Tuesday, December 31, 2002

When I was growing up, my family moved a lot. By the time I was in Grade Ten I had attended ten different schools and we had moved fifty-six times on three different continents. This trend continued when I left home - I have five different universities on my undergrad transcript and added quite a few more addresses of my own. Just because we moved a lot didn't mean we got rid of stuff along the way. Au contraire - we are all (and I confess, I am the worst) pack-rats. By the time my parents, daughter, and I moved into a house in the country outside Victoria (my parents live upstairs), we had accumulated dozens and dozens and dozens of boxes of papers, books, albums, old toys, life jackets, camping gear, costumes, stuff, stuff, and more stuff, all of which has been stacked, untouched, in the basement for the last seven years or so.

This year, both my brothers are here for Christmas (one from Tokyo, the other, with his two small children, from California). What possessed the Tokyo Bro to suggest we make cleaning out the basement our family project this year, I can't imagine, but that is exactly what we have been doing for the past several days. What a job! But the treasures I've found! And the ludicrous junk! I've already tossed out eight - EIGHT!!! - garbage bags full of papers, magazines, brochures, maps, travel guides, etc. - and that's just the papery stuff. There is a mountain of ... other stuff ... destined for the dump and another sizeable heap destined for the Goodwill.

As a result of all this frenzied activity, I will not have to make a New Year's Resolution this year as I've taken care of the past several years' worth of resolutions in one fell swoop!

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas!
Just when you think the big issue of the day is whether to bake shortbread or chocolate chip cookies, this happens:

As my mother was pulling out onto the highway about 30 seconds away from home, someone else changed lanes and side-swiped her into the ditch. DON'T WORRY! Despite my mother's car being totalled, nobody in either vehicle was injured. The fence, however, is another story...
Luckily, here in Victoria we have very strong tow-truck guys... this one didn't even wait for mechanical assistance before he started hauling the car out of the ditch... "Look, Ma - one hand!"

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Ahhh, Christmas - such a silly, crazy, fun time of year. My brother and his family (children ages 1 and a bit and 2 1/2) are here already and my goal is to make sure my niece, Aly, (the older one) becomes completely book crazy before she leaves. I have quite a stack of picture books that have been lying in ambush for months... It's great fun to study them and make up silly stories vaguely related to the illustrations - a favourite game that Dani will no longer play with me now that she's nearly 16 and knows how to read most of the words... My other goal is to create some serious horse enthusiasm by taking Aly down to the barn and letting her have a little ride around the ring on Breezy (flanked by Dani and her dad, of course, and led by me - Breezy may be old, but she has her spunky moments!)

That's it for now - many elfy things to do around here! Carnillo essentially on hold for the moment... sigh... was within twenty pages of the end of the most recent draft... Best of the Season to you!

Monday, December 16, 2002

Find of the week on the discard cart at the library... Dragons and Other Creatures: Chinese Embroidery. This book describes the secret language (hidden symbols, multiple meanings) woven into Chinese embroidery designs... Extremely useful in the context of my ongoing struggles with quilt development (see earlier post).
Not much time to blog over the weekend - was at the fabulous first annual Christmas Writers' Festival in Sidney - more about that after I get back from Courtenay - if Christmas doesn't get me first. Today was also a bit crazy - editing and then scurrying around doing a bit of Christmas shopping. For the morbidly curious, here is a piece out of the middle of Carnillo... a manuscript in shreds at the moment... though best you don't mention that to Diane at Sono Nis. She will have my head!

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

And, now, an experiment... I have recently upgraded my account and should, in theory, be able to post photos right here... Let's click this button and see what happens...

Holy crow! That was exciting... first time I tried that, the photo was the size of a whale! And then somehow the line of photo code got in here twice... (after I fixed the size problem... then a quantity problem...) And then, as I was trying to re-upload... everything froze! So, I do apologize if you happened to stumble through here right while all THAT was going on...
Anyway... this is a photo of me inside a whale skeleton at Miracle Beach Elementary School... I'll be visiting students there again next week (MB is near Courtenay, farther north on Vancouver Island).
Ok - before I have any more near disasters here, I'm going to head for the kitchen and scrounge up something for supper...
Though the weather has turned really wet and miserable, Dani and I slogged through barn chores in record time this morning so we arrived comfortably early for a visit with students at Blanshard Elementary School in Victoria. The kids were terrific and thanks to two wonderful local businesses (Scrapbook Parade at Royal Oak and Bolen Books at the Hillside Mall), each child at the presentation went home today with a copy of Jo's Triumph.

In other news, received a package of books from the Canadian Book Review Annual as well as tear sheets for all the reviews I wrote last year. This publication tries to review every book published in Canada each year. What a job! I'm quite excited to see what the latest titles will be like -

And, in the work-related emails received today department (because this blog is supposed to be at least partly work-related...):

- message from librarian in Ontario confirming the dates I'll be available for school visits during the week of May 19th (leading up to the Silver Birch Awards ceremony)

- message from coordinator of the annual Children's Festival up in Nanaimo - sounds like they have some great stuff planned - also in May - must let them know my availability for readings in schools during the week leading up to the festival

- DELIGHTFUL message from Annick in Toronto saying my advance cheque is in the mail (for the Grandmother picture book) - this bodes well for some extra jollies at Christmas

- and, finally - a quick note from the organizers of the Author's Festival this week out in Sidney letting me know where the secret room is where authors are allowed to run and hide, presumably when the mob scenes get overwhelming....

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

Just sent in my Island Parent column... decided to go for the 'Quirky Teens' theme and added Carole Frechette's little novel, In the Key of Do (story of two teenage girls and their odd but powerful friendship).

Continue to work on Carnillo... Freda (editor) is reading behind me, as it were - she has the first 150 pages or so and, after reading the first fifty, doesn't see any major problems. This is progress! So, I continue to plug on through the back half of the book...

On the 'wow, I'm not actually dead yet' front - Dani dragged me out to the Kids (U-16 Metro Girls) vs. the Parents Soccer Game last night! The miracle is, I can still move (albeit slowly) today! I have to say it was way more fun than I thought it was going to be! Actually, Dani has decided to take her relatively sedentary mother and whip her into shape... So, rather than letting me steep in a brew of Ben-Gay and Tiger Balm, she hauled my sorry butt off to the gym this morning! There I was able to read on a comfy recumbent exercise bike... My legs kept turning those pedals for 20 minutes but I hardly noticed because I successfully distracted myself with Basbanes', A Gentle Madness. I was feeling rather smug after that and was all ready to head upstairs to work on Carnillo in the library when Dani said - "Oh no you don't... first some weights... and some ab-work." Good grief! Next thing you know she'll be having me in training for some Ironwoman event... Not!

Sunday, December 08, 2002

In case you are worried about my mental health (pondering the endless intricacies of a world that exists only in my head is perhaps not the healthiest thing to do hour after hour, day after day, week after week...) I did take Breezy out for a therapeutic ride this morning. It was still foggy after I dropped Dani off at the ferry (she has an off-island game today) and Breezy and I just slipped into the fog and disappeared. It was a little spooky along the trail (yes, she did her share of that, too) - but by the time we came back about an hour later, the sun was shining and the cyclists, joggers, and other riders were out in full force. Breezy was full of spunk and did her best imitation of a head-tossing, prancing, dancing four year-old!
So, what the heck am I up during the famous rewriting of the Battle for Carnillo, Book Two of the Estorian Chronicles?. Well, at the moment, I'm working my way through the prickly problems created by deciding to set this trilogy in a preliterate society. In the last draft I had a group of political agitators referring to a map. The problems are many.
1. In a preliterate society, what sort of material would this map be written on?
2. With what? Why would anyone invent any sort of permanent ink as well as the tools to apply it to an appropriate surface if nobody knows how to write?
3. What kinds of symbols would be in common use in a society where storytelling/the oral tradition is the primary means of sharing information?
Given that I need some way for groups of people not necessarily in the same room together to share information and history useful to the rebel cause, my editor made the brilliant suggestion of using some sort of quilt (think Underground Railroad, gumboot dances, etc. where one item or action takes on a completely different use/meaning within a suppressed group) to record and convey information.

This made perfect sense to me until I started working out the logistics of these story quilts. Who owns them? Who contributes to them? Do they have any magical aspects? If so, how do those magical aspects work? Were scissors of some sort invented in the Estorian/Campriano world? (if not, how will the scraps of cloth be cut into meaningful shapes... likewise for needles and thread... are there dyes? Can one have coloured cloth and thread?)

At the moment, the quilt that Dominique sees is 12 X 12 squares in dimension and is one of 1000 quilts known to exist in the world. Once all of the squares have been filled, 144,000 chosen individuals will have contributed to this recorded history/knowledge/story compilation... So, what is the significance of the 144,000 chosen in the context of this trilogy? What will happen when all the squares are filled? Will recorded history as these people understand it stop? Or will a new means of communication/recording of story/history begin?

With each decision made (and this second book introduces a whole slew of these seemingly innocent objects that are actually causing me no end of grief. I mean, who would think a quilt would cause so much trouble??????), I have to answer about a million questions and then figure out if the answers to any of those questions are actually going to cause some other problems elsewhere in the narrative.

Saturday, December 07, 2002

The children's section of the bookstore is a kind of Nostalgia Lane for many who linger in front of shelves filled with old favourites like Pippi Longstocking, Harriet the Spy, Treasure Island, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe. Spending a fair amount of time there myself, the nostalgia effect has pretty well worn off. But last night, I overheard a browsing couple mumbling something like... 'great book... nasty boy... Struwwelpeter...' Struwwelpeter? Could it be that this gentleman knew about the evil little boy who refused to cut his fingernails or wash his hair? Didn't my mother use that very book to strike terror into the hearts of her children - "If you don't wash... well, just think about what happened to Struwwelpeter!" Alas, last night neither of us could figure out how to spell the little tyke's name, so we were unsuccessful in tracking down the book... However, the Internet (and my mother who put me on the correct track spelling-wise) turned up the book in English translation as well as a cool website with the original text, illustrations, and several translations and English versions of this cautionary tale.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

While I wasn't paying attention, December rolled around and with it, another Island Parent Magazine deadline! How the heck did that happen? So, off to have a look and see what might be good to review... I'm tempted to do Arthur Slade's Tribes and The Losers' Club, by John Lekich. Both books feature some quirky teens who don't quite fit in but who, nonetheless, manage to muddle through.

Another recent read that was rather good was Cornelia Funke's, The Thief Lord. Set in Venice, this is an intriguing tale of street children who take refuge in an abandoned movie theatre and are protected and cared for by the shadowy character, the Thief Lord. Funke's book has a fantasy element completely lacking in the first two, so I'm not sure if I can find a way to include all three in the same review... not that I need to be boring the rest of the world with my musings about what I might possibly include in my column. On the other hand, what good is a blog if it doesn't bore the world with musings?
Had a chat this morning with Diane at Sono Nis Press who seems to be very busy with her new fall lineup. She's had several very successful launches this season including one at Point Ellice House for a recent children's title, The Olden Days Locket. This is a great story about one of Victoria's landmarks, Point Ellice House. Penny Chamberlain's first book does an excellent job of blending historical fact with a dash of fantasy and a good dose of mystery. Look for more good books to come from this new author (I hear she is hard at work on her next novel - can't wait to read it!)

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Going to be in the area December 13-15? Looking for something bookish to do? Check out the Christmas Writers Festival in Sidney, here on Vancouver Island. Sidney is sometimes called "Book Town" - for very good reason. You cannot turn around without stumbling into another book store! There are tons of cool events lined up - it should be a wonderful festival! Hope to see you there!
Currently reading with much, much glee, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. I take a fair amount of flack for my ever-growing book collection and am forever answering questions like, "Have you read all those books?" or "Why don't you just go to the library?" or "Are you sure you don't want something else for Christmas? Maybe some clothes that aren't quite so 80's?" Anyway, after reading about people who have had serious book acquisition habits through the ages, my measly little stash seems completely... well, modest by comparison.

So, now that I don't feel the need to hide my own bibliomania, I can start planning how best to store my paper companions. On the off chance one of my family members happens to stumble upon my blog while wondering what I might like for Christmas, I wouldn't say no to a copy of At Home With Books: How Booklovers Live With and Care for Their Books so I can drool over gorgeous book cases, libraries, and reading tables. Along the same lines, Living With Books would find a happy home with me. Sigh. So many books, so little time.
Seems like our more typical weather is back with us again - rain, grey skies, drizzle, fog. After the vet came to visit yesterday (by the time he'd administered dear old Breezy her various shots including the one for West Nile virus, checked out her teeth, flexed her inflexible hock, wrote a prescription for Bute, etc. I was out a considerable lump of cash... Canadian though it might be, the bill still smarted!), Breezy and I did the neighborhood loop in reverse. Along the way, passed these fine riding establishments: Ambleside Farm and Hunt Valley Stables (I had a quick search for their web pages but couldn't find any matches...). Riding along Hunt Road, Dooley Road, and the Lochside Trail just north of Sayward is always a bit of a strange experience for me. This is exactly the landscape about which I write in the StableMates novels so sometimes, when I drift off into that blissful semi-dream state a quiet ride can induce, I find myself wondering if I might run into Jessa on the trail. Scary.