2017 A New Year

 A New Book coming out…And it’s about time!

These last few years have been all about the birthing of the wonderful anthology nEvermore!, but now it’s about time to get back to my own writing. Off and on over the years, I have been working on an historical mystery novel which I was loath to part with, it seems. But finally it is off to my publisher and I hope it will soon be moving through all those arcane  stages we writers stumble through all the time, editing, re-editing, taking a last look, checking the artwork (if we are lucky enough to have a publisher who gives us the chance) and at last we achieve lift off! And these days things seem to move much faster. The lift off, we hope, will be even more spectacular!

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This is my first venture into the distant past, though my agent used to blithely labell most of my work ‘historical’, even though it took place in the time that I think of as yesterday. This one, however, is in the Edwardian period, an era even I do not recall. It is well and truly historical.

I have learned much along the way about how different it is to write a novel like this, but this post is only to whet your appetite and get my feet wet at the same time (not a mixed metaphor, surely?) as we usher in the new year of books, books, and more books!

Happy reading, whatever your choice may be! There are lots of great book out there.

 

(NOTE: All nEvermore! posts moved to their own page!)

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The Operation

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I love watching hospital shows on TV. There I’ve admitted it. Somehow watching all these other people writhing around with exotic ailments while frantic doctors and nurses rush about doing very complicated things is soothing to me. Perhaps it is because I have been in an actual hospital as a patient only three times in my entire life, and 2 were having a baby, which is quite different. Back then, after the actual birth, about which the less said the better, it was almost like a visit to the spa, minus manny peddies. One whole week in bed, with visits and flowers and cards. The babies came to visit too, and were then trotted off to be seen to, out of sight and hearing.

Nowadays nearly everyone I know has joined the Hospital Scene. It doesn’t sound like TV. But they are having interesting operations, long complicated operations, having things put in, taken out, replaced, cut off and sometimes added to. Even my highly conservative and hitherto quite healthy brother has joined the ranks! It’s as if they were in some sort of special club, with it’s own vocabulary, getting around on their walkers, scooters, canes. One friend even carries oxygen slung over her shoulder in a jaunty manner. However is one to keep up?

And now at last it’s my turn! My very own surgery. I, too, got to do the rounds of pre-op visits to doctors, labs, getting blood work, EKG, x-rays, and various other things just like my friends. And everyone of these things seem to be done in a different building. The whole idea was somewhat daunting but I was not lacking in advice from those who had gone before. I did however detect a slight note of “this is such a minor thing”, which gave me the idea that one was still not going to quite make it into the charmed circle with such a minor operation. But at least I had a foot in the door.

So at last came the Great Day. Off I went, driven to the front door by the ever faithful Gary, nervously clutching my paperwork. I got there at 8:30 in the morning, which I gather from downtown Hospital friends is extremely civilized. I sat shivering in my hospital gown for less than an hour before being ushered to the narrow bed where they prepared me for the operation. Legions of people came and went, asking the same questions, ticking things off on different colored sheets of paper, until I wanted to ask them if they had ever heard of actual computers. Hospital TV people have iPads. What’s the matter with this place? I began to wonder if they kept asking these questions in order to get a more interesting health history for me. Surely I have had something drastic done to me somewhere along the way? Perhaps a pacemaker? Alas no. Hypertension? Sorry not that either. What about nuts or bolts in any part of your leg or arm? Nope not me. I suspect they were getting rather frustrated. Not only had I had no serious hospital visits before this, no operations, not even a broken arm, but I didn’t take any real medication. What kind of patient was this?

At last they gave up and rolled me into the fridgid, dazzling operating room where luckily I was not compos mentis long enough to get any colder than I already was and fleeting thoughts of a meat locker drifted away. As my charming Chinese nurse had told me, “you just go in, they put a mask on your face, and you go hallelujah.” As she threw up her hands in the manner of a gospel singer to illustrate.

As far as operations go, it was a bit of a downer. Not that I wanted any drama mind you. Still, as fodder for a story, it isn’t much. I was back home in four hours. Most of that of course was sitting around, or lying around as the case may be. There were no complications, not counting the part about having to sit rather like Cunegonde on her donkey. I didn’t even rate really good drugs! At least I thought I might get an hallucination or two with some Percocet or some such. But what can you do with Tylenol 3? Well, it does help the pain, just no fringe benefits.

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The Hot New Thing

image According to the writers Union magazine Write,

, the hot new thing in New York City is reading parties. Silent reading parties. People come, bring your book, select a nice comfy chair, and read in silence for three hours. No peeking at I Phones, no quick checking of emails, although apparently some do so surreptitiously. The person holding the party supplies things like reading lamps, clip on lights and such so that you can read in any corner of the room.

Would this work in Toronto? Wouldn’t it remind one of school?

I am trying to imagine myself as one of these parties, sipping away at my cappuccino, reading my book, hearing everyone rustling around me, and just dying to say something about what I’m reading! Perhaps Discussion happens after the three hour limit is reached.

if you’re interested, you can follow them on Silent Reading Group, NYC. On Facebook! Maybe I’ll see you there.

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Summertime

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Are we there yet? Henry loves the cottage and knows when we are getting close! In my opinion, even dogs need a break from city living, time to smell fresh air, really look around us, watch the small things, listen to the lake lapping on the shore and lie on the dock just feeling the sway of the water. Henry likes lying in bottom of the canoe, watching the world go by. And he gamely clambers over boulders, up hill and along narrow trails on his short little legs, never falling behind…unless I do.

And for me it’s a time to read. I take a milk carton of books every time, as well as my iPad filled with kindle ebooks and read, and read and read. This year I read The Luminaries, a huge book that I was rather worried about because of its size. But I soon forgot that, pulled into the most amazing story, written in a style that reflected the period perfectly. Of course I read at other times too, but not the wonderful swinging on the deck, swaying in the hammock kind of all day reading. That’s for the summertime. Part of the getting away from it all, not having to work sort of experience we all need. Even dogs.

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Writing Classes: Holy Grail or Fool’s Gold?

ImageThe only way to learn how to write is to plunk oneself on a chair and start typing. What happens next will show whether or not you have what it takes.

Or what happens next will be, in the vernacular, a hot mess. And depression.

Oh you might read those first fine careless pages the next day and fall in love with your words. And that way lies certain disaster.

One can spend years typing oneself in and out of depression, elation and frustration, and eventually one can learn the craft after trial and error and the reading of many books on writing. This was my method. Looking back I figure I spent the equivalent of time it would take to get a PhD writing my way through one flawed novel after another until I finally got good enough to be published, to get an agent, to be able to consider myself finally a real writer.

Did I take a course? No, because they were few and far between way back in that distant past. But I did go to a wonderful writing conference, and I did attend any genre convention I could find that had panels on writing and publishing. And now I am on those panels. And I am teaching writing, giving the kind of course that would have shaved years off the long apprenticeship I served.

In my opinion, this is the main gift any writing course can give you: by pointing out the pitfalls that lie ahead, help you to avoid them, to achieve your goal sooner. It will still take years to hone your craft, but at least you will now have a bright flashlight to illumine your way through the gloom!

Will taking a class turn you into a successful writer? There is no secret handshake, no hidden formula, no short cut to success. And success itself is something different for everyone. What I try to do in my classes is to give my students a way to deal with all those ideas swimming around in their head, all those characters struggling to have their say. I help them open the door.

That first evening in class, when everyone talks about their ideas for the novel they know is in there somewhere, the terms used are broad and rarely does any clear picture emerge of what the writer wants to say. But there is enough to let me know what is in there, what help is needed to get it out into the light. Once that does emerge, we have a clear picture of the story that writer wants to tell. And as a group we help give them a structure to hang it on. By the end, each writer has a story with a beginning, middle and at least the hint of an end, although sometimes along the way the original idea has been thrown out the window and a bright new shiny one has evolved in its place.

Does this mean that every student will write and sell a novel? Some do, for example, the person whose blog you are now reading*. Most, however, will not. In this business talent is only part of the equation. I see a lot of talented people in my classes. And I know that first night that very few will ever succeed. Not because they are not good enough or cannot become good enough, but because they refuse to take the time to learn, or because they don’t have the drive, the sheer cussedness to hang in through rejection and disappointment till that glorious day when they see those wonderful words: ‘We would like to publish your novel’.

Of course, not everyone who comes to class has dreams of publication. Some just want to get that book out, that story that has been banging around inside their head for a long time. Some just want to experiment. And some write as a sort of therapy. It doesn’t matter. A classroom is a safe place to do all these things, and have a good time while writing your way into your dream.

Will you find the Holy Grail in a classroom? You’ll never know if you don’t try!

Caro Soles teaches at George Brown College:
Writing a Novel 1 (fall and winter term) and
Writing a Novel 2 (Winter and Spring term)

* NOTE: This was a guest post on Jill Edmonson’s blog last year. I admit it. I am lazy. 🙂

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Misty Moisty Mornings

Ruby

Misty moisty mornings are wonderful to look at but for old girls like me and my 14 year old Princess Ruby III they are not much fun. Especially for Ruby.  She has been getting a tad stiff for a while now, taking her glucosamine twice a day for a month and still managing to make it up on the couch. She walks now with a stiff and stately  motion but it gets her there.

We built her a ramp so she can get out to the garden easily, and back in as well, which was getting to be a problem. And then disaster struck in the form of the energetic, loveable and very large Henry Hound, bounding out the door and pushing her off her ramp. She fell on the patio stones with a thud  as I leaped about shouting at poor Henry.  He came over, very perplexed and worried, And licked her. I ran my hands over her sides but nothing seemed off, and she got up stiffly and staggered about after me in the garden.

imageHere is poor Henry before we put up the ramp.

It is difficult when our furry friends get old. Ruby reminds me now of old Great Aunts of my distant youth, who suffered any number of pains without a whimper, keeping the proverbial lip stiff.  She seems better now. Nothing we can do but keep up the warmth and love and constant reassuring presence.  Old dogs are special, no doubt about it!

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Nancy Kikpatrick, noted anthologist, gives her take on being an antho editor

I’ve just edited my 13th anthology (EXPIRATION DATE, out in 2014) and for me, editing anthos is purely a labor of love. I’ve worked for major houses and small houses, been the lone editor and co-edited, edited under my name and used a pen name. I’ve always had fun, or I wouldn’t do it. But, something else drives me: I’m mad about short fiction.

f4dd3a2768df0a7f02356c.L._V396543666_As a writer, I’ve published over 200 short stories, most in the dark fantasy, horror, mystery and erotica genres, with some fantasy and science fiction tossed into the mix. I write short fiction because I adore the glimpse into a large world that can be encapsulated in a brief story. There’s a sense of the big picture in a well-written piece. It’s magical, quickly sinking into a tale of 2,500 to 5,000 (average) words and being wholly immersed in that story.

When I’ve taught short fiction writing, I’ve used a geode to describe short fiction. You see the outer shell of the slice, and the various inner ‘rings’ of color. This is not the entire rock,only a slice, but within that segment you can envision what the entire rock looks like. Short fiction, when written well, is a world that speaks of a larger world, and yet within that brief space and time is a complete story, and the best stories linger.

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Of my thirteen anthologies, only one has been completely ‘open’, meaning, anyone could submit a story–TESSERACTS THIRTEEN, co-edited with David Morrell. For it, we both read all 200 or so submissions, shortlisting our favorites. Some stories we both liked, others required bargaining: I’ll agree to this one if you take that one. It was a pleasant experience, as all my editorial collabs have been. But, I can tell you that reading so many stories over just a few months was a challenge. And exhausting. But we both survived.

Normally, an editor of an anthology is more selective–if only because ‘names’ must be included to sell the idea to a publisher of any size. Publishers and distributors only get excited about anthologies when they recognize names in that particular genre. ‘Names’ have fans and those fans will buy the book for the name(s) they know and like. It goes without saying that the bigger the names, the harder they are to entice into an anthology. Writing a story will pay XX # of $$. But if the busy writer spends that time on a novel, or movie script, there are many more $$$$$$ available. Fortunately, there are writers with followings that love crafting short fiction and, if the theme appe

outsiders2als to them, they give the nod. Which doesn’t always mean they will come through. Nancy Holder and I co-edited OUTSIDERS for Ace Books, and our contract–the toughest I’ve ever encountered–included 3 lists. For example, the A-list was composed of 4 names and we were required to include 1 in the anthology. The B-list had 6 names and we needed 2, or it was a deal-breaker. This quest was not easy. We found 1 A-lister of the 4 who agreed to write a story, but at the last second he told us the story he’d been working on for us he had to send to a previous commitment he’d forgotten about. After a period of panic, we ended up taking a poem from him and fortunately the publisher accepted this. For the B-list, we found 2 writers, one demanding either a high cents-per-word (which we agreed to), the other a high flat fee for ‘whatever I want to write, whatever length’ (which we also agreed to).

Naturally, such conditions make editing nerve-wracking and sometimes the original idea must morph. Publishers don’t want to lose money, and every one I’ve ever edited for has said the same thing: ‘Anthologies don’t sell.’ They do, of course,–with those sacred names on the cover. 

Danse Macabre

I’ve been lucky. My last 5 anthologies have been for Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing. They have given me carte blanche and it’s beea joy to edit projects near and dear to my heart while enjoying the freedom to compile them as I like. My most recent anthology DANSE MACABRE is based on my great love of specific artwork from the 15th through 18th centuries. I’ve traveled all over to see the approximately 50 pieces still extant, and I asked writers if they thought they could take the concepts on which this unusual artwork is based and translate them into literature. And they did! This book won the Paris Book Festival award for best Anthology of 2012, and several stories have been picked up by Ellen Datlow for her year’s-best anthology. Needless to say, I’m pleased enough to cry: Next anthology!

Nancy Kilpatrick

http://www.nancykilpatrick.com

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