nichepoetryandprose

poetry and prose about place

Archive for May 2020

my place, my niche

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All of us, as we self-isolate and stay at home, have become more familiar with our own place or space. We also have become familiar with our ‘niche.’ It is also a sort of space, but is more about how we use that space.

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My space, on the macro-scale, is in the Northern Hemisphere and the temperate zone. I love the four seasons: perhaps summer, with it’s high humidity, least of the four. I live in a rural area; the bird chorus I hear each morning is associated with mixed hardwood and softwood. For more information on our ‘grey woods’ click here.

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Our house seemed big when we built it 40 years ago. Today it is considered modest with two floors, three bedrooms and a loft. As I grow older, arthritis means I hang out mostly on the main floor. But upstairs, the loft stores my genealogy interests and the library holds all my books. On the main floor is my computer, my bird watching corner, my sewing basket and my drawing and painting supplies. Often, my husband is there too. So you see, I have most of what it takes to make me happy.

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My space is more and more often in cyberspace. These days my family and friends are mostly there, on Facebook and Messenger. Just today I had my first meeting on Zoom.

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I spend about half of my day on the computer, in one phase or other of one of my writing projects. Last week our wifi went down for four days. Usually, I refer to the on-line dictionary or thesaurus about once every fifteen minutes. With the wifi down, I wondered for a moment what to do and then thought, “Thesaurus. Dictionary.” A little dusty but serviceable.

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So what is not part of my niche?

Music. I have a piano which I can play. And a guitar. And I have a stack of discs and a way to play them. I also have a small selection of my favourite music in my iPad. I tell myself it would be good to include more music in my life, in my ‘niche.’ So far it is only a thought.

Exercise. I will start by saying I do about 30 minutes of yoga-like stretches every morning. Otherwise I would not be able to get out of bed. If you follow my blog you know I am also dedicated to my stationary cycle but, since the first of the year, it aggravates my knees and I have not been doing this with any regularity. I have plans to reincorporate exercise into my niche, but so far, it is also a thought.

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Of course, the world is full of possibilities and I have many gaps in my space/niche. I have interests in coins, stamps, games, puzzles, calligraphy and so on. I have no interest in flying kites, cooking, speaking another language or clock-making. But perhaps, someday, one of these may insinuate itself into my niche. So much to include, so little time!

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So, what is in your space? Your niche? What is not in your space/niche?

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All my best,

staying at home, wearing my mask in public,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 29, 2020 at 7:00 am

in these times

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Someday, my memory of these days of pandemic will have faded. But there is value in lessons learned, so I will describe my experiences here.

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My situation is that of a retired person, used to working on my writing at home and going out to do errands and some volunteer work. For my husband and I, staying home is not too different from normal life.

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lemons

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1. Food. Before the pandemic, we had already shifted to getting curb-side delivery of our groceries from the Atlantic Superstore. For that reason, no shift was needed. During this time, we make an order every two weeks, ordering early to get a convenient delivery time. My husband also goes to Sobeys once every two weeks for milk and a few needed items. Both stores have good distancing measures in place and the few substitutions any store has made have not been significant. As for take-out food, we have continued to order pizza and other take-out food as before.

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2. Passing Time in Isolation. I am so lucky that my husband and I have been able to face this time together. I have not really been isolated, since there is always someone there to talk to. We do small household projects together, read a bit together in a mystery series we both enjoy, watch some TV and plan our meals.

I am a writer and my writing life is managed by working on several projects at once, each project in a different stage. I have been very productive in the last two months, completing drafts of three new poetry books, completing work on the next book in my science fiction series, and launching two books, one science fiction and one mystery. I have seen a little spike in readership in the last few weeks, as people turn to reading to pass time alone.

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3. Contributing to Local Businesses. At the best of times, we are not big consumers. But during the pandemic, I have tried to support local businesses. I have bought plants for the growing season from Scotts, art supplies and toys from Endeavours and Think Play, fabric from Fabricville and so on. These businesses have gone above and beyond to give safe and friendly service. When parcels arrive, I put them in Quarantine for three days, to minimize any risk.

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4. Getting Out and About. During the pandemic, we have taken short drives, to bird watch, check on our cabin (about 3/4 of an hour away) and deliver sold books. In a stroke of luck, I had ordered author copies of my four newest books before Amazon cut delivery service to Canada, so I have books to sell. I do what I call ‘drive-by-bookings,’ making arrangements with those who want to buy my books, hanging a bag of books on the door handle and leaving to maintain social distancing. I have also put copies of my books in some of the little free libraries in town.

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5. Staying in Touch. I am so grateful to live in the age of the internet. I am able to keep in touch with family and friends by way of email, Facebook and my blog. My two writer’s groups have held their meetings on Facebook Messenger and I have taken a writing course twice a week on Facebook. I have family members not on social media and we have kept touch by way of telephone.

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6. Staying Healthy. Our days are very routine. We focus on getting lots of sleep, keeping our intake of fruit and vegetables high, keeping in touch with our physician and diabetic health care folk. As usual, I fall short on exercise. I have mobility problems and always do a half hour program of stretches each morning. Other than that, my success in the area of exercise is rather pitiful. I say I will do better.

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7. Adaption to new standards. We are lucky in New Brunswick where I live. We have had few cases, have no new cases (according to testing) and no deaths from COVID- 19. We are in the Yellow Phase of our re-opening plan which means most business can open with social-distancing and other measures in place.

Social distancing is hard. Not because I am a huggy sort of person, but because I find confronting people difficult. If someone is getting too close, I find it hard to confront, to say back off, even in a nice way. So when the delivery fellow comes to the door and tries to pass me a box, I take it, getting nearer than I should.

As our province tries to return to ‘normal’, I know mask-wearing will become part of our culture. So I dusted off my sewing machine and scanned the many videos showing mask-making. By the end of making ten washable masks, I could do them with my eyes shut, but my back hurt and I think I sewed through my finger at least once.

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The other day, as I went through some poems I have written, I came across one about getting the H1N1 vaccine. I have almost no memory of that time in my life. Of course, our lives were not affected in quite the same way. Perhaps I will look back on the time of COVID-19 and know some things changed for the better.

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All my best.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay home as much as possible.

Find a safe way to talk to and be with those you love.

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 25, 2020 at 7:00 am

bird songs in the grey wood

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Today I sat on the back deck and listened to the birds. I can’t stay for long because our robin who has returned for year three gets upset with me. The photo below was taken in 2018, but taking a new photo just gets the robin very agitated.

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So, here is the list for today:

mourning doves – hooo hooo

northern parkland last – whirrrrr-zip!

robin – cheer cheer cheery weee

ovenbird – t-cheer, t- cheer, t-cheer

hairy woodpecker – pit, pit, pit … this fellow has been beating on the metal flashing of our roof daily. This morning he began at 5:30. Just before sun-up. I took the photo below in 2017.

All the best to you,

staying home and

in my two household bubble.

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 20, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the Gel-head dictionary

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From the beginning, I have included an alien language dictionary at the end of my science fiction books. Gel-speak is the common language on the planet Meniscus. Many of my Human characters speak a little Gel-speak; the genetically-altered Humans, the Slain, speak it fluently. In each book, there are lines of Gel-speak, usually translated, occasionally not.

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The Gel-speak language originates with the Gel-heads, the most maligned of the aliens on Meniscus. The intelligent Dock-winders also have a language but it is not spoken in the presence of other species.

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By the eighth book, I have added to the dictionary until there are 170 words.

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The Gel-speak language has a grammar, or set of rules governing the words and their order. There are verbs and nouns, articles and adjectives. The Gel-speak language includes many of the same sounds as English and includes a ‘click’ at the end of certain words. Any linguists among you are now laughing.

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So, with the dictionary, you can count in Gel-speak to five:

u-hath – one

ull – two

undel – three

urth – four

v-hath – five

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Gel-speak words have ‘roots’ and build on one-another. For example, here are words associated with the female gender:

ora – light

ora-nee – home

ora-nell – female

ora-nell-elan – mother

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or, with the idea of sharing a hearth:

parelan – family

parennel – friend

pargath – hearth

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OK linguists, you can stop laughing now. This is fiction, after all.

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Want a look at the entire dictionary? Have a look at the books in the Meniscus Series, beginning here.

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`chased by a Gel-head`part two

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All my best,

staying home (ora-nee),

and staying in my two-family (ull-paralan) bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 13, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the illustrations

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For the last two days, I have been in a drawing mood. Not many authors illustrate their books (not including those who work on graphic novels), but I love this part of the process.

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I have had lots of discussions with readers about the right and wrong of illustrating. Some think it takes away from the reader’s wonderful ability to imagine characters and scenes. Others think the illustrations take a reader deeper into the author’s intentions. As an author, I think drawings help get my ideas across. Since my books are told as narrative poetry, my words tend to be vary spare and I think of the drawings as extensions of the narrative.

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I include two types of drawings in my books: portraits of the characters and sketches of the action.

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The portraits are useful to me as a writer. They help fix the character’s face so the image does not migrate from book to book. I am really proud of the portraits and looking at them inspires my writing.

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I am also proud of some of my drawings of scenes from my books. When the drawing is close to the idea I want to portray, sometimes it suggests new details in the text. Some drawings are not so good but I rarely re-draw. Instead, I think of these as representative of the weirdness of planet Meniscus. It reminds me of a line from my favorite TV show Lost. Daniel Faraday, on his first visit to the island says,

The light… it’s strange out here, isn’t it? It’s kind of like, it doesn’t, it doesn’t scatter quite right.”

On Meniscus, the pencil doesn’t behave quite right.

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In every book, there are 23 +/- 4 drawings. Some are portraits or repeats of earlier scenes. Today, I did two drawings, both unique to Meniscus: The Knife.

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All my best,

staying home

and staying in my two-family bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 11, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the Cast of Characters

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Other writers often ask me about the use of a beta reader. Of course, I value their input and listen carefully to any suggestions about the book they have just read for me. In a series like Meniscus, the suggestions of the beta reader often help me more with the next book. Sometimes the suggestion has to do with the storyline or a particular character. Sometimes it is a suggestion that becomes integral to the whole series.

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When she read Book Two of the Series, Meniscus: South from Sintha, my beta reader Carol suggested adding a short description of each character in a compendium at the end of each book. I began to do this for the next book and now every book has a Cast of Characters.

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Since some of my characters are aliens, I group the characters as Humans, Argenops (benevolent furry creatures), Dock-winders (self-serving overlords), Gel-heads (unlikeable minions), and Others (animal companions and other sentient aliens).

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In the Cast of Characters I include information on the character’s role in the story, the character’s age, where the character lived on Earth, what they were doing when the Dock-winders harvested them, what Earth year they were taken, their occupation on Earth, their occupation on Meniscus and sometimes their motivation, faults or wants.

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Here is an example, a character description of Zachary, a carpenter and an important citizen of Themble Hill:

Zachary – survivor of the transport crash; 46 one-suns old; harvested by the Dock-winders in 2008 when he worked as a carpenter with his father’s company in Fargo, North Dakota; educated as an engineer; harvested as he made repairs to a roof during a wind storm; used by the Dock-winders as the laser-sawyer in a grammid mill; spent most of grad school playing Sonic the Hedgehog ™ and eating pickled eggs in the campus grad house.

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Sometimes I wish I could change the character description a bit to suit the story, but I try not to do that. I also include all of the characters mentioned in all of the books to date although they may not appear in the current book. So far, I have 41 characters, major and minor, who have appeared in the various books.

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All my best,

staying home and keeping in my two-family bubble,

Jane

Written by jane tims

May 8, 2020 at 7:00 am

next book in the Meniscus Series: the maps

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One day in 2016, when I was first deciding how I would put the Meniscus books together, I puzzled over how I would make the maps I wanted to include in each book.

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At first, I wanted to produce hand-drawn maps, re-drawing each map and making erasures and changes as each book advanced the story. Every book would need adjustments to the map and a new dotted ‘trail’ to show the path my characters followed.

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The idea of hand-drawn maps ended when I found out how boring it would be to draw the 300 trees in the Themble Wood.

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I didn’t know a thing about digital image creation. So I went on line and found GIMP, the GNU Image Manipulation Program … what a great place to learn the craft of making maps!  https://www.gimp.org/

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Now, four years later, I have not needed to move from GIMP. First I learned how to make trees …. in quantity and with shadows! There are three kinds of tree on Meniscus: grammid, yarnel and banyan:

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Once I had trees all across my maps, I added the geological features I knew were essential for world-building: in the first book of the Meniscus Series I wanted (left to right) a gully, a line of huge burrows, a fault (and high associated cliff), a hill and a large water feature (a churn).

features minus trees

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I also knew I wanted towns and cities, as well as the roads between them:

features

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I also add trails to show where my characters travel during the book.

trails

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GIMP has met every need. And my maps can change with time; all I do is turn various layers on and off, creating new combinations of features and paths.

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Here is one of the maps for my next book Meniscus: The Knife:

meniscus north district knife

The dotted line (– . — . — . –) shows Tagret’s path as she goes on her quest to rescue Rist.

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All my best,

staying home and in my two-family bubble,

Jane

 

 

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