How do opposites enlarge our personalities?

The publishing anniversary of my novel, Curva Peligrosa arrives in September, so the narrative is very much on my mind these days. The book’s title, Curva Peligrosa, names its central female character, but a number of peripheral characters also have a big role. One is Billie One Eye, a member of Alberta’s Blackfoot tribe who becomes the tribal chief.

One of Curva’s major characteristics is her adventuresome spirit and willingness to try new things. In the narrative, she spends 20 years on The Old North Trail. Malcolm Campbell, a reviewer of the novel, points out that Curva travels “America’s first ‘superhighway,’ the Old North Trail, that has seen many hooves, bare feet and moccasins traveling between Southern Mexico and Canada over the past 12,500 years.” Continue reading “How do opposites enlarge our personalities?”

Giving birth to fictional characters

My novel Curva Peligrosa opens with a tornado that sweeps through the fictional town of Weed, Alberta, and drops a purple outhouse into its center. Drowsing and dreaming inside that structure is its owner, Curva Peligrosa—a curiosity and a marvel, a source of light and heat, a magnet. Adventurous, amorous, fecund, and over six feet tall, she possesses magical powers. She also has the greenest of thumbs, creating a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she possesses a wicked trigger finger.

When Curva had ridden into Weed on one of her horses two years earlier, she was like a vision from a surrealistic western with a parrot perched on each shoulder and a goat following. Curva’s glittering gold tooth flashed, and she wore turquoise rings on each finger. A rainbow-striped serape hung from one shoulder. Curva also wore a flat-brimmed black hat and carried a rifle along with six-shooters. Continue reading “Giving birth to fictional characters”

How Are Writers Like Travelers?

My husband and I like to travel when we have the time and money. We’ve managed to visit St. Petersburg, Moscow, the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, Marrakech, Fes, Rabat, Istanbul, the entire Aegean/Mediterranean coast off Turkey, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and many other countries. Continue reading “How Are Writers Like Travelers?”

Writing as an immigrant

When I first moved to the US in 1963 from Western Canada, clutching my green card, I felt excited about residing in a country that seemed much worldlier and more stimulating than how I had envisioned Canada at that time. The American Dream was actually a reality then, and it was possible for someone like me, a high-school dropout and single mother of a six-year-old son, to improve her station in life. And I did. At that time, California offered college for a ridiculously low tuition, but an amount that I could afford. I couldn’t do so now. And by passing the GED, I eventually earned an AA, a BA, and two Masters degrees. Continue reading “Writing as an immigrant”

Dear fellow writers: Don’t avoid editing’s many layers!

editrSmall presses don’t have the reputation that larger presses do of having high editorial standards. But my experience with these presses, especially Regal House Publishing, the one that published my second novel, Curva Peligrosa, was revelatory. Continue reading “Dear fellow writers: Don’t avoid editing’s many layers!”

Where do fictional characters come from?

curvarWhere do fictional characters come from? I’ve been asking myself that question for as long as I’ve been writing, but the complete answer still evades me. The process is as mysterious as the origins of life itself, maybe even more so. At least we know that life on earth evolved from some primordial soup. But what concoction serves as the foundation for those who inhabit our stories? Continue reading “Where do fictional characters come from?”

The Seeds of a Novel

refinery-514010_1920When six-foot Curva Peligrosa rides her horse into Weed, Alberta, after a twenty-year trek up the Old North Trail from southern Mexico, she stops its residents in their tracks. A parrot perched on each shoulder, smiling and flashing her glittering gold tooth, wearing a serape and flat-brimmed black hat, she is unlike anything they have ever seen before. Curva is ready to settle down, but are the inhabitants of Weed ready for her? With an insatiable appetite for life and love, Curva’s infectious energy galvanizes the townspeople. With the greenest of thumbs, she creates a tropical habitat in an arctic clime, and she possesses a wicked trigger finger, her rifle and six-guns never far away. Continue reading “The Seeds of a Novel”

Finding Strength in One’s Opposite

patagonia-1581878_1920My recently released novel, Curva Peligrosa, is very much on my mind these days. I’m doing readings, radio and blog interviews, blog tours, and other events, finding ways to introduce Curva to the wider world. While she is the central figure in this novel, there are a number of peripheral characters that have a big role. One is Billie One Eye, a member of Alberta’s Blackfoot tribe who becomes the tribal chief. Continue reading “Finding Strength in One’s Opposite”

The Enigma of Fictional Characters

With four-plus novels under my belt, I’ve spent lots of time thinking about how writers create believable characters that readers want to hang out with. Not surprisingly, there isn’t any formula to follow. For me, characters start from a seed that might have had a previous life in someone I actually know in real life. But just as often, that seed started with a name or a vague idea and evolved from there.

In my novel Fling!, the two main characters, Feather and Bubbles, did originate in females in my family. Though I’m not a former hippie and visual artist as Feather is, I did clothe her with a few of my characteristics based on my relationship with my actual mother. And Bubbles, Feather’s mother in the novel, has definite roots in my own irrepressible mum. From there, though, these women took on lives apart from my experiences and drove the narrative in directions that completely surprised me.

curva cover copyIn contrast, Curva Peligrosa, from the novel of the same name that will be published in August 2017, didn’t have any connection to an actual person I have known. I just wanted to create a larger than life female character totally unlike me in almost every way. She is over six feet tall, amoral, fearless, powerful, and yet fully feminine. But it wasn’t until I stumbled on her name that she fully took shape in my mind.

Early in the process of writing this novel, my husband and I visited Mexico City; Curva’s origins are in southern Mexico. When we landed, a driver was waiting to take us to a resort we had booked into in Cuernavaca, a small town a two-hour drive away. At each curve we approached, I noticed the words “Curva Peligrosa” and recognized the Spanish for dangerous curve. That’s when it hit me that this was my character’s name. Once I found it, her personality blossomed immediately. I could hear the sound of her voice and her laugh. I knew what she looked like (she resembles Katy Jurado, the once-famous Mexican actress that appeared in High Noon), and the book took off.

Another character that the novel Curva Peligrosa gave birth to is Billie One Eye, one half Blackfoot and one half Scottish (on his mother’s side). Billie totally surprised me. He walked off of a Canadian Blackfoot reservation, a place on the prairies I had visited once when I was around twelve years old. And he proceeded to take up a sizable role in the narrative, adding ballast and balance to Curva. He’s inherited his mother’s red hair, and eventually takes over his father’s role as tribal chief. Clearly, I have no Native Canadian heritage to draw on, but I can do extensive research and I did learn a good deal about the Blackfoot and Billie’s quest as a creator of totems, masks, and other indigenous art.

Where do you think characters come from?






No, Virginia, There Is No Santa Claus

Before I committed myself to writing and became part of that world, I had no idea what was involved in constructing a novel. I assumed the narrative flowed easily from the writer’s pen to paper (and in those days, a lot of writing was done with a pen or pencil, though typewriters also were used). The finished product looked so pristine that I couldn’t imagine it ever being anything but perfect. Not only did narratives read as if they had come fully formed from Zeus himself, but they also were error free.

Ha Ha Ha!

Now that I have another novel almost ready to find its place on bookshelves everywhere, I have a more realistic picture of what’s involved, and it’s a great illustration of publishing sleight of hand. What appears easy to a reader is anything but for the writer and her editors.

santa-31665_1280If you are the kind of person who continued believing in Santa Claus after your parents said he didn’t exist, you may not want to read on. I hate to disillusion anyone! But the only thing magical about creating fiction is what takes place between pen and paper—the imagination. Without it, our work would languish. Otherwise, the process is messy and, largely, trial and error.

For Curva Peligrosa, my novel that will be published this summer, I spent many years learning about my characters as they revealed themselves to me and discovering their stories. I’m not the kind of writer who outlines a plot in advance and then proceeds to write. Some can do this successfully, and maybe it’s not as chaotic. I can’t. I like surprises as a reader and as a writer. Planning in advance would eliminate much of the fun for me of inventing the novel’s world.

Once I discovered Curva’s center of gravity, I was able to get close enough to its finished form that I could ask fellow writers to read and comment on its chapters, giving me a sense of what was working and what wasn’t. When I felt I had a complete draft, I asked a trusted published colleague to critique it. Her feedback started me off on numerous rounds of revisions (we’re talking about over 300 double-spaced pages!) that included two professional editors I hired before I submitted the manuscript to Regal House Publishing and the publisher sent me a contract.

But that was only the beginning of several more rounds of content revising and close line editing. I’ve recently gone through yet another proofreading of the text, and I’ll need to go through it again after my publisher has also reviewed the manuscript.

I don’t mean to discourage any beginning writers, but you should have a realistic picture of what’s involved in giving birth to a novel, especially if you have literary ambitions and aren’t just writing pot-boilers. No, Virginia, there isn’t a Santa Claus, but writing a well-constructed novel can be even better.

How Readers Give Birth to Novels

These past weeks have reminded me of when I was eight months pregnant and bursting at the seams. I anticipated the child I was carrying whose gender I didn’t know yet. I also didn’t know the impact he (yes, a son) would have on my life. But friends and family were overloading me with anecdotes from their own lives, either from giving birth themselves and the various dimensions of that process, or with recommendations on planning for the child’s wellbeing and future. So young, I didn’t have a clue about what goes into raising a child to adulthood.

What has taken me back so many years to that amazing time? My novel Curva Peligrosa will be released this summer, and I’ve been working intensely with the publisher on revisions, back-cover copy, and front-cover images. As with any collaboration, there are highs and lows. I’m the one who has spent years (at least ten) giving life to this work, from its initial inception triggered by a news story I had read to the final chapter. I know the characters as well as anyone can since they are products of my imagination. I’ve given birth to them!

mexican womanYet the novel’s future once it is released remains beyond my knowledge. I can send out advance review copies to major publications. I can schedule radio and TV interviews. I can book readings at bookstores, libraries, and other venues. I can offer the novel to book clubs and arrange to visit them in person or via Skype. I can do Goodreads and Amazon giveaways and participate in numerous blog tours. But once the book launches, I have no control over how it’s received.

I can only hope that Curva, the novel’s main character, finds her way into readers’ hearts, and they will help her progress on whatever path lies ahead. Writers carry part of the burden, but readers are just as important in helping a work to flourish.