Tourists

This week, a friend from LA came to visit. She picked the best time, too. We had just enough cold and grey to make it feel like Vancouver, but none of the snow we often see in November. This trip was, actually, exactly why I decided not to do NaNoWriMo this year. This November, I decided to write a bunch of shorts for a bunch of open calls. A kind of practice for writing short and writing fast. I submitted five stories before she arrived last week. So far, I’ve sold two. That feels like winning NaNo.

Visiting another city is fun, but I love having friends visit my city. It’s a chance for me to play tourist and guide at the same time. It’s an excuse to wander through the busy streets to find the empty ones. It’s a reason to try new food, to drink new cocktails, to travel far, or to see a familiar part of your city, but during the wrong season. Parks in the winter are fascinating in their contrasts.

It’s a time for stories. I’m always collecting stories, whether I recognise it in the moment or only after, after a debrief on the couch with a cup of tea.

When we were younger writers, we were told to write the familiar. But Canadians are also told to write about America. You can’t sell a book about Canada to America, they say. I think my next book will be set here, in my city. I have a lot of stories to tell.

Reviews!

My publisher, Dreamspinner Press, dutifully sends me reviews of Home Team. They even screen them beforehand, only sending on links to the positive reviews. I don’t read them. It’s nice to know they’re out there, I’m happy people are reading my books, and I’m grateful, but I’m just trying to make the next book better.

Here are a few of the people who have enjoyed Home Team, and I thank them.

Live Your Life, Buy The Book
Gay List Book Reviews
3 Chicks After Dark
Joyfully Jay
The Novel Approach
Reviews by Jessewave

The Middle

Beginnings are fun. The story is still new and exciting in your head. You get to build the world. You’re still figuring out the characters. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how it works out yet because this is just the beginning.

Endings are hard, but my favourite part to write. I love the agony of that last sentence. I love a happy ending. I love being able to look back and think, Wow, I didn’t know we’d end up here.

Middles just suck.

The middle is where the work is. You could skip the beginning and write the middle first, but without the middle, there’s no getting to the end. It has to be written. You have to write it. You have to fight it, every sentence, one after another. You think you’ll never find a rhythm. You believe you made a big mistake ten pages back. You can’t imagine any reader would ever slog through this mess.

The middle is where the story is. We don’t even start to care about these characters until we’re stuck into the middle, and we don’t want to leave them in the end. This is what the middle does to all of us, writers and readers alike. We slog through the middle together. We find the dark places and hide our secrets. We protect each other and work our way towards the light. Can you see it?

I’m stuck in the middle right now, but that’s the secret. We’re always stuck in the middle of something. Keep writing. You’ll find your way though.

Encountering him at a number of parties, Fanny Seward found him to be a delightful young man, “much shorter than his father,” with “a good, strong face,” though not an especially handsome one.

Goodwin, Team of Rivals (595).

Robert Todd Lincoln, you’ll remember, was played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the 2012 film.

At 2 p.m., Lincoln, wearily finished with his own reception, returned to his office. Seward and Fred soon joined him, carrying the corrected proclamation in a large portfolio. Not wishing to delay any longer, Lincoln commenced the signing. As the parchment was unrolled before him, he “took a pen, dipped it in ink, moved his hand to the place for the signature,” but then, his hand trembling, he stopped and put the pen down.

“I never, in my life, felt more certain that was doing right,” he said. “If my name ever goes into history it will be for this act, and my whole soul is in it.” His arm was “stiff and numb” from shaking hands for three hours, however. “If my hand trembles when I sign the Proclamation,” Lincoln said, “all who examine the document hereafter will say, ‘He hesitated.’” So the president waited a moment and then took up the pen once more, “slowly and carefully” writing his name. “The signature proved to be unusually bold, clear, and firm, even for him,” Fred Seward recalled, “and a laugh followed at his apprehensions.” The secretary of state added his own name and carried it back to the State Department, where the great seal of the United States was affixed before copies were sent out to the press.

Goodwin, Team of Rivals (585).

There’s a bit of ego in this story. That’s why Lincoln was a great president. Not that he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, but the very human way he did it.

cameronhousepress:

A new 24-page digital edition of THE CUP is now available at Gumroad. You know I love paper, and I’ll continue to make paper books in the future of Cameron House Press, but this is a nice permanent place where they can all live and take care of themselves. The buying process is pain-free, and your download arrives immediately.

As I work on building up the catalogue and dream up new ideas, check out THE CUP and the first collected volume of THE GENERAL REVIEW. Your support allows me to continue writing and making, and I thank you for that.

On to the next step.

Snow leopards are good at hiding, but sometimes they forget about their tail.

Sodnomdeleg Bazarhuyag, quoted in “Out of the Shadows” by Douglas Chadwick, National Geographic June 2008.

It’s a sudden place. The rolling grasslands of the South Dakota plains may end, and the Badlands begin, in a matter of inches. My old friend Bob Henderson was once chasing a coyote with his pickup truck over the open rangeland southwest of Kadoka. The coyote ran up a long slope and vanished over the horizon with Bob hot on his trail. At the last moment Bob realized there was something wrong about the sky up ahead and turn sharply, passing just a few yards from the brink of a hundred-foot cliff.

John Madson, “South Dakota’s Badlands: Castles in Clay”, National Geographic April 1981.