Tuesday 25 June 2013

Itinerary (and show Ottawa some love!)

Tomorrow I'm off to visit Gabrielle Harbowy, editor supreme, in San Francisco. I've never been to that neck of the world-woods, so I can't wait!  We're going to see Alcatraz, which makes me happy. So very happy.  I'll also be handing in Destiny's War, following one round of extremely useful feedback from Gabrielle.

I'm back for July 1 and hope to catch Chris Hadfield speaking on the Hill for the noon hour show.  Considering I'm back in town at 1 a.m. that day, I'm assuming the rest of my day will consist of drooling.

July 4 marks the day we're off to the annual My Little Pony fair!  This year it's in Indianapolis. I've been in that city once already, when I was two years old. During that visit, I decided to run into the side of a mall, resulting in lotsa blood and stitches on my forehead.  Coincidentally, that was the first and last business trip my dad took us on. Roomy assures me she won't let me run into a mall, although I refuse to wear a helmet.  It just doesn't match my footwear.

I'll make sure to be back for July 9, since it's the second edition of ChiSeries Ottawa, starting at 8pm at Maxwell's (on Elgin Street - second floor).  Readers will be Hayden Trenholm, Eric Choi and Tanya Huff.  You should come out to this, for several good reasons. The ultimate reason of course being that it's going to be an awesome event. The other reason is the same reason that Ottawa folk should go to CAN-CON, the Ottawa Geek Market, Wonder Geeks Activate, etc. - to support the volunteers who make this happen.  Seriously.  For years I've been hearing people say that nothing fun is happening in Ottawa on the geek scene.  We are now thriving, my capital region friends, but the people who are making it happen need your support, your interest, your butt in a chair listening to those awesome readings.  Plus, the organizer of ChiSeries is my friend Matt Moore, who is not only an awesome writer (he's on the Aurora ballot for Delta Pi, a great short story), he's also really trying to do something positive for readers, writers and the Ottawa geek community.  So let's step up to the plate and show Matt and all of the other great volunteers in Ottawa that the events they put on are appreciated and valued. 

Because Ottawa is starting to be a pretty good geek town and I, for one, am loving it.

Friday 21 June 2013

Remembering the Stories that Were, Never Can Now Be and Somehow Still Are

I chatted about zombies this morning, and I'll now speak about the dead. (Well, there's a good correlation, you have to admit.)

Summer Solstice Feasting

Roomy and I use the Summer Solstice as our day to remember the fuzzy critters who have left us.  When we moved in together in 2007, we had four old cats between the two of us.  We now have one of those left, and everyone else has quietly left us since.  The first to pass away was the youngest of the old cats, and it was on the Summer Solstice.  So, on this day, as on every first day of summer, we feast and remember. (Other cats mentioned here and here.)

We remember our friends' animals, as well, and all of the critters who came and went, making powerful or subtle changes in our lives.  For the time they are with us, they are family, too, and today, as we reach the zenith of light and begin our slow descent into darkness, so we remember them.

Remembering the Stories-That-Never-Can-Be-Yet-Are

I'm lucky in that I've never lost a close family member (fuzzy family members aside).  I've lost some friends, but no one extremely close to me.  But the thing about celebrating a life - any life - is that it's celebrating the missing stories and chapters, not just the ones that were written.

Roomy grew up very close to her grandparents.  I love hearing her stories about them, and I'm glad I had the chance to meet them.  They were wonderful people.  I didn't know any of my grandparents very well.  Both of my grandmothers passed on before I bothered with memory, and my grandfathers when I was very young.  I have only fleeting memories, mostly fragments of light resurrected by sights and scents. 

But Roomy remembers her grandparents well. We were chatting recently about life after death.  I'm not sold on anything - I've always figured I'd find out when I was dead, so why waste all this important time on the question now?  But I asked Roomy if she imagined she'd see her grandparents again someday.  She thought about it, as Roomy generally thinks things through (a bit different from my approach), and then she said: "I don't think they've ever really left, in a way." 

Roomy isn't overly religious/spiritual/whatchamacallit, but the stories of her family are still ongoing.  She'll still think of telling her grandmother about something, or sharing a tidbit from her day.  Her mother, who visited last weekend, said the very same thing. "I'd have called her (her mother), but then thought, no, I guess I won't do that."  They're very straightforward people, the type to just get back up, dust themselves off and keep going, so it's always fascinating to me when they reveal something so personal, so deeply ingrained into their character, with just a simple throw away sentence.  Makes me love them more for it.

Celebrating the Things that Still Are

Humans are complex individuals.  We're physically trapped in time but mentally free to explore any realm, any possibility, any dream.  It's easy to get trapped into thinking of all the things we just never had, and those we never will. It's the consuming game of "I'll be happy if I just have this one other thing" that's never settled into anything more than more sorrow and debt. 

So I like to think of all the wonderful things I have as I remember all the things I've lost.  My blessings are so many that I couldn't count them all, and I consider myself lucky for it.  I have a wonderful family, friends, cats, a lovely house, and my life is generally drama-free. A second niece is about to be born any day now, and I can't wait to meet her and re-discover the world through her eyes. I love this life.

Celebrate Now

I celebrate all of these things during the Summer Solstice not because I'm overly spiritual, but because the timing makes more sense for me than the traditional time of reflection: New Year's. It's cold then, and the winter blues might have settled in already.  There are too many distractions.  Too many commitments, too many expectations, too much food to eat. 

But in the summer, it's quiet.  It's not freezing.  I can go outside and actually smell the flowers.  I can look at life as something more than an endless white landscape of darkness.  My mind is more at ease and my body more solid.  It's a perfect time for remembering all that has passed and all that still is, and to dream and plan for an even better tomorrow.

I hope you'll take some time to reflect as well, on this, the longest day of the year.

Of Saran Wrap, Zombies and Alternate Timelines

I've been going on about zombies a lot lately.  I read a lot of zombie books, especially when I'm tired and have too much on my plate.  It's an easy read. I mean, the "bad guys" (zombies) are the best part - they're not eating you because it's personal, they just really want meat, and the rules are easy and straightforward.  Sometimes, a little straightforward is good.  So, Roomy (check out her blog) and I were chatting on e-mail before I headed off to KeyCon in May.  This shows you how quickly we go from zero to zombie. 

Hi Roomy,

How's you?  I think my nose may have mostly stopped running finally.

Me (Note the clever colour scheme)

Hi Roomy!

I’m glad you’re less gross!  Do you feel better?  I want a healthy roomy.  I mean, they’re pretty awesome when they’re sick, but much better when healthy!  :D

Do we have saran wrap?  Cling wrap?  Something something wrap?  I need to prep my books to bring to Winnipeg in giant luggage (note to self: find scale).

I have no idea how much saran wrap we have.

I wish another me in another timeline would take on some of the sick this year.  I think I'm pulling more than my weight since January.  I'm just saying.

It’s true. That’s because the You in the other timeline is busy taking care of the Marie who’s always sick.  Plus there’s a zombie apocalypse, so they’re busy.  On the upside, other Marie will probably bite the dust by sneezing at the wrong time and other You will get away thanks to her legendary good health.

If you don’t mind stopping by the dollar store, I’d like to pick more up, just in case. Besides, no point in wasting our “good” saran wrap on book wrapping. :P  (Editor's note: I learned this way that wrapping books in crappy cling wrap isn't great. Go for the good stuff.)

I'm not particularly concerned about what's going on in the other timeline, the me in this timeline just wants to be healthy for a change.

All right, but your other you will be mad for going zombie.

… now that I think about it, maybe my other me is a zombie by now and we intersect that at some point, too.  Could explain my recent, um, lack of brains…


I enjoy how we can discuss saran wrap purchases and alternate zombie timelines in the same e-mail string. 

We're good like that.

Of singular skill. By that, I mean with only one skill, and that’s to make shit up. :P

Speaking of zombies, however, I finished season 1 of The Walking Dead and started season 2.  Short seasons.  Of interest, it turns out I’ve seen pretty much every episode.  I just didn’t think I’d watched it because I must always get bored and walk away.  I’ll show those Walking Dead how it’s done…

Indeed we are.

You walk girl, you walk good.  Or watch.  Whatever.  Just show the zombies who's boss.

See how quickly that went?  For those who aren't on Facebook, here's this week's most popular post, again chatting about zombies:

My bank just called to inform me that my VISA card was believed to be compromised.
Clerk: I just want to verify your latest purchases. Last night, four purchases on Comixology?

Me: Ya, that was me. I discovered Marvel Zombies. Stupid addictive comic series across multiple universes. Kept me up late.
Clerk: Okay. Kindle purchase yesterday?
Me: Oh ya, that was a zombie book, and I keep *saying* ...I won't buy this author's next book, yet I hit the purchase button before I think about it. No impulse controls, at times.
Clerk: Okay. Good. How about Monday evening parking in the Ottawa Market?
Me: Ah! Geek event. Fun times.
Clerk: Zombies present?
Me: Nope! Spotted several demons and Jem, who totally *was* truly outrageous, but no zombies, no. ... I'm giving you too many details here, aren't I?
Wishing you all a lovely, zombie-free weekend and solstice! 

Wednesday 19 June 2013

Hoarding your Stories

At a con this year (one of the many, many cons), I was taking a rare break between panels when I was approached by an emerging writer who wanted to chat about his story.  He made himself comfortable without waiting for my reply and started on a rant.

It wasn't a bad rant, but my head was buzzing and my feet were hurting and I was really thirsty, but he obviously needed to chat, so I let him go on.  And on.

He spoke of his epic piece of fiction that was several books long, and how he wasn't sure how long it'd be, and it was hard to figure out what to do next since his friends expected so much since they loved it and were basing videogames and comic books off of it.

I had to interrupt, mostly because I had a panel coming up. And did I mention he was going on?

"What's your goal with this story?"

He looked stunned at the question. He didn't actually answer it, if I recall correctly.

I had to go, so I quickly told him a bunch of stuff and resources he should check out (and possibly made his head explode).  I told him he needed to refine his craft, first.  His whole first book was a prologue and backstory, not a book, no matter how much he loved it. It probably wouldn't get picked up by a publisher but, if he wanted, he could consider self-publishing (and hiring a professional editor to help him out).

Then I told him to stop sharing his stories before they were done.  It steals thunder.  We begin to worry about what our readers think before they can even get a complete view of the manuscript. We obsess over individual opinions instead of overall character integrity. Sharing a story before its time can stunt it, because we might get feedback that doesn't work for it, not because readers are ill-intentioned, but because they don't have a complete view.  Or, like him, he could get feedback that's overwhelmingly positive and he grows afraid of the horrible things the story demands he does.  (I also told him to get an impartial critique group.)

Since then, I've chatted with quite a few writers about hoarding stories and most agree.  It makes sense, really. The same applies elsewhere in life. For example, one of my best friends is ridiculously pregnant with her second child.  She's due any day now, and I don't yet know the name of her new daughter. When my nephew was born, my brother and sister-in-law did the same thing, not revealing the name until he was born. The reason they gave, which I respect to this day, is that everyone will want to weigh in on the name.  Once the child is born and the birth certificate is signed, it's harder to start critiquing.

Good point, eh?  A story is similar, even if not as interchangeable as a name (mind you, for less than $200, you can easily get your name changed in my province...)  Just like new parents get familiar with the name of the child as they grow accustomed to the idea of this new life in their world, so must writers get used to their characters and feel the story out. Alone.  Speaking with one or two trusted advisors is great, of course. But keep it small, and hoard it.

I'm very excited about my new book.  It's crazy fun action and more horror than ever before. It's a different spin for my stories, and I'm loving it. But I spoke about it to someone I shouldn't have, and I knew it, and it robbed a lot of my energy.  It's not easy to begin doubting the premise of a book. After all, it's a big undertaking, so we want to get it right.  We're about to spend hundreds of hours on it, so we want it to be succesful.  I also don't have a contract right now, for the first time since being published, and I'm hoping this book will help me reach the mythical "next level."  So I have a lot riding on this book, which means I have to play my cards even closer to my chest.

I have to hoard the writing so that it can grow and be the best vision that I can make it, before sending it out into the world to test readers. But when I get excited, I talk.  It's something I'm learning to curb. Because this new story will succeed best if I give it time to grow, and not rob its energy by doubting its potential success and getting too many cooks working on the stew.

My story.  My vision. My potential success/failure. 

So there. Damn it.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Award Thank You!

I was so stunned to be nominated for two Aurora Awards this year that I didn't even blog about it.  I want to start off by saying thank you to all of you who took the time to nominate my works.  You've heard it before, but authors rarely know how their works are liked until reviews pop up or works are nominated by fans. So I seriously cannot thank you enough.  You are the best!

My nominated works are:

Destiny's Fall (Long-form fiction)
Happily Ever After from When the Villain Comes Homes (edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood - Short-form fiction)

These represent my third and fourth nominations in the Aurora Awards.  It's a high honour, and again, I'm flabbergasted.

In past years, I lost by only a few votes, so if you like these works, I would be extremely grateful for a vote.  You can vote directly on their website (Canadians and various forms of Canadians only).  It is $10 to vote, but you get an e-copy of all the books and short stories, so it's pretty awesome.  I'm up against some great writers, like Karen Dudley and Matt Moore (both of whom I adore), so you'll want to check out their works, too!  

The award ceremonies are in Ottawa this year, which is my hometown! And it's at CAN-CON, my favourite con (not only because it's local).  I hope you make it to CAN-CON, too.  It's fun, filled with great people and has some kick-ass programming.  So come check it out!  And don't miss the paper airplane contest (I assume they'll let me host it again, but maybe new regulations against "fun" will be put in place. Who knows.) 

Thanks again.  I seriously can't believe my fortune at knowing great people like all of you.