Sunday, November 25, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: November 25

Six Sentence Sunday is a weekly blog hop where participants post six sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image, but hurry, it is only running until the end of January.

Last week, I posted the opening sentences from my current WIP, Tiamat's Nest.

The opening is meant to tease you a bit. Some people wondered why Charles was unhappy at billions of people failing to die. No, he's not a master villain, he's a university professor trying to understand history. The uncooperative billions exist inside his computer simulation.

This snippet gives a small clue about the nature of the history that Charles is trying - and failing - to recreate.


Charles clattered down two flights of stairs to a dim hallway at street level. Faded wallpaper, antique lamps, and the worn wooden staircase with balustrade polished by centuries of use, jarred with the gleaming plastic of the inner porch door at the end of the hall. The door swished open as he approached, and sighed closed behind him. Sand crunched underfoot as he crossed the few meters to the street door. He ignored the row of storm capes and face masks hanging from pegs on the wall and stepped out into the street.

The mid-morning heat of Oxford gripped him. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Yes, it's warm under all that fur...

Yes, it's November.

Yes, I'm still wearing shorts.

I guess Tigger must think I need warming up...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Six Sentence Sunday: November 18

In the time I've been blogging, I've seen a number of esteemed blogger friends take part in Six Sentence Sunday. I've always thought it would be fun to give it a go, but always had "more important" things to do. Last week I discovered that it will finish in January, so I reckoned I better pull my finger out!

Six Sentence Sunday is a weekly blog hop where participants post six sentences of their writing.

Here are the opening sentences from my current WIP, Tiamat's Nest.

It was barely eight in the morning, and Professor Charles Ainsley Hawthorne was already having a bad day. He'd just watched six billion people live. People who should have died.

He closed his eyes, ground his knuckles into their sockets, and counted slowly. Calming his heartbeat, Charles poured a cup of tea. His usually cheerful demeanor would take longer to recover.

More snippets to follow in coming weeks...

Saturday, November 17, 2012

How time flies

I woke this morning with a sudden realization. Today, we have been Canadian citizens for exactly six months!

I can't believe it's already half a year since this ceremony.

How time flies.

Monday, November 12, 2012

An impromptu grand day out

With Remembrance Day falling on a Sunday this year, all the parades and solemnities took place yesterday, leaving us with a day off today. There are some benefits of both of us working for government. After all the work earlier this weekend, we decided it was time for a family outing.

Much debate about what to do. Nothing too onerous - it was already well past noon by the time we got our act together, and rain clouds loomed. Megan wanted to ride the Mill Bay Ferry, so we planned our afternoon around that. Drive down the Peninsula then up the highway to Mill Bay, then cross back to home on the ferry.

Things didn't start off too promising. As we rounded the Saanich Inlet and headed north, we remembered that it was time for the annual salmon run at Goldstream. Kids wanted to stop, but we were deterred by the heaving parking lot as we drove past. The salmon run is always a big attraction and it's often difficult to find anywhere to stop.

Minor disappointment mended by soup and sandwiches at Tim Hortons in Mill Bay. And donuts. Don't forget the donuts!

With time to kill before the ferry, we cast around for things to do. Again, the things the kids wanted to do were too far off, or would take too much time. More disappointment. Gypsy needed a walk, so we settled for a visit to a tiny park just out of Mill Bay, that we've not noticed before.

From then on, the afternoon was pure magic.

The park was down by the water, and deserted. The trail led up by a small creek running into the sea, and we were treated to our own private salmon run. We stood, entranced, for half an hour watching large fish battling their way upstream.

On the way there and back, we passed a field with a herd of deer grazing. None of us have ever seen so many deer together at one time. Must have been thirty or more.

We got to the ferry just in time, and boarded. This is only a small run, a 25 minute crossing, with room for fewer than 30 cars on the open deck. We climbed up to a narrow viewing gallery overlooking one side of the car deck. Matthew went exploring. When we next saw him, he was waving to us from the door of the bridge on the other side of the ferry. The captain invited us up and explained to the kids how to steer a ship without a rudder - this design just uses the engines on either side to steer as well as drive.
Megan got to guide us in to the dock at Brentwood Bay.

This made our day.

Back to work tomorrow. *Sigh*

Saturday, November 10, 2012


Why is it that a holiday weekend invariably turns into anything but a holiday?

Not complaining, it's all good stuff, getting us into better shape for the winter, but it's hard work.

Apart from the usual Saturday stuff like grocery shopping for the week, and about six loads of laundry because we've been neglecting it for a while, we took advantage of the first real sunlight I've seen in nearly a month to winterize the trailer. Thankfully we've not had any hard frosts yet.

OK, the sun has made an occasional appearance in that time, but always when I've been at work.

Ali and the kids did a lot of sorting out stuff in the garage, including a load of things to take to the thrift shop, while I raked leaves and made good progress re-filling the compost heap. We have a large fenced-in bin that you could almost park a car in - maybe a Smart car, anyway. Every two or three years I shovel it all out to get at the yard or two of fine compost at the bottom, then all the rest gets shoveled back in again. It's a huge job, and I've been pecking away at it for the last three weekends, but I'm nearly there.

Then a few more small chores to drain the last of my flagging reserves of energy before heading to the shower.

Now, I think, my next actions will involve beer.

Cheers. How's your weekend going?

Saturday, November 3, 2012

So, what happens next?

Just topped 40k on Tiamat's Nest. That's 10k in a month (don't mock, all you NaNo-ers who've probably done close to that in the few days of November already) which is on target. And for me it's a psychological threshold - half a novel!

Things have slowed down in the last week, though, and I'm hoping I can pick up the pace again. I'm at that point where I've written all the early scenes that I'd mapped out in my mind, and I'm asking myself "So, what happens next?"

OK, I know what happens next, but only in broad terms. It's on a par with saying, "Well, Frodo and Sam sneak into Mordor and destroy the ring. Taa-Daa!"

That's great, but doesn't give me much clue as to how to write the next scene.

In fact, different writers could take such a sparse outline and come up with stories that bore no resemblance to each other, apart from the overall end result. The devil is in the detail - what happens from step to step along the way.

I look at my writing in three layers. There's the high level outline, something that could be a one or two paragraph synopsis. The middle layer is the scene level, things that happen, things that people do - this is where the action is. Then there is the writing itself, which puts the flesh on each scene.

In the above example, Tolkien chose some gripping "what next"s: The battle with Shelob, imprisonment and rescue in Cirith Ungol, disguise as orcs to cross Mordor...

With ideas like this in mind, I find I'm ready to sit down at a laptop and write. The fine detail tends to sort itself out along the way. When I know what is supposed to happen in a scene, I can usually visualize and describe the setting, animate the characters, let the dialogue flow. All this is spontaneous and organic.

But it's that middle layer of plotting that I'm struggling with right now. There's a gap to be bridged between the high level outline and the words on the page. What happens next? I need action!

When I was drafting Ghosts, I spent an hour or two each evening writing, but I also have a sheaf of handwritten notes from where I sat out in the sun at lunchtime and poked relentlessly at the "What happens next?" question. These sessions in between "real writing" helped me to keep the writing fed with ideas.

This incremental outlining, this time with my thoughts away from the keyboard, I've realized is an essential part of my writing process, and one that I find I'm missing this time around. Hence the hiccup.

Does any of this resonate with you? Does all your writing take place at a keyboard, or do you need time in between to let ideas develop?
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