Thursday, August 17, 2017

summer of 2017

I don't remember the date it started, but I could easily look it up. It's the forest fires (aka wildfires, a term my husband doesn't like).
This province has been on fire all of July and is still an inferno. Here, in Penticton, BC, where I live, we've been lucky. For the most part. First, before the fires started, we had rain and floods. I thought that would be a good thing, because this part of the world has wildfires every year--nothing new. So, with all the spring rain and run-offs and snow meltings, resulting in flooded basements for my neighbours (I don't have a basement) that would mean there wouldn't be fires. Unfortunately, the excess rain and flooding made the fire situation worse. Who would have thought? Apparently, the water made the grass in the forests grow faster and taller, so when the sun came out and heated everything up, the grass turned to tinder. Hence we have the worst wildfire situation in BC history.

As I said, we've been lucky. We weren't flooded, and as for the fires, the worst we've had is really nasty smoky air and all our beautiful mountains shrouded in grey smoke.

Today, and yesterday we had some blue skies. First time since last June, I think. But the fire hazard is still threatening. We could easily be the next fire victims. Thousands of people in the northern part of the province have been evacuated, and are living in temporary accommodations until heaven only knows when. All it would take to put us in that position, would be some idiot tossing a cigarette into the bush, or one simple thunderstorm complete with lightning. Yup, we're a risk, but lucky so far.


Friday, June 2, 2017

back to writing about writing

The travel rants are done. But not necessarily all the traveling. I just had a four day rest in Vancouver. Keeping busy, of course. I was able to see several friends and a grandson, so that was great. I also had a very special honour. The Faculty of Arts at UBC (my alma mater, of course) had invited me to be an alumni representative on the stage, greeting new grads as they paraded across the stage receiving their degrees. I was the first person ever to greet each PhD recipient with the words, "Congratulations, Doctor!"  Thrilling! (Robed in university regalia and processed in with the Mace and dignitaries, WOW!)
But that's not about writing!
Today I'm here at my desk, at Cowork where I rent my lockable desk and come to be away from all distractions) and writing.
My novel, HOUSE OF SECRETS, has been "finished" for several months now. But I still see things I want to fix. Meanwhile, I'm sending out queries to agents.
The first agent I pitched this to was Laura Bradford at the SiWC (Surrey International Writers' Conference) in October 2015. Laura asked for the first 100 pages, with some significant changes. I did the rewrite and sent it to her the following September. No response, so I guess no sale.
So, I continued working on book 2 of the trilogy (BABY'S BREATH), and tweeking HOUSE OF SECRETS.
Since my return from Europe, I've added to my work schedule the task of researching more agents and submitting queries. To date, I've queried Michael Hoogland at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management. Unfortunately, he has already passed on my novel. However, I now have queries out to Sue Miller at Donaghy Literary Group, Cori Deyoe at Three Seas Literary Agency and Suzie Townsend at New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc.
No more of this nonsense of submitting to one agency or publisher and waiting for an eternity for a response--or lack of one. More and more agents are saying they expect the submissions to be simultaneously sent elsewhere. They only want to be advised if and when someone actually accepts the novel and makes an offer. I can do that!

Friday, April 28, 2017

Adventures in Travel

This will (probably) be the last post about the January 9 to February 9, 2017 trip to Europe and the UK.  Just because I want to move on to other topics. However, I did want to say a few words about the actual traveling.
I really love traveling--that is to say, I love seeing other countries, hearing other languages (and trying out the few words I might know in those languages), and meeting people who live in these "strange" (to me) places.
What I don't love is airports. Not even a little! I especially don't love big airports. So, this recent trip had moments, quite a lot of moments, that didn't help my temperament. Probably, exacerbated my annoyances with my travel agent. I should say that she was a very pleasant person, and other than the fact that she didn't think my travel plans were any of my business, she was in many ways, helpful. One thing she did that I was very grateful for, was she lent us her father's wheelchair for my husband. Without that, I really don't know what we would have done!
But this is mainly about airports. Given what I have just said, look at this list and you will understand why I spent most of the thirty days abroad filled with great frustration.
January 9th, we went to the little airport in Penticton. Fine. Not one of the big ones where we have to race from one gate to the next. But the frustration began because of the weather. Traveling in January, one expects weather problems, but this was a bit soon. The wind was too much and in the wrong direction or something, so we sat there for at least two hours for the wind to allow us to go.
At the Vancouver airport (YVR is my least favourite), we had to wait for a few hours because of a medical emergency on the plane we were supposed to be boarding.
Next stop: Frankfurt. Bad weather all over Europe was shutting down some airports, obliging us to wait for a few hours there. So by the time we got to Rome (you'll remember we didn't have any reason to go to Rome), we were thoroughly fed up with waiting. But, of course, that was a stopover, so we had to wait until the next day (in a comfortable hotel, though), for our next flight.
Ho hum. Airports--I hate them, even when the delays are not their fault!
Once in the air, however, I love traveling.
Crossing the Alps! From Rome to Prague

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Scotland

Nearing the end of the journey. Leaving Edinburgh, we went by train to Aberdeen and on to Inverurie, to visit relatives.
Why Edinburgh, you ask? As well you may. Initially, we had a dream list--that's all it was, just a dream list. Unfortunately, the travel agent liked it too, and immediately went ahead and booked (and paid for with my credit card) more flights than we really (in real life) wanted to do. Oh, sure, it would have been nice to have our visit to Assisi, but unfortunately, we realized that it was not practical for my husband with his physical limitations. But, the agent had already booked Assisi, including the Rome stop, before we had a chance to tell her to go ahead. I had told her that I wanted to book the accommodations and would let her know when that was done so she could book flights. But, she didn't listen and it was none of my business.
The same thing happened with Edinburgh. We had hoped to stay at Borthwick Castle. My husband and I had stayed there once before, and we wanted our son to see it. Unfortunately that was fully booked. Nevertheless, the agent had once again booked the flight to Edinburgh. And arrival and departure dates at a hotel. That stop was really unnecessary, but it was already done before we had any chance to confirm our plans.
The rest of it, the trip to our relatives' home, was pretty much as we expected it to be and was certainly the best part (tied with London).
So, aside from resting with loved ones, what did we do? Well, one day we spent touring Glenfiddich Distillery and tasting the best Scotch whiskey there is.
And another day, we headed for the Highlands, and visited another battleground, Culloden.

Liverpool

The trip posts continue, and it's about time. We arrived home on February 9th, and it's already April 25th. The memories are not as fresh as they were.
We had Liverpool on our list because our son is a Beatles fan, and this is Beatles Town. It was good to have a bit of a rest, though. Frank and I stayed in, most of the time, and let Steve have his tour of all the old haunts of his heroes. I did go to Mathew Street, and looked at the Cavern--the new one. But when I came to the souvenir shop and found there was nothing that tempted me, I hurried back to the hotel and told Steve to carry on and get his souvenirs.
The hotel, the Marriott, was all right. Quite ordinary. There was a swimming pool, so we made use of that.
When our second night was over, and we were preparing to leave, that's when the old feelings of being taken advantage of began to nag.
Why on earth did we have to fly to Belfast? Our next stop was to be Edinburgh--also not necessary. That agent, once again, was more interested in her commission than in our trip. Anyone who has ever travelled in the United Kingdom knows that trains go everywhere. Including from Liverpool to Edinburgh or Aberdeen, and certainly to Inverurie. Occasionally, it may be necessary to go by bus. But I cannot fathom why we had to go to Belfast.
Half an hour in the air to Belfast. Four hours sitting in the Belfast airport. Then half an hour in the air to Edinburgh. Then overnight in Edinburgh. Then train to Aberdeen and to Inverurie. At last!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Wales

It was the name. I just love it. Aberystwyth. American TV personality, Jon Stewart, of "Daily Show" fame, once said of Wales that it was so poor in natural resources that it had to import vowels. Looking at this city name, it's easy to see why he would say that. However, Wales is rich in real natural resources--and even in vowels. The word for Thursday, for example, is Iau.  All vowels!

My husband and I had been taking Welsh language lessons for about a year, and were still struggling with it. But it was fun to be in the country where it is spoken and English is tolerated quite nicely. We were there only a few nights, and wouldn't have minded a few more. Our hotel room, really a two-room suite, had a wonderful view of the Irish Sea.

One evening, we three were admiring the view, when suddenly we noticed some activity in the area around a pier. Then the air was darkened by a swarm, a flood, a murmuration of starlings. Some people say that this murmuration sometimes involves no fewer than about 50,000 birds, swirling and swooping like a black version of the Northern Lights. It was breathtaking.

One day, we went for a tour through the countryside, admiring the hills and mountains of this ancient and somewhat obscure land. If you ever watch the British television show, "Hinterland", this is where it's filmed.

Aberystwyth, one of our best stops on this trip.

London

A hundred years ago, or more accurately, almost seventy years ago, my mother and I moved to London from Vancouver and lived there for three years. So, for me, it's sort of my childhood home. Not a happy childhood home. We arrived just a few years after WWII had ended, and my first view of the city was very dismal indeed. Bombed buildings and rationing. And people thoroughly traumatized by their experience. As a result, this Canadian kid who had never heard an air raid siren or had to spend a night in a shelter listening to the terror outside, who had never been deprived of fresh fruit or vegetables, whose experience of rationing was very limited (me)--I was not really welcome. I hated England when I lived there. And yet--despite all of the above--I always feel at home when I visit London.
We had been terribly poor in those dark post-war days, Mum and I. Sometimes we were actually homeless. One night we spent just walking around the city because we had nowhere to go. Another night, we slept in a train station, but I don't remember which one.
I feel at home there because that's where my cousins are. And even one or two friends. So the hotel was not an issue this time.

Our first night, was just to get settled. The next evening, my cousins came and picked us up and we went to the theatre. I had been able to get seven seats in the Royal Circle at the Noel Coward Theatre. The show was called "Half a Sixpence"--and I wish I could recall the names of the performers. They were amazing.

The second day, we spent visiting these same cousins, spending a wonderful evening catching up and reminiscing. Almost all of them had been to Canada at some time or another, and we had a great time. I can't bear to think this could be our last time together, as we are all getting rather long in the tooth.

The third day, I met with a friend I hadn't seen since I was about thirteen and she was about 18 months old. We met at the entrance to the Tower of London, and spent the afternoon together there. I had baby-sat for her when we had lived next door to one another in 1951. While she and I had our visit, my husband and son had a tour of London--disappointing, they said. The city is changing so much that it is hardly recognizable.

Then we caught a train to Wales.