Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The blood spilled at the end of life, and the blood spilled at its beginning

I'm currently reading Dispatches, by Michael Herr. Of all the hundreds or maybe even thousands of books written about the Vietnam War, it is one of the most celebrated. 

The book's reputation is well-deserved. I'm admittedly not terribly far into my Vietnam War research, but of all the books I've read so far (and also including Burns's and Novick's documentary series The Vietnam War), Dispatches is the first and so far the only account that has haunted me at night. It is riveting, horrifying, beautiful, sad, funny, gruesome, and insightful. In loving, sketchbook fashion, Herr fills even the most briefly encountered grunt with a luminous humanity. He owns up to his own bullshit, and helps us understand.

Reading this afternoon, on page 210 out of 260, I suddenly imagine the rivers of ink spent accounting for all those rivers of blood spilled in that misbegotten war. And then I remember how, when I was writing my (unpublished) first novel (The Bear Wife), I determined to imbue its birth scene with just as much suspense and violence, as much glory and dignity and prominence, as its scenes of Viking battles.

Because those nasty old pragmatic pagans recognized, even if we don't, that you can't spill blood at the end of life unless you've spilled some at its beginning.

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Spindle whorls (and spinners) at Jamestown

Meanwhile, in other news, two spindle whorls were found at the site of the English fort at Jamestown, Virginia, dating from the early 17th century. This would seem to indicate that, at that time, there were European women in Jamestown engaged in spinning yarn. Presumably the guys needed clothes, sails, fishing nets, bags, etc.

The fact that they found the spindle whorls in such a recent (17th century) context is interesting to me, because, in my incomplete knowledge, I didn't realize that the ancient "drop spindle" method of spinning was still employed during that time. According to the Jamestown author the method was still used in rural England and, I would venture to guess that, because the whorls themselves apparently came from present-day Belgium, it was used there as well.

Why did folks adhere to the earlier technology? Probably because it allowed for more efficient multi-tasking by the women. If you're sitting at a spinning wheel, you can't do much else except, maybe, sing. But the distaff and whorl put you well on your way to accomplishing the womanly mission of being everything to everyone. Alternatively, it allows you to go hide away somewhere and spin a tale or two, take in the scenery, or simply philosophize on the nature of the cosmos, all while creating a strong, fine yarn.

The Jamestown spindle whorls are described here. Also, I wrote about Jamestown a few years ago. (It probably needs an update, but I haven't done that yet!) And I've written about Weaving, War and Womanhood (which includes a bit more about spinning).

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Gingerly entering a new era, hoping not to jinx it

For my latest project, I'm doing some typically idiosyncratic, non-methodical reading about music, and about the Vietnam War.*

And while I didn't write on this site at all while I was full into researching, writing, and editing my novel Seeking the Center (Cuidono Press, 2016), now that I've moved on, I may occasionally "scribble" some ideas here. My new mix of topics - especially the war part - might end up fitting in somewhat with previous spindlewhorl posts, so it seems convenient. Additionally, and primarily, I don't want a third website. I can barely handle what I've got.

I welcome all comments! 

*Incidentally, I do review most of the books I read, and if you're interested, you can read my reviews on Goodreads.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

My new website is up and running!

Hi everyone!

I wanted to let you know that my new website is up. Please visit for up-to-date information about Seeking the Center, including some blogging on relevant topics. See you there!

P.S. We finally have an official release date, October 17!

Friday, July 15, 2016

Seeking the Center cover art!

You've been there, I know you have. You find the perfect one only to have your hopes dashed: it's not available. How could you have such horrible luck?

And then it happens again. Utter despair!

But finally, amazingly, you stumble across something that's even better than those earlier ones, the ones you loved before, the ones that broke your heart...

I'm thrilled to report that we've found the perfect cover for Seeking the Center! It's a photograph by Mike Wilkinson, of Wilkinson Visual.

We're still working on the design, but for now, suffice it to say that it's got it all: stick, puck, ice, clouds, and sky. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Seeking the Center will be published by Cuidono Press

Seeking the Center is my second novel, but the first one to be finished. I started thinking about it all the way back in 2008 or so. It tells the story of Agnes Demers, a young Métis woman growing up in Saskatchewan in the 1980s and '90s. Here's what it's about:

Agnes Demers grew up playing hockey, skating with the neighborhood kids on the frozen ponds of her hometown, St. Cyp, through the long, cold Saskatchewan winters. For Agnes, hockey is the measure of all things - the ultimate test of passion and power, spirit and skill. But now hockey has betrayed her, left her watching from the bleachers - all because she's had the miserable luck to be born female.

Agnes moves to Wapahaska to work at the Indian Jewel Box with her friend Jo. She intends to ignore the town's minor-league hockey team, the Prairie Wolves, not to mention her childhood teammate Owen MacKenzie, the Wolves' star center. In fact, she intends to ignore the whole smug, self-congratulatory scene, but it isn't long before she becomes re-entangled with the game she loves, with Owen, and with the team's new enforcer, Claude Doucette, an older player who shares her Native heritage and aspires to live by its warrior creed.

Locked in a three-way tilt at the convergence of history and desire, Agnes must seek the center: the balance to stay on her skates, the opening to make a play, and the vision to reclaim her game.

No release date yet, but you'll be the first to know!

Friday, January 2, 2015

Dear Reader,

Welcome to my new home!

Moves can be stressful and disorganized and this one is no exception. Please forgive the mess, the dining table mistakenly left in the bedroom, and the boxes emptied before the shelves are ready to hold their contents. It's going to take me a while to get it all together, so be patient. But don't hesitate to stop by and look around.