Feeling the Pinch

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If no one has ever mentioned it to you, let me be the first: asking for money is hard. It helps when you believe in the reason for asking (in this case, my fantastic new novel The Ember and the Knife) but still, it takes a lot of moxie to ask folks to give up their hard earned cash to support your goals.

And I can’t keep from thinking about my friends who are scraping by as it is. Life is expensive, and I certainly know that (If I was flush with cash, I wouldn’t be out here dancing for nickels). So I want to take a moment and say something to everyone who’s feeling guilty because they’re torn between supporting me and paying their own bills. To my friends about to embark on the joyous, terrifying and expensive parenthood journey. To my entrepeneur friends fighting every day to build their businesses and keep the doors open. To my fellow writers who are trying to figure out how art and money can ever co-exist. To my older friends working to live within a tight fixed income. To anyone facing hard choices:

It’s okay. I understand. More than anything else, I want you to be healthy and happy.

But for the rest of the crowd who have a few extra bucks at the end of the week for a new boardgame or a fancy hat, here’s the link to the fundraising campaign: The Ember and the Knife fundraiser. Maybe chip in a little extra in honour of the folks who can’t. We’re all in this together, after all.

 

It’s Go Time!

My Kickstarter campaign (here is the LINK) for my brand new book (The Ember and the Knife, book 4 of the Spellbound Railway Series) has…BEGUN!

What is Kickstarter, you ask? Online fundraising, simply put.

It allows creators (like me) to ask their supporters and fans (like you) to raise enough money to meet a specific goal (like buying an inventory of print copies of my fantastic new book and pay for some advertising to get new readers hooked on the series).

We have 30 days to hit the goal of raising $1000. I know that we can do it, because you are all fantastically supportive and wonderful human beings.

And for those in the crowd with empty pockets and straining budgets, I know how you feel. But never fear! You can do just as much good by spreading the word. Share on Facebook, tweet about it on Twitter, or write your own stirring blog post about the general awesomeness of crowdfunding and independent local publishing (with a link back to the Kickstarter, naturally).

Whatever you do, please know that I am grateful to have all of you cheering me on and giving me a helping hand on this strange creative journey. Thank you.

GO TEAM GO!

March of time, back to school edition

First, the official book stuff update:

The kickstarter fundraising campaign for book 4 “The Ember and the Knife” will launch next Monday. So clear off a little room on the ol’ credit card, stretch your retweeting/facebook sharing muscles, and get ready to cheer the project on. Go go go! I’ll post updates here as the thing rolls along, and hopefully we hit the goal well before the end date (beginning of October).

And now for something completely unrelated: my boy is growing up and I’m trying to handle that.

Yesterday was day one of Grade Three. Grade three is the point where my own childhood memories start to become cohesive. Instead of just flashes of random moments, I can recall full situations and the people within. Should I compare my experiences to my child’s? I’ll give that a complicated ‘yes’ as an answer, with a long list of provisos (provisos available upon request).

And to be honest, my sense of time passing and his growing older hit me the day before school started. I was out for a walk around Springbank Park, and as I passed Storybook Gardens, I realized it had been at least a year since Max and I went there. It used to be our weekly destination, back when he was wee. Now he’s too tall for a lot of the activities, and too old to enjoy others.

To top it all off, I let him walk to school on his own this morning. This is a trip that is exactly 2 and a half blocks in length, with one 3-way stop to cross, so we’re not talking about the world’s most dangerous excursion. But there’s still something scary about not confirming with my own eyes, for sure, that he has set foot on school property. I know the school would call me if he didn’t turn up. I know he’s a smart kid. And I know this is part of growing up. I have to get used to trusting him to handle the unknown world and all of the surprises and obstacles it throws at him. I can’t helicopter parent him forever (though lord knows I want to).

 

Looking for your opinion. Yes, you!

Hey, remember when I used to talk about writing and my current project, the “Spellbound Railway” series? Boy, that takes me back. It feels like it’s been a million years since I actually finished off the 4th book and started planning how and when to launch the thing. Then summer came along, bringing with it a host of distractions, challenges and detours that have kept me entirely occupied with everything that isn’t my writing. But enough with the excuses. Back to work!

2016-07-22 13.43.50Surprise! Not only did I finish book 4 (The Ember and The Knife), I also did a newly revised version of the previous 3 books. I am very excited to have these new versions ready to go.

Okay, I’ll be honest: they are almost ready to go. There are 2 more things that need to happen before the big book launch:

  1. Raise the funds for an inventory of printed copies. That’s right, I’m going to do another Kickstarter. If you’re not sure what the heck a ‘Kickstarter’ is, check out this link.  It worked out really well last time, and my previous Kickstarter backers (the wonderful people that they are) made the whole project fun and productive. I would love to hear from you, dear readers, about what you’d like to see as rewards for Kickstarter backers. Just post your ideas, comments and concerns in the comments section below.
  2. I need to know one specific thing from everyone who has read any of the first 3 books: what character do you want to read more about? It can be a main character, or a minor one that has more of their story to tell. (Spoiler: the character that most people want to read about will likely be the star of a new short story as a Kickstarter award).

Time and Life and Gord

Don’t you wanna see how it ends?
When the door is just starting to open?

– “Depression Suite” by The Tragically Hip

RELAX, I am not dying. Let’s keep that right out in front. But this post is about death. Death creeping around in the corners, haunting the shadows, biding its time. You know the deal. It doesn’t care what you have left to do. No great unfinished work will keep the reaper at bay. Your time will run out before your art does.

It was Bowie’s last video that clued me in to this. Take a look at this still frame from it:

bowie desk

 

This scene has Bowie scribbling feverishly, as an ornately decorated skull sits on his desk and watches impassively. At the end, Bowie walks backwards into the wardrobe in the background and closes the door. He’s bursting with new ideas and new art, but the time runs out and the door closes.

The conceit of the young (and the foolish) is that ideas are rare. Each must be guarded jealously and hoarded. But they aren’t. Ideas are cheap. Every ‘new’ idea has been thought of a thousand times before. There are only 12 musical notes. There are only 7 story plots. The rareity, the preciousness, is in bringing the idea to life. Effort, willpower, hard work. And the real limiting factor is time.

When Bowie died, I thought about time. Those ideas I had planned for the future had more weight than ever before. Having 6+ books roughly mapped out on my timeline suddenly felt ominously like a race against time.

And then last week, we found out that Gord is dying. (That’s Gord Downie from The Tragically Hip, if somehow you didn’t know. He’s been a part of our shared Canadian experience for so long that I think it’s okay to be on a first name basis with him.) He’s got a terminal brain tumour, and he’s going out for one more tour with the fellas. The door is closing on him, closing quick, but he’s going to squeeze in a little more art before it shuts all the way.

Everybody’s been quoting “Courage” back at him in support, which is a hell of a thing to do, since the song “Courage” is about suicide more or less. I’d prefer to hold up his lyrics to “Depression Suite” as a flag of support and consolation. Depression Suite (live). The words are about making art, to me anyway. The fear that making whatever you make is meaningless:

“And I’m thinking just in passing
What if this song does nothing?”

And then finding the only real answer you can hold to:

“But
Don’t you wanna see how it ends?
When the door is just starting to open?”

Curiosity is the saving grace of every artist. When your creations grow beyond what you originally intended. As your ability awakens and the stories get better and better. That door just started to open for me. I want to see how it ends. So Gord, thanks for that.

“Are you going through something?
Then I am too”

We’re with you, Gord.

 

 

The case of the vanishing writer

It’s not you, it’s me. I’ve been absent from here and most other social places for a while.

The good news is that I’ve been toiling away, writing my next book. I’ve finally found a real, focused writing process that feels like work (but in a good way).

The bad news is that my focus comes at the exclusion of almost everything else. Other than the family, and getting my butt to the gym, I’m a bit of a hermit.  There are countless coffee chats I’ve put off, events I’ve skipped, and a bunch of ‘should do’ tasks that are on the farthest back burner imaginable.

I’m getting close to the end of the first draft, so bear with me. Soon I shall emerge from my dimly lit den to sniff out socializing and camaraderie.

Piles of sand, not much castle

As I mentioned earlier, I am in the midst of writing my next book. It’s in the early stages of the first draft (not even a title yet) and each day is a bit of a slog. I’ve tried to make my peace with the first draft always being a bucket of hot garbage, but it can still be frustrating. One might say that labelling my work in progress “hot garbage” could contribute to morale problems.

So, I’m working to use an alternate metaphor for the first draft. I came across this Twitter quote from author Shannon Hale (@haleshannon), and it might fit the bill:

“When writing a first draft, I have to remind myself constantly that I’m only shoveling sand into a box so later I can build castles.”

This is a tad more flowery than I normally like, but I’ll give it a test drive. It doesn’t mean that the process of shovelling sand isn’t also frustrating. You know that the sand is just gonna pour out of the scoop into a heap, but you secretly long for it to magically coalesce into the structures floating around in your imagination. There’s no magic here, though. Just work.

It’s a lot like choosing to stumble into the woods without a compass or a plan. You push through scratching brambles and slip down muddy embankments without any sense of which direction you’re going in. Every step might be taking you far away from your destination. But once and a while, you crest a hill that rises above the tree cover and you see the landscape spilling out towards the end of your journey. The promise of finding the end of the story and being able to retell it is enough to send you back into the brush and weeds to keep plodding forward.

To all of my fellow writers near and far, plod on!