Monday, 22 October 2018

Weekly Update: October 14-20

Weekly word count: 3 614

This was not a terribly productive week but I still managed some good days.  Thursday was a difficult day for me where no matter how hard I tried, the words were just not coming.  After an hour and a half, I accepted that and gave myself permission to take a break and watch TV.  Monday and Friday were full days at my day job, so I knew in advance that I wasn't going to have writing time.

But now I am sitting in Charleston, South Carolina, with some wonderful ladies and we'll be spending the week writing and having a great time.  We have a house on the beach with a gorgeous view so I can sit with my laptop and listen to the waves.  I've always found the ocean to be a settling influence for me and it's one of the things I miss about living in Ottawa: not having an ocean to listen to.

We go on family trips through the year and I have business trips sometimes but this is my vacation and I'm looking forward to getting my batteries recharged and being ready to charge ahead for Nanowrimo.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

A Letter from My Future Self

People talk about sending letters to their younger self all the time but let's face it, what we really want is a letter from the future letting us know that everything is going to be okay.

So through the power of wishful thinking and imaginary time travel, I have procured a letter from my future self:

Hey girl,

I remember this part as being one heck of an adventure.  There were days when I thought I was so tired that the idea of making it to the next day seemed ludicrous.  I remember having to juggle all kinds of balls and always worrying about what would happen if I dropped one.

So I'm here to tell you what you need to know right now: you're going to drop the balls and it's not going to shatter the world.  Balls bounce.  And you'll pick them up and keep going.  Because no one expects you to be perfect.

I remember being super excited about all the wonderful opportunities that are on the horizon.  Getting your first publishing contract, that's huge!  And I'm telling you to take the time to enjoy the moment rather than always having your eyes on the to-do list.  I can't tell you how it will all turn out (something about the space-time continuum and the complete implosion of the timeline and universe) but you already know that even when the future isn't everything the past you imagined, it has wonderful things that you never would have guessed.

Things aren't going to go the way you expect.  They never do.  But that's part of the point of life, to explore places we never would have ended up if we hadn't gotten lost along the way.  And some of those places are pretty damn fantastic.

The future has its share of pain ahead.  That's inevitable.  But it also has love and laughter and happy moments.  Because those are inevitable, too.  Don't let one overshadow the other and get out of your head every once in awhile to savour the happy moments.

And most importantly, here are the lotto numbers for next wee--- <<transmission ended>>

Previous post: Heroine Fix: Evey from V for Vendetta

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Monday, 15 October 2018

Weekly Update: October 7 to 13

Weekly word count: 5 422

It was a very intense week for me.  On Wednesday, I had a major family crisis.  Luckily, the immediate crisis was dealt with quickly but there's a lot of work that needs to be done in order to make sure it doesn't happen again.  It's likely to take up a lot of my time over the next few months.

Then on Thursday, I signed a contract for a book deal.  While I was at RWA 2018 in July, I pitched my paranormal romantic suspense novel, Deadly Potential, to Soul Mate Publishing and they said yes!  It will probably be at least a year (and more likely two) before the book is released, but I am now officially on the hybrid indie-trad publishing path. 

And then Friday, Saturday and Sunday were Can-Con.  This is the last major conference of the season and I look forward to it.  It's fun, full of people that I care about and who are just as enthusiastic as I am about speculative fiction in all its forms.  I had a lovely dinner on Friday night with the folks from Myth Hawker Travelling Bookstore and then on Saturday night, I closed out the bar with Tanya Huff.  (It sounds wilder than it was, since we were mostly just sitting and chatting, but there was celebratory cheesecake.)  I did some fantastic panels with 'Nathan Burgoine, including a fascinating discussion of urban fantasy (where I got to sit next to Charles de Lint, Evan May and Linda Poitevin) and a high-spirited debate on problematic art.

Now I'm back home, tired and happy.  Next week I have my writers' retreat in Charleston and I am looking forward to a week with some charming and talented ladies and the chance to get some serious writing done.

Thursday, 11 October 2018

Heroine Fix: The Power of Overcoming Fear: Evey from V for Vendetta

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

The movie V for Vendetta is one of my favourites.  Originally a comic book by Alan Moore, the screenplay was written by Lily and Lana Wachowski and it's full of amazing lines:

"People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people."

Creedy: We have guns.
V: No, what you have are bullets... Beneath this mask there is more than flesh. Beneath this mask there is an idea, Mr. Creedy. And ideas are bulletproof.

The story is about a right-wing authoritarian government that takes over Britain by unleashing a plague and blaming it on those they consider undesirable (immigrants, non-Christians, the poor, LGBTQ+, the list is depressingly long).  They rule through fear and lies, attacking any hint of disobedience with ruthless violence.  The ruling class indulges in their own corruptions, perversions and addictions without fear of reprisal.  The police are helpless, as most investigations are politically directed and controlled.  The public is numb and frightened.

I've been thinking about it a lot these days.  At first, it's hard to look past the title character, V.  He gets most of the best lines, he gets to blow up buildings and do fancy martial arts move.  His story of vengeance and justice drives the plot.  But it's actually Evey who develops as a character and who holds the heart of the story.

At the beginning, Evey is afraid but ignoring it.  Her world is terrifying, so she tries her best to forget it and avoid attracting attention.  However, as many have discovered, ignorance is not a shield against injustice.  When she's discovered on the streets after curfew, she is attacked by men who are supposed to be enforcing the rules, but are really only bullies enjoying absolute power over anyone who crosses their path.  She is about to be raped and possibly murdered, when the caped and masked V sweeps in to save her. 

After Evey is implicated in V's first vengeful act of terrorism, he brings her back to his bunker to keep her safe.  Then he tells her that she will not be able to leave until he finishes his year of planned attacks.  After many months together, she offers to help him with his next target.  She plans to use the opportunity to escape him and get her life back.  But she quickly learns that the cruel men who run the government have no interest in helping her or anyone else.  Now that her eyes are open to their cruelty and corruption, there is no safe place for her.  She is captured and imprisoned.

We learn later that V took her instead of the authorities, but that doesn't change what Evey experiences next.  She is relentlessly tortured with demands to tell all she knows about V.  Her interrogator tells her over and over that the only way to save herself is to give him up.  (This is a common technique of governments that rule by fear, the demand for more names and a growing circle of accusation.)  But Evey resists.  Not because she expecting rescue, but because she discovers a story.

Written on toilet paper and hidden in a hole in her cell, the story is of a young woman who is kicked out of her family when they discover she is a lesbian.  She recovers, finding success in her career as an actress and love with a woman who grows roses for them both.  It's beautifully summed up in one line: "For three years, I had roses and apologized to no one."  Her story gives Evey strength for defiance.

Her captor tells her that she is scheduled to be shot behind the chemical sheds and begs her, one last time, to tell them something, anything about V so that she can save her life.

She replies: "Thank you... but I'd rather die behind the chemical sheds."

She's not afraid any more.  She knows she's not powerless any more.  The worst has happened and they can't take anything more away from her, not even her life.  And once she has no fear, their only weapon against her is gone.  V claims that he did this to her to show her how strong she truly was.  He tells her that he originally found the toilet paper memoir and it showed him that there could truly be a better world if people were willing to fight for it and stand up to those who use hate and fear to conquer and divide.

V lets her go and they don't meet again until November 5th, the eve of his grand revolution.  His plan is to use the old subway tunnels to send a train full of explosives into Parliament, succeeding where Guy Fawkes failed.  The authorities attack him, fatally wounding him.  Evey finds him and he dies in her arms.  Then she places his body on a bier of roses on the train and sends it on its way, completing the attack.

It is implied that the revolution is successful and the authoritarian government is overthrown.  In the comics, Evey assumes the mask of V and his mantle as a bringer of justice to those who have none.

In my view, Evey's story is more powerful because she has none of the usual attributes of the hero.  She's not particularly clever or strong, she's not driven by righteousness.  She spends most of the film in a state of acceptance.  She knows the government has made the world a horrible, unfair place but there's no drive in her to stop it.  She doesn't ever truly participate in V's revolution until that last moment when she starts the train.  There are only two moments that define her as a hero rather than a bystander: when she refuses to inform on V and when she finishes his plan.  But those two moments are all it takes.

I like the idea of ordinary people standing up to power.  That's why Martha, the heroine in my most recent novel, Judgment, doesn't have any superpowers.  It's easy to imagine a Captain America or a Wolverine standing up against powerful odds.  It's harder to imagine ourselves doing it.  Heroes like Evey remind us that we have just as much power as any caped crusader and that is a reminder that resonates in today's troubled times.

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

If you want to read about my heroine who stands toe to toe with skin-walker grizzlies, a doctor who sees Dr. Mengele as a role model, and a murderous ghost who tries to take her daughter, then please take a look at Judgment, only $5 US on all platforms.  Or start the series with Revelations, only 99 cents US on all platforms.

Or take a look at my Hidden Diamonds (featured authors who write speculative fiction, romantic suspense and strong female characters) or the last three years of Heroine Fixes.

Next month, I'll be taking a closer look at Major Kira Nerys from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  The series is over twenty years old but many of the storylines still resonate, particularly the angry Major who is struggling to help her people rebuild after decades of alien occupation and who balances faith and action to find her personal path.

Join me on November 8th for the next Heroine Fix.

Monday, 8 October 2018

Weekly Update: Sept 30 to Oct 6

Weekly word count: 7 752

First off: Happy Thanksgiving to all of us north of the border. While there are plenty of issues around the holiday as a whole, taking a moment to be thankful is a good thing. So I am thankful for how things have been going lately because I feel like I'm making real progress in my chosen goals for life.

I've been doing more thinking about Nanowrimo goals and I think, rather than aiming for 50 000 words, I want to aim for an average of 2000 words per weekday.  It's not quite enough to get me over the 50 000 word threshold, but I think it's a sustainable year round goal.  I've been doing fairly well with hitting an average of 1500 per day and I'd like to boost that.

Here's my logic.  My stories tend to be around 115 000 to 130 000 words.  To get to a first draft, I usually need to write about double that.  Call it 250 000 words for a nice round number.  If I can do an average of 2000 a day on weekdays, that's 10 000 words per week, which would let me get a draft done in 25 weeks, which is about 6 months, rather than the 7 to 9 months that it usually takes me.  It's not a huge amount, but it's the next step that's in my control for my career as an author.  If I want to have two series being produced, one self published and one traditionally published, I need to be able to write more in the time that I have available.

Will I be able to do it?  I'm going to try but I'm also going to be paying attention to my energy level.  I'd rather continue at 1500 per day than push myself to 2000 and end up needing a break.

In other news, the re-edit of Whispers In the Dark and Rose on the Grave has begun with Dynamic Canvas and I've found a new search and destroy word.  Every author has their list of words that they overuse.  I'm really pleased with the work so far.  It's exactly the kind of detail that I was hoping for.

I'm also in the final prep mode for Can-Con next week.  I'm really looking forward to this con.  It's the last one of the season and it's so friendly and caring.  The organizers make huge efforts to make sure that everyone feels safe and that everything is accessible.  That way, everyone can just enjoy being geeks together and concentrating on the really important things, like debating dice roll techniques or how grounded science fiction should be in current science reality or what the best glue is to keep your elf ears on.  It's three days of talking stories of the imagination in all genres and I adore it.  I'll be in the vendor room and on some panels so please do drop by the Sheraton Hotel, October 12 to 14 (Friday: 2-7, Saturday 10-5 and Sunday 10-3).  There will be chocolate.  Promise.

And I should have a big announcement for next week.  I've been sitting on this for a couple of weeks while I get all the details organized but I have been hugely excited about it.  It's going to be such a thrill to get to tell everyone.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

All Your Genre Faves are the Worst: Loving Problematic Art

This week's post was inspired by the two events that sandwiched it: Banned Book Week and a panel that I'm doing at Can-Con: All Your Genre Faves Are The Worst.  There's a real challenge when we look back at our favourite shows, movies and books.  Stories and characters that were absolutely pivotal to our experience haven't always aged well, so what are we supposed to do when we recognize the flaws in our favourites?

Molly Ringwald wrote a powerful essay about her own conflicted feelings about The Breakfast Club and Sixteen Candles.  Both stories feature developed female characters and looked at the challenges of the everyday teen experience.  A lot of people felt those movies were the first time their voices had been heard and the films launched Molly's career.  But they also used racial stereotypes as a punchline and portrayed sexual harassment as part of the courting process.  (In Sixteen Candles, the drunk girlfriend is traded to the horny nerd and when she wakes up, she is enamoured of him and the implication is that they will start dating.  And in The Breakfast Club, Bender looks up Claire's skirt and it is implied that he touches her inappropriately and by the end of the movie, they're dating.)

For myself, I used to love Ender's Game and Pastwatch by Orson Scott Card.  Since then I've become more aware of the author's own homophobia and bigotry and seen how that seeps into the stories (male on male attacks that happen in the bathroom, a "cured" homosexual character, and solving the problems of colonialism by Christianizing the natives before Columbus shows up).  I now no longer can enjoy those stories but they did have an influence on me that I can't ignore.  There were good messages in them: the power of working together with people you can trust, authorities don't always tell the truth and it's up to the individual to do their own research, true understanding and compassion comes from understanding someone's story from their own point of view, and it's worth sacrificing your own comfort to right the wrongs of the past.   But in my view, those good messages don't overshadow the negative ones.  (And it's possible to find other, less problematic examples of stories with those same positive messages.)

We rarely call for books to be banned because of the hatred they promote or the hurtful insidious messages they include.  In fact, you're far more likely to hear people championing their personal favourites and classics as somehow immune to any criticism.  People dismiss concerns as irrelevant because the author didn't know any better or because the art should be separated from the artist.  In fact, the books that tend to be targeted for banning are the ones that would encourage compassion and understanding by exposing readers to different points of view.  I don't think I would support banning hurtful books, but I certainly would want to make readers aware of the issues within them.  There's a difference between choosing not to promote a particular work and calling for it to be completely removed from the shelves.

I've recently begun watching the original seasons of The Simpsons with my son and I'm finding myself having to interject to tell him that some of the jokes are hurtful and not funny.  It allowed us to have conversations about how sometimes comedians and storytellers use negative stereotypes for a quick laugh but that has a real impact on the people listening.  

Sometimes it really does seem as if everything is tainted.  The people who were raised up as heroes and role models keep getting revealed as predators and bigots at worst or indifferent to others' suffering at best.  The stories that I used to read or watch over and over have negative messages about a wide variety of people.  It can feel hopeless and make anyone with compassion question whether it's possible to escape.

Here's my point of view on the whole matter: the first step is to be aware of the flaws.  Don't dismiss the potential harm just because a story was personally important or because it's a tradition.  

The next step is one that will have different results for everyone: decide whether or not the flaws outweigh the positive.  That's a personal decision and it may change depending on where a person is and what they're going through.

The last step to continue to acknowledge the flaws and the impact those flaws have on people.  That might mean not recommending the story to anyone else but continuing to enjoy it privately.  Or if it is recommended, including a content warning so that no one is caught by surprise.  And as part of the acknowledgement, do frequent reality checks to make sure that the stories aren't reinforcing unconscious bias and your actions.

Art comes from people and that means that it's going to come from problematic people which means it's going to contain problematic aspects.  Art is a reflection of culture, society and viewpoints, and that means it reflects the good and the bad.  Expecting art to only be compassionate, encouraging, and uplifting is probably not entirely realistic.  But at the same time, we shouldn't give up on that as a goal.  Most artists create art because they have something they want to say, a message they want to send out into the world and thus share a little piece of wisdom or compassion.  I still believe that stories are what will make the world a better place.

Previous post: Hidden Diamond: Carey Decevito, her paranormal romance series Essence Extracted and Getting Into The Male Point of View.

Related posts: Why Books Get Banned and Separating Art from the Artist

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Monday, 1 October 2018

Weekly update: Sept 23 to 29

Weekly word count: 7 862

I'm very pleased with how the writing has gone this week.  I finished the first draft of Third Eye Open and began Division.  It is a real pleasure to start working with Vincent again and get to tell his story.  He's had a rough time in the first four lalassu novels and has earned himself a happily ever after.

Giving myself a writing break on the weekend and using that to deal with the business side of writing has been working really well.  I feel more energized come Monday and I'm less likely to let a day slide to deal with the other thousand things that have to be done.  My daily word totals are higher and overall, I write more per week, so for now, this is the method that works.

Taking the weekends off may make things more difficult for Nanowrimo in November.  There are 22 weekdays, which means I need to do at least 2 273 words per weekday in order to make the 50 000 goal.  On the one hand, my inherently competitive nature means I want to reach that goal (and it would mean a nice leap forward for Division), and on the other, I promised myself that I wasn't going to let myself get burned out again.

I've also made a change on my Upcoming Projects page.  I'm going to start posting a chart with my overall weekly writing progress on that page so readers can see how things are going.  I know this is a long gap to wait for the next installment of the lalassu novels.  It usually takes me 7-8 months to get a draft ready for beta-reading and editing.  I'm hoping that I can lower that but we'll see what life has in store.  Thanks to everyone who's stuck with me through this process.  

Thursday, 27 September 2018

Hidden Diamond: Carey Decevito, Essence Extracted and Getting Into A Man's Head

There are lots of authors and books out there, so many that it can be hard for readers to find what they're looking 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, please connect with me and you won't miss the diamond you've been searching for.

Carey Decevito is a delightfully charming woman whom I met through ORWA.  She always has a smile and an encouraging word for her fellow writers and I'm proud to call her a friend.

Her latest series, Essence Extracted, is a paranormal romance about Payton, an empath who comes face to face with the hidden supernatural dangers in the world, the existence of the Fae and a new love.  The second novella just released this week and the third will be coming next month!

One of Carey's talents is in finding unique voices for all of her characters.  Today, she's sharing with us some of her secrets for getting inside the male mind.

Looking Through The Male Mind

And they thought women were complex creatures…

After decades of reading an array of novels: thrillers, mystery, suspense, paranormal and yeah, romance (duh), I realized one thing…I hadn’t come across many works of romance where a woman had written in a male’s perspective, in the first person.

Since I’m some kind of masochist—okay, so I love to impose a challenge or two (or a hundred) where my writing is concerned—I took a leap of faith, thus began my adventure!
Once Written, Twice Shy (OWTS), the first in my Broken Men Chronicles series, was inspired by a play on online dating and my love for reading and writing. What I didn’t know at the time, was that not only would one book be born, but an entire series would follow!

All interconnected, yet vastly different, the men of The Broken Men Chronicles series each have a unique story to tell.  From a divorcĂ©, to a widower, a retired militant, even the age-old lost love scenario, and childhood nemeses, these men are scarred in some way ("broken" if you will) yet they persevere. Some battles, both physical and emotional, are tougher than others but they all seek one thing…to come out on top.

I’m no shrink.  I’m no guy.  I don’t have some degree in male psyche analysis of any kind.  And no, I haven’t suffered an electrical shock much like Mel Gibson in What Women Want where I miraculously know what’s going on up there. Now, you’re wondering how in the world does a woman pull it off?

You see, there came a point in my life (as I entered my thirties), where I came to realize that what the average man and woman want out of life isn’t all that different: a career, a family or at least someone to call theirs, a home, friends, happiness…need I say more? So, I seized the gauntlet and began to write.

I’m the kind of writer that writes with inhibited emotion. If I can’t feel it, it’s no good. In keeping close with everyday life, I like to mix things up. From the hot and sexy, to the rage, the grief, the turmoil that uncertainty in one’s life can cause, not to mention the humor, my readers are thrust into a world where they can relate. Personally, I love nothing more than a work of fiction where I can picture myself as being part of the character's experience. It's that proverbial fly-on-the-wall syndrome.

Reading is an escape. It’s a way to detach yourself from your world and immerse yourself into another’s. Should you laugh, feel angered, annoyed, overjoyed, not to mention, thrilled at any point in a read, then the author’s done their job efficiently.

Some may say that I have feminized my male leads. I disagree. Inspired by people in my life, I wrote characters that have a certain degree of respect toward the opposite sex (yes, even players can have some). In true guy fashion, my men’s dialect can be crass and inappropriate at times as it can be loving, sweet and endearing at others. Same goes for their behavior. I wasn’t looking to write up a slew of Stepford characters. Realistic means with fault and I strive to capture that no matter who the character may be. Of course, writing first person also means that your characters need substance and delving into each of these men’s lives, you’ll quickly come to find out, there is no lack of it. With that said, male readers are able to relate to these characters as much as their female counterparts.

In closing, I have to say that my experience in writing from a male’s perspective has been a
humbling one. I’ve loved the self-imposed challenge, not to mention the humorous discussions I’ve had with my male friends and husband while entertaining the task. For those of you reading this post, I hope that you’ve enjoyed the insight to my inner writer workings.

- Carey Decevito

An Author Interview With Carey Decevito

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

Do attending self-defence classes to get a fight scene right, or contacting a cop friend and sitting in a blood spatter analysis and bomb/SWAT team workshop with the Ottawa Romance Writers’ Association count?

Aside from that, I’ve only written about things I know, researching things online (mythical creatures, Greek mythology, witchcraft, firearms, American law, hacking, etc) or referring to my old college textbooks for anything medical to make sure that what I’m writing makes sense and is right.

What is your writing process?  (Eg: plotter vs pantser, solitary vs public)

When it comes to my writing processes, they vary depending on the genre of book I’m writing. If it’s strict contemporary romance, I’m usually a pantser and simply let the story flow from the tips of my fingers onto the keyboard and go from there. I usually have some sort of plot in mind but nothing is ever mapped out on paper or on my computer. I typically know how the beginning goes, what the major hurdle will be in the middle, and how I want things to end. It’s funny to say, but I actually see my novels develop as though I had an internal movie playing in my mind.

As for my romantic suspense or paranormal genres, I need to plan a bit more. I usually have a document that lays things out. It helps me with the research I need to do whether it be on witchcraft, or firearms…hell, even the time allotted before refueling a helicopter for instance.

Undoubtedly, no matter the genre I’m writing at any given time, I remain a bit of both a pantser and plotter.

And when writing, I typically prefer doing the bulk of it in a quiet corner. If the ideas are clear in my mind, then I can usually write no matter where I’m at, but normally it’s my writing cave or bedroom. The chances where you’ll see me in a local Starbucks are slim unless I’m editing or plotting. Being surrounded by people, especially during plotting the development of a specific book works like a charm to inspire.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax?

As a mother, wife, author, employee, life tends to dominate. My greatest way to escape it all is to either be writing or reading. Whenever I get some “me time”, I like to dive into a work of fiction and only come up for air when needed. Suffice to say that doesn’t happen often.

When I feel the need to get out of the house however, I’m usually walking the dog or finding some kind of footrail with a friend to be a little more active and to simply recharge my mental batteries.

Who is your favourite fictional crush?

Damn, that’s a tough one! I honestly don’t think I have one at the moment, but if I’d have to pick someone, I’d say that it would be Rex, a character in one of my upcoming novels in the Nightshade series. He’s rough around the edges, honest, tough, yet a sweetheart when it matters—okay, so he’s also sex on a stick too. He has a dark past that could have completely wrecked him (and in some ways it has) but he’s worked so hard to get over those demons. I admire him for his restraint, his dedication to his team and duty, and most of all, his sense of values. He’s a scary man with a questionable work ethic and past—especially since he’s a bounty hunter—but he’s the ultimate bad boy you hope to see stay good and get his turn at happiness.

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

And I just took a trip down the Angel memory lane on this one. (Yes, I’m dating myself, aren’t I?) LOL So who would win? Both have merits really. I mean cavemen are who we were before we evolved both mentally and technologically. Let’s face it…cavemen became astronauts, so wouldn’t both win? Isn’t it in fact a tie in the grand scheme of things?

Regardless, if you were to pit both of them against one another, I’d say the guy with the superior intellect (astronaut) would win. They do have the problem resolution skills and aptitude to research a hell of a lot more than cavemen would. Let’s just hope the problem at hand isn’t one too simple however. It seems the more knowledge we have, the more someone of superior intellect will suss out a complicated way to solve a problem when the resolution is so simple.

Thank you to Carey for being one of my hidden diamonds and for those who want their very own copies of Carey's books, you can find them at the following links:

(ebooks available at Amazon, Nook, Kindle, Apple, Google and Smashwords)

Or you can find her on social media at

Come back on October 25th to discover the next Hidden Diamond!
Or check out last month's Hidden Diamond, Lucy Farago.

Or you can join the mailing list and have the perfect gems for you sent right to your mailbox!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Weekly Update: Sept 16-22

Weekly word count: 4 624

I'm coming to the end of getting the first draft of Third Eye Open finished and that makes me excited even though I'm not going to be able to release it or the re-edited first two short stories in time for Hallowe'en fun.  But once it's done, I can get started on book 5, Division, and possibly book 2 of the Special Investigations series, Until Proven Guilty.  I'm still not quite sure how I'll manage working on both but I've got some ideas.

Division has really started haunting my brain with ideas for scenes and character arcs, so it is definitely ready to come out of the gate and start putting it down on paper.  Until Proven Guilty is a little more nebulous but it's developing nicely inside my head.

This week was actually pretty exciting.  Not only was it bookended by two great events: Tanya Huff's ORWA workshop on the 15th and ALSO's Persisting Beyond Margins on the 22nd, but the areas near where I live got hit with a tornado on Friday evening.  Luckily, the worst we suffered was the loss of our nearly empty freezer contents and no power until Sunday morning.  

Ottawa doesn't get too many natural disasters.  There was an earthquake when my kids were younger, but the worst damage from that was to knock my CD collection slightly askew in their racks.  We had a major flood a few years ago, and there was a fair amount of damage from that but I wasn't personally affected.  And now a tornado.  

One thing that this weekend did teach me is that I'm seriously lacking in my post-apocalyptic coping skills.  Thirty-six hours with no internet or television and my brain was starting to go crazy.  I couldn't even write because my laptop's battery was dead.  Granted, in an actual post-apocalypse, having to survive among the alien invaders or zombie hordes will probably provide a decent amount of distraction but not being able to crash and binge some Supernatural is too much to ask a girl to do.

I ended up binge reading instead and playing a lot of board games with my kids.  I ended up burning through a fair bit of my TBR pile and since I imagine others probably did the same this weekend, I thought I'd offer some new TBR acquisitions.  This week, I'll have the first book in my Lalassu series, Revelations, on sale for just $1.27 Canadian on all platforms for those looking for some new books to try.

Thursday, 20 September 2018

Banned Book Week and Persisting Beyond Margins

For the second year, I'm participating in a special charity event for ALSO, a local charity that supports adult literacy programs.  On September 22nd, me and several other local authors will crawl out of our comfort zone to be in public to talk about our favourite topics: books.

I've never quite understood why there are so many calls to ban books.  And it's been even more of a mystery why such a wide variety of books get attacked in this way.  I love books.  They're a way to expand my awareness by exposing me to ideas and lives different from my own.  Not to mention, they're fun!  So why do so many people get themselves tied into a knot.

This year, my curiosity was too much.  I decided to start looking into it and what I found was depressingly bleak.  There seem to be a few specific reasons for banning that keep coming up over and over in the lists: the book features queer characters, diverse characters, encourages people to question authority, or deals with alternate realities.  To me, those are a check list of things I want to read but for some, it strikes them with terror.

Most requests to ban books seem to come from various fundamentalist Christian groups who see these books as an attack on themselves and their faith.  (And just to be clear, these groups are a minority of Christians and I'm sure that many Christians would have a problem with the version of their faith as portrayed by these groups).  In the view of these groups, anything that might encourage anything other than blind faith and obedience is a threat.

And as a result, they will never know the vicarious thrill of tessering across the universe, or flying in a spaceship, or riding a unicorn, or any of the other wonderful and exciting adventures that books have opened up to me.  They will never learn to see the world through someone else's eyes and thus increase their compassion for those who are different or who have lived different experiences.  And to a point, if they don't want to do that, if they would rather stay in their narrow world bounded by fear, that's their choice.

What they don't have is the right to make that choice for anyone else.  They don't have the right to look at a book and say "This scares me" and insist it be destroyed or locked away.  They don't have the right to deny people the chance to experience stories of others like them and others who are completely different.  

So I am proud to be part of Banned Book Week and part of the ALSO fundraiser.  And if you'd like to support freedom of expression and helping adult literacy, or even if you'd just like to enjoy an evening of books, food, wine and conversation, please join me on Saturday for Persisting Beyond Margins.  And if you'd like to know more about my chosen banned book, A Wrinkle In Time, and why I feel it's a great story, please check out my Heroine Fix on Margaret Murray and the value of an angry heroine.

And if you'd like to check out my own fantastical stories about a secret society of superheroes living among us, the first book in my lalassu series, Revelations, is currently on sale for 99 cents US on all platforms.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Weekly Update: September 9 to 15

Weekly word count: 6 253

Things are moving a little better writing wise this week.  I'm managing a decent average and I've got a much better handle on the third Spirit Sight short story.  I'd been trying to do it without a central ghost story and realized that was ultimately hurting the pacing and emotional impact.  I was trying to have multiple small paranormal encounters instead of one big one but it ended up feeling like the supernatural side was an afterthought.  I'm much happier with it now.

On Saturday, I had a lovely day with Tanya Huff.  I've been organizing the ORWA event for several months and I was really pleased with how well it all came together.  She gave a fantastic talk full of great advice for authors at all levels.  And most importantly, I think everyone had a good time and no one felt rushed or isolated.  We had a great guest turnout with lots of new faces, hopefully they'll come back.

I also got some very exciting news this weekend but professional discretion means I can't quite share it yet.  As soon as I can, I will be announcing it everywhere I can.  But it's got me feeling much better about my writing and myself.

Thursday, 13 September 2018

Heroine Fix: The Loyal, Lovely and Lethal Dutch from Killjoys

Heroine Fix is a monthly feature looking at characters whom I admire and who influence my own writing. (Warning: this article will contain spoilers.)

I love a good action story and I love a strong female character who steps up and takes charge.  I only recently started to watch the Space series Killjoys about a team of wise-cracking interplanetary bounty hunters but it only took half of the first episode to hook me.  The lead character, Dutch, played by Hannah John-Kamen is a fascinating mix of determination, fierce loyalty to her friends, extraordinary skills, and stunning warrior.  She has the kind of casual excellence that I've always found appealing, particularly since I'm the type of person who is more likely to trip over my own feet and tongue.

The Jaqobis brothers are also impressive... but that's a topic for another time.
However, what makes Dutch worthy of a closer look is that she isn't just a two-dimensional warrior.  There's a beautiful layer of vulnerability underneath her armor of perfection.  She is someone who has faced her world and dreams being destroyed on multiple occasions and who has decided to cope with it by never again being in a situation that she can't control.  As a child, she was royalty but her family lost everything, abandoning her in an orphanage.  She was rescued from the orphanage and trained as assassin.  She took the bold and dangerous step of leaving that life.  She's become one of the top Killjoys (bounty hunters) in the Quad (the local solar system), known for never failing to get her target.

It would have been very easy for the character to tip over into being a villain, uncaring and aloof.  She's had so much tragedy in her life that no one would be surprised if she'd developed an emotional callus over her soul.  But instead, she is still a deeply caring individual.  She cares about the people who are at the mercy of the mega Corporations and capricious aristocracy who own the quad.  She's fiercely protective of her partner, Johnny, and his brother, D'avin.  On more than one occasion, she faces death and torture to make certain they are safe.   And as an added measure of her retained humanity, those who have gotten to know her are loyal and protective of her as well.

Dutch might know a thousand different ways to drop a target, but it's her relationship with her partner, Johnny, that really impresses me.  He was a starship thief who made the mistake of trying to take off with her ship.  She could have killed him but instead chose to mentor him and make him her partner.  A techspert and self-proclaimed nerd, Johnny's skills gets Dutch into all kinds of places, from palaces to sewers.  She has the heart to go into any Hell because she trusts that Johnny will be able to get her out again.  Emotionally, they are tied tighter than any couple, but there's no attraction between them except that of chosen family.  They are siblings bound by love and shared history rather than DNA.

One of the other facets I find fascinating about Dutch is her constant questioning of herself and her motives.  She knows that she was raised abnormally and worries constantly about slipping into becoming a sociopath.  Her constant reality checks give her character a surprising maturity and insight.  It would have been very easy to make her into an anti-social loner, but instead she takes the harder road of staying as a part of society while still knowing she can never be entirely comfortable within it.

Hannah John-Kamen's portrayal of the character is beautifully nuanced, with tiny moments of hesitation and tensed lips saying just as much as the big gestures and grand speeches.    The character is a consummate actress, able to play any role from a regal aristocrat to a lost thief.  Even "Dutch" herself is something of a role: the confident, competent hunter and killer.  But it's the moments between roles, when we see the glimpses of loneliness and uncertainty that make her real and admirable.  She's not a superwoman, she's a woman who is facing overwhelming and frightening odds and is choosing to get the job done and help where she can, while trying hard not the let the scars of failure grow too thick.

The damaged heroine seeking redemption is a character that has long resonated with me but with Dutch, it's a slightly different twist.  She's not looking for redemption.  She doesn't seem to believe that redemption is possible for her.  Instead she's looking for something a little more tangible and in the moment: a chance at a few stolen moments of happiness in between the challenges of trying to make the world a little more right.  She isn't pushing the world away in an attempt to stand strong on her own.  She knows she's strong and knows that isolation would only make her unhappier and more dangerous.   She's open to love, even knowing that it opens her to hurt as well.   And that takes much more courage than any amount of kicking ass.

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

I hope you've enjoyed my take on Dutch and that you'll consider hanging around to check out some of the other fun things I've got going on in my website.

My first damaged and seeking redemption heroine, Dani, is a burlesque dancer who can bend steel with her bare hands and who needs to hold back the ancient monster hiding deep in her soul.  You can try the first novel in my paranormal romantic suspense series, Revelations, for only 99 cents US across all platforms.

Or you can take a look at last month's Heroine Fix when I looked at the ladies of Ready Player One and how the world of the Oasis gives the freedom to be whoever you want to be.

Or take a peek at last week's post about the one skill that every writer needs right now: patience.

Or check out my Hidden Diamond feature, where I share some of my fellow authors who write amazing strong female characters, fast-paced romantic suspense and reality-twisting paranormal romance and speculative fiction.

Or you can just visit my blog for weekly updates on my writing and my thoughts on all kinds of subjects.

Next month, I'll be looking at Evey from V for Vendetta.  Some heroines are determined to be great right from the first minute or page.  Others, like Evey, find themselves caught up in overwhelming situations and become stronger than they ever imagined they could be.  Join me on October 11th for your next Heroine Fix.