Pre-marathon

SUBTITLE: NOT A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE COULD REALLY CARE LESS ABOUT THIS. But still, it’s my blog, so, “I don’t GAVE a F*CK,” as the gruff locals say on Penrose Pond.

I understand from watching the Olympics and such that marathoners often do a lengthy run shortly before the race for which they are training. This final simulation gives them relatable experience and confidence in their preparation. At the same time, it’s not as long as their actual race, so they have to project a mental extension into their fatigue and expect intangibles like competitive spirit, adrenalin, desire and other unknowables to emerge on race day.

There’s a danger in this. In fastball, I remember hitting several consecutive home runs in a batting drill, just before our season opener. The Jugs pitching machine was set at full speed and was whirring in dropballs. I was hammering those pitches all over the ball diamond. My confidence ran high and I couldn’t wait to see our opponent’s live pitching.

Those, of course, were the last dropballs I saw that season.

So, to drag the original metaphor over the finish line, the pre-marathon that is a novel’s first draft can be deceptive, I suppose. I don’t know, because I’ve only ever written one and I just finished it last night.

On November 11, 2017, I wrote the first 673 words. I wrote a flashback opening sequence. I thought my editor would balk, but, like Mikey of  Seventies breakfast cereal fame, “He liked it!”

From there I went on, stroking out line drives and sharp grounders. I pulled fat pitches around the foul pole — and yes, beloved daughters of mine, there are some foul ones in there. (Sorry!) I bulled my way through a cold November and withstood both the freeze-up of our plumbing and the mid-novel doldrums of December. With a flip of my calendar page, I turned January into last month, passing Janice’s birthday with hardly a flicker. (Paying dearly – a mistake I won’t repeat, no matter how compelling the MC!) February leapt by and soon it was March. The fifteenth became the nineteenth — more notable birthdays that I met in the sweat latitudes — as I wrote steadfastly about the distant boreal and her splendour.

Then, on March 22, (good old double-digits, my lucky charm) I wrote 2,599 words, the concluding litany of a string of 100,089. The last two: “The End.”

“A back-country road trip into the secret, lethal places within the Canadian boreal forest through the four seasons: friendship, loss, guilt, and violence.”

* * *

“What’s next?”

Good question. I am hoping Editor James holds out his hand and asks, “the red pill or the blue pill?” Somehow, I don’t think it will be that easy. I think that I just recently got used to the loping cadence and easy restrictions of my original precis. Will this familiar pace continue? I trashed that first outline into an all but unrecognizable hulk. Will I run rampant in draft two? If I do, what will be left?

So many questions. For now, I will save a place for my familiar characters, and maybe leave a spot open in case someone new drops in. I know that if I keep the ending I wrote at 2:07 A.M., I’ll then have to change the flashback opening – maybe just one word though.

Or maybe all of them?

Still and Cold boathouse mulholland

 

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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The 8K-word Story

Around Halloween, I sent my freelance Editor, James, a precis for a story that I hoped would be, “a little longer than my usual 3,500 or so.”

He replied that I should not feel bound by the 8,000-word limit I had set in mind. “You’ve more than an 8,000-word outline here, looks to me,” he wrote back.

“Well, we’ve been playing catch with this thing since November and I am now on the brink of the 90,000-word elevation. OMG. Startled emoji. #climbingEverest. I have kept my routine intact for this long-form excursion – write every day, usually in the morning. Edit a little, but not full-out. Read segments aloud to Jan.

I’ve been sending James instalments every three or four days. He usually replies within two or three. He suggests, trims, refines, but uses small tools – the big John Deere is still in the shed.

The novel cadence, I find, is a little like a game of catch with a football. You catch, adjust the ball in your grip, line up the laces, chatter a bit, set up, take a step and toss it. Repeat.

James keeps things in bounds that tend to creep around, run aground, deafen with too much sound, and bark like a hound. Like… The plot: “You killed him?” The location: “I thought they were out in the boat, not on the dock!” Character traits: “Don’t be so soft on him. Make him a real bastard!” Style: “I’d say this is rather not Toewsian! You do well with the ands, not the short sentences, don’t be afraid!” The POV:  “Why are we in Vivaca’s head?” Mechanics: “Why do you use so many semi-colons?

Etc.

And now we are reaching the end. It’s scary. It’s not the REAL end, it’s the end of the first draft, James reminds, but still. Change is afoot. Hope I can still go to sleep in a rowboat adrift on Bannock Lake and wake up pushing a pick-up truck out of the snow on the side of a granite outcropping. I’ll keep talking like my characters and secretly trying out dialogue on Jan. I’ll miss the words, “hollowway, loon shit, diewel, thwart,” but there will be plenty more, I’m sure.

top of everest

Things to Look Forward To:

! James cutting a broad, gory swath on his first overall read-through edit!

! Replies from Beta readers.

! Submitting edited novel excerpts to literary journals!

I expect that the summit of my first draft will be like the top of Mt. Everest — littered with lots of discarded material. I fear that, but, it’s a tough business. Pass the oxygen.

Tray Bong!

allfornow friends,
Mitch
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Across the Pond and Beyond

literally stories logo

I am honoured to be in the Literally Stories mix once again. My short story, “So Are They All” appears in this week’s collection of original short fiction – a short story curation that LS has been providing for the past 138 consecutive weeks.

This is my sixth acceptance in this United Kingdom based literary journal. The stories they have chosen (they have rejected five) have in common a Canadian setting and characters that represent various segments of life in Canada, across a number of eras.

main-qimg-c52a555c991ccfdda8925bab3a6d30a1 UK and Ireland sm

Several other UK literary journals* have also published my stories. The UK and Ireland are apparently in my sweet spot and damned if I know why!

I asked my Irish born – now Canadian Permanent Resident – son-in-law what he thought might be the attraction. While he had no conclusive theory, he supposed that the details, set in places and times in Canada that are not mainstream, offer a kind of “comfortable alien” nature. I accept that because the stories Tom tells about his childhood in Nobber are a source of fascination to me, in that same way.

Whatever the chemistry of the long distance relationship between the stories and the readers, I feel privileged to be part of the Literally Stories lineup.

*Fiction on the Web (4 stories published) – Charlie Fish, Editor; Storgy (1 story) – Tomek Dzido and Anthony Self, Editors; Fictive Dream (“The Seven Songs”, to be published on Nov 26) Laura Black, Editor; LingoBites, a part of Alsina Publishing (1 story, with a three-part serial in the edit suite and coming soon) – Lisa Dittmar, Editor (Although–full disclosure–Ms. D is a product of Cascadia, and like all of the editors I have encountered, she is foremost a citizen of the world.)

I hope to add more! (I write every day. Even when it hurts.)

P.S. – of the 35 titles of mine that have achieved virtual orbit online and in print, (“So far, damn it!” the author says through gritted teeth, a clinging scrap of spinach ruining the dramatic effect) quite a few have found Canadian and American platforms, and one Indian publication too.  I love all of my prose offspring equally; so too their adoptive homes.

allfornow – Mitch

A Writerly Reinvention

A new publication came to my attention and I was intrigued by the unique model it employs.


alsina info“At Alsina, we connect your work with readers from the outset. Our readers are engaging with our product to learn a language, so you are connecting with a whole new group of people that you would not otherwise have access to. When they read your work, they can follow you to get updates when you publish your second or third story with us. They have easily-accessible links to your website, so they can link through to your longer work, sign up for your mailing list, and so on.”

So, it’s a fresh opportunity to put out a flash fiction (1000-word maximum) and have it translated into several languages. Readers use the stories to develop their language skills in an enjoyable and intuitive way.

I submitted a 968-word story called, “The Light Pool”, and was delighted to have it accepted by Alsina Publishing

Opening the window, I listened to the crickets and frogs calling from the valley below as the beautiful silver sedan crossed the Don River Bridge. I inhaled, expecting to smell fresh summertime vegetation – ferns and flowering trees. Instead, there was the vile stench of hog rendering, the heavy synthetic odour of chemical discharge and the sharp, acrid reek of poultry effluent. I pushed the button and the glass hummed up into the thick rubber rim. [snip]

The story will run in the near future, after an editing round. I have been challenged by the Alsina editors to serialize my story and come up with sequels to “The Light Pool”. This approach makes sense for both writer and reader and it’s clear how a “mini-series” could be an especially good way for ESL readers (and learners studying in other languages) to build on the words and concepts they have learned by reading previous instalments in the same set.

meanings

Altogether, a thoroughly innovative and exciting proposition! Stand by for a publication date for “The Light Pool” soon and meanwhile, visit some of the links provided on this page to see what Alsina is all about! http://www.alsinapublishing.com/blog/

allfornow – Mitch

The Creative Economy

Hardworking Old Dude…

I am in the middle – eight hours today – of editing a collection of short stories. 200 plus double spaced, TNR 12 font pages of prose from Toews.

As a formality (I thought) I searched for “ly” in Word and to my dismay, TO MY UTTER DISMAY, I found that my manuscript contained 768 ly words. Lots of adverbs like “nervously”, “amateurishly”, “hopelessly”, “f*ckishly”, and the always-lyrical, “rejectingly”. Non-adverbial LY words like “family” & “only” were present in the text and were not guilty of a felony, but still: 768??

768 is a lot. That number is the total combined career home runs hit in major league baseball by BROTHERS. It’s an easy Google search, but how about a FREE ZWEIBACH BUN for anyone who can name these brave-hearted brothers, without looking it up.

That is almost four adverbs on every page — too many for a self-proclaimed* “dirty realism” adherent like me.

(* And some readers say so too. I love those people.)

“The adverb is not your friend.”  –  Stephen, “The Adverb-Slayer”, King (No less!)

So, having pulled my short fiction collection together, created a TOC, and an Acknowledgements Page, I thought I was pretty close to crying havoc! and pressing send. After all, most of these stories have been accepted by literary journals and have been edited and re-edited many times. Some have gone under the knife so often they look like zombies on The Walking Dead! So they should be somewhat adverb-free. Nope.

As a result, this Sunday was spent curbing my adverbyism. “Out, Out! Damn adverb!”

In Search of Art…

“What is Art?” you might ask. Good question. For a Mennonite, the answer could be, “Art Martens? He’s a farmer,” or “An EMBer,” and so on.

But I ask, “What is Art?” because that appears to be what I am working for: Art for Art’s sake. To scratch the creative itch.

It has come to my attention, thanks to a wonderful article in Broken Pencil Issue 74 by Suzanne Alyssa Andrew (The Hustle, page 20) that, in Canada, “the market for art, writing, and music is broken.”

The author goes on to present these disappointing, but true, statistics for the True North:

  • Canadian musicians only earn an average $7,228 a year from music…
  • Most musicians can only afford to spend 29 hours a week on music…
  • Canadian writers are making 27 percent less today than they were in 1998…

I worked my guts out from 1977 to last year so that I could finance food, heat, power, beer and wine AND write me some fiction. Now it seems like I should have quit in 1998 to become inky.

More dire stats showing the 19-year, and counting, slide away from the ever-increasing COL for l’artiste:

  • Affordable housing, studio and venue space is at a premium…in 2016, the median monthly rent for the average one-bed-room apartment costs $1,740 in Vancouver, $1,350 in Toronto and $960 in Montreal.

Ms. Andrew concludes that, “The creative middle class is dead.”

For me, this is unfortunate but not debilitating. However; had I followed my dad’s advice back in the seventies and followed the creative trail – trying to make a living from the artistic side of the dirty, confused world – it could have been a hard go, with things getting worse every year. I worked for forty years to finance my current slim pickins, so it’s not as bad por moi as it is for the many young artists today working one or two part-time jobs to finance their passion.

Ideas…

I suppose I could pay starving artists $0.10 per adverb for pest control in my short stories? But, with some perseverance, I can eradicate them myself. (Note how I did not write, “Hopefully,  I can eradicate them myself.” Eh? Ehhhh!!!?)

What about:

  • More funding for, less bitching about, Canada Council for the Arts?
  • The PM gives artists a major tax break, because Canada is close to committing the eighth social sin: Living without art. (Art the life-affirming pursuit, not that Martens guy.)
  • For street performers: Plop down a FIVER instead of a meagre Loonie. (Mennonites of course only ever applaud with gusto – we need to start with a Loonie and work our way  up.)
  • TIP HEAVY and prevent someone from sleeping on the streets. C’mon Moneybags, you have made gross, old guy, creepy remarks to the angel that brought you that Caesar with Extra Chicken & Diet Coke – now it’s time to bust the 15% ceiling. He or she may or may not be an artist, but either way — they need that extra coupla bucks more than you.
  • Buy some art. Yes, for the next few birthdays, Xmas, Hanukkah – go downtown, find a seller and shell out top dollar for Canadian art, music, writing. Think of it, sitting at the hockey game telling your buddy you just bought a $400 piece of art. They are gonna think you are loaded and – hoping for a hot stock tip – invite you to their cottage where you and Mrs. Moneybags can consume $425 worth of ribs, steak, wine, beer and outboard motor gasoline. (Do not mix consumables.)

The artist wins, your wife is lookin’ at you kinda funny (the good funny) after her third glass of free merlot, AND you are up $25 bucks! Tax-free!

(PLUS… you have just read an LY adverb-free article. No extra charge.)

allfornow – Mitchly

Three Vignettes

H

Here’s a few excerpts from a new story of mine.

P.S. – The artwork is mine too – a watercolour view of Caye Caulker from the Peach on the Beach looking towards the Split.

920 words

Three Vignettes

By Mitchell Toews

Copyright Mitchell Toews ©2017

One

Albert Thibodeau’s sister Suzanne was sick. His parents were ashen-faced and silent, going about the farm and household business by rote. Albert did homework in her room, his scribblers spread out on the flat, quilted blanket.

Suzanne lay unmoving. When Albert came in the room she would stir, her eyes opening and a thin smile on her lips. Her gums were too red. He would read her jokes from his Archie and Jughead Digest.

[SNIP]

Two

…”One dog, with peppers,” said Bob, busying himself with a bag of buns.

“And MUSH!” said Albert Thibodeau. “Gotta meet sis today and hear about how great she is doing.”

“Tell her I love her.”

“No dice. You are below that woman’s pay grade. You are a smelly dog, selling smelly dogs to other smelly dogs.”

“I love you too, Thibodeau,” said Bob, handing him a foil-wrapped hot dog. Albert tooled down the opposing ramp, skidding into a turn at the bottom in the March slush and then pumping hard twice to get to a picnic table on the courthouse lawn.

“Hey, drivers and registration please!”

[SNIP]

Three

Suzanne lay in the chaise. She was shaded by a wicker palapas and palms. Several green and brown coconuts lay in the sand around her. She gazed out past the reef – “beyond the swash,” like they said here – to where the water was a darker blue.

An easel stood near the lounge chair and a watercolour was underway.

“Carolina blue, cerulean blue, cobalt blue,” she said, from under the brow of a sun hat.

“Labatt’s Blue,” said Albert…

[SNIP]

13:05 1.8.17: Wish me luck in placing this flash fiction with an ezine or lit journal! I’ll post if and when it runs; if it becomes a cherished, “We are pleased to inform you…” 

allfornow – mitch

A Maniac’s Lament

Stardate 94613.57

A FEW DAYS AGO, I GOT ALL REVVED UP and tweeted what I had accomplished recently:

ExPLoDing! 10 stories 10 days, a poem(!), flashes, editing in my sleep, writing in my dreams…subbing like drunk typewriter monkey   

I know a lot of writers have problems with inspiration and right now, that’s not my problem and so I gushed a little. Like the Hulk is a little green. But, hell’s bells, as my dad (and Brian Johnson) used to say, who reads my tweets anyhow?

My cousin Doug does. He’s a great guy and a gifted writer. He tweeted back that I was, “a maniac!” By this, I am sure he meant that he agreed with me.

Anyway (there’s my fav segue blog word again)…anyway, I titled this post, “A Maniac’s Lament,” and here’s why:

Having written plenty lately, I was inclined to submit my new stories to journals. (That’s not the lament — that’s the narrative lead-in to the lament. I will put the laments proper in bold font so that they are easy to spot.)

Lament Alpha: Editing. All those outpourings, from snow-melt, to trickle, to creek, to river, to estuary create a daunting volume of raw, unedited materials. I cringe, thinking about all those “ly” words to send to the phantom zone, not to mention the onerous task of shrug/sigh/smile removal. Also: the re-structuring, sentences that is, of. Plus the need to heed all that, “let it simmer,” advice that I really should take (courtesy of one of my two smart sisters).

I’ll put that in the “exhaustive but good problem” pile and carry on.

Lament Beta: Once I am through the editing and am ready to submit I reach the second hurdle – loyalty. Am I true to the journals of my recent literary past or do I court new ones? I want to repay my supporters for their kindness — and recognize their exemplary discernment — but I also want to boldly go where no crusty old bugger has gone before.

star-trek-sm

In what I hope is my best judgement, a blend of old and new seems wise.

Lament Gamma: The third lament does not have anything to do with grammar. Too bad, ‘cuz that would have had been kinda cute. In fact, Gamma is the lamentation of abundance.

Let me ‘splain you… Duotrope lists over SIX THOUSAND distinct literary journals, e-zines, reviews, etc. Having passed Alpha and Beta and therefore being open to submitting some of my freshly created, exploding, maniacal work to new galaxies and such, I am faced with the infamous “Paradox of Choice” (Schwartz).

I read the news today oh boy
Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire
And though the holes were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall.
I’d love to turn you on.

Songwriters: LENNON, JOHN / MCCARTNEY, PAUL

ANYWAY… unequivocal smart people have often declared — on twitter, LinkedIn, Posterior Analytics, etc. — to make lists stop at THREE, so that’s what I’ll do.

If YOU have a good way to sort through the multitude and successfully identify story-topic-genre-publication-audience concordance, I am all afti.

allfornow – Mitch

P.S. – If you are not already aware, poet Trish Hopkinson does a great job of unearthing calls and journals that are open to submissions. See her twitter feed and also check out Calls for Submissions (Poetry, Fiction, Art) on Facebook.

Literary Shrapnel

What I want this over-achieving metaphor to do is to corroborate the idea that small harms, in abundance, can do a lot of damage. Back me up here, metaphor.

The shrapnel flying through the air in my writing room most days consists of those uninspired, tired-out and much repeated words that somehow infiltrate my stories. Yours too?

“Luc,” she said. He nodded, shrugging off the look he got when he looked deeply into her smiling – now frowning – face. He sighed and paused, exhaling deeply. He looked a bit more – both while shrugging and also as he began to whisper. It was a slow, deep, shrugging whisper, predicated by a frown. Luc smiled, then exhaled – you could call it a deep sigh. Or a slow shrug. Really more of a shallow pipsqueak of a bobbity-bibbity, itsy-bitsy, baby shrug – a sighing, smiling, frowning, nodding, grinning, pausing shrug that he pulled up from deep in his sigh-filled shrug-sack.
.
“It’s not how it seems,” she said. And with that, Imogene dove on top of the sizzling grenade.

If the passage above does not push your cart, I’m not surprised. No one wants to write that way. But I’m willing to bet that you can go back and find examples of shrapnel-filled passages of your own — even in your published material!

I can. I did. I do.

Shrapnel words and the need to eradicate same came to my attention through one of the fresh tweets of Rayne Hall. @raynehall

I was blind to these deadly offenders and Ms. Hall snapped me into reality. I now have a regular step in my editing process to hunt down and defuse the ordnance hidden in my prose.

See her take on this and more, here: Newbie Quicksand.

allfornow – Mitch

P.S. – Armed with nothing more than a bottle of gin and a modified Sharpie, Luc performed life-saving surgery on Imogene. She came to and piloted the helicopter they stole from the Cartel encampment while Luc manned the .50-cal, pouring rounds into the enemy with ruthless efficiency. As the base medics rushed her into the field operating room, she glanced back. There was brave Luc, wavering in the bright corridor. He was in a grim struggle against the overpowering urge to sigh, his shoulders quivering with effort as he fought back a shrug. 

“Resist, my love, resist!” she said before falling into the welcoming blackness.

 

Am I a Writer?

FRIENDS, THAT IS NOT my butt in the image above. It is one more famous than mine will ever be. It belongs to a writer who, like me, prefers to write standing up.

He is a writer – no dispute there.

In my case – it is more fudgy. See…when people ask what I do, I SOMETIMES say *it*. That is, I reply, “I’m a writer.” But I tend to say it quietly. With dissonant caveats – “Not making a damn cent doin’ it tho’, har-har…”. You know. Kinda sneakin’ up on it. Like when someone says, “Are you quitting smoking?” and you answer, “Trying to!” It’s a yes, with built-in wiggle room.

So, let’s go to the Tale of the Tape as Cossell used to say before a big fight:

Writing for how long?  

Well, now. Let’s define that a bit more: writing to a deadline + writing for public consumption. In those bounds, since 1997. Mostly damnable propaganda for my Mennonite employers along the way:

“Why close your jacket with BUTTONS when HOOKS are so much better? See us today for Hiebert’s Handy Hooks!”

I have been writing FICTION on the other hand – for about the last four years. Early in 2016, I achieved a kind of orbital altitude — since that time I have managed to write every day, several hours a day — between two and six hours. Mostly in the morning.

Training? 

The weak link for me. Besides a relentless English prof at the University of Victoria – complete with a proper, tweedy London accent – I have little formal training. My BA in Sociology and a certificate in Marketing from Schulich do not qualify me. I live at the far end of the wild woods and so I have neither a nearby course to take or a group to join. Otters and pine grosbeaks do what they can for me, but I am a Googling fool, on the shores of Jessica Lake, where modifiers dangle and MCs are MCs.

How much have you produced?

Again, some definition – like Papa’s shapely calf muscle. Without adding bulge via photoshop or any other form of exaggeration, I have written 100,000 words in 2016.

Blog: Core page content plus around 50 posts. The posts run from 200 to 1000 words apiece. Maybe 10,000 words in total.

Short Fiction: 30,700 words unpublished…36,000 published. Many – oh so many – rewrites and editing scans.

Novella: 16,000 words.

Paid Content: Propaganda and “the truth with attitude” for employers – 5000 words or so.

Milestones?

Using Duotrope and Submittable, I reckon I have submitted about 120 times or so. I have had 16 stories accepted and have had two other stories find success in contests.

I submit to big, well-known print journals – mostly Canadian. They have so far (almost) uniformly rejected my work. I also send stories to smaller print/online reviews; to online-only literary ezines and literary sites; and to writers’ groups and publishers that produce journals or contests. I have 18 unpublished short stories that I am sending out as slush pile fodder as well as my sci-fi thriller novella, “Tafelberg”, which will receive a rigorous adverb-ectomy this winter. Three new stories near completion.

I am actively seeking chapbook and anthology collections for my published works.

A few of the bigger journals to whom I have submitted my shabby shorts have offered sympathetic replies of the, “don’t give up” variety. Sometimes these are genuine. Other times they are intended to cajole me into shelling out another $15 for their next “opportunity for new Canadian voices”. Yeah, right. More like, “so I can buy another jar of beard wax, you hopeless bottom-feeder!”

Either way, I usually do shell out, so next time see you see a youngish MFA with a fine, shiny beard or a new plaid shirt — think of me, brethren. (To be accurate, my observation is that there seems to be far more female readers and editors, than male. Furthermore, literary journals do not appear to be a get rich quick scheme. So, respect; I’m happy to shell out a little, here and there.)

Anyway, to answer the question, after adding it all up, I`m gonna say yes. I`m a writer.

Now who wants to fight me?

allfornow – Mitch

IMAGE — Hemingway: “Damn fine legs for a dead guy.”

Where I Write

I AM FORTUNATE. I can follow Emerson’s wise advice. Being semi-employed and only mildly (knock wood) occupied fixing broken things, I can do so. Well, honestly, that could be a typo – sometimes I am wildly occupied with fixing stuff. Yesterday, at -25 Celcius, I positioned the extension ladder and had Janice spot me as I climbed up to brush the ice off of our internet dish. Lifeline re-established.

We tramp the trails; feed the birds; chop holes in the ice and fish; cut firewood and basically Daniel Boone the shit out of each day. (A more current pop culture reference: “…basically Survivor the shit out of each day.” Take your pick.)

In all of this, I have established a pleasing discipline to write, edit, re-write, edit some more, blog, tweet, facebook, submit. Repeat.

view

My usual routine is:

  • Morning exercise. Today I flooded the little rink I have scraped out of the snow on the ice. This afternoon, I will skate on it. I often row, paddleboard, windsurf or X-country ski – depending on season; conditions; state of mind; state of joints and relative orneriness of arthritis. I also sit on my arse and stare at the lake. Vigorously, mind you, and pardon the orphaned adverb.
  • Yoga – watched by inscrutable Pine Grosbeaks and a large Raven who swoops by and utters in disdain what can ONLY be cuss caws as I display my comical inflexibility
  • Breakfast and (Ah!) coffee
  • Numb my nether cheeks on the outdoor biffy — no welcoming Japanese toilet/bidet with an electronically warmed and automated seat; pleasing music; cleansing spritzers of rose-petal infused water and soothing lighting. (Sorry to subject you to all this #2 detail, but many of us N of 60 – years not latitude – are proud of this moving occurrence and so, I am actually bragging.)
do-do-sm
A picture’s worth a thousand turds. (Too much?)
  • Write ’til noon or so
  • Lunch with Jan followed by a hike together on one of the trails or out on the frozen lake. Chop wood, fix things; build things, read things. Do a little contract marketing work if there is something in the inbox.
  • Write some more fiction
  • Beer-o’clock around 4 bells or later if I am deep in the belly of the creative beast
  • Supper and then a fire and visiting with friends or TV or more writing. I try to make this a non-writing time, but you know; if it happens, it happens.

I spent the last 45 years NOT following a utopian day timer like this, so I never feel too guilty about it. In fact, if I followed the playbook of many of my Mennonite brethren, I’d say I earned this routine; or was selected to receive it as a divine reward. (You know – score a touchdown and point to the sky?)

Yeah, right.

If anything, I fell ass-backwards into all this, oblivious to the great fortune it took – over generations – to allow me to drink the wild air.

To put things in perspective: A few days ago I helped a neighbour with his annual wintertime boat dock tasks. He brought along a church-sponsored immigrant to help out and also to receive a Manitoba winter driving lesson.

The fellow, Yussef, was not exactly built for winter in Manitoba. An Ethiopian by birth, this resilient young man spent nine years in the world’s largest refugee camp in Somalia. There he and half-a-million co-inhabitants lived in tents or cardboard shanties in a dystopian desert hell. Here, the three of us stood out on the frozen lake, the nearest human miles away across the barren ice. The sky was blue. The Raven skimmed by and croaked, “Tourists!” at us, a grin on his pointy beak.

“Where does the water begin,” Yussef said in his British influenced, African accented English.

“There,” I answered, pointing back to the shore where we had come from. Yussef stopped shivering and literally jumped up in the air when he realized he was standing on the ice.

camp

Anyway – I live at the lake and write fiction every day.

I figured it was important that you know. Blog on, my writerly brothers and sisters.

allfornow – mitch

P.S. – That is P for promotion and S for shameless & self  OR it could be PS for Please See my publications page for links to the 14 short stories that I have had accepted so far. Red Fez, a stylish and well-organized literary site online, has just picked up number 15 – the Bart Starr of my short story published list. It is a Christmassy story of life in Russia circa 1920, “Our German Relative”. They will publish it soon. I’ll letcha know when that happens and also make sure I announce Joe Montana, as soon as that one comes along.