Among the Trees
Among the Trees
I love file cards. I use them to write out story ideas, notes on process that I glean from writing books, to play with scenes, record dialogue fragments, even make lists of books to read and websites to check out.
Tonight I found the final card in a series titled ‘End.’ I didn’t recognize it, but knew from the description of winter that it belonged to the novel I’ve gone back to. It’s probably the story I’ve worked on the most, that has the highest word count.
Actually, there are two in those ranks, though I’ve never actually compared. Their first drafts are the closest to done, hovering there waiting for me to slam them shut with a satisfied sigh (before going back to hack them to bits in revision). They are the ones that should have been most difficult because both are in worlds that I have created. This one at least takes place here in the ‘real’ world, though in a town I created, with its own history and traditions, a place I visited in a novel I started as a teen ager.
I think that worlds of your own creation are most difficult, because you have to know how it came to be as it was, at the very least the highlights of local history. Even if you look at it with a stranger’s eyes, you must be as intimate with it as your own bathroom. Then you have to make them as real real to the reader as the condensing water on your toilet tank, the annoying drip in the sink.
On top of that, there is straightforward research that may need to be done. This one led me to quantum physics and time travel. And the boreal forests where the town is hidden, past and present. Native history for the area where I am anchoring the tale.
So easy to lose yourself in research.
I dug around, found the first three cards for that ending. They stopped my breath for a moment, they were so perfect. The ending isn’t there yet, and I may not use it in the final draft, but it helped me see where I had been going, where I might still go. I’m more excited than ever to get there. I want to breathe that lung-snapping winter air with my characters, I want someone to read it and feel the same thing, if just for a moment.
Some people say all you need to do to make God laugh, is make plans. I made plans. Instead, I’m heading south.
I hate New Years resolutions. My version is around October start thinking about the changes I want to make in my life over the next year or so. Last fall I decided I was going to finish some of my novel first drafts, then complete one or two so I could submit them with pride. There was plenty of time. After all, I work part-time, and if I get this fatigue beat, I could be a powerhouse.
I also decided it was time to give my self-confidence, which has settled around ground level, a big kick in the ass. No matter how difficult it was, I’d send queries and sell some freelance articles. I’d use my local connections. I considered what I know, where I work, my interests (a veterinary emergency hospital – lots of vets to interview, plenty of topics; veganism and cooking. Mostly cooking and food, I just am vegan; painless vegan eating for the omnivore, whether once a week or permanently; a vegan restaurant and shopping tour of Toronto; cycling and various cycling issues; an interview with an urban fantasy author who’s branched into YA; considerations about putting your senior parent into long-term care). I got working on the ideas in the new year, researching markets, thinking about who I’d interview, started writing some kick-ass queries, then early February my father called.
There was a growth on his pancreas, nothing serious. They were pretty sure. Surgery was booked, just in case it wasn’t benign. My reading told me pancreatic surgery can be complicated, so you don’t remove a growth unless it’s malign. And you want a surgeon who’s done a lot of them. Now, I don’t know Savannah, but it’s not Toronto, so I figured it wasn’t likely they had a surgeon who’d done a lot of these surgeries. I don’t know why the assumption, because southerners have pancreases, too. It’s not just a northern organ.
Next thing I know, my father’s calling me on my cell, at work, to tell me it was that other one, the one that’s not benign. Man’s an artist, he doesn’t have to remember the words for everything. Even still, it was just the one growth, and they were sure it hadn’t spread.
Even before the verdict came in, I decided it was reason enough to get myself down to Savannah, spend some quality time with the man I’ve mostly known at the end of a phone line. It was time, before time ran away from us, tongue out mocking all the forgotten intentions: ‘I told you so. Nyah, nyah! Told you so.’
So now I’m upending my life, packing some stuff for storage, dumping more, looking for the right someone to take my apartment, so the dog and I can down to Savannah for a year (incidentally, one of my story ideas was what you need to know when travelling by car with your dog. I’ll have plenty of well-earned wisdom by the time we’re in Georgia). The most difficult part, so far, was finding someone to drive us down there. The spirit of adventure seems to be lacking in my friends, on Facebook and in the real world, or maybe they are all responsible people with jobs. That could be it. Or the nightmare of a road trip with a red doberman and her cranky vegan person, who likes her bourbon.
Coming soon: Why embrace the SheDevil (the term or the one inside me)? and Why ‘Abroad?’ You’re only going the next country down, and aren’t they basically like us up here?