Friday, May 30, 2014

5 on Friday -- Set 225 -- The #YesAllWomen Edition

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

If you've been following the #YesAllWomen social media trend this week, you'll know that the recent murder spree at the University of California, Santa Barbara triggered an outpouring of reaction from women in response to the shooter's perceived lack of social success with the opposite gender.

In my opinion, the murder spree is a mental health issue, just as here in Halifax the murder two years ago of Raymond Taavel was also a mental health issue, though it triggered a wave of support for gay rights due to the words spoken at the time of the attack -- "He was consistently using the word faggot," said a witness to the fatal attack. (CTV News)

A tumblr blogger wrote the following account of just another day in the life of a woman, adding her voice to the #YesAllWomen hashtag:

In response, male writer Tom Hawking wrote this encouraging piece, which looks at the encounter from a broader perspective, which often gets missed in the heat of people sharing painful experiences: 

"Put yourself in his position, in isolation, and you might see how he felt the way he did -- to his own eyes, he was no doubt making mildly flirtatious small talk with a girl who, to his eyes, shut him down with unnecessary emotional force. And now he feels like a victim. He didn't deserve that, he thinks to himself. What's up her ass, anyway? Why didn't she enjoy the attention?

If you're a woman reading this, you're probably shaking your head and saying, "F**k that guy'...

Understand that your actions don't exist in a vacuum. They exist in the context of a society where literally every woman you will ever meet has a similar story to tell...You don't get a gold star for being a good person. It's the minimum standard of human decency that anyone should be able to expect." -- Tom Hawking, Flavorwire

I am one of those with multiple #YesAllWomen stories to tell, only one of which I will share here with you:

After a long day of editing my fourth year film at Ryerson, I headed for the streetcar in Toronto in the late afternoon -- a bright, sunny day, lots of people around, and me dressed in comfortable, casual clothing for the editing room (not in any sort of come-hither outfit, which has to be mentioned because that is apparently always relevant.)

I was stopped by a young man about university-student age, someone who was well-groomed and not crazy-looking (also relevant, as there are enough odd sorts of people in the downtown of a large city, and giving wide berth to those who look like they've been on a bender is a good start.) So, not expecting trouble, I listened as he asked if I knew what time it was.

I checked my watch. "Quarter to three," I said.

"Beautiful tits," he said.

Me: going from tired and thinking about what was I going to have for supper, to mind-blanking rage in one split second (bearing in mind what Tom Hawking said about actions not existing in a vacuum, and already having too many #YesAllWomen encounters in my life)

Me: grabbing my purse from my shoulder intending to clobber him in the side of the head with it

Him: seeing me start to grab my purse to hit him

Me: (in my mind) No! No! You can't do that! It's assault. You can't assault someone. 

Me: changing to my left hand, darting it forward, grabbing the white styrofoam coffee cup out of his hand, squeezing it and dumping the coffee all over him

Him: "What the hell are you doing, you f**king bitch?"

Me: "What did you say to me?" (loud enough for eveyone to hear)

Him: "I said 'What time is it?"

Me: "You said 'Beautiful tits'!"

I dumped the empty cup on the ground, looked up the street at everyone frozen in place, and carried on until I got on board my streetcar.

Another day in the life of two people whose experiences up to that point resulted in a misguided attempt at flattery (!?!) from him, and a Kill Bill reaction to it from me. 

So this week's musical set is dedicated to the work that still needs to be done in our culture when it comes to gender relations.

1 - Shaking the Foundations -- Rough Trade

2 - Street Fighting Man -- The Rolling Stones

3 - Uprising -- Muse

4 - Radioactive -- Imagine Dragons

5 - Power to the People -- John Lennon

Thursday, May 29, 2014

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Writing Process Blog Tour

Welcome to my stop on the Worldwide Writing Process Blog Tour.

I was invited aboard by epic speculative fantasy author C. D. Sutherland, author of The Dragoneers series. Thanks, Charles!

You can read about his writing process HERE.

What am I working on?

I'm currently working on Book 2 and 3 simultaneously for my Dragonsfyre series.

Book 1 -- Bound by Dragonsfyre -- was the result of an online serialized fiction project where I posted a new chapter every week here on my blog A Piece of My Mind for a two-year run, beginning in April of 2010 and ending just before the book's official publication in May of 2012.

The good news is: it's taking me half the amount of time to get the next two books finished, but it would feel quite long if you're the reader waiting to see what's going on with Scorpius. Both traditional publishers and self-published authors have listened to readers who find it incredibly hard to wait a full year before finding out what happens next to their favorite characters in a series.

So I'm completing this section of the series before releasing Book 2 -- because Book 3 will release very soon afterwards.

I say 'this section' because I really enjoy writing about the characters inhabiting the Eighth Dominion. There are twelve dominions in this realm, and I'm now planning a sweeping series following developments in each of the numbered kingdoms.

How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Until recently, I would say that my work differed by its tendency towards very dark and violent tones. Also, that it didn't exactly fit certain genre conventions.

However, my Dragonsfyre series has released at a time when Game of Thrones has killed off almost an entire family line at the Red Wedding -- and on television. I hadn't categorized my dark fantasy series as YA, even though Book 1 is a coming-of-age story, because once we head into Scorpius' adulthood, things take a drastic turn for him. Yet Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games series contains just as much violence as my Dragonsfyre world, so I'm re-evaluating how I've been marketing it and finding readers.

As for my Brotherhood of Blood vampire series -- at first I resisted marketing it as paranormal romance. It follows the convention of not tying up the story arc until the conclusion of the entire series, in the manner of the fantasy genre, as opposed to each title having its own conclusion even when part of a series, in the manner of the romance genre. Also, it retains my tendency towards a very dark tone, so I was actually marketing it as horror.

However, the plot is driven by a love story. Darker paranormal romance series have built a readership tolerance for unresolved endings while waiting for the series to wrap up. The challenging part of having a truly fresh take on things is: how do you describe these genre-defying books to readers? I'm still refining this for myself.

Why do I write what I do?

The quick-and-dirty answer is that I have always been a square peg in a round-hole world. I write hard-to-define stories because that's what I love to read and watch.

My TV viewing habits definitely reflect what I'm attracted to as far as genre: Supernatural, True Blood, Once Upon a Time, Agents of SHIELD (all technically contemporary but with the all-important addition of the supernatural or the fantastic,) Game of Thrones, Vikings, Downton Abbey. Aside from these series, my husband and I are big fans of TV series produced in other countries, such as Bednaya Nastya (Poor Anastasia) from Russia, Riget (The Kingdom) from Denmark, and The Great Queen Seondeok from South Korea. We always discover these series through serendipity, and then watch them either through an online service such as, or by ordering the DVD.

For the most part, as long as there are swords involved, with horses not cars, corsets not cell phones, and so on -- I'm attracted to it. There could be a storyline about a turf war, but if it was a contemporary story set in the lap of luxury between drug lords, I would probably pass it up. However, if it was basically the same turf war set during the Crusades between a Knight Templar and a disinherited Saxon lord, with a love triangle thrown in for good measure, I am all in. Believe me, I find this amusing about myself, but there you go.

Of course, there are exceptions. Tarantino's Kill Bill films are on my Top Ten list -- nothing of the fantastic involved in those (although you could argue some magical realism.) I do love science fiction. Straightforward historical is always a great idea (yet the closer the time period gets to present-day, the less I'm engaged.)

If I describe my Brotherhood of Blood vampire novel as a Dark Ages vampire superhero origin story, you'll see how my muse has gone for a giant mash-up between all of my favorite genres. The fact that a few reviewers have mentioned things like "Puts the monster back into vampire," and "[her] vampires are dark and dangerous" are why I was shying away from steering the book towards paranormal romance readers. Yet the entire story revolves around two lovers and their driving need to be together. I may be attracted to darker subject matter, but I'm definitely a romantic. A gothic romantic of course, but still...     

How does my writing process work?

Well, I would say that my initial exposure to other stories from the genres I love is really the first part of my writing process. For me this is more of a visual-and-auditory thing than reading other books in my genre.

I just soak it all in – the atmosphere, the lighting, the location, the costumes, the music, and especially the emotions from my favorite scenes. I’ll include my passion for ballet here, because many of the story ballets qualify as fantasy genre. Immersing myself in full-length ballets never fails to inspire my creative muse.

Eventually scenes will start playing through my head as though I have my own personal story channel in there somewhere. They just play out as though fully formed, but I have to pay attention and figure out what’s going on. Who is that? Why are they doing that to him?

I write out the initial scenes, and then I have to do some mental unravelling of the story threads until things start to make sense. This is usually done while I’m walking by myself, or when I’m on the bus.

At this point I used to start writing without trying to plot. Now that I’m working on two series, I have trained myself to make a Save-the-Cat sketch of the storyline before heading into my natural pantser mode (writing by the seat of my pants.) I suppose I should mention here that I always write at my desk with headphones on and music playing. Unless I'm out somewhere, in which case I write longhand in an old school notebook.

I’m also a veteran of five NaNoWriMo marathons, which I’ve discovered is key to unlocking the heart of my story. NaNoWriMo forces me to write for word count, which pressurizes my creative process well past my comfort zone. I keep writing within a scene for longer than I would normally stay there, purely for word count purposes – and this always leads to discovering things about my characters that would have remained hidden if I wasn’t doing NaNo.

This in turn requires weaving together two manuscript files – the regular one I’d been working on before NaNo, and the NaNo version. I find this part of my process very draining mentally, yet the shining-jewel scenes I get from this way of working is absolutely worth it.

Once I weld these together, I do an initial revision to make sure nothing’s missing and that it all makes sense. Then I give the manuscript over to several readers for initial feedback.

I do a second revision based on that, and then I hand the manuscript over to a professional editor. I do a third set of revisions based on her recommendations. At that point, the book is ready to go to the formatter’s before uploading to the various retail platforms.

Thanks for joining me for this Writing Process Blog Tour.

At this point I’m supposed to hand the baton over to three more authors. However, there is a good-news-bad-news thing about this sort of blog tour.

I asked quite a few authors to take part. The good news: all of the writers I know are currently writing to deadlines and didn’t have an opening in their schedules to take part in the tour.

Or – the writers I know had already taken part in this tour.

So to wrap up this Writing Process Blog Tour, I’ll introduce you to three of my author friends who have already posted about their writing processes:

Angels-and-demons YA author Shawna Romkey

You can read about her writing process HERE

Scottish historicals author Kate Robbins

You can read about her writing process HERE

Contemporary Newfoundland-settings author Victoria Barbour

You can read about her writing process HERE 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

5 on Friday -- Set 224

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

Got into a bit of a groovy, blue-eyed soul kind of mood for this week. Enjoy!

1 - Love is the Drug -- Roxy Music

2 - Tomb of Memories -- Paul Young

3 - I Didn't Mean to Turn You On -- Robert Palmer

4 - Big Time -- Peter Gabriel

5 - Modern Love -- David Bowie

Friday, May 16, 2014

5 on Friday -- Set 223

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

It's Victoria Day Weekend here in the Great White North. That means there's not supposed to be any more white stuff -- and certainly here on the east coast it's warming up, my garden is bursting into bloom and I'm enjoying a long weekend.

Here are some long-weekend-worthy tunes to set the mood.

1 - Safe and Sound -- Capital Cities

What a great video! Can't tell you how much I love it.

2 - Best Day of My Life -- American Authors

3 - Counting Stars -- OneRepublic

4 - Get Lucky -- Daft Punk featuring Pharrell Williams

5 - Don't You Worry Child -- Swedish House Mafia featuring John Martin

Thursday, May 15, 2014

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Friday, May 9, 2014

5 on Friday -- Set 222

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

Last week's Hit Maker track from Peggy Lee -- Why Don't You Do Right? -- led to He's a Tramp playing in my head ever since.

So this week, I'm going old school Disney for some of my favorite music from those childhood films, with one modern addition. 

1 - He's a Tramp -- Peggy Lee -- Lady and the Tramp -- 1955

2 - I'm Wishing / One Song -- Adriana Caselotti and Harry Stockwell -- Snow White and the Seven Dwarves -- 1937

3 - So This is Love -- Ilene Woods and  Mike Douglas -- Cinderella -- 1950

4 - Once Upon a Dream -- Mary Costa and Bill Shirley -- Sleeping Beauty -- 1959

The melody for this song is based on one of the main musical themes in Tchaikovsky's 1889 score for The Sleeping Beauty ballet. How could I not love this one? 

5 - The Circle of Life -- Lebo M. and Carmen B. Twillie -- The Lion King -- 1994

Although I will never fail to point out the Kimba the White Lion / Lion King controversy, due to my lifelong love of Kimba and the fact that Disney was always known to create adaptations of beloved children's stories, I pushed all of that aside to simply enjoy The Lion King when it came out.

The Circle of Life is such a powerful, primal song. I just love it for itself.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

5 on Friday -- Set 221

Spinning Friday tunes since 2010...

For anyone who wants to join in, simply choose five pieces of music and post them for other bloggers to enjoy. Then check out the set posted by the other 5 on Friday blogger -- you can sign in over at Golch Central's Rambling Stuff.

It's May, and time for my monthly feature for 5 on Friday -- The Hit Makers.

Once a month I'm going to feature the songs that launched careers. I'll be looking at different musical styles and the groups or singers from those styles who I love the best.

This month, let's look ahead to Mother's Day. Here are five of my favorite female vocalists who are also moms.

1 - Why Don't You Do Right? -- Peggy Lee with Benny Goodman -- 1942

Mom to daughter Nicki

2 - Aguas de Marco (Waters of March) -- Elis Regina with Tom Jobim -- 1974

Mom to sons Joao and Pedro, and daughter Maria Rita 

3 - Sweet Dreams(Are Made of This) -- Annie Lennox of  Eurythmics -- 1983

Mom to daughters Lola and Tali

4 - Smooth Operator -- Sade -- 1985

Mom to daughter Ila

5 - Rolling in the Deep -- Adele -- 2010

Mom to son Angelo

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