Thursday, 31 December 2015

Finding Stories in Life

You may have noticed that I like stories.  I've mentioned it once or twice...

I try to collect different myths and cultural stories and share them with my kids.  I want them to see the world in all sorts of different ways.

This Christmas, I told them an adaptation of the Celtic legend of the Oak King and the Holly King.  I told them that the two kings are brothers.  The Oak King loves the sunshine and the light while the Holly King loves the stars and the night.  They fight to make the Earth entirely day or entirely night, each one adding a few minutes of either night or day every 24 hours.  On the winter solstice, the Oak King defeats the Holly King and begins to add extra daylight to every day.  On summer solstice, the Holly King defeats the Oak King and begins to add extra night to each evening.

My son asked why the Oak King couldn't just win and then it would never be bedtime.  (Like the practicality.)  I explained that if it was always day, then plants would be scorched and the Earth would get too hot.  And if it was always night, then we would freeze.  So both brothers are necessary for us to survive and even if they don't get along, they're still partners.

It's a different way of seeing the change of seasons, a poetic interpretation instead of a scientific one.  Now, I am a fan of science, but I also am a fan of myths and poetry.  They satisfy something deep inside our souls.  As long as we understand the purpose of both, I don't see a problem with either.

Monday, 28 December 2015

December 20th to 26th

Weekly word count: 1500

Okay, I had a plan and it was a good one.  I arranged to have help for two afternoons last week so that I could write.  But the universe had other plans.  For the first day, one of my kids had a stomach flu, so I cancelled the sitter.  (Making the sitter sick = bad)  I did get some writing done, but nowhere near the amount I was hoping for.

Second day, it was my turn to be sick.  I have not yet reached the point in my skills where I can write beautiful fiction from the bathroom.  It's a personality flaw, I suppose.

At least we managed to all be healthy for the holidays, so I will accept that as at least a little bit of a win.

I should hear about my line edits sometime next week.  I have the week off, with plans to have a good time with my boys before they go back to school.  So I'm not going to put too much pressure on myself.  That can wait for January 4th when I start back on the regular program of balancing writing and day job while the kids are at school.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Scrooge's Character Arc

In early December, Teresa Wilde did a great presentation for ORWA on Scrooge's character arc.  She showed how Dickens makes Scrooge's 180 degree character turn in one night a believable story.  He used the 5 act structure to build sympathy for Scrooge and the intensity of the experience allows us to accept the extreme about-face.

It's given me a lot to think about in terms of character growth and it seems timely, so I thought I'd share.

The first major point to consider is that although his name has come to be synonymous with "miser", Scrooge's problem isn't actually being tight with his money.  He's not a miser.  Penny-pincher, yes.  Misanthrope, yes.  But a miser wouldn't turn down an offer of free food at his nephew's Christmas party.  If the money was the extent of Scrooge's problems, A Christmas Carol could have ended with him giving his fortune to charity and being done with it.

Scrooge's problem is actually that he's cut himself off from everyone and everything which used to hold meaning for him.  There was a time when he longed for affection, when he was an abandoned boy at school and when he was an apprentice at Fezziwig's and was engaged to Belle.  He begins his career in business because he wants to earn respect and be powerful, which he equates with being wealthy.

Dickens shows us that Scrooge wasn't always pushing people away.  Instead, it was a gradual process of isolating himself to prevent further hurt.  He refuses to marry Belle until he feels he can provide for her as a husband should.  Personally, I think his misanthropy is a mask.  He's not actually as hard-hearted as he'd like to appear, he's just tired of people trying to push him around, so he's adopted a pose of indifference.  A clue to this is that Scrooge is actually the only character in the book to show a sense of humour.  Everyone else is very earnest and serious in their pursuit of Christmas cheer, but Scrooge sees the absurdity of some of the traditions and customs.

With the Ghost of Christmas Present, Scrooge sees that he's viewed as a tyrant by those beneath him and a joke by those of his social class.  It obviously hurts him a great deal.  He sees himself as a savvy businessman.  It's more signs that he's not actually as heartless as he appears.  He doesn't want to hurt others, he's blinded himself to the impact his choices have on them.

The Ghost of Christmas Future provides a warning, foretelling Tiny Tim's death and Scrooge's own unmourned passing.  Together, all three ghosts show Scrooge that his behaviour isn't getting him what he wants.  Instead, he's putting himself and his immortal soul at risk and, in the end, gaining nothing.

If Scrooge honestly hated people and didn't care if they all died (Are there no workhouses?  No prisons?  If they are like to die, they should do so quickly and decrease the surplus population) then the visions the ghosts show him would have no impact.  Scrooge's change of heart isn't as dramatic as it appears on the surface and that's what allows us to accept it.  It isn't that he's truly changed.  Instead he's able to remove his mask and resume behaving as the sort of person he truly was, but had forgotten.

In the end, that's what all character arcs should be.  People don't often go through true changes of who they are.  They hide themselves (and are often miserable doing so) to try and force themselves into who they think they should be.  But the core stays the same and the change in a character arc should be less about dramatic transformation and more about reminding the character of who they have always been.  It's about casting off the false-self and living true once more.

Monday, 21 December 2015

Weekly Update: December 13 to 19

Weekly word count: 3000

Not my desired 4000, but I'm cutting myself some slack for the holidays.  This was my last week of provincially sponsored child care (otherwise known as school) so for the next two weeks, I've got two active and rambunctious boys at home, both super excited about the upcoming present-fest.

Still, I want to make progress, so I've arranged for a sitter to take them out to some fun locales (swimming, the trampoline park, indoor play arenas) twice a week for the next two weeks.  That will give me four hours a week to write, which should let me do between 3000 and 5000 words.  Then we'll be back to the regular schedule of juggling my dayjob and writing while the kids are at school.

I'll also have some more work to do with Metamorphosis.  The release date is set for February 14th, a little Valentine's Day celebration for everyone.  I set up the preorder this weekend and am waiting for Amazon to approve it.  So now I have a very firm deadline.  I'm hoping that I can have the print version ready (at least from the site) at the same time though it will take another 6-8 weeks for the print version to be available in Canada.  But I have to wait until I have my final text for everything.

I've got another two weeks before I'll get my line edits back.  Then a couple of rounds of back and forth, then final polish and proofread.  I can do this.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Stages of Creative Development

For an amusing break in the pre-Christmas rush:

The 5 Stages of the Creative Process

1) Blissful inspiration: the stroke of genius which inevitably hits when you have no means of recording it: while you're asleep, driving in the car, doodling during a meeting at work or after the sixth drink at the bar.  No matter how hard you try, the details which would have made Shakespeare weep gradually escape, leaving only the hollow shell of greatness.

2) Careful plotting: the carefully laid out interweaving of plot elements and character growth, following the universal story arcs.  You know, the stuff you'll end up throwing out because the story ended up going in a different direction.

3) First draft: the finished product, the result of hours and hours of numb fingers pounding at the keyboard, midnight writing sessions and missed family and work events.  The one you look up from, exhausted and exhilarated, only to be struck by the sudden realization that at least half of it is garbage.

4) Editing: the even more mind-numbing process of ripping your precious baby apart and rebuilding it again and again and again and again and again and again.

5) Release: when you take the story which you've slaved over and dreamed about and send it out into the world so that others can complain it wasn't exactly what they were looking for.

If none of that discourages you, then congratulations, my friend, you can join the slightly insane club of professional writers.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Weekly Update: December 6 to 12

Weekly word count: 2800

I've been speaking with a correctional officer and reworking the beginning of Inquisition to be more accurate.  It's been a very interesting glimpse into a world which most people will never experience.

This phase is always difficult for me.  I feel like a parent with a newborn and a teen off to college.  Inquisition is all potential and possibility, the reality of the story hasn't gelled yet.  Metamorphosis is effectively out of my hands now.  It's too late to do any real second-guessing about plot or characters. 

I've heard writers described as the ultimate control freaks, which definitely applies to me.  This is the phase where I have the least control.  I have to be open to ideas and inspiration if I want Inquisition to be good, so I can't get too attached to any particular ideas at this stage.  And I have to trust my instincts for Metamorphosis, trust that I made the right decisions and stop trying to "fix" things.

Recognizing when it's time to let go is one of the biggest challenges for any creative process.  There's always the temptation to hold back for one more polish, one more improvement, one more attempt to make the creation match the vision inside the mind.  Personally, I think that's what happens when someone spends 10 years writing a "great" novel.  They didn't catch the moment when it was time to let it go and move on to the next project.  Perfection isn't attainable and if someone dedicates themselves to chasing it, they'll invariably be unhappy with the results.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Defining Success

Last week, my husband and I had a budget meeting for the family.  Part of that discussion was asking where does the line get drawn between a hobby and business.

We've made some big decisions to allow me the opportunity to pursue writing as a career.  I scaled back on my hours at work to give me time for writing, editing and promotion.  We gave up some luxuries to have room in the budget to pay for editing and promotional work.  It was a big decision and one which has long term effects.

With a reduced salary, we don't have as much money to put aside for long-term savings.  We don't go on vacation.  We can't do renovations or update our furniture.  We both accepted it as a short term measure.

Initially, I expected to be able to earn enough in one year with one book to cover the expenses of the next book.  That turned out to be overly optimistic.  So we've had to consider, how many books and how many years do we invest in my career before expecting income to match costs?

When I first started to seriously pursue writing, I had people tell me to create my own definition of success.  Was it to see my books in the bookstore?  To get lots of positive reviews?  To earn a certain amount of money?  To see my book topping the charts or made into a movie?

I think those definitions are important to consider for the creative side of writing.  But for the business side, it's important to think in terms of income and expenses.  It's important to have a sustainable plan for how much money and time will be invested before expecting a return.

When planning, the future has to be considered as well as the present.  Are you willing to potentially put off your retirement to pursue your writing career?  Are you willing to go without some of the luxuries in your life to cover the costs?  Even J.K. Rowling held a day job for a number of years before Harry Potter became a source of real income.  Becoming an overnight success takes years of effort.

We've settled on a five year plan.  For the next four years, we can continue at the same rate we're currently at.  But if income is still not matching costs at that point, we'll have to reconsider the plan.  I think this plan is more realistic than my initial one.

Creatively, I have a number of definitions.  I'd love to see my book in bookstores.  I enjoy getting reviews from people I've never met telling me that they enjoy my book.  It would be a huge thrill if someone told me about a great book they'd read which they want to recommend to me and it turned out to be my book.  A movie would be awesome.

Businesswise, it's much simpler.  I want my profits from writing to replace or exceed my income from my day job on a consistent and reliable basis.  I want to be able to quit my day job and focus on writing.  I see writing as a more sustainable and flexible career option than other work (aside from being something I would do anyway even if no one ever paid me a dime).  I can continue to write well past the age where I would have to retire from other work and I can do it from wherever I choose to be.  So we can move wherever would be best for my family, if necessary.

That, to me, would be a success.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Weekly update: November 29th to December 5th

Weekly word count: 3800
Editing countdown: final polishing done, edits sent in

It's been nice to finish up with the edits for Metamorphosis and get started on Inquisition again.  I've been in touch with a few correctional officers and from what they've told me, I'm rewriting my first three chapters.  I don't think it will change where I want the story to go, but the framework I'd set up wasn't right, at least in relation to the parts in the prison.

ORWA had its' December meeting, with a great presentation on Scrooge's character arc in A Christmas Carol.  For those who haven't read the book, the Muppet version is a great adaptation.  Dickens really is a master of the 5 act structure.  It's all set up perfectly: the introduction to Scrooge, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, the Ghost of Christmas Future and Scrooge's redemption.  (Sorry, I know that's a spoiler, but I'm assuming most people are passingly familiar with the story.)

It was great getting to see everyone, even though I'm now starting to feel the nerves about my own workshop in January.  (January 10th at 2pm at Centrepoint, Ben Franklin Place, if you're in the Ottawa area!)

2015 is rapidly drawing to a close.  Overall, I think it's been a pretty good year and I'm proud of what I've accomplished. 

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Dealing With Predators

A few weeks ago I began receiving private messages on Facebook from various men who all began by telling me how beautiful they found me and how they felt there was a deep personal and spiritual connection between us.  It got to the point where I was receiving so many that I felt uncomfortable.  Obviously something brought me to their attention.

Now, the simplest solution would be to unfriend them and avoid friending anyone I don't personally recognize.  But I don't want to do that.  I am on Facebook because I want to attract attention and connect with people outside my personal circle, but as a writer, not on any kind of romantic basis.

I don't bear them any ill will (irritation is another matter).  I get it's a long day in Nigeria or wherever and there's absolutely nothing personal about their efforts.  They're looking for vulnerable people they can scam out of money.  I'm not a good target in that a) I'm not vulnerable, b) I have a sense of humour and a grounded sense of reality and c) I have no money to send them even if a and b didn't apply.

It did get me thinking, however.  Especially when I came across another pair of articles: Gretchen Kelly's post on how women automatically de-escalate and dismiss a variety of offensive and predatory behaviour and Liz Goodman's account of a man sexually harassing her 13 year old daughter in front of her.

I was lucky (sort of).  I had an awkward phase which lasted well into my thirties (and one could argue is still happening).  I didn't get the sort of attention which Gretchen Kelly describes, at least not with any kind of frequency.  But I still had all the lessons drilled into me about always calming the situation down: make a joke, walk away, or apologize.

My first reaction on reading Liz Goodman's account was that she should teach her daughter some key jokes to make potential jerks back off in a hurry.  (I'm an undercover police officer, I'm the real life inspiration for Fatal Attraction, and my personal fave: mention that you have some kind of surgical scar leaking fluids.)  But that's no guarantee, which is also why I'd also recommend a good self-defence class.

That's when it hit me, I'm doing the exact same thing that Gretchen Kelly is talking about.  When the messages on Facebook got uncomfortable, I posted a joke about how disappointed they'd be when they found out I didn't have any money.  I did it deliberately to get them to back off.  (In retrospect, perhaps I ought to have started demanding money from them ... opportunity lost.)

I'm not sure where the answer is.  De-escalation is almost always safer than angry confrontation.  A jerk who is willing to leer and grab at a clearly unwilling target is not likely to have an after-school-special reaction to a lecture on decency.  For most predators, the method is not important, it's the act of exerting power which they enjoy.  And they're usually much more comfortable with escalating than their targets.

In a story, I can wither predators with my witty repartee, I can defeat them in a flurry of perfectly timed kicks and punches.  I'm never lost for words or tactically outmaneuvered.  In a story, I can always win.

But I don't get to write the final drafts of life.  Which means I have to be a little more cautious when dealing with predators out there.  But rest assured, in my head, I'm kicking ass.

Monday, 30 November 2015

Weekly Update: November 22 to 28

Weekly word count: 0
Editing countdown: 23 of 23 chapters done

The chapter by chapter editing is done but I still have some search and destroy scans to run on words which the editor identified as overused.  Then I also have some polishing work to do.  I've got until December 9th to get the draft in to the editor for line edits.

It's gratifying to be one step closer to having Metamorphosis ready for release.

Once I've got the final run-throughs done, I can send the Advanced Reading Copies out to the bloggers who've agreed to do early reviews.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about promotion strategies.  Initially, I'd been thinking of doing a book blitz with Xpresso Book Tours and another one with Pub-Craft, which does promotional work with various romance authors.  The question is whether or not to do both promotions for Metamorphosis or do one for Revelations and one for Metamorphosis.  I've heard different theories.  Some say it's best to continue focusing on the first book of the series, since that's where most people will want to start.  Others say it's best to promote all the different books to try and cast as wide a net as possible.

I've entered Revelations in some contests, and I think that's probably a good strategy for now.  But I need to do some thinking on other options.  There's only so much time and money I'll have to spend on promotion, so I need to try and be effective with it.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Taking Criticism

No one likes criticism.  Especially when it's directed at something they've worked long and hard on.

But criticism is essential for finding errors and oversights.  So the question becomes: how to accept criticism and distinguish the good from the bad.

First and most important, make sure the criticism comes from a trusted source.  A random review on Amazon shouldn't hold as much weight as an editor's comments or a critique partner's suggestions.

Personally, when I send out my draft to beta readers or my editor, I like to receive the initial criticism through email or as comments within the document.  That gives me time to go through it and get past my original emotional reaction.  Once I've gotten past the instinctive stage of "But that's not what I meant!" then I can settle down and start figuring out which issues I agree with and which I don't.  The fact that I can do that in private helps me to maintain a professional manner.  In person, it's too easy to slip into being defensive.

With my first novel, the developmental edit had 30 pages of notes as well as over 400 individual comments within the manuscript.  That's a lot of material to go through and while I agreed with a great deal of it (after some thought), there was also a large amount which I didn't agree with and some where I had a hard time understanding what was being identified as a problem. 

I sat down with another author and complained.  Here I'd spent all this money and it looked like they hadn't read the draft carefully.  After all, they were saying I hadn't explained certain things but I had.  That's when I received some of the best advice I've ever gotten about criticism: Forget the details and focus on the gist.

In other words, there is usually some truth at the root of all criticism.  If they say the relationship between the hero and heroine seems artificial and false, then that doesn't necessarily mean it's unsalvageable.  It may mean that some more depth needs to be added to the characters' point of view, showing us the internal emotions.  The problem may not be with the relationship but with the way the characters are shown.

Finding where the actual problem is can be a challenge and sometimes it takes multiple perspectives to figure it out.  If one criticism complains that the plot feels rushed, another that the ending feels unsatisfying and another that readers are lost trying to figure out what's going on, then those all point to pacing problems.

It's not easy to find the answers and in the end, I believe an author needs to respect his or her own instincts, even if it disagrees with the critique.  But it's also important not to dismiss anything out of hand.  Ignoring any suggestion or concern needs to be a deliberate and conscious decision.

Criticism is difficult but necessary, like rough sandpaper which polishes stone or wood into a glossy shine.  It may be abrasive, but your story won't gleam without it.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Weekly Update: November 15 to 21

Weekly word count: 900 words
Editing countdown: 19 out of 23 chapters (3 this week)

I'm getting close to the finish line, with two weeks left to go before Metamorphosis is due for line edits.  I've started sending out inquiries to see if bloggers are interested in doing a ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) review. 

I've got four chapters left to edit and my plan is to push myself this week to get them done.  That will give me a week to do a final read-through and polish.  Then I'll need to do a mock-up of the final print copy to let Streetlight Graphics know the page count for the print cover design.  I have to get my ISBNs and decide on my front and back material.

One issue I've been going back and forth on is whether or not to include a one or two page summary of Revelations.  I think I've done a good job of making Metamorphosis a stand-alone novel but I know some readers like to have a brief reminder.  Personally, I usually end up skipping over them but I know people who like them.

I've had people ask why it takes so long between finishing the draft and releasing the published manuscript.  After all, the ARC copy will be substantially the same as the final release.  But the line edit and the final polish review will catch the little mistakes which make a story appear unprofessional.  And they both take time and independent attention.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Case Study: The Power of Words

The stories we tell ourselves define our lives.  It's the context which makes people into villains or heroes.  It's also how we come to terms with the horrible things which happen to us.

Last week's attack in Paris was another reminder of how pain, righteousness and hopelessness can combine into a lethal mix.  No matter how many attacks we see and hear about, there is still something unfathomable about each one.  We understand the psychology, the politics, all the parts that make up the triggers, but we can't emotionally grasp that someone made the decision to hurt other people. 

That's a good thing, by the way, we're not supposed to be in that same headspace.

It may show my geek-flag colours, but my immediate thoughts went to JMS's Amazing Spider-man, number 36, which was written on September 12, 2001.  He released the book to the public a year later because what he wrote echoed with so many people that the actual issue is almost impossible to find.  (I have one, locked safely away in a fire-proof box and I don't care how weird that makes me.)  I highly recommend taking a look because my synopsis pales before the original.

The story goes that when Marvel writers assembled after 9/11, they were shaken and unsure what to do.  The Marvel universe is set in New York.  How could they have superheroes in a city where planes brought down buildings?  Should they just ignore it and pretend it never happened?

In walked JMS, noted screenwriter and wordsmith, who had recently taken over the Spider-man series.  He listened carefully to what the writers were talking about and then asked everyone to hold off making any decisions for the next hour.  He walked into his office and came back in forty-five minutes with one of the most moving scripts ever to come out of any comic book publisher.  One that makes me cry *every* *single* *time* I pick it up but still leaves me inspired.

He told the story of superheroes who were just as shocked and horrified and helpless as everyone else.  He told the story of their guilt at failing and their awe of the ordinary men and women who became real heroes that day.  The art shows the Marvel heroes working alongside the rescue crews, but as moving as those images are, it's the words which make the difference.

A frequent theme in JMS's work is that we, as a society and as individuals, can rise above the horrible things which happen to us.  That it is possible to fight the darkness and not be corrupted, although it is difficult.

His compassion in this case was astounding.  He rejects the opinions of those who said it was deserved (from all sides).  He acknowledges the anger and the terror and then he turns it around: asking, what do I tell my children.

Very simply: we tell them we are sorry that this is the world we have to offer.  That it can be better.  That it should be better.  And that the hatred of this day does not negate all the love which supports and protects them.

He does not suggest ignoring or forgiving the attacks but also doesn't scream for vengeance.  "That future must be built free of acts such as these, must be fought for and renewed like fresh water."  He reminds us that "the fire of the human spirit cannot be quenched by bomb blasts or body counts."  He proposes that we build "a world which will not require apologies to children, but also a world whose roads are not paved with the husks of their inalienable rights."

I could write for hours about the beauty of his words, the simplicity of the choices he makes, which allows each statement to ring clear and true, building a symphony of grief and hope.  Neither side is overshadowed, both are acknowledged, which is incredibly difficult to do.

His words built a shield, a narrative where devastation didn't have to be the end of the story.  That's the kind of writing I aspire to. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Weekly Update: Nov 8 to 14

Weekly word count: 3500
Editing countdown: 16 out of 23 (3 chapters done this week)

I got a major writing boost when my son got into a 3 hour workshop.  That gave me 2 hours and 45 minutes of writing time on the Sunday.  2400 words done.  Then I got another opportunity later in the week and thrummed out another thousand.  Feeling pretty good about that and really liking how Inquisition is shaping up.

I was also surprised to discover how many people I know also know someone who works in corrections.  I had posted that I was having a hard time finding research material for contemporary American men's prisons.  The library has a half-dozen books on prisons in the 30's, 40's and 50's as well as few biographies on women's prisons and juvenile facilities.  But I've only managed to find one book on men's prison.

Shows are another research option for me although I don't like to rely on them.  But there can be some good information.  There used to be a bunch of prison reality shows on A&E, if I remember correctly, but they seem to have been replaced with Duck Dynasty and Storage Wars.

Luckily, my friends are coming to the rescue and offering to put me in touch with people who are currently working as corrections officers.  That should definitely help.

Next I need to see if I know anyone who also knows a professional magician who does sleight of hand.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Proud to Honour Those Who Serve

I come from a military family.  Almost everyone on both sides has served in the Canadian Armed Forces in various ways.  So I'll admit, I probably have a bit of a bias here.

I've had many arguments with friends who take a pacifist view: that if there were no soldiers, there would be no war.  I respectfully disagree.

Worldwide violence has decreased over the centuries and tolerance of violence has also decreased.  It is no longer acceptable to hit another person to show them who is boss or to buy and sell people as so much property.  We no longer shrug off stories of genocide and terror because they do not directly affect us.  We've made great strides and should be proud of the changes we've wrought.

But there will always be those who seek to frighten or bully others.  Sometimes those people gain power, because it is seductive to blame others for problems and feel powerful.

We will always need warriors to protect those who cannot protect themselves.

Warriors stand strong and tell those behind them that they don't need to fear.

Warriors sometimes take grievous injuries in both mind and body but often still seek to stand against the darkness.

Warriors use their strength not as a source of power over others, but as an umbrella to shelter.

Warriors deserve to be honoured and their sacrifices remembered.

I'm proud to be part of a warrior tradition.  And I always will be.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Weekly Update: Nov 1 to 7

Weekly word count: 0
Editing countdown: 12 of 23 chapters done (2 this week)

Okay, last week was a write-off, in the non-productive sense of the term.  Between Hallowe'en candy sugar crashes and a root canal, I was not in a productive headspace.  This week will hopefully go better.

This is one of those moments where it's very easy to become discouraged and convince myself that I'm crazy to think I can balance writing, the business of being an author and all the other things I have in my life.  (The craziness is undisputed but that doesn't mean I can't do it.)

So I'm reminding myself not to panic and try to rush through this week.  Rushing leads to mistakes and invariably takes longer.  I need to proceed at a steady, maintainable level.  I'm not behind and I'm not in crisis.  This is one of life's regular bumps and so I need to put it in my rearview mirror and concentrate on the road ahead.

I have a month to go before my deadline and I'm past the half-way mark.  That's not a bad place to be.  And if I look back, I did manage to accomplish a fair amount.  I got my books ordered and sent to the RITA contest for Romance Writers of America.  I got the next round of paperwork moving for my IRS challenges.  I ordered a Square so that come the next convention, I can accept credit card payments.  And I spent several hours working out a potential plot problem for Metamorphosis.

It's not everything I hoped to do, but it's nothing to sneer at.

Thursday, 5 November 2015

Writing Business: Getting Creative Professionally

To be clear, I don't mean getting creative with anything which leaves the government or local law enforcement annoyed.  Instead I mean the eternal juggling act of balancing time, money and other commitments with the creative impulse and business necessity.

Whew, it's exhausting just to write out.

This is something which kept coming up at Can-Con: finding the time to write, finding the time and money to promote and the intimidation of dealing with dozens of potential independent contractors.  So I decided to put my two cents out there.

First and most important rule: Write Your Book.  Or Draw Your Picture.  Or whatever else gets you going creatively.  No matter how brilliant your business plan, it means nothing without actual product to put out there.

I've got a full time job and a household with kids to run.  I've had to teach myself to write in the cracks of my life.  Kids have a swimming lesson?  Score!  Forty five minutes of writing time if I pack along my laptop and plot book (a photo album with my ever expanding mass of index cards).  One trick I've learned is to spend the last five minutes of each session writing out notes for where I want to go next in a scene.  That way when I next get to write, I can get right back into it.

Another trick is to pawn off whatever work you possibly can.  I get a cleaning service in to deal with the major housekeeping issues (wash the floors, clean the bathrooms).  I know authors who trade work with other moms (one does the cleaning, the other cooks meals for both families).  And there's always the classic option of roping your spouse and kids into doing more work.  Figure out what someone else can handle to give you time to write.

Final advice on writing: figure out what environment and tricks work best for you to get creative.  If I have my music and an outline, I can do a thousand words in under an hour.  If I'm trying to write where people will be interrupting and bumping into me, not going to happen.  For some people, they need quiet.  For others, they need noise and interaction.

Next rule: Promote!  Promote!  Promote!  Books sell by word of mouth, so your job as an author is to start as many word of mouth chains as you possibly can.  Some will fizzle out but you never know when one will take off.

Set your budget for promotion.  Don't plan to make back your money in sales every time.  Odds are good that you won't be able to recover costs, particularly in the first few years.  But that doesn't matter, because you're creating your platform to grow your business.  Figure out what you can afford both in time and in money.  There are a lot of services which will help you promote in exchange for a fee and there are a lot of free services which will cost you time.  Free services tend to be saturated, requiring a lot more effort to be noticed.  Paid services can get expensive in a hurry and results are never guaranteed.

I chose to join KDP Select through Amazon, even though it meant I couldn't submit my book to Kobo, Apple or Barnes and Noble to take advantage of those marketplaces.  I did it deliberately because Amazon offered promotional opportunities in exchange for exclusivity.  My book in front of more eyes was worth the potential loss of income.  I'm hoping to reach a point where my sales are sustainable even without Amazon's support, but that's probably several years off at this point.

I also do a lot of blog visits and posts.  I have a number of blogs where I'm friendly with the person who runs it and some of them are starting to have quite the following.  By being available, polite and professional, I've built up a relationship where they're willing to give me better placement and support when possible.

Final bit of advice for promotion: Plan for a marathon.  The work never really ends so don't burn yourself out trying to do everything. 

The last key issue of intimidation is choosing the team who will work with you: editors, cover designers, beta readers, tour managers, promotional team, and distribution, to name a few.  There are lots of people out there with slick sites but maybe not much experience and there are also some real gems.

I found recommendations through my writer's group (thanks ORWA) and I'm pleased to say I've rarely found myself in a position of wasting my money on a service I didn't like.  I probably could have found the same services cheaper, but I knew the people I was dealing with were reliable and professional.  I didn't have to spend weeks and months searching and researching, which left me more time to write.

No matter whether you traditionally publish or go independent, you are still working with a giant corporation when it comes to getting your book out there.  Amazon wants to make money, not nurture the dreams of every author who submits a book.  Ditto for the traditional big six.  Know what you're getting into with every contract and read the fine print.

It's scary from the outside but it's not something you have to master instantly.  There's time to figure things out and figure out what works for you.  Some people will be able to publish quality work rapidly, others will have to plan for a longer term approach.  Some people have time and money for lots of promotion, others will have to choose to focus on one or the other.

Figure out what works best for you and you'll be surprised at how quickly the barriers between you and your dreams come tumbling down.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Weekly Update: October 25 to 31: Photos of Can-Con

Weekly word count: 1100
Editing countdown: 10 chapters out of 23 (3 last week), deadline December 9th

I was relatively pleased at myself for managing to make my editing goal.  I'm still falling short on my weekly word count goals, but hopefully I can improve that soon.

This weekend was Can-Con and I had a fantastic time.  A big shoutout and thank you to the organizers, Derek and Marie, for putting together a great conference.  It was my first time having a vendor table at a big multi-day event and I think it went great.  I sold out of almost my entire stock.  I only came home with one book.

But the real fun came with the people I met.  Unfortunately, I always think of getting photos after the fact!  So I want to give a shout out to my neighbours, Tyche Books and the Ottawa Browncoats.  Tyche had Pat Flewwelling and Lisa Toohey at their table and those ladies were a hoot.  We had a lot of fun luring people to our tables with free candy.

And it was a real pleasure hanging out with my fellow ORWAns and tablemates, Eve Langlais and S.M. McEachern.

Nathan Bourgoine and I got to share some funny comments and tweets at the Police Procedural workshop.  He's a hilarious guy and I loved his Where's Waldo costume.  And I met my first fan, a reader who picked up my book in June and wanted to tell me how much she enjoyed it.  It made my day!
I enjoyed being part of panels for Portrayals of Autism in Popular Fiction, sharing my favourite authors on the Romance Readers Panel and talking about my publishing journey in New Revenue for Self-Published Authors.
And one lucky person who stopped by our table will be winning a free set of ebooks.  I can't wait to find out who.
I can't say enough about what a great time I had and I'm looking forward to coming back next year.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Case Study: Non Human Characters

With editing and writing last week, I was feeling a little romanced out.  (Shh, don't tell anyone, I think they'll revoke my membership.)  I decided to pick up a little mental refresher off my bookshelf and I pulled up a novel which I first got back in middle school.  (In a Scholastic Order, take a moment to remember the thrill of new book day each month.)

Meredith Ann Pierce's Birth of the Firebringer.

The characters in this story are all inhuman.  Mostly unicorns, though we also meet gryphons, pans and wyverns.  This is a real challenge for an author.  Certain descriptions can't be used (no unicorn is ever going to say 'on the other hand' to describe something). The culture is entirely alien but has to be kept close enough to human for a reader to relate.  The characters simply can't do some things a human could but are capable of things which we can't.

Pierce does a really good job keeping descriptions consistent but also using them to remind us that the characters aren't human.  She's obviously very familiar with horses and uses a lot of riding terminology.  Characters canter or shy or gallop rather than walk or run.  They use their teeth to manipulate things, dragging heavy objects together.  She even provided a mechanism for sharp horns and hooves, the unicorns are able to sharpen them by rubbing hoof and horn together.  The plains are described as rolling like the hair on a mare's back.

Pierce manages to balance the familiar and the exotic.  The social structure of the unicorns is a feudal one common to most high fantasy.  There is a king who rules the unicorns, with a patriarchal line of descent.  But Pierce also pulls in herd dynamics, with the queen and princess acting as the herd mare, keeping the others in line and serving as a buffer between the ruler and ruled.  The challenges used to settle disputes sound much like the challenge-combat done by stallions in wild horse herds.

I remember when I first read this story, I assumed the characters were human and the first few chapters confused me greatly.  I had to stop and go back and re-read them when I finally realized that these people were not like me.  (The unicorn on the cover should have been a giveaway, but I figured the people were in there somewhere.)  As a writer, now I come back to it and realize how much work Pierce put into creating her world and characters.

Monday, 26 October 2015

Weekly Update: October 18 to 24

Weekly word count: 1100
Editing countdown: 7 out of 23 chapters (4 last week)

The cover reveal blitz last week went really well.  We have our winner for the $ 20 Amazon card.  I'm pleased to say they won on a "Follow Your Dreams" entry.  I'm just waiting for permission to share their name on the website.

I got a lot of positive comments about the new cover, which was nice to hear

I'm into my final preparations for Can-Con, including a wee bit of panic over an overdue shipment of buttons.  They should have been here on Thursday last week but there's still no sign.  I'll have to pull up the tracking details.  Other than that, I think I've got everything ready.  Nerve-wracking, but exciting!

Editing is going well.  This week is likely to be tight, so I tried to get a little ahead last week so that I don't fall behind.  The sequel to Metamorphosis is starting to really take shape in my head.  I've even come up with a temporary title: Inquisition.  I was toying between that and Salvation, but I think Inquisition will suit the plot better.

I finished my kids' Hallowe'en costumes.  I'm a little disappointed I won't be here to do the usual decorating and last-minute prep.  The timing for Can-Con means it'll be a rush for me to get out of there and run to be home in time for trick-or-treating.  But I remind myself that it's not like I'm abandoning them entirely.  Their father is capable of hanging up some crepe-paper bats and dragging spiderwebs over the brick.  And the boys are old enough to help out.

It's going to be busy but I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Confession: I Don't Like "Said"

I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't like using "said" for dialogue tags.

I'll give everyone a moment for the collective gasp of horror to subside.

Conventional wisdom says "said" is invisible.  The readers' eyes skip over it and thus it avoids interrupting the action.  Writers are encouraged to simply use "__ said" when we want the dialogue to flow quickly without getting confused.

If a writer wants to use something more descriptive, we are told to use actions rather than adjectives.  I agree with that part, but it does slow down the pacing. 

I prefer to use a descriptive verb rather than "said" if I need something quick.  I am aware that it can get frustrating and jarring for readers so I try to keep it in check, but I as a reader get annoyed with a sea of endless "__ said" tags.  I guess I'm one of the few people who notice it.

"Did you get the car fixed?" he said.
"No, the garage was closed," she said.
"Closed?  It's a Thursday!" he said.
"Maybe it had something to do with the police investigation," she said.

It bothered me even to write that as an example.  This is what I would do if I was trying to make this dialogue flow quickly:

"Did you get the car fixed?" he asked.
"No, the garage was closed," she drawled.
"Closed?  It's a Thursday!"  He blinked in shock.
"Maybe it had something to do with the police investigation," she suggested.

To me, it's much more evocative and still does the assigned work of making it clear who said what.  Said is good when you need something basic but I believe we should aspire beyond basics.  Ideally, I would include more description of what was happening to paint the scene, assuming it doesn't impact the pacing.

"Did you get the car fixed?" His voice echoed in the cabinet as he searched for the peanut butter.
"No, the garage was closed," she drawled, trying to keep a smile off her face.
"Closed?  It's a Thursday!"  His head whipped around, his nose nearly clipping the door.
She got up, sauntering to the door as he stared at her in shock.  "Maybe it had something to do with the police investigation."

I know it's not how most people look at it.  But it's how my brain works.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Weekly Update: October 10 to 17: Cover Reveal Day

Weekly word count: 1500
Weekly edit countdown: 3 chapters out of 23

I made my editing goal but not my writing goal.  I'm still pleased with my progress though.

But enough stalling, it's time for the big reveal:

Love it, love it, love it!  Full congratulations to Streetlight Graphics for another job well done.  I can't wait to see this cover on my actual book!

I'm also beginning my giveaway for a $20 Amazon card.  It runs for this week only, so enter now!

I'm also getting into the final preparations for Can-Con in two weeks.  I've got my swag-bags packed and my fellow tablemates, Eve Langlais and S.M. McEachern and I, are preparing a surprise for everyone who stops by our table.  The schedule is up and I'll be sharing on 3 panels: New Revenue Sources for Self-Published Authors, Romance Reader's Panel and Portrayals of Autism in Fiction.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Playing In Alternate Worlds

I was speaking with my friend, Alexa Bloom, lately about our writing.  She does contemporary romance and I had to admit that I don't know that I would know what to do for my plots if I couldn't simply throw in a werewolf every now and then.  (I don't, but I like to know that I could if I wanted to.)

The truth is that alternate worlds have always felt more real and interesting to me than the real one.  Star Wars, Tolkien, the Marvel and DC universes and dozens and dozens of paranormal romance worlds, like Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunters and Jessica Andersen's Nightkeepers.  If I could travel to them, I would be a paranormal tourist in a heartbeat.

Pause to see if anyone alerts the authorities to lock me up in an asylum for being delusional...


Okay, good.

Creating a new world isn't easy.  Tolkien's world-creation material outnumbered his actual draft for The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings by an exponential number.  He had maps, language keys and dictionaries for Elvish, Dwarvish and Orcish, histories of the various countries and peoples and plenty of other stuff.

The rules for this world are more or less understood (which also means you can get them wrong).  People can't survive explosions with only singed t-shirts, conservation of mass means no shapeshifting, and hacking is not magic.  Once you decide to start playing in the fabric of reality, then you have to be careful not to violate your own rules.  If you've decided a certain character is eight feet tall and can leap a distance of five kilometres, then that's a limitation.  He's going to bump into doorways, not fit into cars and probably create impact craters whenever he jumps.

Is it easier to be able to rely on the world as it is?  On the one hand, you need a lot more research to get the details right.  On the other hand, you'll be doing that research anyway, just looking for different details.  I think in the end, it's what works easier for your own mind.  Mine does best in a world populated by demons, witches, shapeshifters, gods, superheroes, ghosts and fae.

Hmmm, someone at the door asking if I'd like to talk to the nice doctors...

Monday, 12 October 2015

Weekly Update: Oct 4 to 10

Weekly word count: 4100

Made my word count for the first time since before my vacation.  That deserves a happy dance.  It's split half and half between the sequel for Whispers In the Dark and the start of book 3 of the Lalassu.  Joe and Cali are screaming for their story and the words are just flowing out.  I hate to interrupt that, but there are other demands on my time.

I've gotten my developmental edits back from Red Adept and I have until December 9th to get Metamorphosis ready for line editing.  58 days to edit 23 chapters.  One chapter every two days with an extra week for delays and life.  Very do-able but will I be able to also write new material while I do it? I'm gonna see.  I'm setting myself a goal of 3 chapters per week.  If I don't make it, then I need to concentrate on editing rather writing the following week.  I am going to lower my weekly word goal to 2000 rather than 4000 words, though.

I also have Hallowe'en costumes to sew for my two boys.  One wants to be Super Grover 2.0 and the other wants to be Han Solo.  And I have prep work for Can-Con at the end of the month and my workshop on non-verbal communication for ORWA in January.  So there's not going to be a lot of downtime between now and Release Day in February. 

On the good side, despite my trepidation, the developmental edits don't contain any huge "rewrite this whole thing" problems.  The main issues fall into problems with deep point of view, which is something I know I have a challenge with.  I'm a visual person, so I pick up a lot of stuff visually that most people don't.  So I have to remember to explain it and get inside my characters' heads instead of hovering like a camera outside.  The editor did pick out one scene which I already had marked in my head as potential problem, so no news on that front either.

It's a lot to manage but I'm feeling confident I can do it.  (The confidence is unnerving though.  I keep thinking I must have forgotten something.)  I'm hoping that the momentum from Revelations will keep things moving and maybe someday I'll be able to let go of my day job and just concentrate on writing.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Taking the Time: Why the Midlist is Important

For those not familiar with publishing lingo, the midlist is one of the publishing ranks.  There are debut authors (just getting started), the midlist (established authors with a moderate following) and superstars (Nora Roberts, JK Rowling, James Patterson).

Most successful authors fall into the midlist.  As NYT bestseller Deborah Cooke put it when she spoke at the Ottawa Romance Writers, these are the ones quietly putting in a pool.  They're known within their genres and by their fans but didn't make the leap to cultural phenomenon.

In the old days when the big New York Six were the only route to having your book published, editors would take time to develop an author.  It didn't matter if the first book was a runaway success.  As long as there was interest, it was understood that building a brand and a reputation took time.

Hollywood and TV used to take a similar approach.  Many of the classic television shows didn't make great showings their first seasons (M*A*S*H is my favourite example) but became cultural superstars.  In Hollywood, the studio system would build and develop an actor's career (not always the way he or she wanted though).

It's hard to judge just how supportive these systems really were.  The old days always seem to get painted with a nostalgic gloss.  But there is no denying that time seems to be a luxury in the entertainment world these days.

If the first book doesn't go well, it's very hard to get anyone interested in looking at your second one.  Most authors switch pen names to "start fresh" rather than try to build on their existing work.  The traditional publishers seem less willing to take a chance on fresh talent.  They want someone with a ready-made audience, which is why they are offering deals to the successfully self-published authors.  There are still people out there looking for new writers but the time they have to develop and grow is limited.

Here's my problem with that system: even talented people need time to learn.  An author should be prepared, should take classes on writing and constantly be looking to learn better techniques, that is all true but there are some things you can only learn after you've started.  Theory is a good foundation, practice polishes the details.

Pick any of your favourite authors and look at their very first books.  There will be gleams of talent but there will also be glaring mistakes.  This is why a number of authors will rerelease the early books in a series with improvements after they become successful.  They know people will begin the series from book one and they don't want an inferior story out there.

I have another problem with that system: not everyone is going to be JK Rowling.  Widescale popular phenoms shouldn't even be considered in the standard business model.  They are outliers by definition.  And even JK Rowling took a long time to become JK Rowling.  Harry Potter wasn't an instant success.  It took time to develop.

I assume that the industry has reasons for making the choices they do.  It's never as simple as it appears to be from the outside.  But I would argue that expecting instant success has become something of a widespread issue across life in general.  People tend to be more interested in picking up something new or finding short cuts, which pushes artists to churn rather than take the time to develop.

Call me old fashioned, but I'm ready to dig in and take some time.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Weekly update: September 26 to October 3

Weekly word count: 2000

Not my best week but considering how much overtime I ended up doing in my day job to catch up, I'm not going to be too hard on myself.  This week will be better.

We had a great presentation at Ottawa Romance Writers this weekend, a representative from the Ottawa Public Library came to talk to us about how to add books to the collection.  It's relatively easy for those who have traditionally published books but for self-published, it's a little trickier.  I got a chance to speak to her about Revelations and discovered that it may not have been rejected.  The English fiction acquisition supervisor has been away on maternity leave.  She asked me to email her and she'll let me know where things stand.  (Yay!)

There is also apparently a Suggest to Purchase form which Ottawa Library card holders can complete if there is a relatively new book published in the last two years which they would like to see added to the collection.

I also began ordering my swag for Can-Con and I'm tempted to get so many things.  I'm trying to keep things simple and affordable though.  I'm putting together little treat bags for the trick or treating on Saturday.  I'm really looking forward to it.

I'm getting antsy about getting my developmental edits back for Metamorphosis.  I'm reminding myself to have realistic expectations (I will not receive back a manuscript which says either "You are a writing god!" or "Don't quit your day job!").  I'm looking forward to finally getting to share it with everyone and it's hard to wait through this process, even though I know it will result in a better book.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Why Disney Stories Work

Having spent a week in the Magic Kingdom and its copyrighted affiliates, it got me thinking about Disney stories.  Every night we watched a classic Disney film under the stars and there's a comforting rhythm to their stories.

Chris Vogler, one of Disney's writers, put together a memo for story pacing and structure based on Joseph Campbell's Hero of a Thousand FacesHe divided a classic story structure into 12 stages:

1. The Ordinary World.  This is the hero/heroine's everyday life.  Cinderella doing the chores and singing to her mice, Rapunzel playing with her chameleon and painting on her walls, or Tarzan's family escaping the sinking ship and building a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse.

2. The Call to Adventure.  The inciting incident which sets the story.  The king announces a ball to find the prince a bride, Rapunzel wants to see the floating lights and Tarzan's family is killed by the leopard and he is rescued by the gorillas.

3. Refusal of the Call.  The hero has some hesitation or obstacle to answer the call.  Cinderella's attempts at a homemade dress are ripped to shreds by her stepsisters, Mother Gothel refuses to allow Rapunzel out of the tower and Tarzan struggles to thrive in the jungle world.

4. Meeting with the Mentor.  The hero gains supplies/confidence/training from an outside source.  Cinderella's fairy godmother provides her dress and carriage, Rapunzel meets Flynn who can take her out into the world and Tarzan meets Jane and her father as they arrive to study the gorillas.

5. Crossing the First Threshold.  The hero commits wholeheartedly to the adventure and it's too late to go back to ordinary life.  Cinderella dances with the prince and falls in love, Rapunzel overcomes her fears to go with Flynn and Tarzan agrees to learn about the human world.

6. Tests, Allies and Enemies.  The hero explores his/her new world, faces trials and makes friends and enemies.  Cinderella must flee to avoid being caught out at midnight which sets in motion the Grand Duke's quest to find her, Rapunzel charms a tavern full of ruffians and Jane and her father teach Tarzan about the human world.

7. Approach to the Innermost Cave.  The hero nears the center of the story.  Cinderella has an opportunity to prove who she is to the prince and reunite with her true love, Rapunzel arrives at the kingdom and sees the floating lights and Tarzan agrees to show Jane and her father the gorillas, whom he has sworn to protect.

8. The Ordeal.  The black moment when all seems lost.  Cinderella is locked in the tower while the Grand Duke tries to fit the glass slipper on her stepsisters, Rapunzel believes Flynn has betrayed her for money and Tarzan's family is kidnapped and he is held captive, betrayed by those he thought he could trust.

9. Reward.  The hero survives and triumphs.  Cinderella escapes with the help of her mice, Rapunzel realizes she is the lost princess and Tarzan escapes his captors.

10. The Road Back.  The hero returns to the ordinary world.  Cinderella catches the Grand Duke before he leaves, Rapunzel confronts Mother Gothel and Tarzan brings his gorilla family back to their home.

11. The Resurrection.  A final challenge.  Cinderella produces the second glass slipper after her stepmother smashes the original, Rapunzel agrees to stay with Mother Gothel if she is allowed to heal Flynn and is able to use her tears to do so after Flynn cuts her hair and Tarzan assumes his place as protector and leader of the gorillas, even though he believes it will cost him Jane.

12. Return with the Elixir.  The ultimate triumph.  Cinderella marries her prince, Rapunzel is reunited with her family and Jane chooses to stay with Tarzan.

I've heard people complain about using structured plot points, claiming that it makes the stories too predictable and formulaic.  But there is something inherently satisfying about the plot arc which Vogler outlines.  Each story is very different, but hits the same emotionally resonating notes in roughly the same order.  I'm sure a psychologist could do a study to show why an audience responds to this pattern but the reason doesn't matter.  We just do.

Often when I find myself unsatisfied with a story, I've applied Vogler's pattern and discovered that the particular story doesn't fit.  Usually they've skipped point 11, The Resurrection, and gone straight to the happy ending.  Or they've missed the initial reluctance or obstacle (point 3, Refusal of the Call).  These can be very brief but they do need to be included.

Disney may be a giant corporation which has been likened more to a factory than an artist's workshop, but they've understood that their continued survival depends on telling great stories.  Vogler explains that during his time at Disney, he would use this structure to tweak good screenplays into great ones.  I use it for my own work as well and found most of the storytellers I admire (be they screenwriters or novelists) do the same.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Weekly Update: September 20 to 26 (Disney Photos)

Weekly word count: none, but I was at Disney, so I don't care.  :)
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, so here is my equivalent of a 6000 word week.  

The view outside our hotel room.  It may have been swampy but I will take it over the descent into Canadian winter.

First day at EPCOT.  The kids were super excited and dragged us all over the park.

Second day, Animal Kingdom.  My own Jurassic Park moment, though with less running and screaming.

What can I say?  I'm a Goofy girl.  Something about the mix of awkward enthusiasm and klutziness is... familiar.

Enjoying merging my inner and outer Star Wars geekiness.  I could have taken home an entire planeful of souvenirs... but then my husband would have had to move out to make room for them.  Possibly the children as well.

Relaxing by the pool and enjoying the heat.  (And taking the opportunity to rest my very sore feet.  According to the pedometer, we walked over 16 kilometres during the week.)
It was a great vacation and one we'd been looking forward to for quite some time.  Now I can get back to concentrating on the edits for Metamorphosis and my cover reveal, as well as prepare for my appearance at Can-Con!

Thursday, 24 September 2015

My Theory on Hauntings

I believe in ghosts.  I'll admit it.  I believe some (but not all) stories have something behind them, something which we don't understand.  I've heard a lot of different theories, like personalities being caught in some kind of electrostatic ether after death, like some kind of spiritual cloud download.  I've heard theories that hauntings are actually some kind of perceived time slip, allowing us visions of the past or future.  Similarly, there's the theory that we're glimpsing alternate dimensions or timestreams.

I've got my own theories, although they're probably not original.  I believe there are three types of hauntings.

First and most common are residual hauntings.  I think of them like recordings, bits of the past which somehow end up imprinted on a building or piece of land.  These are the ones where people see a lady in white or a Victorian gentleman walking down the stairs or across the garden.  One thing I've noticed in the ghost stories I've read or heard about is that you rarely see hauntings of this type where the "ghost" is from before the 1800s.  This brings me to the second part of my theory, that these recordings eventually get worn out or overwritten.  Sooner or later, a residual haunting will fade.

The second type of hauntings are where the ghost is able to interact with people.  Stuff gets moved around, voices respond to questions or comment on what is happening or the spectre or apparition reacts and communicates with people in the present.  I believe these are the result of people getting trapped in this world after death.  These spirits seem to be desperate to communicate with us, which makes me think being a ghost is not a great experience.

The third type of haunting are spirits which don't seem human.  Maybe there are other types of non-corporeal entities or maybe they're older human spirits which have gone insane after years or decades of being trapped between worlds.  Both options are interesting to me and ones I'm looking forward to exploring.

I don't assume that all ghosts are malevolent or out to scare people.  One of the most touching stories I ever heard was of a family who used their ghost almost like a babysitter.  They would hear their young children laughing to themselves and when they got older, they said they were laughing at a man who used to come and make funny faces at them.  The mother was convinced it was her father, who had passed away some years earlier but had always looked forward to having grandkids and was great with young children.  She believed he'd come back to or hung around so that he could spend time with his grandchildren.  She said it made her feel better to know he was keeping an otherworldly eye on her family.

I think we're arrogant to believe we have all the answers.  People have believed in life after death and ghosts across all cultures and throughout all of recorded history.  I refuse to believe it's all part of a comforting delusion.