The day after Earth Day

This is the day that matters.

Even Joe Oliver, Canada’s Minister of Natural Resources, Stephen Harper’s puppet in his war on nature, can appear green-tinged on Earth Day. Today is the day where what we do counts.

Really Alberta?

My family and I moved back to Alberta about sixteen months ago. Every morning I wake up and am grateful to be back living in the mountains. Alberta is an extraordinary place, filled with extraordinary people, but I will confess that on the eve of a provincial election, I have no ungodly idea what makes Albertans tick.

According to a poll published in today’s Globe and Mail online edition, the upstart Wildrose Party has a nine point lead over the incumbent Progressive Conservatives. Because Canadian political alliances can be confusing, the Wildrose party is backed by the federal Conservative Party, while the provincial PC party seems to have been cut adrift by the mother-ship.

When I moved back to Alberta, and back into the conservation community, I knew what I was getting into. For nearly twenty years I’ve had to go toe-to-toe with the likes of former Energy Minister Steve West, and former environment Minister Ty Lund when they were in Ralph Klein’s cabinet. Being an environmentalist in Alberta was, as author Sid Marty has written, like being a boy scout in Hell.

Hell is going to look pretty good if Danielle Smith is elected on Monday.

But this is what Alberta does; it lurches from one government to another, about once a generation or so. If as the pollsters predict Alberta changes government on Monday it will only be for the fourth time in our 107-year history that this has happened. The Wildrose will form Alberta’s fifth government, and if they do, Alberta’s willingness to protect land, water, air and its ability to combat climate change will be in considerable doubt.

A part of me thinks: it can’t be any worse than the Progressive Conservatives. Premier Alison Redford has been a tremendous disappointment in this regard. While she has talked tough on education and health care, she has been a dismal failure when it comes to protecting the underpinning of our physical health and our economic system: our ecosystems. She’s cow-towed to the oil and gas sector on the tar sands and despite overwhelming opposition to logging in the Castle Wildland in south western Alberta, bowed to pressure from the local MLA Evan Berger, going so far as to put him in Cabinet to satiate the party’s good-old-boy right wing.

I know it could be much worse. Alberta’s protected area’s network is held together with spit and bailing wire. We have scant protection for our parks from industrial tourism, OHV use, logging and oil and gas development; the land base outside of our parks is fair game to just about anybody with a big idea and a few bucks in their pocket. As the party of extra free enterprise and with a Libertarian leaning, Wildrose cannot be counted on to protect these assets that are the cornerstone of our Province’s natural beauty, ecological health, and economic future.

Add to this Danielle Smith’s defence of candidates who are homophobic, xenophobic and want to take our province back decades in its relationship with the rest of Canada and the world, and it would appear as if politics in Alberta are about to go from bad to catastrophic.

When the federal Conservatives won their much sought after majority, I quickly posted a blog entry suggesting that things weren’t so bad, and that all we needed to do as environmentalists was to burrow into the belly of the beast and work from within to convince Stephen Harper’s government to protect Canada’s environment.

I was wrong. Sometimes this tactic espoused in The Art of War and other Taoist manuals works, but sometimes all that happens is you find yourself surrounded by a rotting pile of entrails while the beast is off devouring what is precious to you.

If Danielle Smith wins election on Monday, I won’t be making any entreaties for Alberta’s environmental community to try and “capture the enemy whole” (as Sun Tzu might advise). On the contrary: my advice will be to use whatever advantage we have to safeguard what we hold dear. Capturing whole only works if both opponents are on roughly equal footing and if both are honourable in their undertakings. As Stephen Harper has demonstrated over the last year, this is far from the case. And what is Danielle Smith’s Wildrose but another guise for a political movement bent on eviscerating Canada and Alberta’s environmental laws, protections and safeguards in the name of smaller government and more free enterprise?

Really, Alberta: just as I was starting to think I understood you. In addition to having good common sense fiscal prudence, I thought that maybe we were on the cusp of having a government that reflected the majesty and beauty of this province. But it looks like I was wrong.

Canmore event

I love reading to my friends, and so it was in Canmore last night. My thanks go out to new friends and old for your attendance at Cafe Books last night for another book event in the Bow Valley. Cafe Books has hosted events for my last four novels and as always they made me feel very welcome, with wine and kind words. Thanks to those who stocked up on books – at least two folks went home with four books each! Below is a photo of me getting into character; the photo was taken by another character, my ten-year-old son Rio. Thanks again to all for a very nice evening.

There’s a big stack of signed copies of The Vanishing Track, The End of the Line, and The Darkening Archipelago at Cafe Books. I’m told The Cardinal Divide is on order. Click here to read a summary of each of these titles.

Reading from The Vanishing Track in Canmore, Alberta.

I’m off to Vancouver and Victoria next. Check here for event details. Follow me on Twitter @stephenlegault for updates.

Five Chapters and an Owl’s Nest

I did a little mini-tour of Calgary’s books stores last night. I didn’t get to all of them, but a lot. I thought that with the Vanishing Track enjoying some degree of success in that city that I should do what I could to maintain momentum. There’s only so much an author can do; one of the things is sign books.

It’s always humbling to walk into any book store, let alone five Chapters stores in a row. The first Chapters I visited was in the Chinook Centre and I had to navigate my way around a massive circular table adorned with the biggest stack of books I’ve ever seen. It must have been piled as tall as a person could reach, and all by one writer: Suzanne Collins, author of the Hunger Games trilogy.

She also got her own section. Similar piles of that same book greeted me in the other Chapters.

More than just that display of marketing power, the thing that really humbles me when I walk into a Chapters is the sheer volume of titles vying for the consumer’s eye. There are tens of thousands of books on their shelves. And that’s just a drop in the bucket of what is being published each year. Ten times that number are being published as e-books. It’s good to keep perspective.

I dutifully sought out copies of The Vanishing Track and the End of the Line, my two most recent books, on the store’s shelves and signed them and introduced myself to store staff and asked for “signed by the author” stickers. I don’t really know if this helps book sales. I don’t think it hurts, and I suppose if a reader has to choose between two books, a scrawled personalization might tip the scale in my favour.

I did have two really positive experiences. The first was visiting Owl’s Nest Books, one of my two favourite book sellers in Calgary, the other being Pages on Kensington (who I visited last week). They had lots of my books on their shelves, including copies of The Darkening Archipelago, a previous Cole Blackwater title. Owl’s Nest, like other independent stores, is not so easily influenced by mass hysteria around books like The Hunger Games. I’m sure they had copies in the store, but nothing that threatened to bury a customer if they inadvertently knocked the display table.

The End of the Line, Darkening Archipelago and The Vanishing Track at Owl's Nest Books. You can just see Stieg Larsson being crowded to the side by my titles.

The other really positive experience was in the Dalhousie Chapters. They were short on staff, so I just grabbed copies of my books off the shelves and took them to the checkout counter where I signed them and handed them to the clerk for stickers and re-shelving. The people in line behind me had a small armload of mystery titles and they asked me about my books and then happily added copies of The End of the Line and the Vanishing Track to their purchases. Connecting with readers is one of the best parts about being a writer.

In the end, I don’t know if driving all over Calgary and signing books will help sell a few more. But it was good to meet more book sellers and a few readers. And my message is that, as a writer, I’m willing to go the extra mile to make a success of my books.

An opportunity for gratitude

“Actually, I’m an overnight success. But it took twenty years.” — Monty Hall

I started my day today by checking my email and finding a Google Alert for my name. The alert told me there was something in The Calgary Herald so I clicked on the link and found out that The Vanishing Track, which was released a month ago by TouchWood Editions, was the #1 bestseller there last week.

I was gob-smacked. My first instinct was to tell someone, but because I start my day at 5am there wasn’t anybody around to confide in. The kids are at their other household and Jenn is on the coast where it was only 4am. Its not part of a healthy marriage to wake your wife up so early, even if it is with good news.

I don’t even have a pet I could tell so I made another cup of tea and paced around the house for a while, and then sat down and felt a wave of happiness and something else –relief? — rush over me

I’ve been writing since 1988 and seriously trying to publish since 1994. My first book was released in 2006 and since then I’ve had four more published. This is the first time I have been on a bestseller list. Just like Monty Hall said, this overnight success has been some time in coming. No, it’s not The New York Times or The Globe and Mail, but this means something to me.

It means that my hard work is paying off. It means that the choices I’ve been making are sound. And it means that I have a lot to be thankful for.

That’s what is most important about this for me: gratitude. I am grateful that every morning I can wake up and sit down at the computer and without fail write something. I’ve never had a single day of writers block. Yes, I’ve encountered plot challenges, but that’s different. Writing comes completely naturally, if you call dogged determination and waking up hungry to create and succeed every single morning natural.

I’m also grateful to have an impressive team behind me, starting with my wife Jenn, who is the first person to read everything I write to keep me from seriously embarrassing myself. Ruth and Frances at TouchWood form the backstop of my editorial team and Lenore has been doing her best with my rotten syntax and terrible spelling for the last couple of novels. Without them I’d be nowhere. The rest of the gang at TouchWood – Peter, Emily, and a whole gaggle of other folks who I adore but whose names I can’t remember or find in my email – make me look far better than I deserve.

I can’t forget my children: a couple of hours ago my 6-year-old Silas called me up to congratulate me. Either his mom and step-dad told him about this or he’s creeping me on Facebook. Kids these days.

There are a lot of people selling my books. To get to #1 on a local bestsellers list (without passing through numbers 10 through 2 I should ad) means that two book stores in Calgary – The Owl’s Nest and Pages on Kensington – had to sell a stack of books. That’s how it works: bestsellers lists, including the Globe and Mail‘s, are compiled from sales from independent booksellers. There aren’t as many of them around anymore, and digital book sales are having an impact too, so this is a heroic effort. In additional to these fine Calgary book sellers, Victoria’s Munro’s, Bolen and Russell Books, and of course, my favourite Chronicles of Crime, are what keep writers like me motivated. In Canmore Café Books pretty much treats me like family.

But most importantly, readers are who I have to be grateful to. People like you who buy these books for their Kindles or Kobos, who pick them up at their favourite independent book seller or at one of the big stores, who take them out of the library or buy them used or, as one woman recently wrote to tell me, found The Darkening Archipelago in a lending library in her hotel in Thailand. It turns out that Alison and I worked at Royal Roads University at the same time (and the book was one of the only English language books on the shelf) so she picked it up and now it’s continuing its globe-trotting.

Readers are what make my job so much fun. We connect across the universe; we are, as someone once said, holding hands under the table (or maybe it was the covers….). So thanks for buying my books; you make it possible for me to keep doing what I love, hopefully in every increasing amounts. I am grateful to you.

If you’d like to keep in touch follow me on Twitter @stephenlegault.

Good Friday Writing

I finished the first draft of The Glacier Gallows today at twelve thirty this afternoon. On the dot. The manuscript is full of holes and there are rents in the plot that you could drive just about any cliché you wanted to through. But they can all be fixed, and most will, in the subsequent drafts. Because I made a bunch of plot changes towards the end of the novel, I’m going to have to go back and make more additions and subtractions early in the book.

I penned about 8,000 words this morning. I had planned to work on this manuscript over the long weekend, being at home sans wife and children, and now that it’s done all have to do for the next few days is sit back and gloat. And go skiing.

In case you’re just dying to know, here’s what a day in the life looks like as I race through the conclusion of a first draft.

10:30 pm. A good morning’s writing starts with an early bed time. Healthy, wealthy and all that, minus the wealthy.

4:14 am. Wake up, already thinking about the final chapters of the book. I just fall back asleep when…

4:50 am. The alarm goes off. I lay in bed for a couple of minutes and then go down to the kitchen, make tea.

5:00 am. Back in bed I listen to the news. I usually do this in my office, but Jenn is away so I won’t wake anybody.

5:03 am. The news is the abbreviated version reserved for holiday’s when there is little newsworthy going on, or nobody left at the CBC to report it. Thanks Stevo. Feel cheated. Listen to the first 6 minutes of some BBC show on science.

5:09 am. Still savouring my first cup of tea, I commute the 7 steps to my office and read the Globe and Mail, Politico, and Pearls before Swine, online.

5:11 am. Open The Glacier Gallows and start reading the last few paragraphs I wrote yesterday.

5:12 am. Read Calvin and Hobbs. That’s right. On Go Comics you can read the whole strip, right from the start, with a new instalment daily. The internet is swell.

5:13 am. Back to The Glacier Gallows: start writing. I’m still not fully awake so it’s slow going at first.

5:20 am. Make second cup of tea. First breakfast: Honey-nut cheerio’s with almond breeze.

5:30 am. I work my way through some minor changes that I was thinking about at 4:14 and then start into a new chapter. The writing comes very quickly at this point and by 6:20 I’ve written 1,200 words.

6:21am. Third cup of tea. I switch to decaf (And don’t sneer. Taylor’s of Harrogate makes the best bagged tea in the world and they started making a decaffeinated tea and it’s awesome.)

6:30 am. Check Tweet Deck. Send a few tweets. Check Facebook. Check weather forecast and look at Ski Louise web site. Fantasise about skiing.

6:40 am. Back at it. (Sound of whip cracking.) I bore into the next chapter, and write another 1,100 words before…

7:30. Fourth cup of tea. Back to caffeine. High octane stuff. I use a fork to speed the steeping process.

7:33 Get distracted (again, always) by sunrise out my office window. Take pictures. Upload. Edit. Post.

The view from my office window of Mount Peter Lougheed (right), Wind Ridge (forested, foreground) Mount Allen (centre) and Mount Collembola (left)

7:42. For the next couple of hours I work on one of the climatic scenes in the book. It’s the much anticipated (by me) chase scene. Good fun.

9:45. Fifth cup of tea. Back to decaf. Switch things up. Keep the adrenal glands guessing. Second breakfast: toast with jam. I’ve come to a plot challenge that I have to work through, so I pace around the empty house, talking to myself. “Well, what would Cole do? He would do this…No, no, no he would do this….”

10:04 am. Take a shower. Next to going for a run, this is the easiest way for me to solve a plot problem.

10:09 am. Warm up fifth cup of tea.

10:10 am. Back at it. The plot challenge overcome, I burn through the a very long, exciting chapter that involves a car chase, a gun fight, a fist fight, an car accident and livestock being startled by masked assailants.

11:45 am. I want more tea, but it’s a bad idea, so I drink a glass of water and feel slightly righteous.

11:47 am. All I have left is a short epilogue. Not much room for creativity there….But wait, the excitement isn’t over! I decide to set up the fifth Cole Blackwater book right there in the epilogue. Legault you clever fellow. That’s where all the smug gloating comes from.

12:30 pm. I punch the last period of the last sentence of the last paragraph….you get the idea…of the first draft of The Glacier Gallows.

12:31 pm. Tweet about it.

12:32 pm. Wonder what I’m going to work on next.

If you would like to know what comes next, follow me on Twitter @stephenlegault.

To read all of my posts on Deconstructing Draft One for both The Glacier Gallows and The Third Riel Conspiracy, click here.

Among the Wounded: Conclusion

To read part 1 click here.

To read part 2 click here.

To read part 3 click here.

To read part 4 click here.

To read part 5 click here.

By the end of the week the survey team had completed their transect. Two nights in a row Jeffrey had come into the woods to undo the work they had done. On the third night instead of flags and survey stakes he found blazes cut into the trees themselves. He sat alone in the woods that night and felt them die around him. The trees were still there, but something had slipped from the forest, and from him. He felt a hollowness envelope him where wholeness that had been building through the summer.

At last, sitting on a log in the darkness, the arrow-straight line that cut through the forest and into him only ten feet away, he understood the significance of his encounter a few nights before. The animals had come to him on the last night they could. He imagined those spectral creatures, the soul of these woods, wandering restlessly through the suburbs, pushed further and further away until they could  find no place to go. The forest—through its animals—had come to him to say a final farewell.

The men worked for two weeks straight, even on Sundays, and then the woods were quiet again. When at last the men were gone he walked into the forest and went to a giant beech tree growing along the side of the creek. He leaned against the tree that he imagined to be the oldest in these woods and rested against the smooth bark, his eyes closed.

It occurred to Jeffrey that some ceremony was needed. He thought at first that he might simply set fire to the woods and watch them burn. Let them die by the hand of someone who loved them, he thought. He lacked the courage to take such a risk. Maybe the subdivision would not be built this year and he could spend the winter in the woods, tracking and painting.

Instead he decided on something simple, something that involved ritual, that offered back to the woods nothing physical, but rather something spiritual. He would bathe in the creek. He knew that on his own he could not find the coyote’s pool. He needed one of the forest’s emissaries to lead him to that haunt. He settled for his favourite bend in the creek where a deep pool formed on the outer bank. He walked to it and slipped down the bank onto the gravel at mid-channel.

He slipped his shoes off with his toes, pulled his shirt off and unbuckled his belt. Jeffrey pulled off his jeans, then his underwear, and looked around self-consciously. He felt the wind dance over him and thought of the cougar and the way it moved through the forest. Stepping into the water, he sank up to his waist. It pulled him in. Jeffery sat down and closed his eyes, letting his body sink into the flow. He sat on the gravel on the bottom, the water closing in over his head and felt the push of it on his chest and on his face. When he stood again the water streamed off him. A few leaves stuck to his chest. He put his hands on the bank and looked down into the pool. He stood still long enough that the ripples in the water quieted and he could see a wavy reflection of his face, the forest swaying above him. In the reflection it appeared that there was no delineation between him and the forest.

There was nothing left to separate them. No distinction remained.

A shout shattered the moment. It came from behind him, from the direction of Upper End Line. He heard another and thought that maybe the workers had returned and seen him. Then came the heavy sound of many feet running, crashing through the woods. His clothes lay in a pile near his feet and he bent low to grab his pants. The sound of footsteps intensified and to his astonishment an animal that looked like a cross between a moose and a deer bounded from the woods and landed heavily in the creek bed. The animal stumbled on the loose gravel and rocks only twenty feet downstream from him, but managed to stay upright. It was bigger than a deer and had a dark tan hide—almost red—and a great spreading rack of antlers that made Jeffrey think of pictures of reindeer he had seen in books about northern Europe. In the blink of an eye it bounded up the five-foot bank of the leaving Jeffrey holding his breath.

He hunched there for no more than a second when a shrill shout pierced the air. From the trees two men jumped into the creek, one of them falling and rolling and getting to his feet so quickly he appeared to be a circus performer. The other hit the creek running and bounded out the other side before Jeffrey could focus on him. They were followed by two more men in rapid succession, each one leaping from the woods into the creek, splashing across it with powerful bounds. He managed to fix in his mind an image of the four men. They all appeared to be completely naked. If they wore anything it must have been the same colour as their skin. They had long dark hair that looked like dark wind flowing from their heads.

Jeffrey could swear that they were all carrying bows and arrows.

He stood in the water, his pants in his hand, and looked at the place where two seconds before a woodland caribou had thundered across, pursued by four men intent on killing it. When a fifth man jumped into the water Jeffery had pulled his pants on. The man looked at him and Jeffrey saw that he was only a boy, no older than he was. The two stared at each other across the water. Then the boy smiled and stepped to the bank and leapt up it. Jeffery slipped on his shoes and started up the side of the creek. In a moment of deja-vous, the boy turned quickly to look at Jeffrey struggling up the bank. The two locked eyes again. The boy looked at him as the coyote had, taunting him. And then he was gone.

Jeffrey reached the top of the bank in time to see the dark back of the boy disappear through the woods. Without thinking, he began to run. He felt the strength in his legs propel him forward, dodging trees and jumping roots. The woods passed in a kaleidoscope of light and colour. He caught sight of the boy ahead, darting through the trees, running steadily. It came as no surprise that he passed the place where the woods should have ended, but did not. Instead of running into the neighbouring subdivision he passed beneath maple and pine. He ran for ten minutes this way, then twenty. All the while he could hear the shouts of the men and could see the boy just ahead of him.

Then the woods began to open and the terrain rolled like undulating waves. Jeffery watched the boy pass from the trees into an open meadow and saw sunlight beating down there and as he himself came to the forest’s edge, he stopped.

The men and the boy were pressing the caribou onwards. The animal was clearly tired. The meadow was two hundred meters wide and there was dark green forest on all sides. The caribou made a sharp turn to the left and the men pursued it. They were only fifty feet behind it now. Suddenly from the far side of the meadow three more men rushed from the woods, each brandishing clubs. They were shouting and running straight at the oncoming animal. The caribou turned again, kicking up tufts of sod and turf as it did, the dust rising in the hot, humid air. The animal was now running a course between its pursuers, one group with bows and the other carrying their clubs close to their bodies. The animal headed for a gap in the woods and was only fifty feet away when another group of men broke into the clearing. They ran straight out of the pathway that the caribou was heading for. The caribou tried to stop abruptly, its long awkward looking legs buckling under it. It scrambled to its feet – Jeffrey thought he could see the fear in the animal’s eyes – and turned to bolt, but the men were on it now.

One man struck the animal in the head and another hit it in the back legs. The caribou fell to the ground. Another man deftly drew a long knife from a sheath and slit the animal’s throat. There was no yelling. The animal sagged on the ground and the man who had cut its throat stepped from its back. Jeffery watched them all bow down and then one of the men stood and raised his hands over his head.

Four of them went into the woods and quickly returned with two long poles. The others lashed the animal to the poles and they hoisted it onto their shoulders. The four men carrying the caribou started off into the woods on the far side of the clearing, following the trail that the caribou had been running toward.

At length only the men with bows and the boy were left in the clearing. They seemed to be resting.       After a few minutes they stood and began to walk toward the trail at the far side of the meadow. As they were about to disappear into the forest the young boy stopped and turned. He looked right at Jeffrey, though how he could see him, Jeffrey could not tell. And then he was gone.

Jeffrey sat still awhile. He thought maybe he had come six kilometres. Maybe more. He did not know how he would find his way back. He stood and stepped into the clearing. He walked across its undulating surface and then entered the woods on its far side on a trail.           He did not run, but walked swiftly. He had no desire to overtake the men he was following. He had no appetite to confront whatever it was that was leading him deeper into these woods.

He walked for more than an hour and then the canopy of the dark forest seemed to fall away into nothing. The trail was wide and well-trodden. He came to the verge of the woods and the earth vanished beneath him. He stood spellbound looking over a great river valley. He could see across to the far side of the vale where the woods rose up again. At the centre of the valley he could see, in places where the trees parted, the curve of a river. It was broad and it glistened in the late afternoon sunlight. Next to the river several columns of smoke rose through the trees.

Jeffrey sat down on the path. His jeans were dirty and wet and he wore no shirt. As looked out across the valley he knew that he could name the river, but not the year. This was unlike anything Jeffrey had ever seen, even in the north: wide and lush with waves of trees. The gentle curve of its walls and the way the river sat so snugly at its centre left him with a great feeling of peace. Clouds of birds flew above the glistening water.

There was no six-lane parkway at this valley’s centre, no derelict and dilapidated factories, and no chemicals leaching into the waterway. There was blue above; not a smog tarnished sky. A hawk planed overhead. There was a rolling blanket of forest hugging the earth.

He thought of his childhood along the Nighthawk River, of his father. He imagined what it would be like to fish the waters that lay before him. If he walked into the camp of men and women and children what would their reaction be?

On the horizon, toward the lake, Jeffrey could see clouds beginning to build. A late summer storm was brewing. Thunderheads piling on top of each other were shot through with electricity.

He stood and thought that if he wanted to get home before dark he would have to leave now. With a storm coming he would not make it without getting soaked to the skin. His mother would have already called someone to look for him. They would have found his shirt and underwear in the creek and would suspect the worst.

He thought about his woods; the tiny vestige that hunched amid the turmoil progress. He knew that soon men with machines and good intentions, but who were immersed in their own ignorance, would come into those woods and reduce them to subdivisions with neat yards and carefully planted shrubbery.

Jeffrey thought that he would have to find a place to live where he could run through the woods and feel in his heart the freedom that accompanied such wildness. In one world he would live among the wounded—all of those who had suffered and disappeared from this earth so that one species might prosper.  In the other he might live differently— though he had no idea how—and he would feel what he had felt that morning while watching his reflection in the pool: that the lines between the human world and the rest of creation are thin and he could, if he were willing to make a sacrifice, transcend them.

Jeffrey stood and watched the thunderstorm approach. It rolled in from the lake and blotted out the sun. There was a flash of lightening followed closely by a crack that echoed up the broad valley. But he wasn’t afraid. He was closer to home than he had believed. He straightened up and set off down the path, into the valley below.

Thanks for reading Among the Wounded. This is part of a collection of short stories that I’m seeking a publisher for. I’d love your feedback to help me make my stories stronger. Use the comment form below. You can follow me on Twitter @stephenlegault.

Just the dude at the keyboard

Rest easy: I made it through the rough patch.

Everybody seemed so concerned. I did an interview with Russell Bowers, the host of CBC’s Daybreak Alberta last Thursday and he started the interview noting that I was in a bit of a jam. He had read this blog. It’s no big deal, I assured him: Cole got the pickup truck moving again and he’s no longer loitering on the streets of Cheyenne Wyoming.

He did get himself in a heap of trouble, mind you.

Things don’t always go as planned when I’m working on a first draft. That’s certainly been the case with The Glacier Gallows. Given that this story has been in my head for more than five years, and the meticulous planning that I do when I’m preparing to pen a first draft, you’d think that this would have been all but feta-complete. It doesn’t work that way. I step into first draft mode with a solid idea as to where I’m going, and a good idea as to how to get there, but there are a lot of miles between word one and word ninety-five thousand.

Characters change; the story takes on a life of its own. It goes in directions that I couldn’t’ have foreseen. It’s a living thing: born of the grey matter between my ears in part, but more a mixture of the creative soup of the cosmos than anything else. I’m just the dude at the keyboard.

The one thing that has happened in penning The Glacier Gallows that has never happened before is about two-thirds of the way through I changed who the killer is. I didn’t see that coming. But there I was working my way through that jam in the plot line when it occurred to me that the killer had been revealed too soon, and maybe I had better rethink this whole mess.

I did, and things changed. I’ll have to go back in draft two and expand on some stuff in the early chapters, but I’m pretty happy with the way the story is shaping up.

As always, there’s going to be a lot of work to do to get this book to print in the next eighteen months. And I’ve still got three or four chapters, and another six or eight thousand words to write tomorrow morning, but I’m in the home stretch. I think.

Wanna read more about first drafts and plot changes? Follow along @stephenlegault.