Friday, December 23, 2011

Quote of the Week

Photo Margaret Buffie, 2010 - a tiny corner of my office window.

Nature is full of genius, full of the divinity; so that not a snowflake escapes its fashioning hand.
                                             Henry David Thoreau  

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Quote of the week...

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan,
earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone;
snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow,
in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Christina G Rossetti

Pencil sketch by D.G. Rossetti

"In the Bleak Midwinter" is a Christmas poem by the one of my favourite poets, English poet Christina Rossetti c. 1872. Many of us know her poem "Remember."

"In the Bleak Midwinter" was published about ten years after she died. It was set to music many times, but the most famous works were by Gustav Holst and Harold E. Darke.

This first verse (above) always reminds me very strongly of a prairie winter when the black earth is frozen to its very core.

The photo below would be a typical view of the farm houses my character Beatrice Alexander in "Winter Shadows" passed by every day on her way to teach at Miss Cameron's School for Girls - faithful Tupper pulling her along the snowy river road in her carriole. However, in Beatrice's case she also sees a ghost on the road as well!

This farm house (taken at Lower Fort Garry) is a typical Red River farmhouse of the Red River settlement, made with squared logs that were then whitewashed.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Does the world of the Present need a Ghost of the Future?

"Ghost of the Future," he exclaimed, "I fear you more than any spectre I have seen. But as I know your purpose is to do me good, and as I hope to live to be another man from what I was, I am prepared to bear you company, and do it with a thankful heart. Will you not speak to me?"   A Christmas Carol, Charles Dickens

A Grand Denouement Can Be Delicious....

A Grand denouement can be delicious…
The word denouement is from the old French desnouer (to unknot) and from the Latin nodus (a knot). To untie a knot.

What a perfect way of putting it.

Officially, in a narrative, it is the event or events following the climax; the resolution or clarification of the plot.

                                                      Jane's Writing Desk and Ink Pot

Jane's writing: Persuasion

To my way of thinking, (arguably) the denouement occurs at the very moment that the knot is untied; when the uncertainties set up in a story become more certain. It is the moment when the reader realizes that the path to the final scenes have been laid and the outcome will be played out for out for their delectation.

My favorite denouement is “The” scene in Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. It is absolutely the most "delicious "denouement of all time, (in my opinion) and the most romantic, exciting, and stunning untying of the knot in any narrative, and one I reread just on its own now and again.

It occurs after Captain Wentworth realizes he is finally free to follow Anne Elliot to Bath. When he first arrives, he is certain that he has lost Anne to the grasping Mr. Elliot. But something she says to Captain Harville - a moving treatise on constancy….

All the privilege I claim for my own sex {it is not a very enviable one; you need not covet it, is that of loving longest, when existence or when hope is gone.” ….makes Captain Wentworth (Frederick to me….) decide to take a risk and lay out his heart to Anne Elliot for the second time in their relationship - by sliding a note expressing his continued and undying love onto the table where she is sitting - before he takes his leave.

He begged their pardon, but he had forgotten his gloves, and instantly crossing the room to the writing table, he drew out a letter from under the scattered paper, placed it before Anne with eyes of glowing entreaty fixed on her for a time, and hastily collecting his gloves, was again out of the room…”

Anne Elliot reads:

“I can listen no longer in silence. I must speak to you by such means as are within my reach. You pierce my soul. I am half agony, half hope. Tell me not that I am too late, that such precious feelings are gone for ever. I offer myself to you again with a heart even more your own than when you almost broke it, eight years and a half ago. Dare not say that man forgets sooner than woman, that his love has an earlier death. I have loved none but you. Unjust I may have been, weak and resentful I have been, but never inconstant. You alone have brought me to Bath. For you alone, I think and plan. Have you not seen this? Can you fail to have understood my wishes? I had not waited even these ten days, could I have read your feelings, as I think you must have penetrated mine. I can hardly write. I am every instant hearing something which overpowers me. You sink your voice, but I can distinguish the tones of that voice when they would be lost on others. Too good, too excellent creature! You do us justice, indeed. You do believe that there is true attachment and constancy among men. Believe it to be most fervent, most undeviating, in F. W.

'I must go, uncertain of my fate; but I shall return hither, or follow your party, as soon as possible. A word, a look, will be enough to decide whether I enter your father's house this evening or never."
I have never been a fan of the word delicious used other than for gastronomic delights, but aah, the delicious wonder of that moment!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Quote(s) of the Week

Two quotes by  Beverly Cleary. My daughter adored her books about Beezus and Ramona. And now her daughter loves them just as much.

"I don't necessarily start with the beginning of the book. I just start with the part of the story that's most vivid in my imagination and work forward and backward from there."

"I feel sometimes that in children's books there are more and more grim problems, but I don't know that I want to burden third- and fourth-graders with them."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Painting with Words

I was told by a children's lit prof once, that some of the students in his class, after reading my books, were sure there were drawings and paintings in them. Some argued with him until shown the book in question. That stays in my memory as one of the really good things said about my work.

Maybe it's because I'm a painter, I don't know - but I do "see" my characters and settings as I write them. They move across my inner cinema screen very clearly. I want colour in my writing. I want pattern and shape and strong visuals for my reader. But I also want them to be able to take what I give them and form their own images - of my characters and settings - not as flat, sterile gray things, but as vibrant living images.

Writers who can make my imagination "see" things visually, and in full colour, are my favourite writers. When I can envision their characters and their settings, I can then smell their seas, their lakes, their streets and their rooms and hear their characters' voices.  I am transported to their worlds and it becomes as real to me as the room I'm sitting in. I think that's why I reread so many books. I become homesick for their sounds, their views, their lives, their "air". 

As I painter, I'm also touched strongly in the same way, but "differently", by certain paintings. I saw this painting (above) by Casper David Friedrich recently, an 18th-19th C. German painter, called "Woman in a Window" and was immediately inside that room with the young woman. Friedrich is now considered to be an icon of the German Romantic movement and a painter of international importance, although he died ill and in obscurity. His work is  unapologetically intense and romantic. Each painting tells its own story. In this painting I can hear the creak of the floorboards, the sounds of gulls and smell the sea air.

For me, connecting intensely with this painting, my writerly self takes over. The young woman in green becomes a writer looking out her window. You can see a ship's rigging in the near distance. What is she thinking? Is it the lure of the ships in port and the thought of a grand adventure that have caught her attention? Is she looking for a lover below? Or is she just staring out the window rethinking the story she has been laboring over? (I've always believed that we, as writers, can be writing even while staring out our windows!)

Friedrich's next painting (below) also hit me strongly, but in a different way. I "recognized it", because it looks so much like Emma Sweeney's best friend Tom (Tamhas) in his owl form in "The Watcher's Trilogy"; my fantasy novels: The Watcher, The Seeker and The Finder. Tamhas often sits on a window ledge in the castel (castle) walls trying to reason with the impetuous Emma.

There is a mood to this work that can only be truly captured through visual art, but I hope I was able to capture a similar mood with words. The shapes and colours in this painting have an atmosphere that sets a strong mood despite the soft tonal quality. It seems almost "modern" in its simplicity. And yet, romantic as well.


This one below also intrigues me and has been used as a synonym for "romantic" online. It is utterly romantic and wild. Many people would find it too much so. But, ahh, there has to be a story there.... don't you think?

Monday, November 28, 2011

"Winter Shadows" is a Red River Christmas story.....

A lot of people don't realize until they've read Winter Shadows that the entire story is spun around a Victorian Christmas in an early settlement along the Red River; as well as a modern Christmas story in the same stone house along that river.

I used this holiday because it is often used in stories to bring families together in celebration and harmony. But when those families are in fact, very dysfunctional, it can cause all kinds of new stresses - some that break spirits and others that offer new strengths.

In the 1850's along the Red River, in the small settlement of St. Cuthbert's where Beatrice Alexander lives, Christmas is one of the few festive holidays that breaks the cold monotony of a long winter. It is a time that Beatrice usually loves; but because she is now living with a very  nasty stepmother who seems to be influencing Beatrice's kindly Métis father, Christmas looks very bleak indeed.

The Christmas of 1856 becomes a catalyst for even more tension between Beatrice and her stepmother Ivy. And when Ivy's son, Duncan Kilgour, arrives on the scene, even more tension develops - of a different kind. 

In the modern world, in the very same stone house that Beatrice lived in all those years ago, Cass is also living with a difficult stepmother, Jean, and her annoying daughter Daisy, as well as Cass's dad -  who wants this to be the start of a new and happy life for all of them together.Cass's mother died two years before, and Cass resents her stepmother Jean taking over her mother's place. This is not a happy family looking forward to Christmas.

( I found this lovely little Victorian Christmas card to "Beatrice sends best wishes for a Merry Christmas" and felt it had to be from her!)

The story takes place in the heavy prairies snows of Manitoba long the deep river banks of the Red River.

When Cass finds the star brooch once belonging to Beatrice, her visions lead her to Beatrice's diary. Do the girls really communicate across time, or is it all in their imaginations?

Besides developing the stories and connections between Beatrice and Cass, I also had the pleasure of researching and looking at the food and entertainments that might have occurred at this festive holiday time.

I hope that you will enjoy the conflicts, ghostly happenings, romance, and life-experiences of my characters in Winter Shadows!

Winter Shadows is available in hardcover and paperback in most local bookstores (like McNally Robinson's here in Winnipeg) - and through online bookstores such as Chapters, Barnes and Noble, Amazon and more. It is also available as an eBook on most online bookstores in their eBook sections.. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


I suppose you could make a writer of the era above cry if you took away her pencils and paper. But to make a modern writer cry in frustration, make sure her keyboard stops working.

I came home from my writers' group last night refreshed and and ready to relax with an hour of TV, when I remembered I owed someone an email that could not wait.

I clicked open my email .... and .... drum roll from hell .... my computer would not type. Not one character - not one single word. My keyboard was frozen. I could open anything, I could go online, but when I tried to look up the problem on Google - it wouldn't allow allow me to type a request for help. Of course...

I went to bed with a full scan on and a very heavy heart. If my keyboard doesn't work, I can't work. I can still write with pencil and paper. But at the moment, I am editing two of my older books for putting up as eBooks.

I need my computer. I need it to type. I slept badly.

By morning, the scans were all done and I still couldn't type.  I could not blog, go on Facebook, write emails, or work on these two books.

My keyboard was down. I was down. I had scanned, cleaned, reformatted everything. Nothing worked. I looked like the woman above, only with hair on end.

Jim had his usual suggestion. "Buy a new computer!" He is technophobic, so that's always his suggestion.

My computer guy - my son-in-law was working at Lower Fort Garry today and out of reach.

I went on Jim's computer. A search told me I had to delete my keyboard driver and then restart the computer and it would (might) recognize the driver and reinstall it correctly.

But would it? Was I brave enough to try it? What if I lost important stuff. What if the driver went away and never came back -- turned down a dark alley inside my computer and refused to come out again?

So, I called in my last Big Gun: my eBook specialist daughter. She came over - waved me away after listening to my slightly hysterical explanation of the "help" I had found online. She hung over the keyboard for about fifteen minutes. Like a doctor over a surgical patient, she said, "I'm going to have to uninstall the keyboard driver. No choice." 

I couldn't bear it. I went to make a sweet cup of tea and stood behind the door of my office and waited.

"Okay, Mom, I've restarted the computer" she said over her shoulder.

I waited for the beat of my computer's heart to start again.

We held our breaths. My desktop came back. She ordered me into the room. She opened WORD. She typed. Letters came up as if someone with a magic wand was sweeping it across the page.

I had my keyboard back.

I now owe her two dinners out. On for the eBooks and one for this. I am blissfully typing this and the letters are appearing. I am tearless writer again.

Monday, November 21, 2011


How do you read a book? From the beginning to the end? I have one friend, who may be reading this post, who does it like that. Every time.  Maybe most of you do it that way, too. Fair dues.

But some of us do it a different way. Some of us read a book backwards, forwards, in the middle and then back to front and back again.

I tend to read a novel from the front to the back until I want to know something - an event that has been foreshadowed, or even how it ends - so I can relax and enjoy the ride.

I hasten to say I rarely read the last few pages in a whodunit, but I have been known to search out names in the last quarter to see if anyone is missing - and then I'll know not to count on them living to the end.

Sometimes peeking makes me wonder if I want to keep reading a particular book, especially when I find out the main characters will, in fact, let me down - usually by letting themselves down or because the author is following a trend I don't like. I would never allow a hero to die!

Sometimes I read a big chunk in the traditional way and then I flip forward until I find out if the section I am reading resolves itself a particular way. People, I find, who read front to back are quite appalled and tell me that I am not doing what the author expects of me. But hey! I'm an author. And I am in and out of my book, and forward, and backward, and inside out and outside in all the time I'm writing  - and the end is still often a surprise to me!

My answer to these naysayers who claim I am not doing the right thing reading a book backwards is this. Once I've bought a book it is mine - and I can read it any way I want!

I can't be the only one who does this. Can I?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

How to become a member of my site.

For those of you who decide to become a member of my site, there are a few things to remember.

1) It is easy to join even with the daunting decision of joining one of the well-known logos you must click on. If you don't have a Google, Yahoo or Twitter account, it is quick and easy to choose Google and set up an account right then and there. The nice thing is - you can now go on Google World/Maps! You can travel  around the world looking at any address you want without leaving your chair. It is free. And you can ignore it, also, after you join.

2) They ask for a photo. If you are on Facebook or have a photo you can use, make sure it is small. Or you can just use the silhouette for now and add your photo later.

3) If you want your name and photo to be visible, make sure you click on Public, not Private membership.

4) Don't forget to click "Done" when you are ready to post your profile. A few of my friends forgot to do that.

5) Because my server, Blogger, suggests putting followers of the site near the top of my home page, it restricts the number of visible photos to 8 at a time. But if you look closely at the photo on the top left, you will see the teeny little word "More": on the top of the person's head (!) and if you click on that, all the members photos will come up. You can then click back and it returns to the most recent 8 photos.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fourth book up on Kindle as e-book.

My fourth e-novel is now up on Kindle. Angels Turn Their Backs. You can see its e-cover in my e-books section in this blog and a description of the story, awards and other info on the novel under "Ghosts".

Getting to know you.....

I finally figured out how to put "Comments" up on my home page. You can see the tiny comment tab below each of my posts -- and on each book page you will find a comment box. I have also added an email connection so you can get any news/new comments etc  from my blog sent to you via email. You will need to have a Twitter, Yahoo, or Google account to become a subscriber or "Follower" of my website/blog.

You do NOT need to have a Google email - just an account. This also allows you to go onto Google maps. It's worth joining Google just for that.

Last week I went on google world maps and was able to "stand" right  in front of Jim's great-grandparents' old Georgian House in Edinburgh AND take a virtual picture to keep. I've also been to the villages my family came from in England - right on the main road in front of the buildings. It's amazing! I also use it to go on any of my city streets to locate a new restaurant. You can do this - go to the street, and find the restaurant and the cross roads nearest and parking (!) before you leave your home. Works great for business offices, too. :-)

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Three of my novels are now e-books!

My daughter just loaded three of my own novels as e-books onto Amazon Kindle which readers can download! She did a fantastic job! The Watcher, The Seeker and The Finder went up today for purchase on Kindle. These are the three books in my Watcher's Quest Trilogy.

Preparing books that were already formatted for publishing was really difficult to do. They recommend that you do not use your tab key when writing, but who knew that would ever be a problem? Therefore the indents for each paragraph are a little deeper than we'd like (and they looked perfect in the, of course, we assumed all was well and she uploaded them), but other than that they look great. Even the covers look good!

More e-books to come in the next few weeks.

My latest book with Tundra, WINTER SHADOWS, is also on Kindle.