A Moment of Quiet

I get the best sense of whether or not I will enjoy a writer, not by how much I enjoy their moments of tension, but by how much I enjoy their moments of quiet.

While I enjoy (and write!) stories that tumble from one action point to the next, I get a much better sense of how a story comes together when it comes time to take a breath.

In poetry, there are a number of concepts about the place for breath and the speech of the white space. While genre writing tends to use less of a visual layout to illustrate the plot, that concept of breath and pause is equally important.

Sometimes when I read, I feel a bone-deep panic coming from the story when I hit the moment of slowdown. The pause feels less like a deliberate and conscious thought and more like an escaping breath of air as a buoyant idea slowly deflates.

It doesn’t need to be that way.

There is a magic in breathing.

When we look up from the path we’re walking, our eyes made new by the steps we have taken, the things we see and the way we see them can hit as hard as any act of violence or panic.

When I read the stories that pull me under, they take a breath with me, align their pulse with mine.

“Look,” they say. “When the world is silent, what do you hear?”

IMG_9248A silent world does not mean a world without something to say

As someone who enjoys both noise and silence, I am most happy at their intersection.

For my own more frenetic take on tense pauses, you can check out my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, that is available here.


A Means of Measure

I’m going to tell you a secret.

We do not count our lives in days or years.

Oh, we mark days in calendars and agendas, plot pathways to tomorrow and next week.

But in our memories…

Our lives are measured from the moments that have meaning, that shape us into the people we become.

Our memories are more honest than our day-to-day planning. They strip away the dull and measured, leaving only punctuations of pain or joy that the rest of our lives circle, circumpolar.

It has been this many years since the death of a loved one, this many days since leaving a home or falling in love or birthing a child.

We move, not from day to week to year, but from bright interruption to bright interruption, the rest of the gray falling by the wayside.

Our lives are good stories, our minds keenly excising all but what is most necessary to strip us to our cores.

Tell me this story: of a series of stars, separated not by space or time, but the breath between the telling.

IMG_1001A story exists to find the colours and draw them together

Our minds are great story-tellers. It is our fingers and voices that need some extra help.

I chase my own version of colours within my writing. If you would like to see my stories, my fantasy novel, The Guests of Honor, is available here.

On the Rocks

The first step isn’t the hardest.

When I look up at the jagged and uneven footing ahead of me, the first step is cautious, but well-prepared.

It is the six hundredth step, the one thousand and twenty-third step, when my concentration is blown and all I want to do is reach solid ground.

It is the split-second lack of focus, somewhere unremarkably in the middle, that results in an unforgiving fall.

In my stories, I think sometimes of the danger of exhaustion.

When someone has been facing trials for so long that their legs are weak and their minds are dull, that is when the disaster truly settles.

It is interesting to trace the roots of success or failure to the reaction to a single rock, somewhere in the middle of a thousand other rocks.

Success is not the careful planning at the beginning or the adrenaline-fueled charge at the end.

Success is the slight slip in the middle, corrected with patient focus, as your hands reach for the next surface.

IMG_0531A better way to handle rocks

For This Moment, Balance

The year is a lever, precariously balanced above the equinoxes.

I did not think of equal day and night when I lived elsewhere.

Those daylight hours matter so much less when they stay so much the same.

In the north, the shift is dramatic.

But there is a deceptive slowing around the equinoxes, a false sense that the hours are remaining the same.

Then everything is either dark.

Or light.

If the story is mild, the pivot points can shift in many directions with little change to the story.

Shift the pivots of stories with stark extremes, hard conflicts, and the seasons within unravel.

Shift the light and darkness and the land goes from harsh to uninhabitable.

I try to choose those pivots with care.

Because there is nothing like the moment when I wake, blinking, in light rather than darkness.

IMG_0466The passing of a pivot

In the Time Before

We start just before sunrise.

The tides are not with us.

We are efficient, even when we prepare in the darkness, even before we start hiking in the pale, rising light.

To pass the cliffs, the timing must be absolutely perfect.

To do otherwise is to join the bones resting in the crevices of the cliff face, smashed by the force of the waves.

When I write, the cliffs rise before me.

Those pieces of story, so delicate and so dangerous, on whose timing rests the success of the whole.

I think of that preparation, quiet and dark.

None of that was visible to the four-wheelers that passed us as if we were standing still.

By the time the cliffs are reached, it is already too late to prepare.

When we reach those jagged edges, those moments of fatal timing, the effortlessness of our passage must carry the shadow of that darkness.

We must carry those earlier hours, and move surely onwards.

There is never a guarantee in life or its telling that we will not make a fatal misstep.

But standing beyond the choke point, watching the world unfold, there is a magic nothing else can deliver.

There is no glamour in the darkness.

The ease of our magic is always rooted in a hundred invisible hours before the rising of the sun.

IMG_5421Where we start