Thursday, June 18, 2015

Beginnings and endings . . .

I'm working on Book 3, Rivers of Stone. The story begins as Catriona, disguised as a boy, arrives at York Factory, hired as a clerk for the Hudson's Bay Company. She's married to her sweetheart, Dougal McDonnell, the fiddler. It's 1842, and they've left Scotland behind.

All's well, right? At the beginning of the story, we already know that many challenges await. The wilderness. Bears. The journey west. But the main theme of lovers separated and reunited should inform the story that unfolds. After working on the story for nearly two years, I'm 90,000 words in, but the ending eludes me.

As women know who came of age in the 1960's, nothing is certain. We had no role models. The rebel who burned her bra shocked us. We wanted to be that housewife who happily lived in suburbia in a cottage-like home, with an adoring husband and 2.5 children. Blame Barbie. Going to college meant a pat on the head and an opportunity to find that husband.

I was already different. Tall, gangly. Wore glasses. Add the reality that my family was beyond poor, and I was a bookworm. I worked my way through college, taking in typing as if it were laundry. Two jobs. Three jobs. Didn't matter. The one goal that created a sense of direction was getting that degree.

And so it dawned on me this morning that my last book, Years of Stone, and this one are really about that unique quest for survival as a woman.

In Years of Stone, Deidre, standing in line aboard a sinking ship, says, "I know my place." But she didn't. 

In Rivers of Stone, Catriona, also aboard ship just arriving in Hudson's Bay, is chided by a sailor: "You there, no slouching about. Yer to earn yer keep, boy." Cat replies, "Dinna be pushing me."  But life and circumstance do push us. 

I still want that happy ending for Cat and for all my characters. When do our actions or the actions of our loved ones take us well past that outcome? And then what? Some happy endings are hard won.

Frances Anne Hopkins, "Voyageur Canoe (1869)
Click on the image to see more detail. Notice the woman in the canoe. Frances Anne Hopkins. Married to a Hudson Bay Company official, she traveled throughout upper Canada with her husband in the 1860s; her paintings document the fur trade. 

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