Out of nowhere, I decided to take a break on the Within This Darkness work, and revisit a book I wrote around, well roughly 1997(ish) to 2002(ish). It happens to the book that I was workshopping through the Humber College Creative Writing program whenever it was that I took that program, which I think was right around 2000.
It's a fairly slippery and genre-less historical novel, set in the early 1400s. Even the reading level is hard to put your finger on - the novel has "adult" themes but is written at kind of a high young-adult level. So, after finishing it, I made some effort to get it published, but honestly not as much effort as I had earlier put into trying to get Festival published. Once a few people said "no" to it, I filed it away, and for various reasons - including "life" and the slipperiness of the book - I never really came back to trying to get it published.
BUT - since it came to mind around a month ago, I've plunged deep into a "I'm going to self-publish again" frenzy with it. So I'm perhaps a week away, as I type this, from getting an electronic and paperback version of the book ready to go through Amazon's KDP service.
For the cover - I got it into my mind that I would paint my own cover. I had a colour scheme I liked, and attempted a few versions of (see below). But in the back of my mind, using one of my nature photos from my bike rides was always an option. And, indeed, I've gone with one of my cycling photos. I won't post it just yet (the cover I've designed), but it's coming soon.
Long story short - a new / old book by me, titled Close Your Eyes: A Fairy Tale, should be out soon.
And in other news, warm weather hit here in south-central Ontario, so I got in a bit of bicycle-commuting this week. These are some more of the views I get from my bike rides around here.
Yes, perceptive reader, this post title is indeed an old James Joyce line - (from The Dead).
Sometimes life imitates art! After working on a scene this morning, with 9 year old Manfred in Breslau in 1945, trying in that scene to describe the weight of the snow upon that city as the Russians advanced from the east, once day broke and I could see outside my own windows, the snow was falling heavily here as well. Bit intriguing to be "willing" yourself into a snowstorm in your mind as you write - and then - when it is time to go out into the morning, to be literally and physically in a snowstorm.
The two "snowy" ones are this morning (Nov. 22), the other one is just a nice one from yesterday morning (Sunday Nov. 21).
And maybe you're curious!! :)
This is the (partial) Breslau scene - this being from book two of the Within This Darkness trilogy:
Breslau January 20, 1945
On January 20, 1945, snow fell endlessly from dark clouds. The snow was so thick, and added so much weight to the air, that it nearly silenced the desperate chaos around Manfred. At times, when he looked back as an adult, Manfred would wonder if he’d suffered some manner of stress induced deafness that day. But no - it had simply been the snow - falling so heavily it was as though someone, somewhere, was trying to bury the city and erase it from memory.
The Russians were coming. If there was one simple fact, in the mind of every German in the city of Breslau, and every German in the east, it was that the Russians were coming. And they were bringing terror and destruction with them. Everyone had heard of what the Russians had done in Nemmersdorf, and what they were doing to all German citizens as their furious revenge rolled its way across Poland into Germany. And so all of the German east was fleeing west towards Berlin, and Breslau, a gateway city between the east and the west, was overflowing with refugees heading west, and soldiers heading east.
Refugees, and, as Manfred had been seeing for days now, cows. And sheep. And horses. Poor farm families from eastern Silesia were herding their lives, including their cattle, west, to keep them out of the hands of the Russians. Manfred’s 9 year old mind was barely able to make sense of what he was seeing anymore - and the sight of thousands of refugees, and herds of cows and sheep - staggering through his elegant and ancient Silesian city numbed him. It was hard to believe that only a few days ago he’d been in school. And now, the world was ending.
Fighting their way against the waves of refugees, were ragged units of the German military - if “military” was still the right word for groups of old men and young boys yanked from their homes, given a Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon, and a black-red armband with the words Deutscher Volkssturm : Wehrmacht. These soldiers, sometimes struggling forward beside military vehicles, attempted to make progress against the wave of grief-stricken humanity fleeing to the west.
And all of this - the refugees and cattle heading west, the soldiers heading east, the explosions now and again as German engineers blasted the earth vainly trying to dig trenches to slow up Russian tanks - all of this happened almost in silence, as the snow simply fell, and fell, and fell, upon a dying city.
As I type this, Canadian thanksgiving is well in the past, and the leaves are fully changing colour, and there was even a frosting of snow on the ground this morning. Another summer season of bicycling is behind me now. I would normally switch to my indoor & online cycling set-up at this point, but wow, a switch has really flicked in my mind this fall, and my enthusiasm for cycling and exercise in general has gone "poof" and disappeared in a way that I'm almost astounded by.
I feel like my brain - in the course of a few weeks - has flipped back 20 / 25 years to the "me" of my late 20s, who was living in basement apartments in Toronto and spending all my free time writing novels. The desire to be active and kayak and bike has really given way to the desire to put words on paper again. Contemplating a re-commitment to writing is quite honestly a melancholy feeling.
While almost every bike ride or kayak trip that I do... I do solo... there are still ways to make all those activities very social - primarily by sharing them with your social network on Strava... where you get instant "kudos" and comments and congrats and jokes from friends around the world when they see the map and photos from the 100km bike ride you just did. To give that up, and move to you alone in the darkness, morning after morning, writing words that you delete within 5 minutes ... well, it's not easy.
Autumn always brings the urge to write, for several reasons. The month of November represents NaNoWriMo in my brain (although I don't always officially "do" Nanowrimo and am not doing it this year). But national novel writing month obviously encourages a person to write. As well, Within This Darkness (up until recently titled Within These Trees) is set in the fall... and as I move through autumn forests in my real life, I think of my characters moving through autumn forests, and that makes me want to write as well. And then probably the shift in weather all by itself encourages a person to write - the cold Canadian weather making you want to buckle down with your manuscripts rather than don spandex and go for a bike ride.
And, I've been flipping through notebooks this fall, and seeing dates that I scribbled in the margins... for example Nov 2019 beside notes from two years ago about Breslau in January 1945 when German citizens fled the city under Russian bombardment. I've been working on this book and this trilogy for too long now. Heck - the genesis of it dates back to around 2000. But... the modern version... I need to finally finish this thing and get it out of my mental landscape... and move on.
Perhaps it's finally time to buckle down, and bring this story fully to life, and then shake my thoughts clear, and move along.
We were at Mikisew Provincial Park a few weeks ago, which is on Eagle Lake, south of North Bay.
We took the kayak and on the Sunday morning I got out for a paddle at sunrise. Exploring a new lake was a lot of fun, especially with these spots that Eagle Lake has, where large rocks and boulders sit in shallow water and shoulder their way up above the water line.
It is late June 2020, four months into pandemic 2020 (at least by my counting), and I'm basically surviving the pandemic by cycling, kayaking, and painting rocks. And taking pictures apparently.
Book One of the young adult trilogy is finished. And while I've plotted out Book Two, and know what the climax will be in Book Three, I haven't actually put pen to paper for a long time. Any free time I've had has been spent on the bike rides and kayaking.
The rock painting has come out of nowhere. At first it seemed like a good thing to do with the kids, with all of us house-bound together. And they had a go at it for a while, but then they lost interest, while I've just kept going with it. I can't actually draw to save my soul, nor am I actually very crafty with my hands, so the rocks are usually just whimsical things like Beatles song titles, and smiley faces.
Working from home, with little "thinking" time, I've found it pretty impossible to write. But, painting rocks is interesting - it's numerous little 5 minute "bursts" of work... that can be fit in at any time during the day - cleaning/washing the rock; putting a base coat of paint on; putting a first few bits of design on; putting the finishing touches on; putting on the sealer spray. All of these things take only about 5 minutes, but require a few hours or more of drying time in between each stage. So it's been quite easy to do a little bit here, do a little bit there, during the course of the "work and parent and help with schoolwork" from home process.
And this has been pandemic 2020 - early mornings have been occupied primarily with cycling, and a bit of kayaking, and then the rest of the day, wow, just a blur of "life". And then... night comes, and someone somewhere presses the "repeat" button.
I'm Chris Tomasini.