Monday
Feb062017

Loose Ends

I have been so immersed in my writing for the past 15+ years, that I haven't really come up for air. But I'm not getting any younger, and though I shall probably never run out of stories to write, I feel I need to step back and prioritize.

First on the agenda is my family history. I have been researching my family tree -- and that of my husband -- for several years now, and I think it is time to set out in story form what I have found. So far so good. I am definitely making headway, though I must confess that each time I begin to write the narrative for something, I almost immediately find the need to go digging for more information. But I shall prevail, and it will get written within the next few months.

After that, I think it is time to attend to past writing endeavours. I have several stories written that require some tweaking, but are otherwise ready for publication. It's the tweaking I have been avoiding. It's silly, really. Tweaking takes far less time and effort than writing a novel from scratch. Take The Sentinel of Mabry Moor for instance. I love this story. One of my favourite parts is the beginning of the second chapter. It is a description of the bridge and graveyard, that both play major roles in the plot. I don't do description particularly well, but I do love this intro.

The bridge is old. It spans a stream flowing from the Severn River to the sea and links the hills of Somerset to the village of Mabry. No one knows the bridge's exact age. All anyone can say for certain is that it's older than the village, and the village goes back three hundred years. The bridge is also older than the small church nestled in a copse of trees at its foot. An unkempt field climbs the hill behind the church, ending abruptly in a sheer drop to the sea. The field is dotted with headstones and crosses marking the graves of villagers who have passed on and is known simply as Mabry Moor. The oldest marker belongs to James Hawkins who died in 1423. The bridge is older even than that.

In truth, the bridge has existed longer than anything save the hills themselves. Its stone blocks, once sharp and angular, have been sanded round and smooth by wind and rain—and time.

I have walked the bridge almost every day of my life, so I shouldn't notice it any more than I do the blades of grass I tromp through. Yet there isn't a single time I trod its weathered stones that I don't wonder how many feet have walked there before me.

Then there's the novel, Closer to Faraway. I had a publisher ask to see the full manuscript several years ago, but I had already decided the last third of the novel needed to change, so I never submitted it. It's time to rewrite that part of the book.

Like so many small Saskatchewan towns, Hawkville had grown up without anyone noticing, almost as if it had sprung out of the black soil along with the wheat. It consisted of little more than a church, a school, the bank, a small collection of shops, and a crisscross of narrow dirt roads. In the center of it all stood the grain elevator, and alongside that ran the train tracks, stretching into the distance as far as the eye could see―to Winnipeg in the east and Regina in the west. 

As the young people walked toward town and the shops, Lucy and Martin talked easily as friends do, rambling from one topic to another. They tried to pull Teddy into the conversation too, but with no success. The little boy clearly wasn’t interested. Resigned to the outing but obviously not enjoying it, he plodded along behind the older children like a glum old man, so that Lucy had to keep prompting him to catch up, and a journey that should have taken twenty minutes stretched to nearly twice that.

Their first stop was the Hawkville Mercantile. The largest of all the shops, it stocked just about everything from thread to chicken feed. In addition to the wide variety of items for sale on its shelves, the shop was also home to the town’s post office, which kept a steady flow of traffic coming and going all day long. In a back corner, behind a mysterious floral curtain, there was a beauty salon too, and whenever Mrs. McCreedy was working on the head of a customer, the pungent odor of shampoo and setting lotion would waft into the main room, tickling the nostrils of everyone in the store.

In the big picture, this is really a small fix. So why haven't I addressed it sooner? Sigh. I wish I knew. Then, there's The Third Portal, the first book in a trilogy called The Huldufolk Chronicles. According to an agent I approached with the project, I need to write a detailed outline of the other two books and at least two polished chapters of the next book before submitting to a publisher. That's a bit bigger challenge.

Hanging on tightly to each other's hands, Kole and Jorin shuffled forward. The trees, like an army of ominous giants, loomed above them, filling Kole's vision until he could see nothing else. Panic stirred in his belly, but he fought against the need to be sick.

When the first line of trees was just a step away and the meadow grass had turned to straggly wisps of straw poking through pine needles and fallen cones, Kole and Jorin stopped. All that was familiar and safe lay behind them. Only danger and the unknown lay ahead. Kole felt an overwhelming urge to turn back. Perhaps if they showed true remorse, the Elders might yet reconsider.

As if reading his thoughts, Jorin squeezed his hand. When he looked at her, he was shaken by the pallor of her skin, but there was no mistaking the determination in her eyes. They pushed on.

Then there's my current passion: Lady of Bethnal Green, a novel based on the tragic life of my great grandmother.

Jane trudged along Globe Street with the other East Enders. The rain had stopped, but the streets were wet, and water seeped through the holes in her shoes, soaking her stockings. It had been a long day in a parade of long days, and Jane's mind was already asleep. Not that being alert would have made a difference. The attack came from behind, so she couldn't have seen it coming in any event. The street urchin burst from the crowd and slammed into her before she even realized he was there. Grabbing her waist, he spun her around, gave her a push, and then disappeared again.

“Oy!” an enraged vendor in hot pursuit of the boy bellowed as he shoved Jane roughly aside. “Out of me way, woman.” Then he too was swallowed up by the crowd.

Losing her footing on the slimy cobbles, Jane felt herself start to fall. But a firm hand snaked out of nowhere, locked onto her arm, and kept her upright.

Once she regained her balance, she offered the bewhiskered owner of the hand a weak smile. If smell meant anything, he was a fisherman. “Thank you,” she mumbled.

The fellow grinned, revealing three blackened stumps in an otherwise toothless mouth. “Me pleasure, Miss. You all right then?” When Jane nodded, he released her arm, tipped his cap, and continued on his way.

Jane started to tremble, not because of the collision—leastwise not solely because of it. On wobbly legs, she staggered to the edge of the street and leaned against the wall of a building. The cold damp of the stones felt good against her back. That's what came of not eating, she told herself. Not that she'd had any choice in the matter. It had been nearly a month since Edward had moved out, and though she'd stretched the money as far as it would stretch, the pittance he'd left her was gone. She thought of the scruffy boy who'd crashed into her. He at least could steal his supper. She, on the other hand, didn't have the strength to wrestle a breadcrumb from a pigeon.

And, believe it or not, there are more. So, as soon as I am done with the family history, I shall attempt to pick up the pieces of past endeavours. Of course, I might have to take a few days to finish the outline and opening chapter of a potential Currents book for Orca and ...


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