In which I ruminate on a fresh story idea and upcoming things to do

Imagine if there was a little girl whose tangled hair could catch fairies?

While working on getting my 9 year old to take a bath and brush her hair, that’s what I said to her, and it called to mind all kinds of interesting images and possibilities.

Like, what would happen if Bridget’s hair was a fairy-net? She’d go running across a field or through a trail in the woods, and come out with one or two of the Wee Folk waving from behind her ears, calling to be let free. Worse than touching your hair and feeling a mosquito or a deerfly buzzing around back there! I mean, that’s alarming enough, to reach back and where you expect nothing but softness and maybe an elastic or barrette come loose, there’s a tumbling, vibrating, bumbling creature bouncing against your fingers or the palm of your hand. If it were a fairy, though, or a pixie, or a leprechaun, would there also be hell to pay? Or would they be understanding of the mistake?

Some people are particularly attractive to mosquitoes. What if someone was attractive to supernatural creatures, through no fault of his/her own?

I’m thinking it’s a a great story idea and now it’s floating around in my head, wanting a plot line and characters and a rich setting to play in. I’ll put a pin in it, as the saying goes now, as I’ve got to get other things done first.

How would you brush fairies out of your hair, though? Would their wings get caught? Maybe if it was curly . . . They might not like the smell of the leftover shampoo fragrance. What if the person who owned the hair didn’t even notice the fairies at first! How would you explain that to the poor little things, watching a great big comb coming down at them? Minding their own business, working happily around the forest, visiting relatives and picking up roots and berries for supper, when a great wind comes up and blows them into a tangled web of silky strands. At first, they think it’s a spider’s web — would that be a fairy’s greatest fear, to be caught by an untamed spider? — but quickly learn it’s something else entirely. It’s a human’s hair.

Would time flow differently for a fairy, being so small? What seems like hours to them might be only minutes for us. So upon being caught up in the hair, the fairies might have to resort to drastic means for freedom.

Makes me think of the Spiderwick Chronicles. I enjoy those stories. I’ve also got the Squished Fairy Book, and I love reading Jenny Twist’s story, Away With the Fairies. Hubby showed me a video tonight, too, taken by a mother who claims she saw a tiny man running through her kitchen.

Yup. I’ve been hit with the next thing to work on as a WIP, already. Not even a day out of the last one.

Meanwhile, I’ve got the Ottawa ComicCon trip in one week (yikes!), plus sharing carpooling of our 14 year old with another boy to referee training sessions this weekend (sadly, the timing is such that we won’t get to see Avengers: Age of Ultron right away), and I’m auditioning for a part in Shakespeare in the Park, so I have to work on my monologue and playing my French horn. Hubby did a lovely job of starting our spring cleaning in the house, so that needs to be kept going, and progress reports for the month have to go out on Monday, thus I must spend a few hours finalizing marks and reading blogs. Tomorrow I have to remember to pick up waffles and fixings, plus decorations, for my writing students’ Camp NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up party, and decide who will receive buttons as awards for different things.

And it’s Beltane tomorrow. My old University coven is getting together, hours away from here, and I wish I could be with them to celebrate. At least, for this fire festival, the snow is mostly off the ground. It could be possible to follow the tradition of bathing my face in the first morning dew, if it’s not frosty out. That’s something else that needs tending this weekend, or after work: my gardens need cleaning up and clearing out for fresh planting. And I need to plan out the expansion. I want to add two or three more beds this year, as I work to make the most of our backyard space.

Hope I don’t get anything caught in my hair, short as it is. Bugs or fairies. I don’t need itchy bites, burning stings, or Wee Folk curses hurled in my direction!

Oh, and still no title for the Snowmobile Story. It’ll come to me. Been getting suggestions from students, too.

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Crossing the finish line — Goal ACHIEVED!

Camp-Winner-2015-Web-Banner-1

So, that’s it! Weighing in at 50,030 words, completed in 29 days. It’s not perfect, nowhere near finished, but since I’ve been able to let my students begin reading it last week, two are really enjoying it, and three or four are grudgingly continuing to read it either out of interest or pity . . . but they’re reading it.

My kingdom for a better title than the Snowmobile Story!

Still, I’m so happy to have gotten another novel written through Camp NaNoWriMo. It’s a reminder to me of how much I can accomplish in a relatively short space of time. Definitely a boost, right when I needed it — I don’t take transitional weather very well. And even though I know it needs work, it’s a complete draft from start to finish, unlike the piles of unfinished plot ideas and exposition lying around in my notebooks and computer files.

The next step is getting feedback, doing the edits, etc., but now I need to focus back on other priorities at work and at home. You put certain things off for a month when you’re working on a story, and that means catching up when it’s done.

Doing this, though — it makes me want to go out and celebrate. Like Joan Wilder (Kathleen Turner) having wine while her cat eats a dish of Fancy Feast. Or Melvin Udall (Jack Nicholson) doing his thing after hitting the final lines of his — what was it, his forty-third novel? True, I’m not even close to being that prolific. But imagine if I could write like this every month. Every day. Imagine being able to produce six or more novels a year. I know I could do that. One day, I will do that. For now, this is enough, though.

Thanks for following me on this, by the way. I really appreciate it, very very much. 365 Days of Blogging will continue, with more updates on this and on the Talbot Trilogy as I complete my final proofreading checks and the promotions for Crystal and Wand kick into high gear. Also coming up is my trip to Ottawa ComicCon (yikes!) and assorted other hijinks and shenanigans . . . work-life balance, indeed!

The Snowmobile Story project nearly complete!

I’m starting to see some light at the end of the writing tunnel, for this particular project, and more students have been reading it in my class — and telling me they’re enjoying it. Just two or three, here and there, but that makes the effort most definitely worthwhile. It would be so nice to have a proper title, but maybe it will come to me after I finish it up.

The funny thing is that the surprises keep coming. I thought I knew how the falling action and denouement would turn out, but once again, my characters are doing things I didn’t expect. And some of their motives are suspect. Such is the way of writing in first person — one never knows for sure what goes on in the minds of others. Even if the others are creations of my own imagination.

Because once again, I’m finding that even with the struggles I had in starting and continuing this piece, the individuals have become very real to me. They’re composites of real people I’ve seen and talked to, but they’re also very physical in my head, and I’d recognize them in real life if I saw them walking down the street. Adam Poirier, my sixteen-year-old protagonist, with his lanky build and dark hair. Penny, his girlfriend, all quiet sparkle and tidiness. John Murphy, the old man in the woods, who is very much the stereotypical bearded hermit, but with a dark and twisted personality.

Sometimes it feels like the story is carving itself out of a block of stone, chipped into the open a word or a letter at a time. And sometimes it feels like it’s more organic than that — a tree, maybe, with roots that extend out into other shoots and branches that cross over each other. That’s what I see in my head, realizing that the other characters have their own interesting stories that could also be told.

Two more days, as of midnight. Three of my students have now hit their word count goals for Camp NaNoWriMo, and the others are encouraging their peers to try to make it over the finish line. We’re having an awesome waffle party on Friday, to wrap things up, and then next week, it’s back to regular lesson format for them. No more daily writing. I’m convinced that as a class project, all of this has been totally worth it. But it will be nice when we have all caught up on our sleep again.

Another Poem: Song of the Cricket Wrangler

Poor little crickets,

in your box you sing;

You’re doomed to be eaten

Within a week, I think.

Poor little crickets,

I feel a little guilt

You only want to eat and mate

But you’re my dragon’s kill.

Hop, little crickets,

enjoy your life of ease.

You are Gladiators

But there’s nowhere you can flee.

Scramble, little crickets,

find a place to hide.

The dragon waits to find you

and crunch your tasty sides.

Life’s a circle, little crickets

And your place in it is clear.

You’ll nourish my little dragon,

who puffs up her beard.

You are bred for death, little crickets,

like rats and mice for snakes.

Sadly my pretty beardie

likes a raw insect steak.

I see you, saucy cricket,

crawling on her head.

Your insolence is noted,

in moments you’ll be dead.

But your song, little crickets,

it’s gentle and it’s sweet.

Sometimes it makes me sad

that you’re what my pet must eat.

And now, a poem: Contradictions of Spring in Northeastern Ontario

The rain pours steadily

along the worn-out eaves,

Drumming on the yet-barren soil,

calling forth the green.

Watery sunlight gave way

to chill dark in the night,

But the air tastes of life

and hints of warmth to come.

Along the bushes and under the trees,

snow remains

It crumbles and washes away,

joining brook and stream,

While buds grow bit by bit

on branches stretching upward

And the birds seek their daily meals

of fallen seeds and sleepy worms.

Spring is slow in April,

The Boreal clings to the cold

The world is barely awake

in the approach of May.

Frosty mornings give way

to coatless afternoons

While children ride bikes in mitts

And the hardy venture forth in sandals.

Forecasts tangle sunshine with snowfall

Rain confuses itself with flakes

Crocuses push stubbornly out of soil

Skunks raise their striped heads

shuffling around garbage cans.

Keeping up is exhausting;

Staying indoors plagues us with guilt.

The push-pull of spring migration

warring with instinct to keep warm.

Reflections on Writing for Tough Audiences: Them, and Me

One of the primary tenets of writing that I’ve learned over the last few years is the importance of writing for yourself, first. Good readers can tell when a book or a short story is written out of love and interest and dedication, and one that is forced, contrived, or tossed out to meet someone else’s expectations.

When I first started working on this snowmobiling story, the intent was to provide a short novel for my reluctant teenage readers that was based on their interests: snowmobiling, outdoors, survival stories, true stories. I’m using Crabbe and Hatchet a little as models, as well as my observations of local teenage individuals and their experiences.

Yesterday, I had some of those reluctant readers take a look at the unfinished draft, both to get their feedback AND because they’d forgotten their independent study novels at home.

Their first and main reactions were dismay at the pages of words I’d given them — “Aw, man, so many words. I don’t wanna read words.” They enjoyed seeing some of their slang in print — “Look, she’s been listening!” — and liked some of the descriptions, but they lost interest by page three. One said there was too much talking, and another said too much happening, and a third said not enough.

As disheartening as this was, I realized today that I’m actually really invested in this story, now. As difficult as it was for me to get into at first, working with a genre and style that’s unfamiliar to me, I really want to know how it turns out. I’m not sure how well any of it is working — the voice, the details — and I want it to be something that my former teacher and the esteemed writer William Bell would enjoy reading and recommend to people who like his books. I want Gary Paulsen to read it and say, “Yes, this works.” I guess I’m looking for reassurance that I’m on the right track.

I’m also about 5,000 words behind in my word counts at this point.

So, I guess the bottom line is this: I started writing something for others, and it’s turned into something for myself. Despite the change in my goal, I’m still feeling nervous and inadequate on this, even more so than with other works I’ve done. It will feel good to finish this. Even better if I can get someone in my class to read it and tell me they like it. Hell, if the kids I’m writing for are able to read it from start to finish, without giving up, I’ll have done something right.

My thoughts on Marvel’s Daredevil (Netflix)

1) The first costume — Matt Murdock’s “work in progress” — takes me back to the Dread Pirate Roberts over and over again. I keep expecting him to pop out a British accent instead of Batman’s growl. I enjoy the costume that he eventually puts together, but the pirate look . . . damn!

2) Karen Page is a terrific character because she fights so hard for what she wants and needs. She doesn’t just cry and bemoan, protest and beg — she literally fights back, picking her moment for the surprise attack, defending herself from her assailants. I dig that about her.

3) I like the use of colour in symbolism, and this show has it in loads. Hubby and son binge-watched it both together and separately last weekend (kind of racing each other to see who could finish it first!), and I slept a lot instead of watching with them, so this week I’ve been reading up on different articles before viewing it myself, and one of those articles mentioned the colours. Absolutely true, and key to the storytelling. Love it.

4) I love that this Daredevil takes place post-Phase 2 Avengers, with references to the battle in the skies above New York City, and the rebuilding of the damage caused by the invasion and the Avengers’ defence. Very cool. Expanded universes make me happy.

5) As much as I love watching a hero at work, kicking ass without taking names (and feel for the nameless minions who get taken down again and again), it’s watching the protagonist powering through psychological and physical injuries until the job gets done that really fascinates me. It’s what I love about Spider-man, and James Fraser, and Tony Stark. That being said, I’m feeling bereft of a female hero who will do all of the same things. I used to love watching Xena, and indeed, my hubby bought me season 1 recently to re-watch, but I can only watch so much of that before its campiness gets to me. Where is Elektra’s show? Why can’t we get a Wonder Woman on Netflix?

If I could afford it, I’d be all over producing something with a strong female lead. Someone like Sarah Walker on Chuck, maybe, or Zohie on Firefly, or Kate Beckett on Castle, but with fewer high heels — let’s be honest, here, folks. Heels may look awesome and powerful and I love them for that, but practically, no. If you spend all your crime-fighting time on your toes, you’re going to be crippled by bunions and blisters after a week.

So, thumbs up for Daredevil. Now, go and do the same thing but with the other gender, please. Anna Kendrick in the lead, maybe? She’s got a hell of a right hook. Or Rebel Wilson. (Been on a Pitch Perfect bender this week again — can you tell?)

il_570xN.371904658_28ucUPDATE: Okay, so a fast-reading old friend of mine has informed me that it’s happening! Elektra is coming to screen (so THAT’s what David Tennant has been up to as the Purple Man!) in AKA Jennifer Jones, plus others are lined up. This blogger is pleased. Now, about those heels, though . . .