Friday, September 8, 2017

Earth to Thoeba: The Thing About Edits

Earth to Thoeba: The Thing About Edits: Yay! You've finished your novel! It took you months, maybe a year or so. You've overcome the dry spells, the self doubt, and const...

The Thing About Edits

Yay! You've finished your novel! It took you months, maybe a year or so. You've overcome the dry spells, the self doubt, and constant revisions. You've added extra details and removed superfluous sentences. You gave some characters more to say, and eliminated others. You remembered to show, not tell.

Or did you? Now that you're gazing lovingly at your finished manuscript, it's time to look it over and berate yourself on what a clumsy, amateurish job you did. Oh, edits are fun.

You give it a good once over. Check your spelling, and count the sensory details. (Crap! Excuse me, I have to check Freya's reaction to her new environment in the Prologue. Don't forget to describe the setting.) Make sure the five senses are represented, and if applicable, include the sixth sense hunches and feelings.

Another run. This time you read it outloud, checking for grammar and flow. Did that sentence make sense as you read it? Did everything mesh together properly? Or were there pieces that pulled you out of the moment? Would an Old Norse Viking use the word 'demented'? No. They use the word 'beserk', and it's okay to use it more than once. Put the Thesaurus down.

Third run. NOW, we're in the thick of it. Read it like a reader, not a writer. It looks different. Are you pulled in? Are you bored? Why? Today, it was show and not tell. Fix it with a dialog between the characters about how they're feeling about arriving on Earth for the first time. Pick apart every sentence. You find a sentence you don't like, and you realize it's because it uses a lame cliche. Why say 'incomprehensible babble' when you can say 'words that fell from his mouth rolled, pitching high and low in an incomprehensible deluge. Like a song.' Answer your own questions. Like why doesn't anyone believe Heimo when he tells the villagers that naked strangers have arrived? Because one sentence claims Heimo has seen fairies. No one believes that either.

When that exhausting exercise is finished, you'll probably go over it again. Just to be sure. Because you're going to send it to Beta readers, people who love to read and will give you important feedback about your carefully polished offering. If they care about you and your work, they'll be brutally honest. Put your ego aside. This is your audience. If they find flaws, examine and correct them. Remember--"No one ever became great by being told they were great." --Stephen King (I think.) 

So we're done now? No. Hand it all over to a professional editor, and squirm as they take your baby and manipulate it into something palatable for the masses. Anyone who trusts their own objectivity and publishes without this step is an arrogant fool. Besides, it will only enhance your work, and make you look that much more talented. If you have a good editor, you'll barely be able to see them in the final product. 

I'm in the third edits of Her True Name: Volume Two. I just finished Chapter One, and it took all day. Here's a sad fact about edits...You'll never quite be satisfied. While I'm here writing advice, I'm clicking back to those pages I did today and tweaking them as I am reminded to practice what I preach. (Ooh...such a bad cliche! This blog is full of them.) 

Here's a happy fact about editing. It's hard work, but I'm glad to be doing it. I feel like myself, and I feel accomplished. If you wrote the book, edits are just a good way to make it the very best you can offer the world. Don't rush. Just enjoy the improvements, and know it's worth it.

Saturday, August 26, 2017


I'm tired of stuff. Things have been wonky since my father's passing, but I've found something of a coping mechanism. Or maybe the walls of my house are closing in on me and I felt compelled to do something about it.

The original plan was to move my mother to Edmonton. Cue the ultimate stress. You see, my mother collects collections. She has salt and pepper shakers, tins, pretty and interesting bottles, red kitchen paraphernalia featuring chefs, plus eagles, owls, wolves, cork sculptures, Coke-a-Cola everything, nutcrackers, and dolls. True, it's clean, orderly and she DID downsize, but the house still looks like a museum of curios. I dreaded moving her.

THEN the plan changed, and we moved my sister to her instead. She also collects collections.  I once told her. "Geez, you have WAAAAY too much stuff! Honestly, why do you have all this cutesy shit all over the place?" She gave me a rare glare and replied, "Because people keep giving me all this cutesy shit." Oops...point taken.

And moving her turned out to be chaos. All of her stuff, packed up, took up half her living room.

It got me thinking. Why do I have so much stuff? Does it bring me joy? Have I read any of my Dragonlance or Ravenloft novels in the last ten years? Suddenly, all this stuff is closing in around me.

I don't have any children, so what am I saving it all for? My house is pretty small as it is. What's going to happen when we get older, and we need to move and downsize?

Did you know? Antiques are out. Millennials are not interested in your china, your silver tea sets or your massive wooden furniture. Why, when IKEA furniture is lighter, cheaper, and easier to move? Therefore, those estimates you see on Antiques Roadshow no longer apply as much.

Millennials don't want antiques

What will happen when the things I once treasured no longer hold value? I'm purging now, starting with the Ravenloft novel collection. The Dragonlance novel collection and the Magic the Gathering cards will follow.

We had a garage sale today, and I'm sunburned and satisfied. My husband's friend came by, and gave me some decent advice. First of all, he advised me to keep my 'Cable' #1 mint condition comic book for now, because that character has a movie coming out. Then he suggested I build myself an on-line store to sell the things I mentioned above. So next week, we're going to feed him, beer him, and I'm going to pick his brain and take notes. Because you know what brings me joy? Paying my mortgage faster, and gaining some extra space in my tiny home.

Did you know? You can hire a liquidation company to take care of these things? Here's one article about it: When we get too old to take care of this little house with the big yard, that's what we'll do. Purge. Then we move into a cozy condo, with sparse furniture and a few mementos.

 So this is my coping mechanism and my comfort. At least it will be lucrative. And I already feel the urge to WRITE.

Monday, August 14, 2017

I've Been Dreaming Photo by: medilo
I can't believe it's been so long since I posted, but I've been dreaming. That means I've been writing what I've been dreaming.

Last night I was a demon. I had red eyes and long teeth. I could leap vast distances, and my jaw unhinged like a snake to swallow larger prey. Being a demon didn't seem to frighten me. It was the unrelenting darkness before me that made me wake in a cold sweat. When I slept again, I was a chambermaid in a cheesy motel and I had a pink uniform.

No, I'm not writing a lot, but I am editing. Her True Name: Volume Two is two chapters away from the completion of the second read-through. I've fixed a few things and checked the flow. It doesn't feel ready.

On the advice of a friend, I started a dream journal. It's a way to deal with my father's passing. She believes that I'll get book ideas from it. What I am getting is more strange cities and even more hotels than before. The airports and airplanes are still there, and there's a new symbol.

There's a blue car now. It's a rickety old thing, maybe a Ford or a Chevy or something European from the sixties. It putters in the sky and along mountain roads. It hits the ditch often because it's both an automatic and a standard, and I need to but both gears in 'park'. It makes me think of my father, especially since I've never dreamed of it before last month. What does it mean?

I can tell you that I'm working on a project, off and on regarding my dreams. It's a collection of blog posts, drabbles and short stories. Just things I've dreamed up in the past that don't fit my brand. I don't know if any of the dreams I've had since Dad died will be there. None so far, but that doesn't mean anything yet.

I'm just wondering where these odd thoughts are taking me. What's in store for me? Is my father trying to say something to me in my sleep? Why the shabby little blue car?  Are you as curious as I am where this is going? Guess we'll find out. Eventually.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Happy Canada Day!!

Canada is celebrating 150 years as a country, and I am soooo proud to be Canadian. Here's why:

Multiculturalism: Anywhere you go in this country you can experience a smorgasbord of culture and diversity. Ever been to Heritage Days? Go! There are pavilions of food, dance and merchandise that are irresistible. I own two saris, thanks to my friends across the street. They are Fijian, and Tara makes the BEST curried chicken livers you will ever taste. I don't even like curry, but I can't resist hers...creamy with just the right amount of spiciness. I love them as family. If you get a chance to experience a culture not your own, do it! And share yours with them.

Hockey: We all love hockey. It's not our national sport, but when playoff season comes and our teams made it....everyone is a fan. Because it's REALLY FUN to watch. Exciting. Yes, American teams always win, but most of their players are Canadians. Not kidding. Google it.

Our National sport is Lacrosse: Google that too.. It involves people catching a little ball in tiny nets on the end of sticks and the pros make it look easy. It's not.

Beer: We make pretty awesome beer. Molson Canadian, Labatt's, Kokanee and too many craft beers to mention. I like mine with Clamato juice, which is another tasty Canadian invention. Tastes like thinnned tomato juice with savory salty elements of clams. It's subtle.

Clamato juice: I could drink it straight. When I'm certain in writing modes, I like to make a 'virgin caeser'. The real caeser drink was invented in Calgary, Alberta, and predominantly made with clamato juice, vodka, Worchester sauce, a hint of lemon juice and Tabasco sauce,  and celery salt on the rim. When I first started drinking, it came with a celery stalk. Nowadays you can get it with bacon, pickled asparagus or a bean pod, or even half a grilled cheese sandwich. Anyway you drink it, it's brilliant.
And Tim Horton's! Double double.

Canadians care: We rally. We take care of our own and others. Nine -eleven saw Newfoundland opening their homes to grounded people around the world when jumbo jets were forced to land in their airports. Newfoundlanders, known for their open hearts didn't fail them. There are still stories of their generosity.

When Alberta suffered a drought, Ontario farmers drove tractors hauling hay to feed our cattle, over a THOUSAND miles to feed Alberta cattle. Does anyone know how important that was? Alberta is normally a rich province, so we send fire fighters, grain, volunteers and money where needed. We all take care of our country and the people within it..

Healthcare: Ending on a serious note, but the more I see American politics, the larger my gratitude for our system. We all pay for it, whether we need it or not. But we'll all need it eventually, for one reason or another. I've seen the bills that American people post on Facebook. I can't imagine what it must be like to endure thousands of dollars of surgery---and then try to recover with the knowledge that you have thousands of dollars of debt because of it. And for the families....Just because you don't want to die or live with excruciating pain. Awful.

My point is: It's good to be Canadian. I wouldn't live anywhere else in the world.

Friday, June 9, 2017

It's the Little Things

I was five. We're learning to write my name.
I'm beginning to remember things Dad taught me, big and small. I guess when you're trying to get yourself back, stuff will come up.

Today I watched a man filling his tires at the gas station. He kept filling his tire, looking at it, trying to feel it. Filling it a little more, filling it a little bit again. Where's your tire gauge? Why don't you know to use one?

When I got my first car, Dad bought me a tire gauge. He explained what PSI meant, and where I would find the information I needed for my specific tires. He taught me how to read the gauge, and check my treads.  Thanks for that, Daddy, It's come in handy.

Other useful things Dad taught me:

How to skate: I was five when dad whooshed up to me on his Bauers and asked, "What's wrong, Princess?" I wailed-- "Daddy, I can't skate!"  He showed me it's not like walking...more like gliding. He demonstrated how to use feet and leg muscles to push outward and propel myself forward. I remembered yelling "Daddy, I'm skating!" Important? Maybe not, but it's the first thing I remember him teaching me.

When in doubt, grow tomatoes: I learned of an acquaintance who committed suicide. Mom sent me out to hang with Dad, who was in the garden. He saw my tears and kept me distracted by teaching me everything he knew about tending to healthy tomato plants. To this day, tomatoes are my favorite thing to grow, eat and can.

How to fly: Dad loved his Cessna 177 Cardinal, maybe as much as he loved his kids. He REALLY loved to fly, and he shared that gift enthusiastically. Everything I know about aviation, I learned from him. He made sure we knew how to control AND  land the plane just in case something happened to him in the air. So in case of emergency, I have the confidence to get a single engine aircraft safely to the ground.

He shared interesting books: 1. The Wealthy Barber-Dad felt I should learn things about investing that have stuck with me to this day. 2. Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follet-Dad was very much affected by the novel, walking around sad and hungry even days after he finished it. It taught me empathy and when I think about my own writing--I remember the depressing details that made Pillars such a work of art. 3. Holographic Universe-It's a valuable read about the mechanics of reincarnation. I didn't consider myself bright enough to understand metaphysics, yet I absorbed all of it.

The lawnmower: When I bought my house, he bought us a lawnmower as a housewarming gift. He wouldn't allow me to choose the cheapest one. He also taught me how to check the oil and the absolute importance of it. I always think of him every time I mow the lawn. We still have that mower and it's been 13 years.

Honesty: My father was a contractor--an instrument mechanic in the oilfield. He remained so for twenty-two years, and retired on his own terms. He was successful because he was a good worker and an honest business man. He was trusted. We've taken that lesson to heart, and that is why we are rarely unemployed for long.

Take Risks: Dad was fearless. He drove from Manitoba to Alberta to look for work and went from there. My father took electronics  at NAIT but jumped at the chance to become a pioneer in the field of instrumentation. Then he challenged the exam for his ticket. My father took a job in a new town and moved his family there before we'd found a house to rent. My father used my college fund to start his contracting business. It all worked.

This is my first stepping stone to becoming myself again. If you have memories of things you've learned from your parents and taken comfort in, it would be my pleasure to know of them.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Black Joke

Dad and me. April 1977
I wasn't sure I should write this blog. Too personal, too much self-pity maybe. But this is how I purge my heart. I'm a writer, and this is what I do. Bear with me. If grief and loss are something you don't wish to read about, stop now. I'm trying to sort through stuff.

On April 2nd, 2017, my father passed from heart failure. He was only seventy years old. I know seventy is not young, but it's too young to die. Especially for my father. The word 'spry' doesn't begin to describe him. Spry describes seniors who still have the get-up-and-go. He was never old in the first place.

Four months ago, my father had a heart attack, and the family was blindsided. My father quit smoking forty years ago. He rarely had more than two beers at a sitting. He only ever had a weight problem at Christmas, when everyone would gift him with pistachios. He ate those like a squirrel preparing to hibernate. He had all his blonde hair, and always looked ten years younger than his actual age. How the hell did this happen? We don't know, but he never recovered.

I can't begin to tell you how angry I am. Why?! Why him? Why does my mother have to live without him after 46+ years? Why did my 94 year old grandmother have to live to see the death of her third child? Why was he the first one to die? Why did he have to suffer so much in the last four months of his life after 70 years of fantastic health? Why wasn't I there for him? Why didn't it rain for his memorial like it does for good people? Why was it sunny and cold? Dad couldn't get warm anymore, so why did it have to be sunny AND cold? Stupid Alberta weather. WHY?

Speaking of anger, you know what's an insensitive thing to say to a grieving co-worker? "Smile!"and "Cheer up!" I seem to have misplaced my sense of humor.

Why him? I'm the one who is overweight, drinks and smokes. Why him and not me? I see old people walking the mall, and I wonder why they continue to live when he didn't. I shouldn't be so selfish. I can name at least five people from my home town of Fox Creek who could ask themselves the same thing after they lost a parent before me. Why them? Maybe the Black Joke is an odd chuckle when it isn't you.

Grief is HEAVY. I can barely move. I think my sister and I wanted to be brave. Jody got the phone call at work, and finished her shift. I got the phone call on my days off--Sunday, and went to work on Tuesday, without any time off. We're proud of our work ethic. Now I'm scared it's going to kill us. I can't speak for my sister, but I didn't take any time off for that first week. I had reasons that I'm still trying to justify.

I wanted to honor is memory by being strong. Neither of us ever called in sick, and we felt a sense of duty and loyalty to our jobs. Jody and I learned our work ethic from our parents, and we felt the need to keep it. And I'm speaking for myself when I say I worked because I feel a sense of guilt.

I had a disturbing dream after learning of my father's death. I dreamed that I was at an airshow, with all manner of aircraft flying through the air. I noticed these hot air balloons, they were black, dark blue, and dark red striped. They had jesters on them, and were piloted by men in jester costumes. Thick black smoke streamed from beneath them.

It was time for my plane to leave. I watched out the window, nervous about bypassing these strange balloons, and how did they get away with belching pollution like that? We passed them and I noticed with increasing agitation that we had entered the stratosphere. I could see the shape of the earth. It was then that I noticed I wasn't buckled in.
He got that plaque for the most miles flown to that event in Rimbey.

I used to say that God had a strange sense of humor because the biggest mystery was what happened after death. And you had to die to find the answers. Now I know death is the Black Joke, and it's not funny.

I went to my mother's house. She gave me a whole stack of unused socks to give to my husband. Turns out Daddy was unable to wear them. Something about them not being warm enough, and he wasn't able to pull them up by himself. Actually, he was in such bad shape, mom had to pull them up, despite the fact that she needs a walker everywhere she goes.

So I took the socks from the bed where my mother placed them, to the spare bedroom where my father slept the last four months of his life. They couldn't even sleep together because Daddy had to sprawl because he couldn't breathe. I'm holding an armload of unused socks, and my duffle bag is right next to the spot on the floor where my mother found my father's body.

I wonder.. Did he cry out for help? Was he able to? Or did he choke on the fluids building in his lungs? Was he cold? Was he scared? His left hand was still on the bed. Did he know what was happening to him? Was he trying to get up? Next thing I know, I am sobbing and trembling into an armload of socks.My Poor, Sweet, Daddy.

What have I learned from this? Never ask the universe for a little more time off from work. In fact, don't ask the universe for anything. It will make stuff happen in ways you don't want. Keep your family close. You'll never know when you'll need them, or worse--when you'll lose them. Let love be your motivation. That's what I've learned.
One of Dad's last photos. They used it for his obituary.

Right now, I'm trying to rest. No edits, no research, no new writing. I don't really have much of a choice, since dad's death has sucked my energy away. But death is a natural conclusion to life, and we will all lose someone we love at some time. This is my time to mourn, and when I'm done, I will honor my father by chasing my dreams. It's just going to take some time for the cracks in my shell to heal.