Sunday, June 10, 2018

Earth to Thoeba: What's New, India?

Earth to Thoeba: What's New, India?: Image from: Quora Sometimes I think about this blog, and realize I haven't written here in ages. But what do I write about? Do I hav...

What's New, India?

Image from: Quora
Sometimes I think about this blog, and realize I haven't written here in ages. But what do I write about? Do I have anything new to say?

Well, I'd like to tell you that I'm working on the third installment for Her True Name: Volume Three. It's set in the Indus Valley, and involves the goddesses Kali and Sita.

For the first time in years, I'm pantsing it, with barely much of an outline. I googled Indian baby names, and my humans are named Mahin, (The Earth) and Druhi, (Daughter). Which I thought appropriate, as Sita is an earthly goddess, and she'll be very involved in their lives. The choice of names is already shaping the story. By the way, they are runaways, victims of the caste system.

The thing with pantsing, is one just writes and watches where the story takes them. Already, I have to go back to research. What do they eat? What kind of weapons do they have? What does Sita look like? Don't worry...These are good questions, and I'm looking forward to learning the answers. These are also things that will help me create.

For example, did you know the Indus Valley has deserts, swamps, floodlands and forests? I've discovered that in the time of 2600 BCE, the Indus Valley had two major trade centers named Harappa and Mohendjo-Daro, and the cities were advanced enough to have sewage systems.

You know what else is interesting? You know how your computer knows creepy things about you and what you're looking at? How the algorithms watch your browser history? Facebook has been sending me new Indian music, and it's AWESOME.

Ever hear of Bloodywood? Indian metal music? Check this out--Ari Ari Bloodywood Now if THAT doesn't me inspire, nothing will.

But there's more! How about Indian music with bagpipes? Scotland meets Punjabi music This stuff makes me giddy, and excited to write, so I had to share it with you.

I'm hoping to have Volume Two out by the end of the year, but I'm also happy that I'm writing the third one as well. This is how I'll get there. By the seat of my pantsing, and with a little help from refreshing new music from India. Check out the links and enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Earth to Thoeba: Seven Facts About Chasing Monsters

Earth to Thoeba: Seven Facts About Chasing Monsters: This cover was also done by Terra Weston Chasing Monsters is my current novel. That was an interesting time in my life, as these facts w...

Seven Facts About Chasing Monsters

This cover was also done by Terra Weston
Chasing Monsters is my current novel. That was an interesting time in my life, as these facts will tell you. The novel attempts to answer the question... What happens when a paranormal investigator befriends a demon with a soul?

1. This novel was inspired by a Friedrich Nietzsche quote: "When chasing monsters, one must be careful not to become one."  I got all SORTS of ideas from that quote, and I ran off with it. My husband gave me a Nietzsche book of quotes. I've learned that while Nietzsche was interesting, he was also a raving lunatic that hated women and Christians. The book starts dry and dull, becomes insightful and ends wacky. I suspect his rambling came from the syphilis that eventually killed him.

2. My main character, Noelle, was named after a beautiful ghost child I dreamed about. My Noelle doesn't look like her. Ghost Noelle was about seven years old with curly brown hair and big brown eyes. The freaky part is, I went apartment shopping with my sister that afternoon and she got the apartment right across from the cemetery I dreamed Noelle was from. No, I didn't look for her, but I'd like to. That might be a great paranormal adventure.

3. The investigators in the novel are real people : I was a member of Edmonton Paranormal at the time. Yes, they knew I was writing the book, and yes, those people knew they were in it. I changed their names, and didn't divulge ALL of their personalities---there was some poetic license. I don't recommend using friends as characters. It's hard to maintain their privacy while remaining true to their personalities.
RIP Gary Larsen Photo by: Julia Hollman

4. One character was as true as I could make him: Because about two months after Gary asked if he could be in the book too, he died. He's 'Joey', and I strived to make his character as real as he was in life. I met him first at my Meatcutting Class, at NAIT, and when I came to Edmonton Paranormal alone, he was the only person I knew. I wanted Gary to have some kind of legacy, because he was only 50 years old, and a kind man who led a quiet life. I don't want him forgotten.

5. Jake's house doesn't exist, but if it did..: I placed it between the towns of Busby and Legal. You would use the left-hand turn off from Legal, and it would be about half-way to Busby. I used to drive that way all the time to meet with my last remaining critique partner, and I liked the area for a story.



6. Oh, and the church exists too: My bestie and I went for a road trip to find museums and we took a few back roads. We were a little bit lost when we found it, so I can't tell you where it is. I'm not even sure I'm showing the right picture, but it was a historic site, and I remember it being white with silver turnip top structures.
I THINK this is.... not sure. We saw lots of churches that day

7. BONUS FACT: The woman who designed this cover, as well as the ones for Thoeba and Aphrodite's War is now a country singer and songwriter. Her name is Terra Weston, and while country music isn't my thing, she'sDAMNED talented. Oh, her voice! I had NO  idea she could sing! I tried to include a link, but it didn't work. Terra, if you read this, can you comment with something?

Monday, April 30, 2018

Earth to Thoeba: Five Facts About Her True Name:Volume One

Earth to Thoeba: Five Facts About Her True Name:Volume One: Cover by Anima Black Her True Name is an open-ended series about the reincarnated lives of two lovers named Sage and Virtus. I'm not...

Five Facts About Her True Name:Volume One

Cover by Anima Black
Her True Name is an open-ended series about the reincarnated lives of two lovers named Sage and Virtus. I'm not sure how many volumes there will be, but I can tell you Volume Two takes place in early Sweden in the time of the Funnelbeakers, and the second edits have gone by without a hitch.

But we're still talking about Volume One which takes place in ancient Egypt. Here's stuff you may not know about this book.

1. It's inspired by a highschool pal: Nicki Cole was my best friend in junior high, and loved aaaalll things Egyptian. She even dressed the part. I had her beta read this novella, and dedicated it to her. It's funny how you can reconnect with an old friend on Facebook, and find a little inspiration. Oh...and she just had a viking wedding. I can't wait to see what she says about Volume Two. She beta reading that one as well.

2. Of course there's a cat: Egyptian's worshipped cats. Bast(or Bastet) is a cat goddess, and a main character, so there had to be a cat. Kitty's name is Hetepheres. I Googled Egyptian girl names for her, and it's actually the name of  an Egyptian queen and it means, "She who wears a satisfied face."  It's pronounced Het-a-fair-us. Although Hetepheres is a Sphynx cat, the breed didn't actual exist the way it does in ancient Egypt. The breed is a genetic mutation from our time.
Photo by:Warren photographic

3. Odji is another villain who wrote himself:  I often wonder how it is that I write villains so easily. When I chose Odji's name, I didn't realize he would truly become 'Wicked'. Plus, I'm a plotter, not a pantser, but I gladly made room for him. His unexpected attitude changed the book in great ways, and it wouldn't be the novella it is without him. Sorry...no spoilers, but if you love a good villain, Odji will satisfy your craving.

4. Did you know?: In ancient Egypt glass beads were as valuable as pearls? Or that the Egyptians were the first to develop clear glass? Or that silver was considered more valuable than gold? That's the cool thing about research. You learn interesting tidbits you wouldn't have come across if you weren't trying to create authenticity for your work.

5..I have always loved the idea of reincarnation, and I truly hope it exists: I have believed in reincarnation since the age of six, because it feels like it has all the answers I seek.  I think this world would be a better place if people knew they would always answer for their wrong doings if not this life then the next. These novellas are about--finding your contented place.and returning to those you love regardless of death and time. BUT I'm using my research for fictional purposes. I've no desire to convert anyone. The reason I bring that up, is because a religious woman I met at a book club had read Thoeba, and was disturbed by my ideas of reincarnation. I had to assure her I write for entertainment purposes only, and I have no intention of being the next L. Ron Hubbard.


So there we are--Five facts about Her True Name: Volume One. I hope you enjoyed it, and that you'll enjoy Volume Two when it comes out.

Next installment will be Five Facts about Chasing Monsters.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Five Interesting Facts About Aphrodite's War

Wicked cover by Terra Weston
Aphrodite's War is my second novel. It had a rough start, and you'll find out why, but you'll also find out how it bloomed too.I shouldn't have favorites...but yeah. Aphrodite's War is probably my easiest labor.

1. Ares wrote himself:  He was supposed to be a charming rogue type. But in the prologue he said, "Harpy slut! No one needed you to teach humans how to fuck." My hands literally flew off the keyboard, and I realized he wasn't going to be who I thought he was. He pretty much did and said whatever he liked from then on.

Amir was supposed to die: Near the beginning of the book, the kitten named Amir was supposed to meet his end in a microwave oven. After six solid weeks of Writer's Block, I realized there was NO WAY I could write that. I really didn't want to. So I changed the outcome, and changed the direction of the novel.

3. The change inspired me to get a cat: It may not be a big deal to other people, but going to the Edmonton Humane Society, and bringing Freya home changed my life. She's my very first pet, and the joy she brought to our lives changed the novel again in great ways. I even went back into the rough draft and changed the goddess Freya to resemble my new kitty. I was so in love, and writing this novel became effortless. And now I'm a proud crazy cat lover.
Perfect girl Freya

4. I learned Kendo for Adrien's sake: Adrien is a defense lawyer, and I worried that readers wouldn't like him. I'll admit, he wasn't likable at first. So he had to have a couple of cool interests. Someone at my husband's work recommended Edmonton Kendo, after I mentioned fencing. http://edmontonkendo.ca/ What better way to research than to truly experience it? It's engaging and interesting, and a fantastic workout. The people I met and the experiences I had I'll cherish for the rest of my life, and I recommend it to anyone. No one poked fun at me for how big I was, or that I couldn't keep up while jogging.. They knew I'd learn and get stronger, and adapt.. I learned a lot about respect, Japanese culture, and so much more. I lost at least thirty pounds. The reason I'm not still there is because I had too many other obligations, and not enough time or energy.
THIS is the coolness that is Kendo

5. SPOILER ALERT  for Strife: Readers might notice that I didn't mention what happened to Strife. That was not an oversight or mistake. Her character expanded in ways I didn't see coming. Like so many readers expressed, she became one of my favorites. I don't think she's finished...

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Fun Facts about Thoeba

This cover was done by Terra Weston
My first novel is called Thoeba, and I'm very proud of it. If you have never--or if you HAVE read it, you might find these five facts about it interesting.

1. Thoeba was inspired by a dream: When I was fourteen, I dreamed that I was hiding in a huge garden. A dark haired man and his daughter found me. They tried to coax me out, but  I could see two demons flying overhead, looking for me. All I could say was, "Thoeba! Thoh-BAH!" The spelling is something I pictured in my head. Yeah, weird dreams, and it stuck with me all these years.

2. All the flight jargon/airplane stuff is real: My father was a recreational pilot, and I shared his love of airplanes and flying. I used that knowledge to the best of my ability for the book. The Fairchild is a real airplane from the fifties, but I've never flown in one. I chose it because the photo I saw matched my idea of a rickety old aircraft that may or not fly at such an advanced age. (Sorry, I couldn't find that photo now.)

3. A fishing trip changed the location of the novel: Despite the fact that I'd never been to the Eastern coast, I thought I'd set it there. Peter was supposed to be a fisherman by trade. My husband and I took a fishing trip to Cold Lake, Alberta, and fell in love with the place and the people we met there. The campground, the cabin, Pelican Rock, and the pristine lake itself are all things we got to experience first hand. Only the bar and the actual military installation are made up.
This is the campground! Photo by Travel Alberta

4. Thoeba once had a different publisher and a different cover: Thoeba was originally published with Vamptasy Publishing out of Scotland. I got to pick the cover. I chose it because I felt that Thoeba acted as though she were made of stone, but you can see the sadness in the statue's bearing.

Thoeba's first cover
5. I regret naming the book Thoeba: It s a BAD IDEA to name your book something no one can spell or pronounce. Plus you will spend the rest of your life trying to politely correct people when they misspell it or pronounce it badly. For the record--It's pronounced Thoe...like 'toe' with a 'th' in front of it, and Bah, as in Humbug. Thoe-BAH. I still love the originality of it, and I can't bear to change it. I Googled it once, and it only shares a name with an Asian girl on Twitter, whose real name isn't Thoeba, and I'm sure she doesn't know my book exists.

I hope you liked learning five facts about Thoeba. Do you have any questions? There's more coming. Next: Five facts about Aphrodite's War.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Earth to Thoeba: Fathering a Feminist

Earth to Thoeba: Fathering a Feminist: I adored my father. That much is obvious. Yet I was always under the impression that my father would love me more if I was a boy. Maybe it...

Fathering a Feminist

I adored my father. That much is obvious. Yet I was always under the impression that my father would love me more if I was a boy. Maybe it was because they were expecting a boy. They were going to name me Christopher Robin.

When I was five, I was given a black pair of Bauer hand-me-down skates. I knew they were boys skates, my Uncle David's first pair. It didn't matter. Daddy liked to skate, so I would learn how to glide across the ice like he did, no matter that I didn't have the same pristine white skates with toe picks that I saw other girls wearing.

I have a fantastic memory of my father swooping over and asking me what was wrong. "Daddy, I can't skate!" I wailed. He showed me how to push and glide, push and glide--it wasn't at all like walking, and I didn't have picks to help me push off. He took my hand, and together we surfed the ice until I let go. I did exactly as he showed me and suddenly, it was easy. Viola! "Daddy, I'm skating!" In later years when we shared that memory he remembered it differently. He remembered me letting go of his hand and saying, "I got it, Daddy." And off I went. Sure enough, his little girl could skate.

It's a common theme in my life, always wanting to please my father and be good at all the things he loved. Because I believed he would love me more if I was more like him. More like a boy. It shaped who I am in interesting ways.

He played guitar and loved music. I took up drums and learned how to read music. I learned to appreciate all music-- classical, jazz, folk...stuff that wasn't metal. He loved airplanes and got a pilot's license. I became his co-pilot and navigator. I read all the books he used for ground school, weather patterns, cloud formations and how to read flight instruments. Our family went to airshows and my father and I collected T-shirts of our favorite aircraft. I built model airplanes. He loved hockey, both my sister and I learned how to 'speak fluent hockey', and we have our favorite teams of course. I collected hockey cards, and learned the value of those too. I can no longer tell you what Goals Against Average means, but my sister still keeps up with everything from draft picks to playoff games.

Here's where the feminism comes in...When my parents bought an acerage, I made myself useful. There was a lot to do, and if I wanted to spend time with Dad, that meant tough chores. It meant clearing brush and taking down small trees. It meant rototilling the earth and gardening. And lots of weed whacking. Lots, and lots, and lots of weed whacking. With a gas-powered weed whacker, no less. Those things are freakin' heavy.

And I grew strong. 
'Longest Distance Flown' at a Fly-In Breakfast



One day, he needed to bring a pallet of shingles to the roof. He had friends that volunteered to help, but Dad really just wanted to make sure it got done. Everybody seemed to be taking their time, and the roofers were going to be there in just a couple of days. So I helped him. This involved Dad hoisting a stack of shingles on his shoulder, and climbing a ladder. I stood on the roof, and grabbed the shingles from his shoulder by the plastic straps, and placed them in stacks. Such hard work! But it was worth it...After dinner, Dad's friends phoned. They were ready to help. I'll never forget how my heart sang when I heard my father say, "No, it's all finished. Me and my ah....daughter got it done." I could hear his pride. I saw it in the way he lifted his heels just a little when he said it.

We both hurt like hell the next day, but I was chuffed. From that day forward, I felt like I could do anything. I was strong and hard working. My father was proud of me. I'd heard him bragging about me. I'll never forget it.

That was the day I realized I could take any job, and work every bit as hard as a man. I realized my power and I was determined that if I worked like a man, I deserved to be paid like one, I deserved to be given the same opportunities, and I deserved fair treatment. My father believed in me. The best part? I did it. Just me. I didn't have to be a boy.

Looking back, I realized my parents raised a feminist all along. I realized my father simply never told me I can't. He never once said, "You're a girl, you can't/shouldn't do that." Not once. My parents just let me be myself, and I'm grateful for that. I like who I turned out to be.

I am a creative woman with a few odd interests and abilities and I am a good worker with a solid reputation. I'm that person, because my parents never told me, "You can't."







Wednesday, February 21, 2018

The Year I Got Old.

Dad was about 25 in this picture
This blog was brought on by a friend's loss of her father and an old photo a neighbor found. We didn't even know it existed until now.

When I got the news of my friend's father's passing, my heavy heart dropped. I understand her shock and grief, and I'm going to try and be there for her. This is going to be incredibly difficult, as you can imagine.

As the anniversary of Dad's death approaches, I've realized something. I got old last year.

Right after Dad passed, I felt depressed and exhausted. I quit my job because I had no energy, no focus, and I was constantly walking around angry. I felt weak and heavy. Even my eyes aren't as good as they were.

Not much has changed. I feel overwhelmed with my new job, unmotivated, and hopeless. I've started writing again, but most days I'm too exhausted to do much of anything. Edits are a struggle, even when I'm excited about them. I second guess every chapter. I used to be an upbeat person, now people avoid me because I'm negative. I've lost friends, but some of them stepped up. (Thank you Sharon, Sherri and Judy,  Jesse and Michelle, and always Mel, Colleen, Sylvia, Rita, Kevin and Ashley for being there.) I used to be the anti-procrastinator, now I just add more items to my to-do list and stare at it. I've started writing my will, but that's easier said than done. What an unpleasant task! I talk about the inconvienience  of aging like a woman twenty years older.

I remember the weather in the days after my father died. I remember wishing it had rained, just because it seems to rain for good people when they died. Or if it couldn't rain, why couldn't it be warm? Dad spent the last months of his life wearing layers because he couldn't get warm. Now I realize the weather was appropriate. Grief is a biting, bitter cold that sticks to you.  I wonder if my friend will forever associate this kind of ugly weather with the passing of her Dad. Will it make her sadder too?
So now I have just turned 46, and I feel old. I never really believed that would happen. Why? How did that happen? How do I recover? Why am I writing this?

I think I'm admitting that I'm not okay. I think I'm worried that my friend will experience the same things I have. I think I'm asking people to understand that losing a parent changes your core self. Please exercise patience and understanding.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

So You Want to be a Writer...

I get a lot of private messages from people wanting to write books. I try to answer as well as I can. I don't really have the time or the patience to devote to mentoring, but Hey...we all have to start somewhere. It is NOT lost on me that if my former critique partners hadn't given me a chance and taken the time to show me how it's REALLY done, I wouldn't be the writer I am today.

I wouldn't be just 'average'. I'd be worse than average. I'd be the painfully average writer who didn't understand why she sucked. Having straight A's in English and Literature doesn't automatically make you a good writer. It's more complicated than that. Also, if you want to be a writer, prepare to be humbled, no matter your skill level.

So the next time I get a message asking me about how to write a book, I think I will direct them to this blog. Here's a few pointers:

1. First of all: Accept criticism and advice. Especially if you requested it. Put your ego away. "No one became great by being told they were great." Stephen King. Even Mr. King himself doesn't get it right on the first draft.

Example: "Donna, you are not the narrator. Lose the 'God' voice. Real writers don't do that. You need to learn what a POV is." Incidentally, POV stands for 'Point of View'. I discovered I had to write from the character's viewpoint, not mine.

2. Do some research: Writing a fictional story in Egypt? Research their clothing,food, belief systems, everything. Is your book set in Salem, Massachusetts but you've never been there? Better Google Map it and  learn everything you can about the history--even if it doesn't coincide with the story you're writing. You'll still need atmosphere and texture. Writing about Dukes and Duchesses? Study everything about their caste system for starters. If you don't...someone who knows about it WILL call you out on it, and you are cheating your readers who are relying on you to give them a thorough experience through fiction. NOTE: If you are writing NON-fiction, based on your life and experience? Read books and quote others besides yourself. Why would anyone buy your advice based solely on your own experiences?

Example: Real Vikings never wore horns on their helmets. That's a movie thing. Real vikings were only about five foot six tall. They ate venison, duck, and berries. They were the first known humans to be able to consume milk from other animals--and that was goat milk.

3. Build a platform and practice: I give this advice a lot, but what does it mean? It means you start a blog or a newsletter and develop a social media presence. (Facebook, Twitter, Scrivner, Linked In, etc.) You let people know that you're out there in the world of writing and you have serious intentions. You will need a following and to connect with writers of your genre. You will also learn how to hone your craft and what your demographic/audience wants from you. This will also train you to write regularly. If you can't commit to a blog, how will you write a book?

Example/Personal Experience: Dive in. Don't be scared. PROMOTE yourself and advertise. Use the free social media at your fingertips to your advantage. Use it often. My biggest downfall in marketing is I have a hard time selling myself. I don't want to be that person, who is constantly hounding you to buy my book. Well...that's why I don't sell a lot of books. Don't be afraid to pass out bookmarks to everyone you meet and say, "Hey! I have a book and a blog and you should check it out!" NOTE: Vistaprint is a great, inexpensive way to create bookmarks and other promotional materials.

4. Believe in your own work:  I don't subscribe to the idea of "Never be caught learning to write." If you do that, you will never have the courage to publish, and you'll spend years working on something that will eventually outdate itself. Or worse? Someone else has the same idea and publishes first. Give it your best shot NOW and cringe later. This won't make you feel better, but most writers are highly critical of their own work--even after it's published.

Example/Personal experience: I know someone with a brilliant idea for a zombie series. He's been on it for over ten years. It's just not good enough yet. I told him to commit. Make it happen. Don't wait a few more years for it to be perfect, because there's no such thing as perfect. Do you want your legacy to be "Could have published a great zombie series?" Get an editor, or at least beta readers,  and get started.

5. Use better verbs and less obvious adjectives. Avoid cliches. Why say, "He hated her like the plague., and he wanted so badly to kill her. " When you could say, "He despised her and fantasized about burying her belly to the hilt of his sword." Much more graphic. Why say 'run' when you can say, sprinted, tore, raced or charged? The Thesaurus is your friend. Why use a worn metaphor? Why not use your own disgust to create one? Like, "I hated her like vermin on my last loaf of bread." or  if you're writing a modern piece, something like--" She drove me to madness, like the consistent drizzle of the bathroom faucet. The unrelenting hiss always reminded me of my grandmother's resentment." Something like that. Make it sound personal.

Example/Personal experience: While looking for another word in the dictionary, I tripped on the word "Perspicacious." I love that word, and I did realize that people would probably have to look it up if I used it. Then again, describing Dr. Thompson's perspicaciousness lent him memorable, creepy insight that made the reader aware of his uncanny intelligence and ability to predict the outcome of his plan. 

There are MANY more tips for writing, but it really comes down to this: How bad do you want it? If you think it's easy, think about the measly five points you've read here and whether or not you want to do them.  If you've skimmed over this blog and shirked them off as unimportant then maybe professional writing isn't for you.

If you're still excited, and still interested...Well...Welcome to the frustrating, mind-wracking, insomnia-inducing, yet still incredibly rewarding world of writing. I'm wishing you luck!