Sunday, July 25, 2010

Excerpt - Parish picnic

I thought it would be enticing and refreshing to include an excerpt from Chapter 2, during the parish picnic and where Gio tries to console a sad and angry Sera.  Imagine a fictitious beach somewhere along Georgian Bay way back in 1970. 

Begin excerpt:

As Gio was setting up his basket, organizing his fishing gear and wrestling with the lawn chair, he heard a sweet voice from behind. 

“Aren’t you going to swim, Father Gio?” inquired a voice innocently behind him.  He turned to face Gwen, her freckled cheeks and crooked smile.  Her red-orange hair was waving in the breeze like licks of long, unruly flames. 

“No, my child.  You wouldn’t want to see ME in a swimsuit.  I’d scare all the fish – and maybe even the ladies.”

“You’re funny,” she giggled, “Okay, then.  See ya!” and she was off in a puff of beach dust to join the others.

Gio raised and lowered his arms to feel the late June breeze cooling the wet spots under his arms and on his back.  He smiled and nodded as people passed by and greeted him.  His scouting gaze met that of Marie Fletcher’s.  She smiled and waved with her right hand then lowered it to lightly grasp her side.  With her left, she pointed towards the milkweed patch near the trees.  He nodded and waved back in acknowledgment. 

Gio retrieved two cans of Canada Dry Ginger Ale from his cooler, grabbed an opener, his straw hat and proceeded in the direction of the patch beyond the border of a few birch trees.  He stumbled slightly over stones and tree stumps then stopped.  He listened to the sound of the breeze rustling through the treetops and realized how refreshing it was.  It almost sounded like the water of the Georgian Bay lapping at the nearby shore.  He felt soothed by the song of wind and water.   He breathed lightly then stopped all activity at the sight of the little girl. 

There she was, sitting on an old stump, holding out her small hand.  On the tip of her fingers was a freshly transformed Monarch butterfly slowly flapping its wings in the light breeze of the sheltered patch.  Gio stood still and watched her as she connected with this small creature.  This is my child, he thought, smiling with joy.  A wild child.  An angel.  A miracle of creation.  My shame.  My  joy.  He fought back tears.

The air felt suddenly still.  Gio breathed in and out lightly.  For a moment he couldn’t tell if she was holding the butterfly up and out with her hand and small arm - or if it, through its light flapping, was trying to lift her into the air.  He smiled sadly and shook his head, realizing the logical explanation. 

He lingered his gaze on the smooth, pudginess of her arm up to her fingertips.  His heart raced and fluttered.  The butterfly leapt off of the girl's fingers and floated awkwardly towards Gio in arcs and dips, landing on his straw hat.  Sera turned her gaze to follow its flight path but frowned when she saw Father Gio standing there in his fatness, holding a can of pop in each hand and smiling at her. 

“Are you thirsty, Sera?” he called. 

Her mouth was indeed dry and she wanted to blurt out a loud “yes” but her pride allowed her to only shrug and nod her head.  Gio walked carefully through the stumps and rocks, finally reaching a boulder across from the child.  He slowly lowered his large rear end on the rock, sighing as he sat down.

“Hot day,” he stated then dug the can opener into one chilled soft drink, letting out a refreshing “Fizzzzz!”.  He handed the can to her.

“Thanks,” she said quietly.

“You’re welcome,” he replied, opening his can to fizz and accompany his response.

“Cheers, Sera,” he said lifting the drink to his lips and taking in a few gulps.

“Cheers, Gio,” she responded then observed the monarch still resting on his hat.  He winced at her persistent use of first names with him but didn’t want to start a war of wills on such a lovely day. 

“Why aren’t you out on the beach with the other kids?”

“I’m sad,” She kicked at a stone,  "I’m angry."

He took another sip, “Why is that, my child?”  As soon as he spoke those words, he realized their secret meaning.  My child.  My child. 

- end excerpt -

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Murphy's Law and reference books

Just when I am wrapping up the last few paragraphs and plan to do an edit sweep, I can't find two books that I wanted to use.  

I have somehow misplaced or loaned out my copy of Five Fast Steps to Better Writing by Barbara Florio Graham.  Time to do an extreme search and recover in the overflowing bookcases.

Within less than a day of having Sigrid Macdonald's "Be Your Own Editor - A Writer's Guide to Perfect Prose"  in my hot little hands, I left it at someone's house after a meeting today.  Arg!  Luckily, when I mentioned my problem to the author of the BYOE, she sent me a PDF copy for my use.  

It's an adjustment for me to use an electronic book as reference.  At least they're much easier to search for keywords! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010


While enduring one of the Ottawa Valley summer heat waves, I can appreciate the cool shade of a deciduous tree and the rustling, rattling of leaves dancing to a random breeze. 

I enjoy the fact that Ottawa is home to the beautiful arboretum on the Central Experimental Farm.  I appreciate that there is organization of dedicated volunteers who care about The Farm.  There is also a City of Ottawa advisory committee that provides a forum for citizens on issues related to trees and forests.  I have even attended a couple of their organized tours. 

Trees play an important role throughout the novel.  Muskoka is host to many types of trees (not just pines).  One tree of significance is the pin cherry tree growing on the Fletcher's property. 

Snippet from chapter 10 (This is shortly after Matthew learns of his late wife's dalliances and the paternity of his daughters)

By the time Georgette hobbled back to the house, Sera had just finished writing her letter to Mrs. Johnson and packed up the stationery box. Her Aunt paused to kiss her on the forehead before heading upstairs to change into her house clothes.

Sera grabbed an apple from the fruit bowl on the counter and went out to the back yard. The sun had not yet set on this beautiful evening.  She secured the apple into her teeth and suctioned it securely with her lips as she climbed the dying cherry tree.  She sat on one of her favourite limbs and surveyed her small domain.  She could see more now that the tree had less leaves.  She felt bigger and exposed now that she could not hide within the green canopy.

Georgette watched her niece from the boys’ bedroom window as she changed her clothes and brushed her hair.  It had been almost a year since she had been staying with the family.  So many changes and twists in their lives.  Hopefully things would settle down soon.  She thought about moving on.  She smiled as she recalled Gio’s offer to join him in at the vineyard.  She closed her eyes and slowly ran the brush through her curly hair.  She felt a warm wave wash over her body.

Her soothing reverie was shattered by the sweet sound of Sera’s voice calling from the tree, “Hi, Daddy.  What are you going to do with that axe?”

Georgette dropped the hairbrush and leaned into the window box to see farther down the back lawn.  Matthew was walking with purpose up the path from the shop.  He headed straight for the cherry tree, looking up at his daughter.

“Oh, my God!” whispered Georgette loudly.  She tied her blouse, slipped on her flip-flop sandals and ran towards the stairs.  The tabby cat scrambled from the bedroom doorway – as if waiting for her -, ran in front of her downstairs and raced towards the back door. 

“Dammit, you cat!  Move!” she hissed and grabbed the patio door handle.  She broke a fingernail in her rush to get outside.  “Zut! Merde!”

When she finally made it to the tree, Matthew was standing underneath it, holding the large axe with both hands.  Sera was climbing down.

End snippet.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sex, Life and Death

In addition to a potpourri of other themes, this novel touches upon those of sexuality, teen pregnancy and women's health issues.

Yes, it also ventures on the taboo subject of abortion, one that greatly affects Father Gio when he hears and has to share sad news.  

As alluded to in an earlier post, there is also a murder that doesn't seem to garner sufficient attention by authorities... 

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Maynards Fruit Gums

I don't remember having Maynards Fruit Gums when I was a kid.  I do remember SweeTarts and Smarties.  And yes, I remember saving the red ones until last ;-)  Damn advertising!  It's good to know that they are removing the artificial colours and the harmful crap to which we were so oblivious. 

Now that I'm a grown up kid, I use Fruit Gums or Gummy Bears as writing treats. They provide a form of incentive to complete a few paragraphs at a time when I'm in a rut - or just plain procrastinating.  

These are likely better for me than chocolate or salty treats.  It's fun to compare and share incentive ideas with others while you're trying to work alone.  

Speaking of... it's time to revisit the murder scene...


Law of Man - Law of God

While performing my research for the Ten Commandments, I leafed through various bibles in our bookshelves and explored the world wild web.  I came upon a few credible looking web sites.  I didn't realize that there is a difference between the Catholic and Protestant versions of the Ten Commandments (or maybe I just blocked that out...)Wikipedia provides a few other views as well.  A progressive thinker may suggest they change some of the wording. Perhaps we can start with the all-inclusive Charter for Compassion

So, what's with the reference to the Ten Commandments, you may ask.  Well, throughout the entire novel, each of the commandments are broken at least once.  I thought it would provide an interesting study guide exercise in case this book makes it into any school curriculum.

On a side note, as I tap away at this Mac keyboard on a breezy July Saturday, I wonder how the Seven Deadly Sins are progressing over at Quirky B's. 

Friday, July 2, 2010

Life after Death

It's a heavy topic, especially one for a child to understand.   In this excerpt from chapter 9, eleven year-old Sera just finished helping Aunt Georgette bathe her mother and witnessed her cry for more morphine.  She wants to escape from the house. Marie is dying, succumbing to the cancer that has quickly spread throughout her body.  Sera visits the workshop to inspect the casket that Matthew and Perry have made. 


The dog understood. With a whimper and a sigh he laid on the floor after the men left the shop.  His brown eyes followed Sera as she slowly toured around the workshop, touching tools on the pegboard and tapping boxes on the counters.  She put her apple core on a small table then wiped her pudgy hands on her jeans.

Ringo looked at her and gave out one of those high-pitched whines, almost as if to ask, “Can we go now?” 

Sera walked slowly, one foot in front of the other back to the casket.  She ran her small fingers over the carvings on the lid and traced the shapes of the birds and butterflies.  She walked around to the other side, wiped her hands on her jeans again then ran the left one over the cool, smooth white satin interior.  She pushed gently down on the soft pillow. 

“A pillow?” 

The sight of it made Sera feel her own fatigue, to feel sleepy.  She took off her shoes and carefully climbed into the casket; gently positioning herself to lay her head on the little pillow, her dark curls spread to the top and sides.  Her chubby hips fit snuggly against the sides.

Ringo didn’t like that.  He got up to check on Sera and whined at the side of the casket.

“It’s okay, boy.  I’m just lying down in here.  Sit!  Stay!”

The casket was definitely not comfortable for sleeping, she concluded.  She recalled the phrase “eternal rest” and “rest in peace” those grown-ups used when describing someone who had passed away.  She remembered it used when Mr. Johnson died last winter.  She remembered being sad.  She remembered seeing Mrs. Johnson crying. 

The realization hit her that her mother was not going to get better; that the cancer was still spreading and that… she was going to die. Hot tears streamed from her eyes, down the side of her face and into her ears.  She wiped them with her hands, being careful not to get any on the nice material. 

“Think happy thoughts,” she told herself, “Think happy thoughts.”

Sera imagined her mother as an ancient queen, an Egyptian queen – a goddess even – and this was her sarcophagus.  She would be buried with treasures and beautiful statues.  People would cry at her funeral and tell stories for centuries about her royal life. 

Sera touched the sides of the interior and fingered the material.  It’s like a cocoon maybe.  Like she’s going to be wrapped up again in a cocoon then turn into a beautiful butterfly angel and fly to heaven.  Can butterflies fly up that high, she thought sleepily.  How far up is heaven?  Is heaven really in the sky… I wish I could…. Zzz.

: end excerpt


Thursday, July 1, 2010

The evolution of telephone communication

As I reviewed and edited this section in chapter 11, (Darn! How did I miss those mistakes?) I thought it would be interesting to note for the impatient, mobile youth that cell phones didn't exist during this time period (1970's). 


As Gio trotted out the front door to his car, he waved at the girls.  They waved back.

Panting and slightly soaked, he sat in the driver’s seat and turned on the interior light.  He looked at his watch.  Eight o’clock.  His parents and Georgette were going to be worried.  He spotted a telephone booth across the street from the Pizzeria.  He grabbed a handful of quarters from the clean ashtray and made a dash over to the phone booth.

After negotiating with the Bell operator and pumping in a few quarters, he heard the line ring on the other end.

“Hello?” said a woman’s worried voice.

“Hello, Mama?” said Gio.

“Gio!” she gasped, “Where are you?  We were worried!”

:End excerpt

There was no instant messaging, no texting and there were no camera phones.  It seemed like a much simpler time...