GOOD FRIDAY MEMORIES

I started thinking about how things have changed this morning when I noticed peopimages.jpegle  wishing each other Happy Easter. But it’s Good Friday, I said to myself crossly. And it’s 2017, I added. Tempus fugit. And everything changes.

In my memories, Good Friday was a very uncomfortable day. I never knew quite how to behave. It was a sad day, so I shouldn’t laugh or be too obviously happy. But it was called a holiday, usually associated with happy times. Still, stores were closed. Theatres were closed. It seemed that everything was wrapped in grey.

Even church services were gloomy with no galloping or soaring hymns, no wonderful happy anthems of praise. The service was long, with periods of utter silence, and gloom. Luckily we did not stay for the full three hours and coming outside seemed like a great release. But what to do? I couldn’t go visit my best friend or even telephone her. I couldn’t play outside. But I could read! Once again books came to the rescue!

Time passed and things loosened up considerably. Blue laws re Sunday closing disappeared. Theatres and amusements were open on Good Friday, but I was much slower to change. Odd how some things are so ingrained it takes a real effort of will to change, even though the reasons are long forgotten or no longer relevant. Although we were not a particularly religious family, there is something about being brought up as a High Anglican that sinks deep into the soul. I still remember the first time I went to the movies on Good Friday, sometime in my early twenties. I still remember how guilty I felt. But today, should there be a movie I wanted to see, I would go without a thought! Progress! Or perhaps just getting old enough not to care?

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New Blurb

IMG_3060“In 1916, New York City quivered on the brink of the modern era. With elegant prose and exquisite period detail, Caro Soles transports the reader back to that complex world, weaving a subtle, utterly enchanting story of betrayal and murder amid the swirl of debutante soirees, motorcar racing, Russian ballet, and social upheaval.”  
Barbara Fradkin, award-winning mystery author

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Henry Hound: getting on

We are not sure how old Henry might be, but one thing we know. He is getting on! We IMG_2981were told he was either 6, 7, or maybe 4 when we adopted him from Canadian Dachshund Rescue but the time we didn’t really care. He was happy, Ruby was happy, so it didn’t seem important. Slowly the nose became frosted more and more. He began to slow down, but who really noticed, since we were slowing down too. Then we noticed his fur was thining. A lot. Alapecia, the vet announced. Nothing to be done besides the usual Dr. Maggie’s skin stuff and generous coconut oil massages. But it did not slow down, and now the poor boy has a big bold patch on his side and several small bald patches on his tale. The vet suggested he wear a t-shirt when outside in the summer. Of course he has a coat in the winter, too, but this obvious signal of “getting on” is nothing compared to his eyesight.

Poor Henry can barely see, now. He gets around the house pretty well, since we rarely change anything here. Now and then he will misjudge things and bump into the wall but he rarely runs very fast so he recovers quickly, more so then I do. The eye problem is similar to what people might have but alas I have forgotten the name.

These health problems only accentuate our love for our faithful furry friend, so affectionate and full of character! We have them for such a short time! Hug your hound! And don’t forget those treats!

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Something In The Air

IMG_3092It seems that Nijinsky is in the air these days! The Ballet Nijinsky is coming up this season at the Four Seasons Centre and I am really looking forward to it even though I have seen it three times. It is an amazing work, interweaving music and dance styles, even costumes from the different periods of his life.

And just a few days ago a friend emailed me to tell me about a book published this January, a novel based on the life of Bronia Nijinska, his sister.
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It always amazes me when this happens, when suddenly, seemingly for no reason, everyone starts creating, writing, talking about the same thing. Sometimes it might be annoying, as when a book one has labored over for years, a book completely original to oneself, is finally about to be published and lo and behold, another book arrives on the scene on exactly the same topic!

 

In my case, I am happy to see all this interest! I must say that if you, the reader, are a true ballet fan you will find much more about the ballet in The Chosen Maiden book then in A Friend of Mr. Nijinsky. After all, the dancer is not the main character in my novel, as you can tell by the title. My hero is Morgan Vanheusen. More about him later!

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At Last!

IMG_3088I am very excited to  have a new novel out there in book-land! So far it is the ebook edition, but it’s the same story, same cover, and much easier to pack in your handy dandy e-reader.

This is my first venture into the past, 1916 to be exact, which makes it doubly exciting. Years of research went into this book, some of it never making it etween the covers, but nonetheless all adding to the texture of the period. Things I never knew about, like the Indy 500 Race, in its fifth year in 1916 and a fascination of my hero, Morgan Vanheusen, the friend of the title. What things cost was another interesting tidbit, gleaned from the micro-fiche pages of the New York Times of that year. And the strange absence of much war news or effect on society of that raging hell going on in Europe, except for some ladies to Marne not getting the latest Paris fashion.

I will post more on the period as days go by, hoping to beguile you into lusting after what my novel tells of the story of the hidden chapter of Nijinskys life in New York.

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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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