Sunday, January 28, 2007
We also get charms of goldfinches. Best of all for this blog, a murder of crows and an unkindness of ravens are also regulars. I could go on, there are loads of charming terms for birds, but as I could well be alone in my love of the collective noun – I’ll move on.
The sheep in the field behind are busy dropping lambs, and I can hear their plaintive bleating even as I type. The lambs are tiny at present; some were born last night. That’s why a murder of crows has been about, clearing up the afterbirth. Crows are one of England’s answers to the vulture, keeping the landscape clean and hygenic by eating carrion.
I have just finished another long day at the typeface, trying to finish the second draft of Alone by the end of the month. I think I’ll make it, and three rousing cheers for that. I don’t know about you lot, but by the time I get to this stage of a book, I am so tired of the damned thing I could spit. It’s just as well I have deadlines to work towards, otherwise my rattle would fly out of my pram, and I’d head for the hills at a gallop (the mistress of the mixed metaphor!)
Still, as evening approaches, I can sit and stare past the screen of my Mac at the sky, the lambs and the birds, happy in the knowledge that this day’s graft is almost over. Just this blog to finish, some bread to bake and some bell peppers to stuff with feta cheese, black olives and the odd slice of tomato. But first, I can read a few chapters of Alexander McCall Smith’s latest collection of tales from Edinburgh’s Scotland Street. That man is a total and utter poppet and I just love his gentle wit.
Have a good week one and all. That’s not an instruction, I hasten to add – merely a suggestion.
Friday, January 26, 2007
I work at an ad agency and last week we engaged in a company-wide exercise designed to make us more aware of our company’s work habits and how we can better communicate within the agency. Now I’ve been to lots of these types of seminars over the years but this one was really outstanding. Freaky, too.
The seminar is called “Companies are People Too” and one of the main ideas behind it is that every company has its own personality, its own way of doing things. I’m going to skip over all the really helpful stuff we learned about our agency and get down to the stuff it said about me.
As part of the pre-seminar prep work we took a 40+ question personality quiz thingy and during the seminar we learned the results. It turns out that out of the 20 or so personality types, I’m what they call The Enthusiast. No surprise there, if you know me, but what freaked me out were the details that came up in the description – a person that sees humor in every situation…unconventional with a zany charm…can switch from total professionalism to total silliness in an instant…good motivators…not precise in their answers…good brainstormer…gets bored quickly…lacks follow through…dislikes bureaucracy, repetition and being alone…spontaneous… makes friends easily but is bad about keeping in touch… good at telling funny stories…
Okay, so maybe that’s a lot of people, but as we were going through the “type” it seemed that everyone at the agency was looking at me and more than one person said something like ‘well that explains everything.’ And it wasn’t like a horoscope where if you read one for a different sign it could fit perfectly for you as well. Only one of the other types came close to describing me and it wasn’t all that close. I’m telling you folks, it was weird, but in a cool way.
So then I got to thinking about archetypes all that epic hero/adventurer stuff that has influenced my writing. I’m sure there’s a way to pull together all the stuff I learned at the seminar and all the stuff I’ve picked up from reading folks like Joseph Campbell, Carol Pearson and Christopher Vogler and before I jump into writing my next book I think I’m going to take some time to explore those connections and expand my understanding of what motivates us to do the wacky stuff we do.
Or not. Knowing me, I’ll get all buzzed about it for a month, read voraciously on the topic, then get distracted by some bright lights or some colorful do-dad and run off in a whole new direction, telling everyone how amazingly cool this new way is and why they should try it.
I can’t help it. It’s my nature.
Thursday, January 25, 2007
I got the welcome news this week that Poisoned Pen Press will be publishing my new novel, Test Case, in October. This book is a dramatic departure from what I’ve done before. Scare the Light Away, and Burden of Memory were both set in rural Northern Ontario; they were standalone psychological suspense novels with a strong back story and flashbacks to World War II. Test Case is a modern police procedural, first in a series, set in a fictional small town in the interior of B.C. My editor at Poisoned Pen, Barbara Peters (also Charles’s editor as he mentioned) thought I was in danger of getting typecast into the psychological suspense/historical influence genre.
Those of you who have been reading this blog since the beginning will not be surprised to learn that there is a bike theft subplot in the new book.
Only one problem: Barbara wants me to cut about 10 – 15,000 words from the manuscript. That’s a lot. I have been thinking about what can go. To begin, some of the background noise and description probably. I tend to write a lot about food. What do you think that says about me? I guess I’ll have to cut out some of the food references. But so all this writing effort is not lost, here follows an author’s cut of a book, sort of like a director’s cut of a movie, where you get to see scenes that were considered not good enough to go in the main release,.
They ordered General Tso Chicken, beef with snow peas, and spicy shrimp with piles of rice.
She’d chosen the poached wild salmon; he’d wanted the fillet mignon but at 40 bucks a pop it was too much, so he settled for a T-bone.
“I’m going to have the pate followed by lamb shanks.”
His pate arrived. Pink and plump served with perfectly browned toast points.
The remains of three quiches and a huge spinach salad from Michael, along with bread from Alphonse’s, a crockpot of steaming meatballs provided by Ruth, plates of cheese and crackers, and a chocolate cake, sat in the middle of the table.
She would have loved a steak, rare, with a baked potato piled high with sour cream, but she had a twelve-hour shift ahead of her, and a meal like that would have her asleep on her feet. She ordered a spinach salad. Meredith went for the salmon.
Smith took a deep breath, wishing she hadn’t had quite such a large breakfast. A warm croissant or seeded roll straight from the oven would be heaven.
I think it’s time for lunch.
But before I go, I’m going to do a lot of U.S. promotion for the book. Any and all tips on where to go and what to do would be appreciated.
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Sadly, the title was chosen by my publisher, largely due to time being too short to wait for me to come up with anything better. I lack enthusiasm for Alone , but marketing are dead keen. So, apparently, are the buyers at various supermarkets, who have ordered up a whole load of ’em. Why are publishers so keen on getting our deathless prose on the shelves next to washing powders, tins of beans and economy packets of knickers that come 6 for the price of 4 (this, though, is a false economy. Take it from one who has several times found herself pushing her supermarket trolley with one hand whilst holding up her knackered knickers with the other. The elastic gives out in very swift order – 4 out of the 6 in less than a year – disgraceful! It takes more sangfroid than I possess to simply step out of them and pop them in my handbag, the way Great Aunt Peg once did when her drawers dropped as she left Worthing post office. But that’s another story.)
In my innocence –some would say muddle-headedness, which, though true, is unkind – I thought this blog was all about cosy conversations with fellow writers and interested readers. I had no idea it was all about advertising - duh! - And advertisements in toilets? The most we run to in the khazi on the local seafront is a rather literary graffito: ‘And then he kissed me in a way that Shakespeare would approve’ – sweet, if a tad clunky.
Sometimes, in racier areas, there are discreet references to the location of the nearest ‘Special Clinic’ (read ‘pox doc’ between the lines) and exhortations to indulge only in safe sex, ‘Condom machine located by entrance’. I have yet to see any references to Omo, All Bran or Annie Crumpet’s Cut Price Travel, and thank goodness for small mercies, I say.
Hail stones the size of golf balls are battering the shed; time to make a dash for the house and a soothing cup of tea. Have a good week, folks. By the way, Charles, I am dead impressed with your book planning. I know I couldn’t do it. I sit down each day and think, ‘I wonder what they’re up to today?’ I like my characters to surprise me, and when they do, I know they’ve taken on a life of their own – and I just love that!
Saturday, January 20, 2007
Michael’s post (below) hit just about everything I wanted to write about today. He said it first and said it better, but I’m going to jump in and give my take on that Done-sort-of-more-or-less theme.
Most authors I know start off with a quick rough draft that they revise until it shines. As I’ve written here in the past, I don’t work that way. I map out – literally – where I think the story will go* and then write what is often the final product. I agonize over every line and even though I know how I want a chapter to end, if I can’t find the right word, I can’t move on. I know, it’s stupid, but it’s worked so far.
Now just before Christmas I sent in my newest manuscript, Noble Lies. My editor, the inimitable Barbara Peters, sent it back, asking me to make a few changes. No big deal and actually kind of fun. Just as Michael said, I found myself re-reading sections and saying things like, “that’s damn good” and “wow, did I write that?” Naturally I spotted some groaners too – that’s why she sent it back – but since it’s just Barbara (and a few select previewers) that’s okay.
The good news is that I’ve lived with this book for well over a year now and I still like it. Any writer will tell you, read something enough times and you never want to read it again. But so far, after 10+ complete read-throughs, I’m still liking it. Sure, the action’s not as nail-biting as it was the first six times I read it and the jokes have lost much of their sparkle, but I doubt that anyone will ever read it that many times. And if they do, I think they’ll still enjoy it. True, they need to get a life – or another book – but who am I to judge.
So, I’ll read it One More Time, then send it out. In a few months I’ll get an advanced reading copy to preview and read that a few times, looking for typos and other bugaboos that sneak in.
Do I suggest you read my books 20 times?
But do feel free to buy that many copies.
*In my December 24th post I told you all about ByLine magazine. I just submitted an article about how I use map making/storyboarding techniques to plot my books. I’ll let you know when it runs.
Thursday, January 18, 2007
What do I mean by “sort of, more or less”? Well, if you’re a writer, you know how it goes. A book or a story is never ever really finished, until it’s in print, anyway, by which time it’s too late to fix that bit of description or dialog that makes you cringe whenever you read it. “Oh, god, did I write that?” As I write, the MS is in the hands of some people I trust not to spare my feelings when it comes to pointing out the clangers and mercilessly deleting redundant superfluities. Maybe then it will be ready to send to my editor.
In the meantime, I got down to work on the third Tom McCall/Granville Island book, Depth of Field. I’d written a 60,000 word draft a while back, between drafts of The Dells, but had lots of notes about things I wanted to change. On reading the draft, though, I thought, “Hm, not bad. Don’t have to change as much as I thought.” And I got down to it.
Then real life intruded. My day job came back. My day job had temporarily abandoned me in mid 2006. Fortunately, it had abandoned me after I’d make a nice pile of change, so I was able to spend the rest of the year working on The Dells.
It’s not that my day job sucks. It doesn’t. Mainly I develop technical training for the railroad and railroad-related things, such as on-track crane operation and the transportation of hazardous goods. It’s interesting, more often than not. And it pays pretty well. Problem is, I freelance and it’s hard to shift gears between freelance technical writing and creative writing, especially when the technical writing pays so much better.
Between 1984 and 1994 I had a real day job with Canadian National Railways. Up at seven, in the office by eight, out at four-thirty, home by five. Weekends off. Steady income. Paid vacations. Chance to travel. And I was writing. Technical specs and manuals, speeches and presentations, annual departmental reports, R&D papers, and more. Terrific discipline and invaluable experience.
The regular hours also made it easy to switch gears on my way home -- I pretty much walked to and from work for most of those ten years -- allowing me to get back into fiction writing, which I’d pretty much abandoned in the mid seventies. I was more or less single for a good part of that time, too, which helped, although I’m not sure “help” is quite the right word.
I went back to freelancing in 1994, with a nice severance package that gave me the freedom to write for a year. That same year I met Pamela. All in all, returning to freelancing and meeting Pam were both good things. Meeting Pam was an especially good thing, for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is that If Looks Could Kill, my first (published) mystery, might not have been published but for her. She convinced me to submit the MS to the inaugural Chapters/Robertson Davies contest in 1999; it was a finalist and subsequently published by McClelland & Stewart in 2001.
Generally speaking, the (creative) writing life is a good one. If only it paid better ... financially, anyway.
That's it for now. Keep warm, everyone.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
Not meaning to be crude in mentioning this, I was doing a gig last week and decided to visit the men's room before one of the sets. (If you've ever been in the situation where you're quite literally trapped at the back of a stage and have to pee 5 minutes into a 45-minute set, you'll understand my "concern".)
As I stood facing what nature intended be a tiled wall, I noticed something new: a small TV screen on which a video began playing as soon as I stepped up. Actually, it wasn't just some video; it was an ad for deodorant soap. I immediately checked my armpits like some Pavlovian dog before I could stop myself. I toyed momentarily with aiming upwards a bit on my urinal to see what damage I could cause, but alas, morals intervened. They probably had this aspect of the business covered anyway.
Then it hit me: You can't even visit the washroom anymore without someone trying to sell me something!
(On the surface this may not seem to have anything to do with a Blog on crime writing, but stay with me here.)
Looking around I saw one other video player over by the sinks and several more print ads. Quite literally the walls were covered with advertising. A quick check of the stalls showed that, sure enough, each one also had a print ad on the inside of the door. I later checked with the ladies in the band and they're little sanctum has also been blessed by the gods of advertising.
To me, this whole thing is the final straw. They have commercials at movies. The last show I went to had 11 ads before they even got to the coming attractions (9 of those). They're putting in video monitors at the gas pumps, in supermarkets. Jiminy Crickets, there's even advertising on the flooring in supermarkets. You can't go to a stadium anymore with out being bombarded by advertising to the point where you find you're reading the ads instead of watching the game. Quite literally, advertising is everywhere! Next up, I'll bet, will advertising on toilet paper -- although that might not be such a bad idea. There's some deep symbological significance there. Ah, the glory of revenge...
I sat down to write my blog entry for this week on a totally different topic, but decided I needed to get this off my chest. I felt a lot better, then I got a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach: isn't that just what this blog is doing, too? We authors are trying to present ourselves, and hopefully our writing, to a wider audience with these little weekly scribblings.
At least I hope we're entertaining. The deodorant soap commercial wasn't.
Now some more advertising! (Is he for real?):
A contest is being held for my most recent novel, _When Hell Freezes Over_, and it's very nearly the 11th hour! If you have read the book, you can enter, and that means everyone -- even Charles)!. Go to rickblechta.com and on the left hand side of the home page is a link to the contest. There are some really neat prizes. Check it out!
But hurry! The contest ends at midnight on January 31st.
Can the kid write ad copy or what?!
Sunday, January 14, 2007
I think the role of cosies (or should that be cozies?) is not so much to make light of sudden death, as to make it bearable when the reader has just had too much of real life and they want to read something where nobody is horribly raped, murdered or tortured. Personally, I think all crime fiction is an attempt to make order out of chaos, whether it's the hardboiled sort or the cozy sort. Anyone dying in my books nearly always dies of natural causes, or it is accidental, and the crimes are more your everyday sort, like arson, theft etc. But then, I fall into the category of having suffered so much bereavement, that I read crime fiction, including cozies, because I want the order out of chaos thing.
I think it's often the random nature of death that is so hard to bear. That's why doctors, undertakers, police persons, soldiers, forensic scientists and the like always seem to have such a fine line in graveyard humour - it makes their work tolerable and does allow them to distance themselves from the awful reality of it - thus enabling them to do such vital work. In a way, all crime fiction is exploitative if you look at it in a certain way. I wonder if people whose lives have actually been touched by sadistic, psychopathic serial killers really want to read fiction that uses such dreadful crimes as plot devices. I suspect not - although I don’t know that for a fact. The rest of us crime readers, though, quite enjoy them now and then, and I’m pretty sure that that is something to do with making the fear of such terrifying crimes manageable.
On a much happier note, I am reading a book that has been compiled from something called The Mass Observation Project, where, starting in 1937, right up until today, ordinary people were invited to keep diaries and send off regular entries to the M.O.P. Occasionally, contributors were asked to fill in questionnaires on specific topics, – wartime attitudes to sex, for example. The book I’m reading is called Nella Last’s War. It is the testimony of an ordinary, middle-aged housewife and it’s absolutely fascinating, and what’s more, Mrs Last was a bloody good writer, bless her cotton socks. (Oops! No cotton socks; they were virtually impossible to get between 1939 and 1945).
As far as work goes, I am working on the 2nd draft of the memoir, a section that deals with people from my childhood in Soho, who glory in such names as Legionnaire Jim, allegedly slung out of the Foreign Legion for being too vicious and also, rumour had it, a real-life murderer, ‘Mad’ Frankie (he was accused, but I think, never convicted, of at least one murder), Iron Foot Jack, a drinking acquaintance of my father, and Dylan Thomas, ditto, although Father always thought Mr Thomas was a lightweight in the boozing department. All I can remember about him is that his wife had to bribe him to have a bath by placing little sweets called Dolly Mixtures around the edge. He had a very sweet tooth.
Friday, January 12, 2007
I’m paraphrasing the Ramones with that title because in less than a month I’m off to Left Coast Crime, in Seattle, Washington.
Left Coast was the first mystery writer’s event I ever attended and therefore holds a spot near and dear to my heart. That was back in ’04 when it was held in Monterey, California. Rose and I spent a month that year on my first book signing tour and LCC was right at the tail end. It was, as they say, magical. In 2005 LCC was in El Paso and that was blast – I strolled over to Mexico most nights and that alone made it worth the trip. Last year was the amazing LCC in Bristol England that I fear re-set the standard for this event. I’m sure the folks in Seattle are working hard to make it outstanding, and after Bristol they have their work cut out for them.
I’ve never been to Seattle but I do have family there. My Aunt Agnes lives in Lynnwood, which I’m told is a town nearby, and my cousin Mike and his wife Jackie live right in the city. That said I doubt I’ll have time to visit much, especially since I have the distinct honor of moderating the Miles to Go Panel on Saturday, Feb. 3rd, at 9am, which future generations of convention goers will refer to simply as “The Panel”. Oh not because of anything I’m going to do or say – no, it’s all because of the line up:
Diana Chambers, author of The Company She Keeps, Stinger and the soon to be published Beyond the Border. High adventure on the Silk Road would be the fast way to describe her books – and if you know me, you know this is the kind of stuff I love.
Elle Lothlorien, author of the religion-focused thriller, Virgin (which I was burning through just before I sat down to write). Think Di Vinci Code, just a lot better. (Attention publishers. Elle is represented by Susan Crawford of the Crawford Literary Agency and I suggest you give her a buzz. You can thank me later.)
Lauren Haney, author of the hugely popular Lt. Bak mysteries set in ancient Egypt. I’ve spent many a weekend in Cairo and am looking forward to chatting with her about our favorite haunts.
Finally, my friend and fellow CWC member Rick Blechta, author of a bunch of books including Cemetery of the Nameless (one of my top picks for 2005) and the When Hell Freezes Over, an exciting read set in the strange world of rock music. (Note to self: Bet Rick a beer he can’t name the band the Ramones were covering in my paraphrased blog entry title.)
Folks if you’re in Seattle you’ve got to drop in. I promise to keep my mouth shut and let these folks whisk you miles away with tale, true and otherwise, from their mysterious lives. And if you can’t make it, at least track down these books and buy, Buy, BUY!
Thursday, January 11, 2007
Do mystery lovers, readers and writers, sometimes take violent and sudden death too glibly? I don’t read cosies largely because I think that a lot of them (not all) treat death as a light-hearted, clever little game. I generally avoid mystery books that play with puns in their title – like a tea cup or a picture of a cat on the cover, it’s a signal to me that the subject of death will not be treated seriously. I read a LOT of mysteries, and I like them pretty hard.
In Rick’s books the protagonists struggle psychologically with what happens to them during the book or before the action begins. Victoria Morgan is heavily damaged by her experiences in Cemetery of the Nameless. Michael Quinn is haunted by an incident more than twenty years before the action begins in When Hell Freezes Over.
Charles’ books are light and funny, but he takes the attitude that ‘everyone has one adventure in him’ and his books are not series. If the somewhat inept central character of Relative Danger kept stumbling over dead bodies, he’d quickly lose the appeal that his innocent charm has for me.
Police stories, such as Barbara’s Inspector Green, are altogether another kettle of fish. (Why is fish cooked in a kettle, I find myself wondering?) It’s the nature of the job – in reality and in fiction – that cops keep dealing with death. In the best police stories, of which Ian Rankin and Peter Robinson and many others excel, the cop characters are conflicted over their jobs and often, gradually, start burning out, becoming cynical.
What is she talking about? you might now be asking.
I have a very sad funeral to attend this weekend (I am close to the mother of the deceased, not the deceased himself). I won’t provide any details, except to say that the death was the sort that involved forensic investigators. Which I guess just got me thinking about whether or not we sometimes make a game out of violence and grief.
Tuesday, January 09, 2007
I have been spending the past week being a reader instead of a writer, ever since I sent the manuscript of the latest Inspector Green mystery to my agent and publisher on January 1st. It's been wonderful to have time to read again, especially nice since here in Ottawa there has been precious little else to do. No snow, no skating rinks, no skiing, just mud, rain, and balmy breezes.
My TBR pile had grown so tall and wobbly that it was hard to know where to start. I have just finished Bill Deverell's April Fool, which was wonderful and justifiably won the Arthur Ellis Best Novel Award last year. Part slapstick, part sly satire, part poignant commentary on growing old. I'm now reading fellow-blogger Rick Blechta's When Hell Freezes Over, and am in the middle of a rollercoaster ride that's hard to step off. There's another good excuse.
In fact, I'm going to sign off now so that I can go to bed, and back to the rollercoaster ride. Same time next week.
Monday, January 08, 2007
My pen name is PIP GRANGER but everyone calls me Chip, which is, of course, a nickname. I labour under a misprint - Writers¹ News got my name wrong when they reported that I¹d won a prize as an unpublished author, and my publisher preferred it on the grounds that ŒChip¹ conjures up images of a muscular youth on a surfboard somewhere on Bondi Beach or, possibly, a beach somewhere in sunny California. Beaches figure large, anyway, whereas I actually live on a moor and have never even touched a surfboard. And I am certainly not a muscular youth, or even a flabby one.
I usually write about London¹s Soho in the 1950s, although I have been known to write about other things in my time. However, my four published novels are set there and then. If you¹re interested, more info may be found at www.pipgranger.com. I was brought up in Soho's Old Compton Street above a very famous (here at least) Œ50s coffee bar called the Two Is, which was the cradle of England¹s Rock Œn¹ roll scene.
I feel a bit of a fraud, because although I am published by Poisoned Pen Press in America as a crime writer, here I am classed as a Saga writer (and Penguin USA had me down as a ŒModern Classic¹). I guess you pays your money and takes your choice. I think in America my work is classed as Œcozies¹. To confuse the issue still further, I am presently working on two books that Corgi, my English publisher, asked me to write, a memoir of my childhood and a Vox Pop history of London¹s West End between 1945 and 1960. I have just embarked on the 2nd draft of the memoir, due out in June, and am researching the Vox Pop and am due to start the actual writing of that when I come up for air. I have not enjoyed writing the memoir much, but needs must when the devil (or the publisher) drives and the bank account is empty. The idea, I think, is to re-orientate me in the English market, out of Sagas, where I simply do not fit, (Saga readers do not expect a bloke in a dress on page one, however lovely he is, and Sugar Plum Flaherty is a poppet), and into Historical, which makes me feel positively ancient.
All I can say to all this is, roll on the end of all this non-fiction and get me back to my little mob in Soho. I am happier in fiction, I think, even if my genre is hazy at best.
Sorry this intro is so lengthy, I¹m not all that good at brief and Barbara¹s post was the very model of brevity too. I think I waffle on because I lead a very isolated sort of life, rarely seeing anyone or straying far from my shed or my bed on account of chronic illness, so when invited to communicate, BOY, DO I COMMUNICATE! Just tell me to keep it briefer if it bores you. Of course, I may not take any notice...
Sunday, January 07, 2007
This is Pip Granger's husband Ray, celebrating the fact that I have finally fought my way through a thicket of outdated software, Mac intransigence and crumbling cookies to find my way to the sunlit uplands of this blog. My favourite author has gone to bed, but will be sharing with you soon – provided I don't mess up the connection.
Saturday, January 06, 2007
I'm delighted to be joining the dangerous gang on this blog. Every Monday I will try to post something exciting, either about what I'm up to or about some other mysterious topic. You can find out more about me, Inspector Green and those deadly short stories, at www.barbarafradkin.com.
Thursday, January 04, 2007
I'm not letting you know any names yet, but our two new typists are about as varied a couple of individuals as you would hope to meet. One lives in England, writes for Poisoned Pen Press, as well as other UK publishers, and is very highly regarded for (his/her) novels set in the time and place (he/she) grew up.
The other person, now flexing (his/her) typing fingers, is a Canadian author, well known to everyone in Crime Writers of Canada, and the author of a popular police-procedural series.
I'm very excited about both of them joining us.
Ah, but I have a difference: I also wrote nearly 2 complete chapters of my novel-in-progress. (For me, that's the writerly equivalent of being on fire.) Since we got home, I've been thinking about why this happened -- and it's not the first time I've experienced this burst of creativity.
What I've come up with -- and I'd love to hear others' takes on this -- is that my success had to do with my state of mind.
I was relaxed.
There weren't phone calls to field, emails to answer, everyone understood that I might disappear for hours on end (or maybe just a few minutes to jot down an idea or two), and because I wasn't at home, day-to-day things that grind you down and take your attention off the ball ("Honey, have you taken out the garbage yet?") just weren't happening.
I also had lots of time to just think.
I'd explained to our hosts that I had to get some writing done, and since they're artistic sorts, they understood where I was coming from. I had a nice, quiet room to work in, and I could just go off and GET IT DONE. They live in the Niagara Region of Ontario on a country road, and the weather being quite gorgeous (especially for this time of year), I could go out for a walk whenever I wanted to cogitate on a plot point or similar sticky wicket.
I could stay focused on the one thing.
Still having to work at a day gig for most of my daily bread, plus at a pretty creative-type job (graphic design), I just don't have the mental capacity to keep my story in my head. When I sit down to write at the end of the day, I'm tired but I also have to "reload" my plot and characters into that tired brain, pick up the pieces where I dropped them the night before and just "get into" the story again. Some nights that just doesn't work.
This past holiday, the only thing in my head, creatively speaking, was my novel.
The result of all three things was that I got far more done in far less time than I normally do.
I'm considering moving in with them...