Monday, 31 July 2017

Weekly Update: Double Week Edition (July 16th to 29th)

Combined weekly word count: 4200

In the last two weeks, I learned a few invaluable lessons:

1) Make sure your backups are working properly and recording all of the <insert profanity> information that you wanted them to actually back up.

2) My child (and probably most other children) can strip the protective covering off of a power adaptor cord in less than 30 seconds.

3) That protective covering is important because without it, the <insert more profanity> little wires break and then your power adaptor doesn't work and the laptop dies.

My laptop which held all of my information for my blog and website, as well as my WIP and reference notes, became a piece of abstract art early on July 17th, sparking true panic.  I immediately went out and bought a universal charger that turned out to be not so universal.  Its plugs would not match the holes, no matter how much I threatened and cursed and cried.  (Lesson 4: technology is surprisingly resistant to emotional blackmail.)

Okay, plan B.  Switch to my old laptop and use the backup information, while ordering the exact cord I need from eBay.  Discovered the eBay cord could arrive any time between the next week and two months from now.  Cried a little more.  Got my old laptop out and started to access the backups.  Discovered most of what I needed was there, but not all.  Cried a lot more.  There was swearing and possibly some kicking of things which were not impressed by my tantrum.  Least of all my toes, which hurt.

Then it was time to pull up my big girl panties, acknowledge that I did not prepare or handle this as well as I could have and try to get some work done.  I wrote 2000 words last Friday, the first time I had a decent writing day in a long time.  

The next two weeks are the annual company shut down for my day job.  It's two weeks where I can actually live as a full time writer.  Part of my panic was knowing that these two weeks can make or break my writing productiveness.  Last year, I wrote 40 000 words, which is between a third and a half of my novels.  If I was stuck without being able to move forward, then my ability to have a book ready for next year would have been in serious jeopardy.

But I've pulled things together and if it's not ideal, that's how life is sometimes.  The mark of success is not making it work when things are easy.  It's making it work when the universe seems to be against you and climbing over all those obstacles to prove how much you want your dream.

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Gastro Bugs and Travel Exhaustion

First off, apologies to everyone for missing Monday's post and being late with this one.  For the record, my weekly word count was zero for last week.  I plead exhaustion from taking care of two kids, a husband and a dog while enjoying our time in Alberta.  

Then, when we got back, we got hit with a nasty gastro bug that took out our whole family at once.  (Usually viruses are courteous enough to hit us one at a time so that there's always someone healthy to deal with stuff.)  

It's taken me awhile to get my feet back under me, but I was able to get some writing time yesterday, which makes me feel better.  Soon my kids will be off to their grandparents' cottage and then I can try some real writing binges.  But I probably won't be as productive as last year, since I'm still finding I don't have the endurance that I did before my surgery in March.

I had a wonderful time out in Calgary, particularly with meeting a new family member who also turned out to be a fan of my writing!  We have a lot in common and I could have spent days visiting with her.  Always great to find another sister-in-spirit.

I'm looking forward to Romancing the Capital in a few weeks.  And hopefully, I can get myself back on track.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Heroine Fix: Alice: Out of the LIbrary and Into the Fray

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

For those who haven't found it, The Magicians is an urban fantasy television series where magic is real and practiced in secret by both magical families and the occasional surprised "normal" person.  There is also an alternate dimension world, called Fillory, full of magical creatures and gods.  However, this isn't a cheerful blend of Harry Potter and the Narnia books.  The series is aimed at the adult crowd and tackles some very dark topics.

Alice is one of the main characters in the series.  She comes from a magical family and is the top student in Brakebills, the school for magical studies.  At first, I thought she was essentially a Hermione knock-off and I wasn't paying much attention to her, but I quickly realized there was more to her than being a plot device whenever the characters needed to do something magically difficult.

Alice's appearance is tied in to her backstory, rather than being a shorthand for her personality.  She dresses in a very preppy, covered up way but isn't a strait-laced or prudish person.  Instead, she dresses in that way because her parents are self-absorbed hedonists who have open orgies and multiple partners.  Her clothes are a way of distancing herself from her parents but are somewhat of an ill-fitting mask.  They are armor rather than an expression of herself.  

Alice's magical skills are particularly impressive.  She is easily one of the most skilled magicians in her lifetime.  Unlike many skilled heroines, her abilities aren't used mostly for research and behind the scenes support.  Alice is on the front lines.  One of my favourite moments in the series comes from the end of the first season.  Quentin, who is the ostensible hero of the series, has the opportunity to boost his magic so that he can defeat the Beast.  As he's about to quaff the potion, he pauses and hands it to Alice, telling her that she is the more talented and has a better chance.  He says that he might want to see himself as the hero of this story, but she is the real hero.  I wanted to stand up and applaud.  So often, it doesn't matter how skilled the female characters are, they take second place to the males.  They fight sidekicks, not the Big Bad.  Alice went up against the Big Bad himself and ultimately took him down.

Alice is also a bit of a rebel and very loyal, two qualities that I always like in my characters.  She enters Brakebills with a secret mission.  Her older brother, Charlie, and most of his class, disappeared.  She's determined to find out what happened to him and uses her abilities and magic in direct defiance of the teachers.  When told that it is impossible to help her brother because he's been consumed by the magic and turned into a Niffen, Alice refuses to believe it, putting her impressive mind and skills into finding a way to help him.  She puts herself on the line, ready to sacrifice herself if it means that her brother has a chance.  She does the same thing when fighting the Beast, defying all presumptions of what should happen.

I chose Alice for this month's Heroine Fix because she's a reminder of how characters can defy audience expectations and grow beyond them.  It's easy for an author to get caught up in the short hand of character development: want to show someone is a good person, give them a pet, want to show they're authoritarian, have them wear a suit and be in an office, etc.  Alice appears to fit in the good-girl, smart-girl, follows-the-rules stereotypes, but in the end, those are only disguises, done for a reason which is explored in the story.  It makes her more real than those characters which rely on the stereotypes.

It reminds me that every aspect of a character should have a reason, not just a plot function.  And Alice shows the world that not every brainy girl was meant for the library.

Are you addicted to strong and intriguing heroines?  Sign up here and you'll never miss a Heroine Fix.

Next month, I look at Kitty from Gini Koch's Alien series.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Weekly Update: July 2 to 8

Weekly word count: 2800

I was really hoping to do better this week, and I had these grand plans to bang out some pages while travelling, but once again, the reality of travelling with my family meant I was crazy to believe that.

I love my boys and my husband but I have to remember that they don't travel well.  They are all homebodies at heart and get very unsettled when pulled out of their normal routine and environment.  I'm a more adventurous soul and keep hoping that my love of travel will rub off on them and transform them from reluctant travelers into eager explorers.  

Hasn't happened yet.  Don't get me wrong, they do seem to enjoy some parts of the experience but it takes a lot of work on my part to achieve that.

Still, I keep hoping.

As I type, we're in Alberta, enjoying the sunshine and mountain air of Calgary and Banff.  I'm a firm believer that every Canadian should experience the Calgary Stampede at least once in their lifetime.  I have fond memories of it from when I was a child and we have family in the area, so it's been on my wishlist for quite awhile.

Hopefully I'll still get some good writing time in.  Or maybe I'm still just crazy.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

My Thoughts on the Ottawa Police and Our Pride Parade

Normally, I don't get into politics on this blog but this is something that has been bothering me and so I wanted to share my thoughts.

Ottawa has been preparing for this year's Gay Pride Parade in August.  The organizers had asked any off-duty police who wish to march in the parade to please do so out of uniform, as many younger members of the LGBTQ+ community have negative associations with the uniform.  Particularly members of colour and other minority groups.

This raised a flurry of opinions.  There were many police officers who felt conflicted about being asked to deny a part of themselves, as they are proud to be both supporters and/or members of the LGBTQ+ community and police officers.  A few days after this request, the Chief of Police made a public statement that he intended to wear his uniform and would leave it up to the discretion of individual officers as to whether or not they intended to follow suit.

That raised a blizzard of opinions.  Some people felt the original request was divisive and disrespectful of the police and the work they do.  Some people felt the Chief's response was disrespectful and exemplified why members of the LGBTQ+ community didn't feel safe around police.  There were accusations of being insensitive, of privilege, of fear-mongering, of catering to stereotypes.  It's been a very polarizing issue.

I find myself torn.  On the one hand, I can understand being proud of one's job and particularly with the police, seeing this as an opportunity to show support and change the stereotype of the unfriendly and insensitive cop.  But, in the end, I feel that the community's request should be honoured.  If they say they're not ready for that step, then that should be respected.  I can understand how the request would hurt and make some officers feel as if they have to choose between their identity as a cop and their identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community and allies.  

But does it have to be an all or nothing proposal?  The police uniform is a symbol and while it is intended as a symbol of protection, in reality it can also be a symbol of oppression.  And, to be clear, this is separate from the actual person inside the uniform, who can have all the good intentions and empathy in the world.  So how can the gap be bridged?  How can police officers send the message that they are part of the solution without having to deny themselves?

This may be simplistic, but what about an official Ottawa Police Department t-shirt for the event?  Officers could wear the usual Ottawa Police Department shirt or if the department really wanted to show support, they could make a special shirt: Police and Proud.  It would allow them to identify themselves and build bridges without having to bring in the symbol of the uniform.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Weekly Update: June 25 to July 1

Weekly word count: 3900

I always seem to get more productive the closer we get to a deadline.  September, October, I have a hard time getting myself in gear.  Last two weeks of June, banging it out.  :)

This weekend was Canada's 150th anniversary and it was an incredible celebration here.  Huge open air concerts all over the city, covering just about every musical genre.  Spectacular fireworks displays blooming in the darkness.  And red and white everywhere that we looked.

I'm proud to be a Canadian.  I like our country's blend of protection (health care, gun laws, social security) and encouragement (social mobility, individualism, the luxury of following our dreams rather than worrying about putting food on the table).  I'm proud of our ability to accept and include new cultures and traditions.  Even if we don't always get it right, the majority of Canadians are supportive of helping others make their own choices.

I've heard Canada described as the ultimate efficient society.  We are big believers in getting things done and nothing raises our ire like accusations of waste.  And that includes wasted potential where someone isn't given an opportunity because of race, gender, religion or any other criteria that wouldn't impact their ability to do the job.  We don't have a lot of patience with people who waste our time by jabbering on about things they don't actually know about.  We don't want to waste our precious time and resources policing things which are chosen freely between consenting individuals.

We're not perfect.  No question of it.  We have those who try to stir the pot of hate and prejudice.  We have people who react out of fear.  We've done some horrible things in our past and need to do some serious work to make it right.  

But I believe that we want to make it right.  We want everyone to have the chance to enjoy life, follow their dreams and be themselves.  

So for that, I stand proud.  I am Canadian.