Saturday, 31 December 2011

A Parting Letter to 2011

Dearest 2011,

Although I've now lived with you for exactly 365 days, I can't help but feel like I don't know you yet. A distance deepens between us as midnight trudges nearer, and I fear I welcome it. It's horrible to say, after dedicating so much of my life to you, but I believe we never truly connected.

It's not your fault. Really, it's me. No, really.

You see, I rushed into my relationship with you. A whirlwind romance carried us through January, and even most of February, but by March, as I tried to catch my breath, you were dancing to a beat entirely different from my own. You were Metallica to my Tchaikovsky, and though I love Metallica, I just wanted to waltz for a bit.

But I let you carry me forward. I forced my feet to keep pace with yours, even though you thrust me forward as I tried to stop and let the sand run between my toes. You pushed me, 2011, and I let you. Yes, I know I have responsibility in this.

Oh, and the things we managed to do together. We performed at the National Arts Centre for the first time. We were nominated for our first Aurora Award. We won a bronze medal in the Foreword Book Awards. We sold short stories, we met new people, we nurtured old relationships, we laughed and twirled and danced, a wild crazy time of running and stumbling and running again, as though the zombie apocalypse had happened and we were trying to escape Ground Zero.

But, you know what, 2011? I think in 2012, I'll go zombie. I think I'll teach 2012 to treat me gently from the get-go and, when we have to run, I'll run. But not for 365 days. Oh no. 2012 and I will stop and smell the weird little purple flowers that grow on the side of the highway. We'll gaze in each other's eyes, we'll eat fondues, we'll watch B-movies and laugh and we'll sit contented with cups of tea. We'll court stories. That's right, 2011.  2012 and I will have a casual, open relationship.

I hope you can understand why we must part ways tonight. I'll never forget you. You were wild, but fun. You taught me things I'll never forget, shown me sights I'll remember forever. But as a partner, you burned me.  You used me, made me run, and now, at midnight, you're about to cast me aside.

I deserve better, 2011.  I think 2012 and I will hit it off just right.



Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Letters with no Reply - A REPLY!

Yesterday I posted a letter I had sent to Facebook.  My account was reactivated, I had my giggle, and I continued on my way.  But then, in an act of unprecedented customer service responsiveness, Facebook responded to me! 

I squeed when an e-mail popped up in my inbox from "The Facebook Team."  And this is what they said:

Hi Marie,

Thanks for verifying your identity. Note that we permanently deleted your attached ID from our servers.

After investigating this further, it looks like we suspended your account by mistake. I'm so sorry for the inconvenience. You should now be able to log in. If you have any issues getting back into your account, please let me know.


User Operations

Now I like to think that Barry deleted my ID but kept my picture collage. I still think I got locked out because I was an impatient idiot, and Barry was just being kind to what he probably considers a "special case."

This is what I sent Barry in response:

Dear Barry,

Thank you so much for taking the time to reply.  Please find attached proof of my happiness.



This exchange informs me that corporations respond well to picture collages. Will now endeavour to include one with every letter I send. 

Happy day!

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Letters with no Reply - Facebook

By far the longest set-up for a Letter with no Reply.  Isn't it exciting???

Somewhere between my Voices of Venus set, sending off Destiny's Fall to my editor, finishing a short story for an anthology and doing all the fun holidays prep, my brain blew up.  It really did.  In the past few days, I lost my lunch (I found it behind my door, under my coat.  It wasn't very good anymore, which made me sad), I lost my credit card several times (last time Roomy found it on the bathroom counter. Um, what type of transactions am I doing in there, anyway?), and I managed to get locked out of Facebook.

Like, so locked out they requested I send them a scan of a government-issued ID.  Awesome.

It started with me looking to contact someone which I knew was on Facebook.  I tried logging in (which I do every day, at least once a day), and for some reason I kept entering the wrong password. The neurons weren't firing right.

So Facebook got pissed off with me and asked that I provide them a cell number so they could text me a code to use to reactivate my account.  I'm thinking "great security, give you a random cell number..." It's like those credit cards you just tap on the machine instead of entering a code - oh yes, great chip security. But I digress. I'm fine with that, since I apparently keep my credit card in the safety of my bathroom.

Anyway, I enter my cell number and I enthusiastically grab my cell phone and wait.  And wait.  And wait some more. Hu. No text.  I enter it again. No text still.  I enter it again, and again, and again... it was becoming rather obsessive, like hitting the elevator button again and again and again as though it'll make it go faster. Which it doesn't, by the way.  I've tried.

My impatience was rewarded by getting a notice I had been locked out, because my identity was in question. I don't blame them. At this point, I too was questioning at least my sanity, parts of my identity, and if perhaps I'd had too much caffeine that day.

Then I realized I had the person's phone number and didn't need to be on Facebook anyway.  Sigh.

Regardless, I needed to reactivate my account to partake of the wit and charm of my 700+ friends (and yes, they're absolutely all witty and charming. Except that guy.  You know who you are...)

This is the letter I received from them:

Sent: Monday, December 19, 2011 7:16 PM
To: Marie Bilodeau
Subject: Security Concern

You were asked to confirm who you are because our security systems thought you may not be using your real identity with this account or that you may have multiple accounts. If you’ve already tried to log in at and followed the instructions to confirm your identity, but weren’t able to complete the process, we’ll need to see other proof of your identity.

Here’s how to proceed:

1. Use a scanner or take a digital photo of a government-issued photo ID (such as a driver’s license or passport), which shows  your full first and last name and date of birth.
2. Reply directly to this email and attach the image of your ID to the message.
3. We will confirm that your ID and account information match. As soon as we verify your identity we’ll delete the image of your ID.

Please send an image showing proper identification right away so we can help you get back into your Facebook account. Please note that we will not be able to process your request unless you have submitted the proper identification. Additionally, not submitting proper identification will result in your request being denied.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

If you have any further questions about this process, please visit our Help Center at the following address: ***

Thank you for your patience, 
The Facebook Team

My reply:

Dear Facebook Team,

Please find attached my driver's licence as proof of identity, as well a picture collage as proof that I understand I was being an impatient idiot, which is what got me locked out of my account.

All the best,

Marie Bilodeau


I suppose technically I DID receive a reply - my account was reactivated.  I like to think that, somewhere in Facebook-land, an under-appreciated customer service rep got a chuckle, or at least felt better about their situation in life.  He or she may be under-appreciated and underpaid, but at least, I'm sure, they have the smarts to remember a simple password, the patience not to get locked out of their own accounts, and the grace to deal with idiots who get locked out of their accounts, then decide it'd be hilarious to include a photo collage with their photo ID.

In the meantime, I'm getting ready to crawl under a rock and spare the world from my ever-increasing confusion/stupidity/questionable thought patterns. Well, not really a rock. It'd be cold and uncomfortable. Rather, I'm getting ready to get lots of writing done over the holidays and enjoy many fine and fatty foods. That's better than a rock, I say!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

From Patchwork of Memories to Stories


Today is my maternal grandmother's birthday.  Her name was Laurette Desjardins. She would have been 99 years old. Every year, my mom sends out an e-mail to me and my brother, reminding us that it's her birthday.

Every year, it leaves me nostalgic because I never really knew my grandmother.  She died when I was only two years old.  My memories of her are patchwork at best. Once, in a perfume store, my cousin and I recognized a scent but couldn't place it. My mother and my aunt came to investigate, and they informed us that it was the same scent as the pot-pourri my grandmother so loved and used in her home. Another time, a wallpaper caught my eye and tugged at my memories. It was the same wallpaper that had graced my grandmother's walls.

My other grandmother, Simonne Bilodeau, died before I was even born.  It was years before I learned she collected tea cups, just as I did.  I inherited the saucers, since the cups were long lost.  It's a funny connection to a woman I never knew, but hearing the stories my family shares, I feel as though I do know her.


My maternal grandfather, Gérard Desjardins, died when I was six. I remember he used to give us cookies and he had a short leg (he had suffered from polio). My other grandfather, Louis-Georges Bilodeau, died when I was a bit older, but he was badly off in his final days, so I try not to remember the final visit we paid at the hospital. All I really remember is the pain on my dad's face when his father didn't recognize any of us.  Instead, I focus on the days we spent at his camp, and how he used to sit and smile as he listened to his children and grandchildren chat and laugh.

Roomy grew up with her grandparents. She stayed with them after school, celebrated occasions with them and even brought us home to their place once, our gang of girls, to meet them. Her grandfather slipped me $20 when I left.  I didn't know what to do, but apparently that's what grandparents do, Roomy informed me.  I learned a lot about grandparents from hearing her speak of them.

A patchwork of memories, at best.

What's in a Name?

As we celebrate my grandmother's 99th birthday, I can't help but think of how lucky my niece and nephew are.  All of their grandparents still live, and I sincerely hope they'll get to know all of them well. 

In a way, my grandparents live on in the stories we're told, and in our names. Mine captured my grandmothers' and my mom's (Suzanne Laurette Simonne Marie Bilodeau is my long catholic name).

My brother's captures the granddads' and dad's (Gilles Louis-Georges Gérard Jean-François Bilodeau. The priest said there was no room for Joseph. I might have screwed up the order of my brother's name - sorry, Jean! Note that on our baptisms our actual first names come right before our last names. I believe that's because once you get there, you won't remember everything that came beforehand.)

My nephew's name captures grandparents like nobody's business, George Henri Bilodeau.  My great-grandfather was Georges-Henri Bilodeau.  My sister-in-law's dad is George.  So they used the French spelling of Henri, the English spelling of George, and there you go. Pretty awesome, eh?

My niece is Ada-Marie Marguerite Bilodeau.  I'm sorry, but that's the cutest name in existence.  Ada was my sister-in-law's grandmother, an artist who studied with the Group of Seven (Ada Torrance). I get a hyphen, which touched me so much I actually didn't know what to say when they introduced me to their little girl and told me her name.  Marguerite is my sister-in-law's mother's middle name.

So what's in a name?  A history.  A story.  A link to those who came before us, and to those who'll come after us.

What's in a Story?

Last night, I had the great honour of being the feature performer at Voices of Venus, an Ottawa-based spoken word series focused on female performers (an awesome series, always with a warm and welcoming audience. Worth checking out!)  I was given a wide field to play in: tell stories of strong women on a cold December day.

I decided to hinge my stories on a hoe I had found behind the couch (you can imagine the fun we all had with the word play!)  That hoe, I now know, belonged to my great aunt. For years I was fascinated by the story of this strange object, broken in two, the wood old and coarse, the metal rust-covered. I carried it around with me, for a while. It's in my car trunk right now, actually. Don't ask me why - I honestly don't know. Yet it lives there. I guess that I've learned by now to let my mind explore stories in its own way. Sometimes, it feels like I'm just along for the ride.

I hinged the storytelling set yesterday on finding the perfect ending for Maribella, whom I'd given the hoe to, in my story. It took many tries, but I think that, in the end, we found it.

I tend to weave genealogy, family legends and history into my stories. I think part of it is that I never really knew my grandparents except through story. Their siblings, lives and histories all came to me as stories and suppositions.

Weaving them into stories is not necessarily leading to enlightening any actual history, but it does allow me to imagine I get to glimpse, for a brief moment, their dreams, desires and fears.

And they, in turn, get to wield swords and ride air ships. I think they'd like that. They are related to me, after all!

So, bonne fête grand-maman.  I'll meet you again and again in story. And I can't wait!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Zombies. Yargh.

I was recently gripped by a psychotic zombie reading spree. It started with distopic, post-apocalyptic futures ranging from human-eating plants to city-destroying sasquatches, and then eventually focused solely on zombies. Depersonalized apocalypse worked best for me, apparently.

I read pretty much every zombie book I could get my hands on, often reading one a day. With the last one I'm reading, I find myself waning. It's not the author's or the story's fault, but rather it's the fact that they're all the same.  Seriously.  With variants on the same theme, they're all the same.  The only one that stood out for me was Mira Grant's Feed, but a big part of that was the fact that she set her book years after the zombie apocalypse. All of the other ones dealt with the start, spread and immediate aftermath, so I don't really consider it in the same category.

So here are some tropes of the zombie apocalypse, in case you ever get stuck in it.

  1. The leader of your group will become unbalanced, but you know deep inside of you that he means well (sometimes a she. But usually a he.). You stick with him because, even though he's a jackass, he's the best shot you've got.  Fair enough.
  2. Any community set-up will be screwed up. Either a religious fanatic or nutcase will be leading it.  It's what your leader could be if he had enough followers (you know it's true).
  3. People will think it's funny to play games with zombies. Tie 'em up, get people to fight them, or fight amongst them, etc... It's zombies as Roman gladiator games. And yes, it's always a bad idea.
  4. There will be sex.  You stink, you haven't eaten in days and you don't know what showers feel like anymore. You barely have the time to rest, but don't worry - you'll have time to get it on.
  5. The women somehow all stay good looking. The men, not so much.  Like, not at all. I blame this on being a male-dominated apocalypse-creating industry.
  6. Kids are good fodder. Why anyone would think the kids wouldn't get it are fooling themselves. Trust me - they're there to get it. Except the hero's firstborn. They don't seem to, for some reason. Disappointing, I know.  But that firstborn will usually have to kill a person (not a zombie), so at least they get scarred for life.
  7. There will always be one person who retains their 'humanity' above everyone else. They always bite the dust or live to get a book deal out of their adventure.
  8. Someone always tries to save the zombies, under the pretence that they could be healed. Those are always backstabbing cowardly people, who somehow usually survive.  If you're in a zombie apocalypse and someone suggests saving the zombies, just shoot them in the head. Save yourself the trouble.
  9. The over-cautious paranoid people are usually right.  
  10. Vehicles don't stand anything very well in the zombie apocalypse. Clutches slip, motors stop working, they just fall apart for no reason.  Slamming into a herd of zombies is a good reason for the car to die.
  11. Wal-Mart and Costco are death traps. 
  12. If you settle and set-up your own community, you will get attacked by crazed people who want it and have more guns than brains. They will inevitably ruin the safe habitation for everyone.
  13. Zombies evolve. No one ever explains why, but they usually get smarter and stronger, especially in multi-book series.  Probably to keep things fresh. One wouldn't think that would be a concern when talking about rotting corpses, but there you go.
There are many, many more tropes.  I enjoy them all, but I think I need a break from the zombie genre, for now.

If you have any favourite zombie books that I might not have read (not likely), let me know!  Or do me a favour and just suggest post-apocalyptic works.  Too many zombie books are bad for brains. (HA!)

Friday, 9 December 2011

The Odyssey: Finding my Inner Klingon

On June 16 2012, eighteen storytellers will gather at the National Arts Centre's Fourth Stage to bring listeners on a journey with Odysseus, from the fall of Troy to the shores of Ithaca.  The show is a collaboration between the Ottawa Storytellers and 2 women productions, and is artistically coordinated by Jan Andrews (one of Canada's most acclaimed storytellers) and Jennifer Cayley (ditto).

I looked at the show as a journey of learning and training. Just as Odysseus made his way home, so too would I make my way somewhere.  Probably not home (unless things go terribly wrong), but art informs art, so skills learned creating this show will be applied to future tellings.

All performers already met once and did some basic exploration of Odysseus' stories, themes, and of our own perceptions.  But the fun didn't really start until last night.

We met, five of us.  Jan and Jennifer, myself, and two other tellers, Ruthanne Edward (a fellow Kymera) and Mary Wiggin (I performed with Mary last year at the Shenkman Centre. We told sci-fi stories accompanied by a theremin.  I know - awesome!)

We were doing some explorative exercises of our own pieces. We started by sitting around a fire and just chatting about the story, what it meant to us, and where we felt Odysseus was emotionally in our pieces. We sipped tea and enjoyed the soothing fire, sitting on comfy chairs, chatting sometimes in whispers about the great journey we would undertake in bringing Odysseus home.

I was all comfortable and cozy when Jennifer suddenly exclaimed "Okay, let's go into the other room."

Now, I don't know if this stems from my upbringing or life experiences, but generally, when someone in authority brings you in the other room, I know it means that you're either in trouble, or things are about to change drastically.

And boy did things change!  It was time to ignite our pieces within us. Mary was up first, shouting her story, whispering her story, evoking the ethereal dawn.  Mary gets to launch Odysseus to certain doom (go, Mary!), so she had to be mad, determined, unwilling to bend to the winds or seas.  Next thing I know, she's pushing forward, Jennifer trying to hold her back, Jan trying to block her, me whooping at her to deck them, Mary grabbing Ruthanne's chair and refusing to be held back or stopped.

Let me make this clear - none of these women are below fifty, so it was even more awesome fun to watch. Spitfires all!

When the "brawl" was over and Mary stepped back in "centre stage," that strength and ferocity informed her telling. Who knew duking it out with the artistic directors could bring such strength to a telling?

I was up next, and I was pretty stoked at this point.  What fun would I have?  Jennifer started by using sublime words that basically meant I was very girly.  Point.  I really, really am.  But Odysseus is not. Also a good point.  Odysseus is like the Klingon of ancient Greece.  I'm totally not that. (Odysseus is totally Klingon-esque.  I researched it!  See?  It's the bathing in blood that gives it away.)

On the topic of Klingons, I'd like to point out that I do have expertise to draw upon. KAG Canada Thought Admiral Korath (right) is my morning bus buddy (he always looks like that, he really does). On the left is General Martok. I've never met him, but I hear he's simply lovely, in a Klingon blood bath kind of way.

So we started off by me going fully girly, telling the story completely from a highly feminine telling. It was great fun.  I was hitting on myself!  It's not everyday one gets to do that.

Next thing I know, I've got Jan and Jennifer pulling on each arm as I take on the male persona, or at least the masculine strength. It worked, too.  It was a shift - my voice came from deeper, my telling was more powerful. Mary sat forward in her chair, as entertained by my exercise as I had been by hers.


It'll be interesting to see how I can learn to apply these different ways of visualizing and experiencing story. By the time Odysseus reaches the shores of Ithaca in June, I'm sure my telling will have grown thanks to the wonderful and albeit sometimes strange experiences I'll take away from this show.

Remember - eighteen tellers, twelve hours, one stage, one unforgettable journey.  Don't miss it!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Writer Affirmation

With four published books under my belt and another coming out next year, I sometimes get caught in this nasty little cycle of thinking. It blocks my writing and makes me sad. It doesn't temper the words that tumble onto the page. Instead, it makes me fear them.

I've had my share of successes and failures. I'm afraid of neither, though I must admit to preferring successes.  With every book, I try to learn a new trick, deepen a skill or explore a facet of the world or humanity I'd not yet delved into. I do my research mostly by talking to people. Not about the book, but about their lives. It informs my writing and my characters.

See? I'm totally doing it again! I'm avoiding my nasty little cycle of thinking. It is a bit embarrassing, that's all. Once in a while, you see, I wish I wrote like someone else. Doesn't matter who, it's this strange little writer's envy that I believe most writers suffer from. It's all fine and dandy if it pushes one to write more, write better, be truer to their work and themselves, but it's downright inconvenient when said envy becomes a type of writer's block. Because now improving to be better isn't good enough. Changing completely to be someone else seems in order.

It's a silly thought, but it's there.

Regardless, as I keep getting stuck in this stupid little cycle, I've started repeating why I write. I reach back down into my rosy adolescent self (conveniently still parked in my head) and I recall wasting precious hours by the smelly river, writing poorly constructed sentences with coloured ink in a sparkly notebook. I reach back to her because she wrote without fear even though, and she knew this so I'm not crushing her, she totally and completely sucked. But she loved writing and found a mission in it.

So here, for my adolescent self and to remind my current 33-year old self, is my writing affirmation.
  1. I write for fun. If it's not fun for me, it won't be fun for my readers. Heck, even if my readers will think it's fun, I don't care. I want to have fun too.  So there.
  2. I write adventure stories. I have visions of writing sweeping epics with vast Canadian landscapes, but I love a good adventure story so much it gets me up ridiculously early in the mornings to write. 
  3. I like blowing things up. And killing people. I really do.  Perhaps up to an unhealthy level, in fact. (Note to self: explore potential psychotic behaviour.)
  4. My characters are heroes. Not because they're born that way, but because they choose to become that way. I sincerely think we all need a bit more heroism in our lives. Or good sarcasm. Which can be heroic, in some cases.
  5. Love is good. Love is wonderful. But the day my heroines give up everything for a man (or a girl), there had better be a wake-up call later on. I think we need more heroes and I think we need fewer blind "I love you and can't live without you" messages. 
  6. I love colour. I write with colour. If my scene feels bland, it goes. I need vibrancy and shades as deep as the heart of a ruby.
  7. Tension.  Oh, how I love you, tension. I like stressing people out. If my characters are not broken messes halfway through my book, I haven't done my job.
  8. I outline poorly. That's right. I outline some, get ready, then cast it to the wind as I get lost in the story. I don't look back. 
  9. I write fast. I'm not the "sitting around gazing out the window while pondering the world" type of writer. I'm the "OMG the next few chapters are so freaking cool I can't wait to get to them and my fingers are cramping up I'm writing so fast!" type of writer.  
  10. I'm also a mean editor of my work. Goes hand in hand with shabby planning and fast writing, if you ask me.
  11. I like the awesomeness of discovering my world and characters, of being swept away by a plot twist or character, of falling in and out of love, of weeping uncontrollably when a character dies because the story demands it, but it doesn't make it any easier.
  12. I re-iterate point one, because that's the most important. I have to love my story. I have to itch to get back to it. I have to want to write it so badly it keeps me up at night. 
That's who I am as a writer. For better or for worse, that's who I'll stay. I don't know where it'll eventually take me, but when I look back on this breathtaking journey, I want to be able to say that I had fun and that I remained true to my vision.

The rest, as they say, is all explosions and details.

Friday, 2 December 2011

End of Week Stuff

Woa. The week flew by! I'm up against deadlines for three short stories and a novel, so I fear the blog fell a bit to the wayside this week. Here's some stuff I enjoyed reading on the great Interwebs this week, should you care for some light Friday fare. In fact, these are the tabs still open on my browser.  Bwa ha.

The most annoying comment, The Incidental Cyclist blog.  Freaking hilarious. Kate and I were chatting it up coming home from, um, something (?) last weekend. Oh yes, a show. We were coming home from a show Saturday evening, and she mentioned an annoying comment that kept popping up on articles concerning car and bicycle collisions. We were killing ourselves laughing by the end. She wrote an awesome post about her thoughts. Check it out!

Lichen.  I learned a lot about lichen this week, for a story. Final edits of that story are happening today, and I have a feeling all that lichen-y goodness is going to go away.  Ah well.

Dragon Moon Press accepting submissions! Check out their guidelines to see what they're looking for.

Simon's Cat - Double Trouble.  If you're not familiar with Simon's Cat, you're totally missing out. It's hilarious. When I saw this clip, I nearly died.  Truly.

Masters of the Universe Macy's Float.  Best for last.  I'd have killed to see this as a kid.  Except, Pat, gotta say, He-Man does not live in Caste Grayskull.  He protects it and draws power from it. Get your facts straight.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Monday, 21 November 2011


It struck me yesterday that a lot of my creative friends are very ambitious.  And they have to be, to survive.  Anyone who's received multiple rejections for one story, who had no one show up to their show or their book launch has to have ambition or passion or a thick skin to get back on the wagon (possibly after downing several pints).

I often hear about the failures. How a story didn't come out quite right, or a book launch was ill-attended, or that they didn't get the award. Heck, I didn't win the Aurora Award yesterday. Was I disappointed?  Of course!  I'm human! (Really...)

I soon found myself congratulating good friends on their well-deserved victories and, as I walked away (in my awesome shoes), I looked at the length of my career. At where I've been since Princess of Light was published in March 2009, just 2.5 years ago. I imagined the road spreading before me and I thought: Holy shit, I was just nominated for an Aurora Award for best novel.  A freaking Aurora Award!  Shit that's cool!

And then I felt gratitude. For everyone who took the time to nominate and vote for me. For my family's unfailing support. For the people I only see at cons and yet offer such friendship and inspiration that I always look forward to the next meeting.

This morning I woke up with a nasty case of expanded gratitude. I started with being way too happy at the purring ball of fuzz wrapped around my head (until I realized how fuzzy my pillow was going to be and shooed him off). My gratitude exploded from there.

I was grateful for everyone who came out to our reprise of Chasing Boudicca on Saturday night. For the tears some of them shed. For the awe with which they commented on the show. I was grateful for my performance friends who delve into stories with me, which translated into being grateful for my writing buddies (the East Block Irregulars) who strive and work so hard and push me to become a better writer all the time. And inspire with their passion.

The day is now progressing into gratitude for the little things. The ability to write in the mornings. The perfect cup of coffee. The crisp coolness of the air and how it cleanses my lungs. And who I'll meet today, or chat with, or think about and smile.

Thank you, all of you, for your continued support and for the joy and laughter you bring. You make everything so awesome it makes me gush at times.  Deal with it.

And did I mention I was on the freaking Aurora Awards ballot?  Awesome!

Thursday, 10 November 2011


So it turns out I won't be at Hal-Con this year since I didn't get on programming due to some miscommunications. I'm sorry I'll miss all the cool and fun people (you know who you are!), but the budget is tight this year and cons have to pay for themselves. And programming is the golden ticket to getting known.

But no biggie - the con-com is awesome and barring any horrible circumstances, I'll be there next year!

So now my next and final con of the year is SFContario!  I'll only be there on the Sunday since the Saturday evening is the reprise of Chasing Boudicca.  But I refuse to miss out on SFContario and my first ever Aurora Awards ceremony!  Well, okay, I've been to two ceremonies, but this is my first year being on the ballot, so that's fun.  Freakin' fun!

I'll be at the Aurora Awards brunch and ceremony, of course, but also at:

1:30 pm, Parkview
I think I'll read from Destiny's Fall, the sequel to Destiny's Blood.  Not sure yet. Maybe from my diary, too. Little Marie's deep thoughts are always a success (truly).

The Business of Writing
2 pm, Solarium
Marie Bilodeau(M), Leah Bobet, Robert J. Sawyer, John Scalzi, Douglas Smith

I've been on panels with most of these fine writers over the past few years and they're made of win. I'm thrilled that this year's last panel will be with such great people!

I'm moderating that panel again, which is funny. I don't know how I turned out to moderate most of my panels this year, but I'm enjoying it. Sometimes it's easy - I know the topic well and have a good idea what listeners are looking for. Other times it's a struggle because I have no idea what the panel is about and neither do any of the panelists. That's when I ask really strange questions such as "what's your association with reality?"  Thankfully most panelists are game for a little play time.

The worst part is scrambling to save a panel you can tell is tanking.  That's not always easy, sometimes completely impossible. But trying can be fun, too!  At least I know that my last panel of 2011 will be a success, unless none of the panelists show up, for some strange reason (I'm watching you all!)

So I hope to see you SFContario and, if you're in town, come to Chasing Boudicca on the 19th. I'll blog more about that next week!


Tuesday, 1 November 2011


Last year, I was approached by a Sudbury writers' group to give them a kick-off message for their NaNoWriMo adventure.  I'm not participating in NaNoWriMo this year - too busy editing the sequel to Destiny's Blood. But I wish all of you who are participating the best of luck, and share the message I wrote last year.  I hope a couple of tips will prove useful! 

In 2009, my first novel was published.  I was also under my first publishing contract to submit the two other books in my Heirs of a Broken Land trilogy within six months of each other.  So I wrote a lot.  I edited and I launched books.  I also worked full time, and I'm also a performing storyteller.  Of course, the storytelling was taking off at the same time, too.

Writing requires dedication.  Your first publishing contract probably won't promise a six-figure advance, you won't be able to quit your day job right away, and life won't screech to a halt while everyone breaks into song to celebrate your success (I was disappointed, too).  Instead, you'll be published and suddenly have way more demands on your time and energy, and you'll still have to juggle everything else in your life.

And it's awesome.  Enjoy every minute.

Here are some of my war lessons and some basic things you should accept about NaNoWriMo:

  1. People will think you're crazy.  They're right.
  2. You will have bad days when everything you write is crap.  Keep writing.
  3. Eat well, sleep some, stretch lots.  Your body is the conduit for your words.  Treat it with respect.
  4. Write every day, at least a bit.  Novels are demanding lovers and will shun you without frequent attention.  
  5. Life doesn't get in the way. Our choices do.  Choose wisely.
  6. When you can't tell dreams from writing from 'real' life, you're on the right track.  
  7. Don't drink yourself into oblivion.  It dulls your spirit and your writing.  Caffeinate yourself into existence, instead.
  8. Writer's block is a myth.  Change mediums, POV characters, rewrite a scene, ignore that connecting scene and trudge on, change your surroundings.  Do what you need to do to keep those fingers typing.
  9. Discipline works best when enforced.  For example, when writing, set your screen saver to come on after two minutes of inactivity.  If it comes on, your fingers and mind must get back to the task immediately.  You can be nice to your psyche when you no longer have a word count deadline.
  10. Don't over-think.  Believe in the process.  Focus on writing scenes.  

Once you're done, don't send off your manuscript in a wave of enthusiasm.  Trust me, it's not there yet.  Let it rest for a few weeks.  Finish it if it isn't finished.  Then re-read it.  And learn to edit.  Getting published isn't magic. It's hard work and dedication, and a willingness to share your work.
NaNoWriMo is a great way to get those words and ideas out, so make sure to remember everything you've learned and apply it all year long, in a less frenzied pace!

Bon succès!

Friday, 28 October 2011

Bullied and Bully

The talk lately has been loud about bullies. And well it should be.  Kids hurting kids, kids feeling the only way to escape the world by killing themselves... it's not right, it never was, but it's always existed.

And it's something we don't really speak of, still. More and more people mention it, but it's not spoken of that much when you consider the devastating consequences it can have on innocent lives.

Everyone needs to speak out against bullying.  It's not just about being gay, or poor, or even rich, pretty or ugly, smart or not so smart.  It's about people and how people hurt people.  Not just about the labels they use to justify their behaviour. We can all be targeted, with no rhyme or reason, for something as simple as saying the wrong thing at the wrong time.

In grade four, I was bullied in a pool because I said "sorry" when I bumped into someone.  The kid (a girl) pushed me in the water until I was coughing and spitting out water and she kept screaming "Sorry!"  I was still learning English and was confused between "I'm sorry" and "pardon me," so I couldn't tell if maybe I had used the wrong word.  It took me ten years to ask one of my university friends if sorry was the right way to apologize.  (I totally use that word when I bump into people now, too.  And I bump into a whole lot of people cause I'm a klutz.  Never got beat up since.)

Most of us were bullied, too, at one point or another.  Parents, siblings, schoolmates, bosses, co-workers... we all have to learn to cope or fight back in some way.

I followed the usual advice, at first. "Ignore them and they'll go away."  Really?  Who the heck came up with that advice, anyway?  "Ignore the grizzly running towards you and you'll be fine!"  "That bus sure is big, but if you ignore it, it surely won't hit you."

Those words are stupid.  I came to the conclusion early on that people utter those words hoping that they can ignore it, and it'll go away. And it's understandable, even.  Parents might have been bullied at one point and it might be their sincere wish that it'll fix itself because they're afraid of facing the bully's parents, who might also be bullies.

I get it.  But still, don't utter that sh*t.  Standing up is hard, but so is being bullied.

When I was growing up in a welfare, drug-ridden area (which is now a lovely area, might I add), I was lucky because I had my brother and my mom, and we lived on the outskirts of the "low-income housing."  Sure, the house was falling apart and was insulated with Jehova's Witnesses pamphlets (learned that when I leaned on the wall and went through it), but it was home and I loved it.  There was a lot of bullying, but I only got beat up once.  It was for a Club Z towel.

Club Z was the predecessor of the HBC points, before the great Zellers/Bay merger.  The towels were given out for free when you joined.  And that's what I got beat for.  An old towel that everyone got for free, for signing up for a points card.

It wasn't a horrible beating.  No broken bones, no bruises that were difficult to hide, but I remember thinking how sad it all was.  Beat up for a free towel.

I grazed over that incident (and many other incidents, including large objects hitting me). School is where things were really annoying me.  We were a low-income (or poor, as we used to call it) single mom family with two kids, and we didn't have money for "un-necessities," which included clothes.  So I got hand-me downs from my cousins.  My boy cousins.  My straight-as-a-stick boy cousins.  And I developed early, to boot.

At one point, in grade six, I only had two outfits for a few weeks.  One red plaid shirt and one blue plaid shirt.  (My love for clothing and shoes developed later in life, thankfully).  I was teased a lot, as you can imagine.  One day, I was walking home and a boy followed me, screaming at me, asking if I only had two pieces of clothing and saying other nasty things that don't bear repeating.  I tried to ignore him, like I always did with bullies.  Like I'd been doing for years. 

I cried as I walked faster and faster, but he kept screaming at me. The sole of my right shoe chose that moment to begin ungluing and I was horrified he would see it wobbling and make more fun of me.  I couldn't walk faster because of my shoe. He got closer.  I got more scared.

Then something snapped.  I remember my eyesight actually turned slightly black and I got light-headed.  I was pissed. I'd ignored for too long.  (Totally a Hulk moment, but less nakedness, thankfully. Though I look good in green!)

Physically, I wasn't able to defend myself all that well, but I soon learned that words were just as powerful a weapon.  I'd been insulted enough.  I had material to work with.  I made that bully cry and I was proud of it.

And then I made a lot more cry.  Not just bullies, too.  I bullied friends, their siblings... whoever was close enough for a lashing. I was a generalist as a bully. I didn't pick on people because of labels.  I just attacked before others could.

We moved right after the tenth grade and I changed high schools. I hated it. My brother didn't change cities with us, so I'd lost my best friend. We'd gone to five grade schools (that we recall) and I was used to having him around as my sole, dependable friend. I became an angry, dark teenager (I could have totally gotten on the emo train, if the emo train had been identified and labeled back then!)  My new high school was less than favourable and had a lot of bullying, drugs and fights.  I wasn't in the mood for any of it.  There were three bouncers in my new school and they were all scared of me within a week.

My tongue lashings seared and I knew it.

Around this time I also discovered heroic fantasy literature and took away the lesson that it was okay and good to stand up for yourself.  But see, I turned it all wrong. I stood up for myself by becoming, quite frankly, a bitch.  A bully in turn.  I had become my enemy.  And I was damn good at it, might I add.

I enjoyed it.  I laughed at the tears.  I was still well liked, generally, since I was outgoing (always have been). People opened up to me and I threw their pain and weaknesses back at them when it suited me.

I skipped grade 11 and went straight to 12, not wanting to bother with high school anymore.  My situation at home was degrading, I had only a few real friends and I felt smothered.

I was all dark nebulous clouds and lightning.

Before leaving for university, which was at least eight hours away, my mom told me this: "Be careful of your words.  I don't think you understand the power in them."

Now I'd read enough fantasy and comic books by then to take these words to heart.  I really thought about those words for a long time.  My brother gave me a yin-yang ring to remind me to strike a balance.  It didn't have to be all or nothing.  I was terrible at defining boundaries.

I went to university with a clean slate.  I decided not to be the bully anymore. I thought I could be more.  I was right.

Being a bully was, honestly, easy.  It seemed to be the only way to protect myself, because "ignore it and it'll go away" just didn't work.  I tried, until I couldn't take it anymore and snapped.

I had to relearn to treat people right and respect them, but when I was ready to do so, I met the four women who are still my best friends to this day, more than fifteen years later. I had stopped being a bully.

I still wear my brother's ring, to remind me about balance.  To be bullied or the bully are two dangerous extremes.  I write books I hope will inspire people, especially young women, to stand up for what they believe in and for those they love, not because they have the right guy, weapons or outfit, but rather because they believe or learn to believe in themselves and are willing to do what needs to be done. I really want people to believe in the good and the harm they can do.  To refuse responsibility is to deny potential. It makes me sad just thinking about it.

I avoid talking about my past generally.  I hesitated in telling this story, too.  I tell the funny stories (and there are many) and the quirky stories, but the ones I'm not overly proud of, I keep to myself.  Often I also don't feel I have a lot to add to dialogues.  But in this case, I wanted to speak up.  I've been on both sides of the train tracks, I worked hard at becoming who I am today and still work hard at it, and I'm a strong believer in personal responsibility.  I'm also a straight white girl.  Being bullied and being the bully are not all about being gay or macho, different skin tones or belief systems.  Those are the stories I've been hearing lately.  They're important, so important, and thank you for everyone who has the courage to share them. It's not easy.

But they're not the only stories.  There's no need to further isolate kids by saying the label brings the bullying. I know it's meant to bring solace to the bullied, but it somehow echoes the message that bullies who bully certain groups are "normal" bullies.  Bullying affects everyone at one point in their lives, regardless of who they are or what they represent. And we all need to stand together, so that those who are more likely to get picked on know they're not alone, that they have allies.  And not just allies in people that are "just like them," but allies in everyone else, too. Let's break the isolation.

Let's all join our voices against bullying in a chorus that can't be drowned out.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

A Tale of Betrayal - by Underwear

Winning story told at the first slam of the second season of Once Upon a Slam in Ottawa. 

But really, need I say more than the title? 

Friday, 21 October 2011

Letters with no Reply - Sears Canada Online

I totally had made diagrams and included pictures, but unfortunately lost them.  It was by far the most complex letter I'd ever sent.  But fear not - I reproduced a diagram just for you!  Or what I imagine it looked like, anyway....

Dear caretakers of Sears Canada Online Catalogue,

Let me begin by saying that yours is a very friendly service and that despite growing doubts that I will ever receive merchandise from you, I would certainly call again to delight in the warm reassurances of your customer service representatives.

I do sympathize - it must be very difficult to assist customers who are faceless.  Although I have always believed my voice and convivial phone demeanour were enough to convey some of my personality over the cold data lines, I was obviously mistaken and sincerely apologize for my error. 

But let me step back a moment and explain.  On January 28, I ordered a family ring (picture and online confirmation attached for your perusal).  The ring was for my mother’s 60th birthday, which has come and past without a gift, but still boasted a very fine party involving much cake, laughter, and, as all great moments, a few tears shed purely out of love.  You may also be interested to know that of the seven stones affixed to her might-be ring, six represent each one of her children (the seventh and middle one being, of course, her own).  And what is even more interesting is that she only has two biological children, of which I am one (please see attached family album to further comprehend).

Marty, Kat's fiancé, also wanted on, but there was no room.  Wess is also my sister-in-law, but she was my BFF first, so I give her this title.  And now, Ren is married and has a son, my bro and Wess have two kids, and can you imagine the family jewelry now?  I mean, it'd have to be a broche!  A shiny, shiny broche!  See the business they're now missing out on?

As you have no doubt deduced by now, I never received the ring, but have often basked in the glow of your reassurances and promises.  Not prone to suspicion (although perhaps a tad to paranoia), I thought that perhaps you simply needed a face, or seven, as it may be, to expedite the process by which you feel we would most fairly be compensated.  My mother regrettably suffers from some ill health, and is in fact currently on sick leave, and I would love for nothing more than for her to be able to gaze down at her finger and see how loved she is, and always will be. 

But I cannot accomplish that goal without your help. I trust you will find the attached documentation to be sufficient, and encourage you to contact me at (819) ***-****, should you need further information. I have a wonderful picture of my mother in her twenties, and although I agonized over the possibility of sending it to you, in the end, I chose to preserve the keepsake and not submit it to harsh scanner light.  But I could be convinced otherwise.

I hope to hear from you soon and wish you a most marvelous day.



Note: My mom's good now and enjoys her ring and various grandchildren. So I guess we can close this case as a happy ending, though I did bring in pictures of my mother to one of their store counters in an attempt to gain either sympathy or speed.  Gained latter. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Destiny's Blood Super Duper Special Signing!

Destiny's Blood has been making the rounds, partying with people across the world.  It made the ballot for the Aurora Awards, and we celebrated by offering it as a free ebook for a while.  It won the bronze medal in science-fiction in the Foreword Book Awards, and we got slightly tipsy on mimosas. 

It's such a party even Layela's partying! No drink for her, though.  Best to keep sober when so many people are trying to kill you.

Now the Aurora voting period is ending tomorrow (get your votes in), and we're entering a whole other realm of partying!  This weekend, you can purchase a signed copy of Destiny's Blood!  (For the usual ebook price of 2.99.)   That'r right, a personalized ebook, because Dragon Moon Press is at the cutting edge of technology (and my sister-in-law let me steal her iPad for the weekend.  Mwa ha.)   As it's hard to sign on the iPad, each barely legible signature and dedication will also be accompanied by a carefully crafted, personalized drawing made by the author herself (moi).  Here's a selection of my as-of-yet undiscovered works bound to be worth millions:

Coconut Bill is a classic.  He's an actual coconut that I found at the bottom of a dry lake more than a decade ago, which I painted a face on and stuck a lock of my own hair on top as a toupet.  Yes indeed, a classic drawing not to be missed!

A balloon.  Because we're celebrating!  Note skillful use of colour and shading.

A psychotic happy face. Because nothing says "I'm happy" like differently-sized misshapen eyes surrounded by a huge mouth.
If my publisher had a say (which she apparently doesn't), I like to think she would stop the madness and disable the drawing feature. But she doesn't, or at least hasn't yet. 

To get your copy before my publisher steps in, please send me an e-mail at

Okay, that's as salesy as this girl can get. Back to writing!  Hope to see you guys this weekend at Con*Cept!



Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Con*Cept Schedule

I'm off to Con*Cept in Montreal next weekend.  For those of you who'll be around, here's my schedule:

18:30, St-Francois
I'm thinking I'll read from works in progress.  Fun times!
NOTE: Claude Lalumière's reading will be taking place right before mine.  Why not come listen to his stuff, too? 

22:00, Terrasse
The Growth of Cruelty in SF
Marie Bilodeau(m), Violette Malan, Danny Sichel, Pete Pettit

11:00, Terrasse
The Realities of Being Published
Marie Bilodeau(m), Derwin Mak, Geoff Hart

12:00, St-Francois
Injecting Reality in Fantasy Literature
Marie Bilodeau(m), Claude Lalumière, Jo Walton, Kathryn Cramer

18:00, Terrasse
Fantasy Economies
Jo Walton(m), Rob St-Martin, Mark Shainblum, Marie Bilodeau

11:00, Portneuf
L'art d'écrire une nouvelle, de la fantaisie ou de la SF
Marie Bilodeau, Ariane Gélinas

12:00, Portneuf
I'm in the mood for ghost stories.  Are you?

14:00, Terrasse
Beating the Writers Block
Marie Bilodeau(m), Claude Lalumière, Geoff Hart

16:00, St-Francois
Were Our Ancestors Really That Stupid?
Eric Flint, Marie Bilodeau(m), Lena Breijer, Pete Pettit

Lots of interesting panels on here and I can't wait to chat it up!  Hope to see you there! 

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Descent into Darkness

That's what Roomy calls it, and any Canadian out there knows exactly what I'm talking about. Its suddenness takes me by surprise each year, somehow. One day I'm getting up and light is gently streaming into my room, and then the next day the sun seems to wait until I'm well into my writing morning before showing up.

This time of the year is when energies start to fizzle out. The desire to socialize puffs up into smoke. The call for the comfort of home and couch resonates with every step.

I'm not a winter hater, I'm really not. I think it's a pretty season and offers many fine moments. I love the crunch of snow under my boots and its echo into the still world; exhales turning into clouds of fog and ice and inhales so fresh it hurts the lungs. It's not the snow or winter that I dislike. It's the darkness I have a hard time with. My mother is the exact same way. I can't live in an apartment without lots of windows, and I barely ever shut the curtains (I'd be doomed in the zombie/vampire/leprechaun apocalypse). Last year was tough and I deflated into a big ooze on my couch.  Well, as much as I ever deflate, I suppose. But still, I felt it and it bugged me.

I worked hard at finding remedies for my deflation (truly). I don't intend on moving anywhere, so I'd best deal with the darkness as best I can, especially for those days of deep winter when I arrive at work when it's dark, and I leave when it's dark. Best deflation time ever.

So last year, I found a bunch of things that helped cope with the darkness and I set myself an Outlook reminder for this fall, listing all of my solutions.  It just popped up this morning and I thought I'd share with all of you. We all, after all, have to deal with some darkness in our lives, no matter where we live.

Marie's List of Darkness Happies:
  • Fuzzy socks. Good fuzzy socks, with stripes or polka dots, for wearing at home only. Slip on as soon as you come home. I even keep an emergency pair on my couch. It drives Roomy insane, and that makes me happy, too.
  • Warm drinks.  Herbal or caffeinated teas, cider, coffee, specialty coffees... who cares. Warmth fights darkness.
  • Comfy couch. If you're going to deflate onto it, might as well be comfy.
  • Baths. The ultimate remedy for fighting bone-chill. Recommend reading cheap magazine while in there. I read Archie Comics myself (and only drop them in about half the time).
  • Cats.  Or whatever fuzzy you prefer. Pets don't judge, just cuddle. That can help, too.
  • Friends. Aside from creature comforts, going out at least once every two weeks with your bestests can change everything.  Totally!
  • Books. A good book. One that you've been looking forward to for a while, or something that'll keep you engaged. If your book is boring, drop it. You need escape right now, not boredom!
  • Goals. Think about what you'll do in spring, once the ground thaws.  Garden? Paint? Run around? Prepare for it and look forward to it - that ground will thaw, after all.
  • Nest. This isn't just for pregnant women! Arrange your house to be all comfy. You'll be in there a lot.  I'm planning on cleaning out the basement this winter. I think that marks me as a sucker for punishment, but at least I'll have been somewhat productive.
  • Light. You know, one of those cool lights that give you vitamin D. We all need more of that. I don't have one, but I keep saying I'll buy one. We'll see what happens!
  • Mood. Get lanterns, candles, whatever. Cast away the darkness with some awesome, inspiring lighting options (I'm starting to sound like I should be on HGTV).
  • Laugh. Well, really, if you don't do that all year long, I suggest you re-evaluate your life.
This was much less elaborate in my Outlook reminder, where just the bolded stuff was listed.   I can't for the life of me figure out why "cupboard" is on the list, so I'll let you think about that, nor does "napkins" ring a bell. Perhaps I confused my Descent into Darkness list with my shopping or cleaning list at some point. Very possible.

There's also a lot of hockey in my house during this time (on TV, to be clear). Not because I watch it, but because Roomy loves hockey. She even made herself a custom hockey pony.  See?

Between living with me and being a Leafs fan, I think it's safe to say that Roomy is paying off karma at a vastly accelerated rate. She was either a mass murderer in a past life or is planning on being one in her next incarnation. Good for Roomy, planning ahead and all that good stuff.

So winter, for all its darkness, is an extremely productive time for me. I go to my writing room, light a lantern, and I'm having a grand time slaying darkness in another land. Ooh. Totally adding that to the list.

  • Slaying.

... I hope I don't misinterpret that next year...

Friday, 30 September 2011

Letters with no Reply - Manuscript

Sometimes it's best not to get replies. Or send letters.  Still, a letter needed to be written to this evil, uncooperative manuscript.  It was going to be an awesome book, a prequel to Destiny's Blood, but it was not meant to be. Heck, it didn't WANT to be!  I was struggling (for a whole month!)

Meanwhile, not knowing I was working on this despicable book, Dragon Moon Press requested two sequels to Destiny's Blood.  Now there was a sign that I should change writing gears!

Once I started writing the first sequel, I understood why the prequel wasn't working out. My heroes were not in the right place, or rather the right time. The sequel started tumbling together as I used bits of the prequel, their story now supporting this story instead of being the story. (Work that out in your heads.)

As the first of those two sequels is now in Gabrielle Harbowy's awesome editing hands, it's time for me to truly let go of that failed prequel. Here's the letter I wrote to it before giving up on it.
Dearest Manuscript,

I was very excited about your imminent arrival.  I cleaned up my desktop and my writing desk for you.  I made a new file.  I archived old documents.  I bought a new notebook (hard-cover, spiral-bound, 8.5x11 – my faves), and I purchased multiple-coloured pens to welcome you in style.

Despite all of this, you have yet to show up.  After the first few days I brushed it off as a minor held-back, perhaps a traffic jam?  But it has been over a month, and I have come to believe that you, manuscript, are inconsiderate.

Oh, the plans I had for you.  We were going to dive back into the world of Destiny’s Blood and face the Ether Wars.  We were going to rely on the powers of the Berganda to lead us through the wild chase, and help a young woman find her best friend and her true home.  People were going to laugh, cry, and feel damn good about the whole thing by the end.

And I was ready for that ending.  I had the last party all planned out.  Our Berganda heroine was going to come back after having faced pain, death, true friendship, loss and hope, and she was going to go back home, where it all began.  And that was going to be the greatest metamorphosis for her, and it would have changed her fate forever.  A fate changed of her own choice. That was going to be the best part.

But no.  You just didn’t feel like showing up.

I'm disappointed in you, Manuscript. Very, very disappointed.  But you know what? I'll go on without you. There are plenty of other manuscripts that would like to hang out with me. I don't need you.

So there.



Wednesday, 21 September 2011

The Apple Thief at Windborn

I'm very excited for Windborn this Sunday. Not only do I get to hear wonderful tales and poems from fellow Kymeras Sean Zio and Ruthanne Edward (Kathryn Hunt is sadly out of town), I'll also get to enjoy The Fruit Machine by special guest Brendan McLeod.  I saw this show during the last season of Once Upon a Slam, and it was good fun. Well worth coming out to see. 

On top of all of that fun and goodness, I get to premiere a story I've been toying with for a long time. This is the story of Emily. I first touched on her story when giving a small talk years ago about the creation of stories. Out of thin air, I mentioned the story of Emily, the young girl who stood on the other side of the road from Cinderella's house, tears streaming down her face as the prince found the foot that matched the glass slipper. I was curious about her story, but it took another five years for it to materialize. (Some stories are rude, let's face it.)

And what did make the story materialize honestly surprised me. For Windborn, the Kymeras selected the theme of apples. And, while prepping my stories, my very late psyche informed me that Emily was an apple thief. With that strange connection, the story plopped itself down comfortably into my mind.

It's a two-part story and a it's got a bit of everything - romance, betrayal, magic and curses. And apples, of course!

I'll also be at Jo Walton's Farthing Party in Montreal this weekend. It's a quaint con, with one track of programming and no dealers room. I think it's going to be awesome. It'll be nice and cozy and involve lots of chatting and listening to cool topics. I love cool topics.

I'm leaving Farthing Party at 4 o'clock and racing back to Ottawa for Windborn. I should be there around 6:30, which is good since the show start at 7 pm at the Mercury Lounge (in the Byward Market - Check out the Facebook event page.)

Good times, my friends! Hope you come out and meet Emily!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Letters with no Reply - Videotron

Videotron is a huge cable and Internet provider in Quebec.  I loved them and then I didn't.  Really not.  I believe this is the original letter with no replies.  To be fair, I never did receive another bill, which I suppose is a type of reply. 

Dear Videotron,

Although I truly sympathize that business may currently be financially challenging, I find myself within the impossibility of paying bills for a service that you no longer provide for my household.

I also understand that it may be difficult choosing which of your old clients to harass with repetitive billing, and am indeed flattered you have chosen me, despite paying a disconnection fee and already spending entirely too much time on the phone fixing the last bill mix-up.  I am afraid, however, that I must decline this honour.

If you would like a list of whom to harass in the region with faulty bills, I suggest you simply do like all successful spammers and purchase one online.  As it stands, please remove me from your bill-spamming list.

Don't misunderstand me - I applaud your enterprising spirits in raising funds. Truly. I must, however, reinforce the point that I have decided not to pay this faulty bill, reflecting the same decision I took for the last five months.  Please accept my consistency as proof that I will not be returning to your company, neither now nor in a hundred years.  I have entirely too little time available to try to sort out your business dealings.

Rest assured that I will not recommend your company to any of my acquaintances, and may in fact stomp on any of your future advertisements. 



Monday, 12 September 2011

Can-Con 2011

This weekend was Can-Con 2011 in Ottawa, and it was awesome time.  I had the pleasure of seeing lots of old friends and make new ones, talked books with some fun people (and got some awesome trades!), was brought peach juice by klingons and the wonderful con suite folk, and ate lots of chocolate.  Really, that makes for a perfect con.

But, above that, this con will always be special to me since it'll always me my first Guest of Honour gig (in 2010), AND it's in my city. We only have one sci-fi con in Ottawa, so let's support it by showing up in even greater numbers next year. Trust me - it's definitely worth it!

I left my brain in the con suite (I'm sure they'll get it back to me), so I really can't piece anything else together right now. Just wanted to give a quick word of appreciation to the con-com, the participants, fellow panelists and guests. Hope you had as much fun as I did!

Next con: Farthing Party in Montreal in two weekends! Woo!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Star Trek and Can-Con

Today is Star Trek's 45th anniversary! I remember when I first encountered Star Trek. My parents had forbidden me from watching it (even though neither one of them remembers why). I used to hide under the dining room table and watch it from there, with chair legs in my way. But I still thought it was awesome cool.

Of course I was allowed to watch cartoons and, when I was a kid, a lot of cartoons in French were dubbed animes. Those that were from France and not Japan usually made it to the Japanese market anyway since they hosted similar themes (war and death!), so I'm not sure how that was much better. Watching that orphan's dog being ripped apart by wolves as it tried to protect its master was so much better than Kirk and his ripped shirt, I'm sure.

And then my parents split up and I was allowed to watch Nightmare on Elm Street. That's right. From no Star Trek to falling asleep as Freddie maimed people in front of me, then waking up to a dark room after the movie had ended, the screen flickering menacingly while your brother and father are now but shadowy lumps on the floor in front of you and you wonder if they're DEAD because they're just lying there and Freddie might be coming and you're cold and little and too scared to move. (Turns out they were sleeping.)

But I digress.

Go, Star Trek!

This was supposed to be a post about my early geekhood, but apparently I had some stuff to work through. Thank you for listening.


This weekend is Can-Con!  It's our one local con and I love it so.  Last year I was GoH and this year they've honoured me with Special Guest status. It's a small but growing con and I hope it'll have a long and fruitful future.

My schedule is as follows: 

Saturday, 4pm
I'm going to have some fun with this one. I'll tell a story or two, of course, and I might read from my next novel. And, since this entry showcases emotional baggage (truly), I may read from my diary. That's right. You want a glimpse into Little Marie's mind?  Come to my reading. It'll be an eye-opener, truly.

Saturday, 5pm
Languages: Real, Constructed, Artificial and Imaginary
with Amanda Sun and Duncan McGregor
This should be fun. I intend to speak in a dialect unknown to anyone, including myself.

Sunday, 11am
Keeping Your Readers On The Edge Of Their Seats
with Hayden Trenholm and Leah Bobet
Hayden and Leah are both fantastic authors and fun to listen to. I'll just sit there and bask in their coolness.  You should, too!

If you're interested in picking up copies of my books, they'll be in the dealers' room. Nanopress has a nice inventory.

Hope to see you at there!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

The Usefulness of Writing Communities

Back in 2008, I met a group of Ottawa writers while at World Fantasy Con in Calgary (my first con!). They were the East Block Irregulars, a critique group of professionally published SF authors. I was invited to join their group on a probationary level, to see if the critiquing fit was good. Before going to my first meeting, I received a sheet of rules and guidelines, including gems such as don’t speak when you receive a critique. You may give a respond after all critiquers have given their review.

That was my first clue that they were serious about their craft. I’d been to writing groups before, but never one that didn’t involve a lot of griping about trying to get published.

I received two stories to critique at our next meeting. And therein laid my next clue that they were a serious writing group. The stories were high calibre. I struggled to find useful critiques, not used to analyzing peer-written stories with the goal of actually providing feedback. 

Then the first meeting came. Once the last person arrived, all chatting stopped and we got down to business. The first round of critiques was quickly followed by the second round. It was honest, professional, and one of the most freaking useful things I’d ever heard in writing.

Once the meeting done, we all went our separate ways. No griping about publishing, about how hard it was to write, about personal difficulties. Oh no. We were there to meet and help perfect our writing, and that was the only reason we met.

Over the years, we have met on a more social level, though it’s always made clear when it’s social and when it’s business. Keeps everyone in line.

This weekend, I was originally supposed to go to the convent for a writing weekend. Several events conspired against my journey there, so I decided to stay in town to join the East Block Irregulars for a writing weekend.  I was promised Jos Louis.

I must admit to some initial worry. I get a lot, and I mean a lot done at the convent. I’d been to another write-off with the EBI before, but it had been only three of us. This time, there would be five of us (at different times).  But regardless, this was my best bet for a writing weekend. Staying at home would lead to unavoidable shadowing of Roomy and her protesting that she’s not that interesting, or to doing random household chores (the last time I stayed home while supposed to be writing, I built lots of Swedish furniture. Just saying.) And, with my writing room being in shambles while awaiting its renos, my little haven didn’t exist.

So I showed up at 7:30 to the writing retreat on the first day, at Derek Kunsken's house (he has a story in the August issue of Asimov's. Check it out!) We had a quick breakfast (no eggs and bacon – takes too long), and then we started writing. Lunch break, supper break, home.

Repeat for two days.

I got a lot done. Not the same type of work I would have gotten done at the convent, but I’d definitely call this a successful and productive weekend. 

And I was surprised to see that my favourite part was a nice supper hosted on the Sunday night. We chatted, laughed and talked about goats. It made me appreciate my group even more. They’re a unique but useful bunch. (My second favourite part was throwing a Jos Louis at Matt Moore. But that’s another story.)

So this lone wolf writer is learning the usefulness of a community of writers. But I’m lucky, too.  I found a community that shares similar professional achievements, paths and aspirations as my own. My fear that a writers' group was just a waste of time was definitely destroyed over these last three years of being a member of EBI.

AND, this year, three of us are on the Aurora Awards ballot (read about it here). Come on, that’s just cool! 

So will I go to the convent again?  Hell’s ya. I immerse in a story at the convent like nowhere else. I can talk to myself, get up and dance, run up a hill to see Giant Jesus and speak to tombstones. Those aren’t things you should do in public. Or anywhere more public than a convent, I suppose.

Now that the convent is becoming secular, I have another 2.5 years while they wind down religious activities before their model changes. After that, prices will probably increase as will the number of loud bird watchers. (You’d think bird watchers would be quiet, but alas…)

I intend to find another similar retreat before the Final Fantasy-esque countdown ends, but in the meantime, it’s nice to know I have another option. One that involves Jos Louis.

Hope you all had an awesome writing weekend, especially for the brave ones amongst you who participated in the Three-Day Novel Writing contest! (A member of my writing group, Hayden Trenholm, won that contest one year. It’s true! See?)