Monday, 7 April 2014

Ad Astra - How I Love Thee

This weekend was a romp in Toronto.  We left Ottawa at noon with a car full of Ottawa writers. (Several such cars leaving from Ottawa around the same time. I truly regret not suggesting a caravan. Because caravans are cool.)  My car was also full of party supplies for the CAN-CON party, but we managed to tuck everything in okay.

I had a panel at 8 and another at 9. Based on these two panels, I've decided that I love Friday night panels. Everyone is still so awake and I get to be a pest and people think it's funny.  My first panel was the Myth-Information in Modern Fantasy.  I knew all of my co-panelists and knew they were all awesome and interesting people (Chadwick Ginther, Jen Frankel, Stephen B. Pearl, Katrina Guy).  We started off by dancing around myths, legends and fairy tales that were interesting, but I really wanted to push the discussion further. Were fantasy writers limiting themselves by following mythic structures?  Were archetypes passé? Did science-fiction have the "cutting-edge" reputation because it didn't generally conform to a pre-existing structure?  And so on, so forth.  So I kept asking if I could ask questions, because I wanted to hear their smart answers.  

That was a popular game that I played, apparently, since the audience laughed every time I asked a new question. I am disappointed, however, that I couldn't get a pitchfork mob formed to go against a certain Black Gate blogger for some of his recent posts.  I think he was disappointed, too, but oh well.  Maybe next year.

The second panel was all about having a day job and writing. Again, wonderful panelists (Ada Hoffman, Joel Sutherland, Karen Danylak). This panel reinforced my belief that authors need to chat about writer burnout. More on that later.

Saturday was as much fun as Sunday. I killed myself laughing on several occasions, especially at the book signing while discussing zombie turtles with Linda Poitevin and James Alan Gardner. But, come on - zombie turtles.  There is nothing not awesome about that.  My reading with Matt Moore was a lot of fun and quite full (thanks to everyone who came out!), and Matt read one of my favourite stories of all time, Touch the Sky, They Say. Find it, read it. It's beautiful.

The CAN-CON Sweets and Caffeine Party was great, and thanks to Robin Riopelle for saving me by bringing in cupcakes after I'd realized I hadn't made cupcakes despite cheerfully exclaiming about them on Facebook. My party co-organizers also picked some up, so we were rocking. Party organizing is all about surrounding people who can cover your cupcake faux-pas. The chocolate fountain was a hit, especially once maintenance came over with pliers to turn the broken nob.  I hope we enticed many people to come out for CAN-CON (Ottawa, October 3-5). It's a fun and smart con, and we need even more smart and fun people. Which there were lots of at the party! 

I had so many great conversations that I can't capture everything right now, especially as I'm still lagged over by Gravol.  That was how my con unfortunately ended - waking up at 1 on Sunday morning with the awkward thought "am I dreaming I'm nauseated, or am I actually nauseated?"  Well, turned out it was food poisoning, so I had to cancel everything that morning and try to get better enough to sit in a car for five hours on the way home.  Thanks to my roommates, Mary Pletsch, Nicole Lavigne and Sarah Parkinson for mothering me and taking over my Sunday morning life. Much appreciated! (I think it was a hot dog that did me in. Damn hot dogs!  Damn yummy hot dogs...)  At one point, I ran to the bathroom quickly, in the dark, not realizing that one of my roommates had closed the door over after using it last. I threw that door open with my forehead. Shocking and funny all at once.  But no goose egg, so that's good!

Ad Astra was a hit again this year, and I can't wait until next year! Thanks to the organizers for another great con!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Blog Hop Thing In Which I Cannot Follow the Rules

The wonderful Eileen Bell invited me to do a blog hop thing. I thought hopping kinda sounded like twirling, which I reallllly like to do, so I hopped right on! (Ha!)  She sent me rules and stuff, but those sounded kind of boring, so I'm only following the inviting three other authors for next week.

I'M BREAKING ALL THE RULES BWA HA HA HA HA!  Which is why I'll never be invited to twirl again. Sigh.

So, first I answer questions. These are them and I interpret them however I desire.  MY BLOG MY RULES!

(I'm sorry I'll stop screaming now. And I'll put down this cup of coffee.)

QUESTION 1: What am I working on right now?
I'm thinking about cupcakes!  Because we're having a party this weekend and we announced it as a Cupcakes and Sweets Party and it's NOT because THERE ARE NO CUPCAKES!  But I'm not working on them, so I guess that doesn't count for anything.  And I think this is supposed to be about writing.

... I don't like to talk about my works in progress.  So, for you, a Haiku:

I twirl in the mud
I slip in the muck
I land on my butt

... It's not a good haiku, but it celebrates the imminent spring.  I feel that works.

QUESTION 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I blow lots of stuff up and kill people.  What makes me stand out is that, UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU HEARTLESS SF/F WRITERS, I sometimes have a conscience. See?



QUESTION 3: Why do I write what I do?
I think I'm funny, even when I'm super dark.

QUESTION 4: How does my writing process work?
I sit down and write. I drink lots of caffeine. Sometimes, I don't sleep for a couple of days. And I hang out at convents.  But mostly, it's the writing part that matters. Usually that does the trick.


NEXT FRIDAY...

I've invited three members of my writing group, the East Block Irregulars, to join this twirling thing with me, BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST AND YOU MUST READ ALL THAT THEY WRITE!

I kinda forgot to ask for their bios, so I made them up instead.  But I totally checked their weblinks, so that's good.

Hayden Trenholm
The background shadows in every shot (every. single. shot) of politicians on the Hill contain Hayden. You can't see him clearly at first, but keep on gazing, and don't blink even as the tears stream from your eyes. You'll eventually see him. First in those shadows, and then everywhere else. If you read his detective noir novels (the Steele Chronicles) or read his latest anthology (Strange Bedfellows), you'll suddenly understand why he's in those shadows. He recently extended his conquests through Bundoran Press, which he *says* he acquired through proper channels. Check out his website and actual bio at http://www.haydentrenholm.com/.

Matt Moore
Matt was the only baby in the world, of any age or time, to be born on the day of his birth.  Some say it's given him special insight into the human psyche; others say it's driven a wedge in his sanity. If you read any of his works, don't string every second word of each sentence together.  IT IS AN EVIL SPELL.  If you see him host the Ottawa ChiSeries, make sure to say "AMEN" every time he lifts his hands, or YOU WILL BE STRUCK DOWN.  Check him out at http://mattmoorewrites.com/.

Geoff Gander
Geoff didn't exist until a year and a half ago, when an Elder God accidentally summoned him from the darkest depths. Each strand of his curly hair crackles with unspent magic, which makes conversing with him difficult. To make up for this unfortunate condition, he's learned to sing every piece of dialogue, which is particularly welcomed at his D&D games. Check out his hair at http://geoffgander.wordpress.com/.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ad Astra Schedule

This weekend, I'll be at Ad Astra! Always a super fun con, we're compounding the fun once again by hosting another CAN-CON cupcake/sweet/caffeine party. Woo! 

Here's my schedule:

Friday, April 4

Myth-Information in Modern Fantasy
8 pm, Markham A
How do authors incorporate traditional lore and myths into their modern-day fantasy settings? Is it possible to make a witch burning pertinent in the twenty-first century? Discuss these, and other inflammatory questions, in this panel.
Chadwick Ginther, Jen Frankel, Marie Bilodeau, Stephen B. Pearl, Katrina Guy

Writing When You Have a Day Job
9 pm, Markham A
Forget work-life balance. In a world where work hours are getting longer and many of us are constantly connected to work, how do you balance the demands of two jobs - the one you love and the one that pays the rent? Can you reasonably succeed at both? Come hear our panelists discuss the challenges of trying to write while holding down a day job and learn their tips on how to make it work.
Ada Hoffman, Joel Sutherland, Karen Danylak, Marie Bilodeau

Saturday, April 5

Reading
1 pm, Oakridges
I'll read from Destiny's War, and possibly The Kevlar Canoe again. For I love it so. Or maybe from a work in progress!  Who knows...

Author Signings
2-4 pm, Richmond A
This is where I sit and look pretty until someone brings a book to sign to comes to chat. It's all good.

CAN-CON Cupcake and Sweets Party
6-8 pm, Suite 1086
This will be oodles of fun.  I hope you come and consider coming to CAN-CON in October!  Jo Walton is the guest of honour this year.  She's awesome. If that doesn't lure you out, then this will: Paper Airplane Competition.  That's right.  You heard me.  ... so, we'll see you there, then!

The rest of the time, I'll be sitting at tables (both the Dragon Moon and the Bundoran tables), I'll be going to see some of my friends readings, and I'll be hanging out chatting. Can't wait to see you!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Aurora Awards 2013 (ah yes, that magical time is upon us once more)

Hey all!  I've had a few e-mails about this (and thanks for them), so I'll post a quick blog about it!

Destiny's War is not eligible for the 2013 Aurora Awards.  Only a special bundle was released in 2013, but the book's actual publication date was January 31, 2014. That gives you a whole year to read it before next year's Aurora Awards - you're welcome!

My only eligible work this year is The Kevlar Canoe, a short story included in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories, edited by Claude Lalumière and Camille Alexa (Tyche Books).  It's a strange little tale that re-imagines the French-Canadian folktale La chasse-galerie (the flying canoe). I knew it was weird when Claude admitted he believed it was the weirdest story in the anthology.  High praise coming from a fine writer of weird stories!

I read this story at quite a few cons this year (because it has a Kevlar canoe and therefore is awesome), but if you haven't read it, drop me a line and I'll get it to you - possibly by reading it to you over the phone! 

Nominations are open until April 12, 2014.  Check out the website here.

Cheers!

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Really Secular Writing Weekend

This weekend was a long weekend for me and, with some important deadlines looming, I decided to hunker down for a writing weekend.  I had planned on heading out to my securlarized convent, but the nights available weren't favourable and some surprise expenses last week made me reconsider.

Instead, I tried my first full writing weekend at home since Roomy and I moved to our new place.  Our house is bigger, so avoiding each other should prove easy, but we didn't leave it to chance and we planned ahead.

Now, the reason for my going to the convent is that I can enjoy Story Head for the length of time I'm there. There are no expectations from anyone except the story.  And remembering to go down for meals at the appropriate times.  I love this immersion - it allows me to understand the story in depths that are sometimes more difficult to reach.

So, with my first worry being my "I'm trying to do something, ergo Roomy is the most interesting person in the world right now" syndrome, we planned out each other's space beforehand.

On Friday evening, we had a nice meal and then I started working. Saturday morning, Roomy went out to shop and just get out of my way during the ongoing immersion process.  When she came back, we'd agreed the basement (which is lovely and has our big TV and computer, and her customizing materials) would be her domain.  I would go from the desk in my room to the kitchen table. (Because our kitchen is beautiful and inspiring. It is!)

We did not have to eat meals together, though we'd purchased some quicker options so as not to break the flow of creativity.

There were some hiccups in the plan, of course. I didn't do my laundry as I would have before leaving for the weekend, and that reached critical levels on Sunday morning.  Also on Sunday, since it was New York Toy Fair, Matty Collector (the Masters of the Universe folk) were doing some reveals, so I got distracted checking those out.

But progress was happily made regardless of all of that.  I had given myself a deadline of Monday 5pm to stop working, on the condition that I'd finished my work.  It was a sunny day and I sat in the kitchen, with my ancient tabby (Battlecat) hanging out in a sunbeam with me.  I was immersed and I could feel it.  Roomy's customizing was going well, and she pushed through that, too.

At 5pm exactly, I reached my goal, Roomy came up to start supper, and we had a lovely meal. And then, as a treat, she pulled out the third season of BBC's Sherlock, which she'd bought and hid, to reveal only IF I finished my work.

And that's why weekends at home will work for me. Because Roomy understands how important writing is for me.  She's supportive and that makes all the difference for success.  She appreciated it, too.  She got a lot more done than she would have had I simply left for the weekend.

So, overall, this weekend I managed to write 20,000 words and edit most of it.  I'm happy with this project and where it's headed, and I can't wait to dive in next! I'm already planning my next writing weekend.

Hope yours was a good one, too!  

Friday, 14 February 2014

Guest Post - Writing Past the Wall

Today, I get to introduce you all to one of my friends, Jamieson Wolf.  Jamieson and I met in a bookstore, so you know he's good people. He's also a wonderful writer and someone who's overcome personal hardships with and for the love of writing. It's Valentine's Day, and we all need a bit more love. For writers, that often means letting go and pushing forward all at once.  Give yourself some love today - read this blog post, celebrate your own successes and check out Jamieson's works! (Links below.)


I've never had a problem with writer's block.

Sure, I had the odd time when a story or a character was being stubborn, but I've always been able to write. I've written over 65 books of various kinds and I was always writing something. There was always  a story to tell, always words pouring out.

In January 2013, that all changed. I got sick with what was eventually diagnosed as Multiple Sclerosis. I didn't write anything for almost a month. When I started to get better, I found I couldn't write.

I would sit at the computer and stare at it. When I put my fingers to the keyboard, I couldn't get my fingers to hit the right keys. I was stuck. It was as if there was a wall in front of me that I couldn't see through.

It was the biggest case of writers block that I'd ever experienced. There were all these words inside my head, all these stories waiting to be told. No mater how hard I tried to force them out, they wouldn't come and I couldn't get past the wall that was my head.  

I'm a writer. Writing is what I do, the air I breathe, the elixir of life. I needed to find a way to write again, I had to.

I decided to try my hand at poetry. I thought that if artists could do performance art that was silent, perhaps I could write something that would use very few words and still hold meaning for me.

I could only type a handful of words at a time - they were all that was allowed past the wall. I figured that I could string enough of them together to make a poem. I could tell stories again; maybe not the types of stories I used to tell, but I would be writing something. That was enough.

It was slow going at first. The first poem I wrote took me a few days to write, but I got it written. I can't describe what it was like to write that first poem except that it gave me a joy I had never experienced. I was writing again. It didn't matter that it was only a handful of words at a time. I was writing and that was enough.

It took a while, but as I continued writing my poems, my typing became more precise. I was able to write whole poems instead of a handful of words. They may have taken hours instead of minutes to write, but the words meant more to me; though there were few of them compared to what I normally wrote, they had more depth.

The poems were made from the pieces of the wall, pebbles and stones holding consonants and vowels. As I continued to write poetry, the stones were all used up and the wall came down. I had found a way past the wall. I've never been able to regain the speed I used to write at, but the writer's block had lifted, the wall was gone.

By April, I was able to start working on the novel that I had been working on before the MS hit. I continued with another novel and am now working on another. However, more and more, I'm turning to writing poetry.

They gave me a voice when I didn't have one and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Jamieson is  an award winning, bestselling author of over sixty books. He is a poet, a blogger and, above all, a storyteller.

_____

Jamieson is an award-winning, bestselling author of over sixty books. He is a poet, a blogger and, above all, a story teller. 

Jamieson is also an accomplished artist. He works in mixed media, charcoal, pastels and oil paints. He is also something of an amateur photographer, a poet, perfume designer and graphic designer.

He currently lives in Ottawa Ontario Canada with his cat, Tula, who is fearless. You can find Jamieson at home at www.jamiesonwolf.com. You can also read his blog at www.jamiesonwolfauthor.wordpress.com.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The Iliad - Seeking the Light

Last weekend, right after an awesome book launch (thanks to everyone who came!), I was at a two-day rehearsal of the Iliad (June 14, National Arts Centre).  All 18 tellers gathered, many from our 2012 journey with Homer's Odyssey, and many new faces, as well, joining us on this epic journey.

Producers Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cailey lead us through a series of exercises to deepen our understanding of the story and the characters.  The Iliad, for those of who you haven't read it in a while (or at all), is a very dark tale.  It's the story of the end of the decade-long siege of Troy by the Greeks. The warriors are weary and homesick, the battles are harsh and bloody (and there is lots of tripe), and the emotions are raw. We brought Odysseus home from the fields of Troy last year through the Odyssey, and I think only now do I understand why he was so weary. Not just because of the horrible journey home, but also because of everything that preceeded it.

Homer also intended to drive home the point that everyone on that battlefield came from a home and still had loved ones, somewhere, waiting for them. When the text was chopped, which it needed to be for length alone, they ensured those moments weren't lost. Because, without understanding who falls on the fields of Troy, we can't really grasp the full impact of the story.  It'll make for a lot of memorization of names, that's for sure!

I had a strange moment during this weekend that I shall now ungracefully unpack right here on this blog. I'm the second teller (after the introduction setting up the story) to march through the fields of Troy, so I was done my bit early this weekend. No longer worried about remembering my own part, I immersed in the rest of the story much more fully than I usually would.

There came a piece in the story where Achilles learns of the death of his best friend (and potentially lover), Patroclus.  He's devastated, grief-struck. It's raw and painful to watch this greatest of heroes come undone at the news, guilt-wracked that he was responsible for his friend's passing. The friend who came to give Achilles the news asks that Achilles give him his knife, lest he slit his throat in grief.

The teller told this piece beautifully, but the line didn't jump out at any of us. It's a dark text, so talk of potential suicide wasn't that surprising. Then, Jan and Jennifer asked that the teller understand the depths of Achilles' despair.  To understand the knife as more than an object, but also as a character.

Suddenly, this throw away line become pivotal to the story.  This is where everything could have ended.  This is where Achilles could have marched quietly to the Halls of Hades to join his friend, and left the bloody fields of Troy behind. This was the moment where Achilles fell at his lowest, because he might have taken his own life. The teller was asked to go around the circle of tellers and do various exercises, including convincing us that we, as Achilles, needed to take the knife.

We did lots of exercises like this over the weekend, but this one stood out for me. I rarely have trigger moments - I consider myself a very non-triggery person, overall.  But as that knife was being requested time and time again, give me the knife for I fear you may slit your throat with grief, I remembered a time long ago when I asked the same of a close friend.  Give me the car keys, for I fear you will drive yourself to your death. 

There's more in that line than a request, and I suddenly understood the whole baggage of it. It's not just about taking the knife. It's about a promise, too.  Give me the knife, and I shall take care of you. I'll make sure you see tomorrow, and that somehow it gets brighter.  I'll find out how to help. I'll learn what I don't know, and I'll listen and cry with you, and even should the darkness never lift, I'll still be there. Because I'm terrified of this knife, and of the silence it promises. Because I don't want to know that world where the knife was used.

Understanding of the Iliad becomes raw when you begin to peer into its darkness, and superimpose it with your own. Shades of gray turn to black with little warning. An innocuous force squeezes your heart into tiny little pulp.

But the light is still there.  The light, it's more there because of the darkness.  One teller began describing the new armour of Achilles, given to him by his godly mother who knows it will not save him. She knows Achilles is fated to die on the fields of Troy. But she gives him a better armour, either out of hope that it might make a difference after all, or perhaps as a final gesture of love. We don't know - Homer didn't say. But we can imagine.

And when Achilles donned his resplendent armour, it was beautiful.  The armour captured that beauty, but it was the silence around his actions that made the light shine at that moment.  It was the belief in what he was doing, why he was doing it, and how he still took the time to admire his new armour that would more than likely see his doom.

Even as he dressed for a battle he doubted he would return from, we found beauty and light in that moment.  Because he found it. So, through the characters, we find the darkness and the light, in moments reflected by our own experiences and psyche.

We're working now on finding a way to end this full day of telling.  A moment that brings back the light.  A moment above the fields of Troy, closer to the sun, where listeners will get to remember the beauty in the darkness.

We haven't found it yet, but I've no doubt Jennifer and Jan will. They've both fought their own battles and have always found the light. They will for us again, once more.

Until then, however, I personally don't mind the darkness. It reminds me of the importance of memory and history. Of the loved ones waiting back home, away from the battle. Of the friends still standing on the battlefield with me.

Of the importance of seeking the light, no matter how far we may fall.