April 29, 2017

In Honour of Beta Readers

I have been making many changes to A Beautiful End. The credit for many of these changes goes to other people. They say it takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to raise a novel. I birthed the novel, but it’s the feedback from beta readers that is helping to make the novel into the story it needs to be.

I have had some very helpful input from three readers so far. Countless mistakes have been pointed out. I had no idea there were so many, although as a percentage of the total words, it’s probably not that much. But what really amazes me is the ideas and questions I have received from them that help me to make really important changes to the story. They knew just what information to give me, what questions to ask, and each of them had their own contributions.

One of the comments I received propelled me to consider adding some to a section of the novel. I spent most of April writing poetry instead of working on revisions, by participating in Camp NaNoWriMo (campnanowrimo.org). I used it to set my own goal for the number of lines of poetry. I wrote an amazing 1208 lines, which was a total of 42 poems. Out of those, eight poems that could possibly be used in my novel. I expect to choose five or six of them. I can’t tell you how I will use them, because that would spoil the fun of reading it. I do believe they will enhance the story and be more than just “filler”. The good news is that the first readers enjoyed my story enough that I can ask them to reread the part with the poems so they can confirm for me whether the story is improved by them.

I am now working on my third revision of A Beautiful End. This revision will include changes suggested by my third beta reader as well as the work needed to incorporate the poems. There are more readers who have comments coming, so I expect further revisions.

I am so looking forward to completing the process and having my novel ready to share with the world!

March 13, 2017

Spring Snowstorm

I took a break from novel revision to write a poem. It's a true story.

Spring Snowstorm

I walk into the snowstorm
Welcome the cold sting
Of windblown snowflakes
As the Arctic bleeds
Over the land

The misplaced storm
Returns to me
Invigorating winter

My eyes are misty
Tears for Mother Earth
I mourn loss of sea ice
Deep sadness fills my boots

I sit against a tree
Where snowflakes tickle  my face
I am grateful
For its strength

February 08, 2017

Introducing A Novel

Millions of thoughts that run through my head could have been shared, but I have not put time and energy into my blog posts. However, I am proud of where my time and energy has gone. Since my blog post in October 2014 entitled “Why I Write Climate Fiction” I have completed a novel written in four parts and I have completed the first revision of it. This novel has kept me working on it despite my limited spare time, convincing me that it must be made into a form that others can read and must not be left mouldering on my computer.

In this blog post I intend to introduce my novel to you. I have decided to not follow any business or marketing model as far as this book is concerned. I want this book shared with any who might enjoy it or benefit from it.

Perhaps you would consider being someone who could help me get this story out there. If you enjoy reading and are able to put some kind of effort into critiquing the story, you could help. Please consider whether it would be right for you to read this story after you’ve been introduced to it. In particular, know that this novel does not avoid the subject of death; it is an integral part of the story.

There are a number of ways in which a beta reader can be helpful. Perhaps you are good at seeing the big picture, and can read through the story to evaluate things like theme, as well as register the impact it has on you. Perhaps you are excellent with details and rarely miss a typo. Perhaps you enjoy tracking all the happenings in a story and will notice missing information. It is extremely beneficial for an author to have someone else look at a story with fresh eyes. I am too close to this novel to separate the story that’s in my head from the story that is actually written in words on a page.

If you are interested, please send an email to gardinbalm at gmail.com. There are more details at the end of this post.

Wow, this is exciting! I’m nervous about the feedback I will get, which is only natural, but I’m also eager to share my story. So, here is my pitch:

Climate change. Global warming. Sixth Great Extinction. These are phrases we hear about every day, although maybe you try not to hear them or read them. The possible scenarios are endless, for those who ponder these things. But underlying it all, whether you consider it or ignore it, is the fear of losing everything. The little things we do for the earth seem to make no difference. What if all of this really gets out of control and every form of life goes extinct, including humans?

A Beautiful End imagines a planet earth that can no longer sustain life. It follows four successive human lives. The first character, Carol, is a workaholic lawyer who starts a new life in mountainous British Columbia in the 1980’s. She is followed by Dale, an Indigenous man who returns to the home of his birth in northern Ontario. Maria is a climate migrant of Mexican origin who ends up in a refugee camp in southern Ontario. The final character is Jordan, a young person whose birth was not expected but whose short life is far different from anything we might imagine. As these humans and the people they are in relationship with sort out how to live and die, you will feel honoured to have met them and to have shared in their witness to the mother of us all, Mother Earth.

If you are interested in being a beta reader, here are some more details.

At your request, I will send you an electronic copy of A Beautiful End. Please indicate what format you would like it in. I can supply .mobi for Kindle (the e-reader or the app), .epub for Kobo and other apps, or PDF. Alternatively, you could provide me with an email address that is connected with your gmail account and you could use google docs to read it. This will allow you to leave comments as you are reading. PDF might do that as well, depending on what you use to read it. Again, my email address is gardinbalm at gmail.com

Consider which of these options would work best for you, and let me know:

A. The details.
You are good at picking up typos, missing words, grammar mistakes, things like that. I don’t think there are many, but an author never gets them all.

B. The big picture.
If you are good at seeing the big picture, then go ahead and read the entire novel. Keep track of your impressions. Let me know you are finished and I will send you some questions for you to consider, based on what I was hoping to accomplish with this story.

C. The characters.
Perhaps you are a person who enjoys stories mostly because of how you connect with the characters. Then you could choose one or more of the characters and consider whether their story rings true with you. Is there anything that doesn’t seem to fit? Is there important information missing that you think would be helpful?

D. Wing it.
You aren’t sure what would work best for you and would rather just read the book and see what pops out. That’s fine, too. I appreciate any feedback.

I’m looking forward to receiving feedback on A Beautiful End. This is the first time I have made something I have written available for more than just a few people to read. I hope you enjoy reading it!

April 06, 2016

April in Southern Ontario

That April
She makes fools of us
Long blades of grass poking through heavy white snow
Daffodil buds hanging low, forlorn and bedraggled

Many harried minutes
Donning heavy winter attire
Applying winter’s schedule
To bright spring sunshine

The sun mocks us
Lighting our way when dinner is done
Glinting off the white
February in May

Burdens hang on us, heavy as the snow
Our heads hang down, forlorn, lost
In this neverland of cold and wet

At night in our warm homes
Heat turned up against the damp
We wonder what we’ll shed
When finally spring’s warmth finds us

We will straighten our backs
As the heat from the sun soaks into us
Let slip our heavy load
And smile with the daffodils

October 31, 2014

Why I Write Climate Fiction

Climate fiction is a genre term used for writing and other forms of art that are based on themes of climate change. Stories in the climate fiction genre, commonly referred to as cli-fi, can take place in past, present or future, although they most commonly take place in the near future. As such, cli-fi stories are places where our minds can easily take us. Change in climate may be a bold or a subtle theme, but in most cases they challenge us to consider the implications of climate change for ourselves and future generations.

Climate fiction often crosses other genres. Cli-fi novels frequently have a place in the science fiction genre due to the role technology can play in future changes. Other common genres are fantasy, mystery, and romance.

I find myself quite clearly choosing climate fiction as my genre. I am passionate about our earth. I was writing about our connection to the earth before I ever heard of cli-fi. I wrote very pointedly about climate change last November but didn’t learn about cli-fi until I’d written well over 50,000 words. It’s definitely my passion!

I thought it might be helpful to explore why I have this passion. The two main reasons are that writing is my passion and having a healthy earth to live in is my passion. I grew up in rural southern Ontario where it was normal to spend the day outside as a kid. I had the freedom to explore the hills and valleys and streams of my neighbourhoods. To this day, I need to garden with bare hands so that I can feel the soil and the plants. Even living in the city, I need to spend time outside every day, to find some way to connect with the air, the sky, the trees, the plants.

Writing cli-fi gives the opportunity to ask and try to answer a host of questions. How did we get here? What will the future look like in 30 or 50 or 100 years? Is there hope for us? It’s an opportunity to explore who people are, what makes them do what they do, what it takes to make changes.

We are all living the reality of climate change right now, but our reactions to it differ greatly. Some of us deny it, some of us fight back, some of us tune it out, and some of us groan in depression. The possibilities for story ideas are endless and even overwhelming. There are the many imagined futures depending on what the changes for our planet might look like. There are the many ideas for solving the problems that will result, like flooding and drought. And all of these details and possibilities are interwoven with the great varieties of characters that will populate these stories.

In the end, I write cli-fi and work at making my art something that others can read because that is my contribution to our fight for the survival of our planet. Perhaps my imaginings and efforts will encourage other people to find their own part to play.

This is the night before November. To some it is Halloween, but to me it is the night before National Novel Writing Month. November is the month I devote to my passion of writing. Every spare moment is spent writing. No distractions tolerated (well, very few). It’s my month to give my creativity free reign.

I have a cli-fi novel that needs lots of revision work, so I am not writing a novel this November. But I will be writing. I am writing short stories in the cli-fi genre. I find that idea exciting and a little scary, on the night before November.

October 24, 2014

The Beginnings of Revision

I have a full-length novel completed. But does it really say what I want it to say? Would you actually find it interesting if you picked it up right now to read? How much information is only in my head and not in the story like I thought it was?

In my last post, I wrote that it was time to edit my novel. Editing is not the correct word to use for the work I am doing on my story right now. Some of that happens along the way, like correcting a typo or changing a word. I am revising my novel. I would like to share what I have been doing.

Even using the word “revise” makes it seem much simpler than it is. Before I began to make changes, I needed to set up my story to facilitate revision. I started by making a synopsis of each section in my story. I use Scrivener, which has a built-in place to enter a synopsis. Currently, I have three story arcs. Each section, which may be considered a chapter, alternates from one arc to the next.

My next step was to take each significant action and input it into a timeline program. I use Aeon Timeline for this. This program accommodates for the three arcs in my story. By the end of the story, characters from the three arcs come together. I was very pleased to reach the end of my timeline and discover that the timing of each arc meshes just as I needed it to!

It was tempting to jump right in and start re-writing parts to improve how I said them. In fact, I started to do that but I stopped myself. I had to have all the parts right before I did that. It would be a shame to put effort into re-writing paragraphs that might not end up in my novel anyway.

Secure in the timing of events, I decided that my next step was to address the many questions I had come up with, listed in my Project Notes in Scrivener. You see, whenever I thought of something that I could add to my story or something that needed double-checking or anything like that, I made a note of it.

I ended up with quite a list! I am in the process now of working my way through it. Some of the things were really easy, so I attended to them first. My list is now a little shorter. Some of them will take more time, like making sure I have created a picture for the reader of what is happening or what a character looks like.

And then there are always the story elements that “seemed like a good idea a the time”, but when you look at them more carefully with the distance of time, you realize that they do not fit as well as you thought. I have one element in particular that I am not ready to solve. Some of the characters in my story have made significant technological advances in a future that is beyond the lifetime of most of you who read this. I need to determine what kind of food they would eat that takes advantage of technology and no longer requires the kind of intensive farming that we expect. This does not need to actually be “real food”, but it needs to contain enough to sustain them. The idea I used when writing my first draft was successful at moving the story forward, but it does not really work. I have set that problem aside, while seeking advice from some sci-fi writer friends. There are many other things to work on in the meantime.

And all of this is now on hold. I have spent much of October preparing for National Novel Writing Month. Soon I’ll be focused on a month of writing. November is my favourite month.

August 06, 2014

Introducing a Novel

I’ve spent the last many months finishing my novel. I had hoped to blog about it as I went along, but I discovered I couldn’t do both. So in the interest of finishing my story, I let any other writing go by the wayside.

I now consider my first draft to be finished! It currently stands at 80,400 words. That is an impressive number of words to write in nine months when you consider how busy my life is! That’s a big accomplishment for me; there, I’ve given myself a pat on the back.

Let me introduce my story.

Working title: Beyond a Remnant

Genre: climate fiction, also known as cli-fi. When I started writing, I didn’t know there was such a category, but this novel fits perfectly.

Synopsis: Somewhere around the turn of the next century, this story follows the lives of three main characters and the people around them who are surviving the ravages of climate change. From the north of Ontario, known for its fresh water lakes, to the metropolitan areas of western Lake Ontario, only a tiny fraction of today’s population numbers remain. Will the few that are left follow the many and disappear, or is there a way for life to continue? Can this ravaged earth possibly support life when even the few remaining upper class have lost access to its resources?

Before I began this novel, I seemed to be much more aware of climate change than a lot of the people around me. Since writing this novel, my concerns have intensified. There is a whole other story of the people in my novel’s setting that didn’t make it to the year 2100. It’s a story I was forced to think about in general to write my novel, but I hope none of us have to live it out. My novel is almost a worst-case scenario, except that some people have survived. Humanity has not been wiped out. There is hope.

I invite you to join me on my journey towards publication. This is a new step for me. I have never published a book before, but I believe this one needs to be read. I cannot keep it to myself. I expect it will yet be a long journey, as the hard work of editing begins now. I intend to do my own first edit. It is now the story I want others to read, but it is not yet the writing I want others to read. I’m looking forward to editing!

By inviting you to join me, I pledge to increase my communication. As an introvert, I am most comfortable when I keep my thoughts to myself and work things out in my own head. A novel won’t get published if it stays inside someone’s head, and we won’t affect climate change much if we each hide in our own corner. I will never be shouting from the rooftops, but at the very least, I need to post to this blogspot more often.

I’ll be back.