Ask the writer…

Posted on August 19, 2010 by

I am uploading holiday pictures of a fjord, glacier and various icefloes today, which is tempting me to make puns about to-do lists as long as Tracy’s Arm Fjord, or the tip of the To Do iceberg. What’s true is that while I’m physically back at the desk, my brain seems to be coming online in very small pieces. This makes the pile seem bigger than it is. (I am really hoping this is true.)

One of the more interesting items on the list has to do with the fact that the mass market paperback edition of Indigo Springs will be coming out in November. This is another first for me. It reminds me of all the times, as a reader, that I had to weigh the agony of waiting for a paperback against the cost of shelling out for the hardcover. It’s a strangely romantic feeling, believe it or not.

In any case, Tor has asked me to write an article for their e-mail newsletter, to tie into the release. This would be a sort of behind-the-scenes DVD extra type of thing: what kind of research went into the book, for example, or something about the experiences was I drawing on. Given that it’s been all of a day since this came up, I haven’t narrowed the topic down, and I thought that before I did commit to something, I’d see if there was anything all of you might like to know about the book.

Is there? Any brilliant ideas that don’t get scooped up for the article (or questions that aren’t quite related, because you can ask me anything) will be answered here in a later post.

Tracy Arm Icefloes

The good ship Lollipop

Posted on August 18, 2010 by

Some of you have no doubt seen the interior of a cruise ship before, but Carnival Spirit was my first. The artist friend who saw the pictures described them as ‘fin-de-siecle hell-in-a-fancy-handbasket tone to it!’ kelly-yoyoKelly, meanwhile, called it a floating mall. And it did remind me of West Edmonton Mall, a bit. What do you think? (Click the pic for the whole set).

Carnival Spirit Decor

This spot is in the lounge we staked out as our reading area; within a couple days, all the loved ones knew they could look for us here. As you look, try to add in a very short CD on continuous loop; we heard “Dee Doo Doo Doo” by The Police so many times I’ve carried it home as a permanent earworm (slightly less fun than tinittis). The other five songs were unknown to me but sounded far worse.

Comfy chairs, though, and a view of sea and sometimes whales, won out.

Three hour tour

Posted on August 13, 2010 by

Kelly and I are on an Alaska cruise with my mother’s family. I am barely online, except when I’m checking in on my students, but I thought I’d shoot you all a quick update.

All told, we are five couples and one teenaged boy. Everyone but us being from the U.S., it made sense to converge on and embark from Seattle. We therefore spent Monday catching up with a friend who flew out from Waterloo to housesit for us, a lovely, brilliant, seriously-I-am-so-in-awe-of-her! brain on very shapely legs, who had a hand in designing the university’s Knowledge Integration degree. We then slept for two hours, got up before dawn, breakfasted, finished packing and caught a 6:00 a.m. train to Seattle.

If you have limited funds for a vacation and are just looking to get out of town, there are worse thing to do than take Amtrak to Seattle for a day. It was inexpensive and easy. The train’s route runs along the coast, offering better viewing than many an Amtrak route. The salt flats were dotted with herons and other shorebirds, and we caught a blurry glimpse of a river otter and its two babies, humping their way up onto the shore and into the brush. I dozed a little, rewatched the Doctor Who Runaway Bride special on my iPod, gaped at the scenery and whee! Four painless hours later we were in King Station at the heart of Seattle, down in the part of town which evokes fond memories of Clarion West.


We cabbed off to the terminal and got onto the ship with minimal fuss. We lunched, walked the sundecks, marvelled at how high up we were, scoped out the hot tubs and the good book-reading spots. Then we had dinner with the family and headed off to a naturalist’s lecture, all on two hours sleep.

The dregs of the evening were taken up in trying to find a couple of healthy snacks before bed. (We have taken to keeping a hoard of fruit in our stateroom; it’s not always out where you can get at it. Overall, this cruising thing seems more oriented to people who eat three huge meals than to people who eat small and snack between.)

Anyway, we slept like the dead, had brekkie the next morning, went back to the room and slept some more. There has been a stunning amount of reading and napping.

I had imagined sitting out in a hot tub with the ocean view all around, but I had told myself not to get my hopes up. There are 1998 other passengers, after all. But that first afternoon, that’s exactly what happened: me, Kelly, and a cousin had the hot tub on the stern of the ship all to ourselves for well over an hour. We only got out because I figured we were at risk of burning. (We both found a few barely rosy patches of skin, as a matter of fact; my timing was excellent!)

Wednesday was billed as a “Fun Day at Sea!” as we chugged north. Thursday we sailed into Tracy’s Arm Fjord and goggled at an amazing glacier, a sheer river of ice colored the most fantastic and improbable blues I’ve ever seen, ringed by coastal mountains and iceberg-studded waters. We had many whale sightings at a distance, and have had some good food and some bad food. Also stunning—in the hammer meets cranium way–is the décor, which is Disneylandish in its intensity. The elevator shaft (this is, after all, a twelve-storey building) has some open lifts and the mouldings and lights on the thing are beyond glittery. I have pictures; you’ll be stunned. There’s a Versailles lounge, a glittering, sarcophagus-encrusted Pharaoh’s Palace, a Tiki-themed Jungle, a mini-golf course, and multiple bar/dance floors. Also a casino, which is no-go territory because it’s a smoking area.

Our chosen reading area is next to one of the lounges; there are facing sets of comfy chairs by the windows on the 2nd floor, with screens separating each. The screens have Gaugin prints on them, so one is surrounded by artistic nudity. I’ve finished reading Quarrel with the King there, and have started rereading Tana French’s In the Woods. It’s all very weird and decadent, and I am enjoying the downtime, the multiple naps, and the family time very much indeed.

Except for the icebergs and my genetic relations, I haven’t found many things to shoot so far. But today we get to get off the ship—we will be in Skagway! I expect to come back to our cabin with many exciting shots.

Northern Flicker

Posted on August 13, 2010 by

This flicker is ill-lit, but has that fluffy, shinynew look to his chest feathers that makes me suspect he’s newly fledged.

Northern Flicker

I found him or her in this weird little no-humans-land on Woodland and 2nd Avenue. There’s a plot of land there, owned but little-used by the gas company. It borders the gardens of a couple of apartment towers and is fringed by tallish pine trees, some living and some half or fully dead–I assume, from their slo-mo death throes, because of Mountain Pine Beetles. The mix–live tree, dead tree, in-between tree–makes a perfect combo habitat for Stellar’s Jay, eight billion types of sparrow, bushtits, starlings and the occasional flicker. The jays come in the spring, disappear, and then come back in late summer and fall. We assume they’re nesting somewhere in the meantime… maybe Central Park? Anyway, they have been gone since about May but they’re back; I have been hearing them since the same morning that this flicker turned up.

Compelled to write?

Posted on August 12, 2010 by

Something that has come up in a couple of the Journey interviews I’ve been doing lately is this idea that many of us feel compelled to write: that many of us do it whether we think we can sell our fiction or not. And someone’s recently posted a comment asking what I mean by that.

In my case, it means I’ve felt a need to try to write stories since I became literate, at about the age of five. It means I can usually only go a few days without writing fiction before becoming first restless, then unhappy. At some point my writerbrain takes over and starts making up RPG scenarios or plotting novels. That, or I begin having elaborately plotted semi-lucid, occasionally bloodcurdling dreams.

It means I’ve never seriously considered not writing.

Since the question’s come up, I thought I’d throw it wider: fellow writers, do you feel, on some level, like you have to? Can you imagine stopping? If you had to stop–I’ve been meaning to ask this for awhile–how would you go about pursuing a happy, fulfilling, writing-free existence?