Monday, 17 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 9-15

Weekly word count: 4206

Monday and Tuesday were dedicated to being a parent instead of writing.  But I'm pleased with the progress made on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, especially considering that I have an hour less of writing time each day compared to my schedule during Nanowrimo.

I'm hoping that I can make some more good progress next week before the holidays hit.  Once the kids are home, the word counts are going to go down.  But on the plus side, I'm always itching to hit the keyboard by the time they head back to school.

I'm in a much better headspace than I was at this time last year, which I'm grateful for.  Even though there are still plenty of challenges and obstacles, I feel more ready to face them than I did in December of 2017.  

I'd really love to take another five or seven days dedicated to writing Division rather than having to split my attention between my day job, my family responsibilities, and my writing career.  But there are no plans for another writers' retreat and realistically, I need the income from my day job right now.  But it doesn't stop me from wishing and keeping my fingers crossed that 2019 might hold the change that will allow me to move to being a full time writer.

Thursday, 13 December 2018

Heroine Fix: Last Holiday with Georgia Byrd

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.


This month's Heroine Fix is actually more about me than my writing.  Last Holiday is my favourite holiday film and it's all because of Queen Latifah's portrayal of Georgia Byrd.  It's a great character film about a woman who is initially trapped in her life.  Every choice is decided by fear.  She loves to cook and dreams of opening a restaurant, but instead is sticking with her dead-end job selling cookware in a department store.  She has a crush on her co-worker, played by LL Cool J, but is scared to ask him out in case he doesn't feel the same way about her.  She cooks beautiful, delicious meals but doesn't eat them, instead taking pictures and putting them in her "Possibilities" book.  Her life is defined by waiting and hiding in the background, not living.

Then she learns that she has a fatal disease and only has weeks to live.  As expected, she makes some big changes but what I like about this film is that she doesn't immediately throw everything out overnight.  It takes her time to get used to the idea of only having a limited amount of time left and to get used to the idea of acting on what she wants instead of reacting from fear.  It becomes a beautiful unfolding of spirit and self-confidence.  When she decides to book the trip she's always wanted to take, she automatically books it coach and then only upgrades to first class partway through the flight.  The same with her hotel, at first she's booked in a standard room and then upgrades to the Presidental Suite.

I think part of what appeals is that the idea of a consequence-free life is tempting.  Telling off an obnoxious boss or spending thousands of dollars on a luxury vacation or eating a dozen different gourmet dishes in a single meal would be wonderful... if we didn't have deal with the results thereof.  Maybe it strikes a chord with me because I'm a cautious soul at heart and there have been a lot of times that I've told myself "no" on something I want because the consequences outweigh the pleasures of the moment.  But it's so tempting to forget the future and just enjoy the moment.



Some of what Georgia does is predictable.  She withdraws all of her savings, she buys a fancy new couture wardrobe, and she goes base jumping.  She enjoys fancy meals and spa treatments and blunt talk.  

But some of what she does is much more interesting.  She encourages her crappy boss's mistress to stand up to him and reclaim her own life.  She calls out a senator for ditching coming to her church and refuses to cut him any social slack, telling him that he disappointed the people who voted for him.  And she cooks with a celebrity chef, one of her idols, becoming his friend.



She's not selfishly dedicated to her own pleasure.  Even though she would have every right in the world to focus solely on herself, she shows her true heart by helping others to become better versions of themselves and break out of their own self-locked cages of fear.  The story emphasizes this with the counterpoint character, Miss Gunther, the bitter floor valet who snoops through Georgia's things in an effort to expose her.  Miss Gunther tries to make people smaller than they are while Georgia makes them more.

Another reason that I love this movie is the romantic plot.  LL Cool J's character, Sean, loves Georgia long before her transformation into her genuine self.  He's not attracted to her new bold self, he's the one who saw who she really was even when she didn't.  And I'll admit that it's pretty awesome to me to see a plus size romantic lead whose weight is never raised as an issue.  I decided to do the same for my most recent heroine, Martha, where I only mention her size a few times in the book and her hot hero finds her irresistible.

One part of the movie that always sticks with me is Georgia's speech to herself on New Year's Eve: "You have been very lucky.  Maybe we didn't get everything we want, but....  Next time, we'll do things different.  We will laugh more, we'll love more, we'll see the world.  We just won't be so afraid."  And "I wasted too much of my life being quiet."

I say it to myself when I need to remind myself that we aren't guaranteed a "next time" in life.  Refusing an opportunity to laugh and love out of fear isn't being cautious or prudent.  It's robbing ourselves of an opportunity to enjoy our lives.  

So when I'm faced with a situation where the little voice in my head is saying "But what if I look like an idiot?" then I remind myself of Georgia and that confidence is what separates the timid fools from the admired brave.  And that no one ever achieved their dreams by being quiet.  So whether it's dancing until my socks melt, or talking to a stranger or pitching my latest book, I channel my own inner Georgia and seize the day.

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


Part of seizing the day is sharing my own work with you.  The first book in my paranormal romantic suspense series, Revelations, is on sale for 99 cents US (1.27 Cdn) on all platforms.

Or you can check out some other posts, like last month's Heroine Fix: Kira Nerys from Deep Space Nine.  Or last week's post on how you can boost your word count.  Or visit my Hidden Diamond page to discover new authors who write paranormal romance, romantic suspense, and strong female characters.  November's feature is a sister ORWAn: Jenn Burke.


Next month, I'll be looking at a heroine who crosses the line between good and bad, playful and dangerous.  The woman who always steals the scene from her caped crusader co-stars: Selena Kyle, Catwoman.  I'll be talking about Batman Returns and The Dark Knight Rises, and maybe even the Halle Berry movie.  Join me on January 10th for your next Heroine Fix.



Monday, 10 December 2018

Weekly Update: December 2-8

Weekly word count: 4258

This week I worked on Third Eye Open and managed to get a first draft finished.  I still need to go through and make sure everything flows smoothly, and do a search and destroy on words that I overuse.  Then I can get it edited and get my cover and all of that.  

Next week, I'll go back to working on Division.  I'm excited to get it finished.

I'm feeling a little worn out with getting things organized for the family holidays but that isn't unexpected.  I've got a week or two to recuperate before the big family events.  I won't be getting much writing done once that happens.

I'm also going to have to accept that I'll probably have lower word counts for the next month or two because I'll be putting in extra hours at my day job.  But that's okay (or so I keep telling myself).  The words will come, even if it takes a little longer.

Thursday, 6 December 2018

Writing More: Not As Impossible As It Seems

Last weekend, ORWA's monthly workshop was a panel of prolific authors sharing their secrets.  Two of them, Eve Langlais and Mandy Rosko have over 300 published titles between them.  Of the other two, Lucy Farago has written 6 books in the last 3 years, and Carey Decevito has written 10 books in the last 5 years.


There was some good advice about how to increase your word counts, with the best piece of advice being to just get started writing.  Don't worry if it's crap.  Don't get hung up on the amount of time or the number of words.  Just sit your butt down in front of a keyboard and start writing.  Keeping doing that and the word totals will continue to rise and eventually, you'll have a book.  Whether plotter or pantser, New York Times Bestseller or new author, independing or traditionally published, we all have to go through the same process of actually sitting down to write.

Ask a dozen authors how to write more and you'll get dozens of different answers.  Sometimes the answers will work for you and sometimes they won't.  If a technique doesn't work, it can be discouraging but the truth is that writing is a skill and like any skill, not everyone learns that skill the same way.

So my first piece of advice is to be gentle with yourself.  There will always be someone who writes more or faster but the only person that you should be in competition with his your past self.  If you want to do more, then aim to do more than you did before.  And if you fail, remember that it is a setback, not a judgment.  And when you do succeed, take the time to appreciate your accomplishments.

The next piece of advice is to experiment.  Try different things, different locations and different times of day.  Try a strict daily writing schedule or writing blitzes.  Keep track of what you write and it may surprise you to find what's most effective.  I've always been a night person but I was surprised to discover that I write best in the late morning and early afternoon.  I do best with writing for an hour or two, then a half hour to an hour break, and then back into it.  I can push myself to write daily but I do better long term if I give myself the weekends off (or at least, the weekend writing different projects).

And the last piece of advice is to remember that writing is a creative skill, and all creativity can be affected by what's going on in your life.  If you're stressed, sick, or overwhelmed, it will change what works for you.  Just because a technique worked in the past doesn't mean it will always work in the future, so you will always be adjusting.  Which circles back to my first point, be gentle with yourself.  

And get yourself in front of a keyboard and write.


Previous post: Hidden Diamond: Paranormal Romance author Jenn Burke and End of Year Lists and her series, The Gryphon King.

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Monday, 3 December 2018

Weekly Update: November 25 to December 1

Weekly word count: 3770

This week I got hit hard by life.  Several big personal things happened.  I'm okay and my family is okay.  We've been dealing with a difficult situation for the last few months and while we've tried to be cooperative and helpful, the other side has not and now we're going to have to stop being nice and start protecting ourselves and engaging professional help.  It's discouraging, but I am stubborn and the people opposing us have severely misunderstood my level of resolve.

I also spent some time helping a friend with her Victim Impact Statement.  Her partner was killed in a hit and run and going over the impact on herself and her children was heart-wrenching.  I'm pleased with the statement, which lays bare the damage that has been done to her family, hopefully in a way that will bring some justice and closure.

Next week, I"m going to concentrate on finishing up Third Eye Open so that it can go for editing and then I can release all three short stories in their final form both individually and as a group.

I've been talking to the folks at Soul Mate Publishing about changing the title of Deadly Potential and it's been a little intimidating to watch the latest scandal over similar titles unfold.  The title I'd like to use is being used by other authors but our books are all very different.  

I'm hoping that next week goes better and maybe life will surprise me by being better than I'm expecting.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Hidden Diamond: Jenn Burke's Gryphon King and Year End Lists

There are lots of authors and books out there, enough that it can be difficult for readers to find the stories they want to read.  So each month I'm sharing the gems hidden among the chaos with my Hidden Diamond authors.  If you want to know more, please connect with me and you won't miss the diamond you've been searching for.

This month's Hidden Diamond is a fellow ORWAn with a big heart and an impressive insight into her characters.  Jenn Burke is a fellow geek and the co-author of the critically acclaimed Chaos Station science fiction romance series (along with Kelly Jensen) and today she's sharing her new book, The Gryphon King's Consort from Dreamspinner press, along with her thoughts on all the year end lists (and why authors shouldn't get too invested in them) and her answers to our author questionnaire.


The Gryphon King’s Consort is a paranormal tale set in contemporary Canada, where a kingdom of mythological creatures exists side-by-side with humans. After the death of the Gryphon King, Crown Prince Luca must rush his marriage to Eirian, a gryphon he’s never met, to stabilize and reassure the kingdom. But Eirian has more modern views than traditional Luca, and learning how to live and work together won’t be easy…particularly not when it seems there are forces determined to keep them apart.

The Fine Art of Ignoring End-of-Year Lists


Thanks so much to Jenn for hosting me today. It’s an honour to be featured on your Hidden Diamonds blog series!

As we approach the end of the year, it’s a great time to reflect on the books we really enjoyed in 2018. So many “best of” lists will start to pop up in the next few weeks. As a reader, it’s fantastic, because I’ve found some gems through these lists to add to my ever-growing to-be-read pile.

As an author—particularly if I’ve had a book out that year—the “best of” lists can be really discouraging…because my books rarely appear on them. So, if you’re an author in the same boat as me, here are some things to repeat to yourself every time a new list comes out.

1.      It’s not you (or your book).

Romance readers and bloggers have an embarrassment of riches when it comes to books released in any given year. It’s tough for one title to compete against books and authors that have bigger marketing budgets. There’s an arcane mix of luck, marketing and right-place-right-time that needs to happen to get books noticed.

2.      Time of year matters.

A book that comes out in December is probably not going to make any lists that year…and it’ll be skipped over for the next year too. Same goes for books published early in the year. By the time the “best of” lists come out, it may very well be forgotten.

3.      Subgenre and pairing matter.

Romantic suspense has the biggest audience in romance (half of romance readers, according to the Romance Writers of America). If you’re writing in any other subgenre, your audience is going to be smaller. And if you’re writing any pairing other than female/male, it’s going to be smaller still. But really…you’re not writing to appear on these lists, right? So write what you want to write, what you enjoy writing, and focus on the story you want to tell.

4.      It’s great validation but…

…unless it’s a HUGE blog or list, it’s probably not going to make a difference in your sales. And in commercial fiction, that’s what really matters.

5.      It’s so subjective.

This is the biggest lesson new authors need to learn. Every reader brings their own perspective to their reading. One reader may hate your book, another may love it…and their reasons for each reaction are completely valid, because there’s no right or wrong way to interpret a book. Same goes for picking books to add to “best of” lists.

6.      Keep writing.

So at the end of the day, the only think you can keep doing is write. Write your next book, then write another, and another, and try not to pay attention to those end-of-year “best of” lists…unless you’re looking for new reading material.

- Jenn Burke


An Author Interview With Jenn Burke

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


Maybe not crazy, but definitely exhausting: I climbed down (and then up!) the steps behind Parliament Hill that lead to a path by the river. This was for my first book, Her Sexy Sentinel. In it, there’s a hidden cave in the hill under the Parliament buildings, so I wanted to see if that location would actually work. Climbing back up those stairs was not easy!

What is your writing process?

I used to be a pantser, but now that I’m writing for publication, I plot out my books. I have to know where I’m going, particularly if I’m writing a book that I’m already contracted for.

What is your favourite thing to do to relax?

Read. I’m a voracious reader.

What is your favourite fictional crush?

I love Sam Kage from Mary Calmes’s A Matter of Time series. He grows so much over the course of the series.

In the spirit of the great Joss Whedon debate: who would win: cavemen or astronauts?

Astronauts!

Thanks, Jenn, for being one of my hidden diamonds and if you'd like your very own copy of one of Jenn's books, you can find them at the following links.








Come back on December 28th for my next Hidden Diamond!
Or check out last month's Hidden Diamond: Rosanna Leo!


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


Monday, 26 November 2018

Weekly Update: November 18-24

Weekly word count: 9206

Another good week of writing progress on Division.  And I started talking with my editor at Soul Mate Publishing about Deadly Potential and when that book will be available and it looks like it might be sooner than I anticipated (no formal dates yet but I will be keeping everyone posted).

I will not be making my goal of 45 000 words for Nanowrimo by December 1st, but I still feel I've made very good progress on Division.  Things will be slowing down a little in December.  I will be taking some time to finish off the third Spirit Sight short story and I know better than to assume I'll be able to make much progress once the kids are out of school, but things are still going much better than I expected and I'm grateful for that.

I'm looking forward to moderating the Prolific Authors Share Their Secrets panel for ORWA's next workshop on December 2nd.  There should be some really good tips for increasing word count and managing multiple projects.

All in all (and if I dare say so without jinxing myself), 2018 is ending on a professional good note.

Thursday, 22 November 2018

Getting the Tension Out of Your Head and Onto The Page

I was watching Batman v Superman recently (and there are going to be some spoilers in here if anyone cares about that).  There are some great moments in that movie but the whole thing suffers from a challenge that I've seen in a number of stories: not setting up the conflict properly so that the audience cares about the tension.


Why can't I just pour the words directly out of my brain?
It's actually pretty easy to understand how this happens.  Most writers work backwards from the central conflict.  I almost always start with what will become the most intense moment in my stories and then take the time to figure out how the characters will get there and how to make the reader care about that moment the same way I do.  The second part is actually the hardest.  It's fairly easy to come up with a map of scene A will lead to decision B that will lead to my Big Moment.  But in order for the reader to care about the Big Moment, I need to make sure they connect with the characters, can identify with the conflict and becomes emotionally invested in the characters' choices.

In Batman v Superman, the reason for Batman deciding to fight Superman and vice versa is actually fairly weak.  Superman doesn't like Batman's vigilante justice model and Batman fears Superman going rogue.  Nothing about those reasons explains why they choose this particular moment to battle it out.  Even adding in extra pressure with Lex Luthor kidnapping Superman's mom and demanding that Batman be killed doesn't really add tension or seem realistic (since we've seen Superman effortlessly save the people he cares about any number of times previously).  

If I were to rewrite that story, I would want to play up Lex Luthor's role in manipulating both Superman and Batman.  Feed Batman some false news stories about Superman abusing his powers.  Give Superman information that Batman has targeted innocents.  Spend actual time exploring the real fears that Superman has no checks on his power, but give Batman a reason to believe that there is imminent danger, maybe by having Superman make comments that he is tired of rescuing people constantly and has thought about taking charge.  Have Superman fear that Batman is becoming more violent and reckless as he gets older.  Or show that the two of them have an existing relationship and have already been in conflict over the best approach to fighting crime and protecting civilians.  

If the audience knew that both of them were being manipulated, that would increase the tension as we wonder if they will discover the truth in time to prevent catastrophe.  If we knew they had a pre-existing relationship, we could enjoy petty bickering which would draw us into a deeper emotional connection.  There could have been an escalating series of arguments which end with the protagonists on opposite sides.

So how can an author make sure that the tension in their head is actually going onto the page so that the reader can be caught up in it?

1) Make sure your readers connect with your characters.

This is different from making your characters likable.  Audiences connect with unlikable characters all the time (though it is harder and requires more sophisticated techniques).  There needs to be something unique about your character, something that transforms them from a flat stereotype or caricature into someone that feels real to the reader.  The audience needs to care about this particular character making it through the plot.

There are a couple of techniques that can help an author create connectable characters:

* Give the character an idiosyncrasy.  
* Take the time to get deep into their point of view and show them reacting emotionally to the plot events.  
* Explore their backstory to show how they reached this particular point.
* Make the character an underdog or struggling against a greater challenge or in some kind of physical danger.
* Make the character exceptionally skilled at what they do or give them a strong sense of humour.
* Show the little everyday human moments for your characters.

2) Show your readers the main conflict in a way they can identify with

Most of us will never have to save the world.  But everyone has had to make a difficult decision about whether or not to draw a line in the sand when someone was pushing our boundaries.  The challenges the characters are facing might not be something that a reader has ever experienced or they might be everyday struggles.  But even the most esoteric conflict can be broken down into something familiar.

The key to identifying with a conflict is to find the universal element, for example:

* fear of disappointing someone we love or admire
* choosing between our comfort zone and our dreams
* wanting to be accepted by our peers/family
* feeling rejected, abandoned or hurt
* fear of failure

3) Get your readers emotionally invested in your character's choices

Even if a reader loves a character, it's hard to care about mundane, every day decisions that don't affect the greater plot: like choosing what to have for dinner or what to wear.  In order for tension to matter, it needs to be about something significant and the reader needs to understand that it's significant.  For example, deciding what to wear could be a significant decision if the character is an ambassador and the choice could insult their hosts.

An author needs to find ways to explain without bogging the story down in an info-dump:

* tell a story within the story (anecdotes, a news story, a flashback) that explains the stakes
* use the character's emotional reactions to show that a decision is significant
* establish the consequences of the big conflict early on in the story as part of the initial world-building

Sometimes authors get caught up in making sure the plot flows quickly, but taking a scene or two to make sure that your readers are caught up in the building tension is always worth the time.

Previous post: Love Notes, The Many Variations of the Love Song

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Or see how well I follow my own advice in my own stories about a secret society of superheroes living among us.

Monday, 19 November 2018

Weekly Update: November 11 to 17

Weekly word count: 7 458

And I'm going to take a moment because I realized I have written over 60 000 words in the last eight weeks.  Granted a big chunk of that was at the writers' retreat in October but regardless, it's still an awesome accomplishment and I'm feeling pretty good about it.

It was a quieter week progress wise for me.  I spent some time on a minor rewrite this week but still managed to get two solid chapters done.  

I keep waiting for the moment when I realize I have to rewrite a bunch of it, because I've done that with every previous manuscript, but so far, I'm really liking where I've gone with this story. 

Fingers crossed I can keep up the progress.  Taking the weekends off has been working well.  Friday ended up being a really difficult day for me and because I haven't been writing on the weekend, I could take time on Saturday and catch up instead of beating myself up for falling behind.


Thursday, 15 November 2018

Love Notes: The Many Variations of the Love Song


Sometimes it seems like every song on the radio is about love.  Love found, love lost, love remembered, love treasured, love sought and love broken.  It seems to be the part of the human experience that most drives us to create art, expressing the nuanced emotions that can feel incredibly difficult to put into words.  Love makes us happy and it makes us sad and nothing seems to quite express that like adding some chords and rhymes.

It’s even a common shortcut in television and movies.  Want to show that a character is falling in love?  Have them dance and sing. 

(Despicable Me 2: Gru dancing to Pharrell's "Happy")
Want to show that their heart has been broken?  Singing sad love songs alone in their home is a pretty good indication.

(Bridget Jones' Diary: Bridget singing Celine Dion's "All By Myself")
Personally, I almost always have a soundtrack going.  Sometimes internal, sometimes external.  It's one of the reasons why I have specific playlists that help me get into the mood of a scene for writing.  The right music helps me to connect to the emotions I need for my characters.  It's also the reason why I tweet out some inspirational lyrics every Tuesday, because I know I'm not alone in how music makes me feel.

In the movie Music and Lyrics, Hugh Grant has a surprisingly insightful rebuttal to the common dismissal of pop songs: "nothing will make you feel as good as fast as 'I got sunshine on a cloudy day/When it's cold outside, I got the month of May'."  Music links to our memories and emotions in a similar way to smell.  It's not just the melody or the lyrics, it's the memories of being happy or heartbroken that come up with every repetition.  With only a few notes, we can find ourselves immersed in an emotional flashback.


There are love songs for every phase of a relationship or crush, from Toni Braxton's "Unbreak My Heart" to Justin Timberlake's "Can't Stop The Feeling".  There's songs for longing, from ABBA's "Knowing Me, Knowing You" which is about missed opportunities and regrets of what might have been to The Goo Goo Dolls' "Iris" which is about wanting to be with a particular person so much that the singer is willing to give up everything.  There are songs about attraction (Glass Tiger's "Hungry Eyes" and Lady Gaga's "Poker Face") and songs about recovering from heartbreak (Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On").  (And that's just a small sampling from my music library.)

When I'm feeling stuck on a plot point, I'll listen to random songs and try them out against my storylines.  Maybe my heroine is recovering after being hurt by an ex-boyfriend.  Is she going to be defiant (Pat Benatar's "Hit Me With Your Best Shot") or wistful (Roxette's "It Must Have Been Love") or optimistic (Phil Collins "You Can't Hurry Love")?  

Writing to music isn't for everyone, but music is an important part of our lives and that's what makes it easy to connect to.  There have been a number of theories that suggest that music, like math, is a universal language that transcends barriers and different cultures, which is why samples of music were included in the Voyager space probe.  It can feel incredibly intimate, like when someone thinks of their partner every time a particular song comes on.  But no matter what a person is experiencing, odds are that someone, somewhere has written a love song about that experience.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to spend some time browsing on iTunes.

Previous post: Heroine Fix: Kira Nerys of Deep Space Nine

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Or have a look at the stories that all of these love songs have inspired.

Monday, 12 November 2018

Weekly Update: Nov 4 to 10

Weekly word count: 8 797

Want to hear something funny about how my brain works?  For most of the week, I was actually feeling kind of discouraged about my writing because I'm well below the little line on the graph that tells you when you're making your targets to reach the NaNoWriMo goal.


It doesn't seem to matter that I knew in advance that I wasn't aiming to do 50 000 words.  It doesn't seem to matter that I knew in advance that my goal was to be sustainable, which meant not writing on weekends.  It doesn't even matter that it's still darn good progress.   It's not at the line, and therefore, I couldn't possibly be "doing well."


But you know what, I am doing well.  I have succeeded in exceeding my goal average of 1500 words each weekday.  I wrote nearly nine thousand words last week, which is great.  And more importantly, I'm not exhausted and I still have time on the weekends to do things like plan my social media posts and write my blog entries and remind my children what I look like when my nose isn't stuck in a computer.  By every standard of measurement that I care about, I am succeeding.  Just not according to an arbitrary line on a graph.

I still think NaNoWriMo works for me.  Wanting to meet the arbitrary daily goals has helped to push my butt into the chair and my fingers onto the keyboard far earlier in the day than I would usually manage.  But I have to remember to keep my eye on the greater picture when I'm deciding whether or not I've succeeded.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Heroine Fix: Kira Nerys

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.

One of the great pleasures of parenting is getting to introduce your kids to the things that you enjoyed as a child.  (Though sometimes it's painful when your favourites haven't aged well.)  Over the last few years, I've been going through Star Trek: Deep Space Nine with my son and one of the things I've greatly enjoyed about reconnecting with the series is Nana Visitor's portrayal of Major Kira Nerys, a former freedom fighter who was part of the fight to drive the Cardassian occupiers off of the planet Bajor and who is now part of the official Bajoran government, trying to get used to diplomatic solutions rather than violent ones.


One of the challenges with early science fiction television is that the female characters often had very limited roles, as was parodied in Galaxy Quest where Sigourney Weaver's character merely repeated the computer.  Kira was unusual in that she wasn't presented as serene and patient, or sensual and seductive, or cool and competent.  She gets frustrated, loudly and frequently, expressing her irritation with politics and the stupidity of other people.  It's a refreshing role model, especially since the other characters accept her anger and don't diminish her as a person or as an effective leader.

Another part of the character that I found intriguing was her spirituality.  Religious and spiritual rituals don't have a big part of the Star Trek universe.  It's most often used as a plot point for a reveal that time travel or alternate dimensions or alien beings have been the source of some religious belief.  And in this case, Kira follows the teachings of the Prohpets, alien beings who exist beyond linear time in a wormhole.  But knowing that her gods have a physical form doesn't undo Kira's belief in their teachings or in the role they play in her culture and life.  She's not apologetic about her beliefs but she also doesn't push them on other people.  It was one of the few positive examples of spirituality in pop culture that I recall from my early years.


I also liked the fact that Kira had fought for her freedom.  These days, her stories about the Cardassian occupation strike a little closer to home.  She did something that I don't think many people would have the courage to do: work with the man personally responsible for many of the atrocities that occurred in her lifetime, Gul Dukat.  She doesn't ignore his actions.  Indeed, she throws them in his face at every opportunity, forcing him to acknowledge what he's done.  But she still does what is necessary, even when it puts her in an awkward situation.

She also doesn't shy away from acknowledging that she also did terrible things in pursuit of her planet's freedom: bombs, assassinations, and sabotage.  In season one, Kira is very quick to judge others.  She expresses her anger at collaborators, at the damage the Cardassians have done to the planet, and the need to work with the Federation.  As the series progresses, she learns that the situation isn't always as simple as it appears on the surface.  In the season 6 episode Wrongs Darker Than Death or Night, Kira travels back in time and discovers that her mother became one of the Cardassian comfort women.  At first, she assumes her mother must have been horribly forced and tries to protect her.  Then she discovers that her mother has accepted the role and Kira ruthlessly condemns her as a collaborator, selling out Bajor in exchange for her own full belly, helping a resistance cell to plant a bomb in her mother's quarters.  At the last minute, she discovers the real reason why her mother is choosing to stay as a comfort woman: her family.  By providing sexual favors, Kira's mother is able to give her children and husband a place with adequate food and away from the capricious whims of the Cardassians.  She may be a collaborator, but she's also a provider and a mother who cares desperately about her family.


That's the most valuable lesson that I took away from Major Kira.  That even when someone is quick-thinking and quick-acting, they can still be open to discovering the rest of the story.  That passion and compassion don't have to be opposite sides of the coin.  And that there is always room for a strong woman who isn't shy about expressing her opinions.

(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 own impetuous and opinionated heroines, start with Revelations, now available for just 99 cents US (1.27 Cdn) on all platforms.

Or you can check out some other posts, like last month's Heroine Fix on Evey from V for VendettaOr last week's post on why The Crow is one of my favourite dark romances.  Or visit my Hidden Diamond page to discover new authors who write paranormal romance, romantic suspense and strong female characters.  October's feature is fellow Canadian Rosanna Leo.

Next month, I've decided to do my first holiday-themed Heroine Fix: Georgia Byrd from Last Holiday, played by Queen Latifah.  It's a story about how sometimes fear can hold us back and sometimes it can push us forward.  It's about seizing the day and how even those heroines who are larger than life can get a happily ever after.  Join me on December 13th for your next Heroine Fix.


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Sunday, 4 November 2018

Weekly Update: October 28 to November 3

Weekly word count: 5 143

First week back from vacation, not as productive as I would have hoped but there were a lot of things that needed to be taken care of.  It was still respectable though.

I'm settling into Nanowrimo.  Since I'm not writing on the weekends, I have 22 days to write 45 000 words, which means a daily target of 2 045 words per day.  But I have to be honest, my real goal is to make sure that I am sitting down to my computer every weekday at 1 pm, rather than letting other responsibilities eat away at that time.  If I can be at the keyboard for 1, I will have two and a half hours every weekday to write.

For the first two days, I didn't do it.  On November 1st, I had a meeting which was rescheduled from October 31st and I didn't get any writing time in the afternoon.  I did spend some time writing after my kids got home from school but I was distracted and interrupted, so it wasn't terribly productive.  But it was five hundred words further than I would have been if I hadn't made the effort, so that counts.

November 2nd was better.  I got to my keyboard by 1:20 and did 1932 words by the time I needed to finish.  


The ORWA meeting this weekend was fantastic.  We had a private investigator in and he shared all kinds of useful information on what private investigators and security are actually allowed to do (versus what movies tell us they do) and some very interesting stories about his time working as private security for a hotel and doing skip-traces to find people trying to run out on their debts.

Thursday, 1 November 2018

The Dark Love Story: Why The Crow Is A Perfect Romance

Last week, I watched The Crow, which is one of my all-time favourite movies.  It's full of tragedy, romance, and quotable lines.  Since it is Hallowe'en, I thought I'd take a moment to examine why it works as a romance even though the primary couple is murdered in the first few minutes.  (This is gonna have spoilers and if you haven't seen the movie then I highly recommend pausing and having a watch because it is just that beautiful.  Trigger warnings for rape and violence.)

Eric Draven and Shelley Webster are a couple in love, planning their wedding when four men break into their apartment and kill them both.  A year later, a crow brings Eric back from the land of the dead and he hunts down the men who hurt and killed Shelley.  And not just those directly involved, but the pawn shop owner who accepts stolen goods, knowing that his clients have hurt or killed their original owners, and the organized crime kingpin who ordered Eric and Shelley's apartment block cleared and holds the city hostage through violence and arson.  When they are all dead, Eric returns to his grave where Shelley is waiting for him and they fade into the afterlife together.

While I realize the "kill the girl to motivate the hero" trope is problematic, this particular example has always swept right past my conscious mind to hit me right in the feels.  Eric isn't looking for anyone else.  He is utterly devoted to Shelley and comes back because he can't rest due to the injustice of what's happened to them.  It is never directly said, but it is implied that if the city had been less corrupt, and those who attacked him and Shelley had been held accountable, he wouldn't have needed to return to life.  The original comic was written by James O'Barr after his wife and young daughter were killed in a random shooting.  O'Barr was also injured and spent a long time physically recovering from his injuries.  He's said it was like coming back from the dead and The Crow grew out of a need to give himself closure.  For me, that's enough to make the difference.  The story is coming out of a place of authentic pain rather than a quick plot twist to provide motivation.



The story is, on the surface, a story of revenge and justice.  Eric heals instantly from his injuries, can wield martial arts and weapons with a superhero's ease, and is fearless in the face of those who have used terror as a weapon.  But it isn't a "fists solve all problems" story.  Eric absorbs memories from objects and people.  He takes the memory of 30 hours of Shelley's pain as she struggled to survive in the hospital from the cop who stayed at her side and transfers them to the crimelord, allowing him to truly experience the suffering of his victims.  Eric's abilities were the inspiration for my own first hero, Michael, because I've always thought the power to experience things through others' eyes would be one of the most incredible superpowers.  

There are plenty of people who enjoy the movie for its action (and I am one of them) but there's also a deeper story, an urging to take the time to connect with our loved ones and enjoy the moments we have with them.  Eric says "Little things used to mean so much to Shelley, and I always thought they were kind of trivial....  Believe me, nothing is trivial."  His love for her is the defining element of his character and shown beautifully in the cinematography choices.  The current day scenes are almost black and white in their starkness, while the flashbacks that tell the story of Eric and Shelley's love are soft and warm and full of colour.  Those are the most important parts, not the necessity of doing what needs to be done.



To qualify as a romance, a story needs to focus on the relationship between the hero and heroine and have a happily ever after.  Although The Crow is dark and deals with tragedy of the most devastating kind, the visual and emotional emphasis on the flashbacks are why it has continued to endure when other stories of revenge-action have faded from the collective memory.  And although Eric and Shelley are both dead, they do end up together and happy, presumably to exist in peace beyond the reach of the pain of the mortal world.  So I am happy to shelve it as a dark romance.

There was talk a few years ago about possibly doing a remake.  I don't think there's a way to reasonably improve the original but I've always felt there was potential for other stories of other lost souls returning on dark feathered wings to make right what once went wrong.  (And yes, I was a fan of the short-lived TV series.)   If someone was going to remake The Crow, I would hope they would do it as an extension of the mythology.  I'd love to see a story about a mother or wife returning to wreak the same kind of vengeance on those who hurt her family.  But in the meantime, when I feel like the world has lost its hope and that justice seems to be more of a punchline than a goal, I remember the story of Eric and Shelley and remind myself that no matter how dark the clouds are in the moment, it can't rain all the time.  And I hold the final words of the movie close: Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever.

If you'd like to check out Michael and Dani's story, Revelations, the first book of the Lalassu series is currently on sale for less than the price of a cup of coffee.  Michael uses his ability to sense emotions and memories through touch to work with developmentally challenged children and when one of them is kidnapped, he plunges into a world of secret superpowers that he never knew existed.

Or you can have a look at last week's blogpost: October's Hidden Diamond: Rosanna Leo and the Vegas Sins series.

Or just take a look at the blog homepage.