Deborah Jackson

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

New Release in the Works

Hi there. Yes, it’s been ages since I updated you on my current and future projects but, inevitably, I’ve run into some delays. I can only work as fast as my team—referring to my editor, cover artist and typesetter. They’re amazing, so I’m not really complaining.

So . . . finally we’re getting closer to completion.

Mosaic has a cover, and you will find the blurb and some information here. You can also read Chapter One here.

I received one third of the manuscript from my editor last week. Since then, I’ve been working on final fixes. This novel took me four years to complete. Usually I don’t share much of the process of writing a novel, but I grew so frustrated with this one, and rewrote it so many times, I thought you might be interested in the ugly truth of revision. So I’m baring my soul—revealing the earliest drafts and taking you through the stages of transformation.

Before I even wrote this novel I was captivated by the setting—islands called Sanibel and Captiva in Florida. When a setting intrigues me, I usually begin digging into the history of that region. Since pirates actively employed these islands as bases for their operations, the pirate stories interested me the most. But pirate tales are rarely as romantic as those in the swashbuckling Pirates of the Caribbean series, so my story is a little more truthful.

This brings me to the Parental Advisory. This book is a teen novel, but it has some mature content and language that would not be appropriate for younger children or even young teenagers—13 to 15. In my attempt to be more realistic, my main character, who is a hockey player, uses language that fits her personality but may be offensive to some readers. Also, to truly expose the shattered lives in this book and understand the nature of piracy, I opted for a heavier situation with the associated mature content. It is not explicit, but it is not intended for younger readers.

Mosaic is also an experiment in structuring a book to match its theme. You’ll find it very unusual. Since that is the case, I’ve been working with my editor and artist to develop icons that will cue the reader to the abrupt transitions.

You may wonder why I decided to structure the book in this way. Let’s just say I was growing tired of the standard structure and I wanted to do something different. I’ve always wanted to add a visual component to writing, and I do love a good puzzle, so here is my attempt at a little artistry. The structural elements may be refreshing to some and annoying to others, but I hope you will appreciate the time and thought involved, if not the final product.

Mosaic is not the only project I’m working on. Over the past eight months I’ve been writing the first draft of another science fiction/near future speculation novel that involves archaeology and also some space exploration. This novel requires extensive research and it is taking me some time to complete. At the moment I’m two-thirds through the first draft, but I’m taking a break (if it can be called that) to explore new scientific research that will impact the story. This will be the longest book I’ve ever written with a number of complex characters and a mystery, like in Ice Tomb, that has global implications—if not universal.

So there you have it: the reason I’ve been semi-silent for so long. I have been making an appearance on Twitter and Google, but mainly to share photos—a hobby that helps clear my mind after a heavy session of writing or research. If you have any questions about Mosaic or my other project (although most of it I’ll be keeping under wraps for now), please feel free to contact me or add a comment below.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Junk Food

The other night I attended a hockey game—NHL, go, Sens, go—you know the routine. It was held at the new Canadian Tire Centre, which was the old Scotiabank Place a few months ago, which at one point had been called the Corel Centre, which originally boasted the name Palladium when constructed in 1996.

I hate all those names, except perhaps Palladium. I reflect on that name with some fondness, even though it’s an insurance company, because it’s also an element in the periodic table with a fanciful history.

Palladium is a chemical element, a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas.

I enjoy hockey. I consider it an honourable tradition in our country, although it's suffering rapid decay into cheap shots with the resulting serious injuries, and a lackadaisical attitude towards enforcing the rules.

But that’s not what bothered me the most that night. It was the name change, all reflecting an age that’s riddled with advertising—junk food—and this is what the establishment is feeding our brains. And don’t kid yourself, big business, small business, “industry” is the establishment, not government.

Everywhere we go, a constant bombardment. Everywhere we open an Internet page, we’re force-fed another commercial. Even when we pay a premium price, like at the theatre, where once you could assume it would be commercial-free, an endless parade dances across the screen of cell phone comparisons, Coca Cola endorsements (oh, you’ve been around a long time, haven’t you?), car ‘zoom zoom’ enticements, until the movie finally begins. Is there any wonder people pull out their tablets whenever a commercial appears on television, or we attempt to circumvent the feed by taping and fast-forwarding through the empty garble.
File:Coca-Cola 24 Can Pack.jpg

But the feed never ends.

Have you read the book Feed by M.T. Anderson? If you have, did you feel a deepening chill the more pages you turned? Did you see the society in this book as futuristic, or did you see it as commentary on the ‘here and now’?
The feed in this story is directly uploaded to the characters’ brains through a surgically implanted chip. Our chips are in our hands, on our screens, not in our heads, yet. And in the book everything is disposable, just as all our household items are designed to fail or become outdated within a few years. We’re programmed to eagerly embrace the 'next best thing,' and cavalierly discard our two-year-old laptop,  our three-year-old toaster, our five-year-old car—and of course our debt accumulates as we happily or miserably pay the price for these shiny new treasures.

If you start eating a bag of chips, it’s hard to stop, isn’t it? But eventually you’ll feel bloated, nauseated, and it leaves a coating in your arteries that’s almost impossible to remove. Physicians often need chisels and blow torches. Junk food is delicious, but it’s also addictive and sometimes a killer. 


How do you stop the feed? Switch it off? It’s not that simple, because we’re governed by modern technology, we crave entertainment to release us from daily toil, and all our entertainment is tangled with the feed. But perhaps we can change our values, little by little, and that will spill over into our lives until industry will have to pay attention.

When I flip through albums I discover photographs that are just as beautiful created with my old film-dependent camera, or even a point-and-click, as those made with a DSLR.

When I walk in the woods I feel sustaining vigor and inspiration, rather than that initial spike after a shopping spree, like a sugar rush that eventually comes crashing down.

When I find special people, I want to keep them in my life, no matter how the years make their skin sag, their hair lose its luster, their minds wander, because I know their hearts will endure. 

We still own a functional toaster oven that’s 20 years old. It’s a relic I treasure, even though it requires some supervision. I will keep it until it shorts out and dies. And even then, I might keep it longer to remind me how much I need vegetables and fruit and long-lasting protein. To remind me that junk food will always be empty calories.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The African Tree


There once stood this beautiful, isolated tree in our neighbourhood. It had a short, squat trunk, but near the top its limbs stretched sideways, as if it were gripping the air on either side with elasticized arms. We called it ‘the African Tree’, because it resembled an acacia and grew in the middle of a fluttering field of grass. I pictured a drowsy lion sprawled under its branches, slapping flies away from its tawny chest with a flick of its tail. I imagined buzzards peering through the leaves with greedy glares and giraffes tearing off tender shoots.

File:Tree lion 2.jpg

I never knew what species of tree it was. I never captured it on film. It didn't cross my mind to pluck it from the air and keep a record of its existence. It was simply there every day, a vital part of our daily commute, a constant, a comfort. One day, as I wandered past, I saw a bald spot in the field and a pile of shredded wood on the ground. Tree-munchers, tree harvesters had chewed, chopped, obliterated our African Tree.

Now bland, block-like townhouses stand in its stead. Our little slice of Africa is gone. Although the site where it stood is crowded, it looks empty, hollow. A busy street to nowhere. I will always feel an ache when I gaze at that spot, a feeling of separation and loss. Solitary, resilient, and strangely misplaced, that tree belonged in a lonely Canadian field. A bold splash of colour to a dull day; a smile that shouldn’t exist; and a reminder that no matter how tangled and trapped we feel, we can always step out on a safari.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Zombie Apocalypse Has Already Begun

There’s been quite a few zombie movies released lately, and more to come. The other day I read this, regarding why we’re so obsessed with zombies and apocalyptic themes.

Essentially Professor Wilson is saying there are various complex reasons we like the ghoulish zombie epics.

An excuse to cast off blame, monsters awaken the Cain within us, zombies represent overcoming death, etc., etc.
But I think he's missing something. Perhaps this is one instance where likes attract. Perhaps we see more than a little of ourselves in the zombie. 

Consider for a moment human evolution.

We emerged from this:

Or some form of bacteria (pleasant thought)

And evolved into this: 

Then with further genetic modifications became this: 

And finally this: 
Albeit there were some exceptions. Not all of us were Einstein material.

First we muttered amongst ourselves while we were grooming each other--monkey see, monkey do--then we created a wonderful thing called LANGUAGE--so we could shout at someone across the field instead of poking, slapping and grunting at the guy/gal within physical reach. Words were symbolic for every nuance of life, every object, phenomenon, colour or emotion. Then we had a fabulous idea. Because we have so many fabulous ideas, we'd better write them down.

So we did.
After that the ideas just kept growing. 

We developed these:

And a device that has a few beneficial components, but, as we would soon discover, is inherently evil: 

Something happened at his point. Something like this  . . .

And it snowballed from there.

If you can't see this on your iPad or iPhone, click here.

Did you notice the transformation? Are we de-evolving?

This article explains what is happening.

 We’re being re-wired. My daughter gloats at my inefficiency at multitasking, but I always counter with "Is it really a benefit?" I can focus on the Wii flame for 30 minutes, or longer, while other members of my family are hard-pressed to sit through a minute. But my brain is also readjusting. I find, if the subject matter in my book isn’t riveting, my mind tends to wander. Well, that’s not unusual, but while in the past I might have taken a break, indulged in a coffee or a brisk walk, recharged in order to refocus, now I tend to pick up the iPad or the phone and skim sometimes comical but often inane posts. I’m overburdening my brain with essentially "junk data" that doesn’t help me write and interrupts vital programming—theme development, plot processing, character details—deep thought with singular focus that enables me to (hopefully) be creative.

 When we flood the airwaves or cell waves with every detail of our lives and every absurd thought, are we being social, or are we eating each other’s brains?

 You may notice I don’t post in my blog very often. That usually means I’m deep into research and writing, and I can’t focus on social media and producing a decent book at the same time. I can’t multitask worth a damn. But it doesn’t mean I haven’t tried to slap together posts now and then; the problem is they’re junk posts--fleeting thoughts, random commentary, superficial snapshots of my dull life--and I don’t feel they’re worthy of sharing. I don’t feel like boring you with every detail of my life. I have no intention of eating your brain. My goal will always be to expand and enrich it. Although, perhaps you will regard this as a junk post as well ;)

I don't ever want to become this:

Or see you transform into this:

Good luck surviving the apocalypse.