Right now, I'm sitting on the back patio of a fancy restaurant in Ottawa, waiting for my wife to arrive. I've ridden my bicycle here from work, about 10 kilometres or so; she's coming in from home, about another 14 kilometres, by car. I hope she's brought the SUV, so I can put my bike into the back. Sure, I can ride that distance—I do it regularly, and the restaurant is on my regular path from work to home. But I don't look forward, somehow, to the prospect of carrying this meal plus a couple of glasses of wine back.
But here I am, on a fancy patio shaded by beautiful leafy trees, sipping a Heineken while I wait for my lovely wife to arrive. I couldn't help myself. I had to take out my iPad and start writing a blog post.
It's a strange compulsion, but I suppose it accounts for my career. I have been writing something as long as I can remember: bits of stories, beginnings of novels, poems, essays. I was a journalist for over 20 years, and in the past four years I have finally managed to complete and publish three novels.
I suppose that's the difference between the hobbyist and the author: actually completing the story. I find it easy to come up with the beginnings of stories, of dramatic situations and unique characters. Figuring out a story arc that someone wants to read is much harder.
Story arcs make me thirsty.
A sip of beer
Much better. A rabbit hops past a corner of the patio, unnoticed by the serving staff. For some reason, it makes me think of some of those unfinished ideas.
Back in my university days, I began a science-fiction novel. I created another world, colonized by different nations from Earth, much like different European nations started adjoining colonies in Africa, but which for some reason has been cut off from Earth for decades. I decided that the best way for getting around on this planet was by dirigible, probably because I had been reading Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld around then. And also, there was an alien race from yet another planet who were meddling in the colonists' affairs.
I created a main character who more or less played at being a spy, collecting a salary and expenses but never accomplishing much, and a thief, and an assassin. But I couldn't figure out where to take it from there.
There's The Doctor's In-Laws, a story inspired one summer many years ago, when I was staying at a very cheap summer resort when my mighty boys were babies. The central characters were a married couple, both working at low-end jobs and struggling to stretch their incomes over the demands of modern social life. Her sister, though, has married a doctor who loves conspicuous consumption, and the protagonists feel pressure to keep up.
Okay, but where do you go from there? And to what end? I never figured that out. Maybe I will one day.
Another idea I had on a beach a couple of years ago (I seem to get ideas on vacation) was about another couple, Neal and Karen. Neal is a kind of short guy, while Karen is clinically a giant. They fall in love.
Again, I don't know where to go from there. Short guy married to a giant.
The server brings a basket of bread
Excuse me while I put spread butter on this. I know, it's more fashionable to dip it into olive oil, but I love butter. It's okay, I rode 30 kilometres already today.
Then there are novels that I have developed a lot more fully, but have not completed. Not yet, but I will.
The Last Tiger, about Siberian tiger cubs in the Russian Far East, through their perspective. I've worked out the plot, but it's a difficult book to write without getting really silly.
I have done most of the work on the sequel to Army of Worn Soles and plan to publish it before the end of the autumn of 2014. I'm debating between two titles: Freedom Fighter and Four-Sided War. What do you think?
I have worked out most of the plot of the sequel to The Bones of the Earth, as well, and have the rough, basic idea for the plot of book three of the Dark Age trilogy. I don't know what the title of the second book will be, but I've settled on Seventh Son as the title of the third.
Let me know what you think of all those ideas.