Wednesday, 10 September 2014

How a Story Comes to Own an Orgy

Last night I told stories of Dangers of the Sea, with Nicole Lavigne, at the Tea Party. The fun thing about storytelling, unlike stories in print, is that stories can continue to evolve, fed by your mood and the audience's mood.

For example, here's how my story The Last Siren evolved:

First showing, 5 years ago, at a fundraiser in Montreal:  "It's gonna be sexy. It's gonna be super dark. And there's gonna be singing. Awesome.  Oooh, there are a lot of kids here for a late night show.  Oooh.  Maybe less dark.  And definitely less sexy. But totally still singing. Maybe without the swearing. Maybe."

When selecting stories for this show: "I'm gonna tell that dark, sexy siren story. Totally."

Rehearsing for the show: "It's dark. Too dark?  Am I in the mood for dark? ... am I ever not in the mood for dark?"

Still rehearsing: "My second story has man-eating rats in it. Do I need to be that dark in both stories?  Really? I mean, yes for the rats. That's just freaky. But the last siren?  Two really dark stories? Maybe I'll lighten it up."

Day of show: "Good. Lighter.  Funnier.  More charming. That'll balance out man-eating rats nicely."

During show itself: "Let's get everyone in this story nekked! Ha ha ha!!"

After the show: "...I just totally told an orgy story.  With my mom in the audience."

Don't miss the second telling of this fun show on Friday, October 10, at The West End Well (969 Wellington Street West, Ottawa), at 7 pm.  Let's see how this sucker evolves this time! 

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Upcoming Show: Dangers of the Sea!

The lovely and talented Nicole Lavigne and I are teaming up once again for a show on Dangers of the Sea. There's going to be myths, legends, ghosts, pirates, maybe some ghost pirates (yar)...  you won't want to miss it! We've been invited by the Ottawa Storytellers to hold the show twice, at two very different venues:

Tuesday, September 9, 7 pm
Tea Party (119 York Street in the Market)
You can grab some treats and nummy tea while you listen to stories!  This is a "pass the hat" event ($5 suggestion).

Friday, October 10, 7 pm
"Tellers at the Well"
The West End Well (969 Wellington Street West)
This is a brand new series for the Ottawa Storytellers.  It's a licensed establishment, so you can grab a beer, cocktail or glass of wine (preferably not all three) as you listen.  Recommended price of $5.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Where I've Been

Sure, there was Nashville. And New Brunswick. I drove through three time zones in three days, which was fun.  And then, of course, there was the Great S'mores Experiment of 2014.  I had to recover from that.

That all sounds nice and all but, in reality, what I've been doing is trying to solve a mystery. A very important mystery.  First off, I'm writing/storytelling full time now (yay! Support me by leaving book reviews and e-mailing sanity checks!)  So, that meant a change of routine.  Every morning, I now write in my kitchen. We have a beautiful bay window, and it's perfect to get a good three hours in before my stomach wakes up. Not bad, eh?

Except a new mystery popped up. Well, it's an older mystery, renewed. Kind of like Home Cold Case (couldn't get HGTV to pick up that show. Bastards.) 

We have two beautiful, mature, will-be-cut-down-in-the-next-couple-of-years-damn-you-Emerald-Ash-Borer ash trees on our front lawn.  They make a leafy canopy over our doorway.  Shortly after moving in, during the first throes of spring of 2013, we spotted something rather strange in the encroaching branches. 

There was a saltine cracker in one of them.  Just sitting there.  

Fast forward two weeks ago. I'm still full of s'mores and am merilly sitting in my kitchen bay window to write. A squirrel passes by.  He's carrying a saltine cracker.

Hu, thought I.

Hu indeed.  

The next day, around the same time, a squirrel ran by carrying a saltine cracker.  I tried to snap a picture of it with my iPhone, but it all went wrong.
I don't know why National Geographic hasn't yet contracted me for real urban photography.
So, okay, taking a picture where there's a screen on the window, with a digital camera that only boasts cheap automatic focusing ability, was probably not a wise move. (I'd have actually been okay with this shot had the saltine cracker been visible.)

It then took about a week to get the shot. Not because the squirrel didn't show up. I'm just kinda slow and generally too busy giggling about the squirrel to put much in action as it's passing by.

BUT REJOICE!  I  have indeed captured the squirrel in action!

Not a great first shot, but I figured at least the screen wasn't in my way this time.  That was accidental, btw, not planned.  Hey, I hadn't had coffee yet!
See? This was shot 2, when the squirrel paused below one of the ash trees.  Screen. Totally not awake.
Victory! Squirrel holding saltine cracker.  Well, you can't really tell because, again, I'm just using my iPhone camera.  BUT I still feel the thunder of victory in my blood.

Now, of course, the next logical step is to figure out where the saltine crackers come from. The problem with this next actionable step is that, in order to effectively discover this, I'd have to go undercover (dressed as a bush, I imagine), which would impact writing productivity.  

Once again, I need an army of the night.  

I'll add it to my to-do list.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Road Trip Madness!

I *love* a road trip. And I declare the next two weeks super duper road trip insanity time!

Tomorrow, Roomy and I are helping our good friends Mary and Dylan move to New Brunswick. Mary was one of the writers featured at On The Brink, and she's pretty much the reason the event happened, knowing she was leaving Ottawa shortly.  Well, that horrible time has come, so Roomy and I will see them all the way to their new home.  We owe them a couple of favours from our own move, when Roomy was down with pneumonia, so we're helping out by lugging two of their cats down. Should be fun!

My favourite moment of our move, which took place when ice still covered the ground, was when Dylan slipped on the ice. The box he was carrying, apparently a My Little Pony castle, began singing cheerfully at his downfall.  We still laugh about that when we play Drunk Battle Jenga.

Battle Jenga starts with weapons...

... and ends in tears.  A perfect game!  

We're driving with unhappy cats all day tomorrow, staying on Sunday, and coming back on Monday. S'gonna be a couple of long days!

Then on Thursday we're leaving for our yearly road trip to the My Little Pony Fair!  Roomy will go running around buying ponies and I shall sit and sell some at her booth.  I've been told that I can't read a trilogy nor write one while I'm sitting there. Task master.

This year, the Fair is in Nashville!  First stop will be in Amherstburg, near Windsor, where we'll spend the night with two of our best friends.  The following day we'll go all the way to country star land.

I've chatted about these road trips before, like when we went to Florida and Rhode Island. Our first trip, in 2007, was in Tennesse, so it's fun to get to go back there. Back then, I'd just bought my first car and Roomy said "the Fair is in Tennessee this year," and I said "road trip!" I hadn't look at how far it was yet, but I would have said the same thing anyway.

Ah road trips, how I love thee.  So, look out, East, further West and South, we're coming to visit over the next two weeks!  I'll report as I can!  

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Why She-Ra Matters

Today marks the re-entry of She-Ra into the Masters of the Universe world. Well, for the main line of comics, anyway. Well, Adora has been *in* them, but not as She-Ra yet. 

Well, she's on the cover, transforming, at a point in the story line where it would make sense that she becomes She-Ra. In comic book time, that means it'll happen within three to six issues. I hope.

The He-Man line has been on and off since the 80s, but She-Ra hadn't made it back save for a teaser SDCC figure that signaled her eventual appearance to the latest He-Man cartoon. The cartoon went defunct before we got there in the story, however, and I was left to mourn (I was left disappointed, anyway).

"Let me out of this package and I'm gonna kick Horde ass!"
When I was growing up, mostly on French cartoons, there were lots of guy superheroes. A bunch of 'em. The girls tended to be orphans and trying to become nurses or find romance. Neither of those were particularly high on my list of "to-dos" (even as a kid), so I never really related with them.

Then came She-Ra.

"Don't get distracted by the shinies. Don't get distracted by the shinies..."
Adora became She-Ra and, unlike He-Man's "real persona" Adam, she was still cool pre-transformation.  She lead a freaking rebellion (of mostly incompetent people) against the biggest force of evil in the known universe. And that was after being kidnapped at birth, conveniently erased from her people's memories for the "sake of her brother," made to do evil things AND had the world's freakiest adoptive parents.

"Shhh. Don't tell her she's adopted. Just tell her you had blonde hair when you were her age."
Best of all, she had her own storyline. Her own life. Her own show. And it was cooler than her brother's, because she had a purpose in both her incarnations.

"Awesome outfit: Check. High heels: check. Perfect hair and lips: check! All right, let's go kick some evil butt!"
I watched Adora become She-Ra time and time again as a kid. She saved people, she was kind, she believed in good and HER SWORD COULD TURN INTO ANYTHING! I would totally take advantage of that, but she's good, so she never did.

"Sword to rope? Screw that! Sword to one million billion dollars!"
Her storyline is different, now. It's much darker, as things not in the 80's tend to be.  She kills old action figures, for example.
"You guys could totally use better fighting techniques. Are you always this disorganized? No more action figure for you!"
Okay, her outfit sucked there, but she's Horde and stuff like that.  It gets better. 

But, all that to say, She-Ra mattered when I was growing up, and I think she matters now, still.  Having twins with similar fates and two completely different lives stand on their own two feet and in their individual TV shows gave me a chance, as a kid, to see how awesome a woman could be. How she could fight and screw up but get back up. How she could be kind or harsh, how she could lead, how she could follow, too.  How she could at times call for help when she needed it, and fight on if no help was available.

"Adam is unavailable to help you fight evil right now. Please leave a short message that I'll ignore as I keep sleeping. Royal decree and all."
As Adora she lead the Great Rebellion (they weren't really all that great), and as She-Ra she fought their greatest battles. 
"Okay, everyone, heroic shot before I go down there and kick everyone's ass by myself. Wait, who brought the Twigget? They're even less useful than the rest of you. That's pretty damn useless.  And Bow, stop staring at my ass. You're not fooling anyone and you're not my brother's type."
"Oh, really? I beg to differ."

I'm hoping DC treats her right. I fear she'll just be a foil for the now King He-Man, but I'll keep on trusting until I'm proven wrong. In the meantime, I at least still have the 80's cartoons. Not to mention a bunch of figures. 

I also have a bunch of He-Men and rebellion folk. Plus some bad guys to give them something to do. I'm very considerate.
Stories have a way of staying with us. Of informing who we choose to become and how we move forward in life.  Not every story needs to be based in reality to inspire growth and change.  When I watched Adora turn into She-Ra, a part of me believed that I could become anything, because she'd been cast aside and raised to be evil, but she'd found her own way and now made a difference.  Choices mattered and destiny wasn't set in stone.

I liked that.  I like it still. 
"No, really, you stay here honey and be useful as our heir. We'll send your napping, useless, eternally disappearing, joke-cracking brother to Etheria. It's fine. Really."

Plus, she's still way cooler than He-Man.
"No, I won't get a tan so we match. It's a stupid disguise. And does melanoma not exist on Eternia? No "By the Power of Grayskull" is gonna treat that."

Thanks to DC for bringing her back and to MattyCollector for including her in their awesome collector's line.  I don't know where She-Ra will go from here, but I know where she's been, and it's freaking awesome.

Also: Flying unicorn.  *Freaking flying unicorn.* There are no good arguments against this.

Thursday, 19 June 2014

GUEST POST - Dead Goldfish Stay Dead: On Abandoning Novels

I'm a big fan of "pushing through" and "getting it done." But, the reality is that, sometimes, novels can't be saved and burnout can happen to even the sturdiest of writers. I chatted with KT about this at Ad Astra, and was thrilled that she agreed to send me a post on the subject. Here's KT's story. I'm hoping I'll be adding more of these!

When I was young, I had goldfish. There is an entry in my grade one journal describing them: “Goldy is going to the vet today. He is not feeling well. He is swimming upside-down.”

Oh, sure, we can all laugh now. Adorably naïve young KT, not recognizing her fish was dead and that no amount of veterinary intervention was going to bring him back.

Well, I didn’t realize that my novel was dead either.

From its conception over a year prior, I had abandoned and un-abandoned Strix countless times. It was meant to be the prequel to Hapax: the story of the flood, the first magi. We were going to podcast it. A larger cast, better production—it was going to be awesome.

Except the book wasn’t working.

I didn’t know why, precisely. There were deep structural flaws in the plot and pacing; my characters weren’t gelling. I’d already done at least one from-scratch rewrite (as in, “I’m so, so, sorry, but this book doesn’t work. Try again”). Characters were added and cut. Entire cultures and storylines were shoehorned in and yanked back out. It turned from a novel to an anthology and back again. So many different permutations of the same story, with nothing to show for it.

It wasn’t writer’s block, because I wrote the 100,000-word Victorian Dark Fantasy in a two-month blaze…when I should have been writing Strix. Grief following my dad’s sudden death didn’t help, but I’d been having problems before.

The fatal sign: I kept pushing my deadlines back. I’ve never missed a deadline in my life.

The weight of expectation was crushing. I couldn’t let anyone down: not my publisher, not my friends, not my readers. But I could not in good conscience publish a book with which I was so deeply unhappy.

And I was unhappy. Furious with myself, drained and burnt out. Writing isn’t always pure joy and fluffy unicorns, but it shouldn’t feel like nightly self-flagellation either.

I still trudged onwards in sheer bloody-mindedness.

Finally, one night I gave up and admitted to myself that I was not fine. I had not been fine for months. I likely would never be fine.

What followed was one of the hardest emails I’ve ever had to write: the email to my editor, explaining that there would be no novel, that I could not be talked off the ledge, that I was giving up. That I had failed.

After all, you can write anything if you try hard enough, right? All it takes is the proper determination. Real writers don’t give up. So many people had placed their faith in me. How was that not enough?

But the moment I hit “send” on that email, something curious happened. Relief washed over me. I felt instantly lighter. I may or may not have started singing “Let it Go,” from Frozen.

It was absolutely the right decision.

See, if the book is not writeable, all the faith and determination in the world will not save you. Just like Goldy, my story was dead. Honestly, it had been dead for ages. I could pray and hope all I wanted, story-doctor it for eternity, tweak and rewrite until my fingers fell off. It would not do any good.  

Sometimes, stories die. And in exactly the same way I mistook Goldy’s upside-down-swimming for indigestion, I had no idea how to recognize that.

Admitting defeat is hard. You know what’s harder? Chaining yourself to one story that will not let go. Real writers don’t give up…easily. Because I have a new theory. Perseverance is an important writing skill. Learning to distinguish swimming stories from belly-up ones is even more important.

Dead fish take up room in the tank. They pollute the water. Once you remove them, you can add new fish. Livelier ones. Similarly, dead novels take your time and energy, leave you too exhausted and miserable to write anything else. Since we’ve already established that neither dead fish nor dead novels can be revived, it’s a futile, pointless to spend your time. Dead goldfish stay dead.

A few words of caution:

Before flushing, you do want to make sure your goldfish and/or novel is actually dead. Hasty decisions don’t help anyone. Make sure that you’re not just experiencing fleeting angst. For me, I’d spent eighteen months writing five from-scratch versions of Strix. I was beyond miserable. It was a difficult, carefully-considered decision—but really, I’d known for a while.

Fish and novels deserve nice funerals. By which I mean, you do have to deal with the fallout. Thank beta readers for their time and efforts. Thank your friends and family for dealing with your panic attacks and distress (thank you, Erik Buchanan, for letting me sob in your kitchen at one in the morning). If you’ve got a publisher and/or editor, you’ll need to talk with them.

In hindsight, I was fortunate: everyone was understanding on all sides—and I hadn’t signed any contracts. In fact, I’d avoided signing until I knew for sure that I could finish this novel. As it turned out, that was probably a good move.

Take some time to mourn. It is hard. That “you-can-do-anything-if-you-just-try” narrative is pervasive and convincing. But honestly, there is a point when CPR stops being effective. It doesn’t mean that you are a failure. It doesn’t mean you didn’t try. It means this one died.

And then…

Enjoy that freedom. Enjoy working on projects you love. And remember—you were courageous enough to admit when something didn’t work.

Isn’t that better than hanging onto your dead fish?


KT Bryski is a Canadian author and podcaster. She made her podcasting and publishing debut with Hapax, an apocalyptic fantasy with Dragon Moon Press (2012) and she has stories in Black Treacle Horror Magazine, When the Hero Comes Home Vol. II (Dragon Moon Press, 2013) and Tales from the Archives Vol. III (Imagine That! Studios, 2014)Select playwriting credits include various scripts for Black Creek Pioneer Village and East o’ the Sun and West o’ the Moon: a Children’s Opera (Canadian Children’s Opera Company, 2014). KT also managesThe Black Creek Growler: the official blog of the Black Creek Historic Brewery. She is currently at work on her next novel while pursuing her MFA through the Stonecoast Creative Writing Programme at the University of Southern Maine. As you may have guessed, she also has a mild caffeine addiction. Visit her at

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Peterborough Tomorrow Night

Join me tomorrow in Peterborough for a Mythic Night!  Derek Newman-Stille of Speculating Canada and the upcoming ChiSeries Peterborough will be hosting the event!  Check out this interview with him about the event.

The talented Karen Dudley was going to also read, but unfortunately had to head back home to take care of her sick daughter (much love and happy wishes to the Dudleys!)  (I dropped Karen off at the airport at 5:20 this morning.  Apologies if I'm less than coherent in this post. Like, more than usual.)

The event will still happen, however!  I'll be telling some stories and doing a reading.  I have a storytelling set about myths in every day life and families, and about trying to find the perfect ending.  I can't wait!  Ooh, it also has zombies in it, because Derek also enjoys a good zombie story.

So, tomorrow night, 7 pm, at the Sadleir House (I'm told it's haunted!!)  

See you there!