Don’t Stop Believin’

Jet lag has finally left me behind- the world now feels real, and I actually want to sleep at the proper times. Being back in England is strange- it’s surprising how quickly you get used to another environment, and a world of curving roads and green (rather than white) took a little getting used to. And, in the spirit of those thoughts, here’s a brief bit of blogging that I didn’t get the chance to post while I was away thanks to network/computer issues. Imagine that everything is getting that authentic Hollywood-style flashback wibble, and it’s the 1st of March…

Everything outside is white. Powdery snow is sweeping in from above, and covering everything you can think of. 9.20 in the morning (even though my computer is telling me it’s 14.20 in the afternoon- how very helpful of it…), and outside there are flurries of snow being buffeted around by the wind. When I was growing up in Cornwall, I saw a couple of harsh winters, and there’s be a couple of points where the landscape would end up covered in snow- but this is something different. This is serious weather.

I’m sitting in Anne and Jim’s house, in the Sun Room- a lounge with plenty of windows- and I’ve got a fantastic view of the line of jagged icicles dotted along the edge of the roof outside. There have been occasional warm spells (if you can count briefly rising above freezing as a warm spell), but it hasn’t been enough to melt the snow. The entire landscape of the country has changed- even in somewhere as normal as the Mall, it’s impossible to ignore thanks to the sheer volume of snow that’s fallen, and is simply not going anywhere. They’ve taken to ploughing the snow into gigantic mounds at the edge of car parks and roads, making some areas into bizarre hilly labyrinths, and removing some sights altogether (there’s a horse race track that’s now almost completely impossible to see). We’re only a couple of hundred metres from Lake Simcoe, a gigantic body of water which is currently frozen over, and dotted with various huts used for ice fishing.

Possibly the biggest and most fundamental difference was Thursday, and our trip to Niagra. Last time I went, it was the busy season, and it was a rainy day- the falls were still an absolutely spectacular, brain-numbing site, but the sense of damp greyness was a little difficult to escape. This time, however, the world was white, the water was topped by a surface of broiling chunks of ice, and once we got past the falls to the river and valley beyond, the entire river had frozen solid, thawed, and frozen again, creating a landscape full of cracks, ravines and gaping fissures. We even got some sun (creating a rainbow over the ice), and the sense of awesome scale and size was something to behold.

It’s always good to make sure that you’re seeing something new on holiday- and even though there may be a temperature rise scheduled for Monday, along with some wet weather, we’ve still seen enough to last us a long time.

As it turned out, while we got a brief thaw on Monday, with plenty of rain and an easing of the general whiteness of the world around us, it didn’t last for long. Tuesday night, we got home from some serious shopping, and my Aunt Anne’s drive had almost completely defrosted. The next morning, it was covered again in over half a foot of snow- it’s amazing how quickly it accumulates, and getting to stride around in some of the deepest and most undisturbed snowdrifts I’ve ever seen was one of the highlights of the holiday.

One of the other highlights was Sunday’s trip into Algonquin National Park, an area of wilderness that was still covered in snow, and one of the most breathtaking places I’ve seen for a long time. The temptation to simply head off into the woods was very hard to resist (although the survival issues kind of helped…), but the whole area was splendid, and one of the most genuinely quiet places I’ve ever been, a place where all you can really hear is the wind drifting through the trees- no traffic, no aircraft, and very little sign of human life once you get out of sight of the highway. It reminded me of what I loved about going on hikes with my Dad as a teenager- when we’d voyage to places like Dartmoor and Scotland, and we’d reach those places where you could turn 360 degrees and not see a single trace of civillisation. It’s given me a serious injection of wanderlust, and while a return to Canada might take a while, if we do go back, we’ll be seeking out more interesting wilderness, and seeing how far we can get from the noise of the modern world.

We also visited the CN Tower in Toronto, where I voyaged up over 140 floors to the SkyPod viewing area, and got one of the most spectacular attacks of vertigo I’ve had for a while. I’m alright with heights as long as I’m able to distance myself from what I’m seeing and pretend it’s just a really good special effect (I went up the Empire State and the Sears Tower with no ill effects)– but the SkyPod had a matrix of windows that sloped right down to the floor, meaning there looked like there was very little between me and a very, very long drop. As a result, I spent most of my brief time up there hugging the walls, or holding very tightly onto the viewing telescopes dotted around the pod. Even with all that, it was a tremendous view, and I want to be able to find a way of writing that kind of experience, of being able to conjure up the sense of hugeness and scale- I’m just not sure if I’d be in a hurry to go back there.

In short, though, it’s been a tremendous time- my aunt looked after us wonderfully, and I actually found myself switching off and properly relaxing for the first time in a while – an experience I’m seeing if I can stretch further into my ‘home’ time. The flight back wasn’t exactly comfortable, and sleeping on a plane never seems to work for me, but we’re officially back, and it’s been a wonderful rest.

One thing I did do while I was over there was brainstorm some ideas with George for the follow-up to THE HYPERNOVA GAMBIT, and it’s actually feeling like a genuine story now rather than a collection of cool concepts. One of the things I love about George is the fact that she’s able to keep up with my brain and throw in conceptual stuff that I’m not expecting. She’s a fantastic sounding board, and the fact that she’s now desperate to find out what happens next is certainly going to help…

Of course- I am going to have to work out what to do next. The fact that I’ve got a very crowded two weeks coming up (subbing in London, followed swiftly by Eastercon) is going to help keep my mind off things, but I have got to remind myself that just because the most recent bit of the process happenned at a dizzying speed, it doesn’t mean the rest of it is. As of Monday morning, the book will have officially been with publishers for two weeks- and fourteen days really isn’t a long time where publishing is concerned. My natural instinct is to sit back and wait, but I know I can’t afford to. Yes, something fantastic might happen with the book- but I’ve still got to keep some forward momentum going.

Onward, ever onward…

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