Low Tech Tuesday!

I thought I’d start something new here on the blog, low-tech Tuesday. I’ll put up a picture of a low tech device or tool and you tell me if you know what it is. If you don’t, take a guess in the comments. I’ll give you all a few days and then come back on the weekend and tell you what it is and how it’s used.

Sounds like fun, right?

Here we go with our first installment…



So….what do you think it is? Let me know in the comments and I’ll see you soon!


After People, Part 2


Previously, we engaged in a little thought experiment (Brought on by sleeplessness via the dog laying on my arm. Thank you, Harley)


In my ‘what-if’ scenario, I lived in a world with a much-reduced population. One where there weren’t enough people left to keep the power and internet on and priorities were food, water, and shelter. Once all the food in my nearby city was gone, there was nothing to hold me there and I had left the concrete for the bears, rats, and coyotes. In my thought experiment, I retreated to the woods north of the city and began to build a refuge there.


I imagine that while I walked, I would desperately try and remember the Survival Rule of threes.

  • You can survive for 3 minutes without air
  • You can survive for 3 hours in a harsh environment without shelter
  • You can survive for 3 days without water
  • You can survive for 3 weeks without food

(All of these assume you’re not in icy water)


So let’s assume I have a backpack containing a wool sweater I found somewhere, a 2 layer weatherproof jacket scrounged from the back of a truck (the dead man at the wheel wasn’t going to be needing it anymore) and enough food for a week. In the pocket of the coat, I found a lighter, a bottle of water, a bandana, a battery operated flashlight, a 6” folding knife, and the dead man’s keys. On that keychain is a small strike-a-light thing that creates sparks when you scrape it. From a survival standpoint, this is a potentially life-saving discovery!


Ever vigilant for wild animals, I suspect it would take me a couple of days to reach my destination. I’m in fairly decent shape for a walk of that length, but I don’t consider myself fit. I’m conscious of where I put my feet because a sprained ankle would seriously limit my safety. I stay warm at night in the sweater and weatherproof jacket, and I’ve been lucky enough to find safe places to sleep at night, albeit fitfully. Let’s assume I made it out of town without incident.


I come across a small village seemingly uninhabited. I stay in the bush waiting and watching for as long as I can. Yes, it might be nice to have someone to talk to, but I can’t assume only the good people survived. So I’m cautious. I finally decide to approach one of the houses that looks in good condition. I can see a few crabapple trees in the yard and what looks like an overgrown garden nearby the house. I see no signs that anyone has been there for some time, so after a whole lot of internal debate with myself, I finally decide to check the house out.


Close inspection shows all the windows and doors intact and not a single human print in the dirt driveway. I look in all the windows I can reach, half expecting to hear a shout of alarm or warning. There’s no one inside and I find the back door unlocked. With a whispered apology to whoever owns the house, I quietly slip inside and explore. There are two levels, a basement with a walk-in pantry, a cold-room and various appliances. Knowing how long the power has been off, there’s no point in looking inside the freezer. Its contents would have thawed and rotted long ago. But the cold room is situated in such a way that it is kept cool by the earth itself, and the heavy door that protects it. My flashlight shows built-in shelving stocked with all sorts of cans and jars of food, and I breathe a sigh of relief. On the floor are crocks and bottles. The crocks are full of sand that holds potatoes, carrots, and apples. The bottles are all labeled ALE. It looks as if the previous occupants knew a thing or two about preserving and home brewing. The walk-in pantry holds a variety of buckets. They’re all labeled according to their contents, and if the labels are all correct, the house is well stocked with rice, flour, dried beans, bottles of spices and dried fruit. Leaving the basement, I return my attention upstairs.


There is a kitchen, whose cupboards are well-stocked with dry goods in large glass jars. Dishes still rest nestled inside each other in another cupboard. Down a long hallway, I find a bathroom and two bedrooms, all empty of people. There are no bodies of the dead, no signs of panic or violence. It looks like the people who lived here just vanished. Curious, I explore further. Back in the kitchen, I take a close look at the table and find my answer. A notice of mandatory evacuation.


Next time: What would I find out in the barn that might help me stay alive?


I’d love to hear your impressions of my little thought experiment. Let me know in the comment section!


After People, What Next?



I have just finished reading a novel that focuses on surviving in a future ripped apart by war. It’s never made explicitly clear how long after the war, but I got the idea that it was a couple of generations at least. It was an entertaining book, and there were a couple of parts that nearly made me put the book down. I was impressed with the level of editing the book had received, only finding one mistake in a novel these days is pretty remarkable. My copy of Harry Potter has more than one typo! Anyway, I stuck with the book until the end and only have one niggling little quibble with it. 

The setting is New York City, specifically a greatly expanded Central Park. Now, even 25 years after a population-altering event, the underground pumps would have stopped working, and New York would be very, very wet. New York is actually already very wet. A team of men and 753 pumps struggle every day to keep the underground river from rising, and their efforts become even more focused and determined when it rains hard. Even as little as 2″.

According to Alan Weisman, a man long considered an expert in what might happen to our world without us, 650 gallons of water rush not too far below ground in Brooklyn.  One supervisor of Hydraulics Emergency Response has been quoted as saying that without electricity those pumps would shut off and stay off. In a half hour, the subway tunnels would become so flooded, trains could no longer run. Within 20 years, Lexington Avenue would be a river.

Trees change faces too. The Chinese ailanthus tree would take over, as would weeds and native greenery. Seeds of weeds would blow in from various parks and take root. With no one to maintain the weeds and grasses, New York would not remain a sterile, concrete world. There would be more than just herds of zebra, bears and wolves for any remaining humans to deal with.

So while I recognize that the novel I finished yesterday is only fiction, and meant to be entertaining, I do wonder if the setting might have been better researched.

Regardless, all of this got me thinking while I couldn’t sleep at 2 A.M.

Let’s say for the sake of conversation that something horrible happened and mankind was not completely wiped out, but our numbers were dramatically reduced. Life has become day-to-day survival. Due to that same reduced population, there is no more power grid, no one to keep the internet running, not enough people to man the oil refineries, or make steel, or cigarettes or music, or any of the other dozens of things we’ve become accustomed to living with. Because I live in Northern Ontario, I, of course, turned my pre-dawn thoughts to how such a scenario would play out up here.

The closest city to me, an hour away by vehicle, would be taken over by the woods that surround it. The city was originally carved from the bush (as we Canadians call it), and a substantial wood-lot still resides at its heart today for educational purposes. (It is owned by a local college) It isn’t unusual to see bears in town, or fox, cougars have been known to come calling, coyotes and even a lynx has been spotted. So the local wildlife isn’t waiting around for human-kind to relinquish our grasp on the city. They’re already staking their claim. There is already a rat problem, and while some theorize that without our trash, the rats would die off due to an altered diet and hungrier predators…I’m not so sure.

I think the city would quickly become wild and while there is a river on one side, there’s not a lot of farms. Some, yes, but even if we had a well-established agricultural presence, those farms need people to till and plant and water and harvest. With a reduced population, farming would become subsistence-driven. Every survivor for themselves, as it were. For the sake of this mental exercise, I imagined I would survive (somehow), and then further tried to imagine exactly how I’d live.

Day-to-day existence would become a constant search for water, food, shelter, and safety. No more coffee, no more bananas or avocado. Once the trucks had ceased bringing food in, there would be no more shipments to the grocery stores and quite likely no one to run the stores anyway. After a while, there would be no more need of town and I would quite likely attempt to establish a refuge in the woods north of the city.


What do you think would happen with a drastically reduced population? Let us know in the comments!

Off-Planet Horror

I woke up and found myself surrounded by sand, and hot air. Every breath was like inhaling fire. I slowly circled, praying for something familiar. The mind melting heat fizzled as my blood turned to icy sludge in my veins. There in the impossibly blue sky hung a blue and green orb – Earth. That familiar ball in the sky, as much as it should not have been there at all, was the only break in the landscape. There was no indication of safe refuge, no trail through the sand. Another rotation revealed a difference in the shades of sand. One place was darker than the rest. It might have been a trick of light or a misfiring synapse in my brain borne of desperation, it didn’t matter. Anything was better than sitting in the endless sand waiting for death. I pulled the neck of my t-shirt over my mouth and walked toward it. I couldn’t tell how long the journey took, but the dark spot gradually drew closer, and in time, I could at last see it was upright and vaguely human-shaped. I’d like to say I walked faster but the truth was closer to a dehydrated shuffle.


Finally, I reached my goal. I thought it was someone standing in robes with their back to me so I reached out a hand, to grasp their shoulder.

“Help…” I could say no more.

My hoped-for rescuer turned and became my horror.

It looked like something that had once been human, only with all of its skin removed to showcase the muscles, bone and tendon.

So kind of you to save me the task of hunting you down I heard it rasp deep in my head.

It grasped my hair with a skinless hand, curled its fingers and peeled my scalp from my skull.

I screamed as my flesh was pulled from me as easily as you skin a banana, the pain beyond anything I can put into words. I dropped to the sand, every grain like daggers biting into my unprotected nerves.

When the blackness swallowed me, it was a relief.


I don’t know how I got here, in this too-white room. You’d like me to be lying, I know. You could drug me into compliance. But every word is true, and while I don’t know how, I know he’s coming for you next.


The End

Stock & Flow


I came across an interesting blog the other day, and while I’m still reading the archives, one post, in particular, stood out for me.

A Few Notes On Daily Blogging

It stood out because the concept of stock and flow really intrigued me. While I think the concept would be more productive for a non-fiction writer, I think fiction could benefit as well. How? Well, if one is thinking about dabbling in a genre they do not currently write in, the blog could be used as a place to house snippets of scenes in that genre. Bits of conversations, random scene setting…it can all be used as a yardstick…to see if one has something to say in that genre.

Or not.

I think it’s worth a try here, although I don’t expect it to be a daily thing. Perhaps twice-weekly. I suppose it all comes down to how often inspiration strikes.

We’ll see.

Writing From The Middle and Other Revelations



An essay I read this morning has stunned me.

It was a sizeable piece by Sarah Minor, called What Quilting and Embroidery Can Teach Us About Narrative Form It caught my eye because not only does the craft of writing interest me, but I’m also a fibre crafter. I dabble in cross stitch and am a long-time knitter. So needless to say, I read the essay with high hopes. I’m ashamed to say that I don’t remember most of the piece, but one concept rocked me so much, I had to put down my breakfast and re-read the passage.  Minor wrote,

“This centre could be the most significant or challenging moment in an essay. From there, the process of “piecing” a text, rather than writing it in a straight line, could free the writer from concerns about repetition, foundations, and chronology. “

These two lines made me stop because I’m in the middle of my novel and for many months I’ve been unsure how to proceed. I knew where I wanted to end up, you would think it would be an easy thing to get to the end. But no, I was stumped. And didn’t write a word for six months, not counting grocery lists. I couldn’t see how to write the middle because I was looking at the work in a chronological fashion.

Now, that’s a little odd for me, because some of my best work (in my opinion) has not been written that way. The work I’m proudest of has come to me in snippets of scenes, or conversations between characters, or moments of intense stress and conflict. I write them down, in chunks, and then thread them all together. Rarely has writing in a chronological way ever worked for me.

So why then was I trying to write ‘Infinite Worlds’  in, for me, an un-natural format?

I have no idea.

But it has mired me for six months.

So to read Sarah Minor’s words of wisdom this morning was a lightbulb moment. I read the passage twice before literally leaving my chair with coffee in hand. I went to the window, dog close behind, and stared out at the grey sky. The clouds provided no further wisdom, but it was clear I needed to return to what moved my writing. Not so much write what I know, but write in a way that worked for me.

So that’s the plan.

Now if I could only get to the bottom of Chancellor Roberts…


The Lily & The Crown


This book is so much more than what I thought, and even though I wanted to stop reading it at some points, I never did. The characters had gotten under my skin too much to abandon them.
At first, I found Ari infuriating. She seems to be withdrawn and insulated, and she is, to a point. But she is also passionate about things she believes in, and courageous when she doesn’t have to be. She has a hidden intellect and feels so much so readily. I liked her far more than I thought I did. And her ‘Assistant’….how many times I wished she’d been given a name when she was so unwilling to share her own. She was crafty and kind, and yet, the reader can always feel the pulse of mystery. You know she’s going to do something, we’re just not sure what. And yet, when the big mystery is finally revealed (even though by that time, we suspect the truth anyway), we aren’t surprised.
I enjoyed that neither of the main characters changed with their circumstances. I liked that Ari asked for her friends’ lives to be spared, even though that came as no surprise either. And I especially enjoyed the ending. I won’t give anything away, but it was the perfect ending for these characters. It was everything I didn’t realize I was hoping for…until I read it and realized I was hoping for exactly that.
And I loved this line the best of all of them…

“We cannot change the world unless we have lived in it”