For the second year in a row, I have failed NaNoWriMo and neither I or Oliver Queen isn’t very happy about it.
As you can see below, I ended with 32,033 words. That’s roughly 18,000 below what I’d need to win.
What does this really mean? Does it mean I didn’t write 18,000 words, or does it mean that I actually managed to write 32,000 words?
This is the second year in a row that I failed NaNoWriMo and it’s partially because of how busy I am and partially because I didn’t want to kill myself writing. What it really means is that I decided to take my health and mental health and put it before my writing. It’s something I will always do because my writing is something I love and I’d rather fail a word count than burn out and not write for months.
Last year’s novel was crap. It needs a complete re-write with some serious consideration about what it is. I consider it a failure on every level.
This year’s novel needs polishing and another couple of thousand words and it’ll be done. This was a very personal novel; part memoir and part memory. It might never see the light of day, I’ll get my Weditor and others let me know.
So if you didn’t win at NaNoWriMo then you should still be proud that you wrote something because that’s the goal.
I have seen countless actors, writers, and creators complain about fan fiction, shipping, and head-canon. Especially when it comes to character’s sexuality or gender.
For a long time LGBT+ characters and stories were banned from all forms of media and other minorities weren’t included for many terrible reasons. That meant that people had to read into the subtext of characters and stories to try and see themselves. Now it’s less illegal but still greatly lacking.
Fiction is incredibly powerful, it can change the way you think and can even the way you act.
The emotional bond we feel towards fictional characters is incredibly strong. Not the least because we project ourselves onto them and their surroundings. Between that and emotionally intense fictional events can cause a weird disconnect between reality and fiction. I’ve always described that like a fog combined with awe.
As a writer, I’ve come to realize that once I release my characters into the world I no longer have control of what people think or do with them. Isn’t that amazing? To have created something that is absorbed into the daily life or identity of others. That’s fantastic. To have people love what you’ve created so much that they want to build on it and continue the story is just beautiful.
Now you may think that anything that doesn’t come from the creator’s mind is worthless and devalues the characters. I disagree completely. If your stories can bring joy to others, then you’ve helped make someone happy. If that means they want to ship two characters that you think shouldn’t be together, then don’t read it. You are not obligated to read or create fanfiction, slash, ships, head-canon, fanon, or anything else.
You do not have to right to judge, insult, or humiliate others for loving something you created so much that they want to see themselves in it or play with the world.
I look forward to finding out what people love, what people see, and what people do with my creations. To me that is a completely new form of success.
Disclaimer: I am speaking of non-commercial use and emotional bonds. I do not support or condone the infringement of someone’s intellectual property. Plagiarism is bad… Duh!
I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo again. If you haven’t come across the term it stands for National Novel Writing Month. In short, during November a whole lot of writers and aspiring writers try to write 50,000 words in a brand new novel.
This will be my fifth attempt. A Study in Aether and The Sign of Faust were both started with NaNoWriMo. It’s a wonderful (if stressful) way to jump start a book.
What Am I Writing
I was listening to a particularly sad song by Ed Sheeran called Supermarket Flowers.
The song reminded me of an old book idea I had about taking a roadtrip with my Mom in an alternate universe where there were dinosaurs roaming around.
The original idea was an apocalypse story, but listening to this song I realized how much I miss talking with my Mom. It’s been 9 years since her death and this book will give me the chance, in an odd way, to spend one last roadtrip with her.
It will be one long conversation between me and my mom. A memoir, love letter, with dinosaurs.
When I wake up in the hospital where I was born, I find my Mother waiting for me. Instead of going home, she decides that we should go on a roadtrip. “Let’s get lost,” she says with a mischievous look.
Over the trip we’ll reminisce, laugh, and tell each other things we never had the chance.
But why are we on this trip? Why was I in the hospital? And why are we being followed by dinosaurs?
I can already tell that this will be the hardest book I’ve ever written, but I think I’m at the point in my life that I can write it properly.
I apologize in advance if I’m not overly active online or if I’m a little sad over the month of November.
Follow my progress on my NaNoWriMo page. Add me as a buddy if you’re also diving into the pool of imagination.
As you age, you start to notice patterns around what happens to your friends who are around the same age. You’ll notice everyone getting married, or having kids, etc.
Unfortunately, I’ve reached the age where people are dying or having close calls. Earlier this year a friend died of a heart attack and it was sad. He was a good man with an amazing mind and even though I didn’t see him much the world feels lessened by his loss.
I’ve had friends die before, but now we’ve transitioned from the deaths being horrifying and unthinkable to sad and unexpected.
Since his death, I’ve had several friends hospitalized for heart or other life threatening conditions and it scares me. I don’t want to lose my friends and I really don’t want to die.
In an early episode of the new Doctor Who, Charles Dickens asks, “But you have such knowledge of future times. I don’t wish to impose on you, but I must ask you… My books, Doctor. Do they last?”
I like to joke that I plan to live forever; it’s only partially a joke. I know I will live through my daughter and I hope I will live through my work. I have two novels published now, three others written, and two others in the works; I have almost ten years of blogs written and almost enough short stories to fill a book. (If you’d like to help me create more, please buy, borrow, or request my books and review them on amazon and goodreads.)
I have a lot more work left to do and SO MANY more stories to tell. (No, seriously, I have a list of 20+ novels I want to write.) I hope to be around for a long time.
Anything can be done well. All these sins could be done in a funny or inventive way, but on average they are signs that the writers are being lazy.
5. Genre Blindness
Any writing set in modern day should not only be aware of its predecessors but so should its characters.
If a character is about to fight a vampire, they don’t need ancient texts, wise masters, etc etc etc to figure out how to kill them. One of your characters will have heard of vampires and has an idea how to kill them. Even if you are writing a different version of the monster there should be a character that has at least heard of them from pop culture.
Not all characters have to be genre savvy but one or two should have a passing knowledge of the immense cultural background of most stories.
Why is this lazy?
This is a way for authors not to have to do research on what a character would know based on their culture, age, and geographical area. It means you can make up the rules and pretend the game is brand new. It avoids the, “But I thought werewolves couldn’t control themselves and hated silver” discussion.
It can be done well but only if the world is different enough from ours to make sense.
4. Nice and Boring VS Dangerous and Exciting
Good is bland, the nice guy best friend is the safe choice, and everyone prefers Spike. The decision to go for the “bad boy” over the best friend / boy next door is ubiquitous in 90’s movies and TV.
It’s not only lazy, it’s dumb. It either ends with the main character hurting and brooding over their lost love, or the bad boy having a heart of gold.
It makes the main character either dangerously naïve, suicidal, or dumb; while making the love interests boring stereotypes.
Why is this lazy?
It’s been done, it relies on stereotypes that are so overused they’re clichéd, and it’s needlessly angsty.
I can be done well if you’re trying to show a flaw in the main character, however you have to follow through with that flaw.
3. I’ll tell you later
The character has suddenly gotten super strength and their friend asks them how it happened. They’re in a big battle so the hero says. “I’ll tell you later.” And they never do.
If a power, machine, etc is worth having in the story and the characters know, it’s worth explaining.
Why is this lazy?
It’s a short and quick response to avoid telling something that has been, or will be, shown to the audience. But Peter Parker saying, “I’ll tell you later” can just as easily be done with him saying, “I was bit by a genetically altered /radioactive / alien spider. Crazy eh?”
This is extra lazy when the audience doesn’t know the answer. It’s used to build tension and mystery but rarely does it ever get explained. Maybe hand waved with a mention of Magic or Clark’s Third law.
This can be done well if the characters and the audience are told at a later, or earlier, point in the story.
2. Dangling Plot / Forgotten Backstory
This is really two annoyances in one but they both have the same reasoning, convenience. A dangling plot could be something as simple as a voice taking control of a space/time ship saying, “The Silence will fall” and then exploding that ship and never explaining who that voice is or why they could control and destroy something that no one else has been able to do.
A forgotten backstory could be a sister that disappears and is never mentioned before or a magic item that the main characters have but would make life too easy for this story so they’ve forgotten. Same with the rules of magic.
The best stories wrap up all their plot points, Chekhov’s guns, and work around the rules they’ve set for themselves.
Why is this lazy?
Both of these are ways for a writer to force the world and characters to fit the story they are building. Sometimes working with a large amount of history is daunting, but weaving the story into the world and characters makes it richer and much more interesting.
1. I’m not broken I’m super
Wanting to explore and represent a disability, social class, physical illness, or mental illness is a laudable goal. Unfortunately a lot of writers seem to want to portray these states of humanity without wanting to learn about them.
The character is autistic but they have savant syndrome. The character is blind but they sonar vision. The character is poor but has an incredible talent.
The root of this sin is not doing enough research or not knowing the people a writer is trying to portray. It is also a sign that the writer thinks these characters are lesser or broken as opposed to just different.
Why is this lazy?
Writing about people you don’t understand beyond the surface level is a quick way to misrepresent them. Just because you’ve seen Rain Man and Adam doesn’t mean you understand anything about autism.
If you’re not willing to put aside your prejudice and learn all you can about the characters you’re writing, then you shouldn’t be writing those characters.
A lot of work goes into a book cover, especially if the author has input and is picky. This cover took a lot of work from the wonderful Caro at Renaissance Press and I think it looks great.
At the Aux-Anges Institute, nestled in the woods outside of North Bay, they study and treat parasomnias, or sleep disorders. Ashley suffers from night terrors, Terrance sleepwalks, Kiri sleep-eats, and Paul sets fires; they are there for treatment. Adelaide took the job as a counselor to discover why she still has an imaginary friend.
When they discover the secret hideout of an old club called the Dreamers, they are shocked to find that the five of them are connected through more than just the Institute.
Hello My Imaginary Friends,
Since July of last year people have been recommending to me a TV show called Stranger Things.
If I were to describe the show, I’d say it was an homage to 1980’s YA movies with more than a little supernatural horror thrown in. It has D&D, Monsters, Psychic/Magic abilities, Conspiracies, Eighties Rock, and lots of kids on bikes.
It’s eight episodes on Netflix and although the first episode is a little slow, it builds quickly. The special effects are amazing, the locations are great, the music is wonderful, but most of all the acting is fantastic. The actors in this each play stereotypes from eighties movies, but managed to pull those characters out of cliché and make them believable.
The one thing that I found lacking in the show was complexity and surprise. After two episodes I could have given you an outline of the entire season. I wasn’t surprised and was actually a little underwhelmed by the story.
It was a fun watch and the acting alone made it worth it, but this show was too close to my own influences, likes, and writing style for comfort. Seriously, after the last episode, I went to IMDB to make sure I hadn’t written it. I’ll let you decide if that’s a compliment or a condemnation.
In short, if you like Horror, YA, Eighties movies, and/or my writing; you’ll enjoy Stranger Things.
When I started to write Lust and Lemonade, I didn’t intend to write a book that dealt with gender.
Before writing Lust and Lemonade, I was primarily a romance and erotica writer. I delved into the lives of men and the ones that loved them, set in mythical worlds with otherworldly beings. The men fought for each other with every fibre of their being, using their magic to save the day and save the man they loved.
When I started writing Lust and Lemonade, I only intended to write about what I knew. I knew gay men being one myself. But as I continued to write, other characters wanted to come onto the page, too. One of them was a woman named Poppy and she was pregnant. She was also a lesbian.
I didn’t know anything about pregnancy and what women went through with having a child. I relied on my beta reader for info on the female gender and about what is involved with having a lesbian relationship. I was in uncharted waters and Google would only take me so far. I had written women characters before, but the focus was always on the men and the relationships they were having. The women were only secondary and hadn’t taken centre stage. Lust and Lemonade was the first of my novels to feature strong women in lesbian relationships.
As I kept writing, I began to realise something. Two of my characters were transgender. One of them is a transgender woman and the other is a transgender man. If I had no concept of lesbian relationships, I had absolutely zero idea about the transgender population.
This uncharted territory was rather frightening for me as a writer, but it was also freeing in a way. I have never researched a novel before Lust and Lemonade. I delved into the lives of transgender people and what they went through to become who they always were, who they were meant to be.
I also wrote about straight characters finding love. It seemed right that if I was going to write about all kinds of other genders, that I included them too. The characters demanded it, really. It was only fair, they said, that if I was going to have gay, lesbian, and transgender characters in my novel, that the straight people get fair representation, too.
So, when I started writing Lust and Lemonade, I didn’t intend to write a book about gender. The book let me know where it wanted to go and the characters that peopled its pages. I also knew that, even though I’ve written many romances, that there would be no sex on the page. It would all take place off stage.
A friend of mine asked me how I could have lust in the title and not include sex scenes? It’s simple. The lust that is in the title is about the lust of getting to know someone, of becoming enraptured and enthralled with them. Much as I became enthralled with all the people in Lust and Lemonade.
I may not have set out to write about gender, but I’m so glad I did. I learned something about others that I didn’t know before, learned about their battles to be who they were and who they were meant to be. Writing Lust and Lemonade made me a better writer and, quite possibly, a better person.
Find out what happens to Blaine, Nancy, Mike, Chuck, and company in Lust and Lemonade, available now from Renaissance Press! You can get your copy here:
Jasmine Murray-Bergquist is a costume designer, bookworm, amateur archer and all-around geek. Her body lives in Ottawa while her mind is consistently elsewhere. Her website can be found here, and you can follow her on Twitter!
April 21st, 2016. The 200th birthday of one of Haworth’s most famous residents. The eldest of her siblings who survived into adulthood, Charlotte Brontë lived at the Haworth parsonage with her family. She and her sisters Emily and Anne first published their poetry under the names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, but they are best known for their novels Jane Eyre (by Charlotte), Wuthering Heights (by Emily), and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (by Anne). As a family of three girls, my sisters and I always felt a connection with the Brontës, so to be in Haworth for Charlotte’s birthday party made Karin and I absolutely giddy.
The walk into the village in the bright morning light was amazing. They had gone all out, with bunting strung across the street and people streaming up the main cobbled road to the parsonage where the festivities would take place. We were interviewed by the BBC (and the Ilkley Gazette) on our way in which added an extra level of excitement to the day – to be from a family of three girls as well as to have come all the way from Canada for this party made us rather interesting to the locals!
There was so much to see and do that day. There were performers reading poetry, a young class from the local school performed scenes from Jane Eyre, songs honouring the Brontës were performed, stories were read. The current local curate said a prayer, and Tracy Chevalier (novelist, co-curator of the events, and editor of Reader, I Married Him, a collection of stories inspired by Jane Eyre) laid a wreath at the front door of the house.
As things wound down, Karin and I went for a walk out over the moors behind the parsonage. As we took our first steps out onto the land, it made instant sense. We were breathing the inspiration for the books. It was in the wind, in the land, in the sky, in the rocks. We were walking with Jane and Catherine and Agnes Grey and Mr. Lockwood. The stubbled grass, cropped short by sheep, formed a patchwork of changing colour over the hills and crags.
We walked for miles, over the stone bridge crossing the stream, up to a quiet spot with stunning views down into a steep valley. Further west, silhouetted against the sinking sun, sat Top Withins. Dark and ominous even in ruin, the house that inspired Wuthering Heights was a sombre sight. I sat down on a nearby rock as Karin pulled out her fiddle to play. Her quick notes were carried on the wind back towards the village. Even after she lifted her bow, the wind carried on, being strong enough to vibrate the strings of the fiddle and make its own eerie song.
We walked back to the village in the gathering dark to find a pub for supper. As we waited for our food, Karin proposed something that John Keats had done with his friends: a poetry race. I felt somewhat out of my element, as I never write poetry while Karin writes some of the most wonderful poems I’ve ever read, but there was something about those moors that made me feel up for the challenge. Karin suggested the theme of Top Withins and with our drinks at our elbows, we set about writing.
The result surprised me in that we were both happy with our poems. I finished first, but I think Karin won for quality, hands down. After the trip, Karin submitted both our poems to the Brontë Society Gazette and they were accepted for publication, which is both exciting and confidence-inducing. I never considered myself much of a writer, but this trip spurred both my imagination and my faith in myself.
The next day got us to Sevenoaks, the hometown of our aunt, uncle, and cousins. Our aunt and one of said cousins accompanied us into London the next morning where our first goal was Keats House. It is a truly lovely museum in Hampstead. I thought I knew a fair amount about Keats through conversations with Karin, but I still learned a lot. The museum is very well designed, still looking as it did when Keats lived there, and leads you through his life from the time he moved in until his departure for Italy in an unsuccessful attempt to salvage his health and his untimely death at age 25.
Leaving Keats House and heading back into central London, we took a walk along the Thames past the Globe Theatre. Here’s the thing about me: I’m a geek about a good many things, and one of my biggest loves is Shakespeare. I read Shakespeare for fun. I read about Shakespeare. I watch movies of his plays and in which he is a character. I attended Shakespeare camp for years, performing in the plays, making my sisters and cousins put on the plays with me, and as an adult designing costumes for the plays. I’m a little obsessed, to say the least. So to be there during a week of Shakespeare celebrations to mark the 400th anniversary of his death was an awe-inspiring experience. The gates of the Globe were entwined with roses and all along the embankment were a series of screens playing scenes from film adaptations of his plays.
We ended our London day with supper at the historic Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The pub was built in 1667, replacing the pub that was built in 1538 but destroyed in the fire of 1666. A winding warren of stone stairwells going deep underground, with low ceilings and gloomy corners, the place is simply dripping with atmosphere. It’s not surprise that so many authors frequented it. P. G. Wodehouse, Dr. Samuel Johnson, Mark Twain, Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Charles Dickens were all regulars – Dickens even references it in A Tale of Two Cities. The food was delicious, the setting was fantastic, and the ghosts made for excellent company.
It was in London that Karin and I parted ways as she had to get back to school for exams, so I carried on west alone to Tintagel. Legendary site of King Arthur’s conception, Tintagel is a tiny village on the Atlantic coast of Cornwall. Craggy, windswept, wild, and stunningly gorgeous, I think I took more pictures there than anywhere else. I know I’m sounding repetitive but the whole place pulses with legend and folklore. The ruined castle on the headland, the caves beneath, the blending of history and myth, and the ever shifting weather create a level of mystique that I haven’t experienced anywhere else. If you ever can, you must go. Stand on the peak looking over the ocean. Let the wind sing in your ears and whip your hair. Let the voices of the past rise up from the sea and tell you their stories. There is no feeling like it.
I had one final stop on my literary tour of the UK – Stratford-Upon-Avon. Shakespeare’s birthplace. I arrived late at my bed and breakfast, but they directed me to The King’s Head, the inn where Shakespeare’s parents had their wedding supper.
The next morning, I woke up to the early morning sun filtering through crawling vines. The birds were singing boldly, a soft breeze was whispering through the leaves of the old oak tree outside, and the rooster out back was crowing in annoyance that people weren’t up and doing things yet. All the elements combined in such a way that I wrote a few more lines of poetry over breakfast, sending me off to Shakespeare’s birthplace museum with a spring in my step.
I thought my heart was going to explode when I saw the house itself. It felt like a homecoming. I felt like I knew Will Shakespeare, and he was welcoming me to his house. It was wonderful, and more emotional than it should’ve been. I spent a long time exploring the museum and grounds as well as the town itself. Walking in his footsteps gave me such a thrill.
I travelled home a few days later, but have thought about that trip every day since. Jen handling all the travel bookings took off so much stress so I could really enjoy myself. Travelling with my sister was so much fun it should be illegal. I was overseas for two and a half weeks and I feel as though I barely scratched the surface, but I came home so inspired, energized, and creatively renewed by everything I experienced, and I am forever grateful that I had such an incredible opportunity.