Sunday, September 27, 2015

Where the Heart Lives

A moment ago my author friend Lynn Shepherd (you can find her here: tweeted this: 

Don't you just love #Motive? Canadians of Twitter - is Vancouver really that stunning?”

Now I’m not Canadian, and I’ve not really watched Motive, but yes–Vancouver really is that stunning. 
Lynn’s simple tweet resulted in a nostalgic flash-back for me. 

Oh yes, Vancouver, and Vancouver Island… a dream place, a place like no other for the setting of a novel, a series of novels. 

The first time I went to Vancouver was in 2011. 
A twitter friend, Sue, had invited me. I didn’t want to go. It had been decades since I’d last been on a flight. Yes I said decades, and nine hours on a plane scared the living daylights out of me. 
“No,” I said, “Nuh huh. I’d love to, but no thank you.”
Fortunately for me, Sue was a flight attendant with Air Canada at that time. She promised to meet me in London and work on the flight back to Vancouver, and she’d make sure we got there in one piece. 

Which is how I ended up in Vancouver, Canada.
Standing on the beach of English Bay I felt like I was standing on the shore of a strange planet; I’d never been that far from home before. Driving along the road to Whistler felt like scaling the mountains of a different world. Thanks to Sue and her husband I didn’t feel completely displaced. 

Last year, I returned. It was like going home. 
I’d started writing The Nobody Girl, the first book in the Sunset Bay Series, which is set on Vancouver Island. So off to Vancouver Island we went, Sue and I, to find the places that I wanted to use as settings. 
“Tofino,” I had said, so that was our destination.
Why this small town on the west coast of Vancouver Island that sounded like an ice cream parlor? To my European ears Tofino sounds like a place in southern Italy. 

Of course, Tofino has nothing in common with an ice cream parlor. It has nothing in common with any place I know… wait; it does, in fact, and now that I’m writing this I’m surprised that it didn’t occur to me earlier. Tofino has a lot in common with Florø, Norway. 
My debut novel, The Distant Shore was set in Florø. For various reasons I renamed it Halmar in the book, but Florø and Tofino,  are pretty much alike it turns out. Now I’m wondering what that says about my writing. What is it with these western-most outposts that fascinates me so much? Why do my heroines hide in these small communities at the edge of the Earth before they find the courage to conquer the world?

Both Naomi and Liese, in an effort to escape a difficult situation, seek out the order, the open spaces of nature in the small life of a village. Both go on a journey within themselves before they’re ready for new relationships, new adventures. Both are insecure, hurt souls in search of a smaller, more structured life . 

Don’t get me wrong. They aren’t alike in any other way. 
Naomi is the spoiled and sheltered only daughter of a wealthy and powerful family. First she runs from her father, and then she runs from Jon Stone, the one man she loves. It seems her love for Jon has overtaken her own identity, leaving her a mere shadow floating at the edges of wildly colorful picture.
Liese, on the other hand, has made life hard for herself by choosing to live in Manhattan where she works a variety of odd jobs. Her dream is to be a writer, but she never asks herself if she’s got what it takes to be one. 

Both women blossom in the secluded place they pick for their ultimate flight. Both come to understand that they’re not who they thought they were. 

Well. Who’d have thought. This post started out as a fun piece on travel experiences, and somehow it’s turned into one about writing… again. Seems like I’m an author after all, and that I have something to say about my craft.

I promise, the next post will be about traveling, or maybe writing, or my son’s favorite dinner dish. 

Stay tuned! 


Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunset Bay, Introduced.

Do you know how I got my first book deal? No?

Let me tell you about it.

It all began on twitter. I’d been working on The Distant Shore for a while when I met a publisher who had been tweeting about her new puppy, her sleepless nights, and how much she loved coffee. We didn’t talk about my novel; I wasn’t ready to submit, and I didn’t want to impose. It was unreal enough that I was talking to an actual publisher.

But then, one day in January 2011, some other writer tweeted about good ways to promote your writing, and how to get it out there for people to see. One of those ways was posting page 99 of your WIP on your blog.
So I went back to Distant Shore and looked up my page 99. It happened to be in the middle of a fun scene, one of my favorite parts of the novel. 
I posted it, sent the link to my blog to my chatty publisher friend, and within seconds they asked for the full manuscript. 
The rest is history. Now five novels, and three Independent Book Publisher Awards later, I’m as happy with them as I was on the first day. 

This summer I started writing a new series. To celebrate that, I’m again sharing page 99 with you, this time from The Nobody Girl, the first novel in my new Sunset Bay series. 

Here goes! 

I’d left the car outside Poppy’s, which meant I had to trudge back up the road.
A cold wind was blowing up from the ocean, bringing more clouds, more rain, and darkening the early afternoon.

I stood on the pier in a strange town, watching the trawlers as they swayed on the gentle swell inside the protected cove. They made sounds, those ships; they were talking in their gnarly, wooden voices, telling each other of their night out on the open waters, and the wonders they’d seen: great blue whales cruising lazily in the icy waves, orcas singing their song to the stars, and maybe even mermaids, elusive, beautiful mermaids, their white skin and golden hair shining in the moonlight.
Secrets, they were sharing secrets that no man had ever seen, or ever would; things that happened in the night while the humans slept. That was the time when life came up from the deep to preen in the light of the Milky Way.
That bell was tolling again, counting out heartbeats in an irregular pulse, singing a counter melody to the ocean’s song.
Rain dripped on my face and hair, rain that was somewhere between mist and water drops, it was that fine and slow. It felt like a veil, like gossamer cobwebs, like a dewy cleansing mask, and I tilted my head to catch more of it. Never before had rain seemed so good.

“You don’t have to be alone, you know.” Duncan, who else. “You have friends here, Liese. I know you’re used to being alone, and you think people don’t care about you, but that’s just not true anymore. We do care. You have a new home here.”
Yeah, and I knew why he was saying that, right? It wasn’t about me; it was about that precious piece of land, the forest. And maybe even the cabin. But not about me, not about the person.
“You can’t possibly say that,” I replied, pulling my sodden jacket tighter around my body, “You don’t know me, you don’t know anything about me, and you’re only talking to me because of that inheritance. I know what you want, Duncan. Go away.”
“You do?” He really had a nice mouth. And nice eyes. And… well. He really looked nice. “You think you know what I want? Well, darling, you can guess all you like, but I’m telling you, you’re so totally on the wrong track. I don’t know what turned you into the sad, hostile woman that you are. But I can say this: you can stop now. You can unpack your smile, and the sweetness that you keep hidden under all that bristly behavior. You’ve passed the test. We like you.”

And with that, he walked away, his hands in his pockets, whistling a merry tune.

If you liked this little excerpt stay tuned, sign up, for more! 

(All photos: Sue Farrant)

Friday, September 11, 2015

A Day in Town

We don't go into Hamburg very often anymore. Once that we gave up the car it became a major undertaking, especially with so many of the subway stations under construction right now. My bad leg isn’t happy with those stairs!

But today we went, and that means a Thai lunch. I love Thai food, and so does my hubby. The kid, not so much. He brings his burger and fries—bought at one of those fast food places owned by a clown—with him to the Thai restaurant. No one minded. I think they're used to teenagers not liking hot and spicy food. 

Wait–he isn't a teenager anymore!

Or maybe he is, deep inside…
I mean, really–how can you want a burger when you can eat THIS instead?

Green Thai curry with duck! Delicious!

We hadn't been to this restaurant for a few years. It's in a different part of town where we only go when we need to stock up on spices and basmati rice.
That's the reason why, coming out of the washroom, I grabbed my cell phone and returned to take a photo of their very special washroom design. I mean, really. What do you think of it?

In all fairness I'll add that there was a "under construction" sign on the door. But–really? How is this under construction?

The best part of today was this, though:

Yes, that's right. It's the kid with a suitcase. My suitcase! We bought a new suitcase for me, for my trip next year! Which means it's starting to feel real. Now, all I need is a plane ticket and I can go! 

Somehow, buying this suitcase, means that it will indeed happen. I'll get on a plane again and visit friends I love, see new places, have new adventures. 

I can hardly wait… 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Jersey City Mon Amour

For some reason I always end up in New Jersey.

Of all the places I've visited in the US, New Jersey is probably the grittiest. It's where pretty meets ugly, where hip and dingy are next-door neighbors.

Jersey City in particular, makes me stop and stare, and wonder why people would want to live there. It doesn't even have a bookstore! It's always hot and humid, not even the AC can keep out the humidity.

I had the most expensive BLT ever in Jersey City, in a small, totally nondescript coffee shop–it was $16. Yes, you read that right. 16$ for two slices of toast with some tomato, lettuce, and bacon smashed in between. I've had a better BLT in Manhattan, and  it was only  $12. And they served it on delicious challah bread with a veritable mountain of crisp bacon slices.

Who wouldn't want to live in that pretty brownstone?

Or find these treasures while exploring the neighborhood?

Or stand and stare at Manhattan from the promenade at J. Owen Grundy Park?

I go to New Jersey to see friends who live there. They keep telling me how they hate living in Jersey City or in Edison (and believe me; the drive from JC to Edison is mind-numbing. Those highways? Those highway exits? Who in the world designed this place???) and that they can't wait to move.

Of course I'll visit them wherever they go, but a tiny piece of my heart will stay in New Jersey.
Because it's so unique in its mix of dirt, beauty, great places, and dinginess where you least expect it.
New Jersey is for those who love the beauty of small things.