I felt the whole world tremble today. I’m adding it to my list of unlikely experiences.

Today I felt the whole world tremble.

I never thought I would experience an earthquake. I know for many people it is something that is viewed as the cost of doing business, but I live in Toronto, which doesn’t see a lot of seismic activity. What little we do get –the ‘pop back’ from the ground rising up after being depressed by glaciers that disappeared ten thousand years ago– only occurs once every decade or two, and it generally goes unnoticed except by the sensitive equipment of scientists who monitor such things. That wasn’t the case today, though. For fifteen or twenty seconds, everything noticeably trembled.

( map from the CBC )

The 5.0-magnitude earthquake’s epicentre was hundreds of kilometers away, and nineteen kilometers under ground, but I felt it as a distinct and unsettling vibration, a tremor that I first mistook for some piece of heavy machinery at one of the three different condo building sites that surrounds my office just north of Bay and Bloor. It didn’t make sense, though: No truck could sustain that kind of building-wide vibration. I rose from my desk and made eye contact with the woman across the way from me.

“Did you feel that?” She asked.

“Yes,” I said, elaborating on my theory. Someone else on the floor said it was an earthquake, but I didn’t believe that was possible. Not in Toronto. Not for that long. Not that noticable. No way.

People started walking from window to window, checking to see if there was unusual activity at one of the building sites around us, but nothing explained it. My stomach continued to tremble long after my feet told me the vibrations were gone. The thought that the world could be made to shake –the power that it takes to shake the whole world– just seemed so unlikely, so beyond my ken.

I jumped onto my computer, and within two minutes, the Globe & Mail had a bulletin up on their website: It was definitely an earthquake. It had been stronger in Ottawa, and the paper’s newsroom there had been evacuated. Information flowed in via twitter: People had felt it in Montreal, in Windsor, in Ohio. What a thought! I could lay my palm flat on a map of North America, and everything under my palm had been vibrating just moments ago.

One of my co-workers muttered, “I can’t die here…” then at length she returned to work.

I sat at my desk for a long time, consciously aware of my heart beating, trying to wrap my head around what had just happened. I admit, I got very little done over the next couple of hours.

It’s something new to add to my list of strange, unique experiences, and I spent the rest of the day, on and off, quietly contemplating some of the other unlikely events I have witnessed in my life.
Continue reading “I felt the whole world tremble today. I’m adding it to my list of unlikely experiences.”


Update on My Novels, and How to Write a Query Letter

Hello everyone,

Many of you know that I’ve written two novels, both historical fiction. One is about the decline and fall of the Inca Empire, told from their own perspective, and the second is about the Zulu Kingdom in the latter half of the 19th Century. For almost two years I have had a literary agent representing me, but in the end it didn’t amount to much: I have a number of lovely personalized rejection letters for my Inca book, but no book deal.

I rewrote my earlier Zulu book, pretty much line by line, but when I recently gave my agent the manuscript to try and sell in addition to the Inca novel, he admitted he just couldn’t get my work published: His clientele is predominately non-fiction –as is most of the publishing industry– and while he was trying to expand his still young practice into fiction through my work, in the end the combination of the poor economic climate in the publishing industry and his own lack of contacts hampered our ability to get my manuscripts into print.

I am not discouraged. Honestly, this is probably the kick in the pants I need to get my work into the right hands to move it forward. It’s true, I would have preferred to give my former agent more time to see what he could do with two very long and difficult to publish first novels instead of one, but I can see where he had run out of steam. He wasn’t ever going to make any commission from my work, so he let me go. That’s fine.

If I am to move on to greener pastures, this time I’m going to make sure my new agent deals predominately with fiction and has a special passion for historical works. I’m happy to say as of my writing this blog post that my Inca book is already under consideration by an agency representing my favourite living novelist. I’ll be sure to update you all as to how that progresses.

So how does one find an agent? Why do you even need an agent? I’m asked that a lot, and as I’m going through the process again right now, I thought I might as well blog about it.
Continue reading “Update on My Novels, and How to Write a Query Letter”