Crystal and Wand: Malcolm de Sade’s Backstory

One of the most difficult things a writer must do is accept that not every piece of the draft will make it to the final product. Something has to be cut, or multiple somethings, unless there is a very good reason for that section of dialogue or narrative to be kept. In Crystal and Wand, at my editor’s excellent suggestion, I plucked out a longish bit on the life history of my malicious and cunning Big Bad, the centuries-old vampire Malcolm de Sade. And it was difficult, because (without giving anything away) I know that part of that backstory gives some answers as to why he is capable of certain things that he does. But the tale of the most significant relationship of his un-life didn’t really serve the novel, in the end. Much like film editors must take away that which detracts from the movement and flow of a film, writers have to delete scenes, too.

I really think, though, that watching the deleted scenes (and the bloopers) are as enjoyable as looking at the final product.

So, dear readers, I thought I’d give you a peek into my head vampire’s secret past right here, by sharing with you this particular deleted scene. I hope you enjoy this glimpse into Malcolm’s world in advance of the release of the final installment of the Talbot Trilogy — the release date will be announced soon!

First, my inspiration for the character of Malcolm de Sade, the remarkable, handsome, and sexy Goran Visnjic:

And now, the story . . .

After a near-miss with destruction and losing track of his witches, Malcolm has returned to the home he has taken as his own from Andrea Renaud, the first member of his ill-fated coven. He takes stock of his situation, contemplating some of the choices he has made both in the past and the present. 

He had felt the pressing isolation of his kind profoundly, more than once. After Seingalt was staked, of course, as they had been turned together and had been brothers of a sort. And again, fifty-odd years later, when he’d encountered a talented young artist with the power to move his black heart as it had not been moved since his human days.

Malcolm rolled onto his side, losing himself in the memory so deeply that he almost returned to his day-sleep.

Aleksander Sokolov had been a student in St. Petersburg, on his way to becoming a brilliant painter. They had met at a midnight salon where de Sade had introduced himself as Sergei Davydov. While still a pupil, he had been commissioned for a portrait of a moderate official, an opportunity that opened doors and set him on a path that many of his peers envied as much as they did his looks. With a shock of soft, curling black hair falling over his smooth fair skin, features rounded almost like a woman’s, he was as fetching to regard as his oils on the canvas. Conversation had revealed that his background was similar to Seingalt’s—Aleksander had been sent to boarding school at age six, expected to join the clergy or obtain a degree in law, but had found himself pulled into the world of composition and beauty and accepted at the Imperial Academy of Arts.

A walk in the fresh air had revealed that his predilection was not for women.

Their passionate friendship had filled de Sade’s evenings through the long Russian winter, and he liked to think he had inspired some of his lover’s finest work. Sokolov had a way of using light, shadow, line, and colour to reveal his subjects’ deepest emotions and earnest desires. A young man’s arrogance and flair in one portrait would be followed by a matron’s steely gaze and knowing smirk in another. He could make an ugly princess into a delicate flower, and reduce a generous merchant to a scurrilous miser, all with seemingly careless strokes of his brush. He embodied the spirit of the Romantic Movement, and while it saddened Malcolm that he could only ever watch his artist work in the very early hours or the very late, he could not bring himself to grant the lad a gift that would steal from him the very sunlight that fed Aleksander’s soul.

It was a bitter sunrise that shone on Sokolov’s face the morning after he died of consumption, a scant eight months after their relationship had begun.

Would his art have been any less without his humanity? Or would the world have been granted a magnificent boon, had Malcolm changed him at that last moment? For hours, every breath had seemed to be his last. Held by his beloved Sergei—those were the very words he had used to describe his lover—he had wept a little to leave the world without having painted everything he’d wanted. So much beauty, so many faces, and he’d not even made the time to commit Davydov to a canvas.

“What work you have done, be assured I will never see it discarded, nor burnt, nor torn,” Malcolm promised him.

“In another lifetime, your portrait should have been the highest example of my efforts,” Aleksander whispered. He fingered the ruffles on de Sade’s sleeve. “Sergei, I am a little afraid to die.”

Malcolm sighed. “And if you could live, would you want to live for always? To never age? To never sicken, waste away, or perish?” He felt his mouth tingle and hoped that his lover’s answer would be yes. “We are not meant to last forever. That is why we paint.” Even with the shadow of death hovering about his eyes and mouth, Aleksander Sokolov had the strength and audacity to reprimand his elder. “You might as well ask me to give up my hands, my eyes, or my capacity to feel, if I lost the fragility that lets me portray life in…”

In what, Malcolm never knew. That was the moment his artist’s heart finally chose to end its struggle.

Before Aleksander, his purpose had been in acquiring knowledge he could use against others, both for pleasure and in manipulation of the soul. He had buried his loneliness, refusing to admit that it even existed, focusing on his games. And then into his world of darkness, this young man had exploded like a dying star. His very being was so pure, Malcolm had never even told him of his true self. His lover went to his grave without knowing that Sergei Davydov would never join him in eternal sleep.

He had believed himself inured to this kind of loss, immune to emotional pain, entirely free from the failings of humanity. Alek proved all of that wrong, but until this evening’s pairing with Damon Sabre it had not been clear to him just how much he remained vulnerable, or how deeply he had buried himself.

Not that Malcolm was some sorrowful shadow, or had ever been. After losing his artist, he neither lost himself in misery nor indulged in long fits of melancholy, bemoaning his situation. Instead, he carried on as he expected to, always: moving to a new place, finding someone to bed and on whom to feed, leaving the past behind. What was the point of mourning? Death was simply part of a mortal’s existence. If anything, Aleksander Sokolov had been luckier than most of his era, leaving his work behind as evidence that he had once walked the earth. When Malcolm felt the need to remind himself that their encounter had been more than a dream, he only needed to return to St. Petersburg, later Petrograd, and view the paintings on display.

Perhaps paintings on display were what had drawn him to Damon in the first place.

Malcolm turned onto his other side in Andrea’s soft flannel sheets, disturbed at the turn of his thoughts. Damon was so similar to Aleksander, in so many ways. They were of the same age, though Damon was taller than Alek had been, and in this time, the former was still considered by some to be a babe of the world—though the country’s government conferred on him most of the rights of adulthood—while Alek had been considered fully a man. There was that reservation in his manner, retiring in unfamiliar company, but unrestrainedly humourous among friends. True, the lad had not been completely honest with him about his sexuality when Malcolm had first broached the subject, that night at the hunters’ cabin, but it was to be expected in this era when it was growing nigh impossible to keep one’s secrets out of others’ hands. De Sade had seen this for himself, exploring the Internet, reading personal conversations posted for all to see and judgment cast upon those who challenged the perceived status quo.

Another reminder why the flawed human race needed creatures with greater perspective and experience to rule them.

Even though he himself enjoyed wringing secrets out of people, it was not his business to spread them. He collected their confessions and recorded them in journals, sometimes using code, to cherish as his own private treasure. After all, if there was anything he’d learned from Seingalt’s experience, advertising himself was dangerous. It was far better to avoid conflict and confrontation by staying hidden, even if that meant falling further and further from the comforts of society.

He frowned. Of course, eventually that had brought him to feeding on the homeless and indigent of society, living in filth no better than a rat. But that pattern had so swiftly come to an end. And it hadn’t been because of a handsome young man catching his eye—it had been the sight of an attractive witch, both powerful and fertile. Charlotte Fanning, now Mahonen, cursed be that name, had changed the course of his existence. It should not matter how much potential Damon Sabre could express with brush and paint. He had not seen the young man indulge his talent in many weeks, though; not since before he had become part of Malcolm’s coven. Perhaps that gift had already vanished, drained away with his life’s blood, replaced with cynicism and thirst. After all, an artist had to have a beating heart, able to feel both love and pain, and a soul that yearned for beauty in order to return it to the world. It was impossible for a vampire, the living dead sustained by carnage and ugliness, to come close to creating anything aesthetic that was also original. Witness Seingalt, who collected precious artwork and hired decorators to surround him with beauty, but made none of his own. And Malcolm himself had taken possession of this comfortable home but could claim none of it as his own design.

Whatever Damon Sabre had been, as his human self, it was gone, and there was no retrieving it. This was the reason Malcolm had given him a new, last, name. But if all this were true, why was he so determined to make a baby? To combine his seed and spirit with that of a witch? Many humans called infants beautiful, and each were original creatures, unique unto themselves.

Restless, he rose from the bed and paced the length of the bedroom. This was why he no longer enjoyed time alone. His thoughts took him to uncomfortable places, questioning reality in unacceptable ways.

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SOON TO BE RELEASED! Read the Prequel: Mist and Midnight, Book One: Wind and Shadow, and Book Two: Blood and Fire, available through Melange Books.

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And the Winner of the Cover Reveal for Crystal and Wand is . . .

ShaMona Hagan! Congratulations! I’ll be in touch to get your details for sending your prize: a signed set of the print copies of the Talbot Trilogy.

I’m in the midst of report card comments this evening, so this post will be short. Short-short. Daisy-Duke short. And I had such plans for writing you a poem about picking up the poop in my backyard . . . There’s still time for that later this week, though!

Still don’t have a clue who the skeleton is, or the old man. Waiting for inspiration on that. Something occurred to me while I was picking up poop, but do you think I was smart enough to write it down at the time? Nooo . . .

The Slings and Arrows of Editing

One of the frustrations of editing is having to acknowledge one’s own limitations and, at times, failings in communicating the images you’ve seen in your head to the reader. I’m struggling through the last edits of Crystal and Wand, accepting that certain parts need to be cut and others need to be clarified. It’s gotten easier since my first editing experience four (or was it five?) years ago, but there’s always a level of difficulty in refining and directing my diction.

Last night, I had a nightmare that included facing problems with edits in my writing. I sometimes wish that I could sit down with my editor to go over the work together, the way I do with my students when I have time. But my editor is in Minnesota, and I don’t think that either of us has the time to go through the manuscript over Skype.

I’ll carry on the best I can. I’m determined to complete these edits tonight and be done with them.

In the meantime, don’t forget to take a peek at the cover reveal for Crystal and Wand, and leave a comment for your chance to win signed copies of all three books in the Talbot Trilogy.

Cover Reveal and Giveaway! Enter by commenting…

Ladies and gentlemen and those in between, I present to you the cover for my upcoming release, the third and final instalment of the Talbot Trilogy:

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I’m so thrilled and pleased with this design by Caroline Andrus — it says everything about the power of the women in this book.

To celebrate, I’m offering a giveaway of the full trilogy, signed print copies of Wind and ShadowBlood and Fire, and Crystal and Wand, to be sent to the winner as soon as the print copy is available. Comment below over the next seven days, and I’ll make the draw on Saturday next week!

And if you need a reminder of what the book’s about, here are the blurb and an excerpt:

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives?

He swiveled her stretcher around and rolled her into another room nearby, connected by a sliding door. Here, she saw a massive bed covered in white silk sheets, fur rugs and tables covered with candles. There was even a mirror on the ceiling. She recoiled, tugging feverishly and uselessly against her bonds.

Instead of taking her to the bed as she feared, he pulled again to the right, and stopped her in front of a bank of six small flatscreen TVs. The views changed every ten seconds or so, until he tapped a few keys on a small black keyboard. Then, each TV focused on the hospital lobby, where Grant and Malcolm sat glaring at each other below the hidden camera.

“I have eyes and ears all over this hospital, Rayvin,” he told her seriously. “I knew you were here the minute you showed up. I honestly kept expecting Grant to figure it out and come charging down here, but guess what? The wolf-man’s got a stuffy nose!” Jason snorted and pressed another few buttons.

The lower right flatscreen changed to a time-stamped view of the lobby, reversing its recording until Charlotte, Marcy, and Siobhan were walking backward into the room and facing the men. Here, Jason paused the video. He drew up a black leather office chair and sat in it, his arms folded.

“Where do you suppose they were going, Ray?” He mused, tilting his head back and forth. “You don’t think Malcolm de Sade, the dethroned and disillusioned, spilled a little secret to your band of allies, do you? Something about the Talbot Classic Theatre?”

Rayvin pulled so hard at one of the cuffs that she felt her skin chafing under its padding.

“I don’t know why you all think I’m so stupid. I know, Rayvin. I know about the vampire hunters from that stupidly named Society. S.H.I.P.—really? That makes no sense at all.” He got up and walked around the viewing screens. She heard a refrigerator door open, and when he came back around, he was sucking on a bag of plasma like it was a slushie.

Her stomach clamped at the sight, which made a little more of her own blood leak out and the after-pains surge once more.

“You’re really very tempting, you know. The smell of fresh blood is driving me nuts. You don’t mind if I eat in front of you, right?” He flopped back into his chair, clicking buttons again. The camera zoomed into the women’s faces, frozen on the screen. “You’re now wondering how I know about all this. Don’t worry, in a few minutes you’ll find out. I have a very reliable source.”

“So they’re walking into a trap, aren’t they?” Rayvin found her voice at last. “The Classic. You have people waiting for them there, don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question, but Jason nodded slowly in answer, still sucking on his snack.

She wanted to tell him something brave. She wanted to defy him, announcing that Marcy, Siobhan, and Charlotte wouldn’t fall for it, that they’d sense their enemies before the trap was sprung. Grant would sense her peril at any moment and come to her rescue. But the words dried up in her throat, and her eyes welled with tears. She turned her face away, willing herself to get back in control.

“Okay, I think that’s it.”

She heard Jason toss the empty plastic bag into a wastebasket. He turned her stretcher once more, so quickly it made her dizzy again, and pushed her back past the fish tank and his nurse shark, all the way to the hallway.

“I’m tired, Rayvin. You’ve got me up past my bedtime. I interrupted my sleep to play host for you, but I need to go back to dreamland for a bit. Thank god for the short days of winter, eh?” He chuckled, whisking her down another hallway. This one was lined with cinderblocks and unpainted wooden and steel doors. “I’ve watched enough movies to know what mistakes to avoid as the villain, but at the same time, I understand why the dastardly fiend needs to draw out the moment rather than ending it quickly. There’s so much pleasure in just relishing satisfaction, you know? So I’ve got my cameras ready, because I’m really exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

He brought her to a stop next to a door marked “Boiler Room”.

And then he pulled a knife out of his pocket.

“It’s been more than ten years, Rayvin, since you paralyzed me and left me to rot in my chair.” Jason leaned over until his face was even with hers. He whipped off his patch to let her see the whole of his ruined eye. “And a couple of weeks ago, your boyfriend maimed me for the remainder of my after-life. So I’m thinking Code of Hammurabi. Remember, from Intro to Law?”

He shifted her body with one hand, reached under the blankets with his knife, and forced it deeply into her lower back. She shuddered and shrieked, the pain in her womb eclipsed by the agony of her muscles and tissue shredding. He sawed back and forth, cutting at her spine. She arched her back, trying to get away, screaming.

Something inside her gave way, snapping apart, and then for the second time in four hours, she blacked out.

Once again, comment below over the next seven days, and I’ll make the draw for a complete signed set of the Trilogy novels on Saturday next week!

Updates on Cover Reveal, Field Trip, WIP, and SNOW

Okay, so it’s time for some quick updates, I think.

Cover Reveal: I will raise the curtain on the cover of my latest novel, the soon-to-be-released third and final instalment of the Talbot Trilogy, on Saturday! I’ll put together some celebratory giveaways to mark the occasion. Prepare to be pampered!

Ottawa ComicCon: Permission has been sought and obtained from the school board to enable me to bring a group of avid students to this event. I was going to make up posters yesterday, and tonight, to spread the word a little more — we have the minimum number we need but it would be nice to be able to fill the bus. I figure, another week and then I’ll cut it off so I can order the tickets and finalize the rooms. We’re going to stay at a university residence, so the kids will get the experience of dorm rooms and be able to see downtown Ottawa. Very exciting. I also have to try to get Wil Wheaton’s autograph for my administrator, because she’s so supportive and awesome, AND she’s a big fan of his. Challenge accepted!

I’m thinking, too, that I’ll have to make up a list of pointers for the kids who are first-time Con attendees, so they’re not overwhelmed or underprepared. Lots to do, still. In 30 days, I’ll be in Ottawa on our trip! EEEK!

Camp NaNoWriMo: I caught up and went past my word count tonight, giving myself a nice 1,000 word buffer. Feels good. And actually, since Crystal and Wand is over 100,000 words, it’s kind of refreshing to know that this novel is going to be cut and dried by the end of this month. Not as daunting as the others, and I feel like I’ve picked up the rhythm now on the snowmobile story (although it would be nice to have a better working title). Also, I had two students read the first fourteen pages, and their feedback was really positive, particularly after I’d applied the feedback from my dear friend Tara Hall. All three beta readers feel like I’ve captured the voice of a sixteen-year-old boy, which is extremely gratifying. Onwards and upwards on that! Although — next week I will have to spend an evening focusing on report cards. I’d better make sure to keep adding to that buffer . . .

Snow: There was visible meltage today! Just a hint of difference in the level of the snowpack, where it had been cut away by the snowblowers or ploughs. Earlier this week — even yesterday — it had looked to be a depth of 2 – 2.5 feet, and today I could swear it’d lost 5 inches. We’re supposed to get rain mixed with snow tonight and tomorrow — bleh — but I’ll take that over getting another dumping. We’re not out of the weather-woods yet!

So that’s it, for now. I can’t seem to get enough rest, ever, but at least I’m getting to bed before midnight for once. See you tomorrow!

Crystal and Wand is coming this spring — want a taste?

You’re invited to sink your teeth (or fangs) into this selection from my upcoming novel, the third and final instalment in the Talbot Trilogy, a paranormal romance / urban fantasy that’s not for the faint of heart.  

First, the blurb . . .

Lovers reunite, and are torn apart. Bloodthirsty fiends battle for control of an army of the undead. With the community of Talbot frozen under layers of ice and snow, the domination of the vampire coven seems certain, but in the eye of the storm, the witches and the vampire hunters search desperately for the means to bring an end to the violence that threatens to take over more than one small, sleepy town. Will Rayvin and Charlotte be able to work together, combining their skills in magick, to prevent the loss of more innocent lives? 

And now, the excerpt:

He swiveled her stretcher around and rolled her into another room nearby, connected by a sliding door. Here, she saw a massive bed covered in white silk sheets, fur rugs and tables covered with candles. There was even a mirror on the ceiling. She recoiled, tugging feverishly and uselessly against her bonds.

Instead of taking her to the bed as she feared, he pulled again to the right, and stopped her in front of a bank of six small flatscreen TVs. The views changed every ten seconds or so, until he tapped a few keys on a small black keyboard. Then, each TV focused on the hospital lobby, where Grant and Malcolm sat glaring at each other below the hidden camera.

“I have eyes and ears all over this hospital, Rayvin,” he told her seriously. “I knew you were here the minute you showed up. I honestly kept expecting Grant to figure it out and come charging down here, but guess what? The wolf-man’s got a stuffy nose!” Jason snorted and pressed another few buttons.

The lower right flatscreen changed to a time-stamped view of the lobby, reversing its recording until Charlotte, Marcy, and Siobhan were walking backward into the room and facing the men. Here, Jason paused the video. He drew up a black leather office chair and sat in it, his arms folded.

“Where do you suppose they were going, Ray?” He mused, tilting his head back and forth. “You don’t think Malcolm de Sade, the dethroned and disillusioned, spilled a little secret to your band of allies, do you? Something about the Talbot Classic Theatre?”

Rayvin pulled so hard at one of the cuffs that she felt her skin chafing under its padding.

“I don’t know why you all think I’m so stupid. I know, Rayvin. I know about the vampire hunters from that stupidly named Society. S.H.I.P.—really? That makes no sense at all.” He got up and walked around the viewing screens. She heard a refrigerator door open, and when he came back around, he was sucking on a bag of plasma like it was a slushie.

Her stomach clamped at the sight, which made a little more of her own blood leak out and the after-pains surge once more.

“You’re really very tempting, you know. The smell of fresh blood is driving me nuts. You don’t mind if I eat in front of you, right?” He flopped back into his chair, clicking buttons again. The camera zoomed into the women’s faces, frozen on the screen. “You’re now wondering how I know about all this. Don’t worry, in a few minutes you’ll find out. I have a very reliable source.”

“So they’re walking into a trap, aren’t they?” Rayvin found her voice at last. “The Classic. You have people waiting for them there, don’t you?” It was really more of a statement than a question, but Jason nodded slowly in answer, still sucking on his snack.

She wanted to tell him something brave. She wanted to defy him, announcing that Marcy, Siobhan, and Charlotte wouldn’t fall for it, that they’d sense their enemies before the trap was sprung. Grant would sense her peril at any moment and come to her rescue. But the words dried up in her throat, and her eyes welled with tears. She turned her face away, willing herself to get back in control.

“Okay, I think that’s it.”

She heard Jason toss the empty plastic bag into a wastebasket. He turned her stretcher once more, so quickly it made her dizzy again, and pushed her back past the fish tank and his nurse shark, all the way to the hallway.

“I’m tired, Rayvin. You’ve got me up past my bedtime. I interrupted my sleep to play host for you, but I need to go back to dreamland for a bit. Thank god for the short days of winter, eh?” He chuckled, whisking her down another hallway. This one was lined with cinderblocks and unpainted wooden and steel doors. “I’ve watched enough movies to know what mistakes to avoid as the villain, but at the same time, I understand why the dastardly fiend needs to draw out the moment rather than ending it quickly. There’s so much pleasure in just relishing satisfaction, you know? So I’ve got my cameras ready, because I’m really exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open much longer.”

He brought her to a stop next to a door marked “Boiler Room”.

And then he pulled a knife out of his pocket.

“It’s been more than ten years, Rayvin, since you paralyzed me and left me to rot in my chair.” Jason leaned over until his face was even with hers. He whipped off his patch to let her see the whole of his ruined eye. “And a couple of weeks ago, your boyfriend maimed me for the remainder of my after-life. So I’m thinking Code of Hammurabi. Remember, from Intro to Law?”

He shifted her body with one hand, reached under the blankets with his knife, and forced it deeply into her lower back. She shuddered and shrieked, the pain in her womb eclipsed by the agony of her muscles and tissue shredding. He sawed back and forth, cutting at her spine. She arched her back, trying to get away, screaming.

Something inside her gave way, snapping apart, and then for the second time in four hours, she blacked out.

———————

Want to know more about the Talbot Trilogy? Follow the links below!


MistMidnightThe prequel novella: Mist and Midnight 
 Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Stalked by a cruel and relentless vampire, Charlotte is on the run. Fleeing the city, the powers of magick her only protection, she couldn’t afford to fall for the hot modern prospector Pike Mahonen. Can she avoid temptation in a small town, to keep them both safe?

WindAndShadowBook One: Wind and Shadow — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

Rayvin Woods, photographer and natural witch. She just wanted to start her life over again after a series of misadventures. She didn’t count on rekindling a lost love when she came home to Talbot…or battling a malevolent vampire and his coven for her life.

Grant Michaels, police officer. He thought Rayvin was a murderer. He will do whatever it takes to protect the community he loves from danger…but will he learn to trust his heart, and the word of a witch, before it’s too late?

Malcolm de Sade, cunning vampire, imprisoned underground for a year by Charlotte Fanning and Pike Mahonen (“Mist and Midnight”, Midnight Thirsts). His accidental release unleashes his hunger and ambitionon a small, sleepy town…

BloodFireBook Two: Blood and Fire — Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, Chapters, B&N

What chance does one witch have against five vampires? Alone, not much. But Rayvin’s allies are gathering… The battle between good and evil supernatural forces heats up in the long, cold November nights of the former mining town. But how will Rayvin’s motley crew of spellcasters and shapeshifters cope when they discover the threat they face is even greater than they imagined?

Stay tuned for the Book Three: Crystal and Wand cover reveal, release date, launch party, and celebratory giveaways!

Spring? What spring? Sproing, maybe. Oh, those novel-edits blues . . .

Some things are just going to keep passing me by. That beautiful display of the aurora borealis? Yeah, that was too far north to see from here, by a matter of hours. The eclipse of the moon? Wrong hemisphere. First day of spring? We still have two feet of snow on the ground, it’s cold enough that any meltwater from the most recent warm day is currently sheer ice, and a thick cloud cover kept the sunshine away. This is very grumpy-making, as is month number six of having cold feet. Not even slippers are helping with the feet.

In my next house, I’m having heated floors installed.

Edits are proceeding apace. I’ve encountered some challenges — it’s been suggested that some parts could be trimmed down, and it’s always painful to kill my darlings, to use Stephen King’s term for cutting. I’m going to finish the little bits of clarification and accepting / rejecting changes through the rest of the manuscript before I tackle the trimming. Gives me time to contemplate what to keep and what to jettison. See, it’s tricky, because I see everything as important but I get that too much of a good thing can interfere with flow. On the other hand, some parts are meant to become significant later, as part of character development. If I trim the wrong thing, will a character’s momentum or revelation have less meaning or depth?

In the end, I get to make the choice. And no matter what I decide, there will be those who dislike it. I mean, a lot of people complained about the big section in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in which Harry, Ron, and Hermione wander about the woods for weeks, trying to suss out their next move. But it didn’t bother me, because it was true to form for the characters, and necessary to build to the next big discovery. I liked her choice in doing that. I’ve also seen it done in the Clan of the Cave Bear series, with long sections on setting or travel, and I will admit to sometimes skimming them — and then going back to reread when it became evident that important facts or descriptions were in the information dump.

Maybe — and I’m just throwing it out here — I write my environment. Like this spring, for example. In some places, the transition from winter to spring is quick and has already happened. Crocuses are pushing up through the last layers of snow. Brown stretches of grass showing baby green shoots. But here, where I’ve lived for sixteen years of my life (counting childhood), there’s a long middling period of waiting and contemplation. The excitement of winter activities has died off, worn down by day after day of bitter skies and colourless landscapes. You get used to being in a holding pattern, observing the signs and being able to say, when the warm weather does arrive and the next round of activities is rising, that we knew it was coming. Or that the long winter had us so fooled, spring really took us by surprise.

Do we write our environments? Are writers influenced by the physical world in which they’re living? In a way, it makes sense, if we’re writing what we know. I wonder if anyone’s ever made a study of literature written in different places and compared the flow and pace of each book. There are places in the world where I picture events and activity moving at a breakneck pace, with little relief — New York City, maybe, or Los Angeles, or London. And then there are places that move a little slower, where characters have the luxury of time and setting in which to mull their next move, and events coming up out of nowhere have that much more impact. Like in Salem’s Lot, for example, or Anne of Green Gables, or The Sentimentalists.

Or is there a difference between the flow and pace of Canadian and American novels? Is one (perceived as) more ________ than the other? Is there a socio-economic voice that writers come from or into that affects the style and tone of their work?

I do hope, by the way, that you’re not seeing this as me getting defensive. I’m just trying to work out what the right thing is to do for my work, and where the decision is going to come from, and the elements affecting it. Even the most slap-dash manuscripts are composed of words chosen with care and purpose. Thank heaven for the editor who is kind and wise enough to point out where something may not be working! It’s good to know these things. Better is knowing exactly what to do about them.

I’m as wishy-washy as this so-called “spring” weather. As back and forth as the temperature outside. I have chilly, pebbly slush in my metaphorical writing boots. My head is wrapped in layers of thick sleety cloud. I’m on page 152 of 260 and I have to stop for the night.

Any other writers out there feeling my pain?