Thursday, December 31, 2020

Goodbye 2020

I’m not usually one for New Year year-in-review posts, but 2020 has seen so much turmoil that I have to say “good riddance”.

In many ways, as a family we’ve been lucky. Home life has been relatively unchanged, other than not having friends around for meals. Everyone we know has escaped so far, though it’s been harder on some than on others. The biggest loss for us was having to abandon a trip to visit family in the UK this summer.

We are all still earning, with all of us in essential services of some sort (groceries, education, provincial government). Again, we’ve been lucky. Many businesses are struggling, although many have also adapted in various ways as our knowledge of the spread evolved: closing doors, partial reopening, new safety procedures, new ways of operating ...

The biggest stresses that I can see emerging are connected: weariness at the constant vigilance and observing of distancing rules, and the lack of social contact.

People tout social media and online meetings. Zoom and Teams work fine for business meetings, but they are no substitute for gathering around a table for a meal or a drink. People keep promoting virtual coffees, virtual dinner parties, virtual water cooler chats, and I’m getting weary of that too because for me they just don’t cut it. Worse, to me they actively emphasize what we can’t do.

Sometimes you just need human closeness. Sometimes you just need a hug. That is the ultimate cruelty of this pandemic – that it’s robbed us of the most fundamental support mechanisms we know.

But my hope for 2021 is that we can learn and adapt in more long-lasting ways. We’ve learned that we don’t need to all gather together in an office in order to work and collaborate. The environment (and our wallets) has benefited from less travel. We could be and should be living and working smarter in future, making use of what we’ve learned this year. We should be looking forward to a kinder and more sustainable world, and treasuring togetherness when we’re finally able to again.

Sunday, December 27, 2020

Near misses

Last week we had an unexpected snowfall. Snow was forecast for "higher elevations", which doesn't usually mean us, and when I left for work it was damp but not cold. Then I get a call saying "It's snowing here, and the highway is getting dicey." So I headed home while I still could and planned on working the rest of the day from there.

When I got home, we were without power. Power was out the whole day. We spent the day in semi-darkness, watching snow fall, and listening to the crack and crash of falling branches around our neighborhood.

But it could have been a lot worse, with several near misses:

The roads were getting dicey. The highway was slow but at least no accidents. I only just made it up the hill at the end of our road, and only thanks to a couple of patches of bare road where trees overhang, that gave me traction to get up speed for the next stretch.

We have a wood stove for warmth, so the house was livable. And we could boil kettles for drinks, and we cooked a simple supper on it just before the power came back that evening.

We have overhead lines for power and cable running from the road to the house. Half of the cherry tree at the front of the property split away and nearly took out the lines. Just the ends of some branches ended up resting on them, which I was able to reach with long loppers and cut them away.

At the side of the house, a couple of massive branches fell from the arbutus at the edge of the property. One fell onto a gravel path a few feet from the back of the garage. The other fell onto the carport roof. As I was clearing them away yesterday it was obvious how lucky we were that they did no damage. We have a deck above the garage and fencing for privacy along the edge of the carport where it butts up to the deck. Either of those branches could easily have wrecked the fence or the deck railings.

Yes, we had a lot to be thankful for that day.

Saturday, December 19, 2020


My new book project, Wrath of Empire, is throwing up some writing challenges that are entirely new to me.

People tend to work somewhere on the spectrum between plotting and pantsing – writing by the seat of your pants. At one extreme, some writers will map absolutely everything out – what goes into each chapter and scene – into a detailed outline before they write a word. At the other extreme, some writers literally start writing and see where the story leads them, and plough their way through until they reach a conclusion.

Most writers sit somewhere in between, and I believe that how you go about writing a novel is not a neat linear spectrum between plotting and pantsing, but a whole landscape of possible methods.

In my case, I often start with no clear idea of where the story is headed (classic pantsing) but very soon I need to start adding some structure and direction (a high level plot outline). I then flip between manuscript and outline, and the two feed off each other.

Once I have an outline, my writing isn’t linear. Whenever I get bogged down in one part, I’ll leap ahead to an interesting scene further on, then come back and fill in the gaps. At the same time, the outline itself isn’t solid. All my novels so far have ended up taking very different paths from how I initially envisioned them.

And that’s where I’m finding things challenging this time around.

Wrath of Empire is a prequel. It tells the story of events that are mentioned in Ghosts of Innocence, so the broadest outline of the story has already been determined. And those landmark events can’t be changed.

I still have to flesh out a lot of details and bring them to life with a whole cast of characters and scenes that I haven’t begun to map out, but this time I can’t let the story take me any old where. It has to hit those landmarks on schedule.

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Baby steps

As I mentioned last week, The Long Dark is available in all the most popular e-book formats.

I see a couple of you out there were very quick off the mark in downloading copies, and have already posted reviews to Amazon. Heartfelt thanks to you!

The paperback is a step closer. Since my post last weekend, KDP customer service advised me that there have been technical issues shipping to Canadian addresses which they were resolving. I was relieved to hear at least that it wasn’t a policy decision – “due to COVID we’re not shipping to Canada.”

They asked me to wait a few days and try again. I went through the process this morning of ordering a proof copy, not overly confident, but this time the order went through. If things go smoothly, I might have a proof copy in my hands by Christmas.

With things winding down on The Long Dark, I’m now turning my attention more fully to the next project.

This time I’m returning to Shayla’s world, but turning the clock back to where Shayla’s murderous journey began. Wrath of Empire follows Shayla’s original opponent, Chalwen ap Gwynodd, as she shields the young Julian through his uncle’s deadly plots to seize the throne.

Trapped in the lengthening nights of Elysium.

Abandoned by the last convoy south.

Alone with her teenage son.

Anna never thought she would die this way.

It won’t come to that. She won't let it. She scours the darkened town for anything to help them make the long trek to rejoin their clan. But on a world starved of engineering resources it will take all her ingenuity to cobble together a usable vehicle.

A chance of escape is almost in reach when Anna finds they are not as alone as she thought. But the unexpected visitors are on a mission that they will kill to keep secret. Whatever these off-world intruders want, it can't be good for Anna's world, and a fight to save herself and her son becomes a battle for the future of the entire colony.

Available on Kindle, Apple, Nook, Kobo, US $3.99

Saturday, December 5, 2020

The Long Dark is published!

Weekend Writing Warriors is a weekly blog hop where participants post eight to ten sentences of their writing. You can find out more about it by clicking on the image. 



Concluding a scene from The Long Dark in Mikey’s point of view. Mikey is trying to make sense of the adults’ conversation over dinner after the loss of a crawler and one of its crew. They are discussing the difficulty getting replacements, and here Nick responds to Anna’s question about shipping spares instead of whole units:


“And yet, their shipping rates always seem to rise for anything useful. Or, as they put it, they give us a special discount”--those words were spat like a curse--“for something as vital as a replacement car. But that’s another purpose for the paperwork. To avoid us abusing their generosity, as they put it.” 

“Rather than letting things fail, isn’t it in their interests to give that special rate for the occasional crate of spares instead? Surely it must make more sense for them?” 

Georgina sighed. “You should have paid more attention to your social and politics lessons, Anna. The shipping doesn’t cost the Company anything.” 

That’s nine sentences. The scene continues ... 

“It’s all part of our colonial agreement.” The animal had vanished from Nick’s face. He just looked like a tired old man again. “Everything they ship us gets charged against our colonial debt.” 

“So if we’re paying the cost anyway, why is everything so difficult?” 

Connections clicked. It’s not easier to replace a whole unit. It’s more beneficial to the Company to keep things run down! Why?



And, yes, The Long Dark is finally out there. 

Currently available in popular e-book formats (Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Apple). 

I have also uploaded the paperback files but right now I can’t get hold of a proof copy. Amazon says they won’t ship to my location in Canada and their “customer service” is giving me the run-around. But until I am able to review a physical copy I am not prepared to hit “publish”.


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