Saturday, 13 December 2014

Chainmail Bikinis for All!

I'm a child of the 80s, meaning I grew up with lots of strange representations of females in fantasy. So many strange things...  But there was She-Ra, and she made up for most of the rest.  I also loved sword & sorcery and devoured the genre, cheering on chainmail bikini clad warrior women like there was no tomorrow (and, in those stories, there often was no tomorrow for most of the characters).

One of my good writing buddies, Derek Künsken, is a blogger at the online fantasy-focused magazine Black Gate, and he was kind enough to pass my name along when they were looking for more bloggers.  I'm thrilled to say that I'm now their new once-every-two-weeks Friday blogger!

My first post is a satirical look at the chainmail bikini. I'll try and post to my own blog all of the posts since I know some of you only follow me here, but Black Gate is an awesome and fun place to hang out, so consider keeping an eye on them, too!  If you want to leave a comment on this article, please do so at Black Gate. Let's spread the fun!

Happy weekend-ing!


Friday, 12 December 2014

Ah, but for the days of S'mores long past...

This summer, I participated in a week long s'mores experiment led by Roomy (experiment also known as: cottaging).  We were a bunch of friends, subjected to new s'mores recipes every night, voting on them until our tummies wanted to explode from gooey goodness.

I haven't reported back since I signed a non-disclosure agreement on the recipes (aka: Roomy can beat me in my sleep), but just as the snow invasion begins, I merrily stumbled on some quotes I wrote down during our stay.  There are *not* super secret recipes (take note, lawyers and henchmen). But these did amuse me.  My friends are a funny bunch, especially when sugared up.

  • "Pass the s'mores over here before you die.  Also, my condolences."
  • "Are my pants on fire?" 
  • (after taking a picture): "Marie is the only one in focus. Who knew that could even be a thing?" 
  • "Okay, candid shot! ... Well, that's horrible."
  • "When they're older, we'll tell your children of your eyebrows."
Now, imagine you're sitting by the glow and warmth of the fire. Pop a marshmallow in there, wait for it to goo just right, and combine it with super secret ingredients... And the winter suddenly feels a tad more inviting.

Mmmm. Goo.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Cookies of Might and Magic



Linda Poitevin, all around wonderful person and talented author, tagged me for a cookie exchange. As we have coffee weekly, I believe I was the first person she tagged. Physically. It hurt. She has a good right hook. And it's hard to say no when she looks at you with big happy eyes.

BUT, as it stands, I'm an excellent baker!  Of one thing.  Roomy does the baking around the house (including bread. Think about that. I get homemade bread. Ha.)

Mmmm, bread.... Um, where was I going?  Oh yes!  So, I'm a baker of one thing. Chocolate chip cookies! Roomy keeps pretending she can't bake them to save her life, but as she can bake things with seven layers and multilple flavours, I'm pretty sure that's a ploy to keep me baking the one thing I can bake. Smart girl. So, here's a lovely recipe for you all! It's easy, as even I can do it. I've substituted pretty much every ingredient and portion, through lack of planning or lack of paying attention, and it always turns out. This recipe is magic. And, because it's so early on in the blog exchange, I can get away with such a basic recipe.  HA!

To make your religious or non-denominational holiday season on theme, stick some appropriately coloured smarties (or M&Ms for you poor Americans) on top. Voilà! Holiday magic!

I've tagged four author folk to post recipes next Tuesday, December 9.  Check out the original post for this and keep an eye out on Linda's blog for a bunch of fun recipes! My four vict... er, volunteers are:

Nicole Lavigne
S.M. Carrière
Geoff Gander
Alice Black, aka Cosplay Calamity

CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE RECIPE OF MIGHT AND MAGIC (TM)

Stuff you'll need
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons hot water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 - 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Stuff you'll do

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Cream together the butter, white sugar, and brown sugar until smooth (this is the Blend of Magic Might). Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the vanilla (or do eggs and vanilla at once. BE MAD WITH POWER!).
  • Mix together baking soda, salt and flour. (Be careful or FACE FLOURY DOOM)
  • Blend dry ingredients in with wet messy eggy slop already created. Do so a bit at a time (re: FLOURY DOOM)
  • Add Chocolate Chips (Recipe Level of Awesome +100)
  • Drop by large spoonfuls onto ungreased pans.   (Or small. Remember to adjust timing for baking, because SCIENCE!)
  • Bake for about 10 minutes in the preheated oven (because you pay attention to steps), or until edges are nicely browned.
Voilà!  Magic.  Might and magic. Make sure to check out next week's recipes and keep an eye on Linda's blog!

Monday, 27 October 2014

Nigh Cover Revealed!

A new dark fantasy serialized novel, coming soon! Get the first volume free by signing up to my eNewsletter!


A disappearing watch.  A thief in the night. Whispers around every corner...

And then a mist rolls into town, and it refuses to dissipate.

Alva Viola Taverner has lived in her small town all of her life, working as a car tech while saving for her little sister to go to university. But everything is about to change as the veil between our world and that of the faeries weakens and falls.

Suddenly, even the smallest bump in the night can prove to be the deadliest.

Artwork by Kerri Elizabeth Gerow, design by Designs by Lynsey.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Announcing "Le Sang de Mirial" !!!

I'm extremely excited to announce that Les Éditions Alire has picked up the French rights to the Destiny series (yay!)!  Destiny's Blood (Le Sang de Mirial) is already announced in their catalogue for Fall 2015, to be translated by the ridiculously talented Élisabeth Vonarburg (double yay!).

This, for me, marks a major threshold in my career. I'm from Québec and identify as a French Canadian, but I write in English (I learned English by reading fantasy/sci-fi books).  Most of my family is still in Québec, and few of them are fluent enough in English to get through my books.  They buy every single one though - I could never complain of not having a supportive family.

Now, this marks the time when I get to actually share my works with my family.  I'm over the moon.  And over several star systems that are now going to be blown up bilingually (very Canadian).

... Wait, they'll be able to read every single horrible thing I do in these books?  ... My family is going to disown me...

I can't wait to share more news as I get it!


Au plaisir! 

Friday, 17 October 2014

All the Fun!

Show in Ottawa today and then I'm in Mississauga tomorrow!

University of Ottawa Open House - Italian/Medieval Faculty
October 17, 2014
12pm - 1pm
Simard Building, Room 129
It's a free event AND there will also be a chef. OMG don't miss this!!

Mississauga Science Fiction Saturday
October 18, 2014
Mississauga, ON
Robert J. Sawyer, Tanya Hull, Robert Charles Wilson and myself, in honour of Rob's Lifetime Achievement Aurora Award! 

Gotta run - have stories to tell!
 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Scary Stories Coming Up!

I love October. The leaves turn, fireplaces are lit and scary stories are told.  This year, I'm the featured teller at the Tales and Tunes show, which will take place on three different nights in three different churches (atmosphere!)  I'll be telling an original story in two parts, with a brass ensemble.  It's gonna be creepy.  Not creppy.  Creepy. 

Don't miss it!  





Thursday, 2 October 2014

Paper Airplane Contest Rules

WARNING: the powers that be at CAN-CON are trying to fool you all by DISGUISING THE AWESOME THAT IS THE PAPER AIRPLANE CONTEST!  I WILL NOT DISCUSS plumbing Saturday night. All that I know is that plumbing is GOOD. It is the airplane context and YOUR DOOM that we shall discuss Saturday night. 

SECOND WARNING: I WILL SCREAM AT YOU IN THIS POST AND I DO NOT APOLOGIZE!

Back by popular demand, the paper airplane contest shall once more wreak havoc upon CAN-CON. I've been asked mutliple questions by citizens: what shall I bring?  Do we need our own band aids?  A change of clothes?  To sign a waiver?

Well, here are your answers: BRING ONLY YOURSELVES!

I've also received questions on the rules.  Some of you poor souls didn't make it previous years. So, here are the rules:

THE ONLY RULE IS TO FEAR ME!!!!

That's it.  Bring yourselves only, and be prepared to earn your way to even just folding the paper airplaine.

THIS IS NOT FOR THE WEAK!

It is for the strong.

HOW DO YOU WIN?

I've been asked that, especially considering all of the fine prizes I make available.  Fine, fine prizes. 

YOU MUST BE THE BEST!

That's how you win.  And I define best based on my daily whim. 

... If this contest doesn't sound like a good time, I don't know what is! 

SEE YOU THERE.  8pm. Saturday evening.

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

My CAN-CON Schedule

CAN-CON, one of my favourite cons, is happening this weekend at the Sheraton smack in downtown Ottawa. This con is always a lot of fun, informative and full of great networking opportunities, so you won't want to miss it!

Here's where I'll be:

Saturday, October 4

12:00 pm
Romance: Learnings that can be Imported into any Genre
Marie Bilodeau (m), Linda Poitevin, Coreene Callahan, Leslie Brown, Lynne MacLean
These ladies are fun. I offered to moderate.  I'm a big fan of how other genres can inform any writing.

1:00 pm
Taking the Next Step in a Creative Career
Jay Odjick, Gabrielle Harbowy, Linda Poitevin, Marie Bilodeau (m), Robin Riopelle
This one is near and dear to my heart.  Finding resources and advice when trying to become published was easy. Now, trying to take the next step... it's all a bit blurry.  A bunch of cool people will talk about their thoughts on taking the next step!

2:00 pm
The Engaging Author Reading – Techniques of the Stage for Writers 
Hayden Trenholm, Marie Bilodeau, Erik Buchanan
I don't even know what I can add considering who else is on this panel, but I'm certainly looking forward to it!

3:00 pm
Marie Bilodeau and Nicole Lavigne host the Can-Con Chocolate Fountain for All!
Need we say more?  In the con suite. Don't miss it!

5:00 pm
Fantastic Weather Slapdown  
Mark Robinson, Erik Buchanan, Julie Czerneda, David Nickle, Marie Bilodeau (m)
This is new.  It's going to be fun.  Come on out!

8:00 pm
A Comparison on the Building Codes of the Northern US States, Chapters on Plumbing and Wiring 
Marie Bilodeau
So, Derek Künsken, who's organizing the programming, is anti-fun and anti-airplane competition. He told me he'd make it sound like the most unappealing panel ever. I laughed, saying there was nothing he could call this that wouldn't appeal to a sub-section of geek culture.  I stand corrected. But don't be fooled - come one out for some paper airplane fun!


Sunday, October 5

10:00 am
GOH Interviews: Marie Bilodeau interviews Gabrielle Harbowy, and Gabrielle interviews 
back!
Gabrielle was the editor of the Destiny series.  She's funny, ambitious and the right kind of twisted.  She's come all the way from California for this, so let's show her that 10 am isn't scary in Ottawa!

11:00 am
Reading: Erik Buchanan, True Magics and Marie Bilodeau, Destiny's War
Erik is a good reader.  I may tell a story instead - not yet decided. Only way to find out is to come on out!  

12:00 pm
What does a publicist do 
and what can a publicist 
do for you? 
Beverly 
Bambury 
(publicist),Marie 
Bilodeau (author)
I worked with Beverly on the release of Destiny's War.  She's great and has lots of good ideas.

1:00 pm
Talking about your Sonic Wrench and Other Tricks for Flushing Out the Nerds Who Are Hiding As Muggles: 
M. Bilodeau (m), S.M. Carriere, Erik Buchanan, Timothy Carter, Mark Shainblum
I requested fun. I believe my request has been met.


This is packed, but packed with awesome.  See you there!!!  

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 www.ktbryski.com.

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!



Monday, 16 June 2014

The Iliad - Some Final Words

The Iliad took place on Saturday at the National Arts Centre. This one major epic took months of preparation and then took 18 tellers and 12 hours to tell.

I could say so much about the process and the story. I'm still working it all out myself. The characters who are both heroic and villainous, the lack of nameless deaths, the battlefield upon which the chariot wheels kicked up gore and dust.

I could talk about how touched and thrilled I was to see some SF folk from the area and afar come out to see this - there's so much parallel to the old epics with current SF works, and so very much to be appreciated. I could go on about that, easily.

I could talk about the heat of the spotlight and the anxiety that keeps gripping your stomach even after you're done your part, because you still have friends stepping on that stage, and the words might stop being winged.  You suspect not, but you still worry.  And you sit as you worry, and prepare to embrace any silence that might come from a teller having to find his or her words again.  Silences that thankfully never came.

I could write about the beauty of words slipping easily from your lips, following hours of rehearsing. Of emotions rolling over you as you step onto that battlefield and send friends to their death.  Of the strange elation of succeeding, and crushing sensation of knowing that it's over.  That something that's consumed so much of your life has stepped off stage.  

I could go on about any of that, but I won't.  Because all that's left to say about the Iliad is this: thank you.

Thank you to Homer for the story and the care for naming the dead. Thank you to Jan Andrews and Jennifer Cayley for tirelessly encouraging all of us to climb our hills while they climbed mountains before us.  Thank you to the performers for their spirit. Thank you to the audience for listening.  

Thank you, echoes of the past, for reminding us that we were, and are, all human, each with a story and a heart all our own. 

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Rules to Living a Creative Life

Be Creative




 
This message was brought to you by the League Against Evil Numbered Lists That Could Not Possibly Represent Creativity For They Are Uncreative In their Nature
(AKA League of Stop Categorizing and Boxing In Creativity. Damn it.)
 

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The Thread

Yesterday, I had the honour of being a guest speaker at the cultural diplomacy symposium of the European Union delegation to Canada, which was held at Carleton University.  There were five speakers in all, each asked to speak to a wide range of subjects - from creative integrity to the role of cybercities in writing. The event was kicked off by my friend Cristina Perissonotto, an academic and poet with a very gentle and wise view of the world. And funny, to boot.

She spoke of so much great stuff that it'll take me a while to unpack it all. I've asked for her presentation and a couple of others so that I can hopefully share them here and give you all something different to think about.

Since I had been invited as a storyteller and author, I was asked if I would perform a piece, after a short talk. I spoke of social media growth and its effect on my author career growth, and vice versa. I broached the idea that social media is changing how we consume and market, and that it's hardly "doomsday" for the world of writing. I spoke of the speed of writing and reader expectations, and how liminality was a whole other beast now. We talked self-publishing, hybrid publishing, the future of the industry... I had an awesome time, in other words.

Because there were so many great questions overall, we ran long.  So, we were already over time when I was invited to tell a story. With themes like cybercities and social media on the agenda, I was going to tell my Facebook Fairytale. But it's a bit of a longer story, so I settled on something else instead, about how we share stories to make them our own.

I was asked after what the difference was between creating stories in both the oral and written traditions. It's a good question, and it's something I often think about.

The two aren't interchangeable, first of all.  I became a storyteller to find a captive (most Canadians are too polite to leave during a show. Ha!), but found that most of my stories aren't easily transferred to the written word.

Part of the reason is story flow. When I'm telling, I adapt to my audience.  Language levels, cultural references and idioms can all be tossed in or out at the flick of a brain switch. I've told this story to academics and youth alike, and the texture is very different for each audience. It has to be, because it's my job as a storyteller to relay the story in the most effective manner to the audience right there in front of me.  I can't do that with the written word. I'm not looking over someone's shoulder and adapting the text as they read it (I've been told that would be weird).

With storytelling, you have to be very clear about the main thread of your story, too. That elusive, often invisible line that brings you from the beginning to the end, on which are hooked every other bit of the tales. Metaphors and images all tangled on the line, with notches where important plot points go.

In writing, you don't always see that line, especially in novels. But to see it strengthens the work and helps to fashion that ever elusive "elevator pitch." Because the thread is the main thrust. Any subplots and characters not linked to that thread is superfluous and unnecessary. Identifying necessary from superfluous, much less an invisible thread, can be hard when dealing with 100,000 words, however.

I spoke of this with Mur Lafferty when interviewed for her awesome podcast: I Should Be Writing. That thread is hard to find, but can change everything in a story.

For writing, it gives you clarity of vision and increases your ability to talk succinctly about the plot.  For storytelling, it gives you something simpler to remember than a whole story, and it allows you to adapt for your audience.

Finding the thread is a whole other bag of alphabets, though. I'll think some more on that one.

Thanks again for the great group of folk who put on yesterday's conference and invited me to take part! I appreciate brain food, especially when it comes to social media and writing.  I'll share more in the weeks to come!  

Monday, 28 April 2014

Social Media and Writers

Last week, the Ottawa Independent Writers invited me to give another workshop on social media for writers, after a very fun one in January 2013. Always a great group, I was thrilled to be invited again.
Because they remembered me from last year, they plied me with sweets.  Very smart.  No one perished, but there was an alarmingly high amount of talk about beheadings.
For anyone interested, here's the presentation. We focused a lot on online strategies, action plans and actual platforms. Even without my charming exemples of embarassment, it might prove useful.

I also promised I'd post some basic information on how to create an account. To encourage basic social media use, I invite folk to go to YouTube and search for "How to Create a Facebook/Twitter/etc. Account." The link brings you to the Facebook basics. It's a good start.

On the topic of social media, I'm also a guest speaker at a conference on Wednesday on that very topic, except super more academic.  I've woven stories with practices in my part, and hope you'll drop by to hear it! Check out the info here:


Monday, 7 April 2014

Ad Astra - How I Love Thee

This weekend was a romp in Toronto.  We left Ottawa at noon with a car full of Ottawa writers. (Several such cars leaving from Ottawa around the same time. I truly regret not suggesting a caravan. Because caravans are cool.)  My car was also full of party supplies for the CAN-CON party, but we managed to tuck everything in okay.

I had a panel at 8 and another at 9. Based on these two panels, I've decided that I love Friday night panels. Everyone is still so awake and I get to be a pest and people think it's funny.  My first panel was the Myth-Information in Modern Fantasy.  I knew all of my co-panelists and knew they were all awesome and interesting people (Chadwick Ginther, Jen Frankel, Stephen B. Pearl, Katrina Guy).  We started off by dancing around myths, legends and fairy tales that were interesting, but I really wanted to push the discussion further. Were fantasy writers limiting themselves by following mythic structures?  Were archetypes passé? Did science-fiction have the "cutting-edge" reputation because it didn't generally conform to a pre-existing structure?  And so on, so forth.  So I kept asking if I could ask questions, because I wanted to hear their smart answers.  

That was a popular game that I played, apparently, since the audience laughed every time I asked a new question. I am disappointed, however, that I couldn't get a pitchfork mob formed to go against a certain Black Gate blogger for some of his recent posts.  I think he was disappointed, too, but oh well.  Maybe next year.

The second panel was all about having a day job and writing. Again, wonderful panelists (Ada Hoffman, Joel Sutherland, Karen Danylak). This panel reinforced my belief that authors need to chat about writer burnout. More on that later.

Saturday was as much fun as Sunday. I killed myself laughing on several occasions, especially at the book signing while discussing zombie turtles with Linda Poitevin and James Alan Gardner. But, come on - zombie turtles.  There is nothing not awesome about that.  My reading with Matt Moore was a lot of fun and quite full (thanks to everyone who came out!), and Matt read one of my favourite stories of all time, Touch the Sky, They Say. Find it, read it. It's beautiful.

The CAN-CON Sweets and Caffeine Party was great, and thanks to Robin Riopelle for saving me by bringing in cupcakes after I'd realized I hadn't made cupcakes despite cheerfully exclaiming about them on Facebook. My party co-organizers also picked some up, so we were rocking. Party organizing is all about surrounding people who can cover your cupcake faux-pas. The chocolate fountain was a hit, especially once maintenance came over with pliers to turn the broken nob.  I hope we enticed many people to come out for CAN-CON (Ottawa, October 3-5). It's a fun and smart con, and we need even more smart and fun people. Which there were lots of at the party! 

I had so many great conversations that I can't capture everything right now, especially as I'm still lagged over by Gravol.  That was how my con unfortunately ended - waking up at 1 on Sunday morning with the awkward thought "am I dreaming I'm nauseated, or am I actually nauseated?"  Well, turned out it was food poisoning, so I had to cancel everything that morning and try to get better enough to sit in a car for five hours on the way home.  Thanks to my roommates, Mary Pletsch, Nicole Lavigne and Sarah Parkinson for mothering me and taking over my Sunday morning life. Much appreciated! (I think it was a hot dog that did me in. Damn hot dogs!  Damn yummy hot dogs...)  At one point, I ran to the bathroom quickly, in the dark, not realizing that one of my roommates had closed the door over after using it last. I threw that door open with my forehead. Shocking and funny all at once.  But no goose egg, so that's good!

Ad Astra was a hit again this year, and I can't wait until next year! Thanks to the organizers for another great con!

Friday, 4 April 2014

Blog Hop Thing In Which I Cannot Follow the Rules

The wonderful Eileen Bell invited me to do a blog hop thing. I thought hopping kinda sounded like twirling, which I reallllly like to do, so I hopped right on! (Ha!)  She sent me rules and stuff, but those sounded kind of boring, so I'm only following the inviting three other authors for next week.

I'M BREAKING ALL THE RULES BWA HA HA HA HA!  Which is why I'll never be invited to twirl again. Sigh.

So, first I answer questions. These are them and I interpret them however I desire.  MY BLOG MY RULES!

(I'm sorry I'll stop screaming now. And I'll put down this cup of coffee.)

QUESTION 1: What am I working on right now?
I'm thinking about cupcakes!  Because we're having a party this weekend and we announced it as a Cupcakes and Sweets Party and it's NOT because THERE ARE NO CUPCAKES!  But I'm not working on them, so I guess that doesn't count for anything.  And I think this is supposed to be about writing.

... I don't like to talk about my works in progress.  So, for you, a Haiku:

I twirl in the mud
I slip in the muck
I land on my butt

... It's not a good haiku, but it celebrates the imminent spring.  I feel that works.

QUESTION 2: How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I blow lots of stuff up and kill people.  What makes me stand out is that, UNLIKE THE REST OF YOU HEARTLESS SF/F WRITERS, I sometimes have a conscience. See?



QUESTION 3: Why do I write what I do?
I think I'm funny, even when I'm super dark.

QUESTION 4: How does my writing process work?
I sit down and write. I drink lots of caffeine. Sometimes, I don't sleep for a couple of days. And I hang out at convents.  But mostly, it's the writing part that matters. Usually that does the trick.


NEXT FRIDAY...

I've invited three members of my writing group, the East Block Irregulars, to join this twirling thing with me, BECAUSE THEY ARE THE BEST AND YOU MUST READ ALL THAT THEY WRITE!

I kinda forgot to ask for their bios, so I made them up instead.  But I totally checked their weblinks, so that's good.

Hayden Trenholm
The background shadows in every shot (every. single. shot) of politicians on the Hill contain Hayden. You can't see him clearly at first, but keep on gazing, and don't blink even as the tears stream from your eyes. You'll eventually see him. First in those shadows, and then everywhere else. If you read his detective noir novels (the Steele Chronicles) or read his latest anthology (Strange Bedfellows), you'll suddenly understand why he's in those shadows. He recently extended his conquests through Bundoran Press, which he *says* he acquired through proper channels. Check out his website and actual bio at http://www.haydentrenholm.com/.

Matt Moore
Matt was the only baby in the world, of any age or time, to be born on the day of his birth.  Some say it's given him special insight into the human psyche; others say it's driven a wedge in his sanity. If you read any of his works, don't string every second word of each sentence together.  IT IS AN EVIL SPELL.  If you see him host the Ottawa ChiSeries, make sure to say "AMEN" every time he lifts his hands, or YOU WILL BE STRUCK DOWN.  Check him out at http://mattmoorewrites.com/.

Geoff Gander
Geoff didn't exist until a year and a half ago, when an Elder God accidentally summoned him from the darkest depths. Each strand of his curly hair crackles with unspent magic, which makes conversing with him difficult. To make up for this unfortunate condition, he's learned to sing every piece of dialogue, which is particularly welcomed at his D&D games. Check out his hair at http://geoffgander.wordpress.com/.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Ad Astra Schedule

This weekend, I'll be at Ad Astra! Always a super fun con, we're compounding the fun once again by hosting another CAN-CON cupcake/sweet/caffeine party. Woo! 

Here's my schedule:

Friday, April 4

Myth-Information in Modern Fantasy
8 pm, Markham A
How do authors incorporate traditional lore and myths into their modern-day fantasy settings? Is it possible to make a witch burning pertinent in the twenty-first century? Discuss these, and other inflammatory questions, in this panel.
Chadwick Ginther, Jen Frankel, Marie Bilodeau, Stephen B. Pearl, Katrina Guy

Writing When You Have a Day Job
9 pm, Markham A
Forget work-life balance. In a world where work hours are getting longer and many of us are constantly connected to work, how do you balance the demands of two jobs - the one you love and the one that pays the rent? Can you reasonably succeed at both? Come hear our panelists discuss the challenges of trying to write while holding down a day job and learn their tips on how to make it work.
Ada Hoffman, Joel Sutherland, Karen Danylak, Marie Bilodeau

Saturday, April 5

Reading
1 pm, Oakridges
I'll read from Destiny's War, and possibly The Kevlar Canoe again. For I love it so. Or maybe from a work in progress!  Who knows...

Author Signings
2-4 pm, Richmond A
This is where I sit and look pretty until someone brings a book to sign to comes to chat. It's all good.

CAN-CON Cupcake and Sweets Party
6-8 pm, Suite 1086
This will be oodles of fun.  I hope you come and consider coming to CAN-CON in October!  Jo Walton is the guest of honour this year.  She's awesome. If that doesn't lure you out, then this will: Paper Airplane Competition.  That's right.  You heard me.  ... so, we'll see you there, then!

The rest of the time, I'll be sitting at tables (both the Dragon Moon and the Bundoran tables), I'll be going to see some of my friends readings, and I'll be hanging out chatting. Can't wait to see you!

Friday, 21 March 2014

Aurora Awards 2013 (ah yes, that magical time is upon us once more)

Hey all!  I've had a few e-mails about this (and thanks for them), so I'll post a quick blog about it!

Destiny's War is not eligible for the 2013 Aurora Awards.  Only a special bundle was released in 2013, but the book's actual publication date was January 31, 2014. That gives you a whole year to read it before next year's Aurora Awards - you're welcome!

My only eligible work this year is The Kevlar Canoe, a short story included in Masked Mosaic: Canadian Super Stories, edited by Claude Lalumière and Camille Alexa (Tyche Books).  It's a strange little tale that re-imagines the French-Canadian folktale La chasse-galerie (the flying canoe). I knew it was weird when Claude admitted he believed it was the weirdest story in the anthology.  High praise coming from a fine writer of weird stories!

I read this story at quite a few cons this year (because it has a Kevlar canoe and therefore is awesome), but if you haven't read it, drop me a line and I'll get it to you - possibly by reading it to you over the phone! 

Nominations are open until April 12, 2014.  Check out the website here.

Cheers!