Sunlight Later

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Any time spent in the company of children and young adults, especially in uncertain and disturbing and distressing times, can be balm for the soul. Whatever that means. But if you spend your days with kids and young adults, especially if you do so on a regular basis in the business of school, you know what I mean, even allowing for the usual joys and sorrows the job brings.

I get my share of that balm as a has been teacher who reassumes that privileged mantle in the setting of teaching music at home, and reading and talking to students about writing, and sometimes singing songs with the younger kids.

A couple of weeks ago, I had three consecutive days of it, first singing Hallowe’en and other songs with a good friend’s kindergarten class, whom I thank for their responsiveness, and their mannerly behaviour, and their readiness to sing and join in the actions that accompany some of the songs.

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The next day I had a bouncy two hour ferry ride to Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy, and an even bouncier ride back to the mainland (check out the video at         https://youtu.be/lp96sSS4gtY), and in between enjoyed ninety minutes at the island’s library, reading from Colorland, Black Water Rising, and Riot School to fifty grade nine and ten students from the adjoining Grand Manan Community School.

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On the third day I was singing Hallowe’en and other songs all over again, this time at the Town of St. George’s Fall Festival with a bunch of little kids stoked with Hallowe’en candy (preceding, and inevitably eclipsed by, the incomparable Perly the Magician).

Three days that remind you, as you struggle to come to terms with the reactionary mania that seems to be all the rage with the mindless set, that here, among school children, there is still joy and confidence and delight and acceptance and love. And, in the end, it will be all right after all.

There will be sunlight later.

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Reading from Seaside to City

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St. Martins Harbour

It’s odd how often being a writer involves reading aloud to an audience.

There’s no logical connection between the two. Writing is an introverted activity, reading aloud the domain of the extrovert. Writing is creating, reading aloud is performing.

Sometimes we say a book is a good ‘read aloud’. But books aren’t necessarily written to be read aloud. It’s not like writing a play, where the actors, as transmitters of the written word, play a part – can’t help playing a part – in its interpretation.

What about a poem? Is it meant to be read aloud? If so, the same thing applies, even if the reader and the poet are the same person.

Of course that’s true for a novel, too, when the author, in reading the work aloud, also becomes its interpreter.

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The famous caves of St. Martins

And, anyway, there’s always a gap between what the writer, in whatever genre, is trying to say and what the reader ‘receives’. But that’s true for all human communication, written or spoken. We never know how what we are saying – trying to say – is being received by our listener. It’s part of the essential alone-ness of the human condition, if you want to get existential about it.

Which I don’t, not right now, anyway, and never intended to.

What prompted these perambulations is a weekend of readings, which took me from the lovely olde worlde elegance of the Tidal Watch Inn, in the picturesque seaside town of St. Martins, New Brunswick, Canada, to the casual cool chic of Saint John’s Teen Resource Centre.

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The first reading was to a group of erudite Road Scholars (formerly Elderhostellers) from all over the U.S. It was a return visit for me to the Tidal Watch Inn, where Kathy, the owner, was kind enough to introduce me as the Inn’s resident author, and, as always, made the reading experience a total pleasure.

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On the spectacular Fundy Trail, St. Martins

The second reading was to a group of cautiously inquisitive teens who gave up their Saturday night to attend an event intriguingly and seductively entitled Walking in the Myst. Part of Saint John’s Fog Lit Festival, it featured authors Eric Murphy, Vicki Grant, Lisa Harrington, and me. My contribution was the ‘official’ launch of Black Water Rising.

Both audiences were equally rewarding to read to. Hoping they both felt equally rewarded for listening.

 

To Trilogise or Not To Trilogise?

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One of the blogs I follow is by Suffolk, England, writer Dylan Hearn, who recently wrote about Ten Things I Wish I’d Known Before Writing a Trilogy.

The trilogy Mr. Hearn is referring to, The Transcendence Trilogy, has just been published, for which I send Mr. Hearn congratulations. Here’s a link: https://authordylanhearn.wordpress.com/

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The blog by Mr. Hearn, who lives in the lovely county of Suffolk, England, just up the road from where I grew up, set me thinking (as good blogs do), which in turn led to my wondering why writers write trilogies, and not stories that span two, rather than three, books.

The facile answer that pops into my mind is that they simply don’t know what to call such a work.

A duology?

But a duology sounds so, well, unfinished, as if the writer had insufficient ideas to make it a trilogy. A duology sounds like a failed trilogy, a series the writer gave up on, shamefully, like giving up on learning the piano, just another failure in your life, another indicator of your general inadequacy and fecklessness.

A trilogy, on the other hand, sounds confident and accomplished.

Which brings me to my ongoing story, Colorland (Speaking Volumes Press), which I conceived as a trilogy, but now, with volume two, Leaving Colorland, limping along no further than a first, very rough draft, and volume three only the faintest brush of a few ideas, unfocussed and undeveloped, I’m beginning to lose my nerve, those tendrils of doubt fostered partly by Mr. Hearn’s thoughts on writing a trilogy.

And I’m wondering – should Colorland be a trilogy, or should I be satisfied with it as a duology?

The questions that arise are already noted or alluded to in Mr. Hearn’s blog:

Do Colorland’s three principal characters, Ridge, Isolde, and Wenden, have the legs for three stories? Do they have enough depth to continue to explore and reveal, and to enable them to learn and grow and change through three volumes?

Do I have the legs to write three stories about them?

Do I want to devote another year or more to Ridge, Isolde and Wenden, much as I’ve grown to like them and their company? Am I satisfied with having to leave aside the exploration and development of other, perhaps more worthy, story ideas, perhaps with more potential?

Does anyone care if I write a third ‘Colorland’? Is it worth it?

(Of course I ask those questions – Does anyone care about this? Is this worth pursuing? – with every book I start, and have to push them aside before they cripple me.)

So, for setting these thoughts in motion, thank you, Mr. Hearn.

I think.

 

Slouching towards Leaving Colorland

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For the fans of Colorland who are anxiously awaiting the sequel, here’s how it stands: It has a provocative (I hope) title, to wit, Leaving Colorland. It has a very rough, unfinished draft, in fact more of a draft plot with considerable elaboration, that so far has reached 30,000 words, many of which will be deleted. It has an opening paragraph (subject to revision, of course) starting: He feels them before he hears them. A pulse in the air …

I mention this not only to salve the impatience of Colorland fans, but also to offset the notion that a rather spasmodic writer’s blog like mine, rather than a regular blog, with at least a weekly entry, such as the promoting-yourself-as-a-no-name-writer experts recommend, does not necessarily mean the writer-blogger is accomplishing nothing.

For example: Colorland The Sequel is underway, if in painfully slow fashion. (The photo, courtesy of Nancy R., illustrates the appalling conditions I have to endure as I work on it.)

At the same time, I’ve been proofing the new edition (by Speaking Volumes Press) of my first adult novel, The Ragged Believers, for release in the next few weeks, nearly sixteen years after its original publication by New Brunswick’s own, sadly lamented, DreamCatcher Publishing.

And I’ve been dealing with the final stages of a new teen/crossover novel, Black Water Rising, due for release in September by Nimbus Publishing, flatteringly described by Halifax writer Steve Vernon as “a rolling read that will sweep the reader away like a paper boat caught up in a flash flood … guaranteed to entertain and enthrall … Rayner’s best work yet!” and by Ontario writer Rich Meyrick, equally flatteringly, as “an environmentally charged, edgy drama”.

I’ve also recently finished final proofing of a new teen story, Riot School (nice title for a book by a former school principal), due for release any day now by J. Lorimer, that explores the theme of what form should protest by young people take when they object to a decision that directly affects them and no-one will listen.

Stay tuned.

Music on a Summer Afternoon

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’Tis the season of summer music, and our band, Stepping Out, has played three dates in the last couple of weeks, all of them here in Charlotte County, New Brunswick, Canada.

(We’re not exactly a stadium band, and we don’t travel far, although if there’s someone out there who’d like to book us for a gig in, say, Greece, or the Bahamas, we’d be happy to negotiate.)

The first date was in St. George, in Magaguadavic Place, the community centre named after the Magaguadavic River that flows through the town. (The summer music series is no longer al fresco, in the bandstand by the river, because the weather close to the coast here proved too unpredictable, causing immense confusion when a change of venue had to be made at the last minute as rain or fog blew in from the sea.) Admission was a contribution to the food bank, which also sold refreshments during the intermission. We debuted Burning in Colorland, the song I wrote to accompany my novel, Colorland, taking it at a slower tempo than the recording on YouTube, giving more time for Julie’s poignant vocals to convey the anguish Isolde feels at her loss of Ridge:

And I yearn for the days before all this begun                                                                                         When we were boy and girlfriend hanging out, just having fun                                                                 But we lost all that when we made a stand                                                                                                       Said goodbye to innocence, became comrades hand in hand                                                                         Still burning in Colorland …

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The second gig was in our neighbour town, St. Stephen, on the border with the U.S., in the picturesque setting of the David Alison Ganong Chocolate Park (so named after the famous Ganong Chocolates made in the town). We played in the new bandstand, with the St. Croix River behind, so that the audience, on benches and rugs and lawn chairs, could gaze past us at Calais, Maine, on the other side of the river.

The third was back in St. George, in the bandstand by the river – in perfect weather! – when we (just the quartet this time, of drums, guitar, keyboard, and Julie on vocals) provided background music for a Community Barbecue (hamburgers, hot dogs and, of course, fresh salmon) (‘of course fresh salmon’ because St. George is an important centre of aquaculture). The barbecue, in aid of the Charlotte County chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, was also the culminating event of the Rally in the Valley Veterans’ Ride, so incorporated a display of motorbikes.

We thank the towns for inviting us to play, and the sponsors for their support, and we think – hope! – the gratifyingly big crowds enjoyed the music. Certainly the little kids who danced their way almost non-stop through the programme in St. Stephen did.

And what better way to spend a summer evening than listening to music and dancing with such enviable, happy abandon?

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Almost Speechless (2)

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Picking up where I left off last blog …

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Rather than blame the saltatory nature of writing for stalling me in my efforts to outline the plot of a new story, I could equally well blame two weeks in Scotland for leaving me (almost) speechless, at the same time justifying the substitution of pictures for words, because the pictures render words unnecessary.

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So here are Eilean Donan castle, the Highlands, Ullapool, and a rather sad and pensive looking Walter Scott brooding over Edinburgh.

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