Monthly Archives: January 2013

A Puzzling Task

IMG_0499I received a jigsaw puzzle for Christmas, a beautiful one of a picture of teacups in all colours and patterns and shapes. I was given this particular one because I collect teacups (at least I did before we moved to Bermuda–currently my collection is packed in a box in a storage unit in Canada).

In addition, I love doing puzzles. I come from a puzzling family (in more ways than one!). I married a puzzle loving man and produced puzzle loving offspring. Sitting around the table trying to fit pieces together to create a picture has produced many enjoyable family evenings.

IMG_0498While I was working on the puzzle this week, it often felt as if I was channeling my mother. She would usually have a puzzle in progress at her home, especially in her later years. She and I shared many meaningful conversations around her puzzle board. Doing this puzzle was a little bit like having a visit with my mom, who died four and a half years ago (hard to believe it’s been that long!).

This particular puzzle was more challenging than I expected. There were so many pieces that were white or had similar pink flowers. But I kept working at it, and gradually certain cups would take shape. The more pieces I put in, the more cohesive the picture became, and the more each individual piece made sense.

It occurs to me that writing a novel is like that. It starts with a germ of an idea, a concept of a plot, and characters that are barely born. Those notions start in my head, but like a puzzle, are scattered in a jumble that I work to make sense of. As I continue to write, the characters evolve and take shape, the narrative becomes more cohesive and the plot makes more sense.

IMG_0503My teacup puzzle is complete and it makes me feel good to look at it. My puzzle of a novel is also almost complete, and when I finally send it off next week, I will experience even more of a sense of accomplishment!

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Letting ideas germinate

Green-light-bulb-227x300I am on the verge of completing my second women’s fiction novel. As I developed the last several chapters, ideas would occur to me regarding changes to the first part of the book. So while I wrote toward the finish line, I concurrently kept a list of issues to address in earlier chapters.

Last week I typed the last word on the manuscript. (Yay!) I was excited to begin the editing and (minor) rewriting process. I organized my list, gathered the other short notes I’d jotted periodically about changes I wanted to make to my character and her exploits, and began.

But as life would have it, several things took me away from my task, and the editing work remained untouched all week. However, my brain did not leave it untouched. Whatever I was involved with, my character, Lydia, hovered at the edge of my consciousness. Yesterday, while chopping vegetables for dinner a light bulb lit in my mind, a revelation about her primary motivation. I cried out in glee, “Eureka!”

At that moment, I hadn’t been consciously thinking about Lydia at all, but on some level my mind was still working on her. Isn’t it amazing how ideas and solutions come to us when we aren’t even trying?

I’ve decided it was a good thing to have left my manuscript for a week. The ideas about my story, which I thought were complete, were still growing, unbeknownst to me. Lydia’s tale was given time to mature, and as a result, my novel will be better for it. It will be a richer story about Lydia.

And now? I’m going to edit!

(By the way, in one week the second Lucy Arlington book, Every Trick in the Book, comes out! You can preorder it here:
Barnes and Noble ~ Nook
Amazon ~ Kindle
Indiebound)

Every Trick in the Book

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Morning walks

IMG-20130116-00518I’ve been an early riser all my life, and an early morning walker for most of my adulthood. I can recall getting up in the dark in the middle of winter in Ontario, donning my heavy coat, boots, hat, mitts, a scarf, and walking to meet my friend Judy so we could get our exercise in before our busy day started. We’d shiver at first, but gradually we’d warm up and loosen those scarves, all the while chatting up a storm. Those walks were therapy as much as exercise!

Here in Bermuda I have another walking buddy who likes to get up early and walk. Renate and I meet at Flatts bridge, which is a midway point between our houses. Here when I leave the house in the winter, I don’t put on gloves, boots or hat, but on a January morning like today, I might put on a jacket. It’s usually off and tied around my waist by the time I return, though.

Quietly closing the door so as not to wake Richard, I put my earbuds in, turn on my iPod, and head along the rail trail toward Flatts. If it’s dark, I take my little flashlight and walk with it on, like a little headlight announcing to cars, scooters, and other walkers that I’m there. Usually the sun has just begun its ascent, and I can’t help but admire the view along the way–the changing light in the sky, the water of the ocean, Dockyard in the distance. Every day is different, and on these solo portions of my walks, I feel nothing but gratitude for the life I live here in Bermuda.

When I see Renate, I turn off my iPod and take out my earbuds. We both admire the sunrise over Harrington Sound for a minute (that’s Renate in the picture), check the water to see if there is anything interesting swimming below us (we often see spotted eagle rays, fish, and sometimes jellyfish), and decide which way to go. And then we’re off. Yakking away, filling each other in on our lives, discussing issues. Walk therapy, that’s what it is.

Lately I haven’t been walking as much as usual because I’ve been sleeping later, the weather’s been colder, and I wake up feeling unmotivated. I check email and Facebook when I first get up, and we all know how that can become a time eater. Before I realize it, the sky is bright and it’s time to shower and have breakfast. Somehow I’ve let the computer take precedence over my walk therapy. I only seem to go once a week instead of every other day.

That has to change. I love my morning walks. I need my morning walks.

Renate, tomorrow I’ll be out there!

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Book Excitement

IMG_0480I’ve been a busy author over the past few days, but not with writing my novel, as one would expect. I’ve been working on websites and organizing bookmarks and writing an author newsletter, and other promotional tasks like guest blogs, etc. It is amazing how much of my work as an author is not writing fiction!

This week I’ve updated my website to show off the new cover of The Unraveling of Abby Settel. Check it out and see what you think: www.sylviamay.com

With the release of the second Lucy Arlington mystery on the horizon–Every Trick in the Book will hit the bookstores on February 5th–I realized that I needed to update the Lucy Arlington website as well. Opening the files, I decided that visually the pages were too cluttered and the appearance was outdated. So not only did I update the website to reflect the new book, I completely revamped it. New colours, new graphics, new fonts. It took me a whole day, but it was worth it. I am very pleased with the results. What do you think? www.lucyarlington.com

Now here’s an interesting occurrence: Yesterday while I was working on the website, my brain was filled with Lucy Arlington and Every Trick in the Book. As if she was on the same wavelength, a friend emailed me and asked if I was going to have a book release party. I replied that I was considering it, but hadn’t received my author copies and how could I have a book party without books! Not five minutes after sending her that response, there was a knock on the door. It was a delivery from UPS with, you guessed it, my author copies of the book. The universe must have been listening!

I was so excited to hold a copy of the book in my hands. It’s beautiful.

Guess I’d better start organizing that book party!

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A Butterfly in the Hand

photoLast weekend we had dinner at a friend’s house. We arrived there in the early afternoon before the sun set, enjoying the “Bermudiful” day. While my friend and I were chopping veggies and partaking in other activities related to rustling up our dinner, her husband came into the kitchen with a treasure in his hand.

Sitting on his palm was a beautiful butterfly…well I guess it was really a moth, but it was beautiful nonetheless. The poor thing just sat there, barely moving. “I think it is at its end,” my friend’s husband said. We all gazed at this artistic creation of nature. I ran and got my camera and immediately began to visually document the experience, but I needn’t have hurried, because the fragile creature was not going anywhere.

We went outside to take advantage of the better light offered by the sun; all the while the moth didn’t move from its spot in the middle of our friend’s hand. As the sun’s rays warmed the moth, it began to flap its wings. It crawled to perch on his fingers, tentatively fluttering, and suddenly it was off.

Was the miracle that it was able to fly away despite its weakened state? Was the miracle that it rested on my friend’s hand so quietly for such a long time? Or was the miracle that, for a few minutes, we stopped everything to appreciate one of nature’s beautiful creations?

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Writing ideas

Writing33A question I am asked quite often is “Where do you get ideas for your stories?” Surprisingly, many writers are asked the same thing. This question puzzles me, not because I don’t know the answer, but because subjects for stories are everywhere. The world is so interesting. People’s behaviour– in fact LIFE–is fascinating.

I might observe a couple at a coffee shop gesticulating wildly and this spurs me to make up their conversation in my mind. My fabricated dialogue probably has nothing to do with what the couple was, in fact, talking about. Still, the seed of a story has been planted. I might develop it into a murder mystery, or a family drama, or even a comedic marital farce. Or I may never write any story prompted by my observation of this couple. Yet simply by noticing them, I came up with an idea.

If you pay attention to what happens around you, you will find an overabundance of stories in ordinary life. If you then allow your imagination to take hold of them and mold them into a feasible plot line, then you will have a narrative that you can develop.

Life. That’s where I get my ideas.

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A Leaky Distraction

13214392-man-desperate-looking-a-bursting-pipe-leaking-waterHere I sit at my desk, ostensibly to work. The problem is that I have a worker in the house to fix a plumbing problem. We have a leak in the wall. Over the past few days we’ve coped with puddles on the floor and water damage to the walls. Today it’s all going to be fixed (fingers crossed).

In addition to my jubilation that our water problem is being attended to, my mood is a tad aggravated because I had to change my schedule in order to stay home all day to be here for the workman. So I have to miss my beloved weekly badminton. No matter, I thought. I’ll just spend the day catching up on my writing.

Hah! I should have known better. First there was the extremely distracting noise from what appears to be a mini-jackhammer as Ernest broke a large hole in the wall to investigate the interior pipes. (He is working about 30 feet away from my desk.) But he couldn’t find a leak, so he traipsed all around the laundry cupboard, the water heater closet and climbed up on the roof outside to try and find the source of the water. This is all well and good, except that he called me over every ten minutes to show me something or ask me a question.

Then our landlady phoned (twice) to discuss the problem.

Oh, and then the pot of soup I’d put on the stove this morning to simmer boiled over leaving a mess to clean up on the stove. And I went to the bathroom and tried to wash my hands, except that the water had been turned off and the faucet was dry. Of course, then I had to dig around our supplies for a hand sanitizer which I just knew was somewhere!

By the time I sat down to write this blog, my mind was blank and I had completely forgotten what I was going to blog about today. Seriously! I think the leak has penetrated my brain and all my good ideas have seeped out!

The house is quiet now, because Ernest has gone out to pick up some parts. It seems he has found the source of the problem. Hurray! I thought I’d better snatch these quiet moments to get my Thursday blog posted. Now to tackle my manuscript. Quick!

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