Sunday, March 30, 2014

Cool! My Work Has Been Quoted!

I just stumbled across the following while I was trying to find a link to a guest post I did a while ago...

In 2009, I completed my MA at Athabasca University.  My concentration was Cultural Studies, and my final paper was called Homogenized Salsa: Latina Canadian Drama.  Here's part of the abstract:

Equality, cultural identity and personal struggles are common themes in Canadian drama, and indeed are common themes in the literature of a post-colonial world. 
Another common theme in contemporary writing pertains to women’s issues: equality, sexism, gender roles, exploitation and the like frequently figure in modern drama and literature. These themes result in something of a kaleidoscopic head-on collision when 
one considers Latino Canadian drama through a feminist lens. This paper examines 
some of the works of Carmen Aguirre, an accomplished and well-established writer and actor who immigrated to Canada from Chile. Her plays, including The Refugee Hotel, 
The Trigger, and Que Pasa with the Raza, eh? are very autobiographical, and yet 
they also speak for many other Latinos who have relocated to Canada. 

So, that's that... 

But what I stumbled upon was the fact that my aforementioned paper was quoted recently in some other MA student's paper!  How cool is that?  The author spelled my surname incorrectly (Edmonson), but so what?  It's pretty cool that someone in academia found my work and my words worthwhile!!!  

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Recent Reads: Ray Oblique Sense

Full speed ahead!!!  This was terrific!  It felt like Ray was in my living room having a chat with me.   I've never seen the biopic, and didn't know much about the man, but - WOW! - quite the life he led!  He tells his story with respect and fondness, and with a healthy dose of self-reflection.  His "can-do" attitude and his refusal to be pitied or to wallow in bitterness are inspiring.  Highly recommended.

This was kind of interesting, albeit out of my usual reading realm.  I agree with the thesis, but question some of the examples Kay uses to illustrate his point.

I think I'm the wrong reader for this book.  I bought it quite randomly (sale table!) and was piqued by the general idea.  However, it really focuses on babies and how they learn to think/believe and how the brain develops.  I'm not overly interested in paediatric brain development.  Nonetheless, some of the tests, experiments and research he discusses are rather interesting.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Someone Has To Die by guest author Autumn Birt

Today, I have guest author Autumn Birt and she discusses killing off characters. It's not as easy as you might think....

Someone Has to Die

There is a war. Brave heroes face countless obstacles, horrible foes, and great odds. Yet, somehow, everyone walks out with a handful of scratches. What the heck?!
I admit it, I hate it when my favorite character dies. I’ve put down novels when too many characters that I’ve come to care about are killed off. But there is something too sappy sweet, too fantastical, when no one dies. Bad things happen during battles. People get hurt. Someone will perish.
And I don’t just mean secondary or tertiary characters. I mean the ones that kept you reading the novel. Only minor injuries after insane quests used to be a pet peeve when I was a reader. When I began writing my epic fantasy series, the Rise of the Fifth Order, I realized I had to live up to the expectations I had when I merely read fantasy. I was going to have to kill someone off.
I think my first reaction was “!?!???!”
After I stopped hyperventilating, I started wondering who?
I’m writing book 3 of an epic fantasy series. I love all of my characters, even the ‘bad’ ones! The thought of losing one of them after having shared (created) their hopes and plans for the future… well, it gives me a new perspective on why some authors never have a character die. But that isn’t the type of story I wanted to write… or the one I was writing. As the chapter numbers kept rising on the final book in the series, I knew I had to make a choice.
How does an author choose which character dies?
The situation could dictate it. Maybe only one or two characters are in extreme danger? For me, that didn’t apply. There is a war, everyone is facing danger. Any one of them could make a simple mistake, fall into a trap, or be in the wrong place. I was actually going to have to make a choice. At some point… I kept stalling.
Then I realized, if I couldn’t choose and any of the characters were just as likely to die, there was another possible solution: a random Yes/No generator!
Talk about a way to come up with a plot twist?! It removes the emotion from the decision, allowing the author to step back and simply see what fate offers. I wrote down names, hit a random generator button I found online a few times and wrote down the results. End of story.
Not entirely. Oddly, the results matched what I’d already been thinking. I think it may have been rigged. And the problem was, it felt like a cop-out. I wasn’t pushing the story to the depth, emotionally, that it could go. But I needed to keep writing if I was ever going to finish, so I went with it.
In the end, the moment, and character, offered itself. And it wasn’t the one from the random yes/no generator. It was someone I hadn’t written down, probably because I would never have considered letting them die, much less planning their death since book 1! It fit the story in ways I had never seen and explained actions at the end that I knew would happen but hadn’t known why. I was good with it. It felt right. Even if it hurt. A lot.
And that really is the bottom line: Not letting anyone die can subvert the impact of a novel as much as choosing the wrong person.
I’ve already begun the outline of my next WIP, which will be a darker fantasy than the one I’m
finishing. More people are going to die. I hope that the story unfolds similarly to Spirit of Life, the final book in my epic fantasy series, and choosing won’t be an issue. If it is, I haven’t given up on the random generator idea! Actually, after recent posts at the Guild of Dreams on the lack of disabilities and mental illness in fantasy, I’m thinking I need some gaming dice or at least number assignments for levels of injury. There is more to battle than life and death. Short term injuries, long term disabilities, death of friends or family, mental impacts, all of these things are relevant in life and our writing. I want to be a brave enough author not to shy away.
What about you? As a reader, what do you think when a character dies, or doesn’t? As an author, do you have problems killing someone off or is planned from day one (and does that make friends hesitate accepting dinner invitations?!)?
Do you want to help make Spirit of Life, book 3 in my epic fantasy series, happen? I’m running a Pubslush campaign and would love your support. What, you’ve never heard of Pubslush?! Follow the link and check it, and my campaign, out. I’d love to hear what you think!

Links (if the above are broken)

Autumn's page on Amazon:
Autumn's blog:
Follow Autumn on Twitter @Weifarer

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Who Are You Inviting?

I'm not sure if other writers feel this way, but for me, when it comes to writing, I need to have a solid idea of who my characters are before I start.  I may not have every tiny detail worked out, but I have a good idea of their general personality traits, their flaws, their strengths.

I liken this to hosting a dinner party.  Long before I plan the menu or select the vino, I think about who to invite.  Which guests will mix well with the others?  What common bonds might they share?  I may think to myself that I surely have to invite Tyler - he's always good for jokes and injecting humour into an evening. And of course, I have to invite Jim - he always has wild stories to tell.  Julie just got back from a trip to Brazil and I can't wait to hear about the trip.  Donna will probably bring her guitar and after dinner drinks may turn into a sing-along.  And I know that if I invite both Liz and Andrew, there will likely be a heated debate about politics or current events since they are polar opposites.  

You get the idea.  

Once I know who I'm dealing with, the plot slowly starts to come together.  If I know Andrew is a bit of a hothead, then it will be easy for me to thrust him into situations and know just how he will react.  And when it comes to dialogue and Tyler - piece of cake because I know he will crack wise at any opportunity.

There are all sorts of charts and lists that one can create (or find online) to help you with character development, but I don't use any of those.  I'm fairly loose about backgrounds - what I do for one I may not do for another.  But generally, for most of my main characters, I'll figure out:

  • political leanings - and do they usually vote?
  • zodiac sign
  • education (major), or did they drop out of high school?
  • religion - whatever it may be - do they practice it actively?
  • where they fit in the family tree (middle child, youngest, etc.)
  • relationship with parents (and were they divorced?)
  • ethnic/cultural background
  • attitude towards some "hot button" issues, like marijuana, immigration, gay marriage, etc.
  • talents/hobbies that have nothing to do with the plot or with their jobs (do they play an instrument or are they on a sports team?)
The list could go on and on (do they prefer Coke over Pepsi, Apple or Windows, are they afraid of heights, do they have/do they like pets, do they have any allergies, etc.) but the above points usually give me an idea of who my character is.  And that's a great start!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Recent Reads: Pandora Rules Auchwitz

This was an incredible book, an incredible story!  Avey tells his tale in a no-frills, straightforward manner, and the subtlety of his delivery makes it that much more evocative.  The side story of "the cigarettes" and what happened after is incredible.  It's really quite a bit of a kick in the gut, but a very worthwhile read.
This was a lot of fun.  Some content doesn't work as well now as it would have when it was first published, but I guffawed quite a few times.  There are some brilliantly witty lines here.

This was kind of cool, and was different from my usual reading choices.  I learned a bit from it, and I generally liked the author's voice.  It gets into a wee bit too much detail at times, but that's not a bit deal.  Wells looks at human development since the dawn of agriculture rather than being hunter-gatherers.  It's kind of cool - the lenses through which he looks at humans included dental development and cavities, diabetes, and noise/light, etc.  It's pretty cool.