Thursday, 31 August 2017

Ink Tip: The Tyranny of Daily Writing

There is a tiny piece inside of me which shudders whenever I talk about how difficult writing is.  It's a loudmouth, reminding me that making up stories is something I have always done for fun, so how dare I complain about any aspect of it.  But, there's another part, larger and more sober, which reminds me that there's a difference between imagining a story, writing it down, and creating something which other people want to read.  All three are very different.  (And yes, I have many voices in my head, but that's between me and my court-appointed psychologist.)

Writing a book is hard and takes a lot of work.  It takes me a year to write and edit a book that someone can read in a few hours.  Don't get me wrong, I love it and it's what I want to do, but like anything else, there are days when I'd much rather veg and watch TV than haul out the computer.

This is where writing advice people will talk about the importance of making yourself write every day.  Even if all you pen is a measly 500 words, that's 500 words further ahead than you were before.  And after (pause for calculator) 200 days, you have 100 000 words, which is a decent size novel.  It sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it?

Except that this approach doesn't always work.  Especially if the author is still juggling other commitments (like a job, for example).  Sometimes those little patchwork pieces of 500 words don't come together into something coherent and exciting, because the author has been pushing his/herself instead of taking the time to recharge.

Writing advice is like any other advice.  It's well-intentioned but it's not going to work for everyone.  My parents encouraged me to throw my time and effort into climbing the career ladder, which would have required 80-100 hour weeks, because that's what worked for them.  I was capable of it, but it wasn't what I wanted, so I chose work that I knew wasn't going to follow me home at night or on weekends, giving me predictable space for other pursuits that I felt more passionate about.  In other words, I went with what worked for me.

Self-awareness is the real key to success.  Do I do better writing in two or three large blitzes or in steady, small doses?  Am I a plotter or a pantser?  How much prep work is too much?  And sometimes those answers aren't always immediately obvious.  I enjoy doing character studies and writing out backgrounds, which helps to create interesting characters but can also end up taking away from time actually writing the story.  I need regular breaks in my writing, but if I take more than two days off, I have trouble getting back into it.

The only way to find what works is to push yourself to try different things.  And then be honest with yourself about what works and what doesn't.  I'm a big believer in writing things down, because otherwise I evaluate success emotionally.  I might feel like I've succeeded or failed but it's the numbers that tell the objective story of daily wordcounts or books sold.

If you're looking to make the jump between writing for fun and being a published author, then start your homework now.  Join a group, read the magazines and blogs, try different approaches until you find something that works for you.

Monday, 28 August 2017

Weekly update: August 20 to 26

Weekly word count: 3700

For a week where my kids decided that Mommy on the computer meant "this is a good time to ask for a snack/screentime/to go outside/etc." I think I did pretty well. 

There are only 8 days left until the most wonderful time of the year.  Then I will have peace and quiet again in which to write.  Which probably means I'll spend some time staring at the wall and wondering where everyone is.

On the excitement front, we got a new kitten this week.  She is two months old and adorable and will be featured heavily on my Twitter feed at @jclewisupdate.  I am officially the kitten's grandmother, since she is my son's pet.  He's doing a very good job at taking care of her, which gives me both surprise and a great deal of pride.

Work continues on Judgment.  I had an insight which will strengthen the central conflict of the book, so I'm pretty excited about it.  Usually I have the first chapter in the previous book, which locks me into certain things, but this time I've got some more freedom, which is nice.

It's been a difficult summer for me.  Lots of good things, but also more challenges than I expected.  If I'd known how it was all going to go, I would have done some things differently.  But I'm trying not to be too hard on myself because I couldn't have known and I made the best decisions I could with the information I had.  Since expecting perfection from myself is usually a trigger to deep depression, I have to be gentle.

Thursday, 24 August 2017

The Secret Benefits of Writing Groups

Lots of people can tell you why joining a writing group is helpful: networking, sharing warnings and advice, mentorship, critique partners, access to workshops and lectures, etc.  It's a big list but there's one that tends to get glossed over.

Sharing the crazy.

Writing is essentially solitary.  It's disappearing into imaginary worlds with imaginary friends and trying to make that seem real and cool and like a valuable contribution to society as a whole.

So when writers get together, there's a relaxing of tension.  We understand each other.  We can laugh about the ridiculous lengths we've gone to while trying to find a name for a character or a reasonable excuse for why two people have been stranded in an isolated cabin.  We can share the characters, stories, and writers who have inspired us.  We can brainstorm, share a shoulder or raise a glass.

And then, when we walk out, something amazing happens.  The job seems easier and the weight of it sits lighter on our shoulders than it did before.  The creativity is flowing faster and more smoothly.  We're eager to get back to typing and sharing the stories rattling around our brains.

This year, I missed ORWA's regular meetings between March and June (we take the summer off).  And while I had my own issues to cope with, not having that monthly connection contributed to the slowing down and eventual halt of my ability to write.

In August, there was RTC (Romancing the Capital) and then last weekend, I arranged an informal lunch for ORWA members.  Both ended up being a major re-zap to my brain.  I'm still dealing with the same limitations that I was in April and May, but I'm writing more and I'm more confident in what I'm writing.

I've heard a lot of excuses for not joining a group: fear of rejection, fear of cliques, fear of plagiarism, too little time, too much money, too far, bad timing, doing fine on my own, preferring online... the list goes on.  But I would highly encourage everyone to give it a try.  There is something freeing about being among people who get our brand of crazy.

I'm going to push ORWA here, because I've done other groups and I've found them to be the most supportive and helpful.  Our next workshop is Sunday, September 10th from 10 to 4.  (It's actually two workshops with Alicia Rasley: Emotion without Sentimentality and Intensive Pacing. $20 for one or $30 for both.)  For those considering taking the plunge, go ahead and give it a try.  Maybe you'll find that our crazy is exactly what you've been looking for.

Monday, 21 August 2017

Weekly Update: August 13 to 19

Weekly word count: 4100

I'm getting close to the halfway point for Judgment, which is exciting but I still find myself a little frustrated because normally at this time of year I'd be getting ready to do the final polish before sending the book to the editor.

But I tell myself that I'm making progress and hopefully I'll have it ready by the end of November and then I can have it ready for Ad Astra next year.

There's only two weeks left of summer and then school starts up again.  I may have a rough start to the year as we were having some trouble with my older son's school last year and I don't know if it will be resolved for this one.  Either way, I'm still looking forward to having some more peace and quiet to concentrate on writing.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

The Controversy over Ross, Rachel and Joey on Friends

Friends was a long time ago.  I recall watching it with my cousin, then my dorm mates, then by myself.  But it still pulls up some surprisingly strong feelings.

Last week, a Twitter rant about why Rachel should have ended up with Joey instead of Ross ended up gathering quite a bit of attention in the media and online.  Unfortunately, my tech skills have not proved sufficient to link to a specific Twitter thread, but I have transcribed the entire thread below.

The rant itself brings up some interesting points.  That Ross' s insecurity makes him undercut Rachel's career and intelligence.  That Ross and Rachel made each other worse as people (both were jealous and suspicious and tried to sabotage one another's relationships).  That Joey often supported Rachel and paid attention to her feelings, despite being set up as the "shallow" Friend.  And that ending the series with Rachel and Joey as a couple would have been a game-changer in the sitcom world.

It gave me some new thoughts to try out (which I always love).  To be honest, I haven't thought much about Friends for over a decade, having stopped watching the show around season six or seven (whenever Phoebe had the triplets).  But this rant is about the romantic relationships and the subtle skewing that often appears in fictionalized examples.  I probably would have left it rattling in the back of my brain but couldn't because of a morning show DJ.

The day after I saw the rant, there was a substitute DJ on the morning show I usually listen to on the radio.  He began talking about the rant, starting off by describing it as a "Tweet-storm by a stupid woman who droned on and on about how Joey and Rachel should have been a couple on Friends."  This did not bode well and tweaked my inner injustice radar.  The DJ immediately continued to mock several of the tweets, following each with a "NO!"  No counter-argument, no alternate point of view, just a straight denial.  He finished by claiming that "most of the men agree with me" and then moved on to sharing traffic and weather details.

It surprised me that he felt this was sufficient to counter what was a well-thought out and pieced together view.  It also surprised me that he was so clearly emotional about believing Ross and Rachel should be a couple and was so threatened by the idea that Joey could have been a contender.  (Maybe I shouldn't be surprised, as a man denigrating a woman for sharing an opinion isn't exactly uncommon, but I will maintain my higher expectations for society no matter the evidence to the contrary.)

So here's my thoughts on the matter.  The sit-com is a formula.  It's meant to be light-hearted and funny, giving people twenty-two minutes to relax and enjoy themselves.  They don't often tackle more serious subjects and one of the things that people love about them is their predictability.  The audience isn't looking for the characters or situation to change in any meaningful ways, they just want to have a laugh.  Now, some sit-coms have managed to be funny, successful and tackle big issues (Murphy Brown and Roseanne being the two which immediately spring to my mind) but Friends never aspired to that.  It was a group of people with a wide variety of personalities, making their way through life as hilarity ensued.

Yes, in anything resembling a real life situation, Ross would have been a horrendous, hateful jealous jerk.  Because his jealousy and insecurity got laughs, they were played up more and more as the series went on.  He did actively block Rachel's career, both with his jealousy of the men around her and his final push to prevent her from taking the Paris job.  (BTW, this is a pet peeve of mine, when female characters give up their dreams for a relationship.)  He did pursue her when she said she wasn't interested and was dating someone else (and she did the same to him).  Those are not good qualities in a romantic partner.

@kaneandgriffin had a very valid point that Joey's character went through a real change, from being shallow and a player to falling in love with his pregnant friend, respecting her feelings when she didn't return them, and then moving to a deeper level of relationship.  It would have been nice for the writers to acknowledge that change.  It probably wasn't a deliberate character arc, but it still ended up happening.

She also had a valid point that what Ross fell in love with was a fantasy.  He wanted to be the kind of guy who could get a Rachel.  But he doesn't think he would be enough, otherwise, he wouldn't be so jealous.  

There are a lot of real life women who put up with jealousy and manipulation in the name of love.  Who make themselves less so that their partners won't be outshone.  And it would have been amazing if a pop culture icon like Friends could have turned that script on its head and said "here's someone who has treated her consistently well throughout the series, who puts her interests above his own, and now he's going to get the girl."  To honour a relationship built on a solid day-to-day friendship rather than a long distance crush.

But I'm not getting upset about it, because there are lots of stories out there which do what @kaneandgriffin wanted.  They may not have been made into long-running TV shows, but they're there.  Friends missed a chance to be revolutionary, and probably won't be making my rewatch list anytime soon.  The very fact that we now see the flaws rather than accepting them as inevitable or right is a victorious step in the right direction.

As for the mansplaining DJ, he can cart his entitled ego to the curb.  The intelligent men and women out there have some real discussions to catch up on. 

The Original Tweet Essay on Friends

In Defense of Rachel and Joey: A Thread by @kaneandgriffin (Transcribed from Twitter)

I’m loving this “let’s yell about TV plot points we hate” thing that’s happening EXCEPT that it started about Rachel and Joey on Friends.  I am on record as being absolutely ride-or-die anti-Ross Geller, who is for money one of television’s all-time worst human men.  And her brief thing with Joey was obviously intended by the writers to artificially draw out Rachel’s will they/won’t they with Ross.  A lot of people think it was weird or that it came out of nowhere, BUT I AM HERE TO TELL YOU WHY IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN ENDGAME.

ARGUMENT # 1: Ross Never Saw Rachel As A Friend, But Joey Did

From the moment the Friends first meet Rachel, Ross immediately sees her as a romantic prospect.  He’s never gotten over his crush on her.  Joey, of course, greets her with “how YOU doin’” and Monica appropriately smacks him down for hitting on a woman on her wedding day.  But this is presented as Joey’s standard greeting to every hot woman ever, not specific to Rachel. (We can talk about the overall attitude of men on this show to women as sexual objects another time.)  But Joey’s relationship with Rachel is platonic almost right away.  They have a genuine friendship.  He frequently gives her dating advice. (Sometimes questionable af, but, you know, well-intentioned.)  He sets her up on dates with men he thinks she’ll like.  He lets her crash the set when he’s filming and flirt with soap actors.

Joey has a lot of problems but his supportive, protective relationship with the women friends is one of his best qualities.  He genuinely loves them and wants them all to be happy and there’s no jealousy in it at all.  HE MAKES HER LAUGH.  Okay, now contrast this with Ross, who from minute one has labeled Rachel as “his.”

We’re always told that Ross/Rachel was a “friends to lovers” ship but WHAT IS THAT BASED??? WHAT F*CKING FRIENDSHIP??  He had a crush on her in high school, so he “claimed” her first, and long after they’ve broken up he resents every man in her life.  He hides messages from men who call her when they’re living together.  He’s endlessly threatened by the men she dates.  He outright sabotages her career WE’LL BE COMING BACK TO THIS POINT because he can’t get over his Mark thing.  Ross literally cannot accept that Mark (or any man) could be just friends with Rachel because HE couldn’t be “just friends” with Rachel. 

And you’ll note that throughout the series it’s often Joey telling Ross he doesn’t OWN Rachel, while Chandler and Monica enable him.  Joey is the person who most often tells Ross “dude she’s not interested” when she’s clearly not.  The one who notices what RACHEL wants.   He doesn’t have all this “but he’s loved her FOREVER” false nostalgia that makes them all feel like Ross has EARNED Rachel by waiting.  This is why “nice guys” are often so much shadier than openly, unapologetically promiscuous guys like Joey.

Joey’s feelings for Rachel were born out genuine friendship.  They were roommates.  SHE WAS PREGNANT.  We honestly don’t talk enough about how big a deal it is that Joey, the “shallow” one, falls in love with Rachel while she’s pregnant.  It happens the way realistically healthy relationships do: they just start spending a lot more time together.  He has to LEARN to see Rachel as a romantic prospect because she’s always been a friend first.  Which was NEVER true for Ross.  It’s not until he takes her on a fake date (because she’s pregnant and misses going on fancy dates) when it actually clicks.  And when he tells Rachel how he feels and she turns him down, contrast that with “WE WERE ON A BREAK.”  He never blames her and he doesn’t let it impact the rest of the group.  The friendship stays intact.  The forced cop-out ending where they get together & suddenly all the chemistry evaporates was NONSENSE.  They could have made this work.  If the writers had cared enough to try, there was potential there for a fantastic and genre-defying surprise twist to the show.

ARGUMENT # 2: Rachel Deserved Someone Who Understood Why Her Career Was Important To Her (MY DUDES I AM JUST! GETTING! STARTED!)

Y’all.  Y;all.  It was 13 f*cking years ago and I am still furious AT LEAST WEEKLY that Rachel got off that goddamn plane.  Ross sabotaged her career at every turn.  He was “tired of having a relationship with her answering machine.”  He was jealous of all her male colleagues.  He FELL ASLEEP at a work event he demanded she take him to.  Over and over Ross trivialized her passions, even though I would argue that Rachel’s career was always her most interesting arc.  Somewhere, there’s a way more feminist version of “Friends” about a spoiled privileged girl who’s never had to work a day in her life – going on to become a brilliant and competent executive at the top of an insanely competitive creative field, as a single mom.

There are MANY things about “Friends” that don’t hold up, but one surprising thing they often get is career/money storylines.  (I know.  The apartments.  I KNOW.  Ignore the set design for a second and stick with me.)  Some of the most interesting conflicts in the show are when lines are drawn among the friends about who makes more money than who.  WHICH WE ALL KNOW IS A REALISTIC THING THAT HAPPENS IN YOUR 20’s AND 30’s, SOME OF THOSE PLOTS ARE SO ACCURATE IT HURTS.  Ross/Joey/Phoebe are initially the broke ones, while Chandler/Monica/Ross have salaried full time jobs (though this shifts over time).

Hey, does anyone remember who gives Rachel her first big break to get out of Central Perk and into the fashion industry.  JOEY DID.  Joey knows what it feels like to be grasping for your big break.  But name ONE THING Ross ever did to unselfishly help Rachel’s career.  It’s kind of remarkable that, for the token shallow/appearance-driven character, Joey actually seems to care very little about money.  So he doesn’t see Rachel the big-shot fashion exec as qualitatively different from Rachel the scrappy waitress.  But Ross CLEARLY does.  Every step up the ladder towards career success that Rachel takes is interpreted as a step AWAY from him.  It’s SO.  F*CKED. UP.

No one in the F*CKING WORLD loves Rachel Green more than Monica Geller and yet Monica still wanted her to get on that plane for Paris.  They ALL did.  They GOT it.  Rachel was maxed out at her old job.  She’d gone as high as she could.  She said so REPEATEDLY.  She needed more.  There was nothing left for her professionally in New York, and the Paris job was her literal dream.  Her friends wanted her take it.  GUESS WHO DIDN’T.  F*CKING ROSS.  BECAUSE IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT HIM.  I have never wanted any finale retcon more than for Rachel to be allowed to go to Paris & make a brand-new life.  IT PHYSICALLY PAINS ME.


“That’s all well and good, Claire,” your’re probably saying, after sixty tweets, “but those are just reasons why Ross is shitty… why is Joey specifically a better romantic prospect.  I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED.

ARGUMENT # 3: Joey And Rachel Make Each Other Better, Ross And Rachel Make Each Other Worse

So I already mentioned this but it bears repeating: Joey develops feelings for Rachel while she’s VISIBLY pregnant.  The s1 New Year’s episode (best known for Phoebe and Hank Azaria’s sad goodbye) features Joey on a date with a single mom.  The whole time, the kids are treated like a buzzkill.  Being a mom is an obstacle to desirability.  The show also makes repeated and deeply wearying jokes at the expense of fat women on the regular.  SIGH.  So let’s talk about what it says about how Joey has grown tf up that he realizes he’s in love with his friend while she’s pregnant.

He happily lets Rachel and Emma moved back in with him, despite how much having a baby around disrupts his lifestyle.  The insanely terrible women Joey brings home, and their brief tenure in his life, is of course a 10-season running joke.  But it ends after Rachel.

Joey’s first GF after the Rachel crush is Charlie, hands-down the greatest love interest on the show.  I LOVED her.  Charlie is nothing like any woman Joey has ever dated.  Falling for Rachel literally teaches Joey that he wants something… more.  Joey learns to love having a baby around, stops being a bad-date punchline and tries to be worthy of a higher-class lady. 

And he’s good for Rachel, too.  Circa-Joey’s-roommate Rachel is my favorite iteration of all the Rachels.  SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT HOW GREAT SHE IS.  Short hair, playing the drums, eating spaghetti off the floor, watching “Cujo.”  What an angel.  Rachel has been uptight all her life and Joey teaches her to chill the f*ck out.  He brings out a sillier side of her.
Meanwhile, let’s discuss how a few moments exist in the “Friends” canon where Ross and Rachel are EVER that chill and cute together.  Everything is ALWAYS fraught.  Fighting, jealousy, possessiveness, drama.  Their relationship looks EXHAUSTING.  And it’s not just Ross, tbh (although like… it’s mostly Ross).  But he makes HER worse too.  She’s harsher and more tightly-wound.  I cannot imagine a life where forever having to live with the shadow of “we were on a break” hanging over your head is considered a win.

But think about how kind and gentle they were with each other when Joey said he had feelings for Rachel and she couldn’t say it back.  Think about an entire lifetime of one or the other of those two conflict-resolution styles, my dudes.  SERIOUSLY THINK ABOUT IT.  Joey: respecting Rachel’s feelings.  Ross: needing to win every f*cking time.

One of my favorite Joey/Rachel moments is when they’re in Barbados for Ross’ conference and he’s giving his boring keynote speech.  (BRIEF ASIDE TO NOTE THAT THE SINGLE SERIES-LONG PLOT POINT WHICH HAS AGED THE WORST IS THE FALSE NOTION THAT DINOSAURS ARE BORING).  Joey and Rachel are giggling at “homo erectus” together (RELATABLE!), for which Ross and Charlie treat them both like massive idiots.  Which is yet another sign that Ross thinks Rachel is intellectually beneath him.  But Joey just thinks she’s hilarious.  Ross has ALWAYS treated her like she’s intellectually beneath him, which is why “just a waitress” cuts so deep on that s2 list.

Being Mrs. Geller is a ticket to a lifetime of being treated like a dummy at his faculty events with him never sticking up for her.  And crucially, this is NOT because Rachel isn’t smart.  It’s because ROSS doesn’t think she’s smart.  No matter how high she advances.

That’s not to say there is no potential downside to Joey, but she’d be treated like a queen instead of patronized forever tbh.  The bottom line is this, the Rachel Ross fell in love with was a teenage fantasy he never outgrew that may have been an illusion all along.  Ross fell in love with A PICTURE OF HIMSELF AS THE KIND OF MAN WHO COULD DATE A RACHEL and on some level that was always what he wanted.

Whereas Joey fell in love with a bright, funny, competent single mother he’d been friends with for 7 years and knew inside-out already.

Yes, there’s something sweet in the idea of Rachel being Monica’s sister, but they basically were already.  They don’t need Ross for that.  The only factor in favor of Ross/Rachel endgame is conventional sitcom storytelling structure.  Not because they’re RIGHT for each other.  Ross and Rachel were endgame because they were considered INEVITABLE, and I don’t dispute that that’s where the show was always heading.  But a s10 surprise twist where Rachel and Joey ended up realizing THEY were each other’s lobster all along WOULD HAVE CHANGED SITCOM TV.

Anyway, thank you for your time.  I’m going to go watch the Barbados 2-parter again now and cry over what could have been.  END RANT

Monday, 14 August 2017

Weekly Update: August 6 to 12

Weekly word count: 9000

A good week.  I managed to get to a scene that's been haunting my imagination since I first thought of the idea for Judgment.

And I got the confirmation that I got chosen for next year's Romancing the Capital.  Which I am still geeking out about.  I'll be sponsoring a half table at the Saturday lunch.

Next week, I go back to split duty between writing and my day job.  Hopefully I can keep up momentum and make my 4000 word a week goal.

And it looks like next week, we'll be getting a kitten.  Look forward to a rush of Twitter pics.    

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Heroine Fix: Kitty Katt, Megalomaniac Girl and Wolverine With Boobs

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

Usually I look at heroines from movies or television because people have usually seen them and so I'm not spoiling anyone's experience.  And I like to think that I sometimes remind people of great stories or inspire them to seek out some of the lesser known ones.  But today, I'm looking at a heroine from a series of sci-fi novels because I needed to share the love for Kitty from Gini Koch's Alien series.

Kitty is an atypical heroine, particularly in the sci-fi/fantasy universe.  She's not a suave, smooth action hero.  Nor is she a shriek and hide gal, overwhelmed by the strangeness of her new world who gradually learns to adapt.  Instead, she is allowed to have doubts and uncertainties, but she doesn't allow them to stop her.  I find her a refreshingly relatable heroine, someone I can imagine myself being in the same circumstances.  (It's never going to happen but let me have my little dream.)

In the very first book, Touched by An Alien, Kitty is going about a typical day when she finds herself in the middle of a superbeing attack (alien parasites that attach to people and turn them into monsters).  She immediately begins doing what she can to help, both in fighting and in getting spectators to safety, which attracts the attention of the Alpha Centurions, double-hearted, supremely hot aliens who have been living in secret on Earth since the fifties.  She insists on staying in the middle of it all, despite openly expressed doubts that a weaker human female could possibly have something to offer.  And she shows them all up brilliantly.  It's a heck of a story of female persistence and competence, and it's only the beginning.

The first thing which made me root for Kitty was the fact that she is a fellow geek culture junkie, with a love of comic books that rivals my own.  She puts everything and everyone she encounters in terms of comics.  Her husband is Superman, her best friend is Batman, her bodyguard is Dr. Strange.  She is able to combine her understanding of world events with her love of comics and use them to understand what her enemies are doing, earning her the nickname Megalomaniac Girl.  More importantly, she uses that knowledge to stop them, saving the world multiple times throughout the series.  But it's not the Geeks Save The World that earned my respect.  It's Kitty's completely unapologetic enthusiasm for the things that she enjoys, be it comics or Aerosmith.  She's not ashamed of either her tastes or of publicly enjoying them.  So often, we are encouraged to fly under the radar, lest others think we are uncool, which makes her openness refreshing.  When she learns she has acquired superpowers, she immediately begins to dance in jubilation, shouting "I'm Wolverine with boobs!"

The next aspect of Kitty's character that I respect is her ability to think outside the box, or "go with the crazy" as she calls it.  She's not afraid of failure or of looking bad, only of not protecting the people she cares about.  So she's willing to try anything that seems plausible and could have a chance of success, even if she'll look silly or could end up flat on her face.  From using mambo dance steps to destroy robots to solo piloting a jet to land with no experience, she never insults herself or the audience by doing something half-heartedly.  Which leads me to the next great part of her character: her heart.

She is incredibly loyal to her friends and family and fiercely protective of anyone being threatened by a greater power, even if that person has been an enemy and actively working against them.  She doesn't believe they'll change their ways, but no one is getting away with bullying someone on her watch.  She goes nose to nose with all sorts of superpowers and doesn't back down.  In fact, her approach often wins the respect of her enemies, and flips them to her side.  By not doing what they expect, she forces them actually think and re-evaluate, which often leads them to realize they are being exploited.

She's openly sensual, making no secret about enjoying sex with her husband.  Although slightly embarassed by the volume, she isn't inhibited by yowling like a cat as he gives her multiple orgasms.  She's never fallen out of lust for her chosen partner, quite separately from how much she loves and admires him.  And he feels the same way about her, giving her both passion and respect.  

And finally we come to what is for me, the key point: her anger.  Kitty is not indignant or morally opposed.  She is openly furious at those who seek to attack her, her loved ones, her planet and those weaker than themselves.  And the anger doesn't make her unlovable, unfeminine or unrelatable.  It makes her powerful.  It even becomes part of her character: when she is angry, she is faster, stronger and able to defeat her enemies more easily.  Anger is often a no-no for female characters.  Even if the characters are physically active and battle competent, they are often impassive and calm.  Kitty's anger is raw and real and right on the surface for anyone to see.  But it's not considered a flaw, which is a rarity.

All in all, I think it's her apparent genuineness that readers appreciate.  She's not playing games or trying to downplay herself.  She's open about her doubts and fears, but also doesn't hide behind them.  She does what she believes is right and what will get the job done.  Her mistakes haunt her, but she still gets up to stand between danger and those it is targeting.  It's quite a refreshing portrayal and one which keeps me coming back for more.

Are you also addicted to strong and intriguing heroines?  Sign up for my Heroine Fix mailing list and you'll never miss a Heroine Fix.

Next month, I'll be looking at Offred from The Handmaid's Tale.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Weekly Update: July 30th to August 5th (Romancing The Capital Photos)

Weekly word count: 11 000 words

First off, while I didn't make the 20 000 words I was hoping for, I still feel that I did fairly respectably for my first week off work.  So I'm pleased with it.

But the big event this week was Romancing the Capital.  This is one of the highlights of my year and always a huge amount of fun.  For three days, I get to hang out with other readers and authors who get my particular brand of romance crazy, I get to laugh until my belly and my cheeks ache, I get to load up on signed books from great authors, I get bags full of swag and prizes, and I get to dance until my socks melt.  As far as I'm concerned, I don't know why everyone in Ottawa doesn't go (aside from the fact that the hotel might have a fire code issue).

My official reader ID badge with pins and my charm collection from the charm hunt.
On Thursday, there were a bunch of panels for writers, with advice on publishing, building one's audience, character arcs, and the different options available to writers for getting their books out there (eg ebook, print, audio, serialized, etc.).  Thursday evening offered a group karaoke (where you know I was belting out the hits) and tarot readings, book readings and author stalking.  

Friday is when the reader-focused side of things started, with events like Hot Cover Bingo, Romance Trivia, Kiss Marry Kill and Blurbs Against Humanity.  Also some more serious stuff like Complex World Building, Sex Science and Romance and Exploring LGBTQ Romance.  That evening was the Heroes and Villains costume dinner and dance.  I had my Wonder Woman costume ready to go.  I had to do some alterations to the costume I bought, mainly adding a second layer to the skirt (that first band of gold is the original final hemline) and tightening up the headband and armband.  Next time I wear it, I want to sew a little pouch for my phone into the wrist gauntlets.

Ready to fight for a Happily Ever After.
I was certain that Friday night would be the one where I get pulled over by the local police for a sober driver check.  I'm sure the fine officers would have completely believed me that I hadn't been drinking.  After all, I'm dressed as Wonder Woman, drenched in sweat from dancing, unable to walk a straight line (also from the dancing), and more than a little giddy.  And I have a nagging suspicion that my "real world" filters were down and I might have failed to resist the temptation to shout "Oh yeah!  Eve got me the good strippers!"  (Item # 1249 on the Funnier In My Head Than In Reality List).

Saturday was more reader fun, with an Alien Abduction Party, Perverted Pirate Playtime and Dirty Talk.  Then there was the giant book signing, which is open to the public for those who just want books but didn't get tickets to the event.  I may have gone slightly crazy, walking away with almost three full bags of books, but it was worth it.  (I'll have a list of the books that I got down at the bottom of this entry.)  And the night finished with the Fairy Tale Monster Bash dinner and dance.  I won for 2nd best costume with my Maleficent horns and extending wings.  (Sadly the wings broke but I'm confident I can fix them for more events, because they were just cool!)

I would wear these to work.  Even though I work from home.  Also the grocery store.
It was an amazing time.  Sharon Page and I closed down the dance floor each night.  My friend Erin joined us for the Saturday and we found some new dancing friends who had some hilarious and entertaining takes on Beyonce, Rihanna and Lady Gaga.  And I nearly fell down when LMFAO's "I'm Sexy and I Know It" came on, and I discovered my automatic recall is the "I'm Elmo and I Know It" video, because I've listened to that one more often.

On Friday night, the dance floor was sweltering, so I'd brought a fan from home for Saturday (though it turned out to be unnecessary).  It may have been the late-night, having-fun giddy-high but I thought it was hilarious to take a picture of me going home with my biggest fan.

What happens at RTC gets Tweeted, because c'mon, that's funny.
Today, I started going through my swag and books, deciding what to keep and what to pass on.  The quality of the swag at RTC always impresses me.  There's the usual paper, chocolate, lip balm and pens, but also things like USB car chargers, free book downloads, keychains, water bottles, earbud headphones, and decks of cards.

Just a few of the awesome goodies in my Reader bag.

New buttons to add to my Shameless Self-Promo Bag!  Yay!

And then there are the books.  Glorious, unread books!

And now, as promised, here's the complete list of the books that I bought, was given, or won, in no particular order:

Eve Langlais Assassin Next Door (audio book on CD)
Katie Ruggle Hold Your Breath
Georgette Heyer Arabella
Milly Taiden Fur-Ocious Lust Tigers - Volume 2
Amy Ruttan Tempting Nashville's Celebrity Doc
Darynda Jones First Grave On The Right
Deborah Cooke Kiss of Fire
Heather Long A Fistful of Dreams
Viola Grace An Obscure Magic: Collection 1
Eve Langlais, Kate Douglas and A.C. Arthur Wild
Viola Grace Ritual Space
Sharon Page The Worthington Wife
Amy Ruttan Biochemical Reaction
Sarah Castille Yield To Me
Anna Markland Passion's Fire
Cathryn Fox Slow Ride
E.M. Gayle Tucker's Fall: Purgatory Masters Book One
Anne Lange Worth the Risk
Sarah Castille Legal Heat
Anne Lange Who's The Boss: The Vault Series
Ainsley Booth and Sadie Haller: Full Mountie
Nathan Burgoine Triad Soul
Ashlyn Chase Out of the Broom Closet
Elle James Voodoo On The Bayou: A Cajun Magic Mystery
Eve Langlais Crazy
Milly Taiden Protector: Federal Paranormal Unit Series
Coreene Callahan Fury of Obsession
Coreene Callahan Fury of Surrender

That list should keep me out of trouble.  For a few weeks at least.  I have one more week off work, and so I'm going to have to concentrate on writing despite the siren call of new books waiting to be read. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Getting Personal

Today is the start of Romancing the Capital, one of the best romance-themed conferences (in my opinion).  I always look forward to it each year.  It's a lot of fun and I have a great time.

This year, I'm having some conflicted thoughts about it.  I want to go and just immerse myself in the whole experience but there are two things holding me back.  First, I am not where I want to be in terms of getting Judgment ready.  And second, my stamina is not where it was last year.

I was hoping to write 20 000 words this week, but instead I've been averaging about 2000 words a day, which will likely put me at around 10 000 for this week.  That's still respectable but before my health problems started in the spring, I could do 1500 to 2000 words in an hour and a half.  Now I'm writing slower and I don't have the endurance for five to six hour sprints.  

I keep telling myself that this is only temporary and I'll eventually get back to "normal" but after over six months, I'm having to wonder if this is the new normal.  If it is, then I'll have to accept that and learn to work with it.  Part of which means not exhausting myself and facing weeks of non-productiveness.  

One thing that I have going for me is my stubbornness.  I have never yet given up on something that I wanted to do.  If the straight path is denied me, I will go under, over, around and through.  It may take me longer than I hoped, but I will make it.  No question.