Sunday, April 22, 2018

Five Interesting Facts About Aphrodite's War

Wicked cover by Terra Weston
Aphrodite's War is my second novel. It had a rough start, and you'll find out why, but you'll also find out how it bloomed too.I shouldn't have favorites...but yeah. Aphrodite's War is probably my easiest labor.

1. Ares wrote himself:  He was supposed to be a charming rogue type. But in the prologue he said, "Harpy slut! No one needed you to teach humans how to fuck." My hands literally flew off the keyboard, and I realized he wasn't going to be who I thought he was. He pretty much did and said whatever he liked from then on.

Amir was supposed to die: Near the beginning of the book, the kitten named Amir was supposed to meet his end in a microwave oven. After six solid weeks of Writer's Block, I realized there was NO WAY I could write that. I really didn't want to. So I changed the outcome, and changed the direction of the novel.

3. The change inspired me to get a cat: It may not be a big deal to other people, but going to the Edmonton Humane Society, and bringing Freya home changed my life. She's my very first pet, and the joy she brought to our lives changed the novel again in great ways. I even went back into the rough draft and changed the goddess Freya to resemble my new kitty. I was so in love, and writing this novel became effortless. And now I'm a proud crazy cat lover.
Perfect girl Freya

4. I learned Kendo for Adrien's sake: Adrien is a defense lawyer, and I worried that readers wouldn't like him. I'll admit, he wasn't likable at first. So he had to have a couple of cool interests. Someone at my husband's work recommended Edmonton Kendo, after I mentioned fencing. What better way to research than to truly experience it? It's engaging and interesting, and a fantastic workout. The people I met and the experiences I had I'll cherish for the rest of my life, and I recommend it to anyone. No one poked fun at me for how big I was, or that I couldn't keep up while jogging.. They knew I'd learn and get stronger, and adapt.. I learned a lot about respect, Japanese culture, and so much more. I lost at least thirty pounds. The reason I'm not still there is because I had too many other obligations, and not enough time or energy.
THIS is the coolness that is Kendo

5. SPOILER ALERT  for Strife: Readers might notice that I didn't mention what happened to Strife. That was not an oversight or mistake. Her character expanded in ways I didn't see coming. Like so many readers expressed, she became one of my favorites. I don't think she's finished...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fun Facts about Thoeba

This cover was done by Terra Weston
My first novel is called Thoeba, and I'm very proud of it. If you have never--or if you HAVE read it, you might find these five facts about it interesting.

1. Thoeba was inspired by a dream: When I was fourteen, I dreamed that I was hiding in a huge garden. A dark haired man and his daughter found me. They tried to coax me out, but  I could see two demons flying overhead, looking for me. All I could say was, "Thoeba! Thoh-BAH!" The spelling is something I pictured in my head. Yeah, weird dreams, and it stuck with me all these years.

2. All the flight jargon/airplane stuff is real: My father was a recreational pilot, and I shared his love of airplanes and flying. I used that knowledge to the best of my ability for the book. The Fairchild is a real airplane from the fifties, but I've never flown in one. I chose it because the photo I saw matched my idea of a rickety old aircraft that may or not fly at such an advanced age. (Sorry, I couldn't find that photo now.)

3. A fishing trip changed the location of the novel: Despite the fact that I'd never been to the Eastern coast, I thought I'd set it there. Peter was supposed to be a fisherman by trade. My husband and I took a fishing trip to Cold Lake, Alberta, and fell in love with the place and the people we met there. The campground, the cabin, Pelican Rock, and the pristine lake itself are all things we got to experience first hand. Only the bar and the actual military installation are made up.
This is the campground! Photo by Travel Alberta

4. Thoeba once had a different publisher and a different cover: Thoeba was originally published with Vamptasy Publishing out of Scotland. I got to pick the cover. I chose it because I felt that Thoeba acted as though she were made of stone, but you can see the sadness in the statue's bearing.

Thoeba's first cover
5. I regret naming the book Thoeba: It s a BAD IDEA to name your book something no one can spell or pronounce. Plus you will spend the rest of your life trying to politely correct people when they misspell it or pronounce it badly. For the record--It's pronounced 'toe' with a 'th' in front of it, and Bah, as in Humbug. Thoe-BAH. I still love the originality of it, and I can't bear to change it. I Googled it once, and it only shares a name with an Asian girl on Twitter, whose real name isn't Thoeba, and I'm sure she doesn't know my book exists.

I hope you liked learning five facts about Thoeba. Do you have any questions? There's more coming. Next: Five facts about Aphrodite's War.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Earth to Thoeba: Fathering a Feminist

Earth to Thoeba: Fathering a Feminist: I adored my father. That much is obvious. Yet I was always under the impression that my father would love me more if I was a boy. Maybe it...

Fathering a Feminist

I adored my father. That much is obvious. Yet I was always under the impression that my father would love me more if I was a boy. Maybe it was because they were expecting a boy. They were going to name me Christopher Robin.

When I was five, I was given a black pair of Bauer hand-me-down skates. I knew they were boys skates, my Uncle David's first pair. It didn't matter. Daddy liked to skate, so I would learn how to glide across the ice like he did, no matter that I didn't have the same pristine white skates with toe picks that I saw other girls wearing.

I have a fantastic memory of my father swooping over and asking me what was wrong. "Daddy, I can't skate!" I wailed. He showed me how to push and glide, push and glide--it wasn't at all like walking, and I didn't have picks to help me push off. He took my hand, and together we surfed the ice until I let go. I did exactly as he showed me and suddenly, it was easy. Viola! "Daddy, I'm skating!" In later years when we shared that memory he remembered it differently. He remembered me letting go of his hand and saying, "I got it, Daddy." And off I went. Sure enough, his little girl could skate.

It's a common theme in my life, always wanting to please my father and be good at all the things he loved. Because I believed he would love me more if I was more like him. More like a boy. It shaped who I am in interesting ways.

He played guitar and loved music. I took up drums and learned how to read music. I learned to appreciate all music-- classical, jazz, folk...stuff that wasn't metal. He loved airplanes and got a pilot's license. I became his co-pilot and navigator. I read all the books he used for ground school, weather patterns, cloud formations and how to read flight instruments. Our family went to airshows and my father and I collected T-shirts of our favorite aircraft. I built model airplanes. He loved hockey, both my sister and I learned how to 'speak fluent hockey', and we have our favorite teams of course. I collected hockey cards, and learned the value of those too. I can no longer tell you what Goals Against Average means, but my sister still keeps up with everything from draft picks to playoff games.

Here's where the feminism comes in...When my parents bought an acerage, I made myself useful. There was a lot to do, and if I wanted to spend time with Dad, that meant tough chores. It meant clearing brush and taking down small trees. It meant rototilling the earth and gardening. And lots of weed whacking. Lots, and lots, and lots of weed whacking. With a gas-powered weed whacker, no less. Those things are freakin' heavy.

And I grew strong. 
'Longest Distance Flown' at a Fly-In Breakfast

One day, he needed to bring a pallet of shingles to the roof. He had friends that volunteered to help, but Dad really just wanted to make sure it got done. Everybody seemed to be taking their time, and the roofers were going to be there in just a couple of days. So I helped him. This involved Dad hoisting a stack of shingles on his shoulder, and climbing a ladder. I stood on the roof, and grabbed the shingles from his shoulder by the plastic straps, and placed them in stacks. Such hard work! But it was worth it...After dinner, Dad's friends phoned. They were ready to help. I'll never forget how my heart sang when I heard my father say, "No, it's all finished. Me and my ah....daughter got it done." I could hear his pride. I saw it in the way he lifted his heels just a little when he said it.

We both hurt like hell the next day, but I was chuffed. From that day forward, I felt like I could do anything. I was strong and hard working. My father was proud of me. I'd heard him bragging about me. I'll never forget it.

That was the day I realized I could take any job, and work every bit as hard as a man. I realized my power and I was determined that if I worked like a man, I deserved to be paid like one, I deserved to be given the same opportunities, and I deserved fair treatment. My father believed in me. The best part? I did it. Just me. I didn't have to be a boy.

Looking back, I realized my parents raised a feminist all along. I realized my father simply never told me I can't. He never once said, "You're a girl, you can't/shouldn't do that." Not once. My parents just let me be myself, and I'm grateful for that. I like who I turned out to be.

I am a creative woman with a few odd interests and abilities and I am a good worker with a solid reputation. I'm that person, because my parents never told me, "You can't."

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Year I Got Old.

Dad was about 25 in this picture
This blog was brought on by a friend's loss of her father and an old photo a neighbor found. We didn't even know it existed until now.

When I got the news of my friend's father's passing, my heavy heart dropped. I understand her shock and grief, and I'm going to try and be there for her. This is going to be incredibly difficult, as you can imagine.

As the anniversary of Dad's death approaches, I've realized something. I got old last year.

Right after Dad passed, I felt depressed and exhausted. I quit my job because I had no energy, no focus, and I was constantly walking around angry. I felt weak and heavy. Even my eyes aren't as good as they were.

Not much has changed. I feel overwhelmed with my new job, unmotivated, and hopeless. I've started writing again, but most days I'm too exhausted to do much of anything. Edits are a struggle, even when I'm excited about them. I second guess every chapter. I used to be an upbeat person, now people avoid me because I'm negative. I've lost friends, but some of them stepped up. (Thank you Sharon, Sherri and Judy,  Jesse and Michelle, and always Mel, Colleen, Sylvia, Rita, Kevin and Ashley for being there.) I used to be the anti-procrastinator, now I just add more items to my to-do list and stare at it. I've started writing my will, but that's easier said than done. What an unpleasant task! I talk about the inconvienience  of aging like a woman twenty years older.

I remember the weather in the days after my father died. I remember wishing it had rained, just because it seems to rain for good people when they died. Or if it couldn't rain, why couldn't it be warm? Dad spent the last months of his life wearing layers because he couldn't get warm. Now I realize the weather was appropriate. Grief is a biting, bitter cold that sticks to you.  I wonder if my friend will forever associate this kind of ugly weather with the passing of her Dad. Will it make her sadder too?
So now I have just turned 46, and I feel old. I never really believed that would happen. Why? How did that happen? How do I recover? Why am I writing this?

I think I'm admitting that I'm not okay. I think I'm worried that my friend will experience the same things I have. I think I'm asking people to understand that losing a parent changes your core self. Please exercise patience and understanding.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

So You Want to be a Writer...

I get a lot of private messages from people wanting to write books. I try to answer as well as I can. I don't really have the time or the patience to devote to mentoring, but Hey...we all have to start somewhere. It is NOT lost on me that if my former critique partners hadn't given me a chance and taken the time to show me how it's REALLY done, I wouldn't be the writer I am today.

I wouldn't be just 'average'. I'd be worse than average. I'd be the painfully average writer who didn't understand why she sucked. Having straight A's in English and Literature doesn't automatically make you a good writer. It's more complicated than that. Also, if you want to be a writer, prepare to be humbled, no matter your skill level.

So the next time I get a message asking me about how to write a book, I think I will direct them to this blog. Here's a few pointers:

1. First of all: Accept criticism and advice. Especially if you requested it. Put your ego away. "No one became great by being told they were great." Stephen King. Even Mr. King himself doesn't get it right on the first draft.

Example: "Donna, you are not the narrator. Lose the 'God' voice. Real writers don't do that. You need to learn what a POV is." Incidentally, POV stands for 'Point of View'. I discovered I had to write from the character's viewpoint, not mine.

2. Do some research: Writing a fictional story in Egypt? Research their clothing,food, belief systems, everything. Is your book set in Salem, Massachusetts but you've never been there? Better Google Map it and  learn everything you can about the history--even if it doesn't coincide with the story you're writing. You'll still need atmosphere and texture. Writing about Dukes and Duchesses? Study everything about their caste system for starters. If you don't...someone who knows about it WILL call you out on it, and you are cheating your readers who are relying on you to give them a thorough experience through fiction. NOTE: If you are writing NON-fiction, based on your life and experience? Read books and quote others besides yourself. Why would anyone buy your advice based solely on your own experiences?

Example: Real Vikings never wore horns on their helmets. That's a movie thing. Real vikings were only about five foot six tall. They ate venison, duck, and berries. They were the first known humans to be able to consume milk from other animals--and that was goat milk.

3. Build a platform and practice: I give this advice a lot, but what does it mean? It means you start a blog or a newsletter and develop a social media presence. (Facebook, Twitter, Scrivner, Linked In, etc.) You let people know that you're out there in the world of writing and you have serious intentions. You will need a following and to connect with writers of your genre. You will also learn how to hone your craft and what your demographic/audience wants from you. This will also train you to write regularly. If you can't commit to a blog, how will you write a book?

Example/Personal Experience: Dive in. Don't be scared. PROMOTE yourself and advertise. Use the free social media at your fingertips to your advantage. Use it often. My biggest downfall in marketing is I have a hard time selling myself. I don't want to be that person, who is constantly hounding you to buy my book. Well...that's why I don't sell a lot of books. Don't be afraid to pass out bookmarks to everyone you meet and say, "Hey! I have a book and a blog and you should check it out!" NOTE: Vistaprint is a great, inexpensive way to create bookmarks and other promotional materials.

4. Believe in your own work:  I don't subscribe to the idea of "Never be caught learning to write." If you do that, you will never have the courage to publish, and you'll spend years working on something that will eventually outdate itself. Or worse? Someone else has the same idea and publishes first. Give it your best shot NOW and cringe later. This won't make you feel better, but most writers are highly critical of their own work--even after it's published.

Example/Personal experience: I know someone with a brilliant idea for a zombie series. He's been on it for over ten years. It's just not good enough yet. I told him to commit. Make it happen. Don't wait a few more years for it to be perfect, because there's no such thing as perfect. Do you want your legacy to be "Could have published a great zombie series?" Get an editor, or at least beta readers,  and get started.

5. Use better verbs and less obvious adjectives. Avoid cliches. Why say, "He hated her like the plague., and he wanted so badly to kill her. " When you could say, "He despised her and fantasized about burying her belly to the hilt of his sword." Much more graphic. Why say 'run' when you can say, sprinted, tore, raced or charged? The Thesaurus is your friend. Why use a worn metaphor? Why not use your own disgust to create one? Like, "I hated her like vermin on my last loaf of bread." or  if you're writing a modern piece, something like--" She drove me to madness, like the consistent drizzle of the bathroom faucet. The unrelenting hiss always reminded me of my grandmother's resentment." Something like that. Make it sound personal.

Example/Personal experience: While looking for another word in the dictionary, I tripped on the word "Perspicacious." I love that word, and I did realize that people would probably have to look it up if I used it. Then again, describing Dr. Thompson's perspicaciousness lent him memorable, creepy insight that made the reader aware of his uncanny intelligence and ability to predict the outcome of his plan. 

There are MANY more tips for writing, but it really comes down to this: How bad do you want it? If you think it's easy, think about the measly five points you've read here and whether or not you want to do them.  If you've skimmed over this blog and shirked them off as unimportant then maybe professional writing isn't for you.

If you're still excited, and still interested...Well...Welcome to the frustrating, mind-wracking, insomnia-inducing, yet still incredibly rewarding world of writing. I'm wishing you luck!