On Sanctity and the Voices of the Dead

Dear Future Publisher,

Sometimes I wander the stacks.

Have you ever done that?

Sometimes I reach out my fingers and run them up and down the spines of so many silent voices.  There is a weight to all those words.  Those waiting volumes are sanctified.  They are relics, like the limbs and bones of saints, broken up and stored in matching cases in churches where the hush of devotees honours their presence, and honours their holiness.  Each book a piece of the author that wrote it, each one a relic of some person who chose those words with care.  Each one a single piece of flesh, a lone bone, a strip of muscle from the being of the author, laid out in a row on a shelf, so many holy relics with so many different names.

I honour them all. Continue reading


On Books I Have Loved: Peter and the Wolf

Dear Future Publisher,

Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf offered me an experience of reading that I had never before encountered.  The combination of music with narration – and the use of music itself as a form of storytelling – was revelatory.  I loved the sounds of the different instruments for the different animals and people in the story.  I loved the way the music twined with the words, providing an emotional resonance the text alone could not.  I remember being thrilled by the feeling of fear inspired by the wolf’s sound, soothed by the lighter tone of Peter’s, and charmed by the way it all came together. Continue reading

On Scripting a Novel

Dear Future Publisher,

I have noticed an interesting pattern in the way I write dialogue.  The influence of my theatre days is clear, because I approach scenes that are heavy in dialogue on a first pass almost like I am writing a script.  I write the words that are spoken and include only the most essential of actions, such as those demanded by the dialogue itself.  That’s what I see, at first.  I write the bones, tapping into what the characters are trying to communicate and how.  Then, I look at the bones of the script I have composed with an actor’s or a director’s eye, and think about the way those words play out in my head, the stage business that helps to highlight them and provides texture and visual interest, the times when it is necessary – since this is not a script and my reader will not be watching an actor perform it – to include reference to tone or volume or some other aspect of delivery, or to mention the surrounding environment, or to provide insight into the character’s thoughts or feelings, since these, too, will not be playing out on a stage.  I give my characters words Continue reading

On A Shambling Mind

Dear Future Publisher,

In the Tiffany Aching series, Terry Pratchett describes a device constructed by witches to help them in the detection or use of magic.  Perhaps making it only helps to focus their minds, or perhaps it is a useful tool.  It is called a shambles, and it is made from little bits of what they find in their pockets, and must include something living at its center.  It’s a cat’s cradle that is more than a child’s game.  Sometimes, the shambles falls apart.  Sometimes, if things are just right, and you pull at the strings, it all comes together and something unexpected might happen.  An egg might pass through a string. It is a delicate balance. Continue reading

On Typing

Dear Future Publisher,

I’m pounding the keys with a relentless driving force, going, going, steady and fast and then all at once in a flurry, a burst, a sudden surge of letters after which I must pause, exhausted.

My fingers, slim and delicate, pushing and prodding the buttons with a practiced expertise, rushing along the keyboard, fingers stroking, fingers flying, fingers stretching, fingers probing. Continue reading

On Mid-Book Blues

Dear Future Publisher,

I am at what may be, for me, the hardest part of a book.

Or, rightly, I should say the second hardest.  The hardest is always beginning, with the weight of the ideas behind me and no sense of how things will go.  The pressure of committing to a voice, committing to a first word and a first sentence, committing to an idea that may not see fruition for thousands of words, if at all.  I find that part paralyzing.  But I push through, force myself to begin, and then push on. Continue reading

On Silence and Regret

Dear Future Publisher,

I have been lax.

I have been negligent.

I have been remiss.

I have not written to you in more than two weeks.  I was aware as time dragged on that I was not seeing to my duty, but I had not realized just how much time had passed.

Life, as they say, has gotten in the way.  It isn’t that I have been busy, exactly, but myriad other commitments and considerations have drawn me away from you, and the priority of keeping up the blog has slipped and dragged behind other matters.

I am sorry.  I will try to return with my original fervour, although I do anticipate my posts will be less frequent, in the hopes of finding a pace that I can maintain without burning out and can stay abreast of without any major lags like this one.

In short, I will do better.

It was never a question of undervaluing you, my dear future publisher.  You have been often in my thoughts, even when my words did not reach the page.  You are always in my dreams.



On Cynical Romantics, Modern Vices, and Burny Drinks

Dear Future Publisher,

I am not without my vices.  We all have them.

I’m not a drinker.  I mean, I enjoy the occasional rum and coke or a shot of Bailey’s in my coffee, but at a rate of less than one a week (and at times less than one a month), that hardly counts.  And most alcohol is just icky and burny.  Beer tastes like what I imagine pee must taste like, although that is not based on any practical evidence, if you know what I mean.  Wine is just grape juice that tastes bad. So alcohol is not my vice.  That doesn’t make me a bad writer, for the record.  We don’t all have to be Hemingway. Continue reading

On Books I Have Loved: The Serpent’s Egg

Dear Future Publisher,

Have you ever read a fantasy novel where the passage to the other world is located in Canada?

I mean, Canada is great, it’s a lovely place, but people who are not Canadian don’t seem to have a whole lot of interest in reading about it.  Most of those magic doors are in England, right?  We all know that.

So I’m thinking the answer is probably no.  But if it is yes, it might be because of these books. Continue reading