It seems to be one of those springs where I just can't get motivated. It's been a long, cold winter (for the west coast at least) and the vegetables are slow to start. Hiking and kayaking has been spotty because the weather continues to be miserable and therefore, my muse to motivate me to write seems to be adrift. We packed up and spent a few soggy days on the beach up Island, soaking up the rain and wind while sipping whisky and wondering how to get myself back into writing. A day of sun was quite welcome and today a day in the gardens was a rather cleansing period for me. It at least has me sitting in from of my computer typing out a short blog post as well as sending ebook cover inquiries out so I'll take what I can get. Here's hoping I even write a few words this week.
If one were to peer into my social media consciousness, one would see no end of memes saying, 'Write!" or some iteration of that most basic message. As a writer, it is considered one of the cardinal rules that you should write something every day. It's a rule I've rarely followed as life tends to get in the way, especially when it's cycling, kayaking, and hiking weather. In the winter is when I try to push myself to pump out the words since my outdoor activities listed above, are curtailed a little bit by wind and rain. Sadly, not so much this winter.
I suspect it began with an incomplete NaNoWriMo. I hit about 36,000 words on a novel that's been sitting about for a while and then a new puppy ended that as well as an ongoing kitchen reno. I was ultimately satisfied with the effort - adding 36,000 words is no failure, but it still tasted a bit sour. A busy winter with volunteering in different organizations has augmented that lack of time until I find myself having gone weeks without writing. Yes, a bit of editing has been done and I continue to struggle to find a cover artist, but nothing substantively new. Which, of course, makes my social media stream seem a bit hypocritical.
I had planned to work on a new contemporary fantasy as well as plug away at book three of my military scifi series, but both of these feel stalled. In the end, if nothing else, working on my blogging schedule is a form of writing, so I will endeavor to continue this.
I've read, in many sources, that blogging is a must for we independently published authors. Social media in general is a must, actually, and I find I excel at some more than others. I'm particularly fond of Instagram, which allows me to explore my work and my life as an author through imagery. The fact that it links up to my other social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter is a bonus (I don't tweet enough either) . Snapchat is a new one for me, and a bit baffling as I try and figure out how it should work for my brand and Wattpad is quite good if only I'd use it regularly. In fact, I could say that about all social media, but it is the blog that continues to vex me. I just can't seem to get into it.
Perhaps I need to force a habit - the weekly blog. My fear is that I'll just chatter inanely, rather like I do in real life, with no substance. Perhaps not though. Of course it doesn't have much reach at this point without followers, but of course, that may change if I actually did it. So, Google Calender and Microsoft Notebook is set to have me blather here on a weekly basis. Perhaps it'll be about writing or perhaps not. Hopefully, you'll stop by and see.
I am in no way, a prolific writer. Though I have five books published, one in edit, three unfinished, and a couple that will never see the light of a publishing day, it is not indicative that I accomplish much each day. Often it is fits and spurts - an aimless exercise that in the end, produces through as much fluke as skill, a manuscript. It's all often done in between a number of other loves (not work though, that's a need that must be endured) which includes puttering on my my small, vanity urban farm in the spring and summer, camping and backpacking, hiking and kayaking, and cycling. As you can see, it doesn't leave me much time to just write.
Oh yes, it's that time of year - the adoption of some hopefully not so hollow promises on change for the coming year. As a writer, I'm fairly content with my process of production, but marketing, my bane and challenge, is quite another thing. This year my resolution is to focus on marketing, everything from blogging and social media to more book events and reading. In between, it will be focusing on putting out a new book for The Scarlet Bastards series as well as progressing on Titan Rising and my second contemporary fantasy book that I've begun over the holidays.
Inevitably, spring and summer take a bite out of my writing productivity. The back woods of southern Vancouver Island beckon, the beaches and trails for backpacking call, and my tiny little urban farm demands a substantial level of effort that belies its small size. All of these pursuits make a massive dent in my writing and here I sit, fighting to get a blog post out let alone write or edit. That being said, I've been cooped up all winter and I'm hard put to pound away on a key board with the sun out and some remote beach calling my name. So, I'll think about upcoming projects, ready myself for another round of editing on The Bone Witch, and enjoy some more time outside.
I've been stuck before - musing over some scene, trying to capture some narrative nuance or perfect a bit of dialogue while all around me time slows down. It certainly slows down when it come to productivity as I stare at the screen, check Facebook, glance at a sales report, and then come back to the half written paragraph.
You see I'm a bit spoiled - I've been writing two first person memoirs this year as part of my Scarlet Bastards series, so I've been in a certain mode when it comes to pumping out prose. With my latest, The Scarlet Bastards - The Bone Witch, waiting for its next step in the editing process and the next one still cooling on the back burner, I've moved back to the third of my military scifi books, Titan Rising. Third person narrative much heavier on tech, math, and science than the other series, and here the narrative has ground to a halt.
I'm fortunate that the weather is good, the gardens needs tending, and the chickens need looking after. It gives me something to do while I figure out what word comes next in that unfinished paragraph.
It's been a year of writing my first urban fantasy, From the Little the Much is Known, as well as a long and difficult edit of my third book in The Scarlet Bastards series, The Bone Witch. That book has been shunted off to the editor leaving me with choices for the next project. I have the often thought about but hardly started, Land of Bones - a post apocalyptic tale surrounding the strange relationship between a young girl and a bison. I have the follow on urban fantasy that is percolating in my mind; I have yet to decide if I write an anthology of three of my mythical characters or if they are deserving of their own individual books. I also have my first draft of the fourth book in The Scarlet Bastard series, The Rule of Nine, but that needs to sit a while longer before I take an editing swing at it.
So I am left with the third book in my Gliesiun Chronicles, Titan Rising. The first book, Europa Rising, is a military scifi thriller that begins with the disappearance of an elderly European cruiser in the Jovian system and concludes through a twisting tale of intrigue, greed, and revenge with a battle between a NASA frigate and a rogue UN cruiser as they vie for possession of a crashed alien ship on Europa and a mysterious alien jumpgate in the empty wastes beyond Jupiter.
Book two is Jupiter Rising: the story expands as forces from Gliesium, a world ten light years from Earth, arrive to wrench away their stolen technology from the Terrans. As the opposing forces probe each other's strengths and weaknesses and the distant islands of Terran industry are wiped out with each successive attack on the major mining asteroids of the inner solar system, a United Nations task group stages a last, desperate stand at Jupiter, gambling their future in the outer solar system on one final battle.
So that leaves me at story number three, Titan Rising. It was about a quarter finished when I left it about a year back, and now I am free and clear to wrap up this trilogy.
I must admit to being rather surprised when people inform me that they do not remember their dreams. There are many friends of mine I've chatted with, a palaver or two over coffee in the morning before the drudgery of the day, whom when reviewing the musings of the unconscious mind, they suddenly announce with curious indifference that they don't ever remember what they dream about. Some of them will come back with vague feelings initiated by their dreams - happiness, unease, sadness, but they also lack that crystal clear recollection that can so easily prove to be the popular water cooler distraction in a work day.
As you might begin to glean from this missive, I remember my dreams quite well. I often have vivid recollections, be they uncomfortable, sensational or absolutely ridiculous. Whether the ability to remember is linked to both my lucid waking imagination or my unconscious one is irrelevant. Irrespective of either, the imagery stays - etched into my thinking and more often than not, a topic that can inspire giggles when it chooses.
Oddly, I will first admit to having reoccurring dreams. Not nightmares, mind, but certainly tell-tale markers that maybe there's stress in life; that I'm unhappy about something; or that I'm realizing the implications of having a teenager. The first is about being late. Truth be told, I have a bit of a phobia about being late, drummed into me by successive Chief Petty Officers in the Royal Canadian Navy (I do the same now that I've reached that dizzying rank) and the reoccurring dream I sometimes have is about running grossly and irremediably late. Usually it is to work, and if my wife is the cause (as she most often is) I'll upbraid her worse than a recruit or a delinquent sailor. It's an odd dream - one of those if something, even the most obscure can go wrong to make me late, it will. A series of catastrophic events that cascade into a maelstrom of tardiness, I often wake up angry and annoyed (and somewhat relieved) and find myself a bit put off for the rest of the day.
The second is an odd little dream about showing up to a university class only to find out that I have to write a final exam (clearly a hold over from my university days) The kicker is, for some reason, I never showed up for the class at all during the year and the completion of my degree is dependent upon it. This often changes into a befuddling cram session that last a few minutes of dream time followed by haphazard guesses to the answers on my test. Did I pass? I never find out in my dreams, but like the dream of lateness, I wake up perturbed and wondering why on Earth I would have taken a class in math as I pursued my degree in Military History.
Not all dreams follow this path though, for I find my wandering imagination can come up with the truly bizarre. Take for example my dream of sitting beside her Royal Highness, Queen Elizabeth II enjoying a Justin Bieber concert during her Diamond Jubilee (I assure you, she had a smile, but I did not. The idea of sitting through a concert with the 'Biebs' is no joy. I'd rather step on Lego) My wife had a long chuckle about that one. My friend was most amused when I told him the dream of Jimmy Carter dressed as a Hussar who, while trying to mount his steed from a balance beam and fighting a bad hip, hopped about for a moment before falling off and dying of a head injury (sorry Mr. President. If you read this, it's not personal) The state funeral that followed was spectacular, but the imagery of the aged president with his Hussar pelisse and sabretache still raises a chuckle. There are the dreams about my hopelessly annoying cat, Hector, who will sneak outside at a moment's notice to lead me on a merry chase; the oddly prescient dreams of sailing on a minesweeper when it appears a sea posting is in the offing; and the curious imaginings that I both still smoke and still have hair (both left me many years ago).
In the end, I thoroughly enjoy my dreamscape, as perplexing as it may be at times, and I truly pity those that are bereft of the joy of seeing Jimmy Carter in a fur busby cap or tight-fitting dolmen jacket hopping on a balance beam.
In my evenings, often spent unwinding in front of the TV with a netbook on my lap, I indulge myself in the type of vacuous activities that allow me to relax and allow the strains of the day to melt away. Often this entails a cynical perusal of the Weather Network to see how badly the forecast of the following day might be, a few posts on a favoured forum, a few articles on my favourite sport (yes, I am a NASCAR fan) and of course, Facebook. It's there that I see the games that my friends seem to spend an unusual amount of time playing (perhaps they too are in front of the TV with a netbook) look at their wall posts of clichéd yet cute posters, see the news stories that they read, and of course, the pictures that they post. It was one friend in particular that caught my attention, because she posted a photo of a famous house I had seen once.
The Nasookin house is the pilot house and forward section of two decks from the largest sternwheeler to ply the BC interior, the S.S. Nasookin. When she was eventually retired in 1947, the pilot house and Ladies Observation Lounge were floated on a barge to its present location, where it became a rock shop. Unused for many years, it was finally purchased in 1981 and converted into a home.
This of course set me to surfing for one of my favourite subjects - BC lake steamers. Within minutes I was sighing over the grainy black and white images of the S.S. Sicamous and the S.S. Okanagan and the steam tug Castlegar and even some of the old packing plants and wharves from Penticton to Kelowna. It was then, that another image came up, one that I spend a few minutes each year looking at - the M.V. Pentowna.
The M.V. Pentowna, a small sixty-one ton passenger ferry, was pre-fabricated in Prince Rupert
and shipped by rail in 1926. For years she operated between Penticton and Okanagan Landing carrying passengers and freight, and then in 1937 she was put to work pushing barges and carrying freight only. Retired in 1973, she became a familiar landmark in Peachland where she was used a breakwater in the local marina. It was here where my fondest memories of her arise, for seeing her was an habitual occurrence whenever the family headed north up the lake, and guessing whether she would be upright or on her side was always an animated discussion as we approached Peachland.
For the Pentowna had a propensity to sink, or at least, that's what I seem to remember most about her. Perhaps it was the misery of idleness after decades of activity that galled her into unhappiness, or maybe it was terrible neglect after years of service. Whatever it was, she was a misery to behold as she lay on her side. Even a child could see that.
As you may have read in my previous blog entry about sternwheelers, I have a love affair with the lake boats of my youth. The grand sternwheeler, Sicamous, the old steam tug, Narramatta, which I so often recalled seeing anchored near Okanagan Landing, and of course, the Pentowna. These are familiar benchmarks in my youth, and in fact, one of my earliest recollections (or perhaps it was simply a dream) was to see either the Pentowna or the CN tug #6 or the MV Okanagan at night in an Okanagan snowstorm. Like the Sicamous and the Narramatta, the Pentowna fueled my desire to go to sea and was one of the the cornerstones of my dreams to sail on a lake steamer.
So each year, in tribute to the inspiration this little lake ferry gave me, I'd spend a few minutes trying to learn her fate. The first time I read about her, was to discover she had been pulled out of the water to be refurbished. I had known this since on one of my trips back to the Okanagan as an adult on leave from the Royal Canadian Navy, I had been shocked to see her missing from her usual place of neglected somnolence. The thought of her being rebuilt excited me, for as a sailor and a lover of all things old, the idea she may go back to sail the lake again brought me no end of excitement. But my searches always ended fruitlessly - a frustrating endeavor to find her fate after so many years disappearing from history. And then, a few nights back,my deep seated fears were finally realized.
She had been scrapped in 2005.
The man who had bought her with all the goodwill and imagination needed to rebuild and put her back into service in the Okanagan's vibrant tourist industry had ran out of money, and all of the myopic think-of- the-present people that could have saved her had turned their back on her. For nearly ten years the Pentowna sat mostly unloved and completely forgotten, rotting away on a golf course until in exasperation, the owner had her cut up for scrap. The pity of it was that few cared about her fate. A vessel, intrinsically linked to our Okanagan history, a ship that when built, did not stand out as lovely or graceful - like a wallflower at a dance she was commonplace when young, but at seventy-nine and venerable she should have been an object of celebration and respect. In short, we let her go, and we are so much poorer for it.
I was rather surprised at how much it hurt to know she was gone. Yet another tenuous link to my idyllic childhood had disappeared - like the old Incola Hotel and Summerland's House on the Hill. The memories are all that I have - no tactile enjoyment like I get when I stand on the Sicamous. All I have are those memories of her as we passed through Peachland and the giggling bets on whether she'd be afloat or not.
Yes, it was a heartbreak from home this week.
Rest in Peace, Pentowna.