Baton Pass – One of the ways that writers support each other

As an author, it can be disheartening to walk into a bookstore and face the unending sea of titles. My novel is a drop in the ocean. The idea that someone might accidentally stumble on my book and buy it seems unlikely. And yet, behind the unending sea of titles, is an unending stream of authors, each one willing to offer support. Writers do not compete with each other the way other businesses do. Since reading one book fuels the need to read more, one author’s success boosts us all. Plus we’re generally nice, non-confrontational, introverts.

And in the spirit of helping my fellow authors and giving myself a little boost while I’m at it, I’ve taken up the baton on this blog hop. The metaphoric baton was passed to me by fellow Double Dragon Publishing author Linda Nightingale. Linda was born in South Carolina, and has lived in England, Canada, Miami, Atlanta and Houston. The mother of two sons, she enjoys sports cars, piano, symphony and theatre and has spent thirteen years breeding, training and showing Andalusian horses. By day she’s a legal assistant, by night an author. Her vampire paranormal Cardinal Desires (Double Dragon Publishing) won her the Georgia Romance Writers Magnolia Award. Check out her blog at lindanightingale.wordpress.com and her website www.lindanightingale.com, where you might just find a free vampire story to sink your fangs into.

Thank you, Linda, for passing the baton to me. Now without further preamble, onto the requisite blog hop questions.

What am I working on?

I’m working on a novel with a constantly changing working title. Trybrid or tribrid, perhaps. It’s set on an alien world whose lizard-like (but somewhat mammalian) people have a rather different family structure. The woman is the head of the household while her husbands take care of the house and the children. When a human crash lands on the planet, he fathers a part human, two parts alien child. I like to take a classic SF trope and turn it on its head. My first book, Wardroids, is a twist on the classic robots-take-over story. This new one is an alien encounter story in reverse.

How does my work differ from others in this genre?

WardroidsThere’s a lot of concept-driven science fiction out there. I’m more interested in characters. Those who have read Wardroids might have noticed that the wardroid uprising took a back seat to Adam Black and Emily Reid’s respective journeys of self-discovery. In Tribrid, the story is less about the human-landing itself and more about the people whose lives are affected by it. Also, though I wouldn’t call my work comedic, my sense of humour infuses itself into my writing. After a while I stopped trying to fight it and the result has been kind of awesome.

 

Why do I write what I write?

Science fiction has always been a passion of mine. Robots, aliens, time travelers and space explorers have been living in my brain since childhood all clamoring for a turn to tell their stories. My favourite things to read and watch are science fiction. It is a genre without limitations, unconstrained by time and space. I can put forth a message without hitting people over the head. You can do that with any fiction, but SF is particularly good at it because reality can be changed to suit your needs. The setting can be anywhere, at any time, and the characters can be anything. They don’t even have to be human! So I can draw attention to the gender roles in our society by flipping them around, for example. I can say something about the relationships between men and women by turning the women into wardroids. While people are being entertained by a story about robot soldiers, they’re also thinking about the roles of women, the marginalization of certain groups of people, and the nature of love. Most importantly, science fiction is a lot of fun.

How does your writing process work?

I’m still learning my process, but currently I set a 500-word a day writing quota which all goes to hell when editing time comes. Then comes a lot of procrastinating, self-loathing, and begrudging revisions. Right now, I’m just coming out of the I-hate-my-writing stage of re-writing and am entering the this-book-is-going-to-be-awesome stage. Eventually I produce a somewhat completed manuscript that is worthy of human eyes.

Well I’ve been running with the baton for long enough so now I shall pass it to some of my fellow authors. Here are three writing women who are up to the challenge.

paulaPaula Harvey is fiction writer from Louisiana who is currently working to complete her very first YA Series, South Louisiana High School. The students are abuzz with strange rumors; teachers working for top-secret spy organizations, aliens in and around the school, even an invisible superhero. Why are there so many rumors flying around the school? Well, because at least one of these rumors is true. Each book within the South Louisiana High series focuses on the experience of a student or teacher, and in so doing, takes its reader on an unforgettable adventure with an array of quirky characters. Check out Paula’s blog at paulalharvey.weebly.com/yes-please.html for next week’s blog post.  For more info on the South Louisiana High School Series, check out southlouisianahighschool.weebly.com

elizabethElizabeth Hein writes women’s fiction with a bit of a sharp edge. She tells the stories of people that go unnoticed in everyday life – the woman standing in line at the bank, that mousy gal in the last cubicle, the PTA mom – because there is usually something extraordinarily nasty going on in their lives. She’s on a mission is to make you care about these women and think twice before ignoring the people you meet each day. Her first novel, Overlook, is now available. How To Climb The Eiffel Tower will be published by Light Messages Publishing in October 2014. Visit Elizabeth Hein at scribblinginthestorageroom.wordpress.com and elizabethhein.com

caroleannCarole-Ann Vance is a writer and a dreamer who took on the challenge of blogging almost two years ago. She has completed one novel length tale, but must overcome her crippling fear of revision in order to return to the story to begin once again. In the meantime, another medley of characters has beckoned, and a new story has begun. Carole-Ann writes about the complex world of families and adds in a touch of magic to enhance an already emotional mix. Carole-Ann has also been an awesome addition to my writing critique group. I’ve enjoyed delved into her stories for the past six years. You can visit Carole-Ann at www.caroleannvance.com

These fellow authors will be taking up the baton on their blogs next week. Be sure to check them out! And while you’re at it, support authors in any way you can. Read and buy books, attend a book launch or signing, shop at your local independent book store, fill up your Kobo, borrow from the library, review the books you love on Goodreads or on your own blog.  Writer or not, we must all take up the baton in our own way, because a world without stories would be absolutely awful.

My Civic Duty

A month ago, around the time I shattered my elbow, I got a jury summons in the mail telling me to appear today at 9 am for selection. My Mom drove me because during my last physio appointment I asked if it was safe for me to drive and was told probably not (even though by this time I had already driven myself once, which I found awkward but doable).

There was a line to enter the court house. The woman ahead of me was interning to become a sign language interpreter. I know this because my Mom and I are both writers, and writers ask questions. The interpreter wondered aloud why so many people were there and I held up my summons.

To get inside the court house everyone had to go through an airport-style security check complete with metal detector. Yes, the new metal hardware in my elbow did indeed set off the beep. They still let me in after making me stand like a T and running a wand over me. This lead me to briefly wonder whether I could strap a weapon of some kind to my elbow.

This hardware sets off metal detectors

This hardware sets off metal detectors

Once inside, I followed the crowd up a stairwell, through a cafeteria, and down a hall of painted cinder block. The decor was reminiscent of a school, except without the colourful artwork or anything else to disguise the institutional feel.

Inside, the courtroom was painted a barren beige. Two hundred or so summoned citizens sat in crowded church pews facing a pulpit where men and women in black robes and white-ribbon collars came and went, ignoring the crowd. I had my laptop with me, but it didn’t feel right to open it. The people around me didn’t seem to have the same restraint; half of them immediately began texting and surfing on their smartphones.

After an hour of people watching, I finally decided to open my laptop. I barely had it booted when a woman in a blue blazer addressed the crowd telling everyone to put away our electronic devices. Ah well.

Then a judge with a red sash came in and we all had to stand. Once we’d sat down again she read something about how being on a jury was our duty as Canadian citizens and that we’re super lucky we’re not made to fight in the army or anything (I’m paraphrasing here). We were then read a list of people which included the lawyers, the plaintiff, the defendant, and all the witnesses. The idea here was that if we knew anyone, then we couldn’t be a juror. I’m not sure how much I should actually talk about the actual case, so I’ll just tell you that it wasn’t a murder.

For a civil case, which this was, they needed six jurors. I understand why they summoned a few extra, though two hundred seemed excessive. In any case, they selected us in the same way they select the winner of the 50-50 draw at a stag-and-doe. They drew numbers at random, which coincided with our jury numbers on our summons letters. I was neither rooting to be selected, nor rooting against. As an author, I’m interested in the experience, but at the same time I’d have to arrange childcare and all for something that wasn’t even a murder.

One woman got out of being a juror because she had a vacation booked, and an older lady was excused because she couldn’t hear what anybody was saying, but eventually they got their six without the need to call my number. The lawyers all agreed that this jury was a-okay (I’m paraphrasing again). The six jurors were given the choice of swearing on the bible or just swearing an oath. Everyone chose the bible. After they were sworn in the rest of us were all allowed to go.

And that was that.  I did my civic duty.

Ouch

I went thirty-four years without breaking anything. A cautious child, I was spared the coming of age fractures that rowdier children endured. The closest I came to serious injury was when my tooth chipped on the floor of a swimming pool change room at the age of eight.

Well my streak ended this Saturday when I smashed my funny bone against an icy sidewalk.broken bone

My dog, Worf, knew something was wrong before I did. He looked back at me, concern on his fuzzy brown face. I dropped his leash but he didn’t run.

That’s when I felt the bone sticking at an odd angle just above my elbow. My arm is broken, came my surprisingly rational thoughts. Should I walk the few houses back to my house or knock on a neighbour’s door?  And then I screamed. I screamed and screamed and screamed.

Then I walked home. I whimpered “Come Worfie,” and he followed. I was in a daze by the time I reached my driveway. I feared I would faint before I reached the door. Unable to wrestle with our sticky doorknob, I pounded. When my husband, Adam, answered I told him I needed to go to the hospital.

Still wearing my coat and boots, I slumped in the nearest dining room chair, arm hanging limply at my side. Adam called my parents to watch our sleeping children and when they arrived we got in the car and drove to Joseph Brant Hospital. I felt every bump in the road shoot up my injured left arm.

I gingerly removed my coat for the triage nurses in emergency, then sat for a long time on a stretcher in the corridor, my concerned husband at my side. I was thirstier than I’ve ever been, but was not allowed water in case they had to put me under. Eventually I was given a morphine drip that made me sleepy then sent down the hall to have my arm X-rayed. Given where the break was, the X-ray tech was surprised I wasn’t screaming. But I’d been there for hours and there’s only so long one can scream.

I’m not sure how much time went by. Time passes differently in the hospital. Time passes differently when you’re in pain. Sometime later they put me to sleep and set my arm. It was a temporary fix and I still needed surgery. My arm hurt whenever I moved any part of my body.

Eventually I got moved into a room which I shared with an 83-year-old Italian-Scottish woman whose hip was being replaced. My friend Becca came and brought me Star Trek, a much better pain killer than whatever was in my IV.  An orthopedic surgeon talked to me about the surgery he was going to do, which involved drills and saws and permanently installed titanium plates and screws.

On Sunday I was in surgery for at least four hours (my Mom says it was more like five). This passed for me in one slow eye-blink. When it was over my arm felt better than before, not awesome but better. It was secure in its part-hard part-soft cast. I no longer felt my bones grinding against each other whenever I moved.

It was the middle of the night when I got out of surgery so I slept over until Monday morning. I ate a piece of my Mom’s fudge despite being on a liquid diet. It was well worth it and I didn’t puke like the nurses said I might.

And now I’m home, with a long road of healing, recovery, and frustrating dependence ahead.I can eat whatever I want but I’m not very hungry. I fluctuate between feeling like Wonder Woman to feeling angry and sorry for myself.

IMG_0339My friends and family are awesome and are making this a less unpleasant experience than it could be. Especially my Mom, and my husband Adam, and my friends Becca and Kate. Also everyone who called me or sent me love on Facebook or sent me chocolate.

I couldn’t end this entry without thanking the hospital staff, particularly the nurses, who cared for me when I was in pain.  Kim, Nicole, Shannon, Alina, Dosom, Clyson, William, Chrissie the X-ray tech, Dr. Qutab who spent all those hours putting me back together, and so many others whose names I didn’t catch. They did their jobs with kindness and caring and love. If you know any nurses, give them a hug for me. I would, but I only have one arm.

meincast

My Review of the Lego Movie

the_lego_movie_2014-wideWhat I noticed first about the Lego movie is the texture of the pieces. This computer animated feature not only looks like it was made out of Lego, it looks as if it was made out of Lego that has been around a while, Lego that’s been sifted around a bin, that’s rubbed up against other pieces and become scratched and worn. This creates a nostalgic atmosphere that carries through into the story and characters. Featured is a nice mix of old and new Lego sets, including cameos by several licensed characters and an 80s spaceman whose helmet is cracked in that spot where Lego helmets always crack.

The film acknowledges that there are two different ways of playing with Lego, following the instructions and creating from your imagination. These two schools of thought provide the central conflict for the story. Rather than a movie that just happens to be made of Lego, the Lego movie is a film that could only be made out of Lego. So help me, I enjoyed it. It entertained me. Everything is awesome will be in my head forever.

But no matter how well-written and well-executed the Lego movie is, it can’t escape what it is and what it is is an extended commercial for Lego. I enjoy commercials as much as the next gal (they are the only reason to watch any major sporting event) and yet it’s irksome that an already multi-billion dollar company tricked my family into spending forty-two dollars plus tax and popcorn to watch an advertisement. (An awesome, awesome, advertisement).

But number two: not enough Wonder Woman. I was excited to see my favourite hero in the trailer, but her cameo doesn’t extend much beyond that clip, despite being voiced by the talented Cobie Smulders of How I Met Your Mother fame. Okay, it’s a small thing, but coupled with the film’s most awesomely strong female character Wyldstyle being pigeonholed into the role of the protagonist’s love interest, it made the feminist in me cringe. Do we even need a love interest in a kids movie? Maybe just this once we can have a woman in a movie who doesn’t have to defer to the men on screen all the time? No? Well, then at least there’s Unikitty to give us more female representation. Feminist face-palm.

If you’re still around after my mini-rant. I must reiterate that the Lego movie is worth seeing. You will be entertained thoroughly and leave the theater with an intense desire to break out your old Lego sets and create something amazing. Also you’ll have that song in your head. Consider yourself warned.

Why Writing is like Parenting.

Back in the days before I was trying to promote myself as a professional writer, I had another blog where I wrote about anything I felt like, mostly rants about my life as a mother. I don’t talk a lot about my kids here as I am acutely aware that the demographic that would read my book has little crossover with the demographic that would be interested in a tongue-and-cheek piece about kindergartners. This morning, however, while I was recovering from the stress of getting my children ready for school, I thought to myself, “writing is a lot like parenting”. So if the childless and the non-writers could bare with me, I’d like to list some reasons why.

Nobody cares about your baby. You endured many a sleepless night getting that book in the form it is today, but a shot of the cover is about as interesting to your Facebook friends as a video of your son’s holiday concert. The more you post about your bundle of joy, the more your followers will wish that there was a middle finger alongside the thumbs up button.

Guilt. No matter how much of a helicopter parent you are, there will be a time when you neglect your children in some way. Maybe you’re twenty minutes late picking them up from school. Maybe you allow them to watch tv all weekend instead of spending quality time. Maybe you leave them chained to a rusty sink, held captive by a group of trigger happy gynoids, while you wrestle with a case of writer’s block laziness.

Frustration. You keep writing and rewriting that novel but it never reaches the level of brilliance you envisioned. Your characters don’t listen to you. They spout clichés and digress into subplots just to give you more editing. Writers understand that their characters are real people because they fight with them every single day. The process feels very much the same as trying to convince a stubborn five-year-old to put her pajamas on.

The pay sucks. If you kill yourself marketing your novel to the masses you’ll have a small chance of becoming a household name. If you teach your children to carry a tune you’ll have a small chance of becoming a successful family singing group. Your chances of becoming the next JK Rowling are about the same as your chances of becoming the next von Trapp family. And unless you reach that level of success, you won’t make any money.

You wouldn’t change a thing.  As difficult and thankless as your job is, you can’t imagine doing anything else. Your offspring, whether written or biological, represent your greatest achievement. You created something beyond yourself. You made a stamp on the world that will exist after you are gone. Maybe not everyone appreciates your efforts, but you don’t do it for the accolades. You do it for them, your children and your creations. They are the reason why you are here.