Missing in Action

April 11th, 2012

There are no real excuses. I have had my head down finishing two books. One, “The Call to Battle,” is almost done and its page proofs arrived today – always a sign that the end is near! The other is done and is with a publisher so that is wait and see.


Has the long silence been productive?

February 12th, 2009

The answer has to be yes.

Both proposals are in and I am now in that limbo where I wait anxiously.

In the meantime, I have been reading a great deal, ploughing my way through an adult fantasy trilogy by Fiona McIntosh, and quite a few YA books, including Suzanne Collins’ much vaunted The Hunger Games and Janni Lee Simner’s Bones of Faerie.

The Hunger Games got me thinking about first person narratives. I have used this POV in short stories right at the beginning of my career as a writer and in my Dear Canada An Ocean Apart but had never used it in a novel length work until I was writing The Disappearance, the novel I completed just before Christmas.

I like it for its immediacy, for the way in which in the hands of a good writer you become that character for the time you are reading. It can present problems, and it really did for me withThe Hunger Games.

The basic premise of the book is that in a future post-apocalyptic America, the Capitol controls the twelve districts and once a year, each district send two of its teenagers to compete in the Hunger Games – a fight to the death with the sole survivor earning wealth for themselves and for their district. The book is from the point of view of Catniss, one of the representatives of District 12, and that’s where I have the problem. If she is telling the story, we know she survives and therefore must be the the winner. We just don’t know how she survives and whom she kills along the way. It destroyed any suspense from the outset and I struggled to remain interested. I am surprised that I haven’t come across this point made about the book in any of the reviews of it I’ve read.

It’s got me worrying about The Disappearance, and wondering whether I have done something similar. The book opens with Mike, a sixteen year old, being interviewed by the police about the disappearance of another teenager, Jacob Hubert. He has remained silent up until now, but has decided to start talking, only he’s not sure what he’s going to say, and the rest of the book is his internal monologue as he reviews what actually happened and tries to work out if there is any way he can tell it so that he will be believed. At the end of the book, he loops back to the beginning and starts talking, leaving the reader to decide what the effect of this will be. Does this generate enough tension I wonder to keep people reading?

PS Bones of Faerie is also in the first person and is just wonderful!

Sometimes I don't understand how my mind works

January 19th, 2009

I am easily distracted.

I can think of many things to do other than write. Usually I have to talk sternly to myself to get down to business. I set myself deadlines. I definitely work better with a deadline hanging over my head. Today, however, I sat down at my computer, and I wrote. I didn’t think about writing beforehand, didn’t tell myself that I had this task or that task to do. I just wrote.

So, what did I accomplish: a tweaked proposal, and a rewritten sample.

It felt right.

Perhaps a corner has been turned.

Did the plan work?

January 9th, 2009

My aim, at the start of the week was to concentrate on research and that’s what I have done.

I’ve been alternating between reading a book about the fall of Hong Kong in 1941 and reading accounts of Canadian soliders who there, and this seems to work well for me. The first person accounts which I found on the site of the Hong Kong Veteran’s Commemorative Association are very poignant and give a human face to the history. What I also find very useful in these are little unexpected details, insignificant in themselves, but which will add versimilitude if included in the novel. A prime example of this is that a group of Winnipeg Grenadiers got into a fight with British soldiers at the Sung Sung restaurant on the weekend before Hong Kong was invaded.

Hello World!

January 5th, 2009

I never thought that I would have one blog let alone two, but here I am on my first working day of 2009 making the first entry in what will be a blog that centres only on writing and reading, unlike my other less serious blog which can be found under the Inkblog button. I will admit to shamelessly stealing the idea of maintaining two blogs from another writer, Kurtis Scaletta, whose novel Mudville will be published in the Spring by Knopf.

So, what will be happening in my writing life this week?

I have two proposals in the works: one already written, which needs a little tweak; another which is in the research stage. My plan for tomorrow is, after a quick visit to the library to pick up one more book on WWII Hong Kong, to settle down to some serious note making on the battle for Hong Kong which took place over Christmas 1941.

When writing anything with a historical setting, I have to have a firm grasp of the events that will form the background. This does not mean that every last detail needs to be pinned down; that will come later on a needs must basis. Once I have a mental time line in place, then and only then can I start to think about a particular character. Check this space later in the week to see if I get there!