Wednesday 31 October 2012

NaNoWriMo Peppiness

I'm participating in Nano this year, because I write with two of Ottawa's regional liaisons in the mornings, and they could beat me up if they wanted to.  I'm just not that swift first thing in the morning and I'm easily intimidated. So I crumbled and agreed when they looked me in the eye and said: "You're doing Nano" (or wait, did they just ask and not state?  Whatever). Regardless, I work great under threats, and I'm looking forward to November.  I'll use NaNo as a spring board for my next project.

Last year, I wrote a pep talk for the Sudbury NaNo Group. I'm posting it here as a reminder to all of us: it can be done.  

It’s NaNoWriMo!  Woo!  That magical time of the year when words fly onto the page, you don’t change clothes for days and you forget your own name.


When the words don’t fly, however, don’t panic.  Well, panic a little bit, have a cry and eat a chocolate bar.  I mean, those are just healthy coping mechanisms.  But afterward (shortly afterward), try one of these tricks to throw yourself out of a scary non-writing spree. 

1.      Change mediums.  Change from laptop to paper, pen to pencil, lined paper to plain.  That might jog your mind into spewing those words out again.

2.      Change locations.  Go from coffee shop to home, home to a friend’s house, a friend’s house to a rock by the water.  Keep it fresh.  You’re technically supposed to ignore the scenery and write, but your senses are still being stimulated by the world around them, so give them something fresh to mull on while the rest of your mind is engaging your story.

3.      Stop whining. I mean, whine a bit.  It’s seriously healthy.  But give yourself a limit.  Have a breakdown in the shower if you must. But get ‘er done.  Whining is good to get the stress out, not for gaining sympathy. NaNoWriMo is not for the strong of whine.

4.      Skip a scene.  If a scene is really not cooperating, dump it.  Skip ahead.  Can’t figure out how to connect one piece of the action with the next?  Then skip that, too.  I usually leave stars (***) in my first drafts when I forgot a character name or can’t connect things right away.  When I edit, they’re easy to find.  Now’s not the time to worry about the finer details of your work.

5.      Kill your protagonist.  It’s a weird trick, I know. But sometimes those protagonists are infuriating!  They just won’t cooperate.  Your head goes in spinny little useless circles trying to figure it out.  I drop an elevator on my protagonists’ heads when they don’t cooperate. This is especially fun in fantasy where elevators don’t exist.  I drop that elevator and go for a walk. By the time I come back, snickering, my protagonist usually smartens up. We erase the elevator (or keep it in for your word count – you did write it!), and we proceed with the story.

6.      Go with your instincts. The best laid plans… You know about them. If your gut is telling you that what you thought would be the best twist ever isn’t, don’t write it.  You’ll stay stuck.  Your gut knows when something is leading you off track or to a dead end.  Your subconscious, cool beast that it is, is making connections your mind hasn’t even thought of.  Trust it and let your instincts take over where your mind might fail you.

7.      The usual. Butt in chair. Give yourself word counts to follow.  I usually write down my word count on a sticky note every half hour and post them on my wall. I find it motivating. They’re coloured sticky notes, too, so it’s almost like decorating your room! (I may not be the best to provide advice on home d├ęcor.)

8.      Isolate yourself. If you can, do this. Even a few days could save your word count.  I go to a convent. Cheap, no TV or Internet, three meals provided, and peace and quiet.  Last time I did this, by keeping my butt in the chair and ignoring the beautiful sunny world beyond my closed curtains, I wrote 45,000 words in two days.  Those words needed lots of edits, but the draft was there.

9.      Imagine you are… a warrior in battle, and getting those words down is imperative.  A soldier fighting a war.  A world-renown journalist with tight deadlines. Make your own story about you. Character play.  Do what you have to do to stay in that chair.

I had a tenth idea, but I prefer sets of three in lists.  It’s clean and tidy.  BUT, if I were going to say a tenth one, it would be: Remember how cool you are.  How cool this is.  Because it is.  Not everyone has your power with words and your ability to do this.

So go for it.  Do it. Keep doing it.  And, at the end, give yourself a hero’s welcome. You’ll have earned it.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

World Fantasy Con Schedule

This weekend is World Fantasy - woo!  I've been fighting this evil cold on and off for two weeks, so here's fair warning - I AM patient zero.  Mwa ha.

If you'd like to find me because you don't heed warnings (and good for you on that!), here's where I'll be:

Thursday, 3pm
Aurora Room
Haven't decided what I'm reading yet, but I might read my Kevlar Canoe story which will come out in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories.  It's fun.

Friday, 5pm
Vaughan Room
New Twists on Accepted Myths
Jim Freund (M), Marie Bilodeau, Mercedes Lackey, Virginia O’Dine, Meg Turville-Heitz

Okay, that's the official stuff.  I also intend to be at:

Thursday, 7 - 9pm
Ravenstone Press Book Launch Party
Featuring Karen Dudley and Chadwick Ginther.  I'm looking forward to picking up both of their books and you should, too!  Come out and support some awesome Winnipeg talent!

Friday, 8pm - whenever
Edge Reading Room Party

Saturday, 7pm
Dragon Moon Press' Pub Night
The Fox and Fiddle, 115 York Street - an easy walk from the hotel!
Featuring the launch of one of DMP's new authors and some other authors there to sign your books, including copies of Hero and Villain!  Should be lots of fun. Come and have a drink!  Once that dies down, I imagine I'll hit the ChiZine party. Because I love me a ChiZine party.

I'm sure I'll go to other events, but there are the ones I'm definitely going to.  Let me know if there's something else I should absolutely check out!

When I'm not there, I'll probably hang out in the dealers' room at one of my publishers' tables: Edge Science-Fiction and Fantasy and Dragon Moon Press.  Tyche Books, which have bought a couple of my short stories, will also be there, so I'm sure I'll hang out there a bit, too.

See you there!


Patient Zero.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

My Service Providers are Being Scary...

So, after my whole Rogers no bill and fun fail last week, I'm hyper-aware of any contact initiated (or not) by my service providers. Today I received my hydro e-bill, with this little gem in it:

Aaaaaaaaah!  She's STARING at me!  And I'm IN HER FRIDGE!  And why is she so happy about having an empty fridge? Or is she in the furniture store in her pyjamas?  (Please tell me those are supposed to be pyjamas?  It's too dull to leave the house, surely.)  

I'm already on MyHydroLink (I'm a usage tracking junkie with them, too), but if I wasn't, I wouldn't sign up now for fear of either being enslaved in a fridge (and possibly eaten) or for fear that she'd show up at my door and do that face at me.  You know she'd do it early in the morning, too, wearing a dull gray pyjama.  I don't adapt well before my first cup of coffee. I'd either punch her or break down crying. Best not find out.

That photo, right there, is the stuff of nightmares.

But, then again, I haven't been sleeping a whole lot, so I might just be imagining things. But I don't think so.

Oh, and still no sign of that Rogers bill!  Several people have told me that they've also not received their bills, so I checked on the Rogers website to see if they had a notice, and this is the only notice of any type they had: 
Lookee! Tiny little letters! Click to make bigger and actually read...
I'm thinking good on these folk.  They're getting a free phone, and they'll never be billed for it! (Seriously. I want in!)

I'm planning a phase 2 letter if I don't receive it by end of week.  It's only fair and fun to do so! 

Monday 22 October 2012

Secularization Update

As long time followers of this blog will know, I tend to escape to a convent to write, developing finer plot points with Giant Jesus (awesome listener) and chatting with the dead (stacking nuns in the cemetery).  More than a year ago, the convent was sold to the city which owns the grounds.  I whined about it here and here. Oh, but how I do whine at times.

This time, there was still a distinct lack of space.  I found myself going for meals later and later in an attempt to have a quieter space.  I did make some friends this time, which is lovely, but not the purpose of my trip.  I'm there to write!

Usually, I got up and visit Giant Jesus right away. This time, by the time I'd reached the convent, it was dark and rainy, so I just ran in and started writing and editing.  The next day was also cold and windy, and every inch of the covent felt so... packed.  Everyone was everywhere.  I rarely need my space so badly, but this time I felt absolutely smothered.

And I wasn't the only one.  Breakfast on the first day, a lovely petite Italian woman, looking anxiety-ridden, asked if she could sit with me.  I was sitting alone at a table for two, eating as quickly as possible to get out of the crowded area.  She felt it, too, the noise and movement of the room.  I stayed to chat with her - she obviously needed to just chat with one person who wouldn't judge or direct the conversation.  I let her go, and eventually we learned that not only do we share the same name, we were both writers.

So that morning just wasn't a good morning for writers with my name.

I headed back to the room and hid a lot. And I mean, a lot.  I hid deeper than just the room, too - I hid in my writing. I threw on my earphones and just wrote and wrote and edited.  I love the story I'm working on, the final volume of the Destiny series, so it was easy to lose myself in it.  I was late for meals, forgetting to check the time.

And I loved every minute.

I didn't even go for a walk until Sunday evening, before supper, when I felt I should really go say hi to Giant Jesus.  I was being downright rude!  The wind stole every sound away, ensconcing me in my thoughts.  Most of the weekend group retreats broke after lunch on Sunday, so the convent was mostly empty.

I chatted with Giant Jesus and walked the cemetery.  The trees were dancing in the orchard and I danced with them.

Supper last night was wonderful.  There was only one other table, filled with older ladies and gentlemen, and they were downright couth with they volume level. I could hear the classical music filtering in and I even took the time to do some plotting as I ate dessert, instead of just running back to my room.

Adapting to the new structure of the convent is teaching me a lot about myself. I realized this weekend (when I wasn't busy blowing ships up in my story) that yes, I'm an extrovert, but I need my introvert moments.  And when I need them, I need them badly.  I can get flustered in a social situation when I don't want to be in a crowd.  The reverse applies, as well. The last time I went to the convent, I wasn't ready to be by myself, and I came home early.  I know my own motions, and I need to respect my psyche, no matter how unstable it may at times seem.  (We're going to do what now?)

I like the loneliness of the cemetery and Giant Jesus.  Secularites (totally a word!) seem to fear them, as though the symbol of a religion will somehow gobble them up.  I'm not religious, but I enjoy talking to giant statues about finer plot points.  It helps - try it!

On the writing front, I learned that I'm turning into a giant wuss.  I mean, not in the writing itself, I still destroy, maim and kill at random. But I cry a lot more.  I had a downright sob-fest yesterday killing off a minor character, but one that had been there since book 1 (spoiler: everybody dies! HA!)  I don't do sob-fests well, either.  I get all splotchy and leaky.  Really unbecoming.  But I guess that's why I lock myself up in a convent to have them.

For now, I've made peace with the no-longer-convent-convent.  I'm learning to follow its lead, while imposing my own peace.  It's all about production in the end, and as long as I have earphones, a plug and a space to think, I'll be productive.  We'll see how I feel when I go back in spring.

I leave you with this lovely view from my window:

Not that I generally take the time to enjoy the view, but when I do, wow. Like, seriously, wow.  

Wednesday 17 October 2012

Rogers = Fun Fail

So yesterday's post was a bit of fun on my part, perhaps on Rogers' behalf.  But, seriously, who wouldn't want to get out of some doldrums by receiving something strange and funny? Well, Rogers does, apparently.

I received this reply to my joyful concoction:

Dear Ms. Bilodeau,

A lot of Rogers customers have reported missing bills this month. We're working on the issue and will issue them as soon as possible.



... Okay?  That's it?  Rogers, I realize you're busy because of your system fail, but our little dance of love is shattered.  I could take the poor customer service and the overpriced service, and I can certainly handle not receiving a bill, even though you're confusing my monthly finances, but a lack of wit? That's inexcusable. A restraining order would have been slightly bothersome, but much funnier.

Well, it would be, except I know Rogers has some funny people working there. I usually call, you see, instead of sending in love letters. I love that person-to-person interaction.  Strange, I know.  

About two years ago, Doctor Who moved from CBC to Space, right at the beginning of the Matt Smith era.  Of course, I was still sobbing in a corner at the loss of David Tennant, so I didn't immediately notice the new series had begun.  One day I confessed this on Facebook, when the first season was almost over. I'd just then realized that it was on Space, and I didn't have Space.

People laughed at me, my friends. It was a hard time for me. The LOLs were many, but none were mine!  Bowing to peer pressure (and an undying curiosity about this new doctor dude), I called Rogers.  It went like this:

Dude:  How may I help you?
Me: You've got to help me.  I'm so embarrassed, I don't know what to do.
Dude (probably thinking he wasn't paid enough to deal with people like me): I'd be happy to assist you, ma'am.
Me (still embarrassed): I'm a sci-fi writer, you see, and all of my friends just found out I don't have Space!  And like, they found out on FACEBOOK!  Do you understand the implications??
Dude (coming to conclusion that he had been right about the pay thing, but willing to go along): I believe I do, ma'am.
Me (relieved): Oh good.  I knew you'd be a kindred spirit.  Can you help me??
Dude (deciding the person on the other end of the line might be insane and should be kept happy):  Of course, ma'am. We'll give you a one-year upgrade for free and some free long-distance, too.  Can I do anything else for you?
Me (almost brought to tears by generosity): I love you.

Okay, seriously though, I'm glad I have Space. I really am. I still call Rogers once in a while to see if I can work another discount free. They're quite willing when they think you're friendly and/or criminally insane.  

So I give Rogers one fail for the letter, and one win for Space.  

It still hurts, though.  Writing a letter of love to be so... ignored.  Maybe I'll write a love letter to another one of my service providers.  

Maybe I just need to move on.  Oh, but Rogers, how I wanted to be loved by you.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Letter with no Reply - Rogers

As I was trying to organize my finances this month, I noticed that my Rogers bill, which usually arrives on the 4th of each month, had not yet graced me with its presence.  I quickly drafted a letter and sent it off to Rogers. Apparently unable of simply asking "where's my bill?", I instead went all freaky weird bondage on them.  I expect I'll eventually get a reply in the form of a restraining order. 
It was bound to happen eventually, let's face it.

Dear Rogers,

Did you forget me, Rogers?  Did you forget our regular date, on the 4th of each month, when you try to impress me with your knowledge of my day-to-day usage and I impress you by questioning false information?  Are we no longer doing this dance of services rendered and payment received?

Let's be honest, after all.  Although I try not to speak of it in polite company, I do pay you for your services, as you well know.  It's always been a bit of a sticky point in our relationship, hasn't it, Rogers?  That you would give me nothing unless I paid you, that you coldly provide what I need, contact me once for payment, and then ignore me the rest of the time, cast aside like yesterday's analog TV?

Come on, Rogers.  I don't want this to end.  I want to continue taking advantage of you, but I want to compensate you for it, too.  So that you'll keep showing up on my television and on my computer, at my demand.  I know how you work.  Receiving payment makes you come.

So just send that bill my way, okay?  I want to check out your numbers and cross-reference my usage.  I want to pay you and use you, Rogers. 

Just like I know you like it.