According to Wikipedia, ‘a superhero is a type of heroic character possessing extraordinary talents, supernatural phenomena, or superhuman powers and is dedicated to a moral goal or protecting the public.’ Sounds like a writer to me!
Join me as another one of these unsung superheroes invites into their personal ‘batcave’.
What did your early efforts look like? Are they still around to be used as bribes and blackmail material?
Historical fiction novel’s are a tyrant for research, after 3 years of saving files and reading books I was running into problems. My i-pad ‘Note’ function actually quit working properly because I had saved way too many files. I had to delete some in order for it to work properly.
Printing out everything was costly, and I found that I began to forget about what I had filed away in the cabinet. I am a very visual learner, so my office wall still has post-it notes and mini timelines all over it. After asking other writers how they were COPING, I was introduced to ‘Scrivener’ which is a writing program but I loved the research element of it. It was easy to use, and I could have my precious
research at my fingertips. I just had to transfer it over, YIKES.
Moral of the story, use a proper program from the beginning.
I also used Pinterest to save images of medieval fashion, household items, games, customs etc. which I wanted to use for character development and their environment. It was helpful at the time, but I can save photos in Scrivener as well.
My favorite process was making timelines, I love to understand the bigger picture and how it all fits. Call me crazy, but I decided to write a dual storyline in my novel ‘Skynner Chronicles’, having the 21st Century intertwining with the 17th Century, which will later connect to the 10th Century. So, I have bundles of timelines each about 10′ long and 2.5′ wide for reference…I don’t think they will make it to the shredder for a long time, so they could be held for ransom.
All superheroes have their mild-mannered secret identity, what is yours? I promise we won’t tell.
I am an introvert who loves quiet time and creativity, but also an extrovert in the pursuit of treasure and the desire to share what has been discovered. Where there is a spark of interest shown, the ‘treasure hunter/gatherer’ emerges into a teacher/mentor expression.
No crowd is too large or too small if there are ears that want to hear, or hands that want to be shown. In the past years you would find me teaching classes or administrating teams that took us to many foreign countries to share and teach. Today you can find me reading and playing with my ten grandchildren at every opportunity, a part-time bookie in our painting business and living the author’s adventure, a new season.
Who are your partners in crime? What are their superpowers?
My 1st partner was my paternal Scottish Nana who was turning 100 years old in 2013. I had researched the legacy of her maiden name Skinner as a birthday gift. The genealogy came to a dead end when the family emigrated to Canada in 1909, but the history of the name was fascinating and it went back and back and back. There was a story to be told. Nana passed away in 2015 at the age of 102, the power of inspiration. My 2nd partner is my father who was very patient with all my questions. His powers made it possible for my husband and I to fly to Scotland and experience it first hand . My 3rd partner is my husband Rene who has accepted my disappearances into the office, as a cue to make dinner. He smiles and says, “you are my retirement plan’, no pressure though. My 4th partner is my daughter Elisa who reads and rereads my rough rough drafts, she has the powers of plot lines. I also have a fictional coach, with powers to keep everything tracking properly.
Where do you get your superpowers from?
I have always loved paper textures, handwritten scripts and envelopes with exotic stamps. I think that some of the power has come through all the cards & letters I have saved over the years, imparting to me a love of remembrance, honoring, and mystery. When I turned 40, I was told that I needed glasses. Now I am convinced that these spectacles have given me the ability to read between the lines……….imagining the what if’s? I have also acquired powerful tools over the years, honed to locate lost treasures and bring them forward into the 21st century, like a metal detector.
Where is your secret lair and what does it look like?
My secret lair is 6 hrs northeast of my home that straddles the Canadian/USA border. It is off the internet highway where the pavement gives way to gravel and potholes. You travel 34 km down a single-lane road, hemmed in by a dense forest of pine and spruce on either side. On occasion our jeep has herded a pair of moose or a foraging bear off the flat trail, the grouse just sit there on the edges. In the winter season the trek is not for the faint of heart, and you must carry a chainsaw. The glorious sight of a C.S. Lewis Narnian snow scene could morph into a fallen spruce tree impeding the journey, succumbed to weight the of beauty. My lair is disguised as being unremarkable on the outside, nondescript and average. Those who have been invited into the lair, after trekking through the Cariboo wilderness have vowed to return. Enchanted by the wood burning stove, the barn wood wainscotting and the deep sense of peace and contentment. It is hard to go home sometimes.
What kind of training do you do to keep your superpowers in world saving form? How do you insure they are used only for good?
Power in the past, I spent a lot of time writing in personal journals, writing courses for homeschooling or speaking, even a blog about 10 yrs ago . A few journals have survived the mid-life purge, but I still find it hard to dispose of the lessons and courses.
The power of a collaborative publishing community has been a wonderful author support with resources, marketing strategies and opportunities to be part of book launches, and author connections. I always have a few books that I am reading for pleasure, but usually historical fiction. I just recently took an audio creative writing course, and I am constantly listening to podcast’s related to my material, especially when I can’t do screen time.
The most powerful training was my research trip to Scotland in April 2016, visiting and experiencing the places in my novel that I had already written. Meeting the people was a huge highlight!
My goals for Skynner Chronicles Trilogy is that they will uncover treasures that have been buried and hidden for a season, or perhaps a century, treasures that will not ‘destroy’ but will ‘strengthen’ in times of trouble. To err is human, so I purpose to surround myself with my partners in crime, to be teachable.
Granted, you probably don’t’ get to wear your superhero costume a lot, but if you did, what would it look like?
The wooden pine box sits at the end of my bed. It is time. I remove the first layer of arctic fox fur to reveal a long woolen tunic as black as night, the cuffs and cowl trimmed with black fur. The fitted black tights worn beneath the tunic are also trimmed with fur that sits slightly above my calfskin ankle boots. Afterwards, I remove the red and black checkered shawl called a ‘plaid’, the ‘Rob Roy Hunting Tartan’. I drape it around my body in loose folds so that it can be used as a hooded cape, or hanging down as a shawl. I secure it with a leather belt around my waist and a silver ring broach pined just below my neckline. The folds in my plaid, will double as pockets for the treasures that I will unearth, and a safe place to keep my iphone for image documentation. If the weather is poor, I will trade in my calf-skin boots for wellies (rubber boots).
What is your kryptonite? What are the biggest challenges faced in your writing?
Hummmm, I would have to say “shiny things”. Interesting tidbits that capture my attention. The proverbial ‘rabbit trail’. Getting lost in the details, and enjoying being lost. How can I use this? Somebody, throw me a line, real me back in! Researching is definitely more fun than writing. Writing is work!
#1After having mapped out the big picture of where I wanted to go this in this trilogy, then branching out with lots of historical details on the time-lines, I realized that I really had too much content. It took me several different approaches to condense the story down from 24 generations to 2-3 generations. It was painful, like going through my treasured photo albums, which ones had to go?
2# Gaining the confidence that I could write, submitting my work for constructive correction. It does get easier with time. My goal is to do the best writing that I can with practice, correction and practice and patience.
3# I think probably every author, whether published or not struggles with balancing life, figuring out what works for the whole family. I don’t want to be an island unto myself.
What was the supervillain that threatened to stop your latest project?
My brain was assaulted 3x in the last 4 years by what is known as ‘concussion’. The first time I was a passenger in a van that was rear ended during bad weather, the vehicle was totaled and we were shook up but seemed okay until the symptoms showed up days later. The 2nd brain bruise happened 6 months ago, a freak bonk in the night, but the symptoms were way worse and have lasted longer. The 3rd brain bruise happened 3 weeks ago, bumped the same spot while under my desk coming up from picking up a piece of paper. Crazy you say! Yes, multiple bumps is not a good thing. After the 2nd BONK it brought my writing to a screaming halt. Actually, I couldn’t scream or cry because it inflamed by brain, a few tears but no sobbing allowed! The first month was the hardest, laying in our recliner in the dark, unable to do anything, no screen time, no music, no wearing my glasses for over a month, no walking the dog, no driving (even at 6 months) and no writing.
What really sucked was that my husband and I had just returned from our first trip to Scotland, the research trip for this novel. This happened 12 days later, so dealing with the disappointment was a big deal, all the pictures, the memories, the idea’s were stuck in my brain, nay not forever!
What important lessons have you learned along the way.
It took about two weeks to lay down the Scotland disappointments, I wasn’t going to get better faster if I was fretting about it. As time progressed I had other disappointments to deal with as the symptoms lasted far longer than expected. In the midst of this dark place I was loved and cared for but it still felt like a type of prison, everything that had been normal was locked up. You have a heightened awareness of being alone, vulnerable and in a very small personal space, with no control beyond it.
I began to understand and learn more about what my brain needed to heal. I had to learn to embrace the darkness as a friend, it was not the enemy, it was a place that I needed to be so that I could escape the sensory stimulation of daily life that wanted to overload my brain. Setting new boundaries as I healed, paying the price for doing to much (migraines). Giving myself permission to rest and heal, to put the book on hold, to hire a housekeeper (that I always wanted). I also gained a 10000x more appreciation of the complexity of my brains, how gloriously wonderful it is, what an amazing creation! I will end by saying that I have also noticed the close parallel of my journey with the characters in Skynner Chronicles, they will be journeying through their own losses. This trial, which has not yet ended, will not go to waste, I am intent on making good use of what I have been learning.
What have been the best/most memorable experiences along the way?
Hands down it was our first trip to Scotland in April 2016. After we left the Glasgow airport in our rental car, my courageous husband Rene had to drive on the wrong side of the car, on the wrong side of the road (for us Canadians) then we promptly got lost. He dared not take his eyes off the road or his hands of the steering wheel, so it was my job to navigate. The GPS system was too pricey, so we opted for a map instead, which was not working too well for us until we got out of the city, where there was only one main road. We thought that we had rented a small car by Canadian standards, a compact. It turns out that it was far too big for the narrow roads that wound around the villages, Lochs (lakes) and the stone walls that lined the inner edge of the country roads. Did I also mention that the roads had no shoulder space, and sometimes no lines dividing the lanes? So it took us about 3 days to semi-relax while driving, by then I had stopped exclaiming, “move over, you are too close to the wall”, and my husband felt more confident that he could enjoy the scenery with each passing day. We were pro’s at the end of two weeks! I am so glad that we invested the time and the money to walk the land of Scotland (we stayed in the country, and visited the towns, villages and the Hebrides Islands) The essence of the land and the people was priceless, it felt like a part of me was coming home, even though we have no living family left in Scotland to my knowledge.
What would I change or do differently?
What is the best writing advice you have gotten?
I remember being told that when you are writing any kind of novel, perhaps even a short story, that you will discover that in the process of writing you will come face to face with yourself. I wasn’t exactly sure what that meant, but I have since added to that thought, “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly” (which was an old western movie, I think with John Wayne in it). This piece of advice is helping me be patient with the healing process, the journey that will be affecting my characters, and the story process. Yeah, bad stuff happens, and sometimes it gets very ugly, but I am learning to be thankful for what I do have in the midst of it all, a grateful heart is better than a broken heart.
Tell us about your Trilogy Skynner Chronicles, your work in progress.
The original plan was to have the 1st book published in Spring of 2017, as of now, the plan is to focus on getting better, which may take another 6 months. I have been spending some time cleaning up my website, and learning about how to use Twitter, Facebook and Instagram from an author’s perspective, since that doesn’t seem to take as much creative brain energy.
Skynner Chronicles is the name of the Series. I will have individual names for each book. Book 1 begins in the 21st Century with the protagonist Marinda Skynner, a millenial university Grad student who is conflicted about what she wants in life, what she deserves, what she is entitled to? She inherits a Scot’s Pine Box that changes everything.
Another timeline from the 17th century is interwoven throughout the book, 1603-1645 Scotland during the conflicting times prior to the merging of the crowns in 1707 (Scotland & England) This timeline will reflect the family heritage that Marinda will be discovering, their struggles, their losses, their successes. One of my sub-goals is to take a look the romantic ideals of our North American culture through Marinda’s eyes, how do they fare in another part of the world?
Do you have any other big projects on the horizon?
Seriously, I have enough material to keep me busy for probably ten years in the United Kingdom. But I would really like to explore the history of my husbands heritage. The history of his surname dates back to the 7th century, in the Mediterranean/ Baltic Sea area. I can just picture it, a tribe of wild horsemen storming across the plains in pursuit of another clan who dared draw water from their well. Then we would have to plan another trip, woo hoo!
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