold I finally got my confirmation! The release date for the book will be September of this year. In the meantime, I have a lot of work to do--editing, correcting, working with the cover artist. I have always envisioned an old fashioned sort of woodcut design for the cover, given the time period of the story. It should be interesting to see what the artist comes up with. Having had previous stories illustrated by professional artists before, I find that the vision in my mind is not necessarily the same as the vision in other people's minds. Whatever the artist comes up with, though, I will be eternally grateful.
September seems like such a long way off. The old adage "Hurry up and wait!" certainly applies to artistic creations. They take a long time to come to fruition, but it is always worth the wait!
December 07, 2012 02:57PM
I can't believe we're well into December already. It seems as though each time I blink, more and more days pass me by. I hate to bring up an old cliche, but the older I get the faster time goes by. But I'm ready to say good-bye to 2012. It's been a very emotional year for me, full of highs and lows, fears and foes, and one bright shining spot in the publication offer I received from Whiskey Creek Press for "The Alicorn". I'm terribly superstitious, especially about the number thirteen, and I'm left wondering if the next year (see, I can't even write the number down!) will be unlucky for me. But then the logical, sensible part of my mind kicks in and tells me what nonsense my triskaidekaphobia is. What should a little ordinary number like that have anything to do with luck--which, by the way, my logical brain tells me doesn't exist either. In any case, I'm ready to move on and start anew in a new year, full of new challenges and the final publication of "The Alicorn".
In the meantime, we have to get through Christmas. I harbour a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I do so enjoy the parties and the food and, of course, buying and wrapping gifts for friends and family and the peaceful holiday time just relaxing. What I don't enjoy is the fact that I have to do most of the work, especially with the cooking; I'm competent enough in the kitchen, but only because I have to be or we'd all starve. I also have to do most of the shopping and decorating and planning. Today's poem reflects some of these frustrations. "Advent Blues" was very hard to get down. I knew what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, but the words just didn't seem to come out in the right order. I wrote the poem last year during the holiday season, and looking at it now I still feel it is unfinished. I seemed to have left my narrator in the mall parking lot with no real closure. Perhaps I will work on it some more this year. I the meantime, I will try to find or maybe write a new one that feels more complete.
I just need to find the time in all this holiday rush!
November 03, 2012 01:12PM
It's been quite a hectic autumn for me. I can't believe we're into November already. I was hoping to do some sort of tribute on October 27 in honor of what would have been Sylvia Plath's 80th birthday, but October 27 came and went and it has been a week now and I still haven't done anything. But it doesn't mean I don't ruminate about it. The way my twisted mind works, I find it ironic that her birthday is on October 27 and her daughter Frieda's birthday is April 1; whereas my birthday is April 2 and my daughter Stephanie's birthday is October 28. Coincidence? Perhaps.
With the upcoming publication of my novel next year, I have begun work on a sequel. I still don't know what to call it. I'm having a hard enough time just naming the chapters. I just completed the first chapter about fifteen minutes ago. Another chapter I plan on using further into the book was finished about a month ago and I've been shopping it around the SF/Fantasy markets as a stand alone short story. This tale of our heroine, Vala Hide, is somewhat darker and more menacing that the first book. She is growing up and her age of innocence is coming to end; she must learn to face the dangers and her own personal demons if she is to live and grow and liberate the Land of Nomar from the callow regent Prince Tito and his mother, the suddenly malevolent Queen Mother Cornelia. (Am I giving too much away?)
Faun Neun, my editor at Vagabondage Press, has also asked me to post a blog on how "The Watchmaker" came about. I sent it to her last week but I still haven't seen it on the VBP website. But, as promised, I will post it here for all to see:
The idea for “The Watchmaker” first began to germinate over twenty-five years ago. At the time I was a young Media Arts Writing student at Sheridan College. My boyfriend at the time was David, an ambitious Film Arts student with aspirations of becoming the next Steven Spielberg. He even bore a striking resemblance to a young Richard Dreyfuss straight out of “American Graffiti”. I have always been fascinated with World War II history, particularly with the rise of the Third Reich and the Holocaust. Growing up in rural Czechoslovakia, I remember the stories of NAZI soldiers storming our village, pilfering and ransacking the fields and confiscating the family bakery. The local Jewish cemetery was desecrated and the Jewish citizenry rounded up and sent to Theresienstadt, most never to be heard from again. My grandparents lived through these horrors, looking on helplessly as their friends and neighbors were systematically deported.
After two years of steady dating, talk among David’s family inevitably turned to the possibility of marriage. His sister-in-law had recently converted to Judaism, more to placate his elderly grandmother than any religious convictions she may have harbored. I expressed a willingness to follow suit if the time ever came. After all, it would mollify the old lady and keep his family traditions afloat.
My own mother was horrified when I told her the news. Believing she was about to launch into some anti-Semitic diatribe, I steeled myself for the argument. How dare she judge people by their faith? Had she no tolerance and compassion, considering what her own parents must have endured?
She stopped me in mid-sentence and said, “No, it has nothing to do with that. You know I like David and I’d welcome him into the family.”
“Then what is it?” I demanded. “What exactly do you have against the Jewish faith?”
“What if it happens again?” was her reply.
I was stunned. I had no argument. It had never occurred to me that anything as heinous as the Holocaust could ever happen again. At the time, only forty years had elapsed since the fall the Third Reich. Memories were still raw; wounds had not yet healed. An entire traumatized generation still relived those horrors every day. No, I thought. It could never happen again. Or could it?
Ten years later the fall of the former Yugoslavia brought back chilling memories of genocide. Ten more years, I watched on the news as dead bodies floated down the muddy rivers of Rwanda. Yes, I realized. It could happen again.
I never did convert nor marry David. We broke up a short time later for unrelated reasons. I married a wonderful man shortly after graduation and he started an electronics parts company with a partner twenty years his senior. About ten years ago, their relationship soured and they decided to dissolve the partnership with my husband buying out his partner’s share of the company. It was during that difficult period for the family when I began to think again to a time, generations ago, when business partnerships were forcibly dissolved for more malevolent reasons. And I thought: “What would a person do in such a situation? Could he stand by and watch his friend and partner be expelled by an evil government? Would he do something to help, even if it meant risking his own life? Or would he stand by and allow it to happen?”
The idea stuck with me and “The Watchmaker” was written in a three day frenzy. It remains today one of my favorite compositions. It is my homage to all those innocents who perished needlessly in the Holocaust and a tribute to all the brave people who risked their own safety to help; who stood up and faced an evil government and refused let it happen.
There is no love lost between my husband and his former partner. Over the years, we’ve lost touch with him and his family. But to this day, I am still grateful to him for being the inspiration for Wilhelm Plum. Ali, wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, I thank you dearly.
At Last Autumn
October 14, 2012 05:29PM
This is my favorite time of year. I love the fall. Most people view it as a time of death and repose. Today's poem actually reflects that perspective--that it is a time of endings and death. But I view it another way. It is also a time of hope, of birth and renewal. It is like the conception of a new life: there must be a period of dormancy before the new life can spring forth in the spring. Things are settling in for a long winter's repose, preparing for eventual renewal. I can smell it in the air, feel it in the wind. The heat of the summer is a not so distant memory. Now is the time to reap the bounty of the crops we planted during the summer (vegetable gardening is a passionate hobby of mine) and prepare for a time when new life will burst through and the cycle will start over again. A new year is just around the corner, and with it hopefully a new chance to start over again. The circle of life, as it is often called. It makes me wistful and nostalgic. Some of my fondest childhood memories occurred during the autumn months and I often think back to those days of innocence and tranquility. Ah, to be young again!
Success at Last!
September 19, 2012 08:07AM
The latter half of the summer has been hell for me. With problems in my family life, my job (yes, us writers need day jobs to make ends meet), the heat so intense I felt as though I'd melt each time I stepped out the door. I have been so busy and stressed I could barely find time to write. Not that it would make much difference. I couldn't concentrate on anything but the problems at hand. I've written a few paltry little poems and a couple of short stories I'm not too terribly excited about. I know there's no such thing as writer's block but I was using it as an excuse not to write. Then I berated myself for my sloth which just added to my problems. I'm so glad summer is all but over. I am ready to make a change. Change is good. I quit my old job and started a new one at my husband's company. I've buckled down a little more and jotted some ideas for new projects. Today I'm even getting my hair cut. And the weather has finally cooled, the leaves are starting their autumn blush and a new metamorphosis is in the air. But there is one more significant change in the air.
Most people view September 11 as a day of sorrow and introspection. But to me it is a day of great celebration. It was the day the good people of Whiskey Creek Press contacted me and offered a publication contract for my YA fantasy book "The Daughters of Eldox: The Alicorn". I was stunned. After years of hard work, knocking on doors, begging publishers to look at my manuscripts, my day has finally arrived. And so soon! It took me years to get "The Watchmaker" published and it is just a short novella. "The Alicorn" is a full length novel, just the first volume in a series I've already started to plan. Whiskey Creek is one of the first publishers I've submitted it to and they snapped it up in just a few short months.
I know the real hard work is ahead of me. Proofing, editing etc. But I'm ready for the challenge. This has been my dream all my life and I will do whatever it takes to get this novel to fruition. It's as though the gods have looked down at me and said "This poor woman has been through enough. Let's throw her a bone!" And it is a bone I will happily chew. And so in celebration of my newfound success, I have added another short story to my archives. "Virgin of the Travelling Jeans" is a cute little story I wrote years ago and it finally got published by
this past spring. Again, like so many of my stories, it took years of beating on doors to get it published. It's not a particular favorite, but I like it well enough. It was inspired by a movie called "Henry Poole Was Here". Few people have heard of it, and it quickly disappeared in the bargain bins of the DVD aisles. But it's a great movie and I hope it eventually gets the credit it deserves.
A Valley for Writers
July 19, 2012 10:36AM
The other day I returned from a vacation in the Napa Valley, California. I couldn't get over the stunning beauty of the mountains and valleys and, of course, the vineyards. There were miles and miles of picturesque vineyards and fruit trees and gardens. It seemed as though everyone and anyone who owned even a small parcel of land planted row upon row of grapes. Each picturesque town bore the quaintness one would associate with small town Americana with wide verandas and lush flower gardens and flags planted on every lawn, swaying in the warm breeze.
But that was not all that astounded me with the region. I was amazed to learn that none other than Jack London owned property in California wine country. He even owned a vineyard, which is now Kenwood Estates, and they produce a line of wines that still bear his name. There is a state park named for him, where the remnants of his home still stand, albeit in ruins, and a museum dedicated to his life and work. I was overwhelmed walking the path that he had once trod and seeing his artifacts in his former home.
I was even more surprised to learn that Robert Louis Stevenson, the genius behind such classics as "Treasure Island" and "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde", had also lived in the area for a brief eight weeks in the 1880s. There is another state park and a mountain named for him. It seems that the locals were so enamored with him that they claimed him as their own, and I can't say that I blame them, even though he was born in Scotland and died in Samoa. I climbed his mountain (although only halfway) and toured his museum at the local library. I was awed to touch a book that had once belonged to him. I was even more astonished to see a handwritten manuscript of one of his poems. The lines of verse were in perfect order; not a word or line scratched out, not a single syllable out of place. And this was just a first draft!
If only I could write like that! I thought. My notebook, where I pen most of my first drafts, is an embarrassment in comparison. There are doodles in the margins, words and lines and phrases scratched out and deleted, entire pages ripped out from frustration. I feel like an amateur in comparison. No wonder his brilliant work has lived on for so long.
Add these two literary icons to my personal favorite, John Steinbeck, whose former home is further south in the Salinas Valley, and you have a virtual haven for writers. It's easy to see why. The scenery is breathtaking, and the forests and mountains provide the perfect solitude needed for quiet meditation and creativity. (The wine helps, also!) I suppose that is every writer's dream: a cabin hidden away in the sylvan mountains where one can write in peace, inspired by the splendor of the scenery. I do have my own little cottage in Haliburton, where I sometimes go alone and produce some of my best work. But it is a bustling metropolis in comparison to the quietude and blessedness of California wine country. I will certainly be returning soon!
RIP Ray Bradbury
June 07, 2012 07:12AM
This morning I heard the heartbreaking news that one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury, has passed away. The news shouldn't come as such a shock. After all, he was 91 and in failing health. It's funny how we believe that people we admire will live forever. Sadly, this is not the case. I'm still reeling from the deaths of Davey Jones and Dick Clark, two icons of mid twentieth century pop culture.
I remember reading Bradbury's opus "Fahrenheit 451" when I was just a kid in high school. Even then, as a budding writer, the thought of anyone burning a book outraged me. I thought it would be about widthspread censorship, but it was much more than that. He prophesied a paperless society where individuals were dedicated to the latest hedonistic pleasures, a society where people were discouraged from free thought and conformity was the norm, where the latest entertainments could be had at the push of a button. Sound familiar? Although I never had the pleasure of reading his other masterpiece, "The Martian Chronicles", I do remember watching the mini-series on television as a kid. Back then, the thought of humans colonizing Mars was a farfetched fantasy. Little did we know that a mere thirty years later, there would be a company laying down the plans for such an endeavor. It proves my point that good science fiction is not just a reflection of the current society in which it was written--think "Logan's Run" and "District 9"--but also a harbinger of the future. Ray Bradbury was all that and more. I only wish I could be as imaginative and prolific as he was.
So, in honor of the great writer, today's poem is entitled "Me Without You", a piece I wrote a few months ago following the death of Davey Jones. (I actually stole the title from one of his lesser known songs) It is an amalgamation of all those I have loved and admired and have lost over the years, including my cat, Butters.
RIP Ray Bradbury.
April 30, 2012 08:03AM
Today I added another short story to my archives. I wrote "Blood Apprentice" way back in the spring of 2006. At the time it was one of my favorites. I have always been a history buff and have always harbored a particular fascination with the French Revolution. The story itself is not for the squeamish, as it revolves around the beheadings that occurred during The Terror, when thousands of innocent people were executed on mostly false accusations and hearsay evidence. It's a love story really, told against the backdrop of one of the world's most important historical events. I had a hard time getting it published. It circulated the usual gamut of literary journals for a couple of years before finally finding a home in
in the fall of 2008. It's usually the way with writers. We are our own worse critics. I have to work hard and push like the dickens to get work that I am most proud of published, often for years and with encroaching discouragement. Meanwhile, insubstantial crap that I whip off just for the hell of it and to keep myself from getting rusty between more serious projects, gets published right away and with little effort. Maybe that is the secret: keep writing drivel and you will succeed!
Speaking of fiction, I'm pleased to announce that another one of my favorite stories is going to find a home. "My Confessor" has been accepted for publication in
in the UK. I suppose it's a good thing that my drawer is getting empty. I have sold a lot of pieces lately and I'm running out of work to submit. I haven't really written anything substantial, save for a few poems, since completing my YA fantasy novel a couple of months ago. I really should shake the cobwebs out of my skull and get to work. I just need a good idea to latch onto so I can run with it!
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