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When I last visited the Dames, I wrote about the Simple Writers Life as I live it (https://damesofdialogue.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/simple-writers-life-by-vicki-delany/). The time before that was about my one true love – Tomatoes. (https://damesofdialogue.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/3241/)
Time for an update. I am still living the good life on a small patch of land in the country in Prince Edward County, Ontario. My new book, a standalone titled MORE THAN SORROW, is just out from Poisoned Pen Press, and is getting good reviews including a starred review from Library Journal which called it a “splendid Gothic thriller”.
On the tomato front, I have to admit that I’m a failed farmer. I’ve decided to give up on the tomatoes and not try again next year. Mine are tiny and shrivelled lumps of red clinging to a thin browning stalk. In fact they look much like my 2010 attempt that I told you about.
I’m better off confining my farming efforts to the realm of fiction.
MORE THAN SORROW is set on a small scale organic vegetable farm. A place of of huge heirloom tomatoes growing on thick green plants and baskets overflowing with produce.
The novel has a backstory, as all good Modern Gothics do, and this one is about the people who settled Prince Edward County in 1784. They were Loyalists – refugees from the American Revolution. The arrived in boats because there were no roads, to a land of untouched wilderness. First they had to chop down ancient trees with hand axes to clear the ground, and they used those trees to build the initial shanties, in which they spent the winter – in Ontario! Gradually stumps were cleared, crops planted, and the settlement began to grow and eventually prosper.
Good thing they weren’t counting on my gardening skills, is all I can say. We would have all starved.
I seem to do better with flowers. Here’s a pic of me among the sunflowers. (Confession: not my property, but the farm next door).
But I did have an abundance of peonies in June.
Here I am hard at work on my deck.
Vicki’s newest novel is More than Sorrow, from Poisoned Pen Press. The book got a starred review from Library Journal which called it “a splendid Gothic thriller”.
Once, Hannah Manning was an internationally-renowned journalist and war correspondent. Today, she’s a woman suffering from a traumatic brain injury. Unable to read, unable to concentrate, full of pain, lost and confused, haunted by her memories, Hannah goes to her sister’s small-scale vegetable farm in Prince Edward County, Ontario to recover.
As summer settles on the farm, she finds comfort in the soft rolling hills and neat fields as well as friendship in the company of Hila Popalzai, an Afghan woman also traumatized by war.
Unable to read the printed word, Hannah retreats into the attic and boxes of mouldy letters that have accumulated for more than two centuries. As she learns about the original settlers of this land, Loyalist refugees fleeing the United States in 1784, she is increasingly drawn to the space beneath the old house. More than carrots and potatoes, soups and jams, are down in the dark damp root cellar.
Hannah experiences visions of a woman, emerging from the icy cold mist. Is the woman real? Or the product of a severely damaged brain?
Which would be worse?
Then Hila disappears. When Hannah cannot account for her time, not even to herself, old enemies begin to circle.
In this modern Gothic novel of heart-wrenching suspense, past and present merge into a terrifying threat to the only thing Hannah still holds dear – her ten-year-old niece, Lily.
When I first began writing, I like so many other writers, had a full time job and was a single mother of three daughters. I called myself a “Sunday writer” meaning that the only time I had to really work on my writing was Sunday afternoon. My children grew up, as they tend to do, and soon I had a bit more time to myself. But I was still working as a systems analyst in a bank in the Toronto financial district and would rush home after work to put down a few words.
My dream was to move to the county and pursue the simple life. And to be a writer, not just a systems analyst who found time to write now and again.
Three years ago I sold my house in the suburbs of a big city and followed my dream to a small rural property in Prince Edward County, Ontario.
I am living the writer’s life because I am content with the simple life.
And simple is the operative word. Like most (almost all?) writers I don’t earn a heck of a lot of money from my writing. I don’t take exotic vacations, I don’t have fancy electronics, I don’t drive a flashy new SUV. I have a 23-year-old TV with rabbit ears that gets one channel and drive a much-loved Toyota Corolla. I don’t eat out much or buy fast food, and do all my own cooking. I don’t need clothes any fancier than for appearances at bookstores and libraries. I keep my house at a temperature my children call bone-chilling, and rarely go to movies, preferring to read. Reading is still the best value for money you’ll get anywhere in terms of entertainment.
When I’m at home, I write every day. Seven days a week. Usually for about three to four hours in the morning. In the summer I then work in the garden and in the winter, don’t do much now that I think of it. Evenings are pretty much devoted to book promotional activities, particularly around release time.
I’m enjoying life in the country. I started a vegetable patch when I first moved in and get a lot of pleasure out of it. There is absolutely nothing in the world that tastes as good as a cherry tomato picked and eaten on the spot. And lettuce you’ve grown yourself? You’ll wonder what that stuff they sell in the supermarket really is. I filled the freezer with pasta sauce and soup and frozen berries I picked myself, and the second year I enlarged the size of my freezer.
Living in the country occasionally has its drawbacks.
Like when I came home from my vacation with my family after New Years to find three feet of water in the basement. Literally. The sump pump had failed and it had turned warm and all the snow had melted. My house is well over one hundred years old (the fulfillment of another dream) so the basement is just a cellar, with nothing much in it to be destroyed. Except the furnace, which was.
This was my first winter in the house and a few days later the brand-new furnace stopped working. I’d run out of propane. How should I know you’re supposed to order propane? In the city this sort of stuff just arrives all by itself.
Fortunately the house has a wood burning stove as well as the furnace so I was able to use it to heat the house while waiting for propane delivery.
Get the propane tank filled and gag at the expense. Wow.
The wood burning stove worked so well, I decided to start using it more to save on propane, so I ordered more wood as the stuff the previous owners left was running out. I phoned the supplier and asked for a cord. I had absolutely no idea how much that is. He suggested that as the delivery charge was the same, I should get two cords. Okay, two cords it is.
When he pulled up with a trailer piled high with wood, I thought, “I guess he has several other deliveries to make.” He backed the trailer up in front of the garage and dumped all that wood on the driveway.
I spent three days moving and stacking wood.
Life has its ups and downs, as always. But I am living my dream.
The simple writer’s life.
Vicki Delany writes everything from standalone novels of psychological suspense such as Scare the Light Away and Burden of Memory, to the Constable Molly Smith books, a traditional village/police procedural series set in the B.C. Interior, including In the Shadow of the Glacier and Winter of Secrets which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly, (“artistry as sturdy and restrained as a shaker chair”), to a light-hearted historical series, Gold Digger and Gold Fever, set in the raucous heyday of the Klondike Gold Rush.
The fourth book in the critically-acclaimed Constable Molly Smith series, Negative Image, was released by Poisoned Pen Press on November 1st. Kirkus reviews said Negative Image “…combines the crisp plotting of the best small-town police procedurals with trenchant commentary on such universal problems as love and trust.” Visit Vicki at www.vickidelany.com