Friday, 28 October 2011

Bullied and Bully

The talk lately has been loud about bullies. And well it should be.  Kids hurting kids, kids feeling the only way to escape the world by killing themselves... it's not right, it never was, but it's always existed.

And it's something we don't really speak of, still. More and more people mention it, but it's not spoken of that much when you consider the devastating consequences it can have on innocent lives.

Everyone needs to speak out against bullying.  It's not just about being gay, or poor, or even rich, pretty or ugly, smart or not so smart.  It's about people and how people hurt people.  Not just about the labels they use to justify their behaviour. We can all be targeted, with no rhyme or reason, for something as simple as saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

In grade four, I was bullied in a pool because I said "sorry" when I bumped into someone.  The kid (a girl) pushed me in the water until I was coughing and spitting out water and she kept screaming "Sorry!"  I was still learning English and was confused between "I'm sorry" and "pardon me," so I couldn't tell if maybe I had used the wrong word.  It took me ten years to ask one of my university friends if sorry was the right way to apologize.  (I totally use that word when I bump into people now, too.  And I bump into a whole lot of people cause I'm a klutz.  Never got beat up since.)

Most of us were bullied, too, at one point or another.  Parents, siblings, schoolmates, bosses, co-workers... we all have to learn to cope or fight back in some way.

I followed the usual advice, at first. "Ignore them and they'll go away."  Really?  Who the heck came up with that advice, anyway?  "Ignore the grizzly running towards you and you'll be fine!"  "That bus sure is big, but if you ignore it, it surely won't hit you."

Those words are stupid.  I came to the conclusion early on that people utter those words hoping that they can ignore it, and it'll go away. And it's understandable, even.  Parents might have been bullied at one point and it might be their sincere wish that it'll fix itself because they're afraid of facing the bully's parents, who might also be bullies.

I get it.  But still, don't utter that sh*t.  Standing up is hard, but so is being bullied.

When I was growing up in a welfare, drug-ridden area (which is now a lovely area, might I add), I was lucky because I had my brother and my mom, and we lived on the outskirts of the "low-income housing."  Sure, the house was falling apart and was insulated with Jehova's Witnesses pamphlets (learned that when I leaned on the wall and went through it), but it was home and I loved it.  There was a lot of bullying, but I only got beat up once.  It was for a Club Z towel.

Club Z was the predecessor of the HBC points, before the great Zellers/Bay merger.  The towels were given out for free when you joined.  And that's what I got beat for.  An old towel that everyone got for free, for signing up for a points card.

It wasn't a horrible beating.  No broken bones, no bruises that were difficult to hide, but I remember thinking how sad it all was.  Beat up for a free towel.

I grazed over that incident (and many other incidents, including large objects hitting me). School is where things were really annoying me.  We were a low-income (or poor, as we used to call it) single mom family with two kids, and we didn't have money for "un-necessities," which included clothes.  So I got hand-me downs from my cousins.  My boy cousins.  My straight-as-a-stick boy cousins.  And I developed early, to boot.

At one point, in grade six, I only had two outfits for a few weeks.  One red plaid shirt and one blue plaid shirt.  (My love for clothing and shoes developed later in life, thankfully).  I was teased a lot, as you can imagine.  One day, I was walking home and a boy followed me, screaming at me, asking if I only had two pieces of clothing and saying other nasty things that don't bear repeating.  I tried to ignore him, like I always did with bullies.  Like I'd been doing for years. 

I cried as I walked faster and faster, but he kept screaming at me. The sole of my right shoe chose that moment to begin ungluing and I was horrified he would see it wobbling and make more fun of me.  I couldn't walk faster because of my shoe. He got closer.  I got more scared.

Then something snapped.  I remember my eyesight actually turned slightly black and I got light-headed.  I was pissed. I'd ignored for too long.  (Totally a Hulk moment, but less nakedness, thankfully. Though I look good in green!)

Physically, I wasn't able to defend myself all that well, but I soon learned that words were just as powerful a weapon.  I'd been insulted enough.  I had material to work with.  I made that bully cry and I was proud of it.

And then I made a lot more cry.  Not just bullies, too.  I bullied friends, their siblings... whoever was close enough for a lashing. I was a generalist as a bully. I didn't pick on people because of labels.  I just attacked before others could.

We moved right after the tenth grade and I changed high schools. I hated it. My brother didn't change cities with us, so I'd lost my best friend. We'd gone to five grade schools (that we recall) and I was used to having him around as my sole, dependable friend. I became an angry, dark teenager (I could have totally gotten on the emo train, if the emo train had been identified and labeled back then!)  My new high school was less than favourable and had a lot of bullying, drugs and fights.  I wasn't in the mood for any of it.  There were three bouncers in my new school and they were all scared of me within a week.

My tongue lashings seared and I knew it.

Around this time I also discovered heroic fantasy literature and took away the lesson that it was okay and good to stand up for yourself.  But see, I turned it all wrong. I stood up for myself by becoming, quite frankly, a bitch.  A bully in turn.  I had become my enemy.  And I was damn good at it, might I add.

I enjoyed it.  I laughed at the tears.  I was still well liked, generally, since I was outgoing (always have been). People opened up to me and I threw their pain and weaknesses back at them when it suited me.

I skipped grade 11 and went straight to 12, not wanting to bother with high school anymore.  My situation at home was degrading, I had only a few real friends and I felt smothered.

I was all dark nebulous clouds and lightning.

Before leaving for university, which was at least eight hours away, my mom told me this: "Be careful of your words.  I don't think you understand the power in them."

Now I'd read enough fantasy and comic books by then to take these words to heart.  I really thought about those words for a long time.  My brother gave me a yin-yang ring to remind me to strike a balance.  It didn't have to be all or nothing.  I was terrible at defining boundaries.

I went to university with a clean slate.  I decided not to be the bully anymore. I thought I could be more.  I was right.

Being a bully was, honestly, easy.  It seemed to be the only way to protect myself, because "ignore it and it'll go away" just didn't work.  I tried, until I couldn't take it anymore and snapped.

I had to relearn to treat people right and respect them, but when I was ready to do so, I met the four women who are still my best friends to this day, more than fifteen years later. I had stopped being a bully.

I still wear my brother's ring, to remind me about balance.  To be bullied or the bully are two dangerous extremes.  I write books I hope will inspire people, especially young women, to stand up for what they believe in and for those they love, not because they have the right guy, weapons or outfit, but rather because they believe or learn to believe in themselves and are willing to do what needs to be done. I really want people to believe in the good and the harm they can do.  To refuse responsibility is to deny potential. It makes me sad just thinking about it.

I avoid talking about my past generally.  I hesitated in telling this story, too.  I tell the funny stories (and there are many) and the quirky stories, but the ones I'm not overly proud of, I keep to myself.  Often I also don't feel I have a lot to add to dialogues.  But in this case, I wanted to speak up.  I've been on both sides of the train tracks, I worked hard at becoming who I am today and still work hard at it, and I'm a strong believer in personal responsibility.  I'm also a straight white girl.  Being bullied and being the bully are not all about being gay or macho, different skin tones or belief systems.  Those are the stories I've been hearing lately.  They're important, so important, and thank you for everyone who has the courage to share them. It's not easy.

But they're not the only stories.  There's no need to further isolate kids by saying the label brings the bullying. I know it's meant to bring solace to the bullied, but it somehow echoes the message that bullies who bully certain groups are "normal" bullies.  Bullying affects everyone at one point in their lives, regardless of who they are or what they represent. And we all need to stand together, so that those who are more likely to get picked on know they're not alone, that they have allies.  And not just allies in people that are "just like them," but allies in everyone else, too. Let's break the isolation.

Let's all join our voices against bullying in a chorus that can't be drowned out.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Tale of Betrayal - by Underwear

Winning story told at the first slam of the second season of Once Upon a Slam in Ottawa. 

But really, need I say more than the title? 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Letters with no Reply - Sears Canada Online

I totally had made diagrams and included pictures, but unfortunately lost them.  It was by far the most complex letter I'd ever sent.  But fear not - I reproduced a diagram just for you!  Or what I imagine it looked like, anyway....

Dear caretakers of Sears Canada Online Catalogue,

Let me begin by saying that yours is a very friendly service and that despite growing doubts that I will ever receive merchandise from you, I would certainly call again to delight in the warm reassurances of your customer service representatives.

I do sympathize - it must be very difficult to assist customers who are faceless.  Although I have always believed my voice and convivial phone demeanour were enough to convey some of my personality over the cold data lines, I was obviously mistaken and sincerely apologize for my error. 

But let me step back a moment and explain.  On January 28, I ordered a family ring (picture and online confirmation attached for your perusal).  The ring was for my mother’s 60th birthday, which has come and past without a gift, but still boasted a very fine party involving much cake, laughter, and, as all great moments, a few tears shed purely out of love.  You may also be interested to know that of the seven stones affixed to her might-be ring, six represent each one of her children (the seventh and middle one being, of course, her own).  And what is even more interesting is that she only has two biological children, of which I am one (please see attached family album to further comprehend).

Marty, Kat's fiancé, also wanted on, but there was no room.  Wess is also my sister-in-law, but she was my BFF first, so I give her this title.  And now, Ren is married and has a son, my bro and Wess have two kids, and can you imagine the family jewelry now?  I mean, it'd have to be a broche!  A shiny, shiny broche!  See the business they're now missing out on?

As you have no doubt deduced by now, I never received the ring, but have often basked in the glow of your reassurances and promises.  Not prone to suspicion (although perhaps a tad to paranoia), I thought that perhaps you simply needed a face, or seven, as it may be, to expedite the process by which you feel we would most fairly be compensated.  My mother regrettably suffers from some ill health, and is in fact currently on sick leave, and I would love for nothing more than for her to be able to gaze down at her finger and see how loved she is, and always will be. 

But I cannot accomplish that goal without your help. I trust you will find the attached documentation to be sufficient, and encourage you to contact me at (819) ***-****, should you need further information. I have a wonderful picture of my mother in her twenties, and although I agonized over the possibility of sending it to you, in the end, I chose to preserve the keepsake and not submit it to harsh scanner light.  But I could be convinced otherwise.

I hope to hear from you soon and wish you a most marvelous day.



Note: My mom's good now and enjoys her ring and various grandchildren. So I guess we can close this case as a happy ending, though I did bring in pictures of my mother to one of their store counters in an attempt to gain either sympathy or speed.  Gained latter. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Destiny's Blood Super Duper Special Signing!

Destiny's Blood has been making the rounds, partying with people across the world.  It made the ballot for the Aurora Awards, and we celebrated by offering it as a free ebook for a while.  It won the bronze medal in science-fiction in the Foreword Book Awards, and we got slightly tipsy on mimosas. 

It's such a party even Layela's partying! No drink for her, though.  Best to keep sober when so many people are trying to kill you.

Now the Aurora voting period is ending tomorrow (get your votes in), and we're entering a whole other realm of partying!  This weekend, you can purchase a signed copy of Destiny's Blood!  (For the usual ebook price of 2.99.)   That'r right, a personalized ebook, because Dragon Moon Press is at the cutting edge of technology (and my sister-in-law let me steal her iPad for the weekend.  Mwa ha.)   As it's hard to sign on the iPad, each barely legible signature and dedication will also be accompanied by a carefully crafted, personalized drawing made by the author herself (moi).  Here's a selection of my as-of-yet undiscovered works bound to be worth millions:

Coconut Bill is a classic.  He's an actual coconut that I found at the bottom of a dry lake more than a decade ago, which I painted a face on and stuck a lock of my own hair on top as a toupet.  Yes indeed, a classic drawing not to be missed!

A balloon.  Because we're celebrating!  Note skillful use of colour and shading.

A psychotic happy face. Because nothing says "I'm happy" like differently-sized misshapen eyes surrounded by a huge mouth.
If my publisher had a say (which she apparently doesn't), I like to think she would stop the madness and disable the drawing feature. But she doesn't, or at least hasn't yet. 

To get your copy before my publisher steps in, please send me an e-mail at

Okay, that's as salesy as this girl can get. Back to writing!  Hope to see you guys this weekend at Con*Cept!



Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Con*Cept Schedule

I'm off to Con*Cept in Montreal next weekend.  For those of you who'll be around, here's my schedule:

18:30, St-Francois
I'm thinking I'll read from works in progress.  Fun times!
NOTE: Claude Lalumière's reading will be taking place right before mine.  Why not come listen to his stuff, too? 

22:00, Terrasse
The Growth of Cruelty in SF
Marie Bilodeau(m), Violette Malan, Danny Sichel, Pete Pettit

11:00, Terrasse
The Realities of Being Published
Marie Bilodeau(m), Derwin Mak, Geoff Hart

12:00, St-Francois
Injecting Reality in Fantasy Literature
Marie Bilodeau(m), Claude Lalumière, Jo Walton, Kathryn Cramer

18:00, Terrasse
Fantasy Economies
Jo Walton(m), Rob St-Martin, Mark Shainblum, Marie Bilodeau

11:00, Portneuf
L'art d'écrire une nouvelle, de la fantaisie ou de la SF
Marie Bilodeau, Ariane Gélinas

12:00, Portneuf
I'm in the mood for ghost stories.  Are you?

14:00, Terrasse
Beating the Writers Block
Marie Bilodeau(m), Claude Lalumière, Geoff Hart

16:00, St-Francois
Were Our Ancestors Really That Stupid?
Eric Flint, Marie Bilodeau(m), Lena Breijer, Pete Pettit

Lots of interesting panels on here and I can't wait to chat it up!  Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Descent into Darkness

That's what Roomy calls it, and any Canadian out there knows exactly what I'm talking about. Its suddenness takes me by surprise each year, somehow. One day I'm getting up and light is gently streaming into my room, and then the next day the sun seems to wait until I'm well into my writing morning before showing up.

This time of the year is when energies start to fizzle out. The desire to socialize puffs up into smoke. The call for the comfort of home and couch resonates with every step.

I'm not a winter hater, I'm really not. I think it's a pretty season and offers many fine moments. I love the crunch of snow under my boots and its echo into the still world; exhales turning into clouds of fog and ice and inhales so fresh it hurts the lungs. It's not the snow or winter that I dislike. It's the darkness I have a hard time with. My mother is the exact same way. I can't live in an apartment without lots of windows, and I barely ever shut the curtains (I'd be doomed in the zombie/vampire/leprechaun apocalypse). Last year was tough and I deflated into a big ooze on my couch.  Well, as much as I ever deflate, I suppose. But still, I felt it and it bugged me.

I worked hard at finding remedies for my deflation (truly). I don't intend on moving anywhere, so I'd best deal with the darkness as best I can, especially for those days of deep winter when I arrive at work when it's dark, and I leave when it's dark. Best deflation time ever.

So last year, I found a bunch of things that helped cope with the darkness and I set myself an Outlook reminder for this fall, listing all of my solutions.  It just popped up this morning and I thought I'd share with all of you. We all, after all, have to deal with some darkness in our lives, no matter where we live.

Marie's List of Darkness Happies:
  • Fuzzy socks. Good fuzzy socks, with stripes or polka dots, for wearing at home only. Slip on as soon as you come home. I even keep an emergency pair on my couch. It drives Roomy insane, and that makes me happy, too.
  • Warm drinks.  Herbal or caffeinated teas, cider, coffee, specialty coffees... who cares. Warmth fights darkness.
  • Comfy couch. If you're going to deflate onto it, might as well be comfy.
  • Baths. The ultimate remedy for fighting bone-chill. Recommend reading cheap magazine while in there. I read Archie Comics myself (and only drop them in about half the time).
  • Cats.  Or whatever fuzzy you prefer. Pets don't judge, just cuddle. That can help, too.
  • Friends. Aside from creature comforts, going out at least once every two weeks with your bestests can change everything.  Totally!
  • Books. A good book. One that you've been looking forward to for a while, or something that'll keep you engaged. If your book is boring, drop it. You need escape right now, not boredom!
  • Goals. Think about what you'll do in spring, once the ground thaws.  Garden? Paint? Run around? Prepare for it and look forward to it - that ground will thaw, after all.
  • Nest. This isn't just for pregnant women! Arrange your house to be all comfy. You'll be in there a lot.  I'm planning on cleaning out the basement this winter. I think that marks me as a sucker for punishment, but at least I'll have been somewhat productive.
  • Light. You know, one of those cool lights that give you vitamin D. We all need more of that. I don't have one, but I keep saying I'll buy one. We'll see what happens!
  • Mood. Get lanterns, candles, whatever. Cast away the darkness with some awesome, inspiring lighting options (I'm starting to sound like I should be on HGTV).
  • Laugh. Well, really, if you don't do that all year long, I suggest you re-evaluate your life.
This was much less elaborate in my Outlook reminder, where just the bolded stuff was listed.   I can't for the life of me figure out why "cupboard" is on the list, so I'll let you think about that, nor does "napkins" ring a bell. Perhaps I confused my Descent into Darkness list with my shopping or cleaning list at some point. Very possible.

There's also a lot of hockey in my house during this time (on TV, to be clear). Not because I watch it, but because Roomy loves hockey. She even made herself a custom hockey pony.  See?

Between living with me and being a Leafs fan, I think it's safe to say that Roomy is paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate. She was either a mass murderer in a past life or is planning on being one in her next incarnation. Good for Roomy, planning ahead and all that good stuff.

So winter, for all its darkness, is an extremely productive time for me. I go to my writing room, light a lantern, and I'm having a grand time slaying darkness in another land. Ooh. Totally adding that to the list.

  • Slaying.

... I hope I don't misinterpret that next year...