Interview with guest author Meg Dendler, who has just published a new book—BIANCA

 

Bianca_kindlecover_6-21-17Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess, published, 12/1/2017

Genre: Middle Grade

Editions, ISBNs, and Pricing:

Paperback 978-0692920411 $9.99

Hardcover 978-0692938294 $24.99

Ebook 978-0692938300 $2.99

“Princess Bianca rules, in every way! This tale of intrepid discovery and determination will delight young readers and will dare those who deal with the dragons of self-doubt, frustration, and bullying to step out and challenge those menaces to a duel.”

New England Children’s Book Review—Listed as a Favorite

Great reviews of Bianca

https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/meg-welch-dendler/bianca2/

http://www.necbookreview.com/bianca

Books are available at the following outlets:

https://www.amazon.com/Bianca-Brave-Frail-Delicate-Princess/dp/0692920412/

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/bianca-meg-welch-dendler/1127314425?ean=9780692920411

Description of Bianca:

Princess Bianca had never set foot outside the castle walls. Not once in her over-protected, pink, fluffy life. But when a dragon was spotted in the land and fear spread that the monster had conquered the king and his brave knights, Bianca realized that it was her duty to protect her kingdom. She will have to prove that she can be braver and stronger than anyone believed because the threat outside the protection of her castle tower was more dangerous and magical than she ever imagined possible, except in a fairy tale.

Serenity Mountain Publishing

Springdale, Arkansas

832-922-3294

meg@megdendler.com

Interview with Meg Dendler

When did you first write a story? What was it about?

The first story that I really remember writing was actually a picture book version of The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess in fifth grade. It was not very good at all from a grown-up perspective, and the plot was diametrically opposite from the plot of the book I have now published, but it won a merit award at a contest through the University of Illinois. I have no idea how many other winners there were, but it was a huge deal for me. Someone in the program did a puppet show of the story. I have vivid memories of that. During the rest of the school year, I wrote sequels to the story and shared them with my classmates, who were delighted and very encouraging. All of that told me writing was something I was good at. I usually credit that with being the time I decided I was a writer.

What feeds your process?

I much prefer to write first thing in the morning. The further I get into the day, the more life intrudes and my head gets cluttered. I’ve also learned that a whole day can get away from me before I know it, so I try to get the writing in early. I’d love to say that I write every day, but I don’t. Not even close. The business side of being an author is also demanding. It is a balancing act. What works for me is to set deadlines. If I want the next book to be published on a certain date (I generally do one a year), when do I need to have a first draft done? When will it need to be to the editor? I have learned to back that process up along the path of publication and set goals and deadlines. Meeting those keeps me on task. I often hole up in my office near the end of writing a book and just pound it out. First draft are the bane of my existence. I despise writing them. But I love having them done and starting to mess and fuss and edit and revise, so the first draft has to happen. There is never any music in my office. That would just distract me. I’d start choreographing in my head or something. Too many years as a dancer, I suppose. I work in silence. And I always write at home and at my desktop computer. I don’t think I would be productive at all in a public place. I’ve done some drafting on paper and note-taking in restaurants over the years, but that was mostly out of necessity for being stuck in that place and wanting to get some work done. It’s never my first choice. If an idea comes to me at an odd time of the day, I jot it down for later. I rarely expect to remember it. I have manila folders in stacks with ideas for specific books and ideas for books I haven’t started yet. Sometimes I pick up a note and have no idea what I meant when I jotted it down, but most end up going into something along the way.

What genres do you write in?

The majority of the time, I write middle-grade fiction. At least that is what I am currently focused on and publishing. But I have a YA biography in with a publisher for consideration right now and a picture book under consideration with a different editor. I have a few other picture books in the drawer waiting their turn for revision and attention. One of my published books is women’s paranormal fiction, and a book I’m currently working on is a memoir of our five years running a guesthouse. I guess genre is where the book ends up, but I just try to focus on the story. That will lead you where it needs to be for the reader it is designed for. Who is the audience who will enjoy that particular story? Once you determine that, then you can adjust and focus as necessary to meet that reader in the right place to have your story be for them.

Where do your ideas come from for stories/books?

For my Cats in the Mirror books, the ideas came from the cats and dogs themselves. Deciding, in jest, that our insane cat Kimba must be an alien led to the short story that led to the middle-grade book that led to the whole series. It just kept growing and expanding. My adult novel, At the Corner of Magnetic and Main, was sparked by a visit to a kitschy diner that was located literally at the corners of Magnetic Road and Main Street in our town of Eureka Springs. A writer friend joke that it would be a good book title. I played with that idea for a bit and realized that it would have to involve ghosts because that is something the town is known for. That idea grew and grew and became a book I never intended to write at all. My newest book, Bianca: The Brave Frail and Delicate Princess has been brewing and shifting and been rewritten in various forms since fifth grade, but I love the final version and the message it has to share. I have no idea where the original thought for the story came from, but I suspect that my love of the Dragonriders of Pern books has influenced my female character as well as my dragon. Even in fifth grade, I may have already been exposed to that series. My mom read them to me when I was about that age.

As people learned about your books, what unexpected things happened along the way?

When I first started going to events and sitting at booths and tables with my first few cat books, readers made it clear they wanted a dog book. I’d hear that question several times at each event. “Don’t you have one about dogs?” Nowhere in my plan was there a dog book, but I do have a dog and he is part of the Cats in the Mirror series. The cats call him The Big Black Beast. And if I thought about it, Max did have a story of his own to tell. He had run off one evening and spent the night on his own in the Ozark Mountains around our house. There was a story there. So I tried writing it and thoroughly enjoyed it. Readers did too. One mother told me her son has read Max’s Wild Night nine times. That’s about the best it gets for an author! I assumed that would be the end of it, but then my older daughter (who is a dog fanatic and trains them for a living) insisted that her dog needed a book as well. Dottie’s Daring Day was suggested. I have found that’s about all I need. Give me a great title like that, and I’m off and running. I highly suspect there will be another dog book before I’m done.

How do you start a novel/story?

Sometimes I have a general idea about how the story is going to go. I sort of know that C, J, K, Q, and V are going to happen as it unfolds. But I don’t always know how it will all fit together. What I will often do is start with the scenes I know. I’ll write C and J and then see how I feel about it. I’ve often ended up with weird chunks of story that all have to be tied together to make sense. Some of what I originally planned may have to change, but that’s okay. If I waited until I understood every second of the story, I might never start. It would be too frustrating. I just have to jump in and poke at it a bit and let the characters tell me about themselves and where they want to go. I usually know how it will end. Especially with the cat series because they have to work together and lead into the next one. There’s a bigger story going on when you deal with a series. I know things that will happen in Book 10. So then I have to decide what it will take for the characters to get there and what will be a part of each smaller storyline along the way. I jot down ideas and make notes and write until it flows and makes sense. With kidlit, you have a very limited word count. Maybe 30,000 words for the whole story. You can’t mess around. You have to know the plot points that are important and get to them directly. Maybe that’s why I start there.

What does your writing space look like?

I work “old school” at a desk with a computer. My laptop is only for fun and games. I love my desk. It belonged to my grandfather, so it is pre-1900. Besides being this massive wooden structure with beautiful carvings, it has all kinds of side trays that I can pull out to put books and notes on. It’s fantastic for a writer. Because I work as an editor for other writers along with my own writing, I have a private office in our house that is only for my work use. No TV or anything like that. The one frivolous thing in there is my Disney mini-plush collection and my storybook stuffed animals. They surround me. I freely admit to talking with them when I get stuck in a story. They don’t answer, but it helps me process. There is usually a cat or two in the room with me as well, and Max (our dog) likes to lie across my doorway to protect me while I work. I try to keep things tidy with “in” baskets and folders. There is usually a stack of papers that are more urgent “to do” items. The running of a publishing business involves a lot of paper! In general, I’m a very organized person, so I try to keep my writing space tidy.

What’s the hardest part of writing or publishing?

For me personally, the first draft is the hardest part. Even if I know exactly what is going to happen, I have the hardest time sitting down and getting myself to do it. After reading The War of Art and Big Magic I found that I’m not alone in that problem. It’s just a resistance to creativity and productivity that is out there in the universe. I find that idea annoying—a resistance to creativity— and it help me to fight against it. Once I have gotten a full first draft out, that’s when the fun starts. That’s when it gets interesting and exciting because I’m making it better and better and getting closer to being done. I love the editing and revising process. Maybe that’s why I devote time to helping other authors as their editor. That’s the part where a book comes alive.

Do you travel to research your books?

Resized Headshot 2014

I definitely did specific research for At the Corner of Magnetic and Main to include real things and places in Eureka Springs, but I also fictionalized the town to suit my own needs. For Dottie’s Daring Day, I came up with the idea of having the book be something a child could walk through from beginning to end. It is set in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where the real Dottie lives with our daughter. From the moment Dottie gets off her leash, you can figure out where she is on the Razorback Greenway Trail and follow her journey down the trail, across Dickson Street, onto the University of Arkansas campus, and around and into the stadium. I walked the route many times and found things to work into the book. Dottie and my daughter made the trip with me a few times as well. The big drawback to that reality attempt is that things and landscapes change. When I was on the verge of publication—the book was formatted and in final edits and touchups—the university decided to blow up the front of the stadium and rebuild. Okay, I realized they probably decided that months or years ahead of time, but the demolition took place days before publication for me. I had a whole scene that took place in that space that was now a big crater of dust and rubble. All I could do at that point was add a comment in the “author notes” section at the back and move forward. I have some story ideas for a cat book that takes place in Italy. I should definitely travel to research that one!

 

 

 

Where would your dream book signing occur?

Well, I suppose it would be at some massive SCBWI event, and I would be sitting next to Sharon Creech and Lisa Yee and Natalie Lloyd, and they would think my books are delightful and amazing. That would set me for life.

 

 

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Writing as an Affliction

I was pumping hard on the exercise bike at the gym while having a conversation with the fellow riding next to me. We had introduced ourselves and exchanged backgrounds. He had just learned that I’m a published writer and was intrigued by the idea, congratulating me on the recent release of my second published novel Curva Peligrosa. I surprised myself by laughing dryly and calling writing an affliction.

Later, I thought about my response. On the surface it sounds negative. To be afflicted by something is to be troubled by a disorder or disease or some kind of suffering. While I’ve certainly struggled many times when I’ve run into snags in creating short or long narratives, or in revising a poem, I haven’t considered my vocation in such a negative light before. But at the gym, I had experienced a classic Freudian slip and needed to unpack what it meant.

home-office-336378_1920 (1)I think I used the word affliction because writers don’t have much choice if they want to honor a talent they were born with. The affliction part involves my need to write regularly, every day, in fact. For me, it’s as important as eating. I must exorcise myself of the poems and narratives that are lurking in my unconscious and pressing to be released. Since these entities rely on me in order to see daylight, I’m in a constant state of motherhood, and that can sometimes feel like a huge responsibility. Those of you that have been mothers will surely understand what I mean! Raising children requires sacrifices. As a writer I give up a good deal so I can fit in my daily writing practice.

The word practice adds a new twist to this reflection, taking on a different connotation. We talk about the practice of medicine or a legal practice, and both applications fit here. Doctors and lawyers know they have to continue practicing their particular discipline in order to succeed. But I’m also thinking of practice in another light: as a spiritual discipline. Writing not only takes me deep into my psyche, but it also forces me to explore the world around me more extensively, to be as alert and aware as possible so I can incorporate what I’m experiencing in my written work. This practice at times has a mystical, sacred dimension.

Of course, writing isn’t just an affliction. It also can bring joy or the deeply satisfying pleasure of accomplishment when things go well, when our poems and prose find their readers. Then whatever sacrifices we have had to make don’t seem like losses at all. They become part of the process of what it means to be a writer.

 

 

 

 

A mystical, magical story, brilliantly conceived, reviewed by Linda Appleman Shapiro

Whatever the genre, it’s always fascinating to see how authors choose to structure their work.

In CURVA PELIGROSA, Lily Iona Mackenzie posits what’s real and what’s fantasy with a painter’s brush creating color and contrast and a poet’s ear allowing us to hear the nuances of reality and imagined truths.

As Curva herself travels through time and space with an urgent need to make every moment meaningful, the reader is, as if galloping along, following her every move so as not to miss a moment on her quest to conquer time, to breathe life into all the seeds she plants and to share them with whomever she meets.

As in her debut novel, FLING!, here, too, MacKenzie has the reader bouncing about along with her main character, Curva, and her boundless energy, not always knowing where she is or what time it is. Yet, she describes everything—all that seems real and in the moment as well as what her rich imagination conjures up—with the same degree of mystical and magical eloquence.

From the start, Curva tells us that she has learned much of what she knows and thinks about life and death from reading Don Quixote to whom she refers to often enough to make us hypnotically aware of the parallels in their lives—each illuminating aspects of human nature as they whip us into a frenzy of fantasy and madness mixed with a measure of reality, all the while challenging and awakening our senses and sensibilities.

Curva PeligrosaUnlike most other women in the town of Weed, Alberta, Curva is a 6 feet tall voluptuous woman who exudes her own brand of power as a palm reader, mid-wife, healer, mother, and lover who refuses to settle for the ordinary or the mundane. She is thought of by others as “untamed” and “unpredictable.” Her appetite for travel, along with her lack of sexual inhibitions is as compelling as her unquenchable thirst for discovering the deepest mystery of all—a desire to discover a potion to prolong life, a lesson she learned from Don Quixote that “too much sanity may be madness—and maddest of all is to see life as it is, and not as it should be.”  She will not be robbed of her dreams nor her belief that immortality is attainable.  “It puzzles her,” Mackenzie writes, “that while sleep resembled death in that she lost consciousness, she always woke in the morning. Why, then, couldn’t humans wake from death in a similar way? Why couldn’t they live forever?  What was the secret?”

A secret, indeed! So we experience her as a very real albeit eccentric woman, with a need to walk the earth (traveling across the Old North Trail for twenty years before the book even begins and before she plants herself in the town of Weed)—as Don Quixote coined the phrase, “those who walk much and read much, know much and see much.”

Throughout her journey, Curva develops an ability to nurture all things in the natural world—all that grows from a single seed to every animal that breathes and basks in the lands they inhabit.  Yet she also travels internally, exploring the psychological underpinnings that hold us in her grip—all that propels her into action, giving her permission to feel at once fully human and at the same time capable of dancing around truths that others don’t see or that they take for granted. Perhaps most impressive of all is the effect she has on all who cross her path, leaving them changed forever, as she herself changes with time.

Yet Mackenzie’s Curva does know how “transitory” her powers are and how “fickle” time can be. Following the teachings of Don Quixote, she exemplifies wisdom, “knowing that things aren’t always as they appear on the surface, she studies what is happening around her for its hidden meaning, trying to discern the message it carries.” She studies all that is found beneath the surface of the earth’s soil as well as beneath the superficial surface of most people, telling us: “the roots, the plant’s lifeline, worked in the dark to absorb nutrients from the soil that were then passed along to leaves, vegetables, and flowers. They in turn converted sunlight into energy that stimulated the ongoing process. This dynamic helped her to appreciate her friend Billie’s belief in a land of the dead.”

When Billie becomes chief of his Blackfoot tribe, he addresses a crowd at his father’s burial ceremony, asking them: “What is life?” In words that can only be described as poetic, he paints his vision: “It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of the buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” He ends by saying: “My father’s spirit has left his body and is traveling westward across the prairie grass, over the Bow River, and into the mountains. It ascends the mountains to the high clouds where a bright light will guide it to the place where loved ones wait to embrace it. The spirit lives forever.”

Curva, too, is fascinated by all that is transformed into spirit. “Metamorphosis” she tells us, happens constantly. “One thing changed into another form, like the clouds’ transmutations, the graceful way they shifted shape.” She sees, death, too, as just another stage in life’s on-going process.

She channels Xavier, her dead twin brother’s energy, and as his essential spirit appears to her, he reminds her that he always loved magic and “death is all about sleight of hand. Making things disappear . . . death is a magician. Now you see someone, now you don’t. Here today, gone tomorrow.”

As she continues her life’s journey throughout the novel, the other supporting characters—along with Billie and Xavier—reflect her own yearnings and self-imposed challenges. Her dog, Dios, serves as her side-kick as Sancho Panza does for Don Quixote; her daughter Sabina (whose conception and birth remain a mystery) reflects her mother’s quest to better understand all of life’s mysteries, but she does so through the use of a camera’s lens.

Even as Curva’s story comes to its literary end, MacKenzie writes a magnificent “Coda.” She refuses to allow us to lazily accept a conventional ending, an easy wrap. She tells us what we always think as we complete reading any good story and wonder what happens to the places and all who peopled its pages.

Like her character, Curva, she begins the coda by saying: “This isn’t the end of the story, of course. Curva and Billie could have many years ahead of them, and she’ll likely continue her search for immortality, not realizing that she and the others will live on not only in this book but also in your imagination.” Likewise, she fills in the blanks of possibilities we may consider . . . and as Billie describes death as a part of the life cycle, MacKenzie refuses to have her story end. In so doing, she gifts us by opening the door to other magical and mystical possibilities, thereby allowing the book’s spirit to live on.

Thanks to Linda Appleman Shapiro http://applemanshapiro.com/ for this thoughtful, inspiring review!

 

 

Check out this exciting guide for fantasy and sci fi writers on how to create imaginary worlds!

TourBanner_CreatingSpaces

Randy_Ellefson_2013-0265_300dpiAUTHOR Bio and Links:

Randy Ellefson has written fantasy fiction since his teens and is an avid world builder, having spent three decades creating Llurien, which has its own website. He has a Bachelor’s of Music in classical guitar but has always been more of a rocker, having released several albums and earned endorsements from music companies. He’s a professional software developer and runs a consulting firm in the Washington D.C. suburbs. He loves spending time with his son and daughter when not writing, making music, or playing golf.

Creating Places universal buy link: http://www.books2read.com/creatingplaces

The Art of World Building Podcast http://www.artofworldbuilding.com/podcast (launching a week before the tour)

The Art of World Building Website: http://www.ArtofWorldBuilding.com

Author Website: http://www.RandyEllefson.com

FREE eBook: http://fiction.randyellefson.com/freebook/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/randyellefson

FaceBook: https://www.facebook.com/RandyEllefsonAuthor

Google+: https://www.google.com/+RandyEllefson

NOTE: The book series has a new podcast where even more details are discussed. This podcast is free to listen! Follow along here: http://www.artofworldbuilding.com/podcast

Randy Ellefson will be awarding an ultimate world builder’s package to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Click here:

 

 

http://www.artofworldbuilding.com/giveaways/ultimate-world-builders-giveaway/

BookCover_CreatingPlacesCreating a unique, immersive setting one place at a time.

CREATING PLACES (THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, #2) is a detailed how-to guide on inventing the heart of every imaginary world – places. It includes chapters on inventing planets, moons, continents, mountains, forests, deserts, bodies of water, sovereign powers, settlements, and interesting locales. Extensive, culled research on each is provided to inform your world building decisions and understand the impact on craft, story, and audience. You’ll also learn how and when to create history and maps. Experts and beginners alike will benefit from the free templates that make building worlds easier, quicker, and more fun.

Learn the difference between types of monarchies, democracies, dictatorships and more for realistic variety and believable conflict. Understand how latitude, prevailing winds, and mountains affect climate, rainfall, and what types of forests and deserts will exist in each location. Consistently calculate how long it takes to travel by horse, wagon, sailing vessels, or even dragon over different terrain types and conditions.

CREATING PLACES is the second volume in THE ART OF WORLD BUILDING, the only multi-volume series of its kind. Three times the length, depth, and breadth of other guides, the series can help fantasy and science fiction creators determine how much to build and why, how to use world building in your work, and whether the effort to create places will reap rewards for you and your audience.

Excerpt:

The term “tidal locking” will make many of us think of tides, but these are unrelated phenomenon. Our moon is tidally locked to the Earth. The same side is always facing us because the moon rotates on its axis in the same number of days it takes to orbit us. This might seem coincidental and unique, but most significant moons in our solar system are tidally locked to their planet; those nearest experience this first. Tidal locking is an eventual result caused by gravity. Early in a moon’s orbiting, it might not be tidally locked, but ours may have become locked in as few as a hundred days (its proximity and size having much to do with this). A moon that is not tidally locked may have recently formed or been captured by the planet. Either way, the stabilization process hasn’t completed.

As world builders, we have some leeway to claim a satellite is locked or not. Most people are unfamiliar with the concept and we should only mention it if locking has occurred, as readers will assume the opposite without being told. Note that a close, large moon like ours will almost certainly be locked; during the brief period when ours was not, it and the Earth were molten and devoid of life.

Normally, only the satellite is locked to the planet, but they can become mutually tidally locked, as happened with Pluto and its moon, Charon. This means that each of them only sees one side of the other. If we stood on our moon, we’d see all sides of Earth as it rotates, but from Earth, we see only one side of the moon because they are not mutually tidally locked. If they were, the moon would stay in the exact same spot in the sky. About half the planet would see it, while the other half wouldn’t even know it existed unless traveling to the far side of the world. This would eliminate most tides (see next section) except those caused by the sun.

Be sure to follow Randy’s blog tour and comment. The more you comment, the better your chances of winning. The tour dates can be found here:

http://goddessfishpromotions.blogspot.com/2017/10/blurb-blitz-creating-places-by-randy.html

Giveaway

Thanks for visiting. We look forward to your comments!

 

 

In Defense of Fiction: Is It Appropriate to Appropriate?

During a recent radio interview with Kate Raphael of KPFA’s Women’s Magazine, she asked me if I worried about being accused of appropriation because I’m writing about cultures/characters that aren’t my own. We were discussing my latest novel, Curva Peligrosa. Curva is originally from Southern Mexico. Another character, Billie One Eye, is half Blackfoot and half Scottish. They feature prominently in this book.

My response? An emphatic no!

Years ago, I read James Baldwin’s powerful short story “Going To Meet the Man” that features Jesse, a white sheriff. Baldwin had no difficulty entering this character’s world and taking me as a reader with him. I never questioned for a minute Baldwin’s imaginative capacity to do so.

A more recent example? Conjure Woman’s Cat, a novella by Malcolm Campbell, features a cat as the narrator. The author has no trouble convincing me that I’m overhearing this animal’s take on his mistress and his surroundings. Of course, this is fiction, not the real world, but I’m able to enter into the illusion without any problem. Nor did Campbell, a white man, have difficulty constructing an elderly female black woman.

typewriter-801921_1920It’s true that not all fiction writers may be able to inhabit other genders or races. It takes an imaginative leap to do so and some knowledge of that world you’re entering. But then isn’t that the sign of a skilled fiction writer? Aren’t we constantly inventing characters and settings and cultures independent of our own? In my novel Fling!, I wrote about Mexico City, a place I hadn’t visited yet, though I had been to other parts of Mexico. When I did visit Mexico City, some time after I had completed the novel, I discovered that my rendition was accurate, based on the research I did of the period (the 1920s) and the culture.

I’m so grateful that I’ve had the opportunity to explore Mexico and Canadian aboriginals and Trinidadians through Curva and Billie One Eye and Kadeem, all characters I’ve created. They have allowed me to expand my experience of multiculturalism and to encourage others to become more aware of people and places they otherwise wouldn’t know. This would not have happened if I felt, as a writer, I could only write about my own limited perspective. Isn’t the American (and Canadian) melting pot about dissolving such limitations? Why then would we want to demand that our fiction writers adhere to such restrictions under the mistaken view that if white writers stopped writing about characters from minority backgrounds, they would open more opportunities for minority writers.

As Svetlana Mintcheva points out in her Salon article “Writer’s imagination vs. cultural appropriation: In search of common ground,” “…when dominant culture writers engage with other cultures in their books, rather than steal this opportunity away from minority writers, they actually help generate interest in marginalized cultures. They may, in turn, help open up a market for writers speaking from within such cultures.” Amen!

This nativism approach only supports the Trumps of the world and undermines our attempts at multiculturalism if we all have to be locked into our own limited perspective. I read and write to learn about others who are totally different from myself. Does it mean Faulkner should not have written his amazing books that feature black characters? Does it mean if I’m a female writer, I can’t create a male character even though we all are biologically bisexual? Does it mean I can’t imagine myself into other’s shoes? Isn’t that a fiction writer’s major trick, to engage her reader’s imagination?

I agree with Neil Gaiman in the New Statesman, “I suppose my essential position is that I’m against any kind of imagination police, whether they’re coming from marketing reasons or from class snobbery.” Let’s appropriate wisely and continue opening the doors to perception!

The Seeds of a Novel

When 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.

Then a tornado tears though Weed, leaving all the inhabitants’ lives in disarray and revealing dark remains that cause the Weedites to question their foundations. And that’s how the novel starts, with the twister hurtling Curva’s purple outhouse into the center of town, Curva inside, “peering through a slit in the door at the village dismantling around her.”

From then on, we follow Curva and the Weedites as they recover from the chaos that follows. As the above synopsis shows, a good portion of Curva Peligrosa’s narrative takes place in the fictional small town of Weed, Alberta, about twenty-five miles from what is now a major city, Calgary. When I left the city in 1963, the population was two hundred fifty thousand. Today, Calgary, and its environs, has well over a million people.

While Curva Peligrosa doesn’t have autobiographical roots (I’m not Mexican American or six feet tall. Nor do I have a gold tooth!), it does refinery-514010_1920have some parallels to historical moments in the province. When I was growing up in that area, agriculture was the main source of income. But in 1947, significant oil reserves were discovered at Leduc, Alberta, ushering in the oil boom that continues today. The excitement over extracting black gold from the earth brought job seekers and others to the area, eager to exploit the province’s riches.

I must have registered these developments subliminally, even though it wasn’t something I was particularly conscious of at the time. And as a young woman, I did secretarial work for Sinclair Canada Oil and other American petroleum companies. Impressionable, I thought the Texas accents signified power and prosperity and wanted to emulate them, faking a drawl whenever I could. It took me a while to realize that, in fact, many Americans were taking over our land and much of its oil.

My association with these (mainly) southerners fueled my interest in moving to America in my early twenties. Eventually I became an American citizen so that, as a single parent, I could take advantage of California’s university system and earn degrees (a B.A. and two Masters degrees) from San Francisco State. So while my early contact with these oilmen may not have been personally promising at the time, the experience propelled me into seeking higher education that wasn’t then available to me in Canada. However, the earlier image of American oilmen making off with our prairie identity had been planted. It stayed with me, surfacing in Curva Peligrosa and in Curva’s concerns over what she was witnessing in Weed, a town she had recently made her home. But none of this was intentional when I began the narrative. I had no idea then where it would take me.

In the novel, Shirley, an americano who is buying up nearby land so he can own all of the oil rights, represents the kind of southerner from my earlier experience. In Curva Peligrosa, he ends up being a villain in the old sense of the word where many readers will end up booing him. In turn, Shirley seems to embrace that identity and to enjoy the turmoil he is creating, not only in Curva, but also in the Weedites themselves. I had created a kind of Trumpian character long before Trump had brought chaos to America.

Like Curva, I’m not adverse to some kinds of development, but I do recognize that the word can be misleading. In certain cases, it might represent growth and advancement for the people involved. For example, the Blackfoot tribe in Curva Peligrosa benefit from the oil wealth. It allows them to build a museum that highlights Native life and also to open their own university. Under the leadership of their chief Billie One Eye, the wealth gives them an identity they otherwise had lacked, even though they sold out to the americano in order to enrich their tribe.

But in many other instances, such development can deplete the land of valuable resources and drastically disturb the environment, improving a few lives but enslaving many, not unlike what we are witnessing today in America. The continued practice of mining and burning coal doesn’t make sense given its harmful effects on the environment. This imbalance becomes one of Curva’s concerns. She also hates how life’s pace has speeded up, not leaving time for the basics, such as enjoying leisurely meals with friends and loved ones, fiestas, and sex.

I hadn’t set out to write a novel that harbored a political slant, but once I became involved in Curva’s quest, I didn’t have any choice but to follow along and express her concerns. In the process, I learned how seeds planted in our unconscious early on do sprout and bloom in our writing.

Thanks to TNBBC for publishing my blog post “Giving Birth to Fictional Characters.” You can view it here: http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/

Thanks to TNBBC (The Next Best Book Blog) for publishing my post “Giving Birth to Fictional Characters.” You can view it here:

http://thenextbestbookblog.blogspot.com/