Writers Critique Group

Currently, I am ‘workshopping’ the last two chapters of my novel in the Merrimack Publishing Writers Critique Group. The suggestions and concerns voiced by other writers are invaluable, often pointing out connections and possibilities that I haven’t thought of. More importantly, they identify passages where the characters act unbelievably or where a section is too long.

Sometimes the criticism is hard to take, but every comment has at least a grain of truth which must be considered. When I first submitted the last two chapters in June, I faced a chorus of negative feedback; one reader said, “You must have the two main characters meet one last time.” I rewrote the two chapters and they are stronger and more satisfying. I will hear what they think on August 26.

Read the first 25 pages of Echo from Mount Royal here.

The title of the novel was recently changed. The former title Will I Ever Know? was a temporary working title. The new title refers to Rebecca’s three visits to the mountain in the center of Montreal. (Plus I can use the teaser “What does she see from Mount Royal?” in my marketing campaign.)

The novel is currently in the hands of the copyeditor; his suggestions will be ready by the end of August. I will spend September making the changes and undertaking a final read-through. The next step will be proofreading. In the meantime I am thinking about a book cover and the wording for the front and back covers.

 
 
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Short Stories: ‘The Blue Dress’

A linked series of three short stories introducing Rebecca, a Canadian teenager, living in Montreal during the 1940s.

Blue dress cropped

For many years I had coffee each morning in the cafe downstairs from my office. Occasionally, I’d meet Riva, an elderly woman who also stopped at the coffee shop before work. In March 2012 I told her I was retiring at the end of April. “I’m going to write. Short stories, maybe a novel.”

Riva perked up. “I have a story.” She proceeded to tell me about a blue dress that she had received as a gift when she was 12 years old growing up in Montreal. When I said her experience would make an interesting short story, she generously offered it to me – if I was interested. She didn’t have to ask me twice. The result is The Blue Dress.

Before I finished writing ‘The Blue Dress’ Riva told me another. “My girlfriend and I did something wicked. I don’t know if I should tell you about it.” A little persuasion and she ‘spilled the goods.’ The story is called The Maid.

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Story behind the Novel

It has been said that the writer doesn’t choose his story; instead the story chooses him. For many years on weekday mornings, I bought a cup of coffee and read a book in the café downstairs from my office. This quiet half hour provided a welcome transition between the aggravation of commuting and the pressure of IT work.

Book Front CoverOver time I recognized other patrons who remained in the café rather than grabbing a coffee and rushing back to work. One day I met Riva Weiss. I laugh because I ‘heard’ Riva before I met her. She has an irrepressible laugh and a voice that fills an auditorium. One day, she stopped at my table and asked what book I was reading. Over time, we discovered we shared a similar taste in literature (novels by English and Irish writers). Before long, we recommended and exchanged books with each other.

In March 2012, I told the coffee group I was retiring at the end of April. “What do you plan to do?” Riva asked.

“I’m going to get back to writing. Short stories, maybe a novel.”

Riva noted that I favored literature with ‘dark’ themes. When I agreed, she said, “Well then, I’ve got a story for you.” Over the next half hour she Rebecca Phototalked about her engagement when she was 18 years old in Montreal. She graciously offered me the chance to ‘write up the story.’ Instantly, I knew that this was more than a short story. Riva was surprised when I brought in chapter after chapter for her to read. “I thought this was going to be.” Like the apprentice’s broomsticks, the chapters kept coming. “But you haven’t even got to the proposal yet!” Even I wasn’t prepared for the final length: 90,000 words. “We’ve got a novel,” Riva said.

Echo from Mount Royal

Read the first three chapters of the novel
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