Tag Archives: Writing

Truth is Stranger Than Fiction

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I haven’t been here in a while. Instead, I’ve been working on a novel like a madwoman and neglecting my blog. While this isn’t a typical author’s blog, where I tell you all about my WIP and get you excited so maybe you’ll pre-order my book (although that’s okay too *wink wink*), I thought I’d share a secret with you.

Well not a secret really. More like a preview.

In the first chapter of my novel the main character witnesses an avalanche that destroys a chairlift. But here’s the kicker: I wrote that chapter way back in November. Before we set off the avalanche that destroyed Chair 6. And why am I telling you this now?

Because it’s kind of freaking me out.

The real avalanche that took out Chair 6

How to destroy a chairlift in ninety seconds

As some of you might know, the big kahuna that destroyed the lift in March was the biggest slide that area has most likely ever seen. In the snow science world, we have some pretty brainy professor types that talk about things like alpha and beta angles. An alpha angle is also known as the angle of reach and beta angles are a little more complicated than that. I’m not going to go into it all here, because it would take a while and I’m not a brainy professor type myself. But in essence these angles are used in zoning and land use planning and at ski areas to determine just how far a potential avalanche can go.

And guess what? The Chair 6 slide exceeded the alpha angle by a large margin.

But what is even weirder, and the thing that’s freaking me out a tiny bit, is that I wrote a chapter in a work of fiction that very much resembled the Chair 6 slide. Before it even happened. Except in my book, of course, there was even more at stake. In fiction we don’t have to adhere to rules of physics like alpha angles. That’s why we author types write fiction–so we can put our main characters in dire straits and then turn the heat up on them. It’s fun stuff, and one reason that I hope if there really is a Master Galactic Puppeteer in the sky keeping an eye on the human race, I really hope He or She is into writing fiction. Because if so, we’re all doomed.

But I digress.

Now that I got that off my chest I feel better. I didn’t want anyone reading my future novel and saying, “Well duh Kim. Where’d you get that idea?” Because I actually wrote it first. I just hope that the other plot points in the novel don’t some how come true. Because if so, well, we’re all in for a wild ride.

 

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Can You Just Unplug Anymore?

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Preparing a lesson in the backcountry

It used to be that I’d only check my emails every few days. I didn’t own a cell phone and rarely checked my voice messages. I wasn’t on Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn until recently. It all started when I decided to write a book. Well the cell phone thing happened earlier. But not by much.

These days if you want to sell a book, you also need a blog. And a Facebook account. And a Twitter handle. And what the publishing industry calls a “platform”, which I like to think of as a really tall place from which to holler, “Buy my book!” The more connected you are, the taller the hollering place. Really famous people seemingly holler from the top of Everest.

I’m not famous. But I have a blog and a Facebook account, which is practically the same thing these days. (Actually that’s not true. Not even close.)

So I’m finding it harder and harder to unplug. My husband and I were recently surprised by how many work-related emails we received over the holiday weekend. People don’t seem to take time off anymore. Every waking moment can now be used to build one’s platform, creating an ever higher place from which to “stay on message”. Whether we are proselytizing about our book, our recent accomplishments, a product we hope to sell, or simply our cute kids, we are all out there trying to sell ourselves 24/7. It’s a tough world these days, and everyone wants to be on top.

That’s what I like about adventure trips. Before I built up my platform I worked as an Outward Bound instructor, spending nearly all summer in the backcountry without electronics. I didn’t have a phone or a iPod and only rarely carried a camera. While time in camp was busy, the easiest part of the day for an instructor was hiking the trails–when the kids were too tired to complain or bicker and we could just get lost in our own thoughts.

I’m ready to unplug this summer. I want to walk a trail and get lost in the rhythm of my feet, thinking no further than the next campsite. I’ll still be here, blogging away, but not at my earlier pace. I plan to post at least once a week, more when I think of something great to share.

It is time to recharge. And unlike electronics, humans can only recharge when they are unplugged. Take some time away from your computer this summer. You’ll be happy you did.

Why Self-Promotion is a Bitch

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Oh wait. Let me just reapply my lipgloss.

“How was your summer?” A good friend recently asked me.

“You know. Strange.”

“No, I don’t know. What do you mean?”

“Well, the weather for one thing. And between the ski area being open and my book coming out, we’ve been working pretty hard.”

“Oh yeah, your book! How’s that going anyway?”

That’s when the little voice inside my head says Kim, just stop it. You don’t have to promote your book to your friends. They’re going to buy it anyways. But it’s like an addiction. Or like washing your hands for the fifteenth time while mumbling the words to Gloria Gaynor’s classic “I Will Survive.”

After a while you start to get a little weird.

Maybe in this era of Facebook updates and frequent retweets, promoting yourself isn’t as shameful as it once was. Everyone’s doing it. We all have learned to don the party wig, apply another coat of lipgloss and smile for the camera, being sure to capture our best side. Who knows? This could be our new profile photo. Or worse, someone could tag us in an unflattering light before we have a chance to swipe our names off the offending photo. It’s always good to think ahead.

But this kind of thing doesn’t come naturally to me. I have to work at it. Often, I’m just faking it. So instead of doing all the wonderful summer-vacation sort of activities I’ve honed myself on the past few years, I’ve been busy sharpening other skills. Here’s a list of my accomplishments (see! I’m getting better at this self-promotion thing):

  • Even though I didn’t climb any volcanoes this season or even sleep outside nearly enough, I did learn to surf, thanks to my friend Hillary.
  • Launched a major book promotion campaign. This isn’t easy, even with a great publicist at my side. Who knew that this blog (and all your comments and participation) would be a driving factor in the campaign? Thanks for all that, by the way.
  • Managed to drop the phrase, “My book is coming out in October” into 90% of all my conversations. Not sure if that’s a good thing, or a sign of a serious underlying obsession. (Did I mention that my book is now available on Kindle? Oops. Did it again.)
  • Dropped below 500K on my Alexa ranking. As if that actually means anything.
  • Decided that someday my husband and I will live in the Alps, either Chamonix (sorry skiclimber; it’s a big enough town we probably won’t run into each other) or Verbier (thanks to Corrine and Eric).
  • Almost 100  10 5 people so far told me after reading an advanced copy of my book that they liked it. One reader said my blog changed her life; so just imagine what reading the book will do. (No, this reader is NOT my mom, although those of you following along know that Mom’s reaction was equally full of praise. It’s good to have a fan. Even if she’s your mom.)
  • Actually, the # 1 comment I’ve gotten from readers so far: “I had no idea your job was so dangerous.”
  • Oops. We ski patrollers aren’t supposed to talk about that.

What Haters Can Teach Us

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One day late last winter, while leaving the Summit House to head out onto the hill, I noticed a pair of skis stuck in the snow next to mine. They were covered in stickers, but the one that stuck out the most read “I Haters”.

Why would anyone love haters? I wondered as I skied away. Perhaps it was a joke. Or maybe the owner of the skis was a hater himself (or herself, whichever the case may be). According to Urban Dictionary, a hater is, Read the rest of this entry

What makes some people’s dreams come true?

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Coming off a successful weekend at the PNWA Writer’s Conference, where I signed my book for people who actually paid money to read it, it struck me that a dream I’ve kindled in my heart for years has finally come true. I’m an author.

Looking around the conference I saw others with big dreams. You know the look: the fluttering hand at one’s breast, the rapid speech, the flush of possibility aflame in one’s cheeks.

Perhaps that’s why I love to ski. Gazing at a mountain, something bigger than my fears, I dream of skiing it, arcing across the steep slopes, gliding through the powdery bowls to feel my heart knock at my ribs, suddenly weighty with potential. Our ordinary days have a way of chiseling down our dreams, knocking off chunks of the granite vision, revealing, perhaps not the masterpiece we knew was hidden inside but instead just ordinary rock—crumbling and dusty.

The mundane work of the day to day—getting words on a page, driving to work in the rain, when we know it’s snowy somewhere in the mountains, lacks meaning when put up against the big moments. We set aside dreams for the practical, chip away at the masterpiece until it no longer stands quite so tall.

Maybe that’s why we root for the underdog. Our souls climb a little higher when Rocky knocks out Apollo Creed to become the heavyweight champion. We know, deep down, that if he can do it, maybe we can too.

My new writer friends clamored around my table at the author signing last night, thrusting their new copy of my book in front of me to sign. They were rooting for me.

What makes some people’s dreams come true?

Is it luck? Hard work? Something else entirely?

I’m not entirely sure, but I suspect it has to do with risk. Only when we put ourselves out there, conjuring dreams too big to hold, risk exposure and failure and utter ruin, that we even have a chance. Squirrelling away our potential like a bank account saves nothing. Only by exposing our granite dreams to the elements, maybe chucking away the shelter of the staid, can the true masterpiece emerge.

It would have been easier not to write this book. I could have clutched John’s recovery to my breast, clutched it so tight that no one could pry it loose. I didn’t have to fray our lives into separate strands to be followed and teased out of the tapestry, doing the hard work of making sense out of pain and struggle. But I did. I could have written this book for myself—kept it within the pages of my journal, just ramblings and musings of a dreamer. Instead I have exposed it to the world, unclasped my hands to release it.

Dreams can be frightening, unwieldy beasts, and it’s no wonder so few ever realize them. But I know the feeling of triumph. I learned it on the slopes, when the impossible suddenly becomes possible, when my skis snake through in just the right sequence of turns to make me feel like I’m flying. I know, now too, the weight of my words, and how light they suddenly feel, released to the sky.

What’s So Hard About Being a Writer?

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Last night John asked me what, exactly, was so hard about being a writer. “It’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done,” I told him.

“Harder than learning to fly an airplane?” He asked. “Harder than kayaking the Grand Canyon?”

“Absolutely.”

He looked at me skeptically. I told him that today, as I start on my third, and hopefully, final, revision of my manuscript, it will take a great force of will to sit at my computer and face these necessary changes. My editor has given me the gift of a close line edit. This is wonderful. This is fantastic. This is the worst news I’ve had in weeks.

John didn’t understand.

I guess, deep down inside, I was hoping that this last round of revisions would be cursory. It would be practically unnecessary–just a few minor typos here and there and a line or two of revision, and voila! Next stop, galley proofs.

But the road to publication is long. I’ve said this before. It takes multiple rounds of revision, several attempts of coaxing words and sentences into just the right sequence, literally hours with my head in my hands, massaging the pain from between my eyes, full minutes of time staring out my window at the rhythm of snowflakes falling against the already tall piles of snow in the driveway.

And all I really want to do is go outside and breathe.

But instead, I’m here at my computer working (okay, I’m posting on my blog, which is very, very close to working). And I’m grateful to my editor. In the present world of book publication, where publishers no longer edit, promote or do much else for your book, I’m blessed with a publisher doing all that. So I should be happy, right? I should be ecstatic.

And I am. Really.

I’m just mostly glad that, as I look out my window at Crystal Mountain, it’s not a powder day I’m missing out there.