Fresh Perspectives

Sharon Ashwood
June 3, 2010  •  No Comments

I moved offices at work this week and now I’m on the west facing side of the building. I think it’s going to be extra-hot in the summer, should we ever have summer here (I’m still in winter clothes) but right now the added light is a boost to the spirits. Plus the office is a little larger which means there is enough oxygen for at least five minutes if one shuts the door.

A change in perspective is everything. I know when I’m writing, if I get stuck sometimes just moving where I’m working can make a huge difference.

But, for those who like where they are, here is a new invention. The body of this car is “elastically adjustable” to reform itself into a bedroom, office, or gym.

This is the part I think is extra-cool:
“The SheLL will also connect seamlessly to buildings and public facilities by way of what is expected to become a standard interface for vehicles – a docking station so it can supplement the home or office with another working or living space.”

You don’t have to park the car, you just stick it to the side of your building. It should make that rush to work so much easier when the commute is actually done by driving your bedroom.


Risk and reward

Sharon Ashwood
June 2, 2010  •  No Comments

The late fall is when many of the published author contests open for entries, and every time the season rolls around I wonder whether I should go contest-happy or not. The expense, the paperwork, the mailing hassles, and the fact that it’s also the holiday season all spell a must-miss experience. But you mustn’t miss it.

You see, there are excellent Machiavellian reasons to enter. Contest judges are an enforced audience. They have to read, or pretend to read, your book. Maybe some will like it enough to buy the next one. There’s also the tantalizing promise of finalling or even winning your category. And, of course, there are contests that will forward the feedback forms to peruse. In my experience, most judges who write comments are honestly trying to be helpful, and I usually learn something. Yes, occasionally there’s one that’s snarky or just strange, but those are fortunately rare.

And, finally, entering contests feels like one is doing something positive. As authors, there’s a fairly limited amount we can do once the book is “out there.” Filling out entry forms gives us an illusory sense of control.

In a manic fit, this year I entered both my 2009 books in quite a few contests, which gave me a scoring data pool. Breaking with my personal traditions of apathy and sloth, for once I actually kept track of the results. I discovered something fairly interesting.

The book that colored outside the lines received either very high or very low scores and finalled or won in many of the contests. The one I wrote as a crowd-pleaser scored more consistently and with a higher average, but received fewer nominations in the end.

What does this actually mean? I’m not sure my test sample was large enough for rash generalizations, but I’ll make one anyway: To be exceptional, you have to accept the fact that some people will hate your work. Just go for what floats your boat. It’ll probably work out better in the end.

Oh, and fill out the entry forms, because you might win. The thing with contests—besides being great fundraisers for the chapters that sponsor them—is that they are low-risk with great reward if you do succeed. For the price of an entrance fee, you can put “award winning author” beside your name.

Cheap thrills. We get ‘em where we can.


The paranormal paycheque

Sharon Ashwood
November 4, 2009  •  1 Comment

I’m always fascinated by the traditional idea that all vampires are rich. Presumably this is a function of two things:
One: they have a castle or two somewhere in Eastern Europe stuffed with valuable heirlooms and
Two: they all get rich because they live forever.

haunted_castle_203_203x152These are of course fallacies. Castles are expensive to run–which undoubtedly explains the mandatory tropes of cobwebs, skeletons and other signs of residential neglect. Housekeepers are expensive. Plus, it’s a good thing Vlad’s a corpse, because heating the old family pile costs a small fortune all on its own. Flogging the family silver on eBay is only going to net so much cash. Nope, he’s better off in a condo.
As far as amassing a fortune over time goes, that would depend on one’s business sense. Just because somebody’s Undead, that doesn’t mean she or he’s good with investments. I don’t care how long I linger on this planet, I’m never going to fully understand derivatives.

money-paper
I figure the number of financial whiz kids in the supernatural community is about the same as in the human population. They exist, but they’re in the minority. Some will, with luck and experience, have a nest egg for those days when it rains angry villagers with pitchforks—but that wouldn’t cover the day to day necessities of black leather and styling gel. So, at least some of my characters work. Some even like the satisfaction of a job well done.
What occupations they have depends on their talents and skills. Mac, the hero of SCORCHED, was a cop before his luck ran out and after that he remains, more or less, a kind of cop. He’s the type of guy who identifies with his career. My werewolf is a computer science professor, my werecougar a journalist, and my witch had to go back to school because she couldn’t figure out the business side of ghostbusting. What they do is a big part of who they are and how they fit into society. When I say the werewolf is the first of his family to pursue an academic career, to escape the family construction business and strike out on his own, we learn a fair amount about who he is before we even get to the business of being furry. He’s an educator, a dreamer, and a solver of puzzles, and that all comes together in his classroom.
Who we are is a complex bundle of factors that includes the nine to five—be that a.m. or p.m. Because a lot of my stories revolve around how non-humans fit in a human world, the work world is a goldmine for humour and character quirks. It’s also a great source of conflict.
After all, who hasn’t had at least one co-worker who was a good candidate for a flesh-eating monster in disguise?


This just in: folks, we have a monster.

Sharon Ashwood
September 11, 2009  •  No Comments

 ogopogostamp

Yes, we here in Beautiful British Columbia are used to strange phenomena, not the least of which is our provincial politics. But there’s more, according to the local Scientific Cryptozoology Club, who are planning to have a look-see in one of our local lakes. See the article here.

Well, there’s still untouched wilderness in parts of BC, so who knows. To my knowledge, all of the lake monsters around here (Cadborosaurus, Ogopogo etc) are of the serpent-ish variety. With 39 critter-haunted lakes, it sounds like a bit more than one or two lone specimens, unless they’ve got air miles and a rigorous travel schedule.

At least, as the article observes, these sightings are worth checking out. They might not be Nessie’s BFF or Sasquatch’s tub toy, but it could be a species not previously recorded in the area.  If so, it’s better know if there’s an endangered creature out there in need of protection.

John Kirk, author of In the Domain of the Lake Monsters (and no known relation to James T.) plans an expedition to Cameron Lake to look for our snakey friend on Sept. 19.


The Demon Lord of Kitty Badness helps me study

Sharon Ashwood
July 16, 2009  •  2 Comments

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Tales from the furry side

Sharon Ashwood
May 8, 2009  •  2 Comments

My tabby cat has never been Ms. Adventurous, especially since the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness hit town. The bedroom is her domain and, frankly, that’s where she prefers to stay, away from the Demon Lord chaos.

Ergo, for want of exercise she has come to resemble one of the pillows. Or a bowling ball. Bowling balls aren’t great at grooming their hindquarters. We seem to get along with garden-variety brushing for about eleven months and then poof, she’s covered in mats from the hips back.

Happily for all the furry bowling balls out there, Groomer2Go comes to the rescue–directly to my door. Yeah, it’s a titch more cash than a visit to the beauty parlour, but it saves on wear and tear for all concerned. Getting my girl into a carrier gives a whole new meaning to Octopussy.

Of course, the grooming fairy insists I put the cat in a half-nelson and hold her down on the mat for the shaving procedure. Cue the sound effects, calculated to strike terror into our hearts: “Mmmmrrroooowwwowowwoowwwowwww!”

Groomer and I fall into a fit of the giggles. Not the intended effect.

I don’t blame the cat for objecting, since we are giving her private parts a buzz cut. The effect is a bit like a rear-end Mohawk. After twenty torturous minutes, in which I am bitten, peed on, and sworn at in cat, the ordeal is over. I tip the groomer in big-time apology. Tabby lost dignity and enough hair to knit another kitten. I lost flesh. Thank the great feline goddess that’s over with for another year.

Then I fed my girl and she purred and cuddled. I guess getting all those lumps out of her coat counts for something.


Dating tips for dark heroes

Sharon Ashwood
April 16, 2009  •  No Comments

Heroes: Definitely a matter of taste, but there are certain essentials: generous size, just the right amount of fillings, nicely toasted buns. But it’s not just the, um, pastrami that counts.

In keeping with most readers, I have strong and unapologetic opinions about what a hero should be like. For starters, I don’t have much patience with the über alpha knuckle-dragger who mows through a story muttering MINE MINE MINE and marking his territory, incl. the heroine, like a Tom cat with urinary issues. (Anyone remember Red Dwarf?)

I like a manly man, but one who actually likes the fact that the heroine is her own person. Sure, he can untie her from the train tracks and sweep her away to a mountaintop chalet for a solid week of mind-blowing sex …that’s all part of the fun…but if two characters are the missing halves of each other seeking a zen-like balance, neither one can be completely in charge all the time.

But he can’t be too perfect, either. Realistic characters don’t have everything figured out on page one. For there to be growth, for hero to fall in love and, y’know, to have a plot, there’s probably stuff he needs to learn. And, if the hero is still searching for the ultimate designer wardrobe, weaponry, or the meaning of life, the heroine has something substantial to offer him. Advice. Comfort. Padded hangers. Whatever.

And he might not realize right away what a wonderful gift he’s been given, because a good protagonist usually screws up at least once. We bond with them because of their mistakes. Who doesn’t love a hero all the more when he finally sees the light and set out to make things right? It’s their struggle to be better that gives the reader courage and hope.

Speaking of bonding … I love the latest Bond incarnation, because—even though he’s, like, Bond—he gets dirty, hurt, grumpy and doesn’t always have the right answer. I can believe he walks the earth (and please give me his address).

So, for all you dark heroes taking notes, a few miscellaneous tips:

• Don’t sniff your date, even if you are a werewolf. It sends the wrong message.

• Allow your date to set the pace of courtship. Just because she’s your destined mate doesn’t mean she won’t get a restraining order.

• Don’t brag about your wardrobe, limitless personal fortune, or private army. It makes us want to poke you in the eye.

• Don’t claw the furniture, bedsheets, chew on the carpet, or shed. Shift in the back yard, for pity’s sake.

• If you’re Undead, let your new girl know early in the relationship. Corpse Surprise on the morning after can put chill a promising friendship, not to mention your lover’s feet.

• Most important, consult a professional hairdresser for a good shampoo. All that black clothing has its challenges.


Cat adventure

Sharon Ashwood
February 23, 2009  •  1 Comment

I had the best job in the world this Saturday. My task was to tag along with a friend and help her make wise decisions about cat adoption. Notice I used the singular.
This was a bit like taking a tippler to a wine tasting. Temptation was compounded by the fact that I wasn’t the one smuggling a hard luck story home and trying to explain it my furbles. This was fun shopping entirely on someone else’s dime.
To make a long story short, we ended up at the pound, just to look. They had a half-dozen or so strays there, but there are hundreds of unwanted cats and kittens in the city that have landed in shelters. Most are volunteer-run organizations. This was a very small sampling—lucky for us, because it was heartbreaking enough as it was.
We went into the back area with the cat kennels and met Samson. He resembles Sylvester, if Sylvester had a bad accident with a weed whacker and was subsequently electrocuted. He’s a long-haired boy about five years old who was living wild, but he was obviously a spoiled pet at some point. He reminds me of a swashbuckling cavalier fallen on hard times. Once the matted fur is taken care of, he’s going to be gorgeous.
And then there was a female chocolate point ragdoll named Rosebud (the name has to change). She had been dumped in the wild, probably because she needs medical attention for one eye. Like Samson, she’s an affectionate, purring sort who had a good home once upon a time. She is a beautiful, elegant animal that really needs a crystal food bowl and silk cushions to complete the look.
After a masterful job of justification, we took both home. Samson was in my lap in no time, playing Velcro kitty. Rosie took a little bit longer to gain confidence, but was checking things out by the time I left that night.
Yes, I really did an excellent job making sure my friend just looked and didn’t take anyone home. However, two needy cats that were abandoned by their former owners found a loving guardian. This was a happy ending. I wish we could have taken them all.


The Demon Lord Speaks

Sharon Ashwood
January 13, 2009  •  No Comments

Check out the interview with the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness at the Chatty Cat Cafe here:  http://myblog.susannesaville.com/ and enter to win a copy of RAVENOUS


Don’t try this with the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness

Sharon Ashwood
October 21, 2008  •  No Comments

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/howaboutthat/3229125/Swimming-with-tigers.html

I thought this was just too cool. After dancing with wolves, we can now swim with tigers ….