January 6, 2010 • No Comments
Made resolutions? Watched them turn to mush within weeks? Many of us are in the throes of resolution meltdown this week, reducing the New and Improved Self back to the Old Self in record time. Yes, it sucks.
To quote someone I knew and admired, no plan survives first contact with the enemy.
My to-do list for 2010 has the usual stuff on it – eat better, get to bed on time, exercise more, blah blah. I also want to tend to my blog and other social networks more regularly. Having said all that, what’s been impossible to manage in 2009 won’t happen in 2010 unless something changes. As my father used to jibe, you can’t fit ten pounds of potatoes in a five pound sack. I think he was referring to blue jeans, but the quip is transferrable.
But it’s useful to note that a simple plan will survive better than a complex one. Let‘s face it – stuff that’s easy is much more likely to get done. The more elaborate and involved the resolution, the less likely it is to thrive—not because of laziness, but time is at a premium, adult attention spans are shrinking, and survival mode prevails. One of the most successful things I did was to remove a lot of ornaments and clutter from the surfaces of my furniture. I got a covered wicker basket for the zillion remotes, adaptors and other gizmos littering the coffee table. I actually got around to hauling unwanted books down to the book sale, thus revealing acres of floor space. It all sounds very Martha, but suddenly dusting became possible because I could do it quickly. Otherwise, forget it.
Put another way, failure breeds sulky avoidance. Success breeds satisfaction, and we go back for more of that, don’t we? It’s no big mystery why the rules of simple, achievable, and measurable are the basis for most goal-setting advice. It applies equally to writing as to house maintenance, fitness plans or getting along with the in-laws. Many small success can and usually do add up to a big one.
But here’s the kicker–Will I follow my own advice? Hmm. Maybe. Good question.
How well we do often depends on what we’re getting out of our bad habits. We all actually know how to do better, are we ready to give our failures up? Do they give us excuses to avoid something else we don’t want to do? Does a person subconsciously keep the house messy to avoid inviting company over? Do we pursue an unhealthy lifestyle because if we felt better we’d actually have to, like, DO something?
What do you think?
January 1, 2010 • No Comments
Is setting up a new all-in-one Santa brought me. Unfortunately, they never have a tech guy packed in the box. Have made it print so far … we’ll see what else I can make it do …
December 31, 2009 • No Comments
Had a reasonable crack at a scene from ICED yesterday and hope to finish it up today. It always takes far longer to do about the first three chapters of a book. After that, I can set a good clip. The problem is organizing background info. How much, how little, how to reel it out so that the action keeps moving and explain the supernatural world while I’m at it. I’m always enormously glad to get that part out of the way.
Writing aside, today I have to clean the house before the dust bunnies have an uprising. It would be nice to start 2010 in an orderly fashion.
Here’s hoping you and yours have a fabulous New Year!
December 30, 2009 • No Comments
This was a crazy year.
There were amazingly wonderful things. The Dark Forgotten series came out in February with RAVENOUS. SCORCHED came out the first of this month and actually registered on the B&N mass market romance bestseller list. For me, that’s huge. RAVENOUS was a bit of a last-throw-of-the-dice book, even though I wasn’t really admitting that to myself. Let’s just say I was so ready for some external validation.
I also finished school, ended up doing two jobs instead of one, and pretty much wore myself out. I’ve spent the weekend making like a couch potato. For all those people who say, “How can you possibly do so much?” the answer is that I can’t. Not really.
Of course, sitting around reassembling one’s splattered brains into a thinking organism is a great time to wax philosophical.
Annette mentioned the importance of the little victories we have along the way. I heartily concur. We can’t live by great achievements alone, nor should we. This is important because we need to remember we’re not just good writers, but good citizens, business persons, family members and individuals. Working in the arts is hard on self-esteem for a thousand reasons. It’s vital to have something besides sales numbers to measure yourself by.
And if we need to know that, so do other people. At the end of the day, it’s the good business relationships, the kindnesses, and the solid foundation of right action that gives us integrity. That’s what makes people turn and help when we falter, and what gives us the balance we need to keep moving forward. Some days it may not seem like it, but hard work and a good reputation still counts.
What did I do this year that I’m proud of? I finished commitments when I wanted to walk away so bad it gagged me. I helped a friend try something she was interested in, and for once didn’t help too much. I tried to be a good team player on several fronts. I made sure I was a good listener even when I had no brain cells to speak of. I took good care of my pets.
On the other hand, I get a failing grade in the domestic arts. I see some vacuuming in my future, because I’m doing New Year’s at my place. Despite the crazy year, I still have friends. That’s one blessing I’m counting for sure.
Resolutions? To make a little time to look after myself.
December 16, 2009 • No Comments
On the road for work today, which meant float planes and Skytrain and who knows what all to get to the meeting hours later. Meeting was brief and successful, which was a blessing, and then there was the reverse trip. That pretty much ate today.
It was pretty when the plane taxied through the harbour because the legislature is all Christmas lights and sparkle. However, I was really happy to get out of the killer shoes and power suit and turn back into a pumpkin.
Baked for the Christmas potluck (coconut squares. Must try one just to be sure they’re up to snuff). Now I’m printing off material for tomorrow’s critique meeting. Not really exciting stuff, but it feels good to be caught up for once.
December 15, 2009 • No Comments
There’s been quite a flurry of blogs and interviews with the launch of SCORCHED, and I’ve been busy, busy, busy. I just turned in a proposal for book four, and I’m still waiting for the revisions on UNCHAINED. Right this second, I’ve finished everything due this week. All I can say is WOW. Maybe I’ll make it to the post office to mail my Christmas cards tonight!
This has been the oddest fall. I’m working at two different positions for my day job, which means two offices in two separate buildings a fifteen-minute walk apart. No, this wasn’t planned–one my coworkers passed away. I’m happy to pitch in, but I’m grateful I finished school a month before this all happened.
But, things are looking up. The new-job learning curve is easing off a bit. I’ve got a week’s vacation between Christmas and New Year’s. All my writing obligations have been completed more or less on time. There’s holiday stuff to deal with, but that’s going to be fun. Eggnog ho!
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.
These 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.
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?
October 20, 2009 • No Comments
The traffic of ideas between TV and popular fiction is a two-way street. Who started the vampire craze? There’s a perfect opportunity for a big ol’ chicken and egg argument.
My theory is that books are usually a bit ahead in terms of creative exploration because, basically, books are cheaper to produce. Plus, there are more of them, so the odds of a trend-setting dark horse are greater. A publisher can gamble on a book that costs thousands in hopes of another Laurell K. Hamilton among the thousands of books published in a year. A TV pilot costs millions, and there are only a handful of prime time spots available. Really, innovation has become part of a numbers game. There are, of course, brilliant exceptions—Jessa and Annette both mention Buffy—but the vast majority of new shows stay within a fairly narrow creative bandwidth. Those that stray tend to die fairly quickly, especially if I like them.
Of course, if a hot new thing gets legs, the replicas follow. It’s a miracle if the tender new shoot of an idea survives the flood of imitations, which often aren’t as good as the original. I’ve never been a huge fan of reality TV, but the early examples had some novelty value. Pioneer House was actually pretty interesting and Mad Mad House was a guilty pleasure. What was on this summer—not so much.
But how does TV influence popular fiction? TV has the advantage of speed—especially news magazines and entertainment shows—to pick up on what’s on the public mind from one day to the next. Because of the time lag between writing and publication, ripped from the headlines is a little more leisurely for the novelist.
In my opinion, where the influence of TV really comes in is as a testing ground for subject matter. Lots of stuff comes and goes—it won’t be long before we forget all about the boy in the balloon—but the media stories that persist iron themselves into our collective social consciousness. You can start counting backward when you see a big news story, a super-hot trend, or the emergence of a new archetype (a slayer like Buffy, or a hot spy like Jennifer Garner in Alias). In six months to a year, you’ll see their reflection on the bestseller racks.
In fact, I take a paranoia poll every so often. Walk up to any bestseller wall in a bookstore and read the back covers. What are people worried about today? Terrorists? Epidemics? Greedy entrepreneurs? What are they hoping for? Rags to riches, love, justice? Our hopes, fears, and aspirations are all there. Popular fiction is a mirror into our day-to-day minds—sometimes profound, sometimes banal, but I think more true than anything coming out of an academic think tank.
What do you think will be the hot topics a year from now?
October 19, 2009 • No Comments
Although there days when I think the Demon Lord of Kitty Badness would make a nice muff, car polisher, or other inanimate and incapable-of-badness accessory, I love him to bits. He was a rescue kitty with eye infection, ringworm, and upper respiratory problems—a bit too old to be kitten-cute but young enough to be rambunctious. In other words, hard to adopt. Lucky for him, he was a good salescat. When I walked into the shelter, he bounced up onto the scratching post and touched noses, and that was it. He came home and became my resident comic. It took him a long time to settle down and completely trust humans, but now he’s curled up on my feet while I write this.
Companion animals are dear to many authors and readers alike. They show up on their web site, in bios and dedication pages, and sometimes have bit parts in the books themselves. Unfortunately, there are far too many furballs that have a hard time getting by. I recently went with a friend to rescue a couple more cats and saw a lot of sad faces waiting for a home.
Realistically, no one can take care of more than a few of these bright sparks. However, we can support those wonderful volunteer organizations that carry on the work of rescuing cats, dogs, and other creatures and placing them in good homes. One of the organizations in my area is the Greater Victoria Animal Crusaders and, as a tie-in with SCORCHED, my December release, I’m going to be fundraising for some of their furry friends in need of medical attention.
As a preview, here is one of the GVAC’s recent success stories:
Pax was found as a tiny stray kitten. This little fellow was very skinny, couldn’t eat and was unable to walk. He was rushed to the vet where it was found he had about five huge bite wounds that were badly infected. His wounds were cleaned up and he was put on antibiotics. A few days later he crashed and was near death. He was rushed to the vet again where he had to stay for five days and put on an IV and had X-rays, many tests, and stronger antibiotics. It was worth it, though—a healthy, happy Pax was recently adopted into a loving forever home.
And he’s just one of the many furballs that are saved by a little help from their friends. In November I’ll start posting holiday e-cards on my web site at www.sharonashwood.com. For every one sent, a donation will be made to the GVAC to provide veterinary help to the sponsored critters. It seems a perfect way to combine writing and animals, two of my favourite things.
Does anyone have story about pets and writing?
October 7, 2009 • No Comments
I’m not a car person. If I pop the hood, all I see are dark, greasy, and vaguely frightening shapes. On a good day, I can add washer fluid.
So it was an interesting process dealing with characters who were definitely into their rides. Lots of eye-rolling and heavy sighs as I made inappropriate vehicular suggestions. For Alessandro and Mac, I ended up flipping through millions of pictures on auto sales sites until I found the right cars.
Alessandro needed something flashy but classic at the same time. He drives a a red two-door T-Bird with custom chrome and smoked windows. No sun roof for a vampire. He bought it new in the 60s and maintains it himself, so it’s in excellent condition. He never locks it. Only an idiot would touch something that was his. If you tried to eat take-out in it, he might snap your neck.
Mac is a lot less uptight about—well, everything really. He has a black two-door Mustang. He likes her a lot, does the basic maintenance himself, but doesn’t have a lot of time to fuss. He’s not a perfectionist, and spilled coffee only matters if you get burned.
Holly drives an ‘87 Hyundai Pony. I gave her that because I had one at the time and it fulfilled the same requirements she needs: cheap to run, amazingly reliable, and no one would ever think of stealing it. It has manual everything but there’s no question that it will start every time and keep going till it runs out of fuel. Reliable and low-maintenance. What more can a girl ask?
I miss my old Pony sometimes. It was my first car and took me through a lot of adventures. Once its excellent handling saved my bacon when a logging truck lost its load right ahead of me on the highway. It finally started to wind down and it wasn’t easy to get some parts any more, so I traded it in on a Saturn. I like the newbie, but after 20 years together I sometimes feel like a traitor for letting the old faithful Hyundai go.
Do other people have special memories about their first ride?