Monday, 14 January 2019

Weekly Update: Jan 6 to 12

Weekly word count: 5983, 6 chapters edited/rewritten for Division

It's been a pretty significant week for me.  I decided it was time to begin draft 2 of Division, the story wasn't stable enough to keep going.  I'll be able to keep most of what I've written but there are a few plot elements that weren't working out and I've got some ideas that will work better.

I made some good progress on the rewrite but it's going to have to go on hold for the next little while because I got my first round of edits back from Soul Mate Publishing.  

This is my first time working with a publishing house editor and I'll admit that I'm nervous.  I want to do a good job and be a good author to work with.  They'd like the manuscript trimmed down, so it'll be a challenge but I've got some ideas on how to tighten it up and which subplots can be removed.

It's pretty exciting to get moving on this.  I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, 10 January 2019

Heroine Fix: The Fiercely Independent Catwoman

I'm addicted to strong and intriguing characters.  Heroine Fix is a monthly feature examining female characters that I admire and who influence my own writing.  Warning: this post will contain spoilers.

Catwoman is one of the first comic book heroines that caught my attention and made me want to write stories for her.  She was interesting in a way that seemed different from the other women in the shows and movies I watched.  She wasn't easily defined as good or evil.  She did what seemed right to her, whether that was stealing high end goods or rescuing a hostage.  She was sexy and smart and not embarrassed about either.  Even when she was cast as the damsel in distress, she always seemed to be in control of her own fate.

For this month, I wanted to look at three different Catwomen and how each one shows a different side of the character: Michelle Pfeiffer from 1992's Batman Returns, Halle Berry from 2004's Catwoman, and Anne Hathaway from 2012's The Dark Knight Rises.  

Batman Returns is dark, gothic and full of tragedy.  The tone is cynical, where the bad guys can win and even the good guys are violent and angry.  When we first meet Selina Kyle, she is timid, afraid to open her mouth and trapped in a job where she is humiliated and demeaned.  Her apartment is that of a little girl, full of toys and trinkets to try and counteract the dourness of her life.  She is someone who believes in the fairness of the world, that if she is a good girl who follows the rules, she will be rewarded.

But after her boss shoves her out of a window because she
uncovers his corruption, Ms. Kyle undergoes a change.  She is angry that the world has betrayed her by promising her safety in return for her silence.  Now she's no longer willing to play the role of the good girl.  She will now be loud, taking up the space that she wants, and not hesitating to go after what she wants, whether it's asking out Bruce Wayne or bringing a pistol to her boss's party so that she can enact revenge.

And that's just Selina Kyle.  Her alter-ego, Catwoman, is even more.  She rescues a woman from a rapist, only to turn on her and angrily tell her that she should never rely on someone else to save her.  She fights Batman, manipulates Penguin and blows up her boss's business.  She survives again and again when the men in her life try to kill her.  

To me, she became a symbol of feminism.  Initially, she obeys the rules that she hasn't set, only to learn they protect her attacker instead of her.  So she defies the rules and faces a backlash, trying to destroy her.  But she survives and defies those who hurt her, coming back stronger than ever with every attempt.  And yet, despite all of that, there is a part of her soul that remains untouched.  She refuses to be defined by others' opinion of her and continues to live the life that she wants.  She's angry but her anger is focused, targeting those who caused the damage.

Catwoman wasn't a movie that I particularly enjoyed, but the concept is one that has stayed with me.   As Sharon Stone's character puts it: "Catwomen are not constrained by the rules of society.  You follow your own desires.  This is both a blessing and a curse.  You will often be alone and misunderstood, but you will experience a freedom that other women will never know.  You are a Catwoman.  Every sight, every smell, every sound, incredibly heightened.  Fierce independence, total confidence, inhuman reflexes."

Like 1992's Selina, Halle Berry's Patience Phillips begins as someone who is waiting for someone else to give her permission to be the person she wants to be.  After she dies and returns to life, she physically and mentally transforms herself.  

Living life without social consquences is a
tempting proposition, particularly when a person has spent most of their life feeling as if they are being forced into a narrow path that only allows them to express a fraction of themselves.  But being free is indeed both "a blessing and a curse" because refusing to accept society's rules means becoming isolated and facing confrontation.  It's not a coincidence that most people will list social embarrassment as more frightening than painful death.  As a society, we admire those who break free of the rules but we also are afraid of them.  It's not a comfortable position to be in.

In The Dark Knight Rises, we don't get an origin story for Selina Kyle and her transformation into Catwoman.  She is already an accomplished thief and living defiantly.  Instead, what she wants is a chance to start over, to put her past behind her.  We are never told what exactly is in her past that she's so desperate to erase (especially since she doesn't seem to be particularly bothered by being a criminal).  She makes a comment that people do what they have to do, but once someone has done what they have to do, no one ever lets them forget it.

That is a message that rings particularly true in the age of social media, where anything posted effectively become immortal.  Choices and decisions remain on display for anyone to dig up and the context is rarely dug up along with them.

This Selina doesn't rely solely on her physical skills.  She's highly intelligent, able to keep several steps ahead of her opponents.  She defeats Bruce Wayne's security, including an ingenious escape plan and a quickly-shed disguise.  When her employer tries to double-cross her and threatens to kill her, she has a backup plan in place that ensures they'll be far too busy with the police to go after her.  

Like all of Catwoman's incarnations, the Dark Knight's Selina is angry but her anger is more
generalized.  She is willing to put society at large on trial for what has happened to her and willingly joins Bane's revolution.  But as anarchy reigns and Gotham's wealthy are punished, she loses her taste for global vengeance and joins forces with Batman to defeat the mercenary holding Gotham hostage.

And at the end, it appears that she gets a happily ever after with Bruce Wayne, a man who respects her and isn't looking to tame her independence.  Personally, if I were writing the postscript, I would still have the two of them working together to fight those who seek to take advantage of others, but regardless of whether or not you think they've retired their fitted leather suits, it is clear that the two of them are together and enjoying at least a moment of peace.

Catwoman is always sensual and more than a little wild, which I think is why she appeals to the audience.  Heroes are loyal and good.  A real hero will save someone, no matter what, because that's who they are.  Catwoman isn't a hero.  She chooses who she will save and who she will work with, which makes it all the more special for those chosen.

I like characters who have that same wildness and refusal to be tamed.  My first heroine is fiercely independent and refuses to hide her intelligence or her sexuality, a tribute to the female characters who have defied literary and social expectations and won their happy endings.

(Keep on reading for more information on next month's Heroine Fix and a special offer on my own books.)

If you'd like to read the story of my first untamed heroine, Dani, you can pick up the ebook for 99 cents U.S. (or equivalent) on all platforms.  Enjoy fast-paced paranormal romantic suspense about a secret society of superheroes living among us.

Or you can have a look at some of the other features on my blog, like last month's Heroine Fix about seizing the day with Georgia Byrd of Last Holiday, or my last post on whether or not I kept my 2018 New Year's Resolutions.  Or have a look at December's Hidden Diamond, A.M. Griffin and her wild heroines.  

If you're not quite ready for the holidays to end, you can have a look at my short story, The Spirit of the Holidays, now available for free on my website.

Next month, I'll be looking at Charlotte Holmes from Sherry Thomas's Lady Sherlock series.  Able to unlock anyone's secrets with a mere glance, Charlotte still faces the challenge of being a woman in Victorian London, expected to conform to the strictest social restrictions.  Join me on February 14th for the next Heroine Fix.

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Monday, 7 January 2019

Weekly Update: December 31 to January 5

Weekly word count: 1070 and a lot of plotting

After careful consideration, I've decided that it's time to start on my second draft for Division.  I'm over 80k into the story but the foundation is shaky and there's a number of elements that need to be introduced earlier or rearranged in order to make sure the plot stays tight.  Doing it now will make it easier to write the last 40k in the story.

I'm hoping that I can go through the rewrite quickly.  I'm keeping the vast majority of what I've written, though with some tweaking.  

I had a lovely New Year's Eve with my fellow ORWAn, Eve Langlais and her daughter and friends.  It was a fun evening of music, movies and board games.  And then a few days later we tried an escape room together (along with my 11 year old) and we actually managed to get out before the buzzer.

Sunday was ORWA's January meeting and it was nice to see a lot of new faces as well as meet up with the usual crowd.  No one gets you like other writers and I've always found ORWA to be a friendly, supportive group.

Thursday, 3 January 2019

A Look Back At My 2018 Resolutions

2018 is finally over and now 2019 stretches out in front of us where everything is still possible.

In 2018, I wrote 290 997 words which is darn impressive, especially since I actually took a month off.  Aside from that deliberate month, I only had 2 weeks where I didn't write, and that was because I was concentrating on editing.  So I'm feeling pretty proud about that.

But as I was scrolling through my posts to get all of my word counts, I found this post from January 4th, 2018 detailing my resolutions for the year.

I had my professional goals: pitching at RWA, increasing my readership, and increasing my weekly word count.

I did my pitches and I got my book deal with Soul Mate Publishing, so that is a definite checkmark.

Increasing my readership gets half a checkmark.  I've tried a number of things last year to get my work in front of new readers.  Some of them worked, and some of them didn't.  My monthly royalties are up, but not my number of reviews, so I've convinced people to buy my books but I'm not sure if they're being read.  But I'm encouraged and so I'll keep going.  The most successful efforts have been dropping the price of my first book to 99 cents USA and my monthly features: Heroine Fix and Hidden Diamonds.

Increasing my weekly word count gets another half a checkmark.  I really pushed myself but with mixed results.  Writing every day is not a sustainable process for me, especially not if I'm pushing myself to do at least a thousand words a day.  My best word counts (when taking into account having a healthy work-life balance) came through NaNoWriMo.  I gave myself two and a half hours of writing time every weekdays but left my weekends for other projects.  I was able to easily do between 1500-2000 words a day without feeling rushed.

But I also had personal goals:

Do something that scares me: I have a lot of social anxiety.  I have a hard time reading social cues and so I tend to play it safe rather than risk alienating people.  And I hate the idea of looking like an idiot.  But this year I did something that scared me: I ran a Basics of Burlesque workshop at Romancing the Capital.  And you know what, it was a lot of fun and people had a great time.

Treat myself the way I treat others, celebrating talent and understanding mistakes: I'm doing better with this, recognizing that I actually do have a number of talents and while I haven't quite learned to shake off my mistakes, I am getting better at not obsessing about them.

Spend time being comfortable in my own skin and home: Some days yes, some days no.  But another one I'm getting better at.

Feeling the thrill of discovery rather than getting caught up in logistics: I'm a planner.  I have a plan for alien invasion, the zombie apocalypse and any number of other improbable scenarios.  But the downside of this is that sometimes I can get trapped in my own head, trying to figure out multiple plans for any eventuality.  So I've tried to just enjoy things rather than planning.  And there haven't been too many catastrophes.

2018 was a year where I did more of reaching out for what I wanted.  Sometimes I got it and sometimes I didn't.  But I tried, and I'm proud of that.

It was also a year where I spent more time standing up for what I believe instead of being polite and letting things slide.  And I'm proud of that, too.

I don't have a bunch of resolutions for 2019.  I'd like to keep on the same path.  I want to be proud of who I am and be comfortable with myself.  I want to write my stories and be able to produce both quantity and quality.

Maybe I will, maybe I won't.  But I'll try and that's all anyone can ask for.

Previous post: Hidden Diamond: A.M. Griffin and a world of magic, monsters and gods.

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Monday, 31 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 23 to 29

Weekly word count: 569

It's been a challenging week.  A reminder that no matter how much I plan and prepare, sometimes life will have other ideas.  It wasn't a particularly productive week but then I took a look at my annual word count from 2018 and I felt a lot better.

2018 word count: 290 997

That's pretty darn good.  Almost half again what I normally write in a year.  And considering I took the month of July off for writing, that's even more impressive.  Now, not everything was sustainable but I've now got a much better idea of what works for me and what doesn't.

Out of that 290k, I wrote a 120k novel, 80k on a second novel and a 16k short story.  That's pretty cool and I'm hoping to carry the momentum forward into 2019.

Thursday, 27 December 2018

Hidden Diamond - A.M. Griffin and A World of Gods, Magic and Danger

There are lots of authors and books out there, so many that it can be hard for readers to find the books that they'll love to read.  So I want to share the gems hidden among the chaos.  Each month I'll feature a new Hidden Diamond author.  If you want to know more, I can make sure you discover the diamond you've been searching for.

I first met this month's Hidden Diamond at Romancing the Capital when we shared a panel on urban fantasy.  A.M. Griffin struck me as a funny, witty lady and her description of her Babylonia Jones series had me ordering the first book that very night.  I love strong female characters who stand up for themselves and find their place in the world and after reading The Undercity Chronicles, I can confidently place Babylonia among my favourite heroines.

But there's more to A.M. Griffin than just one urban fantasy series.  She also has Sci-Fi romance, contemporary romance and paranormal romance under her A.M. Griffin pen name.  Her tagline is Love That's Out Of This World, and she lives up to her hype: whether it's post-alien invasion civilization or a secret underworld of vampires, werewolves and fairy tale creatures, every story comes with love, passion and excitement.

Today she's sharing her thoughts on creating fantastic worlds and her answers to the Hidden Diamond author questionnaire.  So if you'd like to know what the craziest thing she's ever done to research a book is or her opinion on cavemen vs. astronauts, keep on reading!

Making The Fantastic Into The Everyday

For those who don’t know me my name is A.M. Griffin and I write paranormal, science

fiction, urban fantasy and dabble in contemporary romance. I also write monster erotica under my alter ego B.A. Thruster.

I enjoy writing in those genres because those characters and worlds are limitless. For my sci-fi series (Loving Dangerously), I had to build a completely different society with alien norms and acceptable practices then plop humans into it. Under normal circumstances any human would’ve had a hard time adjusting to an alien culture, but the humans in this series witnessed the destruction of Earth, death of family and friends and were sold to the highest bidders.

Yeah, imagine having all that thrown on you.

Those characters have some mighty big chips on their shoulders and I loved writing every minute of it. The hardest part about writing the Loving Dangerously series was that it was pretty hard convincing my characters that they loved the hero/heroine. Usually they just wanted to kill them and move on to the next alien. LOL!

I didn’t have to create such elaborate worlds for my paranormal (Dark Wolf Enterprises and When A Vamp Falls) and urban fantasy (The Undercity Chronicles of Babylonia Jones) series. Both of those series take place on good old Earth, present day, but what I find most intriguing is that in those series was there’s a thriving paranormal world hiding in plain sight. Humans go about their days obliviously unaware of wolf-shifters and corporate embezzling and a half-human, half-goddess running a PI agency in Detroit.

I love writing because I love reading. Growing up as an avid reader I often found myself immersed in in books and often times imagining and continuing the story long after I’ve put a book down. I’m often asked why I write the stories that I write and what’s the motivation behind them and one answer is consistent. I write the stories that I want to read, which I do, often! I’ve read Dangerously Forever about five times and I’m on my second round of reading On These Pages. I really do hope that readers enjoy my books as much as I do!

- A.M. Griffin

An Author Interview with A.M. Griffin

What is the craziest thing you've done to research a book? 

I think actually typing some of my searches in Google is dangerous enough. If the government ever decides to pull my search history I would have A LOT of explaining to do.

What is your writing process?  

I’m a pantser. I write whatever is on my mind and just let the story flow. For some stories where I have very strong characters I do find that about half-way through I have to plot out the end chapters to help get the story back on track. I’m not saying that works all the time, but it does help to curtail the character from going rogue some of the time.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax? 

I love reading. Whenever I have a particularly hard day at work I find that curling up with a good book does wonders for my soul and peace of mine.

Who is your favourite fictional crush? 

Ash from the Dark Hunters series by Sherilyn Kenyon. I would do so many wicked things for that Atlantean God.

And in the spirit of the great Joss Whedon debate, who would win: astronauts or cavemen? 

Cavemen. Cavemen adapt. It’s scientifically proven (hello present day humans). Astronauts, while having smarts, really would be hindered if technology was taken away. Honestly, I don’t think anyone walking Earth today could outsmart a caveman when it came to survival.

Thank you, A.M., for being one of my Hidden Diamonds!  And for those who want their very own copies of A.M. Griffin's books or who'd like to follow her on social media, you can find her at the following links:

Come back and discover my next Hidden Diamond on January 31st!  Or have a look at last month's Hidden Diamond, Jenn Burke.

Or you can join the Hidden Diamond mailing list and ensure that the perfect gems for you are sent right to your mailbox.

Previous post: Alpha vs Alpha, a look at when two strong-willed characters fall in love

Or check out my monthly Heroine Fix to see other amazing and interesting female characters from pop culture.

Monday, 24 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 16-22

Weekly word count: 3 056

It was a quiet week this week as I prepare for the family events around Christmas.  I'm feeling kind of run down and overwhelmed and so I gave myself permission to take things easy.

I'm starting up the research for Until Proven Guilty, the second Special Investigations book.  Which means I'm playing around with close up magic again.  Which is awesome.  I won't be starting to write it for another few months, but I love researching interesting things.

I don't know how much I'll be able to write next week so I'm taking the "any progress is good progress" attitude.  Once the kids are back at school, I can look at doing more work.