Where I Live: The City of Dawson Creek

Three Major Districts of Import

Dawson Creek, British Columbia, Canada
Virginia Stark

 

The Health Care and Hospital District

Dawson Creek Hospital has a complex of buildings around it that show the regions need for an increase of medical resources in a hurry. The complex consists of a three story hospital with three wings that house a variety of patients and facilities including an X-ray, Laboratory, Ultrasound and recently and MRI. Although it has a lot of space and facilities, it is often lacking in doctors for the Emergency Room. Patients are frequently flown out of Dawson Creek to Vancouver or Edmonton for emergency procedures that outstrip the areas technology or the availability of qualified medical personnel.

The entire facility encompasses a large park-like area that allows patients some easily accessed green space. Dawson Creek is a city that is known for its boom and bust economy and the set up of buildings shows how the municipal government utilizes bursts of money to build smaller, but well outfitted buildings. These buildings include a walk-in clinic for transient workers with no local doctor. It also has a health unit complex that treats the elderly and other patients who need help with physical care but may not need or qualify for in-home care workers. It also administers vaccinations and narcanone kits.

The Mental Health and Addictions Centre is housed in the same building as the Health Care Unit and offers help for anyone seeking assistance in dealing with any drug or addiction problems, group therapy and both psychologists and psychiatrists who are available through a General Practitioners recommendations. This is a sizeable amount of permanent resources available for a population whose permanent residence level is fairly small.

There are many people involved in the construction of these buildings including oil and gas companies who make financial contributions to offset the burden that transient workers they bring in put on the health care system. The workers at these places seem content and although they are less likely to stay in Dawson Creek permanently due to the remoteness of the location and the hostile weather conditions. The buildings themselves are slightly awkward because workers often have to go from one building to

The Walk-In Clinic offers the service of doctors for non-emergency services for patients who do not have access to a General Practitioner. It is pictured across the road from the hospital. There is a bus stop between the hospital and the clinic for increased access.

 

another in inclement weather to access the array of resources.

Shown here is the entry to the hospital. Now covered in snow, this expanse is covered in grass in the summer months. There is also a large parking lot that offers free parking for easy access to the many resources offered.

The Health Unit and Hospital are ringed with easy access to bus stops to further facilitate accessibility.

 

 

 

The Parks and Recreation Public Use District

The Rotary Park is a large park that is vital to the city in all seasons. It is utilized for walking, snow shoeing, cross-country skiing and for various other games and sports as well as a training ground for emergency workers who must learn to move through the woods and snow in all conditions. Pictured here is the tennis courts. They are of little use in the winter but are utilized heavily in the summer. There is also a baseball diamond on the far side of a parking lot. All parking and usage of the park are free. It is maintained by park workers and the land was donated to the city by the Rotary Club of Dawson Creek.

The park offers greenspace and protects the creek, Dawson’s Creek, that the city was named for as a protected watershed. The Arts Society has contributed interesting markers with poetry and historical markers along the extensive walking trails to enhance its interest and encourage people to visit the park.

Part of Rotary Park, an outdoor gym sits unused in the winter months but offers free access to sophisticated gym equipment for anyone to use day or night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Railroad District

 

The railroad is another vital piece of infrastructure. The city was brought into existence by the railroad and is one of the oldest parts of the city. The grain silos pictured are now abandoned but they are likely to be utilized in the future. There are more active grain, feed and other agricultural as well as other natural resource transportation that relies on the railroad to this day as its artery to the outside world.

 

The original railroad station brought in many people anxious to get in on the Klondike Gold Rush. Later it was instrumental in bringing in American soldiers to build the famous Alaska Highway that protected the entire west coast of North America from invasion through the Pacific Ocean. The railroad station is now a Museum and popular tourist attraction but the original railroad line is still active behind it.

Immediately beside the former railroad station is the last standing grain elevator in Dawson Creek. It has been transformed into a magnificent art gallery that supports local artists, potters and crafts persons of all sorts. Classes are offered for young or accomplished artists and it is a hub of culture in the city.

Discovering the Wheel

Today I tried the much revered potter’s wheel.

I love working with clay and I’ve been having a great time discovering different forms of pottery but THE WHEEL seemed to loom over all other aspects of the learning process.

I looked on-line, read a few books and generally gotten an idea of what to expect but nothing really prepared me for what the actual experience was like. First of all, it was fun and it was messy. As I told the instructor, I had signed up to play in the mud and I was getting exactly that.

Girl (3-5) playing in mud

The pedal was erratic, and difficult to work, especially since it was my injured leg that was used for it. The good news is that once the pedal speed is set it maintains so my leg’s lack of brain wasn’t too much of an impediment. The pedal was definitely the hardest part and I won’t be driving any time soon as my leg muscle decided to spasm or not respond as it saw fit. Fortunately, the only thing to wreck up on the wheel was a ball of clay so it wasn’t too hard of a learning curve.

Next came the really fun part (and I think I drove my instructor a little mental with this aspect of learning): Discovering how the clay reacted to my touch. I was shown right off how to hold my hands, how to move the clay up and down, but have I ever been content with sticking to what is within the demarcated borders? Of course not!

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So, I spent awhile playing with the clay. Pulling it up into a tower and then pushing it down into what would eventually twist back up into my very first ‘tossed’ pottery project: a small vase.

Let me say first of all that after everything I had read about the difficulties of ‘centering’ the clay and all the rest that I wasn’t expecting to walk out with anything at all on my first session. I ended up with the vase, a small bowl and what may or may not work out as a little mug. I was pretty chuffed.

But unlike the other aspects of pottery so far I didn’t feel as satisfied with the final result as I did with the pieces I had made off the wheel. They were ‘fine’. Sort of bland, typical for someone who is new to the wheel, uninspired.

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The real fun on the wheel came not from the product but from having an interaction with the clay where the clay came alive in my hands. It’s a delicate procedure, on wrong twist, not enough water, a bit too much of a thumb and the whole thing ends up out of control. It’s fast. It’s interactive and it’s alive. Maybe that’s the allure of the wheel.

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I’ve heard enough potters speak with reverence of The Wheel to know that you aren’t considered a potter until you master it. It’s referenced as something that you must know to proceed past the level of beginner on a regular basis. I think that for me, the joy the wheel brings isn’t capitalized and is more in the experimentation than it is on product.

Sadly, unlike making mud pies, the clay on the wheel gets tired. It doesn’t like to play as long as I do and expects to be formed or tossed aside. I’m pretty sure there’s an intense metaphor in that for life and for philosophy but I’m not getting it. The mortality of the clay as soon as it drops on the wheel is so finite that it misses out on all the fun we could be having together.

I suppose that’s why life and pottery and the origins of the universe are often compared to potter’s wheels. It spins quickly and is highly malleable: childhood. Then it grows weary and either finds a purpose or returns from where it comes from: growing up (or refusing to grow up). It finds a form, often not the form the potter intended but rather a compromise between momentum, hands, skill and the desires of the clay itself as well as the clay’s own limitations. After it has achieved that form it will either be successfully fired in the kiln or break apart: the challenges of adulting. Finally it is memorialized in a glaze and fired once more. It won’t be anything other than what it is now.

This is the finished product. The object is put on a shelf, it is used and at some time it may become broken and discarded, another thing that passes out of memory. It’s a very good metaphor for life, but I’m not getting it. The fun thing is the playing. The fun thing is testing limits, seeing what happens if I push here, or lift there… The joy of learning together with what seems a nearly sentient partner in creation is clouded by the inevitable decision that it must take a final form or become useless.

Round and round the wheel goes. Is the clay enjoying learning as much as I am? It seems unlikely. I don’t think I’ll ever love the wheel the way I love to work with the clay that is happy to be worked, adjusted and played with. I guess the wheel, while being the pinnacle of pottery is fundamentally working in only a few dimensions. The options are limitless and yet generic. It certainly serves a valuable purpose but I didn’t feel the attachment to the pieces on the wheel that I did to the coiled, hand pulled, pinched or slabbed pieces I had attempted earlier.

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The metaphors, while profound, are slightly maudlin and macabre. I don’t think I’ll ever enjoy it as much as the rest of this art but I will always enjoy the parts about getting muddy and about those brief moments of rapport before the clay takes on a shape of its own.

Marketing and Writing: How NOT to Promote

Yay! You wrote a book! Now what?

There is a steady cacophony of voices that are constantly spamming everyone to read their book. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of the ‘Big Boy’ publishers or if it’s someone who is self published. There are just too many people demanding to be read and no cohesive thought put into why someone should read your book.

Think of it this way: you’re the new kid at school. You walk into the classroom, nobody knows anything about you or what you will bring to the class. The first words that leave your mouth will set the tone for your trajectory in the dynamics of this world of strangers. Is that first sentence a demand? Would you ever walk into a room of people you don’t know and without invitation order them to do something that is time consuming and will likely cost them money?

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Seriously, why should anyone do anything for you? They’ve already got what you want or are trying to get the same thing. You’ve got to work hard to be the one who turns heads. Is it what you’re really looking for? 

Now put yourself into the position of someone walking down the street. Without warning someone comes running up to you, flailing, holding a book and gibbering incoherently about how they’ve got the next bestseller and you totally have to read it right now. My response? RUN AWAY!!! And if I see that book… RUN AWAY!!! It might look harmless but my experience has taught me that it was written my an aggressive lunatic.

Because lets be realistic, chances are you haven’t written the newest best seller. If you have, there is a likelihood that it will take years of steadfast dedication on your part of calm and steady promotional work to make it a best seller. It took George R.R. Martin twenty years of going to conventions, going unnoticed, being ignored, having few sales before anyone started to take him seriously as a writer.

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Do you know who is rated as the fifth richest dead celebrity? J.R.R. Tolkien. The man who changed the way the world would view fantasy novels. If you’re writing for the money you might have to realize that it could take years or even past your lifetime for you to become noticed, if you become noticed at all.

I’m sorry to sound like a downer on all this, but it is time for a reality check and after that I’ll give you the good news about promotion and writing, if you can handle it.

I’ve heard too many new writers (or even established writers) say that they were done with writing. It just wasn’t worth the time they put into it and it was too depressing. This usually is preceded by a storm of advertising and then silence and then… the pronouncement.

For brand new writers first quarter sales are nearly always disheartening. A few friends or family pick up the book and you’re lucky if you make fifty sales. Most people bottom out around twenty, especially for independent publishing. This is even more depressing because the first quarter is when, if you have a publisher, you will get the most publicity (unless something remarkable happens with your book).

For most people however, this is the pattern:

  1. Yay!!!! SO excited, finished my first book.
  2. I made my first sale!!
  3. Why aren’t more people buying my book?
  4. Buy my book dammit!
  5. Seriously, buy my book. Let me show you the cover art and an excerpt from it again.
  6. I did a book signing. No one showed up. I took a picture with some people I know to make it look less depressing.
  7. Buy my book! Why aren’t you listening to me? Spam, spam, spam…

8. I give up. Writing is stupid. People are stupid. I hate you all.

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Don’t feel this way. If you do feel this way, don’t say it online or even to yourself. Expect to have more failures than successes. At the same time, never give up on the idea that your next attempt might be the one that succeeds. 

I’ve been watching and this is what I see repeated over and over and over again. There is also anger is some cases, people lashing out at other authors that they may perceive as being more successful than them. None of this is going to help you promote your writing.

Lets get some more misconceptions out of the way:

My publisher does my promoting for me.

WRONG. In fact, it’s fairly standard for most publishers to include a hefty amount of work in publicizing as part of your contract. This has dissuaded a lot of writers from going with large publishers who take most of the money earned and leave the author with often only pennies per a sale.

Publishers aren’t all bad. Even though they have expectations of you doing more than just handing them a manuscript and then letting you sit back while the money rolls in, they also have something that you, as a new writer may lack: Presence.

Lets go back to the school metaphor. You walk into a classroom but this time you aren’t alone. Someone that most of the people in the class respect walks in with you. This person is your publisher. They say, ‘Hello everyone, this is John Doe. I know you’re all meeting him for the first time, but he’s actually a really cool guy and here’s why…”

marketing-popular

Public Relations lead to Branding. Advertising and marketing CAN work but they can also irritate people and make them decide to vacate the area. This is why it’s good in any business to have someone who can speak for you. It’s reassuring to know that it’s more than your own opinion of yourself or your product that makes it special. 

That is essentially what your publisher does for you. They introduce you to venues, bookstores, conventions and other places so that you become familiar to everyone in ‘the class’. They try to make you look good, they provide editing, cover art, formatting and I’ll tell you one thing about this: they’re the ones who make the choices about those things, not you. If you sign on with a publisher your baby is theirs to do with as they see fit. You are relying on their experience with the markets and what sells and what doesn’t to make the decisions in editing and appearance. This can be an upsetting and painful experience if you aren’t ready for it.  The rest is up to you. The publisher has opened the door for you but what you do once you’re through that door is up to you.

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Ready for your makeover? If you want to make it big, you’re going to have to make changes in every department. This is part of the ‘branding’ process’. Suck it up, buttercup. 

If you aren’t willing to go the extra mile and to get out with your fellow ‘classmates’ why do you expect people to buy/promote/read/review your work? What makes you above all the rest that you are exempt from the hard work of getting to know your audience and your fellow writers and doing things for them as well as for yourself?

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If you think you’re above all this then go back to the classroom metaphor again. You want to be an author that people read, right? Well, that’s the same thing as wanting to be the popular kid at school. You want to be someone everyone wants to get to know better, everyone wants to be around you and have you come to their parties: guess what, popular kids have to work hard for their popularity and you have to work for your popularity.

If you have what it takes in the charisma department to walk into the room and make your own introductions and have people respond favorably to you then the self-publishing market could work for you. There has been an increase in authors who have already been on the best seller list multiple times and won awards to become their own agent. They know that they already do their own work in the publicity department and they know the right people. They have the popularity to do their own thing and pull it off. If you wear your clothes in a new way do people mock you or imitate you? It takes a lot of leadership and charisma to make you a trendsetter.

Before you answer, think carefully: Is this what I REALLY think of myself or just what I wish I thought of myself?

But there’s more to this and I hope that you give this a good think before you get upset the next time something doesn’t sell as well you you hoped: Is this what you really want?

Now that you understand how being a best-selling author is the same as being popular or famous, is that where you want to go? First of all, there are a lot of sacrifices that will be demanded of you. Your time, your energy and your personal life will all suffer. Even how much time you have to write will suffer!

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Being popular means that people like you for what you do for them. They aren’t really your friends, they’re your fans. They want to bask in your success and get a bit of its smear on them in the hopes that they can be popular too. Being popular is a far different thing from being moral or honest. Ask yourself what’s in it for you? Is it worth the sacrifices? Is it worth the pain? WHY are you writing? WHY do you care about sales?

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I’ve asked a lot of people these last two questions in particular. The answer to the second one is usually: So I can quit my day job. Bad news. Your popularity becomes your new day job. The six months writing, six months publicizing rules comes into effect (which will be discussed in more detail in the next article) and you have constant interruptions. Don’t want to go to a party? Tough luck, it’ll look bad if you don’t go. Don’t want to go to a book signing? Too bad, it’s in your contract. Don’t think that your responsibility as a writer ends with your book, it only does that if you’re writing for the sheer joy of it and even then, there is still a certain responsibility to others who read your book that is polite to maintain.

The answer to the first question: Why do you write is usually answered by varying degrees of honesty. I know that I write out of a compulsion. I have to write. I write whether I send my work to a publisher or whether I leave it in a drawer to rot. I write because it’s a huge part of how I express myself. I’ve learned that even though I am verbally loquacious I am even more expressive in my writing. I’ve had so many people who are close to me react with surprise at the things that I write because, often to my surprise, I haven’t actually physically told them those things. My heart is wide open on the page whether it’s a love letter or a novel. It’s also an exploration of different ways of being, different types of people, an exercise in empathy.

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Since I write it all anyway, I might as well do something with it. People tend to enjoy my writing and I enjoy writing it. I don’t need to win a popularity prize to know my self worth, I know enough about myself to know that I’m rocking it and having a good time. That’s more important to me than ‘popularity’.

Another daunting issue is classroom size. A hundred years ago, two hundred years ago… there were fewer writers. Now EVERYONE wants to be a writer. I’ve met very few people who hear I’m a writer and DON’T respond with, ‘I’ve always wanted to write a novel…’. The competition has become fierce and if you are perceived as being competitive it’s likely that you’ll make people want to remove themselves from you. It’s something of an irony with fewer people reading that there are more people writing.

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I’m not sure I believe those statistics, I think that there are more people in the world and that there are more people in countries where attending school is mandatory. There are more people with an education so by extension there are more readers and writers. Be both. Don’t expect to dictate your worlds without taking in the worlds of other people. Be generous in your reading. Even if you don’t do it for popularity, do it because you will learn more about writing through reading a huge range of works than you ever will from sitting down in solitary meditation.

I’m done shaking my finger at you and reminding you that being popular might not be all you dream. Chances are you are looking for success at any cost and nothing I’ve said about that cost has changed your perspective. That’s okay, popularity is a valid life choice. The next question is: How do you get popular in a competitive environment where everyone is shooting for the same goal as you?

Read Writing and Promoting: Doing it the RIGHT Way for my thoughts and observations on what successful writers do to overcome these hurdles.

-VCS

Being Derivative and Writing

When I wrote my first kid’s movie I was told: write it like a it’s a Harry Potter knock off. I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want to make something the same as what had already been done and ride off of someone else’s popularity. I didn’t write it like a Harry Potter knock off. Instead I wrote a kids movie about Nordic magic based off of a short story I had already worked on.

The script was handed over to Hollywood Producers who promptly sent me around 300 pages of notes on what to change; most of them were ways to make it more like a sexy (but still geared for children) Harry Potter movie. I wasn’t happy with the changes and backed away from the film industry but not away from writing.

This is a clear cut case of something that is derivative in design. The thing that I found sad about the order to make a clone was that the Executive Producer had wanted to make a kids movie since long before Harry Potter came out and he had idea of his own that he also stipulated be put in place in the script (I didn’t mind writing those in since it was a made to order piece of writing). Instead of pursuing his own vision or allowing me to pursue mine the result was a series of mangled half measures.

poe-boy

Is it parody or is it fan fiction? Know what you’re doing and you can be as creative as you want… but make sure you know what your own punchline is. 

This had been a conscious choice on behalf of the Producers and it was there to service the bottom line. I get it, making a movie is expensive and certain things have to be taken into account, but I believe that ideas must be strong enough to stand on their own in order to truly be successful. Consciously deciding to model a work and be the next, ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’, or the next,’Harry Potter’, or the next ‘Hunger Games’, isn’t going to get you very far. It might result in making a few bucks as you ride on the coattails of those that go before you, but is that really the only reason you want to be a writer? Really?

If it is, and I happen to pick up your book, chances are that I’ll probably toss it to the side and never pick it up again. Derivative is boring. Making a conscious, mercenary decision to be derivative is boring and sad.

A more insidious form of being derivative comes in the form of subconscious plagiarism. This is a sneaky one and I’ve learned from reading through slush piles that even if I’m not familiar with a movie/book or most often of all a video game that a plot and characters are hacked from, that these sorts of insertions follow a pattern. I like to believe the best of people and I’m not sure if I’m right or not, but I think that these really are accidental inclusions instead of actual plagiarism. Certainly the writers when asked about it seem shocked and dismayed. The more cynical part of myself wonders how much of that is an act and how much they damn well knew that they didn’t have an original idea and hoped that no one would notice the similarities.

I am generally of the belief that they are subconscious transgressions. Sometimes people even come up with an idea that they haven’t been exposed to before that exists already because there are limited permutations to the human experience and they are bound to overlap.

This is where the matter of being derivative becomes a dicey one. The first two examples, deliberately being derivative and subconsciously or consciously stealing another person’s world/ideas/characters are clearly wrong. I put subconscious theft into the wrong category because I believe that people should be aware enough of what they are doing to realize where their inspirations and influences come from. I also believe that we should respect the boundaries of those inspirations. It’s okay to be inspired, it’s not okay to steal.

But where is the line between inspiration and theft?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. An overheard conversation in a coffee shop can become the basis for an entire novel. Is this theft? No, because the author has taken something out of context and made it their own. A character in a movie can inspire someone to base their own life after virtues or even vices that they admire in that character. In the same way, an author can create a new character that contains elements of what they admire in another’s creation.

The common factor here is that they are making it their own. An example of how not to do this: I was reading a story. It was an interesting premise, I liked it. The style was awkward, the characters were stilted and the whole thing felt surreal and incomplete.

Awkward and stilted didn’t raise any red flags for me but surreal and incomplete did. I put in a few key terms from the story into Google and voila! I got the complete plot outline for the video game ‘Halo’. I also knew that this particular author was an avid video game player and she had mentioned playing Halo to me on several occasions. I myself have never played it. I didn’t know the plot, the premise or the characters but I did know the smell of someone writing in an incomplete world that was not their own.

The story was rejected, of course. I didn’t give the author detailed reasons for why their story was rejected, they got a standard form letter: Thank you very much, blah, blah, blah… Because I didn’t know if they knew how derivative their story was. This person had played Halo for untold hours, had it become so much a part of their internal landscape that they thought it was something of their own design? Is it part of my job to send snarky letters to writers telling them how their idea has already been done?

No. I’m sorry, but I don’t believe that is my job for anyone but myself. I have to be aware of my own influences and how closely they border on other people’s creations. That isn’t my own editor’s job to tell me because we are supposed to be adults. Professionals who can see these boundaries for themselves.

Another example of this sort of derivative writing comes from people who watch or read historical fiction and confuse it for reality. A good example of this comes from the sequel to the movie ‘300’. I recently received a query from someone who wanted to write about the life of Artemisia 1 of Caria. The disturbing thing about their query was that their idea of her life was based off of the movie version of her rather than of the actual history of the real life historical figure. History had already drifted with the movie, which often happens. History is a subjective thing to begin with and it’s okay to take a bit of creative license. I find it an affront however, when an author doesn’t do their own research and relies on the research of secondary sources that have already taken liberties. At this point it goes from creative license to deriving a false reality.

If an altered fictional character inspires you I strongly suggest that you create a new character and don’t make aspirations to the idea that what you are doing is historical fiction. People who write historical fiction look at primary sources, they do a great deal of research before they start mucking about in history. Don’t steal that.

Someone or perhaps someones, said that at some point, everything is derivative. It’s true, there are parallels to be found in nearly any ‘original’ idea to other stories or events. The job an author of fiction has is of making those ideas their own. Endless, fading carbon copies, each more smudged and hard to read than the last does not make for good reading.

This is a way to track how derivative you are: sit down and make a list of all the media that you enjoy. Video games, movies, cartoons, songs, books- everything. Write down what inspired you as a child. Write down what frightened you as a child. Write down the same for you now.

Now comes the hard part. Identify what aspects of your inspirations are what truly inspired you. Now look at your own work, how close are the two? What are the essential difference between your creation and your sources of inspiration?

If you can’t find more differences than similarities then you have a derivative piece of writing and you might as well throw it out. Or hide it and rewrite it from scratch. Only save the original to compare how your rewrite changed from your derivative writing. Is it enough?

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Or don’t ask yourself these questions. Just know, you will be mocked. 

Ask yourself the hard questions about why you took it in the first place. What do you covet about the work you have taken? To my experience it is often because people are too big of fans of what they are writing about. It goes back to that inner landscape and how you ‘grew’ it from the time you were a little child until the time you sat down to write your first pages. This grows deeply psychological. Most people who write from an plagiarized inner landscape feel that those people and worlds are more real than anything else they could come up with. Sometimes they find them more real than the places and people in their real life.

Deep psychoanalysis of your own writing shows you where the gaps are in your logic. It shows you what you don’t want to face and what you obsess with. If you don’t take off the blinders and face your world anyone who reads your writing is going to notice it for you. They are going to point out failures in logic, similarities to other worlds/characters. Sometimes readers can be cruel and find connections to characters or worlds that you might not have even been exposed to. Sometimes it’s okay to have these similarities.

The important thing to take away from it is your own awareness of where your work is derivative and become conscious of when you choose to combine elements of your sources of inspiration. It’s a wonderful thing to be inspired and a dastardly thing to plagiarize and a very thin line that rides between the two.

On Writing

I never set out in life thinking: I’m going tobe a writer. Like much of my life happenstance, fortune and the fates carried me along like a branch in a stream and like the vast majority of my life I was happy to be along for the ride.

‘Becoming’ a writer sounds like a transition occurred at some point, but it didn’t seem that way to me. I jumped on board projects that happenstance threw in my pate and fortune and the fates dictated the rest. I don’t know if I’ll ever be a ‘famous’ writer and I don’t mind that. I have a lot more fun on the projects that I do without intent than the projects that I write and are turned into movies and such.

This is supposed to be a blog about being a writer and I realized that I rarely ever write about the ins and outs of being a writer. Part of that is because it’s a natural part of myself. It’s like talking about my eye color, it’s so much a part of me that blogging about it feels almost unnatural. When I sit back and think about where I started before my ‘becoming’ a writer and where I am now I can see the vast wealth of knowledge and wisdom I have gained from my journey.

I’ve learned that there is more to learn from other writers than there is from myself. Even though writing is, as many wise people have said, ‘the cheapest therapy you can get’, it’s interacting with other writers that has taught me some of the hardest but also some of the sweetest lessons.

Anyone who is writing or creating art of any sort is baring a part of their soul. Even if you set out to write a piece of drivel according to a formula guaranteed to become a best seller, how someone goes about doing so reveals more than hours on a therapist’s chair may reveal. There are a lot of writers out there and I’d like to say that some of them are absolute crap but the truth is that that’s just my opinion. I’ve learned that my opinion of another’s writing is entirely subjective. I’ve learned to accept this and to not judge a writer because I don’t like their writing.

have fun keep calm

This is a difficult lesson and I tell anyone that I do beta reading for to always remember that this is only my opinion. If I am content editing and I have a disagreement with someone but I’m editing for StarkLight Press, I will stick to my guns about what has to stay and what has to go… I will also remind the writer that there are lots of other presses and other option out there and that just because my feeling that their work in its current composition isn’t right for StarkLight, doesn’t mean that someone else might not think it is perfection just the way it is.

I’ve learned that it’s easy to lose friends because of giving an honest opinion after being asked to give an honest opinion. I’ve learned that I’m okay with losing those friends. I can accept this a lot better than I can accept being dishonest with someone about my opinions. I’ve also learned that no matter how often you remind some people that these are just my opinions, the cuts are too deep and a friend can become an enemy even though they’ve requested honesty.

From this I’ve learned that people are far more complicated than I ever suspected. I’ve never been the sort of friend who was okay with telling someone that they looked amazing when they (to me) really don’t. I try to be tactful and constructive but some people have egos like snowflakes and a breath of warm air can melt them. It can destroy everything they clung to that made them feel special. The hurt it causes the person is real and terrible.

I’ve learned despite this, I STILL must give an honest opinion when I’m asked for one. Even if it’s from a dear friend, my husband, anyone, I would rather them think bad of me than for me to hate myself. This was something huge to learn. I like to make people feel good about themselves. I like to pick the best parts of someone’s writing and praise it. If I’m asked to put on my editor’s hat and give a breakdown of a story though; that’s exactly what they are going to get.

The sad thing through learning all this is that I still believe that people and their writing, are each delicate and beautiful snowflakes. I don’t want to squish people and I think that it is unlikely that even what I might consider to be awful someone else might find inspiring. I’ve learned that there isn’t any point in trying to twist myself out of shape to find the beauty in every piece I read, not all writing is going to appeal to everyone and I’m part of everyone.

you write beautifully

There is no condemnation in writing. Well, actually, there is a lot of condemnation in writing, but there shouldn’t be. It’s open ended. I’ve read some things that have truly disturbed me, things that I find to be more along the lines of a snuff film than anything I’d like to read. Things so incoherent that the main character’s name has changed three times in the first three paragraphs and their state of minds of changed so rapidly and with no given provocation that I’m left laughing out loud and scratching my head in bemusement.

But, and this is a big but, I don’t feel a need to condemn that writing. I understand that to the writer if no one else it is a thing of value. That doesn’t mean I have to like it, or read it. And it certainly doesn’t mean that if placed in an editorial position I’m not going to point out the enormous irregularities and general spazziness.

books old

Some writers seem stuck in loops. They write about the same trauma again and again. They twist every character into the same poor, bereaved person that their soul is grieving over, usually themselves. Other writers try to mimic styles and clearly are using some sort of Gothic thesaurus. That’s okay. Writing is like sex. It’s intuitive, some people might be too rough, other people might be too bland. Some people are universally acclaimed as sex symbols and others may be waiting for ‘the one’ to recognize and match their style.

I didn’t understand the quagmire of politics that go on in writing when I got into it. Politics in many fields are something that escape me because I’m just me. I’m not trying to do anything with my writing, or with learning pottery, or with taking courses. The only thing I’m doing is being that twig on the stream. I bob along, sometimes I get caught on snags, sometimes I get submerged and other times I float merrily n the sunshine.

I’m also a little twig that doesn’t realize many things and enters each new current with the same wide-eyed innocence and faith as the first time I got into the water. I’ve learned a lot; one thing I haven’t learned is how to not be me.

have fun

I derive joy that my writing has touched so many people. Each piece of fan mail I get is a treasure. Every person who reads something I wrote and derives solace for their life makes the rest of the weird that comes with the mercurial world of writing worthwhile. Writing, reading or both, I hope people find their own lives enhanced by their pursuits like I have. I hope that they don’t bear the sting of the rejections too deeply. I hope that they are all that they hope for themselves and all the bits between.

I’ve learned a lot of other lessons from writing and the world of writing, a world non-writers are likely completely unaware of. For now, I’ve said enough. In fact, if this blog is like nearly every other piece of writing, I’ve probably said far too much.

Valentine’s Day Triple Feature

This Valentine’s Day has been spread over two days for me and my husband this year. Part of this is because in British Columbia we now have ‘Family Day’ which fell on February 13 this year. Because of this a lot of our day on the 14th is the ‘back to the real world’ part of any long weekend.

This hasn’t stopped it from being an extremely special time. Last year we released the ‘Hearts Asunder’ anthology and this year we released the second anthology of the same title. It’s starting to feel like things are moving at a rolling, steady pace with the holidays adding a conducive momentum to these types of themed anthologies. Heart’s Asunder 1 was popular and I think the second of the same name will be at least as enthusiastically received.

I’d like to share a more intimate (but still PG rated) part of my Valentine’s Day this year. As with most anything in my life, it comes with a backstory; so get cozy!

When I was a little girl I was in many ways treated like a princess. This extended to my Dad making me a little girl’s dream canopy bed. I had always wanted a canopy bed and both of my parents pitched in to make it my fantasy come true. Pink, with rosebuds on the curtains and canopy and crushed velvet accents, my mother made a matching blanket out of the same material with my childhood velour blanky as the lining.

pink-canopy-bed

This bed isn’t nearly as nice as mine was, but you get the general idea: A little bed for a little princess. 

Like all in most fairy tales, the princess’ life became more complicated through no fault of her own. Evil forces conspired to burn her house down and the magical bed went with it.

I’m really serious about that last paragraph. I’ve frequently joked about living in a Lemony Snicket book and I’m half convinced he got some of his ideas from my childhood (not really, but sort of really). The bed was lost in the fire and I never had one like it ever again.

Even all in pink my older brother was jealous of that bed. I think it was more about the time and energy both of our parents put into it but whatever the case, it was something special. it’s rare that something has so much love put into it. In my tempestuous life, it was an anchor point for me to hold onto. My dad was a man of grand gestures that made up for his many other shortfalls. In this case, that bed of mine made up for a lot of failing and probably bought him years of forgiveness that kept me bonded to him.

It wasn’t because the bed was perfect. It was, after all, handmade. As a child as now, I have always been far more impacted by the love put into a present than in the most expensive of gifts. My dad could have gone out and bought me a bed like other little girls had, but instead, I got something special. That was something no one else would ever have or could ever have. The bed lived on in my mind long after the flames took it.

Here we come back to the fairy tale princess:

The princess grew up and after many trials and tribulations she found her prince. They got married and she became his Queen and he was her King. They loved each other very much even though the words, ‘and they lived happily ever after’ never scrolled onto the screen. Instead they had many adventures and came to love each other more and more despite all odds.

Here I am, a Queen now in my own way but a Queen with a story that lacks closure on many areas. That’s just bad storytelling: Let’s hear more.

virginia-red-roses

This year I was telling my husband about my little girl bed and discussing the loss of it. There’s a whole lot more to the stories here, a wicked witch of a stepmother, a father turned villain, a mother under a horrible spell…

But that’s not for today. Today is about a happy ending to an aspect of my fairy tale princess story. After hearing about my loss my husband decided that it was only fitting that I get a grown up version of what had been stolen from me. This brings us back to Valentine’s Day.

True to the original bed, my husband decided to draft plans for a new, improved version of the bed and today I was presented with what will soon be a bed fit for a Queen. I’m not a princess anymore and I don’t need my little girl bed returned to me, there wouldn’t be room for two in it for starters!

I found a picture that is close to what the finished product will look like (there will probably be fewer throw pillows though): hp photosmart 720

Pretty nice, huh?

The dominant colors will be red with gold and dark wood accents and the headboard won’t look like the one pictured, but it gives you a pretty good idea: valance, curtains, fancy bit at the top and my husband will be carving the posts with things that are significant to us in our relationship rather than the simple doweling for the corners.

How did this make me feel?

First off: happy that it isn’t completed yet. I think having it all at once would have been a bit shocking to my system. It’s nice to have a bit of time to adapt and I’m also happy to have gotten to have input into the final touches of design.

Second of all, a lot like crying. We all lose things in life. Usually it’s a gradual moving on, in my case however, it was a violent and dramatic wrenching away of all my childish things in one hideous blaze. All I had left after the fire was my dog who was thankfully with me at the time. Even my fish and my turtle got fried.

A fire like that, the loss of my entire life isn’t something that is easily forgotten. The beautiful bed and all of the things I loved were taken from me. That was something that I dealt with and moved on until I discovered the villainy behind the fire and that it was not an accident. The bed had been taken from me by the same man who had so lovingly built it for me.

This is more than a piece of my childhood restored, this is a marriage bed. This is a bed fit for a Queen. This is a celebration of the fact that I am married to someone who cares about me enough to give and to not take away.

valentines-day

There were some more little exchanges. There was a lot of snuggling, there was good food and chocolates and the night was rounded out with a movie.

I got tools for me to work on my pottery and a handmade container especially designed for them. My husband got a few special things too 😉

I don’t think there is a Valentine’s Day that could equal what my husband did for me this year because it wasn’t just a time for loving, it was also the return of potential that had been stolen from me. It was a return of a certain trust that my father lost and my husband gained.
It was in fact, the best Valentine’s Day that the little princess who lost her magic bed could have ever imagined. Maybe I’ve got a fairy godmother or two looking out for me as well as some guardian angels. Man, I keep all those guys busy!

guardian-angel

 

Brook’s

Brook’s interweaves a complex plot as an owner of a pub deals with her past as her family re-inserts itself into her life. There’s nothing good about her family and her friends are being stalked by a brutal serial killer. More and more Brook’s wealthy father becomes the biggest suspect in this intense world where one misstep can make you lose your hide- literally.

Brook’s is coming soon from StarkLight Press.

Brook’s evolved out of a single chapter that was initially part of another project. The chapter was about a killer and it was deemed to be ‘walking a fine line to being too dark’. I lost interest in the greater project and took my chapter as the basis for a whole new story. This is one of my few stories where there are few aspects of speculative fiction. Despite many of the extreme concepts in Brook’s, there is nothing here that is beyond the scope of the people or world that we live in.
Half mystery, half horror, Brook’s examines family entanglements that won’t let go and what it’s like to be linked to monsters and to try to have a normal life. It also looks at the darkness of protecting those same human monsters. This is something I’ve encountered again and again in my own life; being hit with glimpses of the darkness inside people and watching the cover ups that follow.

I have put a lot of what I’ve seen in the world in terms of darkness and cover ups into this story and even though it is strictly a fictional story, it is also a true story in far too many towns.

brooks-by-vcs