Wednesday, April 30, 2014

I need more wine for this

Remember when I used to love editing? And I wanted to work as a proofreader and spend my life correcting things for other people? Yes. For OTHER PEOPLE.

My God. Inputting my edits is so painful. I keep thinking I've made a lot of progress and then I realize I really just set myself back a few hundred words because I had to take out some rambling crap that the other part of my brain wrote when I wasn't there.

Good for the humility though. I was starting to feel like some kind of novel-writing superhero, blurting out chapters at the speed of light, beating deadlines like a we get to the kryptonite. NOW I get to review every careless word that I chose under the influence of "I'll fix it later, just get it on the page".

Welcome to Later.

I started the day trying to figure out how I'm going to design the cover and whether or not I have everything I need for a photo shoot. Then I did my usual social media trolling and research on indie publishing (my favourites are Susan Kaye Quinn and James Altucher). Put the cat out on her harness in the backyard, made a cup of tea, settled in for the long haul.

Three hours later I've input changes to five chapters. That's not terrible. But I know it's only the first round. 

More wine.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

And the first round goes to...

My red pen! And the blue one! And sometimes orange, or a pencil. Whatever I can scrounge up.
First page, first round of edits
I've completed my first round of edits on Captain Millicent and the Black Pirate, which for me is the marking up of my hard copies. The next step, inputting the changes, is something I view with equal parts horror and delight. I love editing - but I'm afraid of being pulled into the Correction Vortex. You know - nip a little here, tuck a little there, suddenly the whole story relocates to another planet and the character who used to be a woman is now a dog...
I may exaggerate a little. I haven't yet completely rewritten anything, but the potential is there. I've been tossing and turning at night over the idea of moving my sky pirates from somewhere above Europe to somewhere above Canada. I think CanadaPunk is something that deserves exploration. At the very least, NorthPunk needs to be a thing. Furs and hides, inventions that won't freeze in the deathly cold. polar bears, mountains...I'm still thinking about it. But I'll input my first round of clean-ups first, just so everything at least makes sense and is in order for my test readers.

The weather is springy in southern Ontario. I went for a walk on the trail earlier when it was mostly overcast and a little blowy, and just after I arrived at home the sun burst forth and now it's quite beautiful out. I stopped in at a friend's house to feed their cat, and was rewarded with a lovely bottle of Late Harvest Reisling, with which I will celebrate meeting my May 1 deadline for Round One Edits.

I'm missing my boyfriend and my enormous cat Mumford, who are 6000km away in Whitehorse. This is my first attempt at a long-distance relationship and so far it's bearable, but I'd really rather they both be here. The man loves the North, so what can a girl do?

Get back to editing, I guess...but first, the wine.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sordid little details

I need to design a cover for Captain Millicent. Gak. Visual design is actually one of my areas of strength, but for this particular project I need a real graphic designer. I have a roster of photographers from my stint as a freelance model when I was younger, so I think I can organize a photo shoot to give me the basic images that I want, but I need someone to draw a life-like mechanized bee. Of course I don't have any money so I'll be trading favours or promising fame and glory when the book is published.

It looks like I'll be going to work at the local Sport Chek, which is less than fifteen minutes from home. I'll miss my comrades at the old store, but it was just over half an hour to drive there, and the price of gas is going to skyrocket this summer. Any savings of time and/or money is gratefully accepted.

So when the job is confirmed (meeting with the manager tomorrow), I'll feel pretty comfortable with moving forward on my plan to adopt my next retired racing greyhound. The rescue group where I found Charlie is called Greyhound Rescue Association of Canada ( ) and I plan to return there to find my next grey.

Charlie, 2011
I spent a little time in Port Dover yesterday, helping with construction at the cottage and then visiting my favourite shops in town. One thing about moving back from Whitehorse is that it's an excellent conversation piece and I can go on and on about it without the conversation flagging. I'm considering working at one of those stores in addition to the Sport Chek job, for a little extra cash and because it would be fun. Surf shops have a pretty sweet vibe.

It's time to get serious and edit, but I'm obviously procrastinating again. It's taking me a while to wind up in the mornings. I hope once I settle into a routine (You know what helps with routine? Having a dog. You see how my mind works.) I'll get better at working for myself again. I've done it before as an artisan, as a singer and as a model - but writing is different. It demands more from me. I feel compelled to drive to my favourite bookstore and buy a stack of inspiring books about writing and writers. Usually a few chapters is enough to motivate me to get on it.

And it's a beautiful day for a drive...gah. I'm my own worst enemy.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Tackling the To-Do

I love making lists. I love crossing things off lists. I love making additional lists to extrapolate on points from my original list. Sometimes I have the same list on my phone, my calendar (the good old-fashioned kind) and a random piece of paper. Then I can spend quite some time making sure all the lists match. It's delightful. It's also an excellent procrastination tool.

Don't want to clean the car right now? Add it to the list. Make sure there are subcategories for "find cleaning supplies and garbage bags" and "borrow shop vac". Try to include at least one point that is difficult to accomplish (definitions of "difficult" vary according to interest level) and will completely thwart your attempt to complete the activity.

When you do succeed at crossing an item off the list, be sure to replace it with at least two others now that you have time to do them because you finished that first thing.

Today's list includes meeting with my previous manager to try getting my old job back so I can pay my rent and adopt a greyhound, stopping in on my old co-workers for a visit, and having my mobile number swapped back from a Yukon number to a local exchange. Then I can spend at least an hour notifying my contacts of the change.

After all that excitement, I will sit my butt down in the chair and work on my edits. I've reworked the first nine chapters, so about a quarter of the manuscript. I love proofreading and it goes pretty quickly, but I'm more easily distracted than when I'm writing. The cat needs to be petted. The trails need to be walked on. Social media needs to be trolled. You know. The usual things that are more enticing than working, no matter how compelling the work.

Blogging is also a major diversion. My plan was to write about what my life as a writer is like (as if that hasn't been done), but so far it's been a bit of a hodge-podge. I suppose that is in fact what my life as a writer is like right now, but I'm aiming for more dramatic posts in the future; publishing news, launches, cover designs, what my dog learned today, the shoes I bought for a super bargain, etc. I'll probably even put some thought into the layout and design of this blog. For now, I'll just put it out there once in a while and see if anyone bites. It's therapeutic for me and keeps me writing even on the days when I'm not into mucking about with my manuscript.

I think next time I'll post my plot summary. It's time to get the word out about Captain Millicent and the Black Pirate, so there will be some buzz by the time I publish. Also I find myself more accountable when my words hit the blogisphere. Even if only one person reads my post and thinks, "hey, a novel about sky pirates sounds pretty cool, I'd read that," my mission has been accomplished. Write it, fix it, get it out there.

And now, to lunch and to begging for my job. I have no desire to return to retail, but I do have a strong desire to pay my bills and gas up the car.

I also really, really want to cross a few things off my list.

Friday, April 18, 2014

And the pendulum swings

I've had two days of singing beautiful Easter music, my car is back on the road, and my stand-up paddleboard is out of storage. That's enough to swing my mood out of the depths and back up where they belong.

This morning I enjoyed a peaceful drive through farm country to get to my singing gig at a lovely Anglican church in Cambridge. I passed my favourite horse farm where almost every resident was sprawled rapturously on the grass, soaking up the spring sunshine. My beloved white ducks were out at their small pond; all is well. I dream of having a home one day with ducks, goats, and greyhounds.

Singing the Pie Jesu from Faure's Requiem is always a humbling and exhilarating experience. Being a mezzo-soprano, I don't have the opportunity to sing soprano as often as I do alto. Letting out my upper register taps into a completely different part of my psyche; I don't know what it's like to be high on drugs, but it must be like spinning out notes, casting out and drawing back like strands of a spider's web.

I'm home again and my sister and her two sons are visiting. It's overcast but mild, the lawns are green, and daffodils are starting to bud. My anxiety has lifted, at least for the moment. I'm making the conscious decision to be grateful. I've spent time this weekend already with friends and family, and am looking forward to more singing and more visiting. My very generous sister and brother-in-law not only took my car to the shop to have the brakes done, they topped up my tank and put new wipers on. I'm very lucky. 99% I remember this, and I live accordingly. 1% of the time, like yesterday, I think all is lost and my life is in ruins. I guess we all have our bad days.

Tomorrow I'm taking my paddleboard out on the local ponds. I'm so excited; I've been waiting for this since last September.

And lest you think I've forgotten about my book, fear not! I've edited the first five chapters and am diving into the next round tonight after the family disperses.

I'm seriously considering the self-publishing route vs traditional publishers. More research needed. In the meantime I'm working on my summary and tossing around cover design ideas.

It's good to be home.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Welcome to my mid-life crisis

Having finished the first draft of my first steampunk novel, Captain Millicent and the Black Pirate, I'm at a bit of a loss. I usually love editing, but I feel like I'm about to hack into my own child (I don't have children, so this may be a slightly melodramatic and hysterical comparison). So it must be time to write something else in order to postpone the painful inevitable.

I think I'm having a mid-life crisis.

I just arrived back in small-town southern Ontario after living in Whitehorse, Yukon for five months. Why such a short stay? I hated it up there. It was nothing-ville. I felt trapped by grey ice and skinny trees. I wanted to be in awe of the mountains, but found myself ambivalent. I'm a farm girl at heart and a city girl the rest of the time. The capital of Yukon has neither farms nor cities, and the cost of renting an apartment is ridiculous and untenable for anyone making less than $70k per year. The nearest city is basically Vancouver, and you have to fly there.

I'm also a classically-trained mezzo soprano. There weren't any opportunities up there for me; Whitehorse is very much a jazz and folk kind of town. There's nothing wrong with that - but it's not for me. No microphones, thank you.

I wrote my entire first draft up North because there was nothing else to do. So I should be grateful for that, I know. But I'm going to break into a full-out whine-fest right now: moving 6000km from home tore up my carefully cultivated root system, I failed to transplant in my new environment, and now I'm home and my rootlets are all broken. Even after only three months away (since I was home for the holidays), I feel completely disconnected from this place. I'm annoyed by everything, even the people and things I was so excited to come back for. I'm exhausted and anxious and snappy and unappreciative. I'm picking up my car tonight, having invested my last thousand dollars in repairs just to make it road-worthy.

I'm a classic First World Problem sufferer.

I think my expectations were simply too high; because I was so unhappy away from home, I glorified home and made it out to be utopia. I have an overdeveloped sense of querencia:

I assumed the cause of my anxiety and unhappiness was isolation, and being so far from everything I loved and needed. I now suspect geography had nothing to do with it. I haven't been happy or stress-free for a long time, and there are a number of reasons why, starting with losing my beloved greyhound Charlie almost a year ago. I haven't been myself since he died. And thanks to my failure to thrive at working for others, I can't afford to adopt another ex-racer right now. Having a greyhound was an intrinsic part of my identity. My two sisters have children. I had a greyhound. He was my identifier, as in, "Oh, you're the one with the beautiful dog". He was my reason for getting up early and going out for long walks. I miss him every day.

Since leaving home for university twenty years ago, I've moved seventeen times, usually in and around the Greater Hamilton Area. I always have a compelling reason to move - following a job, looking for a job, going back to school, escaping noisy neighbours, needing lower rent, buying a house, selling a house, gaining a partner, losing a partner...I hate moving but I hate stagnation more. But I always circled within a one-hour radius of home, where I grew up and where my parents still live. Moving across the entire continent was one of the worst decisions I made, but I did it to support my partner. Turns out he LOVES Whitehorse and wants to stay, so it's long-distance relationship time.

When we moved I left a retail job I hated, but work is frighteningly scarce in this area and I may have to suck it up and go back just to keep myself out of poverty. It's a charming notion to think I can make money writing, but even if it does happen it's not going to be for quite some time.

The reality is, moving away and then moving back cost me all the money I had saved. Driving across Canada is expensive, living in the North is extremely costly, and flying back and forth takes all the rest.

In the past I was good at "living in the now" and not worrying about where my next pay would come from. Somehow I always managed to scrape it together. I've lost that ability. I'm in my thirties. I can't just keep flaking around and avoiding being a grown-up. It's very nice to dream that I can make a living doing what I love, but the reality is that very few people can do it and right now I don't feel like one of those people. I feel like a failure. I feel like all the decisions I've made in the last twenty years have been colossally wrong.

I'm lost. I'm flailing arou0nd looking for an anchor. I don't have any possessions worth selling, my partner is 6000km away, I can't afford the one thing that I need, and I'm feeling old. I live in my parents' house, feeling like an intruder and a mooch. I avoid going out because I'm afraid as soon as I talk to someone on the street I'll start crying just because I can't seem to stop it. Even the crappiest job here is fought over by the desperate unemployed, like a bone tossed to a pack of strays, and I don't have the energy or desire to give it my all.

Maybe tomorrow I won't feel like this. It's Good Friday, and I'll be singing heavenly music at a beautiful church. And getting paid for it. So that's already an improvement over sitting here crying about my life.

And the sun is shining, birds are singing and the snow is gone. I remind myself to be grateful. But some days it's just not easy.