Chantal Boudreau's Blog - Posts Tagged "writing"

Despite the fact that I write dark fantasy and horror, I do a fair amount of research for my NaNoWriNo novels. Since I’m using a mythological backdrop, I search for as much relevant information on the mythologies I’m using and the area where the myths originated. In the case of Sleep Escapes Us, I actually wanted to set the story in Ancient Thrace and the surrounding regions, so I felt some elements should be historically accurate, despite the fantasy and supernatural nature of the tale.

I also like to include a certain amount of realism in my fantasy and horror tales, even if the events never did, or never would, happen. In this instance, I wanted some validity to my herbalist character, Kerza’s skill-base. This is what I came up with...

The Flora of Sleep Escapes Us

When I started my research into Ancient Thrace for Sleep Escapes Us, I was pleased to stumble across information from Dioscorides' De Materia Medica and Pseudo-Apuleius' Herbarius , sources that discussed the Dacian names for plants along with their English and Latin names and the uses for some of the specimens mentioned. I planned on having Kerza knowledgeable in herbalism, so I knew it would be a great resource for my story. It turned out there were several places I could make use of the information beyond the witch’s remedies and incenses. Here are the various points in the story where the Dacian flora came into play:

In chapter 3, Zalmoxis prepares to sacrifice Zelmis using a zuuster club, which is the Dacian term for wormwood (Artemisia arborescens or Tree Wormwood). This is shrub with a woody base, and a club would have to be made from securing a bundle of the woody stems into a solid bunch with some heft. It may have been supplemented with a more solid core, of wood or stone in order to issue a lethal blow. The plant was believed to be linked to things psychic and death/afterlife.

In chapter 5, Alina asks her father, afflicted by infection, where she can find the diesema (mullein or verbascum) to purge his blood. It is used again later in Kerza’s treatments for Sur. Mullein has been used historically to treat everything from colds to colics, although mullein remedies meant to be drunk have to be finely filtered to eliminate the irritating hairs. Mullein contains glycyrrhizin compounds with bactericide, concentrated in the flowers. Different extracts have varying levels of efficiency against bacteria.

In chapter 9, Kerza prepares an herbal remedy in the form of a tea. In addition to diesema, she also mentions using diassathel (wavyleaf mullein or verbascum sinuatum – sathel signifies “sieve”), which has similar properties to diesema, and lax (purslane or portulaca oleracea, supposedly used as a laxative), which was historically used to treat infections or bleeding of the genito-urinary tract as well as dysentery.

In chapter 11, Kerza tries to escape Sur’s company by excusing herself to gather kinouboila (wild pumpkin or cucurbita foetidissima), but Sur follows. Supposed medicinal benefits include using pulverized root in tea to speed protracted labor in childbirth, tea made from boiled peeled roots is used to induce vomiting, powdered seeds and flowers mixed with saliva reduce swellings and dried root ground to a powder, mixed with cold water, can be drunk for laxative.

In chapter 14, Kerza makes a stomach soothing tea from salia (anise or pimpinella tragium – having a carminative effect to settle the stomach), tuedila (peppermint or menthe x piperita – reduces abdominal pain and stomach irritation) and a bit of amalusta (chamomile or matricaria recutita – used to treat sore stomach and an irritable bowel syndrome). She also finds gonoleta ( gromwell or lithospermum tenuiflorum- used as an oral contraceptive).

In chapter 18, Kerza uses incense made from dracontos (rosemary or rosemarinus officinalis – used in incenses as it was considered a divinatory herb, possibly because its use in large quantities can cause seizures) and ziodela (sweet marjoram or origanum majorana – used historically as an incense, a mild sedative). She then anoints Alina and Zareus with holy oil made from azila (hound’s tongue or cynoglossum – it softens and soothes the skin, but it has a narcotic effect, depressing the nervous system) and hormia (annual clary or salvia horminum – primarily for aromatic purposes, a soothing/relaxing effect).

I was pleased to have a source that allowed me to have proper names for the herbs and assured what I was using was native to the area. This was probably one of the most useful results of my research for Sleep Escapes Us.

Sleep Escapes Us is available in first draft format, posted by chapter, on Scribd.com and will remain there in full until the end of December. If you would like to read it (by year’s end), you can find the first chapter at:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/71346987/Sl...

Also – this month marks the release of the ebook version of Elevation, the sequel to Fervor (the print version to follow at a later date). You can purchase it at Smashwords or Amazon:

http://www.amazon.com/Elevation-ebook...
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Published on December 17, 2011 12:33 • 114 views • Tags: ancient-thrace, dark-fantasy, herbalism, horror, mythology, research, writing, zombies
When I decide to write "Sleep Escapes Us" as an alternate history of Thrace, I wanted to seed the tale with details that reflected the actual culture of ancient Thrace - other than the mythos of that location - to give it a truly Thracian flavour. During my research, I managed to dredge up a series of interesting tidbits that I felt I could thread into my story to make it seem more realistic, despite the magic and the zombies.

One great source for this was Tosho Spiridonov, Roumyana Georgieva and Maria Rejo’s “Ethnology of the Thracians”. It discussed their dwellings and lifestyle, and provided me with such details as predominant foods (the lentil and cabbage mash that Zelmis was fed at the Temple of Zalmoxis,) fabric and fashions (the tunics, leggings and zeira, the multi-coloured cloak commonly worn by the Thracian people, as well as their types of adornment,) and the use of tattoos (which I applied with the tally marks.)

In addition to common lifestyle, I also found information on religious rituals, including descriptions of animal sacrifices and the ritual pits where they occurred, performed in hewn rock niches. These details allowed me to present Zalmoxis’s Temple with the type of character it should have as a proper exhibit of the worship of death. There was also mention of the funerary feast Zelmis was hunting to provide for at the beginning of the book, part of the Thracian burial rituals. In fact, Roumyana Georgieva outlines the funeral rites in great detail:

“Burial rites occupy an extremely important if not foremost position in the Thracian system of customs, due to the fact that the dead ranked higher than the living in ancient Thrace. All rituals performed between the occurrence of death and the closing of the grave (the closing of the eyes and jaws of the deceased, bathing, preparation of the body which was left for three days to lie at stake, mourning, animal sacrifices and burial feast) were aimed mainly at facilitating the deceased individual to make his transition to the world beyond. The faith in his supernatural power, together, with the apprehension or hope that he is capable of influencing the fate of the living, were among the reasons for the exceptional care devoted to the dead in Thrace.”

Since funeral rites were an important part of the culture, it made sense for them to also play a strong role in the book, particularly since the story surrounded the mythology of the Thracian god of death.

Another cultural factor with a strong impact on the story was the fact the Thracians had no written language of their own. That was the reasoning behind Alina seeking out Kerza in the first place, and the repercussions of the situation had significant influence in the story. It also meant I had liberty to play around with some of the cultural aspects within the tale since historically, they are vague. Most of what is known about the Thracians comes from their “archaeological remains, and from the Greek writers who were their contemporaries” (per Moni, from the A Spell in Time group - she did not provide me with a last name - in “Background to Bulgarian Myth and Folklore.”) They are sketchy at best, allowing for extrapolation.

Overall, I think I was able to incorporate enough of what was known about the Thracian culture to give Sleep Escapes Us a distinct Thracian flavour. It was definitely one of the more interesting cultures I’ve ever researched.
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Published on January 07, 2012 07:20 • 132 views • Tags: culture, death, mythology, research, thrace, writing
I’ve seen a lot of talk recently about inequality in the publishing industry, how male writers get more coverage, percentage-wise, in top review publications and how this is an unfair representation of writers in general. I’ve also read backlash where men counter this with the argument “women don’t write serious fiction” – i.e. women writers mostly write “chick-lit”.

Honestly, I’m not sure if any of this is something I should be concerned about. As far as I am aware, I haven’t been discriminated against for being a woman. Then again, I don’t know if any of the rejections I have received have been in part because of my gender. I don’t go out of my way to hide who I am. I don’t use a pseudonym when submitting (with one genre exception, and I use a feminine pseudonym), and I don’t hide my gender by presenting only my first initial. Some women writers have chosen to do that – there are examples throughout history – but I’ve never been inclined that way.

Where I have encountered discrimination is actually when I have chosen to use a male PoV character in my stories, and I have done that on many occasion. In fact, at the moment I am writing an alternate history zombie horror story set in the Southern US with an African-American, male PoV. I’m sure I’ll face criticism for this choice, but I don’t write things the way other people dictate. I write what the story calls for.

I’ve actually had a man approach me and berate me for having a male PoV in Fervor (criticism based on the back of the book blurb – he had never read the book.) I’ve also seen complaints from other women suggesting that it is a woman writer’s responsibility to write all of their stories with a strong female PoV. Is it? Really?

What you’ll find in my stories are a wide range of characters with a broad variety of strengths and flaws. Some of my heroes are men and others women. My villains come in all shapes and sizes too. Many of my characters walk a very blurred line in the grey, and sometimes you can’t tell if they are meant to be hero or villain. I have female characters who are a little dim and helpless, and some who have been soldiers for most of their lives, hardened veterans. I have male characters who are pacifists and some who are serial killers. As I mentioned, I write what the story needs. What gives someone else the right to tell me who I should cast in the role of PoV?

To sum up, what I want to say is that I would hope nobody judges my work as a writer from the perspective of my gender, be it refusing to take my work seriously or demanding a certain type of PoV character. I like to consider myself a person, not defined by my gender at all. I hope others will grant me the same respect.
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Published on January 20, 2012 20:45 • 120 views • Tags: characters, criticism, gender-bias, pov, writing
I wish I was a master marketer, it would make this book business a lot easier, but I do know, based on my own personal reaction to things, what doesn’t work on me – “buy my book” spam. This topic was discussed on a rather extensive thread in one of the Facebook writer groups that I belong to, a group I participate in specifically because we’ve all agreed we don’t want to see that kind spam posted to the group. It means we actually see real discussions. People post questions, excerpts or opinions. I know if I check out the group I won’t be bombarded by one dry “here’s my link to my book, it’s only $ -.--” after another. In some of the other writer groups the spam posts are 80-90% of content. I don’t go there anymore, since I have better things to do with my time then scroll through the spam to find anything worthwhile.

Now don’t get me wrong – I buy books. I buy books from trad publishers and smaller presses, and I buy books from my writer friends when they’ve made a real connection with me and have captured my interest. In those cases there is usually a mutual effort to support each other’s work. I also know that promotion is important, as long as it is effective promotion. If your attempts at drawing attention to your book is causing people to tune out and shut off, you’re doing something wrong. They say you need to get a message to a potential buyer several times before they’ll commit to a purchase, but just because you blast that message at them doesn’t mean they’ll absorb it. In fact, if you bore them with vague and repetitive unoriginal posts, they’ll likely reject the message and ignore anything that follows, the way that I do. If you want me to pay attention you either have to *really* excite me or make a concerted effort to show me who you are and what you do.

As another friend in my preferred group pointed out – spamming writer groups is an even greater waste of time and energy. Writers may read, but they are very particular about what they read, because with the investment they put into their writing (and submissions, and edits, and promotional activities), they are left with little time for other distractions. Spamming reader groups might yield a little success, but many reader groups are now made up of writers looking for an opportunity to promote their books. He suggested focussing your marketing efforts on topic-associated groups. What I understood that to mean is that if one of the main themes of your book is something like surfing, then try posting your promotional material to surfer groups, of if your tale puts a negative spin on genetic manipulation, give it some exposure on an anti-GMO group (just as a couple of examples).

From the research I’ve done, my dislike of the “buy my book” posts is not unique. It’s considered to be one of the least effective marketing methods. The problem is, it’s simple, not requiring much thought or effort, and other than a small investment of time, it’s free. Some use it to supplement loftier efforts, and some use it because they lack training/experience or the willingness to be more creative and innovative.

Like I said, I’m no expert, but I know what annoys and bores me. If you want me to buy your book, try something other than the online barrage. Pique my interest, don’t drown it.
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Published on February 18, 2012 07:01 • 79 views • Tags: creativity, marketing, spam, writing
The discussion came up in one of my writers’ groups as to whether it’s better to listen to music while you write or to sit in silence. Opinions differed, and I don’t think that any one answer is correct. Some people want a completely distraction-free environment and that’s how they work best, but that’s not what I find works for me, and I’m not alone. Others insist that they can only listen to instrumental music and that lyrics draw them away from what they are writing. Once again, I don’t share that belief, for my own writing. I enjoy listening to music when I write and find it highly inspirational, preferably songs with lyrics and most often alternative rock.

I’m not suggesting that my method would work for everyone. Some people need to be very single-minded when they do something creative, but even in silence, my brain is cluttered and music seems to help me to drown out some of the clutter and to focus. Considering I’m one of those oddball dual-sided thinkers, I wouldn’t expect my creative process to match that of the typical right-brained scribe.

Science does provide some positive evidence for those in favour of listening to music as they write. There are scholastic studies that support the notion music heightens creative processes through increased pleasurable emotions, although particularly with music that the individual enjoys. While not necessarily having drastic effects, there is an “enjoyment arousal” factor (a term coined by C. F. Chabris) that can improve creative performance (see details of stimulating effects of music in the study paper “Intensely pleasurable responses to music correlate with activity in brain regions implicated in reward and emotion” by Anne J. Blood and Robert J. Zatorre, from McGill University). The study specifically shows an increase in higher thought processes and a decrease in the more animalistic brain functions in response to the music. The music also has a calming effect (as per the Harvard Gazette article, Music on the brain: Researchers explore the biology of music, by William J. Cromie), and relaxation is helpful when trying to be creative.

A second paper from McGill supports that emotional responses correlate to the music played, something else we discussed in the group. If you are writing a love scene versus a battle scene, the two definitely call for different musical playlists to generate the appropriate ambiance.

The studies also support those who say they need to write in silence. If a writer hasn’t found a type of music that can draw that pleasurable reaction, then the response to the dissonance caused by the music is the exact opposite - the music would create a negative result and actually draw their attention away from other things, such as the story they are trying to create. It could very well be that those who need silence in order to write have yet to find a music with which their mental functions are in sync, if one exists for them at all.

Musical food for thought...
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Published on March 17, 2012 05:51 • 83 views • Tags: creativity, inspiration, music, the-mind, thought, writing
If you do a quick scan of the writer and publisher blogs out there, you’ll find a vast number of complaints about authors giving work away for “exposure” and how it devalues the work of authors in general. Of course, this usually comes from established writers who already have name recognition and don’t understand just how much the publishing industry has changed recently and how hard it is to create a name for yourself. And it does make a difference. There are plenty of publishers out there that won’t even consider your work unless you already have a name they recognize. Also, sampling is supposed to be one of the most effective means of marketing for writers.

That being said, while I might post the occasional story for free on a few sites out there so people can sample my work, ignoring the naysayers, and I gladly agree to the freebie weekends for my ebooks that my publishers have used for promotional purposes, I’m not keen on contributing my work to for-profit anthologies where I don’t even get a contributor copy. In fact, I have said “no” to specific requests of this type that have come my way. I’ll willingly, however, contribute to charity anthologies. I have two stories now in these types of books and a third submitted and waiting for a response. I don’t see a problem with donating my work for a good cause. I do it all the time in other ways. I donate money regularly to charity, I’m O negative, so I make a point of donating blood, and I donate artwork and baked goods and books for raffles and the like – so why not simply donate my words?

Surprisingly, you’ll find folks criticizing this choice out there as well, although it is less common and usually limited to the more abrasive types who just like to rant and be negative. I witnessed one small press publisher go on a tirade while attacking his peers who were not paying contributors and he included charity anthologies in his rant. But in general, these anthologies are well received. They are also a potential opportunity to have your work in the same book as established writers whom you respect. I’ve enjoyed that experience as well.

If you want to check out the charity anthologies to which I have contributed they include:

Waking the Witch- from May December Publications – all proceeds go to the Red Cross

http://www.amazon.com/Wake-The-Witch-...

Slices of Flesh – from Dark Moon Books – Net proceeds from this book will go to several charities including literacy programs, the Horror Writers of America hardship fund and the Stephen and Tabitha King Foundation

http://www.amazon.com/Slices-Flesh-St...
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Published on March 24, 2012 11:42 • 55 views • Tags: anthologies, charity, exposure, free, sampling, writing
While doing research for a story you will run into things you would never expect. One story led me to look into situations where spiders are eaten and associated facts. What did I discover? Well, aside from learning that spiders supposedly taste like peanut butter, I also found out that they are cooked and eaten in some recipes in Cambodia (http://www.cambodiancooking.com.au/). Mention that to most people, and they’ll cringe and say, “ewww!”

Are spiders such an unusual dish? Arachnids are not far off from crustaceans, and we happily eat crab, lobster and shrimp (all things a non-seafood-eating friend of mine likes to refer to as bugs.) And how about escargot? Why would eating snails somehow be acceptable but the idea of chowing down on the creepy-crawlies with eight legs makes you want to spew?

Ever hear of chocolate-covered ants? Apparently those are available for consumption too.

Insects, spiders, worms, grubs, slugs – all manner of wriggly invertebrates are high in protein and could conceivably end up on the menu. What decides what we choose to eat and what we turn away? The choice for all cultures is not the same.

Some people have even gone so far as to cast aside societal reservations and eat the things that disgust their neighbour. Survival shows and reality TV do it all the time, showing us close-ups of people sucking the juices out of a camel spider, crunching into a still wriggling cockroach or spitting up the giant grub that just exploded its guts into their mouth, for the shock factor. Our local natural history museum has presented a “cooking with bugs” series that has been an effective draw. You can even find entire cookbooks on the topic, such as David Gordon’s Eat-a-Bug Cookbook:

http://www.amazon.com/Eat-bug-Cookboo...

or how about Julieta Ramos-Elorduy, Phd’s Creepy Crawly Cuisine:

http://www.amazon.com/Creepy-Crawly-C...

How many of you groaned, uttered a heart-felt “gross!”, or even clutched at your belly to stop it from doing flip-flops at the thought?

Some of you may be thinking that these are novelty cookbooks, which they are, but only because our society has decided to discount bugs as a proper food source. It’s that novelty, however that has brought us such treats as the Cricket Lick-it, a candy-encased bug, and its kin, a candy-coated scorpion (my husband and I bought one of these for my sister-in-law, one Christmas). You can find them both at Hotlix, along with many other buggy delights.

http://www.hotlix.com/index.html

So what do you think – if you have the chance to sample some arachnid cuisine – would you go for it?
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Published on April 06, 2012 17:39 • 101 views • Tags: bugs, candy, cooking, gross, recipes, research, spiders, writing
I’m sure my title to this blog posting has people offended, or scratching their heads in confusion. My discussion today falls back to a conversation in my fantasy writers group where it was noted that in YA stories, parents of child or youth protagonists are commonly absent in one way or another. I don’t consider my work YA, but in my own stories I can honestly say that the same thing applies. Don’t believe me? Here are many examples of absentee parents and a number of reasons why they are no longer there:

Dead – One way to guarantee parents won’t be around is to kill them off. Sometimes it is both parents, like with Harry Potter, or my own character, Dee Aaronsod in Casualties of War. This usually means you’re going to have to offer up a surrogate, possibly another relative, like Dee’s older sister, Juliana, or some other guardian, but the replacement will never be as invested in the character as their actual parents would be. This is important for the story. Other times it is only one parent who has been taken before their time, like Katniss’s father in the Hunger Games. This leaves a custodial parent, but one who may be grieving, overwhelmed or distracted. This leads into my next example.

Mentally Unavailable – This is usually more likely to happen when there is only one parent remaining, and they’ve either suffered some kind of breakdown as a result of the loss of their partner, like Katniss’s mother, or are simply overwhelmed with trying to make ends meet o their own. They might mean well, but not have the time and energy to invest in their child and they end up neglecting them to some degree, as a result. In other cases they might be totally distracted by something that ranks as high a priority, or higher, as their offspring. An example of this is Mo, the father in Inkheart. He is so caught up in trying to protect and possibly retrieve his wife that he isn’t always there for his daughter when she needs him. Addy’s mother and father in my When You Whisper are both mentally unavailable, her mother because of clinical depression and her father because of his addiction and abusive nature. You’ll also have the family that is swarming with kids and the parents are forced to focus their attention and efforts on the youngest of their passel, leaving the older children to manage on their own.

Missing – Abducted, lost at sea, or merely having runaway to escape life, sometimes one or both of the parents are completely gone, but not necessarily dead. I took this to an extreme in Fervor, where the children and youth don’t know what has become of their parents or their surrogates, their Minders, who just up and abandon them. Sometimes the whole premise of the book will be bent on the child’s search for the missing parent(s). Other times it is a matter of an attempt at self-preservation, with the children left to fend for themselves.

Sick – Not as serious or finite as death, but still a threat and one that can incapacitate one or both parents. This is a common tool in fairy tales, where the child goes off on a quest for a cure for their ailing parent. In my Casualties of War, Clayton has been entrusted to the care of his older brother, Gillis, and separated from his parents as a result. When his guardian falls ill, he can’t turn to Gillis to solve his problems and Clayton takes it upon himself to try to help rectify the situation.

Divorce/Separation/Life Circumstances – More likely a theme in contemporary genres, the facts of life can impinge on a character’s circumstances. Voluntary separation or divorce will break up a family and may leave the custodial parent bitter and inattentive. The non-custodial parent might move away, or simply be resentful of the situation and not remain involved with their child. I use this technique in Intangible, where Troy’s parents have divorced, making his father unavailable and his mother too busy to be involved significantly in his affairs. The separation might also be involuntary, such as a military person who is shipped off to serve overseas, or a business person who has to spend lengthy periods away from their family for business purposes. This is just one more way of taking one or both parents out of the picture.

Sometimes we aren’t even given an explanation why the parents aren’t there, it’s just clear that they are not. My character, Nolan, in Casualties of War, is a parentless street urchin, but also very secretive about his past, so the reader doesn’t discover how he ended up that way. We don’t even know if he knows why he’s on his own.

The question, then, is “Why?” Why is it necessary to eliminate parents when your protagonist is a child or young adult? Well, the fact is that a good, invested parent will get in the way of the story. Such a parent will go out of their way to protect their child and shield them from tragedy, shoulder any major responsibilities, and help them deal with any obstacles they might encounter. This is okay if your story is offering a whole family of protagonists, but not if you want the focus to be on the individual. If it is a trial the child must endure, alone or with his or her peers, you don’t want a concerned mother or father meddling in the process. I think that’s the best explanation as to why you aren’t likely to see competent well-balanced parents accompanying protagonist children and youths. Parents simply get in the way of good fiction.

- Casualties of War, the second in my Masters & Renegades fantasy series from May December Publications, is scheduled for release later this year. You can find Magic University, the first in the series, at:

http://www.amazon.com/Magic-Universit...
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Published on April 13, 2012 17:57 • 94 views • Tags: challenge, children, dead, divorced, missing, parents, protagonists, writing, ya, youth
I noticed on a friend’s blog that archeologists have uncovered proof of another female gladiator in the Roman arenas. It brought me back to a discussion I had with a writer friend regarding strong female characters. When I suggested I like to see strong female characters, she automatically jumped to the idea that I was implying the stereotypical fantasy swordswoman, battling alongside the men with her rippling muscles, bronze brassiere and Xena-like war-cries.

Far from it.

All I meant was: “please don’t give me another story where every woman significant to the plot is either a doormat, an ornament or a victim.”

I admit - I do have warrior women in some of my tales. I have female Templars, soldiers like my Dee Aaronsod or Brianna, and my apprentice mercenary character, Carlisle. In fact the head of my Red-Sun mercenary guild is a villainous woman named Minerva. But a lot of my strong female characters are miles from the stereotypical Amazonian fighter. They range from a stout little middle-aged, ex-school teacher who is willing to brave a mountain full of dangers for the sake of helping others, my Reeree in the soon to be released “Casualties of War”, to my super-mom, Margot, who works as a financial administrative assistant and takes on some exceptional responsibilities, in “Just Another Day”. I even have a primary female character in my unpublished Snowy Barrens trilogy, the shamaness Fawn, who is extremely strong, despite being a healer, a social outcast because of some disturbing facial scarring, and a pacifist. I consider Sarah one of my strongest characters in Fervor, but she is not physically strong, wilful, contrary or bold. She is loving and understanding and offers as much of herself as she can possibly give, even though it might put her in danger.

Strong doesn’t just mean emotionally fierce and physically powerful. Strong can mean taking action, not bending when others oppose you, offering commitment to follow through on the things you’ve started and showing resolve when things get tough. It can mean not turning away and leaving things for others to fix, if they go bad. It can mean staying true to yourself, and helping those you love, or even helping complete strangers who need you, for that matter. Strength comes in various shades and designs, not just a single stereotype.

I’m not playing the feminist card and saying every woman in the story should be strong, for the sake of serving as a positive role model for any girls/young women who might be reading it. Fiction should reflect life, and there are a range of people out there, including doormats, ornaments and victims, so these personality types will play a part in stories – what I’m saying is there are an awful lot of women out there who make a very positive impact on others’ lives, and that should be reflected too, especially if you want me, as a reader, to be able to relate properly to your story.

So please, give me something other than just damsels in distress or women who can’t go on without their man. Give me something strong.
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Published on April 20, 2012 16:44 • 92 views • Tags: characters, role-model, stereotypes, strength, women, writing
I noted a running theme in writer circles lately surrounding the notion that writers write too much, and therefore much of what they create is of lesser quality (as Richard Ford would have us believe) and should never be exposed to the reading public. You’ll find essays out there on the matter and in some cases, ironically, those essays ramble on drily with far too many irrelevant comments before getting to their point. In a rather circumspect way, the essayist, perhaps, is supporting their own opinion. That might also be why they feel that way in the first place, subject to that problem themselves. Of course, that doesn’t mean everyone suffers from that same affliction.

On the flip-side, you’ll also find writing advice from established veteran writers suggesting that a novice writer *must* write everyday if they aspire to be a great writer and that the whole point of writing something is to have it read, so be sure to refine it and get it out there, once it is written.

Do we write to our inclinations, and if so, do we share everything we create? - A bit of a conundrum there.

Some writers find it difficult to write everyday. They have to push themselves to keep to routine. They may write in spurts followed by dry spells, and others require an extra dose of self-discipline to finish what they start, often abandoning their current work mid-stream to stray into one or two new stories…or perhaps even a dozen, without returning to the original tale.

Some, like me, suffer from a mild case of hypergraphia. It’s an addiction and one that is enabled by friends and family who encourage us to write because they don’t like how cranky we get when we don’t. I’m also fortunate enough that I hate leaving things unfinished, so the desire to finalize what I’ve started outweighs the lure of new ideas which are also begging for my attention.

This means I’m very prolific. Is this a bad thing, and should I screen my work, only putting out the very best of what I produce? Well that notion has its own set of problems. How do I decide what is my “best” work. Some of my favourite stories didn’t go over well with about half of my test readers. Some of my stories that my test readers adored got scathing critique from submissions editors. Define “best” – better yet, who gets the privilege of deciding what has merit, and if it is the industry proper, then how will I know what they consider my best work unless I send it all out at some point?

Two things I’ve learned while writing and working at getting published: the first is that if I want to stay happy, I have to ignore the majority of the mess of conflicting information out there and just do what works for me, even if others disagree with it. The second is that the whole process is one big balancing act, and while some people shove extremes and absolutes in your face, the answers lie somewhere in the moderate, middle-of-the-road.

Are being prolific and the resulting output good or bad? Well, I guess that just depends on who you ask.
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Published on April 27, 2012 19:05 • 109 views • Tags: advice, discipline, quality, quantity, writing