The Matter of Time

Time at the Abode flows differently from time in the "wide world."

Marking time in the wide world is, of course, done in minutes, hours, months, years...

Within the mists, however, none of those elements apply. The children know only that they wake up and begin work during "the lightening" and sleep during "the darkening." Lightenings and darkenings can be counted, as when the character Molly tells her friend Fel how many darkenings have passed since Fel's escape. Fel, who upon her return has been away from the Abode for two years, is astonished that only 14 lightenings and darkenings have passed in Molly's time.

However, since each lightening and darkening is the same as every other, there's never much reason for the children to count them. The Smilts, the couple who control everything at the Abode, may count lightenings and darkenings between appearances of The Visitor, but they're not telling.

As the plot of The Abode moves forward, the reason for the time differences reveals itself. There's human time and then there's...well, I'm not telling, either. More than one secret lies within the mists.

Where’d You Get the Idea?

People often ask where my writing ideas come from. Sometimes the answer is easy. The story "No One Ever Listens to Me" (Highlights for Children, 2006), for example, was pretty much autobiographical: Girl with a short temper who yells a lot when she doesn't get her way? Yup, sounds familiar.

The Abode, though, took me by surprise. At first all I knew for sure was that a girl named Molly needed to be rescued from her sad, frightening life at a place called The Abode. As I set out to help her, other characters invited themselves into the story to assist me. Fel, Molly's friend and an escapee from The Abode, showed up accompanied by a cheeky parrot called Hidalgo. The mists, who Molly had been taught would kill her, began to give helpful instructions. Pirates came along and, of course, Ywyn, whom the reader meets a little later in the story. None of these characters appeared in the original outline.

So in the case of The Abode, I have to give credit to a deeper part of myself for "the idea." This story evolved slowly, building on itself unexpected revelation by unexpected revelation. When I look back at what I've created here, I realize that I've included many aspects of myself. But not intentionally. Prisons and the human beings who spend their lives inside them hold a fascination. The children of the Abode are imprisoned. And magic?—I've always been a believer. But I prefer not to overanalyze. I like instead to think that "the idea" is a conglomeration of ideas brought to me by these characters who have been kind enough to hang around long enough for me to write their story.

Thoughts on Writing

Like many writers starting out, my dream was to write a book, sell it, and get famous.

I tried that, but, alas, several sticking points presented themselves right away.

First, I had to learn how to write—how to lose the unnecessary adjectives and adverbs; how to find that perfect first sentence; how to decide on a through line....And of course there were those niggling rules of grammar, punctuation, and spelling to attend to.

So I practiced and got better. When I began to get published, I also learned to stick to the assigned word count and to get my work in before the deadline.

My first published piece, in my local newspaper, earned me $15. From there, I spent years honing my skills as a freelance, non-fiction writer for magazines and newspapers.

Finally, I began writing for a younger audience and discovered that this is the writing I love most of all. The Abode, a fantasy for readers 8 and up, is my first full-length book.