Bruce did me the great favour of reblogging one of my posts recently and now, I am so pleased to return the gesture. This post is one of my favourites. He has tapped into so many themes that matter to both of us.
Monthly Archives: March 2015
Grandkids and Greenhouses
During a recent visit with our grandchildren, Bruce enlisted their help with the foundation for our new solar greenhouse.
Bruce is happy to make use of Brit’s levelling skills.
Oh, oh – stuck in the mud.
Oh, no – fell in the mud.
Time to get Emma’s help with some drilling.
Who’s the king of the mud hill?
Emma’s pretty excited about helping with the concrete.
I know Bruce will be missing his talkative and lively helpers this week but he continues to make progress on his own.
Who loves a garden [or a grandkid] loves a greenhouse too. (William Cowper)
Living in the pristine wilderness with the multi-hued evergreens banking up the mountain slopes and the breathtaking colours of a morning sunrise over a lake glistening and moving gently are joys beyond compare.
Unfortunately, it isn’t all gazing off into the beautiful and wild yonder. We have the occasional mundane thing to deal with. Uninvited guests show up now and then. Though these guests do serve as an important reminder that we are the ones to have taken up shop in their backyard and not vice versa, we still must deal with them.
A friend of mine used to call them wee critters to lessen the shudder factor. It does sound a bit nicer than vermin, for sure. I’m not averse to sharing the news that we are visited by mice now and then. Good grief, a much more famous author than I made word mileage writing about the joys he and his partner experienced while sharing bread crumbs in a country kitchen with a favourite mouse. Oh Timothy Findley, we miss you!
We aren’t quite so friendly with our mice. And that is all I’ll say about that!
Then, of course, there are the bugs. Today, we’re dealing with the Annual March of Ants through various parts of the cabin. Oh joy. I suspect a few of them are beating on huge drums and throwing batons in the air. There even may be a cartwheeler or two amongst them.
Don’t get me started on the family of squirrels that has taken up residence in part of our roof. They at least have a cuteness factor going for them. Every morning they scamper down the cedar shakes and hop, lickety-split across the deck. On their way to work, I suppose. Come evening, they repeat the trek in reverse. I have caught myself occasionally trying to capture their antics with my camera. Something I have yet to consider when it comes to mice or ants. Currently, there is peaceful co-existence. We accept the fact that part of our home has become a high-rise for squirrels. They can rest easy until the fateful day when Bruce gets up there to redo the roof. Then it will be back to the trees for them.
Country living – never a dull moment.
Hello there, Mr. Banana Slug. Hope you like your reflection.
Writing Foibles and Personal Word Traps
When the writing muse takes hold and my fingers start moving at lightning speed over the keyboard, I litter the pages with my personal word traps … combinations or single words that I dump into my writing at an alarming rate. I don’t see these repetitions going in and I don’t see them when I do multiple readings. As the perpetrator of these writing foibles, I am utterly blind to their existence.
You can only imagine my joy when I discovered the find function in Word. If you haven’t used this Word function magic – though I suspect I was the last in the world to discover it – you will see it on the upper right hand menu bar beside an icon of binoculars – so fitting!
I’m in the process of editing two novels right now. Yesterday, I plugged in the words – and then – to the find function and no less than one hundred and twenty incidents of using this troublesome combination came up. Another of my foibles is the word just. I sprinkle that word through my work the way a heavy-handed salt lover would dust a plate of fries. And once I get into the editing process, the word is as hard to spot as those individual grains of salt would be.
After going through the editing process with my first two novels and a book of short stories, I believed – quite naively – that I had learned my lesson. The problem words and combinations had been pointed out to be and I had set myself the task of rooting them out. Surely, I would now cease to write in this way. Alas, it is not to be. The find function continues to reveal my personal bug-a-boos.
Since I am probably the only writer guilty of such heavy usage of the find function to locate incidents of – and then, or just – I will share some of the other useful aspects of this word processor miracle. I have a notebook in which I’ve jotted down specific words that constantly trip me up. Things like – roommate is one word; full-time is hyphenated, halfway is one word. All I need do is plug in half way as two words and the find function will instantly alert me to all the times I’ve made this error. I also check my common typos – for example, Crate Lake instead of Crater Lake.
When we get to line-by-ling editing of anything I’ve written, my editor will be thrilled to learn that I have started a new section in my notebook entitled – Find function tasks before sending any portion of this manuscript for editing. The list is long but thankfully Word is fast.
I’ll leave you today with a small section of Chasing Down the Night – the third book in the Crater Lake Series, coming out in late spring of this year! Editor input made this passage smooth as a stone polished by the waves of millennium and nary a just or and then to be had.
Izzy stared out the window to the harbour. Sunshine danced above the surface of the choppy water and glinted off the metal of the boats jostling against the dock. The bright white bodies and yellow beaks of seagulls stood out against the clear blue sky as they swooped and set up a raucous cacophony of sound. Beyond the tightly-packed pleasure boats, the fishing fleet was coming in. Grey, hulking seiners lumbered past the breakwater towards the commercial wharf. Hemmed in by massive creosoted pilings, the wide structure dwarfed the vehicles and people that moved about on it like so many colourful playthings being pushed around on a toy room floor. The already noisy harbour was suddenly dominated by the roar of a seaplane. Wide pontoons skimmed the waves before the plane lifted into the air on wings buffeted to and fro by the wind.
What’s in a Name?
So much to learn, so little time. As I edit the third and the plan the fourth novel in the Crater Lake series, I have come to the conclusion that naming characters has more to it than I realized at the start of my fiction writing days. Looking back, I have no idea how the characters in Disappearing in Plain Sight got their names. Where did Beulah come from? I have never met or heard of anyone named Beulah. The group of people who came to life in my first novel seemed to have arrived in my head with names.
I don’t necessarily advocate such an approach as I sit and ponder passages where I have Beulah, Bethany and Brigit at one table and Jeremy, Justin and Jesse all showing up in the same scene. I only wish my son had asked me sooner, “What is with all the names starting with B and J?” But the dye was cast, or the cast was cast … I was already into the second novel in the series and stuck with all the names from the first.
That doesn’t excuse Brigit, a character in the third novel, Chasing Down the Night. I definitely know better. But Brigit is Brigit and, strangely enough, she resists the urge to be called anything else and cares little that she must exist alongside of a Beulah and a Bethany.
I was shocked to realize, as I worked on the initial drafts of Maelstrom (my mother’s unpublished manuscript that I am making my own) that there were two characters named Chuck. Shocked, not because my mother had stepped into such a writer faux pas but because I was into a third draft of my reworked version before I noticed.
When making a conscious choice for a character’s name, I have resorted to strange rituals. Here’s a good one – I open up my twitter feed, scroll down and grab a first name and then scroll a bit further and grab a last name. I’ve deliberately chosen names I liked and names I didn’t like. I’ve plucked a last name from a family friend and a first name from the air. I’ve thumbed through the phone book – oh, come on now, you do so remember what a phone book is. I’ve checked out Google lists of common and uncommon surnames as well as popular girls and boys names by birth year.
If you are a fan of literary fiction (and, seriously, who isn’t? But we’ll put that debate aside for now) you’ll know that authors can put a great deal of thought and effort into naming characters. A reader can burrow down through layers and layers of meaning pondering a single character’s name. I’m going out on a limb here, but I’m sure Joseph Conrad put some thought into giving names to Marlow and Kurtz in Heart of Darkness. And if you come across a modern-day novel (or TV series) that has a character named Kurtz and one named Marlowe, rest assured, the writer plans for you to float down a metaphorical river that takes you into a heart of darkness.
Or perhaps he or she simply used the twitter feed method of character naming or thumbed through the phone book.
If you write and are willing, tell us one of your preferred methods of coming up with a character name. If you’re a reader, tell us what gets your goat when it comes to how authors name their characters.