Happy Easter and Welcome Spring

Puffed up Grouse - Guenette photo

Spring must be here when the male grouse goes looking for a mate. I captured a shot of this guy outside my kitchen door yesterday. We see grouse around here all the time. They love to eat the Russian Kale that grows so profusely there is enough for all of us. But this was my first experience of seeing a male all puffed up in this way. A friend on Facebook provided this information:

It’s a Ruffed Grouse. Named after the wonderful ruff around the necks of the males. He’s starting to look for a mate. You will also be hearing a “drumming” sound, which is them beating their wings. Again, to attract a mate.

How wonderful! We’ve often heard the drumming, thrumming sound. Now we know what’s going on out in the wilderness!

Russian kale 2(original), March 20-2017 - briuce witzel photo

Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – IX

Russian kale 3(original), March 20-2017 - briuce witzel photo

A few days along the writing way: 153,000 words – it’s coming down to the wire now. There’s a list on my desk of the scenes left to write and the order in which I want to write them. I estimate another week and I’ll have this first draft in the bag.

I can’t say enough about how using the navigation tool on Word has aided my writing  – especially as I started to write scenes out of sequence. With a quick drag of the mouse up or down the navigation tool bar, using the information heavy sub-titles I had chosen, I could make sure I wasn’t messing up the time lines. And I can find my way through the entire document in a flash. Amazing – not sure how I managed before I learned of this simple tool.

bingo card - google imageI finished up a section today that had me laughing as I read it over. We writers do love our own antics. This scene is at a fundraiser Bingo that Micah Camp is doing with the local Catholic parish of St. Bertha’s. A fun part of the night for one and all is getting the priest at St. Bertha’s to call and then giving him a good natured hard time. For your enjoyment – a sneak peak at a first draft scene from No Compass to Right:

“Hey, Father,” the voice rang out through the crowded, stuffy hall. It was early and the place already smelled of overheated coffee and hotdogs.

Kieran stood on the stage between the bingo machine that sounded like an out-of-control popcorn popper with its seventy-five balls whirling around inside and a large lit up board dotted with holes. He had been pulling the balls from the machine, calling the number and setting them in the board for five games now. It seemed like he was getting the hang of it and he hoped that nothing else would throw him for a loop the way an elderly woman in the first row had when she raised her voice to ask him, “Are you going to drop your balls or what, Father.” He quickly learned that meant turn the machine on and get calling.

He stared out across the tables filled with people wielding fluorescent bingo dabbers like plunging daggers over their paper cards, and said, “What can I do for you?”

“What do you call a sleep-walking nun?” A man at a table near the back of the hall yelled.

To Kieran’s helpless shrug, another person on the other side of the hall shouted, “A roamin’ Catholic.” Then someone rang a huge cow bell and everyone busted out laughing.

And a few days more: 164,000 words at day’s end. Three key scenes to write and then I’m finished my first draft of No Compass to Right. I’ve been writing around and around these scenes for a couple of weeks. The tension is as ramped up for me in the creation process as I hope it will be for the reader. Pushing on to the end now. I see the finish line and can’t wait to get there.

Crocus 2(backlit) March 20, 0217 - bruce witzel photo

Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – VI

A  ferry at dawn

A day in this writing life dawns – 113,000 words. I probably have another month to go on the writing of this first draft. I may need a break. We’ll see. I’ve been thinking about how writing in the voice of some characters is, in one way – easy – while in another, exhausting.

When I write in Izzy’s voice, as a counsellor, what she’ll say and do comes quickly to mind. But a counsellor’s job is draining – be it in real time or in my imagination. Izzy is exhausting! In another character’s voice, though scenes and conversations are totally fictional, the writing takes me back to a time in my own life that was often marked by emotional turmoil. Again, what this character will say or do flows freely and my fingers fly over the keyboard. But the emotional trace is tiring.

Sculpture - Talieson West - Bruce Witzel photo

Two days goes by – 120,000 words and I’m working with a printed copy of the constantly-updated table of contents right in front of me at all times. I call this a zoom out technique. By closely studying that table, I was able to cut two characters and tweak the rest of my notes on unwritten sections to accommodate this change. I realized I could achieve what I wanted with those characters in a far more streamlined way. Bonus!

Niagara Falls - Bruce Witzel photo

And more days go by – I’ve reached 130,000 words and at this point, the story is simply spewing from me. There is no pleasant way to say that; no time for the niceties of well-wrought descriptive phrases or properly placed dialogue tags. It is simply a rush to see if I can type fast enough to get it down.

Having a firm grip on the structure of the novel is useful. Like tracking waves – the seventh one out there is going to be big. The writing builds and builds, hits a climax and then lengthens out as thing slow down, a few resolutions occur and the stage is set to start building again. Each subsequent climax builds a bit higher until, hopefully, when the big climax is reached – it is suitably tense and gripping.

California beach - Bruce Witzel photo

And more and more days go by – 136,000 words. I moved ahead in the writing today by tackling a whole chapter of aftermath events. I’ve been fretting about the magnitude of the upcoming major scenes. This leap forward to write about what happens afterwards is like a breath of fresh air blowing through a stuffy room. I’m energized.

First daddodils with dewdrops Mar. 2, 2015 - bruce witzel photo

And yet more days go by – 140,000 words and stopped in my tracks. Had a root canal finished up yesterday and it feels as though someone socked me in the jaw. Wow – talk about driving thoughts of Crater Lake out of my head. Taking a couple of Tylenol and heading to bed early.

Lake and the auroraborealis, Sept. 12, 2014 Bruce Witzel photo.2

Thoughts from the Writing Trenches – Part V

Broken teacup art - bruce witzel photoNow is the moment of my discontent – 99,000 words and I’ve reached a part of the novel I always struggle with – the middle. Writing all the characters into the story is challenging but at the same time, vastly rewarding. Writing the end always races away in a flurry of heightened tension, climax and the tying up of loose ends. But this middle section – putting actual words to character arcs, building that all-important tension, foreshadowing what is to come and walking the characters to the climax in ways that make sense – this part is hard work. No other way to describe writing the middle.

For me, creating my first draft is a constant process of zooming in and zooming out. When I get stuck, like I am right now with the middle, zooming out is what is needed.

Geranium inside cabin sunspace, feb. 26, 2017 - bruce witzel photo

I do this by creating lists, tables and maps. I went chapter-by-chapter listing the characters mentioned in each one. I don’t want to lose track of anyone and I don’t want readers to get to know an interesting character, only to have that character disappear then pop out of nowhere near the end of the book. If you’ve ever had this experience as a reader, you know it’s darn disconcerting. Another stepping back task was to create a table linking characters with their storylines, number of point-of-view scenes and how the storylines cross over from character to character. That was a colourful chart. Next came multiple attempts at mind-mapping major themes. I ended up with a simple chart of overarching themes with three subthemes and a few points under each of these. Every storyline can be subsumed within these themes.

Lakeview from the bathroom, March 9-2017 - bruce witzel photo

After those exercises, I felt back on track. How do you find writing in the middle? If you had a preference, would it be beginning, middle or end?

A Week in Photos

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer – Albert Camus

Hellebore 2017

Hellebore – I am in love with this new addition to our garden – a rose like blossoms that comes to life in the dead of winter.

Multi-level solar greenhouse

Our solar greenhouse-guest room-tool shed is coming along. The colours are especially pleasing to me.

Taking a breather

A bright, blue sky day, frost on the ground … caught the builder taking a break.

Ice Sculpture 2017

Ice sculpture BC style. No, we don’t have broken pipes. We just need to leave the water running so we don’t end up with frozen pipes.

Ice Sculpture 2017 - 2

 

Snow at the lake

And then came the snow. Not exactly #snowpocolypse but very pretty.

Snowy view from my desk

The view from my desk makes it hard to keep working. I want to go out and play in the snow.

The Silver Terrace Cemetery in Virginia City, Nevada

Silver Terrace Cemetery

Virginia City, Nevada is quite the place. The area’s history as an old west mining town has been used to turn the town into a tourist mecca. I’m betting that most people who visit are interested in the main street of funky western shops, bars and eateries. Well, we aren’t most travellers. We choose a quiet walk around the Silver Terrace Cemetery and we did not feel we had missed out on a thing.

Here is what I picked up from one of the informative signs. Established in 1867, the thirty-acre cemetery was once fully irrigated and sustained a wide variety of non-indigenous flowering plants and trees. A stroll through the shady, rose scented paths tapped into the senses in a transformative way. I was surprised to learn that these early cemeteries were so beautiful and inviting that they became the forerunners of the public parks system in America.

Rose bud at Silver Terrace Cemetery

Silver Terrace is an American West collective memory. Filled with symbols that emphasized a belief in everlasting life, a stroll through the cemetery immerses one in a socially infused cultural landscape.

Angel grave stone

These grounds was once described as the loveliest place of burial in Nevada. Not so anymore. A vast majority of the grave markers have been stolen or vandalized. In 2005, such theft became a crime in the state of Nevada and the cemetery is now remotely monitored twenty-four hours a day. This has served to halt the devastation.

Silver Terrace Cemetery - Virginia City, Nevada

I was taken by the sadness of this stone – baby Horace lived only one month and died on the same day my daughter was born – albeit one-hundred and eight years before!

Child's grave stone

I wondered about Mary Jane Simpson. Was she actually a mule or just a woman who could be mulish when it suited her.

Mary Simpson

And what more can be said of James F. Brown from Ireland but that after life’s fitful fever, he sleeps well. May we all be immortalized with such simple yet significant words.

James F. Brown grave stone

Any Fool Can Know–Wednesday Wisdom

Smoke Bush - Bruce Witzel photo

“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” Albert Einstein

A few days ago, my granddaughter and I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I pointed out a particularly lovely Smoke Bush that was in full bloom. I told Britney how much I love the dusky colour and the way the feathery purple spikes really look like smoke coming from the bush. She nodded wisely, taking it all in the way she does.

Brit's new sweater - Guenette photo

When we were out yesterday, I saw her point out a Smoke Bush and tell her mom, “Grandma loves smoking bush.” Hmmm … I suppose that could be taken a few different ways. Then again, the point is to understand.

Smoke Bush 2 - Bruce Witzel photo