Like withers and vespers and murmuration, this is a word I've loved since I first heard it. It is also the only monosyllabic word I've featured so far. Do you know any others that might qualify?
noun 1. a child
Etymology: Old English bearn, of Germanic origin; related to the verb bear
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
As part of an author profile I put together at Smashwords, I answered
eight questions about my writing and reading habits. Here they are, for
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Probably "Ferdinand", by Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson. It introduced me to character complexity!
What are your five favourite fiction books, and why?
In no particular order:
Who are your favorite authors?
Peter Carey, Alice Munro, Michael Crummey, Charlotte Brontë.
When did you first start writing?
As soon as I could hold a pencil, probably. I know there were quite a few stories with poor spelling and even worse illustrations that I read with great pride to my family and friends. I also wrote plays, and by wrote I mean "borrowed very heavily from Grimm's Fairy Tales."
What is your writing process?
Strong coffee, comfortable chair, clean work area, sad music, think, write, edit, repeat.
What's the story behind, Fathom Lines, your latest book?
Lise makes maps of places that used to exist and lives with a man she doesn’t love. Her mother, Vee, pines for the husband she lost so many years ago, and can’t stop thinking of the place she grew up and left behind on purpose.
As the book opens, Vee is a very soon-to-be-retired librarian, mother, and widow. She is smart and no-nonsense, but wasn’t always as reserved as she is now. She worries that her daughter is unhappy and unwilling to do anything about it. Lise works for the Preservation Society and wishes she didn’t. She lives with a guy that she isn’t sure she likes, much less loves. She worries that her mother is having trouble with her memory.
The story is about memories and family secrets, and how both keep us from truly knowing the ones we love best.
What are you working on next?
I’m working on a historical novel, based on the experiences of a real man, set in York, Ontario (what is now Toronto) at the turn of the nineteenth century. Murder is involved, and war, and love, of course. Royals, too.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The challenge of finding the best words to express what is often inexplicable.
Filed under what if the impossible were possible? Frozen Venice.
The real story: images of Venice and Russia's Lake Baikal spliced together by Robert Jahns. More photographs and information here.
More from the stacks and stacks of things I've found for my next book. This watercolour was painted by Edmund Walsh, who was stationed with the British Army at York in 1803. From the way the land curves out into the water and the amount of buildings shown, I'd estimate this to be somewhere between present day Jarvis and Sherbourne streets.
You've heard of the Hydra, and Nessie and maybe even Ogopogo, but I bet you've never heard of this sea monster:
Pronunciation: Ros´muh reen
n. 1. Dew from the sea; sea dew
n. 2. A fabulous sea animal which was reported to climb by means of its teeth to the tops of rocks to feed upon the dew.
Etymology: late 14c., from Latin rosmarinus, literally "dew of the sea", from ros "dew" + marinus
Source: Merriam-Webster Dictionary
A couple of months ago, my brother asked me some questions about my self-publishing experience as part of his coursework for the Chang School Publishing Certificate Program. I thought it might be of interest to other Canadian self-publishers, so here it is:
What was your general experience when submitting your work to publishing houses?
A lot of jumping through hoops and then waiting. For entirely necessary reasons of economy, the traditional publishing industry is not a good friend to would-be authors. If I did find a publisher who was willing to read even a tiny part of my manuscript, I put together a package (usually cover-letter, synopsis, first 20 pages, s.a.s.e) and sent it in the mail. Sometimes I heard back in six months or so, sometimes I did not. This was especially frustrating when publishers requested that I not submit my manuscript simultaneously to other publishing houses.
How many publishing houses did you submit to?
Including queries and all lengths of manuscript submissions, probably about twenty-five, over the course of five or six years.
What were some of their names?
Dundurn Group, Insomniac Press, Coach House Books, Cormorant Books, Mercury Press
Did you try submitting your book to publishing houses of various sizes?
I queried almost all of the publishing houses in Ontario that have a literary fiction catalogue, but I submitted my work only to the smaller houses who accept unsolicited manuscripts. Which is tough, because they are also the publishing houses with the least money to spend.
What was the main reason you decided to publish independently?
Fatigue. I was tired of the process and the endless waiting (usually for disappointing news).
Could you describe generally the process of publishing your book independently?
Very generally, I researched my available options, chose the platforms that worked best for me, (KDP, Kobo, CreateSpace, and Book Country) uploaded my completed manuscript and finalized cover art, proofed it, set a price, and clicked the PUBLISH button.
Why did you decide to use KDP, KOBO, CreateSpace and Book Country rather than other potential online publishers?
At this time, Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) is the leader in independent ebook publishing. Because it is an Amazon company, my book is listed on all of Amazon’s worldwide pages which means huge exposure.
I chose Kobo because I’m in Canada and a lot of the people who will buy my ebook are Kobo, not Kindle users.
CreateSpace is the publisher of my paperback books. It was my least favourite user-experience. The proofing interface is slow and the shipping costs outside of the United States are horrendous, but at this time, there isn’t a good Canadian option for publish-and-ship on-demand.
And finally, I used Book Country more for their distribution services, than for publishing. They distribute my book to all formats of my choice (iBooks, Sony e-reader, Barnes & Noble’s Nook, google books) without an upfront fee to me.
What level of success have you had using these independent publishing platforms?
My main objective, when I decided to publish my book on my own, was to get it from manuscript to published work in a short period of time. I achieved this goal. Sales and Marketing, and time will tell if Fathom Lines will have any kind of success, but I am satisfied, no matter what happens, with what I learned. I count this experience as a success.
What is your level of creative control over the publication process?
Almost total. With the CreateSpace store there are minimum pricing rules that have to be followed to cover their costs of printing a physical book, but that is the only printer-imposed rule that I could find. There may be restrictions about certain types of offensive material, but as my work didn’t contain anything of that sort, I’m not sure what those rules might be.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell me about the process of publishing your book?
I think that about covers it! Thanks, Michael.
Anything you still want to know? Ask away in the comments!
My research for the next book continues (it will for a while yet), but I don't mind at all. A historian by training, I know what I'm doing and where to look for what I need. Also, the treasures I find keep it interesting! As a novelist, and not a social historian, I know that a lot of the things I find during my research will never appear in the book. No one wants to pick up a novel and read three pages about how to shear sheep, or make candles from beef tallow, or all the ways to tell if eggs are fresh. And that's okay. But some of the things are so amazing to me, that I need to give them an outlet. So once a week, or thereabouts, I'll be sharing a treasure I've found.
This week: an old recipe I found in a book called (get ready for a deep breath, this is a long title...) AMERICAN COOKERY, OR THE ART OF DRESSING VIANDS, FISH, POULTRY and VEGETABLES, AND THE BEST MODES OF MAKING PASTES, PUFFS, PIES, TARTS, PUDDINGS, CUSTARDS AND PRESERVES, AND ALL KINDS OF CAKES, FROM THE IMPERIAL PLUMB TO PLAIN CAKE. ADAPTED TO THIS COUNTRY, AND ALL GRADES OF LIFE. by Amelia Simmons, an American Orphan. I love that orphan bit. Is it a pity-ploy to get people to buy? A justification of why she's writing and not sitting around in an easy chair embroidering something? A guarantee that she knows her way around a kitchen? Maybe Gwyneth Paltrow could put this on her next cookbook?
Anyway, here is what I wanted to share. Oh, and you might want to put down your sandwich. This gets a little gross.
To Dress a Turtle.
Well, Amelia. I think I'll pass on this recipe. I don't know if it's how I must break the gall, the slime you mention, or the boiling blood, but contrary to what you say at the end, I don't think this turtle repas will ever be sufficiently done for me.
The rest of American Cookery is quite fascinating, too, a lesson in how to use everything and how to cook without any of the modern conveniences. An interesting read, if you're writing a late 18th century novel or not.
You can probably guess what this one means because you've probably used or heard a similar word quite often.
adjective 1. Of or like a sister or sisters
Etymology: mid 17th century: from Latin soror 'sister' + -al
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
So now, when someone wants to know what the feminine equivalent of fraternal is, you know. Also, a great way to use up all your annoying 1 point scrabble letters!
While researching for my next book, I found this snippet about Burlington Bay/Hamilton Harbour, written by Elizabeth Graves Simcoe just a few years before the 18th century:
The sand cliffs on the north shore of Burlington Bay look like red rocks. The beach is like a park covered with large, spreading oaks. At eight o'clock we set out in a boat to go to Beasley's, at the head of Burlington Bay, about eight miles. The river and bay were full of canoes; the Indians were fishing; we bought some fine salmon of them. When we had near crossed the bay, Beasley's house became a very pretty object. We landed at it, and walked up the hill, from whence is a beautiful view of the lake, with wooded points breaking the line of shore and Flamborough in the background.
And just in case you are more of a visual person, here's a before and after.
Simcoe's description jolted me. I guess, with all the drives I've taken over the bay bridge, with all the jokes about Hamilton's smog and grit, it's easy to forget that this area wasn't always the centre of industry it's been for so long. Thank you, Elizabeth Graves Simcoe, for this reminder.
Here's my confession for this week: I don't usually read books about writing because most of them annoy me.
It's not that I don't want to learn from established authors. I do. I'm greedy for all the information about writing that I can find. I want to learn. But lately, with the growth of self-publishing and many people thinking that uploading a first draft makes them an author, there's now a very large market for How-to-Write books, and too many of them purport to have the tricks or secrets that will make the process quick and easy.
Look, I don't object to an established author making a bit of extra money or acting as a mentor. I do object to bad and trite advice.
Three things that people tend to write about writing that do no one any good:
So, what are the books you should be reading if you want a little advice or insight into writing? Books that tell you the truth: writing is hard, writing is a (mainly low-paying) job. Look for books that focus on the work of writing; the technical aspects, rather than the harnessing of your 'inner writing light.'
The setting for your next post-apocolyptic novel?
The real story: New York City subway tunnels under construction.
The great thing about language is that if you look long enough, you can find a beautiful word to describe even the ugliest, scariest thing.
1. noun: a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.
Etymology: Source: early 19th century: French, literally 'coming back', present participle (used as a noun) of revenir.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary
On Sunday, May 25th, from 10:30-4, I will be selling copies of Fathom Lines at The Gladstone Hotel. Whether you want to buy the book or not, I'd be so happy to see a friendly face, and answer questions about the book or my process of self-publishing. (Really, though, if you do show up, I'll probably twist your arm into buying a copy if you haven't already!) There's a $5 cover for the show, to pay the cost of renting the very beautiful space at the historic Gladstone Hotel with partial proceeds donated to a local literacy charity, but there will be many other wonderful vendors to meet and lots of literary goodies to browse and buy, so the cost is well worth it. Hope to see you there!
Please share this with anyone else who might be interested. Thanks a lot!
This morning on CBC, Jian Ghomeshi interviewed a documentary filmmaker working on a project about highrises. I have to admit, from where I sat (smack in the middle of a very large cluster of tall towers) the idea seemed a little underwhelming. But as filmmaker Katerina Cizek talked, I came to see why she would be so interested in what seems at first to be a mundane topic. These places are part of the landscape of the city, yes, but they are also, quite literally, stacked with people that have stories to tell. After the interview, I took a look at the Highrise project website. It is fabulous: a testament to what a creative mind, a little funding, and a whole lot of public interaction can do with one fairly simple idea.
Just three picks this week, but these will keep you reading for a while:
Erin Bedford, writer.