Friday, December 26, 2014

Why, brain... why?

Yes, it's technically Boxing Day (1:32am local time), and y'know what I've been up to for the past several hours?

Google searches.

Yup. This 'thing' which doesn't even have a title.

What am I researching online?

Well, the Rig Veda for one. Yes, I am reading the Rig Veda, and I may read some of the other sacred Hindu texts as well... I've also got a window open with a spoken sanskrit dictionary, something called 'pranava meditation teachings', and 52 different Wiki tabs/pages open.

A few of those Wiki pages/tabs include: Sarama, Helskor, Hermes, Cerberus, Socotra, and every fairytale I can remember/think of involving magic shoes... from Cinderella, Puss in Boots, The Red Shoes, Twelve Dancing Princesses, The Wizard of Oz, The Magic Shoes, even the glowing-hot iron shoes the evil queen from Snow White is making my list... and those are only the fast/basic ones I can recall and can easily search for by name. I know there are a pile of non-western tales, I just haven't gotten that far yet. I've also found a few academic papers, like this one, which should be an interesting read.

If anyone has any other stories in solving magic shoes, I would really appreciate it if you could email me or mention them in the comments. My brain is a little full of... hymns right now... it's more than a little fun re-reading all the ones about Vac that I haven't read since university.

I've also been browsing everything from this to this to this... (that last link I'm kindof in love with) and beyond...

I'm not sure how other writers research, and I think it probably differs, not only for the writer, but for the type of story being written... as an example, I think research for historical fiction would be way harder than an ordinary contemporary story... wow, okay, I got lost on my way to the point..., backtracking swiftly from that tangent, I'm not sure how other writers research, but I do a lot of reading without really taking down many notes. I try to immerse myself in as wide a range of information as possible, and somewhere in the midst of drowning in that flood of data, things just start suddenly clicking together.

That's how I wrote every paper in university... and (apparently) how I research story ideas.

And that's the mode I'm in right now. Skim reading like crazy.

I admit it feels more than a little blasphemous... mixing so much religion/mythology/etc into a giant vat and reimagining it into something new... but I suppose, after reading and learning about so many belief systems over many years, that is how they generally spread... by amalgamating, devouring, or destroying other belief systems. And don't even get me started on hermeneutical horizons... philosophy at 1:30am is probably only surpassed in 'bad ideas' by calling someone on the phone that you're mad at and trying to have a conversation.

Okay, I think I have actually tired out my brain enough to fall asleep. It's been a tough few weeks.

G'night, all.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Monday, December 15, 2014

Query Blog Hop 2.0

Well, I had some great comments on the blurb/query for my in-progress YA Magical Realism story, so this morning I tapped out some changes.

Here's the updated version... it's a little long at the moment, but hopefully the stakes are a little clearer :)

I plan to re-visit the other blogs in this blog-hop to check out their updated versions.

Dear Agent

Already famous at seventeen, Jason (Jay) Walker is an artist obsessed with light, but unlike the Impressionist painter, Monet, Jay would rather capture the reflective ripple of scar tissue instead of a sunrise over water.

Too bad he’s been in an artistic dry period since his hot girlfriend turned cold. Jay’s been left with an unfinished painting, no model, and a tight deadline for a competition that, if he wins, guarantees a fat scholarship to Ă‰cole des Beaux-Arts in France.

He’s got a plan though. Twice a week he ditches class to meet Kell in the cemetery that separates their two schools. Through an odd game of trading scars, and a little administrative blackmail, he convinces a very unwilling Kell to be his next model.

Jay only wanted to capture light reflecting off her torn surface, but after he starts working, he can’t help but want to paint it all, every layer down to the depths of her soul. But soon, Kell starts changing. With every session his work gets better, and she becomes colder, her eyes duller, and her wild emotions flatline.

And he realizes the same thing happened when he painted his ex-girlfriend.

Jay is sure to win another award for his new work, but this time is different. This time, he knows it’s happening, and this time, it’s Kell. Somehow her emotions are being absorbed into his painting and he’s not sure if he’s willing to sacrifice her for a scholarship, cash prize, and press write-up. 

What’s worse, he’s not sure if he can give up painting, his entire identity, on the slim chance it might save her.

SCARLIGHT is a WIP YA Magical Realism based off the old superstition that a photo can steal a piece of your soul.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Deeply disturbed by new story idea

So, jeans/t-shirts & sneakers (usually purchased from the Youth Boys section due to my tiny feet and the bounty of bright colours available) are kindof my uniform.

Sneakers. Casual, flat, loose laces so I can slip them on and off without fiddling, and usually at least 1 size too big (to make my feet look 'normal' sized for my height)

I am pretty low-maintencence with my clothing choices.

Which is why I'm deeply disturbed by a new story idea that woke me up this morning. it revolves around... shoes. Like, all kinds of shoes including the kind my sister favours: skyscraper-high heels, lots of sparkly... things? buckles, straps, etc.

Yes, I am girl-enough to admit they look pretty, but the idea of strapping them to my feet is about as appealing as trying out a bedazzled iron maiden.

Sigh. Why is my brain trying to kill me?

But yet, here I have it. The first sentence to a story... not only that, it seems far-too-many-years of cramming my head full of world mythology and animistic cultures has prompted my brain to throw up... please stand back before I vomit a new story full of Hindu gods/goddesses, western & eastern fairytales, even freakin' North American popular culture out all over you and your (probably prettier than my own) shoes.

...because it starts with:

"Dorothy had 'em, Hermes had 'em, even a damn cat had 'em, which proves I'm not biased in who I sell to."

Possible tagline: "Schizophrenic consignment store clerk sells magic shoes. What could go wrong?"

Haven't figured out a good store name yet, but I'm toying with the bi-line for her store being "Shoes for a path already travelled" since it IS a consignment store -> they are magic shoes that have already been used in the past., this holiday season I might be doing something I've never done before... browsing shoe stores.


...brain, please have mercy...

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Query blog hop

I've been MIA for a few weeks... got back-alley-jumped by the sick-fairy who hammered me with a sure-KO-combo of flu, cold, and the feeling of razor-blades down my throat that required a horse-sized dosage of antibiotics to kill off.

BUT, I found this query hop today (my first real? day of being back online) and I love queries, writing them, reading them, etc, so I thought it'd be fun to join in and get some feedback.

And the extra cool thing about it, is it's fine for WIP's too.

Since I'm a pantsing-style writer, I honestly don't know how the story is going to end yet, so my query is currently a little vague, other than the character arc/decision hanging over Jay's head. That, I always know :)

So, here we go!

Already famous at seventeen, Jason (Jay) Walker is an artist obsessed with light, but unlike the Impressionist painter, Monet, Jay would rather capture the reflective ripple of scar tissue instead of a sunrise over water.

Bored with the overly groomed, emotionally-cold girls from his elite private school, Jay wants to paint Kell, or rather the scars she hides under long-sleeved hoodies and skinny jeans. Twice a week, Jay ditches his tedious Art class to meet her in the cemetery which separates his school from the public fine-arts school she attends. Through an odd game of trading scars, and a little blackmail, he convinces Kell to be his next model.

Jay only wanted to capture her torn surface, but after he starts working, he can’t help but want to paint it all, every layer down to the depths of her soul. But soon, Kell starts changing. With every session his work gets better, and she becomes colder, her eyes duller, and her wild emotions flatline. 
And he realizes, the same thing happened to all his past subjects.

Jay is sure to win another award for his new work, but this time is different. This time, he knows it’s happening, and this time, it’s Kell. He’s not sure if he’s willing to sacrifice her for another cash prize, press write-up, and the fat scholarship he’s been offered to a famous art school. 

What’s worse, he’s not sure if he can give up painting on the slim chance it might save her.

SCARLIGHT is an in-progress YA Magical Realism based off the old superstition that a photo can steal a piece of your soul.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Rainy Flash Fiction

Yup, west-coast November weather has settled in. Grey clouds and rain.

So, here's a new flash fiction prompt for this morning, for those who want to play along:

I waited until the magnolia blossoms fell.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Salty Flash Fiction

I know it's not Friday, but maybe you'd like to wake up slowly this Sunday morning over a Flash Fiction prompt?

Wander over to Skullduggery to play along:

Once there was a castle by the sea which beat the shore with furious waves.

...and yes, include it on your NaNo word count for the day, if you're joining in on the annual madness.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Reevaluating expectations, beagles & writing

Let me preface this post by stating that I love my dog, because it might not be clear further in...

Some people choose a dog because of aesthetics. They like the narrow, dainty grace of a whippet, the silky beauty of a golden retriever, or the hypoallergenic non-shedding quality of a poodle.

Some choose based on size appropriate for their lifestyle. A big dog for a big yard or to take along on hiking trips, while others want a low maintenance lap-sized apartment pet they rarely have to walk.

Some choose based on personality. The goofball bulldog, the family-friendly lab, the big-personality-tiny-body of a chihuahua.

Eva was chosen by my ex because he'd always wanted a beagle -> so, mostly based on the aesthetics of the breed.

I grew up with big, easily trainable, happily playful retrievers and retriever crossed breeds, german shepherds, etc.

...which are about the furthest thing away from a beagle I can imagine.

My expectations of a dog pretty much did a 180 the moment she came home. I actually remember bursting into tears several times because I was so frustrated. To put this in context, I have trained cats, I have trained fish, I have trained chickens... who are, arguably, one of natures less intelligent creatures. Patience is not something I lack. Creative work-arounds are not a problem.

But Eva? Wow. Yeah, she frustrated me.

It took months to housetrain her. I'd have her outside for 45 minutes and all she would do is sniff the ground. I'd finally give up, bring her inside to try again later, and almost immediately there'd be a puddle or a deposit on the floor.

I'd walk her 4 hours a day, invested in a weighted doggie-backpack, and she was still so crazy hyper she'd tear around in circles, literally bouncing off the walls and furniture.

She didn't want to retrieve a ball, chase a frisbee, or get in water deeper than her toes. She completely ignored me when I called her - whether I was 3' away or 30'. When I walked her, 'heel' was impossible. She'd alternatively yank at the leash, or I'd have to drag her. Anything within reach would go in her mouth. She'd dart into traffic if given half the chance, and more than once I had to chase her down the street or apologize to neighbours after she had run inside their house. A couple times, she even escaped and ran right into crowded restaurants.

With Eva, I had to reevaluate my expectations, then revise them. And keep revising them.

After six and a half years raising/training Eva, these are my expectations:

She needs at least 2km of walking before she can be trusted off-leash, and even then I can't let her out of sight and have to always be aware of what on the ground might be considered tasty.

(note: my latest discovery is that bear poop gives her diarrhoea. yeah, this is my dog...)

Nine out of ten times she'll come/respond when I call her, unless it rained the previous day, then it's about 50/50, and if there's a child in the vicinity, there's zero chance she'll listen unless she's on leash. Eva will chase a ball or frisbee 6-8 times before getting bored and wandering off. If she finds an escape hole in the fence when I visit my parent's house, she won't find her way back, she'll invite herself into the first open door she sees and make herself comfortable. She has three phone numbers on her tag depending on the city she might escape in, which is especially helpful when this happens.

Yes, I do love my dog, but she is very high maintenance and never 100% trustworthy.

I find any new story is the same way. It never quite works like the last one, and even when it is working, it may not last.

Characters come differently, voice comes differently. Plot explodes in a mess of jagged phrases, or is pried out sentence by careful sentence.

But just like I love my dog, I love writing. And a big part of it is because it's not easy.*

There's a line from SCARLIGHT which might be one of the 'truest' things I've written, something that reflects back a little too much of myself:

Things aren’t better when they’re free, they’re just easier to discard when you use them up.

...and like Eva, I'm not looking for easy, or free. There's little-to-no worth in something that doesn't take hard work, that doesn't take a little bit of sweat, of soul, of blood.

I've known people who throw things away. Who constantly chase that ephemeral oasis called 'happiness' on the horizon. And they are the unhappiest people I've ever met.

Sometimes I joke that nothing I write is publishable. Sometime I even believe it. But I never give myself an excuse to slack off, to expect anything less than the best I can give it.

In everything, not just in writing.

I think that's the greatest gift dyslexia has given me.

I don't want the excuse.

I don't want free.

I don't want easy.

I want to know I've done my absolute best, that I've worked to the frayed edge of my ability.

For me, that is the ultimate validation, so if-and-when I fail, I'm going to reevaluate my expectations, continue to move forward, and I'm going to appreciate every small win along the way.

So thanks, Eva, for many tears of frustration and for testing the limits of my patience and sanity for every single one of the (approximately) 2,300 days that I've owned you.

I think you've prepped me well :)

So, until my arm/back is healed and I can sit at my desk (without my ribs popping out) and I can type (without my arm going numb), I'm still going to smile, I'm still going to take the high-road, and I'm not going to take the excuse and give up.

My mind/brain still works just fine, and that's not a small win -> that's huge.

*I also have an extremely temperamental rescue cat, who I picked out... so yeah, I'm always going for the challenge :)

Monday, October 20, 2014

I think I finally got her...

Stress + insomnia = state of delirium...

And... and I think I finally got Kell. Don't know if you remember, but this is the character that never smiles. I didn't write much, it was more like I edited a pre-existing scene.

(first-draft, very rusty since I haven't been writing in a very long time... so be kind)

“Tell me,” I say, and flip to a new page.
Her gaze slides off to the side, refusing to meet mine, but her face is slowly composing itself again, the tattered shreds of her calm exterior re-knitting. It doesn’t look easy, but it looks… skillful. Well practiced, but not rehearsed. Necessary. Essential.
“There was a fire.”
“An accident?”
She starts to shakes her head, then nods instead, a deliberate chop of her chin. Her wind-ripped eyes are tired now, all the storm in them suddenly blown out, exhausted. Beaten. She hugs herself, like she’s cold.
Then she stares straight at me and her lips twist, they twist into something grotesque. This is a smile, this is what a smile should look like, lifted corners, curved mouth, rounded cheeks, but there’s nothing soft or sweet here. Not a line or shape or shadow that isn’t sharp, festering, and radiating hostility.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Voice & Character Motivations

Of all the components that add up into a good story, 'Voice' is probably the one I'm most confident in.

Grammar and pacing are the two biggest things I struggle with, but let's go back to the whole Voice thing.

I love Voice.

If Voice is good, a reader can forgive a lot...

But there's a downside (or so I've learned) to being able to easily slip into the Voice of a character.

You can get sucked so deeply into the main character's Voice, that you lose the big picture. You can't pull back the focus and examine the other characters, see what they want, how they will naturally react, etc.

Your perception narrows to a single viewpoint.

Good for Voice, bad for plot progression when you need another character to move/act and push the story forward.

...and I wonder if I get too indulgent...

Especially when I read back through a scene and realize that I've referred to a very famous (and respected) artist as, "... suckling at the addictive teat of Jungian psychotherapy..."

Jay's no-filter Voice is... perhaps a little addictive for me?

...'cause it takes a lot for me to lose my own filter, and when it's gone, I really do say things like:

"I wouldn't climb into a stranger's van for candy, but if he held up a nice bordeaux, I'd hop right in!"

(This is why I should not ever be on Twitter. I am not to be trusted with communication methods that are not editable)

This post has a point, I swear.

I've been character-motivation-blocked in SCARLIGHT because Jay's Voice is so... addictive? I can't break away and figure out what Kell wants, and where I currently am in the story, she's just wrestled control away from Jay. It's now her move to call the shots and... and... and...

'Out, damned spot, out I say!'

(cue loud throat clearing)

'Out, damned Jay, out I say!'

(casually thwacks side of head to rattle brain back into position)

Okay, this is getting me nowhere...

Any brilliant ideas/suggestions?

Monday, October 13, 2014

Male vs Female brains

I'm interested in nerdy things, not because I collect facts in my head, but because I like seeing what people are learning -> a big-picture look at how general knowledge is changing. Facts are interesting, in the moment, but just like the science of the time once 'proved' that the earth is flat, I don't hold 'facts' as concrete evidence of the way the world actually works.

The idea of gender is one of those things I'm interested in, and by that, I mean mental/emotional gender rather than anatomical/physical.

Plus, I've got two exceptionally brainy friends, meaning they're both very smart, but also that their research/school/etc is about brains and how they work...

So, combine all of these points, and you'll see why I could not resist watching a 2014 BBC documentary called, 'Is Your Brain Male or Female'.

The documentary had a lot of information, many different researchers/etc, but most of the experiments to find evidence that m/f brains are different were inconclusive, except for:

Dr. Ragini Verma and Professor Ruben Gur (both at the University of Pennsylvania) scanned the brains of over 900 m&f (ages 8-22) to create detailed maps of the connections between the two hemispheres.

Left hemisphere: talks/understands languages, processes the world in analytic/sequential.

Right hemisphere: intuitive, spacial and emotional information.

And what did they find?

Well, the left image is the male brain, the right image is the female brain. And the consistency of this distinction/pattern between the two genders was incredibly surprising to both Verma and Gur.

Essentially, these pictures are showing that connections between the two hemispheres are stronger/more prevalent in women than in men, which means women can access different areas of their brain easier/faster than men, so it's excellent for multitasking, etc. (good for child rearing and other things that require imaginative problem solving).

In the male brains there are stronger connections between the back of the brain (where it processes info) and the front (where it puts all the info together and decides what to do with it), so the male brain has faster singular reactions (good for hunters/quick decision making/etc).

This reminds me of the old comparison (this is not my own thought/belief, I'm simply reiterating) that men's thinking/decision process is like a single knotted rope. One decision is made, then the next, then the next, while women's thinking/decision process is more like a web, pulling information from all over the place (which men find annoying/time-consuming/unnecessary).

...and the piece of this study I found most the interesting is that Verma and Gur didn't find these distinct connective differences in children!!!

M/F children's brains were remarkably similar and only began to change during the teenage years (13-18), which means, even though adults had such a clear difference, it doesn't prove whether those changes are biological, or because of societal pressures to conform. In other words, no proof if it's nature or nurture.

There were a lot of other interesting tidbits in the documentary.

For example, a standardized test which has long 'proven' that men have better spacial skills than women was discovered to be flawed...

Here's an example of the standardized test:

A different researcher (forgot to note down her name) invented a new version of this test in which the test-taker is shown a series of pictures. In those pictures is a person sitting at a table and there are objects, or dots to one side of them or the other, and the test-taker had to imagine themselves in that person's place and say where (in relation to the person in the picture) the object/dot was. Since the table in the pictures is rotated each time, it's testing for the same ability as the standardized rotation test, and as soon as the test takers had to imagine themselves as the person in the picture (instead of simply looking at a boring drawing on a piece of paper) the women's results were equal the men's results.

So, the standardized mental rotation test was flawed in that it gave male brains an advantage over women's brains. And that is something I find far more interesting... to take into account the test itself can be skewed to favour one gender over another, and I wonder how or if the results would be different for LGBTQ brains...

...which of course makes me wonder what other 'tests' are unknowingly skewed? Being dyslexic, I certainly have noticed a pattern in my own test scores... things like essays/short answers/etc, I excel in, but plonk a multiple choice test in front of me, and it's like I've forgotten how to read English.

And that brings me back to the first paragraph of this post... how 'facts' are not as reliable as we often think when the test/collection method itself can't be guaranteed neutral/unbiased.

Okay, no more nerdy blatherings for today :)

By the way, it's Canadian Thanksgiving today!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

I admit, I have a problem

I'm addicted to opening up Safari tabs/windows, and then not closing them when I'm done.

My laptop has been complaining (for over a week) that it wants to download new updates, but I keep refusing because I don't want to close down anything.

I'm pretty sure some of these have been open for more than a month...

I have 7 different windows with a total of 63 tabs JUST with books ...all ones I haven't decided whether I want to add them to my amazon wishlist or not.

There are 12 different wiki pages open (some with multiple tabs) from everything from Amanirenas, Bactria (not bacteria), to Ischemia.

...eBay links to different types of paintbrushes, YouTube videos on orchid repotting, car rims, motorcycles, running shoe brands/designs, art schools in the USA and France, info about serotonin/amino acid therapy, and the song lyrics for 4 different obscure songs.

I know I could bookmark them and look at them later. I know I could just quit Safari, install the updates, re-open Safari and just click 'reopen all windows from last session'. I know most of these windows are open because I've skimmed the material, but want to give it a more thorough read, but since I don't 'need' the information right at this moment, I'm simply holding it until I do need it... almost as if I somehow think Google won't work a second time...

But the problem is I like having everything open. I like being able to right-click on the Safari icon and see everything that's open in a neat, alphabetical list. I like seeing the weird tangents of curiosity my brain takes.

My head is messy and cluttered... and this is a visual semi-orginized representation of what tidbits are currently 'important'.

sigh... but I also know it would only take me about 1/2 hour to clean up all these links, bookmark the important (research) ones, and actually choose which books to add to my overinflated wishlist (currently hovering at 640 items).

...okay, I have 27 minutes before I need to leave for physio... let's see how much of this I can get done...

Friday, October 3, 2014

Sharp Flash Fiction

...yes, you see that right. A new flash fiction prompt for today is up at Skullduggery. Come over and play along.

The white stucco house on the corner of 12th and Birch has a guillotine in their front yard.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Music, walkies, and one of those Eureka! moments

I'm taking care of my parents' house/pets/etc while they're out of town for a couple of weeks. One of the great things about that is Tynehead Park is (temporarily) within walking distance. I'm probably going to take my phone with me one day soon to snap some fall pictures of the park, which will appear on Bailiwick in the future.

In my stories, the contemporary ones at least, there are often a lot of music references. I love music, but never when I'm writing. I need quiet for that. I only listen to music when I'm in the car or when I'm walking Eva... and walking Eva is when story ideas bubble around in my brain like mad scientist's laboratory.. I think that's why music tends to show up in the stories (even though I write in silence), as they're connected to the moment the scattered puzzle pieces suddenly fit together into a cohesive picture.

So, today I was walking Eva (yup, the ribs have been staying in for the last week or so) with 'Black Black Heart' by David Usher (the faster remix, not the original) blasting through my headphones...

...and I was hit with a sudden moment of perfect clarity.

I now know how SCARLIGHT ends... everything with Jay's character arc, his relationships with Donny, Kell & Aricia. The results of the art competition, and the university/art school he'll end up in because of those results. Thankfully it will only require a few minor changes to what's already been written. Most of the pieces were already laid out like Easter eggs just waiting to be found (I really do think my unconscious brain is much smarter than my conscious brain...).

Even though I consider myself a pantsing-style writer, even though the thought of writing down story notes or (god forbid) an outline instantly turns the crisp deliciousness of a freshly plucked story idea into the culinary equivalent of wallpaper paste, I can admit that somewhere in the cracks and crevices of my brain synapses are firing and putting together connections that will one day spring out fully formed.

A little like Artemis, I suppose. Fully grown and heavily armed.

Yup, my unconscious brain can totally kick my conscious brain's ass... which is probably why I trust it to do it's own thing and don't condescend by allowing my conscious brain to do (stupid) things like write outlines... 'cause then the unconscious brain gets all pouty, bored, and wanders off to build new worlds in a dark corner somewhere...

Okay, I just reread that last paragraph, and I think I may be a little dehydrated/loopy :)

(forgive me?)

Hope you are all enjoying this wonderful autumn weather :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Something like Flash Fiction...

I know it's been a while...

Check Skullduggery & Madness for the rest of this and feel free to play along if you want to use the first sentence as a prompt. Same rules apply.

A homeless man, belligerent and obese, has set up his refrigerator-box home in the middle of a narrow one-way street.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Descriptions of colour, and a runaway tangent about eggs

Okay, now this is hilarious...

Now I'm curious to go back through old stories/writing and see if I've used any weird food references...

Since I'm not big on physically describing characters, the only story I can think of with (potentially) problematic descriptions is SCARLIGHT, but since I have decided on a pallet of colours for him to see the world in, if I have fallen prey to any food-comparisons, at least finding a substitute will be easy :)

Personally (in that linked article) I was hoping for a description using uncooked egg whites as a comparison... which, I feel, are one of the more disgusting things a person could eat. Actually, eggs in general I find a little creepy.

By the way, did you know that blood can be used as a substitute for eggs? Seriously... this IS going to end up in a story someday... I've been toying with AotD as an appropriate medium...

And yes my head is full of weird facts. This makes me useless at 'proper' small talk, yet it's incredibly useful at driving away people I don't want to have a conversation with.

Really? You want to tell me about the latest celebrity-fad-high-protein-diet you're on? Well, let me tell you an interesting fact about eggs and blood...

Works every time ;)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


“Having perfected our disguise, we spend our lives searching for someone we don’t fool.”

- Robert Brault

I read this quote is a drastically different context, but as soon as it absorbed into my brain, I started thinking about it in terms of writing.

'cause, y'know, I do nerdy things like that...

So what's my disguise and who am I fooling?

Well, I could easily be flippant, but let's go for serious instead.

It's pretty obvious to say, 'every story I've ever written is a piece of my disguise'.

From that statement, it would be simple to assume that my point is, 'I am not my story, and my story is not me, so don't be fooled into thinking I'm writing myself into the story'.

...but that's not what I think about when I consider the second half of that quote.

The reader is certainly the person I don't want to fool, the one I want to see through the disguise, but it's not 'me', the author, hidden away waiting to be found... it's the heart of the story.

Stories are things you can't hang onto. As soon as they're out there, published or otherwise available for others to enjoy, they absorb a life of their own. They inflate with readers' thoughts, emotions, experiences, past, present and future. Readers can put a face, height, tone of voice, etc. onto the characters. They can read between the lines, or skip right over them and enjoy the obvious. Settings, clothes, all the details that fill a world can be imagined or ignored.

The writer has very little influence on the reader's experience. Whether they'll laugh or cry when a particular character dies. Whether they love the ending, or hate it.

BUT, if you think of a painting or sculpture in a museum, sometimes there's a little placard, or a leaflet of information about the piece -> detailing the intention of the artist, noteworthy experiences, preferences. Personal, political, historical, philosophical... any and all of it.

A glimpse at possible reasons behind the 'why'.

So in a way, my blog(s) would be a similar kind of glimpse, a means for a reader to avoid being fooled.

When I ramble about things like voice or colour, nerd-out over strange tangents, vent about art, laugh about silly research on YouTube, and amusing/enlightening comments from CP's and beta-readers...

...that's me seeking out readers who can't be fooled. Those who can see past the storyline, past the characters, the sentences, format, theme, and see the 'why' behind it all. See the heart of the story, the reason I spend uncountable hours writing, researching, editing, and raging myself insane over proper comma usage.

The reason I'm thinking about this? I got a comment back from someone. Someone who didn't have to say anything, or email me at all. Someone who instantly 'got' what I was trying to do.

...and I thought they were all kinds of awesome for it :)

More than hearing that someone enjoyed a story I'd written, it was far more rewarding to hear that they 'got' the story I'd written.

That's a personal connection far beyond what I was expecting, far beyond what I would allow myself to hope for.

That was someone who was not fooled.

And I, as a writer, am more rich because of it.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Sadness, and a birthday

Since my writing buddy Sue died in May, honestly, posting on this blog has made me sad. So has checking my blog-related email address. It's also why I haven't posted any flash fiction recently on Skullduggery&Madness.

I'm sad to write a new post and know I'm not ever going to see her name in the comment section below, or have have her 'dress me down' in a long email when she thought I'd missed something, or got it wrong. She's also not going to join in on another flash fiction prompt.

I miss chatting with her on the phone, hearing her New York accent, rough from smoking, her sense of humour, and the way that, even though we wrote in completely different styles/genres, we still had a great time talking about books and writing.

There's been a lot of death in my life over the past few years. Sue was the second death just this year.

I'm still curled-up in grief, for the end of precious lives, and other things.

It would have been Sue's birthday just a few weeks ago.

And today is my birthday.

I'm heading down to the USA to spend the day with a friend, and tomorrow I'm going to hang out with my family watching football and eating turkey.

It will be a good birthday, but I'm still sad. I still miss my writing friend.

Enjoy the weekend, everyone, and if you're watching football, cheer for the Seahawks.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

New perspective on old work

I'm a very bad dog-parent. To write a previous post about my dog getting over her fear of water, I actually had to email my mom and ask how old my dog was so I could give the correct number of years. (she's still 50% analog and has all birthdays/ages written on a wall calendar)

Before I gave in and emailed her, I was looking back through my old posts... 'cause I know I've put up a post or two on Eva's birthday with her age and a photo... but for the life of me, I couldn't find any of them.

Maybe I need a new label for 'pets'...?

Anyways, in that search, I unearthed this old post of mine about looking back on old work with a new perspective...

It was interesting, and oddly relevant, since a few weeks ago I was cleaning up my back-up drive, found some old writing files, and re-read Project #5, (AotD) the Northern Fairytale story.

Since the story is only about 1/3 written, and was started as an exercise to give me headspace from TRoRS before heading into my first round of edits, and then I continued to pick away at AotD whenever I was edit-blocked on TRoRS, the story was... quite interesting to re-read. And a good lesson on why multi-tasking is impossible for 98% of human brains (I won't bore you with footnotes, but a lot of research suggests this is true).

There's a lot of good in AotD... certainly more than I could see when I saved the file for the final time and dove into other work.

...but there's also a heck of a lot of things to laugh at. It is an unfinished first draft after all...

The major 'laugh-point' is, because TRoRS switches between past and present tense, I guess whenever I returned to AotD (unfortunately) I carried through with that... often switching within the same scene. Sometimes within the same paragraph. And (embarrassingly) more than a few times in a single sentence.

...fixing it is an amusing (future) prospect to ponder. Though I still do love the Lady of Crows as much as I did the first time she spilled out of my head and onto the keyboard...

I wrote that old post two years ago. While I remember writing it, while I recognize my own 'voice' in the wording (and the self-deprecating humour), I have new perspective. I don't think I agree with it 100% anymore.

More than re-reading an old story after giving it some space, re-visiting an old opinion is infinitely more interesting.

One of the primary things that has always driven me to write is a long history of looking stupid.

...and again, it's not something I'm angry about, or upset about. It's simply one of the building-blocks of who I am.

But it is interesting to compare my attitude in that first old post with this one (written 5 months later), and then this one (written 2 months after that, and yes TRoRS was previously titled BF).

...and in re-reading these few posts, I'm not entirely certain what my perspective on the subject is now...

...but finding lines that make me laugh, or lines of description that take my breath away (figuratively, not because they are Victor Hugo-esque run-on sentences...) in a partially written first-draft story, well, I think that's an amazing thing.

Having a bit of perspective on old work, and being surprised more at the good than the bad, well that certainly speaks volumes, both about my growth as a writer, and as a person.

...and even though it would give me a more objective sense of how far I've come as a writer, I still have zero desire to ever unearth my first piece of 'longish fiction', (melodramatically entitled) "The Burning Cross", written for a Grade 9 Social Studies project.

Somethings are best kept buried, or burned ;)

Monday, August 25, 2014

All better now

Order has been returned to the universe.

I'm amazed at how much smaller (and thinner!) the Paperwhite is compared to my old Kindle.

...but I'm also amazed at how long it takes to re-do all the organization. Too bad that information isn't stored online... and when there's over 350 books to sort through, it's difficult to remember what folder/category they all originally went in.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Quick change

FYI, I changed the 'comment' settings because I was getting 300+ spam comments every day.

If you're having any problems commenting, please email me and I'll switch them back.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

I don't have bad habits...

...I have idiosyncratic character traits.

During this past month, I've gone through the archive of posts and done something I've been planning to do for a while, but had never gotten around to:

Yup, it took a while.

Some stuff is still there, like when I did a series of nerdy posts last summer as kind of a 'this is how/why I write first-drafts the way I do', and I left all the flash fiction and (the long extinct) Six Sentence Sunday stuff since that particular story (Project #2/aka Simon's Oath) will be heavily rewritten when I get around to it.

One of the small reasons this took me so long to do was my arm was so bad there was no way I could hold a pen/pencil, and I wanted to post a fun little image as a consolation prize, like the Dead Monkey Day pic, and a few others I've posted.

As part of my re-hab/physio, I'm now at the stage where I'm 'allowed' to either write (with a pen) or draw for 1/2 hour every day to re-strengthen the muscles and get the blood flowing since my nerves are no longer as restricted.

...and since even I can't read my own handwriting, it makes a lot more sense for me to draw silly cartoons instead of scrawling out pages of unreadably scratchy sentences. They'll probably appear sporadically on Bailiwick in the future, and they won't involve more than 10 minutes of cleaning up/throwing colour on in Photoshop. These are very basic sketches. More for practice at controlling my hand than anything.

As a fun little fact, though it's nearly impossible to read, the text in the image is from a fairy-tale I wrote, which was part of the mythology of Project #1 (the 'near-pemanently-retired' trilogy that was so incredibly dark I found it suffocating to work on).

And yup, my hair is getting pretty long, actually it's nearly touching my shoulders. It was only an inch long at the back when I donated it back in November, and was about nose-level at the front. Since it's past chin level now, I guess it's grown about 5+ inches?

Rest in Peace/Pieces, Kindle

It's an open secret that I love my Kindle, my very old 2nd generation Kindle... that's right, it came out in February, 2009.

This thing has taken a beating. Just to clarify, I don't use it to discipline my dog, or other drivers who refuse to 'stay right except to pass' on the highway... what I mean is, I've burned out 1 Macbook and 2 Macbook Pro laptops since I've had the Kindle.

It was repaired at one point, 'cause the screen went wonky, but this thing has been great. The screen is chipped, the plastic casing is cracked in several places, but it would not die.

Until last night.

Soft & hard resets did nothing, and I eventually did crack open the back and pushed a pen into the 'reset' hole inside. Yeah, technically that voids the warrantee, but I'm pretty sure that warrantee ran out four years ago.

Unfortunately, my Frankensteinian ambitions were for naught.

So, rest in peace, fair Kindle.

I promise to love your replacement as faithfully as I did you.

 Before the hard reset...
...and after. Doesn't look too healthy, does it?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

...after 6 whole years...

... my dog is no longer afraid of water...

Seriously, I know my voice sounds super weird in this video... that is not my normal voice. For some reason, if I make my voice high, or strange (with a lot of range), it's easier to get her to do something she doesn't want to... go in water that's deeper than her ankles...

This is after 2 days of luring her into the water, inch by inch, but pretty good, eh? Eventually I got her out past the boat, so the water would have been about 4-5' deep. The funniest was, a few times, it's like she'd forget to paddle and would suddenly sink until just her face was visible.

I'm hoping (maybe) I'll eventually get her to jump off the dock... but that might take another 6 years of encouragement.

Monday, July 21, 2014

It's not you, it's me

I know it irks a lot of writers to receive a, 'I just didn't love it' type response from an agent or editor, but it's something I completely understand.

You don't have to be an agent to get excited about reading something, and then have the expectation fall flat.

There's a book I read recently, which (of course) I'm not going to give the author/title. There was (unfortunately) no sample available for download, but there was the 'look inside' feature, and I did read the available pages before I bought the book.

There were 20 Amazon reviews (all 4 or 5 stars), but other than that, there wasn't a lot of information about the book. 

But the premise was so cool that I just had to take the chance and buy it.

This was definitely one of those moments were I could empathize with an agent reading a great query, reading a great first 10 pages, getting all excited... and then the story quickly spiralling into "lessons" for young readers, adult character almost entirely steering the plot, steering the characters, etc, nearly point-form plotting, and the very interesting ensemble of characters (including the main character the book started with) disappearing from the pages completely while a rather boring side character suddenly took over the story, which was then filled with cardboard-flat and comic-relief add-ins who are easily manipulated by the boring side character, and everything works out perfectly.

Yeah, I was really disappointed. I certainly won't be buying the sequel.

Obviously those 20 Amazon reviewers were not disappointed, and of course, whoever the agent was (and editor, etc) who took on that project.

But I didn't love it. And that's okay.

So, why am I thinking about expectations?

I'm one of those err-on-the-side-of-caution writers. I haven't yet seriously joined the query trenches. I've joined a couple contests that put my work in front of agents, and I sent out 10 queries from a previous story. I've never sat down and researched agents and agencies, made lists or spreadsheets.

I have bookmarked lots of agent interviews and (some may think this weird) blogposts by writers who have separated from their agents.

Although there's always a lot of politically correct language, it seems many agents/writers who split turn out not be a good 'fit' as partners, but the stories I am most interested in re-reading are from writers who have gotten an agent with one style/genre of book, and then been at odds with their agent because their second, third or tenth book is in a different genre/style, one that the agent doesn't connect to or doesn't represent.

When (in the future) I do eventually query seriously, TRoRS would be the book I'd go with.

The main reason?

It's a weird book.

Rather than show up to a first date in brand new heels & clothes, I'd prefer to be in my usual sneakers & jeans, and I'm sure as heck not going to be ordering salad and water if I want steak and wine.

I think it's better to lead with real idiosyncrasies than with a well-meaning facade.

...and TRoRS would be the equivalent to showing up in my much-loved and worn-in Converse One Stars.

Getting an agent excited thinking they're getting 'A' is making no one happy if you're really giving them 'B'.

And I'm not just talking just about a query/10 pages... I'm also taking about a writer's career. If what you love and want to write forever is Adult sci-fi, perhaps it's not the best bet to seriously query with a MG contemporary... Not that you can't do both, but that's certainly a necessary conversation.

I'd want an agent who knows s/he's getting scuffed Converse by reading the query, reading the first 10 pages, and still is getting those same faded black runners when s/he hits the end of the story. I want the consistency to carry through my story, from the first paragraph, to the last.

...and I'd want an agent who wouldn't be surprised, or unhappy, to get a pair of green DC's next instead of pair of Giuseppe Zanotti's (yes, I had to Google 'designer high heels' to find that name brand...)

In other words, someone who loves 'my style'. My voice. My stories.

As a reader, I want to love every book I buy, but that's impossible. Even out of the ones I like, there are very few that I'd want to read more than once.

So, for agents who have to re-read manuscripts over and over again, yeah, I totally get the "I just didn't love it" response.

And I think that's a good thing, because as a writer, I want (and deserve) to have an agent who loves what I write and who would want to read it more than once, and who would look forward to whatever project I work on next.

Also, no more buying books on my Kindle unless they have a sample to download. I suppose, since my online Wish List is hovering around 620 items, that shouldn't be a problem :)

Yeah... still on the codeine-enriched anti-spasm muscle relaxants, can ya tell? I'm sure my grammar is a foggy mess :p

So sorry about that. Those ribs just still don't want to stay where they should.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Character Values

Most stories I write have a bent towards philosophy and the question of what's 'right', without ever really coming to a definitive answer.

Themes of trust, sacrifice, choices, and love are always in there, because you can't tell if something is really a 'value', unless it's tested.

For example, most of us 'value' honesty, but if you find a $50 bill on the street, and no one is around, would you leave it there since it's not yours?

Most of what we claim are our values, are really only 'aspirational values' -> where, if it was tested, we would not actually choose to stay the path. We might aspire to be honest and never steal, but really, how many of us would leave a $50 bill on the street if there was no one else around?

In 'TRoRS', the anonymous main character is constantly cycling back to what s/he should have done differently, and at one point, thinks this:

You can starve to death on principle. To steal successfully is to understand that morality is like a warm jacket you can put on and take off. 
You want to be all resolve and desire with no other emotions jamming up your head. Tension means your brain is getting in the way of your gut and thinking only slows you down. To thoroughly cut off the baggage of morality, you can’t be human. You can only be a bag of meat that needs to survive.
And people understand that more than they let on. Whenever there’s a riot, or a natural disaster, or a war, the same people who would lecture you for stealing a bag of beef jerky will loot stores, trample children, destroy property, and beat to death anyone who gets in their way.

In 'AotD', Sikka only starts to care about being seen as a different person than her twin sister after Issa kills a god.

In 'SO', Simon constantly puts a higher value on his brother Hector, but he will risk his own life, or Faith's life, without question.

...and in 'SL', Jay wrestles with a different moral question: Can he give up painting to save Kell? Painting is his entire identify, his scholarship depends on it, and, in his mind, it's all he has, all he trusts, all he can rely on.

I've said on here before that I don't particularly like trilogies because they (by necessity) inflate the stakes with each successive book, until it's nearly always a matter of 'saving the world'.

To me, that almost always turns the more interesting, personal moral quandaries into black-and-white matters of 'good versus evil'.

One line that particularly irks me is when a character says, "I had no other choice", because there always is a choice.

Phrasing it like that turns the situation into a 'moral' decision, which usually means elevating a personal choice by making it a universal claim.

Okay, I don't know if that explanation was clear... so let me try to explain it in a different way...

Going back to 'AotD', after Issa kills a god, she disappears. To track down her sister, Sikka has to tell a lie: that she was the one taken, not Issa.

Obviously, it isn't a lie she has to tell, but if she told the truth, no one would let her leave the village and track down her sister. Telling the lie makes it easier for her to accomplish her goal by allowing her to avoid dealing with the people in her village that she is indebted to.

When you get right down to it, she's making a selfish decision. Sure, she justifies it by telling herself that, if she told the truth, no one would let her leave, so she's lying to save her sister.

But really, is that the only choice she had?


Similarly to when 'the good guys' in movies drop their weapons because a 'bad guy' is holding a gun to a child's head.

Do they really have 'no other choice'?


If the bad guy gets away and kills a thousand people, that's on the good guy's head... but it's more abstract for a bomb to kill a thousand people than it is to actually watch a child being shot in the head.

It's a personal moral choice the good guy is making -> to save one child he can see, instead of theoretically saving a thousand people he can't see. He's putting a higher value on the one person his choice will directly impact. If the child dies, he will be considered a bad person.

It's the whole idea of when we're told we "should" do something, instead of asking, "what could we do?"

"Should" turns the situation into a binary choice: you should do the right thing, as in, take the higher road, which suggests that if you don't make the decision you 'should', then you're taking the low road.

The good guy 'should' drop his gun to save the child.

...but turning the decision into a binary question leaves no room for alternative paths.

What 'could' the good guy do instead? He could stall, he could shoot the bad guy in the foot, he could shoot the child in a non-lethal part of the body, like the shoulder or leg, because really, would the bad guy want to bother with a hostage who can't run/move and needs medical attention?

...and those are just a few examples that popped off the top of my head. But all of those would be much harder on the hero. It's easier just to put down the gun and say, "I have no other choice." He's laying the blame on the bad guy, turning a personal decision to make life easier on himself into a universal decision of what's 'right'.

We tend to whittle questions of value down to binary ones, because they justify what we want to do.

And since humans are lazy, usually that means making the choice that's less work for us.

When we claim we took the moral high ground, it's an indirect accusation that whoever disagrees with us is taking the low road.

Next time you hear a politician, a journalist, or anyone else loudly throwing around the word 'should' (or its alternatives 'have to', 'must', etc), take a step back and think about it. Why are they trying to turn it into a binary question, a question of high/low ground? Why are they trying to justify their position in terms of value/morality?

And think about the practicalities.

Turn the question into 'what could we do?'

To make a character well-rounded, we always need to think about values, but rather than slapping on some universal ones like 'honest', or 'brave', I think it's always worthwhile to think about whether your character actually stays the path when in a point of temptation or crisis. Are those 'values' you assigned true values, or are they only aspirational values?

I think about this a lot in YA books. It's easy to find clear examples in 'save-the-world' type genres, but they still exist in quiet contemporary novels, because there's almost always a 'best friend', and more times than not, when you actually look at the behaviour of the main character, they treat their best friend like crap, or the best friend only appears in the story when the main character needs advice, or needs to complain, and otherwise conveniently disappears from the story, especially if there's a budding romance in the works.

Okay, time to wrap my arm in a heating pad for about an hour... typing even just this post is still a huge problem.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Happy Canada Day!

Today, Canada is 147 years old, which is an awesome number because it's mostly divisible by factors of 7 (1, 3, 7, 21, 49, 147), and the binary form (100100112) contains all the 2-digit binary numbers (00, 01, 10, 11).

Yeah, you know I like numbers, so do you want few fun, nerdy-number facts about my home country?

2: Canada is the second-largest landmass

4: The number of Canadian provinces on the day of Confederation

9: The number of Canadians who have travelled to space

12: Academy Awards given to National Film Board productions

17: UNESCO World Heritage Sites (with 7 more listed as tentative)

34: Years "O Canada" has been the official national anthem (July 1, 1980)

56: Canadian-born celebrities with stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame

8,892: The length, in kilometres, of the border between Canada and the USA, which is the world's longest international boundary

35,427,524: Canada's population as of April 2014

So, if you're Canadian, do you have any other fun, nerdy-number facts about our country?

...and if you're not Canadian, what are some fun, nerdy-number facts about your country?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another death

I'm very sorry to say that Sue Koenig, one of the lovely writing buddies I've met online and through this site, passed away suddenly on Friday.

I would have posted sooner, but I was away for the convention/seminars and only got home late last night.

Although we lived on opposite sides of the continent and there was a very large age-gap between the two of us, we became friends, which is one of the amazing things about the internet, and the online writing community. Beyond reading and commenting on each other's work, we chatted on the phone once a month to catch up on the non-writing aspects of each other's lives.

She will be missed. Not only by the people she lived and interacted with in Ontario, but by friends like me who she never once met in person.

Monday, May 26, 2014

A moment to breathe

...okay, I'm home for a couple hours to do laundry/etc as the convention is over, but the seminars are in full swing from today until June 2nd.

On my Bailiwick site, I've got the pictures up of the secret non-painting project I was working on for the convention (since I'm still not allowed to paint).

I'm going to post more stuff there over the next week or so (when I can steal a few free moments...), but I'm not officially going to be back online until June 3rd at the absolute earliest.

Hope everyone is doing well!

...I'll be doing a lot better after tomorrow when I dash into Vancouver for another heavy dose of massage/physio and acupuncture. At the moment, my right arm is pretty useless.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thoughts on diversity

Okay, I picked away at this post over three days, very late at night, so forgive me if there are weird leaps or poor use of language. I have been so busy/stressed, that after this post I'm going dark until the end of May when the convention is over (except there might be some pictures up on Bailiwick), but I really wanted to write this one last post as this is something I very much care about.

There's a campaign starting tomorrow about diversity in YA. Not sure if you already know about it, but I first read about it here. The topic of diversity been popular lately. Here's just one page with links, but it's been all over the internet for the past couple of months.

Now, I've thought about writing a post about diversity before... I know I've touched on it in several other posts, but it's never been the foremost topic, and for the sake of keeping this at a reasonable length, I'm going to concentrate on racial/ethnic diversity.

Two things that need to be clear up front:

1) Yes, I'm Caucasian. I'm 1/2 Irish, 1/4 Scottish, and 1/4 FOB British (My grandmother married a Canadian pilot during the war).

2) I grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. The 2011 census puts Caucasians at 46.2% of the population.

If we're only using race as a plumb line, I've never experienced 'not seeing myself' in a book.

BUT, unless an author keeps reminding me what the characters look like, repeating how blonde someone's hair is, or how dazzling blue their eyes are, I pretty much imagine the cast as the world I grew up in.

Caucasian Population 46.2%

Visible Minority Population 51.8% (Chinese 27.7%)

Aboriginal Population 2%

I've been asked before why there's almost no physical descriptions of character in the stories I write, and well, I'd have to say it's because it's something I don't pay much attention to in real life, so I don't pay much attention when I write.

If I'm shopping at Metrotown in Burnaby, I don't think about the fact that I'm one of maybe 10% Caucasian shoppers, or one of maybe 3% in a T&T Supermarket. If I'm walking downtown on Robson Street, I won't even give a thought to passing through a group of women fully decked out in burqa.*

Because it's so normal to see so many different kinds of people.

The only time I really started noticing ratios of white-to-non-white, was when I moved away from Vancouver, first to Calgary, AB, then to Victoria, BC.

...and then I felt a little creeped out.

I'm being 100% serious. It was like being dropped into that movie with all the creepy blonde blue-eyed children ('Children of the corn'???).

I live in a racial and ethnically diverse city, and therefore, when I'm reading books, I naturally populate them with diversity unless expressly told otherwise.

When I'm writing, I figure, the less description, the easier it is for the reader to put themselves into the book. The only time I describe someone, it's for an important reason.

But this campaign for diversity raised an important question for me:

Is 'not noticing' and 'not describing' part of the problem?

When you don't specifically identify a character's ethnic background in a book, readers are going to make assumptions and populate the book naturally, just as I do, by what's 'normal' for where they grew up.

A Caucasian kid from a primarily Caucasian city is probably going to imagine a white-washed cast.

...BUT, is a minority kid from a primarily Caucasian city also going to imagine a white-washed cast?

To me, the conundrum of how to approach 'diversity' comes down to this:

Do I want to intentionally identify racial/ethnic (or other) groups in the stories I write, or continue to leave it up to the reader?

Pointing out, or singling out one group calls attention to which other groups are, or are not there. (For a discussion about this in 'Harry Potter', read the comments on this post, but I'm sure you can find a million other similar articles by using the magic of Google).

For example, in TRoRS, Spence is Indian, and by that, I mean his parents/grandparents are from India. I know some people refer to Aboriginals as 'Indians', so I wanted to clarity my terminology.

Should I have to give him a more traditional name like Bupinder when most of my non-Caucasion friends growing up all had 'Caucasian' names like Jennifer, Andrew, Susan, and Eric**? Should I have made a point to describe his hair, his skin colour, etc when I didn't do that with any of the other characters?

...and if I did, would I have to give Triss an authentic Jewish name to balance it out, even though only her mom is Jewish***? What about Jackson, who I imagine to be mix-race? Should I have to specify the racial background of both his parents and ruminate over the 'right' word to describe his skin-tone? Should all the Caucasian characters also be broken down into which part of Europe their ancestors came from?

And even if I did all of that, there would still be people asking, "where are the gay, transgendered, handicapped, and mentally ill characters?"

...or whether my story passes the Bechdel test****?

...and in the end, what does any of that have to do with the story if none of it is integral to the plot?

You can't please, or include, everyone. If you do, it'll just be a poorly contrived mish-mash where it feels like the author has created a checklist for 'diversity' and filled in all the character blanks in their story from that list.

If I'm intentionally adding in extra words for the sole purpose of showing how diverse the cast is, it pulls away from the story just as badly as a to-remain-nameless-author who spent pages and pages worth of words describing the FMC's clothes.

Going back one moment to Spence... there's a twist in the story involving him and another character. If I concentrated a lot of time (and words) on his background, it would make the reader assume that having an Indian at the party was a singularity. Not only is that incorrect, but then the twist wouldn't work.

I think it's very important for everyone, not only teens, to read about characters they can identify with.

As a writer, I think, the issue with diversity (gender, race, sexual orientation, etc) can be approached from many different angles, and that you can't say one is necessarily more 'correct' than another, as long as the writer is putting some thought behind it.

I think it's important for there to be books published with a Chinese or Indian main character struggling to find their identify as a minority.

I think it's equally important for books where Chinese or Indian characters are not considered minorities at all.

And there should also be books where racial/ethnic diversity is such a normal thing, that no one notices or cares about singling out one group or another based on race/ethnicity/skin colour/etc.

In Vancouver, so many are second or third generation immigrants that people of all ages are more likely to band together and group themselves in terms of jobs, wealth, religion, hobbies/interests, omnivores/vegetarian/vegan, etc rather than 'race/ethnicity'.

That's the culture of the city I grew up in, so that's the kind of culture I'm naturally going to write.

But this campaign on diversity, and the question that got raised for me, is probably going to change how I write, at least a little bit, to make sure the diversity of the cast in my head is better translated onto the page... without it feeling like I'm shoe-horning it in just so I can wave a flag around and shout, "my story is diverse!"

I want the culture I grew up in to permeate the atmosphere of the book. That's my goal.

To leave you with one more link to an older post, I believe it should always be 'character first', not 'gender first', or 'sexual identify first', or 'racial background first'.

What about you? How much do you think about diversity, and if you write about it, what angle are you coming from?

...and I very much hope this campaign for diversity goes well. Personally, I'd also love to see more books written in other parts of the world end up on the mainstream bookshelves here. I still have the (English translated) tattered copy of Banana Yoshimoto's "Kitchen" that I re-read to death as a teenager.

* A couple months ago I was out for lunch with a dog-walking friend of mine who recently moved here from Russia, and he pointed it out later at the restaurant.

** No, I didn't use their actual 'real' names, but close ones.

*** Hopefully there are enough clues with Triss that careful readers would have figured that out.

**** I guess that depends on whether the reader imagines the gender-unspecified MC as male or female.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Promising Flash Fiction Friday

A promising prompt up at Skullduggery, come play along (you know you want to).

My brain is set to explode, you really don't want me to get into it...

My flash fiction piece is probably going to be picked out on my phone sometime today, so it may be entertaining more for the 'auto-miscorrections' than the actual content ;)

Have a happy Friday!

(oh, and the new project I've started for the convention, I've got a couple initial pictures up on Bailiwick now. Stay tuned for more)

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Where story ideas come from

When it comes to information, I'm an eclectic reader and viewer, and I especially love documentaries on all kinds of weird subjects.

I pick up odd bites of information that may pop up in a story one day, in some form or another, usually completely unrecognizable from the original source.

Here are a few knobbly tidbits that have stuck in my brain recently:

Birds that call first in the morning are doing it for a few different reasons: to be the first to attract the attention of a mate, to be the first to call dibs on territory, and because the earlier it is, the quieter it is, so their sound travels farther with less noise competition.

Ravens have more than 30 different kinds of calls.

Birds have a high-pitched alarm call (sometimes barely within humans ability to hear) that serves three purposes: scare away other birds/creatures that are too close, to warn other birds there's danger in the area, and to warn the mate/chicks to stay quite so they won't give away the location of the nest.

Some male birds grow seasonally feathers, headdresses, ruffs, etc in the spring to court females. Some have wattles (the red dangly bits that chickens, black grouse, etc have on their heads) which they can engorge with blood up 4X the size. Some repeatedly fly high, and plummet/drop down like a parachute. Some offer nesting material, some share food. Some male birds toss food in flight (food pass) and the females flip upside-down in the air and catch it.

Stravaging. Isn't that a fabulous word? I really want to use it...

And homeric. I want to use that word too, except for some reason, I can only think of using it in a sarcastic way (must be my sense of humour).

A certain parasite lives the first and last parts of its life cycle inside cats. The mid-cycle portion of their life is when it is released from the cats' body onto grass, which is then eaten by a mouse or rat. The parasite then actually changes the hosts' behaviour to make it more likely to get eaten by another cat -> rats/mice are instinctively terrified/avoid cat-smells, but in researching infected rodents, they were found to be super attracted to cat-urine, also they took an abnormal amount of risks (not hiding, but wandering around in the open/sunlight), and had slower reflexes. Since people can also be infected by this parasite through improperly handled cat-litter, researchers also discovered that people in traffic accidents are twice as likely to be infected... so, given that it's more likely you will get in an accident if you take more risks and have slower reflexes, would infected people also be strangely attracted to cat-urine?

The island of Socotra, mostly 'cause I like Sanskrit related stuff (especially the goddess Vac), and Mesa Verde (no Sanskrit there... yet...)

Parents in Tibet pay smugglers to take their children (as young as 4-5) across the Himalayan mountains (many die or lose fingers/toes/etc to the cold) to Tibetan schools in India -> the only safe place they can learn about their heritage, their religion, their history.

...The Wild Hunt... oh yeah, it's gonna happen some day...

Ogmios, or one of his other cultural variations, most likely the Irish one, 'cause, in addition to the very interesting cultural significance of dowries (for a comical rendition, see 'The Quiet Man'), I'm also interested in EriuDeirdre and The Morrigan.

...which brings me to psychopomps...

My love for these was started by the web comic Gunnerkrigg Court.

How about you? Do you gather strange facts/oddities, then warp & weave them into something different? What kind of things inspire ideas for you?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Masked Flash Fiction Friday

Pop over to Skullduggery for today's prompt! I swear I'll try to spend more than 6 minutes writing today's... unlike last week ;)

Well, it's been a crazy week, and it only gets crazier from here until the end of May with the oil painting convention. So many meetings... so many jobs... so many emails... and so many phone calls battling Canada Post since I'm (still) not getting my mail (...halfway through month #3...) and I'm getting super concerned since I'm the one receiving all the registrations, and I'm quickly running out of time.

...cross your fingers that they will find my missing stash of mail soon...

Hope you all have a wonderful long weekend (for those that celebrate Good Friday/Easter)

Monday, April 14, 2014

Characteristics of insanity

I know I wrote a post a while ago that touched on this, but it's happening again.

There is seriously a screw loose in my head (well, probably more than one...) that pops up in times of extreme busyness/stress.

When things are piled up so high it's hard to plan out a day, much less a week, my brain decides it's a great time to push everything aside and think about writing.

Is this a strange form of procrastination?

Is it a way to force a mental break?

Or is my brain trying to kill me in a slightly different method?

There are few reasons why I think it might be attempted-suicide-by-brain.

1) It's not just one story. It's all of them, actually. 6 major/full length stories (well, 9 actually, since the 'sort-of-trunked' one was a trilogy). If it was just a single one, I'd be more included to think, "wow, after a good rest/break from that story, I have gained fresh perspective!"

2) It's not just one change, it's many. Thoughts on TRoRS would require me to delete about 1/4-1/3 of the story and go from there. Thoughts on AotD, L&R, and SO would require a complete refocus of each story... too scared to calculate how much re-writing would be required (easily 1/2 of each story)... Thoughts on the trilogy would require rewriting from scratch in a different POV. Thankfully, at only 20-ish-thousand words, the changes to SL would be less... but it's also the one I have the least thoughts on, which means it's the story least worth delving into.

3) I'm still banned from typing. Even just typing out this post has my neck aching, a sharp repetitive stabbing in my rotary cuff, and the fingers of my right hand are starting to hit the wrong keys, or not move at all (due to the shrink-wrapped-fascia tissue in my forearm restricting the tendons that work the fingers).

Yet my brain is full of *ideas* that it wants to get out.

May is going to be an insane month, with the convention and all, so I'm hoping I can mentally sandbag/barricade this tsunami until June 1st.

...we'll see how it goes...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Hammy Flash Fiction Friday

A ridiculous new prompt is up @ Skullduggery, so come play along.

Sorry for being MIA, the ribs are... staying in place reluctantly, but sleeping has still been tough and no sleep + insomnia = not a heck of a lot I can do when it comes to reading & writing.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Midnight Flash Fiction

A late posting this Friday morning, but go check out the new prompt at Skullduggery.

Theoretically, there may be new photos on Bailiwick relatively soon... I have *something* to make before the convention in May, and since I've never made one before, it's probably wise to get in some trial and error time instead of leaving it to the last minute :)

...and no, it actually has nothing to do with painting.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Ribs, birthdays & death

My naughty ribs have wiggled out of place again, so back to chiro I go, and another round of physio/massage/acupuncture tomorrow to hopefully settle things down. Once again, apologies to those who have sent me emails... I've not been moving a heck of a lot, and the pain has made sleeping a challenge.

Onto other things, my evil black goblin turned 10 today. Isn't he just so cute? Don't you wanna pull that fuzzy squirrel tail of his?

On a final note for today, one of the BC PAC members (who is/was on the board for the convention taking place in May) passed away a couple days ago. Peacefully, thankfully, but on the tail-end of the same flu I was down with a week ago that's been hitting the lower-mainland hard.

Though I didn't know her all that well (really only from working on convention stuff this past year), she was super kind, patient, and an excellent painter. She will be sorely missed.

This is a piece of hers that is being raffled off at the convention. Beautiful, eh?