I’ve had a busy few days, arranging a book launch – tentatively set for March 10 – and generally tending to the stuff that comes up with a new release. Which brings me to one of those things – a contest!
I’m going to keep it simple. I’m always looking for ideas for this blog, so all I’m going to ask in order to be entered in a draw for a copy of Heart is that you comment on this post with a suggestion for a topic you’d like to see here – writing craft, historical, or otherwise – and that you follow my blog. I’ll run the contest until Valentine’s Day.
I also promised an excerpt, so I’ll give you the McShannons saying goodbye, not to be together again until the third book in the series (out next year if the Lord is willing and the creek don’t rise.) Enjoy!
Seagulls skimmed the harbor, their harsh voices at odds with their grace as they dipped and swirled, free as the sea breeze that carried them. Chelle took in a breath laden with the scents of salt water, tar and refuse, pungent and unfamiliar.
If the worth of a thing could be measured by the price paid for it, then freedom was precious indeed.
She’d never seen anything like New York before. She stood on the pier with her father and Trey, watching as sailors and stevedores went about their jobs, their shouts rising above the voices of other passengers saying their own farewells to family and friends. The city loomed in the background, its tall buildings creating a wall of brick and stone as cold and unforgiving as the light of the gray April morning. The scene didn’t seem real. Rory had let her go without saying goodbye. Not a word, not a note.
Through the blur of shifts and changes as they made their way North, Chelle had refused to look back. If what she and Rory had felt for each other was love, it wasn’t worth regretting. Truth was truth, even if it broke her heart.
She felt miserably selfish. Everywhere along their route, people had been sober and preoccupied, preparing for what was all but certain to come. What right did she have to waste tears on a man who hadn’t wanted her, when the whole country was holding its collective breath, waiting for the first shot to be fired? If Rory could have seen the factories, the thousands of people in the New York streets, perhaps he would have understood why she couldn’t stay with him. The war was over before it had even begun. What would become of home, of the peaceful landscape she loved?
The McShannons had been exploring the ship, putting off the moment of parting, but the time had come when Trey had to go ashore. When they couldn’t delay any longer, Chelle threw her arms around her brother. She looked into his eyes and knew that this was tearing him apart, too.
He’d be traveling West, alone, through country that could be as dangerous as any battlefield. Her childhood playmate, her best friend. Trey might be capable and strong, but in so many ways, he was still a boy. Chelle didn’t want to make this harder for him, but she couldn’t let him go. She hugged him closer and laid her head on his shoulder.
“Trey, come with us, at least until the war is over. You can always come back then. Please. If we can’t get you on this ship, we’ll wait for another one.”
“It’s for the best this way, Chelle.” He lifted her chin and ruffled her hair. She felt him take a deep breath as he fought to control his voice. “It wouldn’t be any easier to leave you and Dad after the war, and what about Cloud? He’s waiting for me in that stable in Washington, remember? I’d have to sell him and that would take some time, even if I could do it, which I can’t. Maman wouldn’t want to see us going on like this.”
Somehow, Chelle steeled herself and stepped back. She couldn’t show less courage than Trey. “You’ve been the best brother a girl could have. Be careful. Write as soon as you get settled.”
“I will. You look after yourself too. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine. And so will you.” Trey hadn’t spoken to her about Rory, but his silent sympathy had done wonders to help Chelle through the days since leaving home. He forced a grin. “Someday you’ll be able to visit the finest breeding farm west of Kentucky. Give my regards to Uncle Jack and Aunt Caroline.”
Her vision blurring with tears, Chelle watched as Trey turned and wrapped his arms around his father. “Goodbye, Dad. The two of you take care of each other. I’ll write as soon as I can. You’d better get aboard.”
“Aye.” Colin put his hands on his son’s shoulders and looked up at him with suspicious moisture in his eyes. “I’m proud of you, lad. Always have been. Remember that, and remember you’re your mother’s son. Goodbye.”
Trey stepped away with a bleak, young smile. He looked like he couldn’t speak, and Chelle knew she couldn’t. How many years would pass before she saw him again? She followed her father back across the gangway. As the ship started out of the harbor, Chelle pulled her mother’s shawl closer around her, stood at the rail and watched her brother’s figure dwindle to a lonely gray dot at the end of the pier. The life she’d always known disappeared with him, and at the moment she didn’t think she had it in her to build a new one.
I picked up my copies of Heart from Purolator this morning. My second book! You can probably see my grin from where you are.
The cover looks better in reality than it does as an image. It has a lot of bright, vibrant color, and it looks good next to Chance on my shelf - as different from each other as blonde, blue-eyed Chelle is from black-haired, dark-eyed Trey. I'll have to pick up a bottle of wine and celebrate tonight. These are the moments that make writing worth it.
English really is a crazy, wonderful language. This morning, my co-worker in the ESL department arrived with a couple of calendars she picked up on sale last night. One of them gives a new unusual English word each day, and some of them are gems.
Frigorific – Sounds rather vulgar, doesn’t it? It means ‘to make something cold’, as in ‘a frigorific blast of wind’. When I relay this one to my DH, I’m sure it will find alternate meanings.
Grok – Huh? Sounds like a noise a bird makes. It means ‘to understand profoundly and intuitively’, as in ‘Margaret Mitchell really grokked character description’. The word was coined by Robert A Heinlein in his 1969 Science fiction novel Stranger in a Strange Land. It’s supposed to be Martian.
Acedia – apathy or boredom. This one has its origins in Latin. Acedia is a common condition this time of year, I’d say.
When I was growing up, my family had an elderly Nuttall’s English dictionary. It’s a great source of old words. One of my favourites is ‘slubberdegullion’, meaning a mean, dirty fellow. Drat, I should have had Chelle call someone that in McShannon’s Heart – but no, the word went out of use a couple of hundred years before Chelle was born. What writer doesn’t love finding new words?
And yes, it’s Folk Friday. Since I’ve started rambling about language, Here’s a tune in Scottish Gaelic sung by Nova Scotia’s own Mary Jane Lamond. I love her pure, clear voice. One thing I enjoy about Gaelic music is that the meaning of the lyrics is sometimes at variance with the mood created by the music. This piece is a good example. These songs weren’t written as art, they were written as forms of gossip and storytelling for people who had no time or reason to learn to read. At least this one isn’t about a grisly murder, as was one beautiful song I heard at a folk club meeting one night. I wished I’d been content not to know the meaning. Enjoy this one!
("Dómhnall Mac 'Ic Iain")
Ma dh'eugas Dòmhnall mac 'ic Iain If Donald son of the son of John dies Eugaich e an cosnach He'll die employed Ma dh'eugas Dòmhnall mac 'ic Iain If Donald son of the son of John dies Bidh sinn air a thòrradh We'll be at his funeral Ma dh'eugas Dòmhnall mac 'ic Iain If Donald son of the son of John dies Eugaich e an cosnach He'll die employed Ma dh'eugas Dòmhnall mac 'ic Iain If Donald son of the son of John dies Bidh sinn air a thòrradh We'll be at his funeral
Gheobh sinn aran agus ìm We'll get bread and butter 'S càise na banaraich And the milkmaid's cheese Gheobh sinn aran agus ìm We'll get bread and butter Uisge-beath' an Tòisich And the Toiseach's whisky Gheobh sinn aran agus ìm We'll get bread and butter 'S càise na banaraich And the milkmaid's cheese Gheobh sinn aran agus ìm We'll get bread and butter Uisge-beath' an Tòisich And the Toiseach's whisky
“Everything that can be invented has already been invented.” Charles H. Duell, Chief of the U.S. Office of Patents, 1899
My ESL students worked with future forms last week, and we read a series of predictions, the above among them. It got me thinking about the times in which I set my stories, and what my characters would think if they got a glimpse of modern life.
What would Trey McShannon, who went to war on horseback, and Liam Cochrane, who experienced trench warfare at its worst, think of stealth bombers and ‘smart’ missiles? What would Martin Rainnie think of modern nightclubs, rap and hiphop? If they had to live in our world, what would they and their wives miss most about their own times?
Let’s say I’ve borrowed a transporter and beamed each of my couples down in 2011 for a week. (Of course, their memories of that week will be erased in the process of transportation home. No messing with history!) Before sending them back to their own time, I’ve gathered them at my home for lunch and a chat. More turkey soup, anyone?
Beth McShannon: Yes, please. Jennie, I have to say it’s been quite a week. To see art from all over the world on your computer was amazing. Jennie: I thought you’d enjoy that. If you could stay a while longer, you could learn how to create your own art that way as well. It’s called graphic design, and I think you’d find it interesting.
Beth: Thank you, Jennie, and I’ll have one of those biscuits as well. (Butters a biscuit and tastes her soup.) Graphic design, you say? It’s tempting, but I think I prefer my brushes. Though being able to listen to music at home and have it sound as if I were in a concert hall - I am going to miss that.
Martin Rainnie: (helping himself to biscuits) Aye, so will I, though I don’t know if I could ever get used to playing or singing into a machine, with no real person to hear me. Give me a crowd in a dance hall, I say.
Jennie: Martin, what did you think of the pub where we ate last night?
Martin: (With a frown) Pub, is it? Well, the fish and chips were edible, and the ale wasn’t bad. Speaking of ale –
Jennie: I read your mind, my friend. Who else is thirsty? (Cracks open a Clancy’s for all)
Rochelle Rainnie: (sips her beer with a sideways glance at Martin) No, it wasn’t bad, though the girl who brought it wasn’t wearing enough to keep from catching her death.
Trey McShannon (Tips back his beer with a grin) I noticed that.
Beth and Chelle exchange eye rolls. Martin grins at Trey.
Martin: Aye, so did I. But the place was so loud I couldn’t hear myself think, let alone talk to anyone, with the lights bright enough to put a man’s eyes out and no dart board or live music. It was like that song I heard on your – what do you call it again?
Jennie: A CD player.
Martin: Aye, well, You know the one. (Begins to sing) What have they done to the old Rose and Crown? The Ship, the King's Arms, and the World Upside Down. For oak, brass, and leather, and a pint of the best Fade away like the sun as it sinks in the west.
Jennie: Yes, the Ian Robb song. I see your point, Martin. As for the clothes, not to worry – to everyone else in the pub, you appeared to be dressed in the latest fashion.
Alice Cochrane: Heaven help us, Jennie! As for the music, I felt the same as Martin. And when we left, that noise coming from the place across the street – WHAT did you call it?
Jennie: Hip-hop. It’s very popular.
Alice: If you say so. I did like the jazz you played for us on your machine, though. Do you suppose I could take some sheet music home with me?
Jennie: That might not be smart, Alice. You might alter musical history. Liam, you’re being very quiet.
Liam Cochrane: I just can’t believe how Halifax has changed. All concrete and glass on the waterfront, and the new – what was it? – oh, condominium - going up where old St. Joseph’s used to be. Though the school is still there across the street. And the traffic!
Trey: I hear you, Liam. I’d like to try my hand at driving a car, though – something that went where I steered it and didn’t have its own ideas about things.
Liam (laughing) Our Model T has a mind of its own, I think.
Alice: It certainly does. It’s more temperamental than any horse I ever knew.
Trey: Well, Flying Cloud and I have an understanding, when it comes to that. He’s got good pasture and the best mares I could afford, and he deserves it. We saved each other’s hides more than once.(Shakes head)My war was bad enough, but from what you tell me I wouldn’t want to fight in yours, Liam. Too much killing from a distance.
Liam:(stretches out his bad leg) Yeah, there was. I think there should be a rule in war, that you have to look a man in the eye and know his name before you can kill him.
Martin: Maybe you should have to drink with him, too. Trey, I’m looking forward to meeting your Flying Cloud. Your father speaks of him often still. The fastest colt he ever raised, he says.
Trey: Yeah, he was, and he can still run. You’ll meet him next summer when you bring the family to visit.
Rochelle: Little Trey is so like you, but Greer and Sidonie are both the image of Martin. I can’t wait to meet your Chelle, too, though how we’ll keep the names straight I don’t know, any more than I know how we’ll keep Dad out of trouble.
Jennie: I’m not sure even I can do that. Chelle, if I wasn’t able to send you home, what do you think you’d really miss about your time?
Rochelle: Writing letters. With Trey so far away, we’ve written a lot of letters over the years. From what you say, very few people in your time do that.
Beth: I’d miss that too, but more than anything I think I’d miss cooking and baking on my wood stove – now that I know how.
Trey:(with a sly look at Beth) The house is still standing, too. Remember –
Beth: (blushing) Of course I remember.
Liam: I don’t know...I think I could get used to your time. It’s great to see how Halifax has put itself back together since the Explosion. I’ll always miss Richmond the way it used to be, but I think most of all I’d miss working on boats, using my hands, having the time to get to know the owners.
Martin: I’d miss live music at the Mallonby pub, playing with the people I’ve played with for years. Seeing all ages at the Carston hall dancing to my music.
Trey: Well, if I was ranching in your time I’d likely still do a lot of the work on horseback, so I guess I’d get along, but there’d be more people and less open range. That’s what I’d miss. I’ve never been one for crowds.
Jennie: No, you haven’t. Now, has everyone finished their drink? It’s been wonderful having you. Now, step this way to the transporter room, everyone...
I’m late with Folk Friday today. This was testing day for my ESL students and I just finished the print errata for Heart, so I haven’t had time until now to prepare this week’s post.
This is the time of year when I often reread Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. I find it a great book for winter because it’s a feast for the senses, full of spicy food, brilliant colors, hot, dusty, crowded bazaars and exotic characters. Kipling managed to use all the senses to perfection, without overkill, as in this passage, where Kim, who is traveling across colonial India with a Tibetan lama, stops for the night at a roadside campsite.
By this time the sun was driving broad golden spokes through the lower branches of the mango-trees; the parakeets and doves were coming home in their hundreds; the chattering, grey-backed Seven Sisters, talking over the day’s adventures, walked back and forth in twos and threes almost under the feet of the travellers; and shuffling and scuffling in the branches showed that the bats were ready to go out on the night-picket. Swiftly the light gathered itself together, painted for an instant the faces and the cart-wheels and the bullocks’ horns as red as blood. Then the night fell, changing the touch of the air, drawing a low, even haze, like a gossamer veil of blue, across the face of the country, and bringing out, keen and distinct, the smell of wood-smoke and cattle and the good scent of wheaten cakes cooked on ashes. Te evening patrol hurried out of the police-station with important coughings and reiterated orders; and a live charcoal ball in the cup of a wayside carter’s hookah glowed red while Kim’s eye mechanically watched the last flicker of the sun on the brass tweezers.
I can smell the cattle and smoke and cakes, see the birds against the darkening sky, feel the day’s heat fading. Without wasted words, I’m there. This book is one of the reasons I’d like to set Nolan Cochrane’s story in India. But, for now, I’m here in Halifax with Liam, who has just found himself in a heap of trouble.
Reading through Heart to do the errata made me think about songs Martin Rainnie would enjoy. He’s more of a fiddler than a singer, but he does sing a couple of times in the story, and one of the songs he chooses is ‘The Water is Wide.’ It’s also a favourite of mine, especially the melody.
I think Martin would like this version. It’s simple and heartfelt. Enjoy!
I’ve never been one to make New Year’s resolutions. To me, if feels like setting myself up for disappointment, so I set goals instead, and take some time to look back on the year that’s just ended.
I have to say 2010 was a much better year than 2009. I began the year by finally landing a job, which I started on January 4. This term I’m teaching ESL and Grade 10, a nice low-stress combination. My father’s health scare had a positive outcome, there were no crises in Everett’s family, I got one book written and published and am closing in on finishing another. I’m playing guitar again, and making slow but steady progress on getting in shape. Officially, nine pounds and 11.5 inches down since starting at Curves. At this rate, meeting my goal of 20 pounds by mid-March seems doable.
Personal goals for 2011: To stay with my exercise and healthy eating program permanently and let my body find its natural weight. To contact friends more often, on and off-line. To remember to be grateful, each and every day, for all the good things in my life. I read somewhere once that if the only prayer a person ever says is ‘thank you’, that can be enough.
Writing goals: To finish Shattered, Home Child (my half-completed middle-grade novel), and McShannon’s Land (Nathan Munroe’s story). To become more savvy and efficient at publicity for my books (Yeah, there’s a reason why I write books set way before the computer age. I like blogging and I like playing on the ‘net, but to really USE it is another story.) To reach out more to other bloggers – there’s a lot of good stuff out there. To continue to grow my craft, in every way possible, so that each book is better than the last.
I’ve got another story brewing in my mind, about Liam Cochrane’s older brother Nolan. I’m thinking of an exotic setting, perhaps colonial India at the turn of the twentieth century. I think it would suit Nolan’s adventurous spirit. Perhaps, when I get all my WIPs off my plate, I’ll hop on a clipper ship with my black Irish sailor lad and do some traveling.
People of blogland, how are you seeing the year ahead?
Time to announce the winners of my contest...I put all the names in a hat and drew last night. The winner of the editor's critique is Candace, and the winners of e-copies of Heart are Carol Burge,Lighthouse Sandy and Lorilyn! I'll be contacting you to get e-mail addys so I can send you your prizes! Congrats!
I'm a teacher, an amateur musician and, for over thirty years, a writer. I fell in love with words at a very early age, and the affair has been life-long.
Glimpses of the past spark my imagination. There's an archaeologist buried in me somewhere. I'm currently working on a series following the McShannon family as they put down roots and find love in the old world and the new, against the background of the American Civil War. Along with this series, I'm writing a story set at the time of the Halifax Explosion in 1917. I'm really enjoying delving into the history in my own backyard.
I write for children as well as adults. When I'm not writing I garden, play guitar and spend time with my DH, our cat Emily, and our dogs Chance and Echo, the most spoiled Duck Tolling Retrievers on the planet. I live in Nova Scotia, in my opinion the most beautiful place in the world.