Erotica Canadiana

I have a confession to make: the smell of maple syrup (the real kind tapped straight from a tree, not the fake store-bought kind) makes me feel queasy. Does that make me a bad Canadian? I don’t think so. What might make me a bad Canadian was the review I just posted about a book about writing by a Canadian literary icon and how I went from pondering the Canadian-ness of my writing to surprisingly not being the first to think of moose-inspired erotica. Behold this beauty:

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Despite my blasphemy, it is something to think about. In our globalized world, how important is cultural identity in our literature? For some work, it’s integral, of course. Imagine dinosaur erotica set outside prehistoric times…with humans. That’s preposterous! But for other work, like my sci fi romance stories, they’re set in outer space. There are so many different species intermingling, and so far, none are Canadian. Then again, I haven’t even decided if the humanoids are earthlings, so nevermind that comparison. It’s inevitable that a least a little bit of my background will show in my writing. Even my spelling gives me away. I consider it the Canadian flavour that drives Americans wild when they see extra u’s all over the place. I’m not sure where I’m going with this whole thing. I think I’m mostly disappointed to not be the first person to think about moose porn, and that was apparently written by an American! Geez. I’m slacking.

Ok, enough procrastination. It’s time to hit the hay and maybe have lumberjack dreams!

WordacCountability Tally March 30:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 0
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 521
Total: 521
Grand Total: 26,550

“Startle and Illuminate” Book Review

Startle and Illuminate: Carol Shields on Writing edited by Anne Giardini and Nicholas Giardini

Published by Random House Canada, 2016.

Disclaimer #1: I apologize to the memory of Carol Shields for where her essay on Canadian publishing took me. Right straight to moose porn.

Disclaimer #2: I swear, I will review books on writing by authors I’ve actually read. These first couple of books just happen to be what I’ve had in front of me to read.

Startle and Illuminate is a book of essays about writing written by Carol Shields throughout her career and compiled/edited posthumously by Shields’ daughter and grandson. Confession: I’ve never finished reading a work by Carol Shields. I tried to read Happenstance for a book club and I couldn’t get past a few chapters. I had zero interest in the book and so put it aside and didn’t attend the book club that month. I know she wrote other books, but my experience with Happenstance (and the inexplicable fact that I ended up with not one but two copies of that accursed book!) made me turn away from this Canadian icon. Until now, as I’m looking for books on writing to read/absorb/review. So I tentatively started reading it; the forward by Jane Urquhart then the two long-winded introductions by first Anne then Nicholas Giardini made me wonder if I was going to regret picking this up, too. But once I started reading the essays, especially the first three or four stand out in my mind, I knew this was worth the initial slog.

I liked her turns of phrases and how her process included compartmentalizing chapters as boxcars in her head in order to keep track of the bits and pieces of her novel. Writing a novel scares the beejesus out of me, even though I’ve done it a couple of times before, albeit with not-great results, hence the fear. Something I found completely relevant to my current writing goals is how she describes a novel: “…long pieces of writing are made up of short pieces somehow sewn together.” This is right in the spirit of this site’s motto: “Every Word Counts!” I’m hoping that focusing on the shorter bits will help me overcome the idea in my head that I can’t write long form. I know I can; it’s a matter of getting words on paper/computer and making a novel. To quote the eternally wise Bob from the movie What About Bob?: “Baby steps to four o’clock.” I can make it to four o’clock. I know I can!

The most helpful chapters/essays for me were: “Boxcars, Coat Hangers And Other Devices,” “Myths That Keep You From Writing,” and “To Write Is To Raid.” These are amongst the first few chapters/essays and contain succinct advice that stand on their own outside of the whole (which makes sense considering these were essays published separately throughout her career). I found myself taking several notes from these three chapters, but not as many from the essays afterwards. Writing things down helps me remember them. It’s a muscle memory thing that tends to work at least some of the time.

The chapter called “Writing from the Edge” was a different take on Canadian literature. I didn’t know that in 1960, only five (!) Canadian novels were published. It’s hard to imagine such a small number in this day of self-publishing, small and indie presses, as well as the big publishers that only five Canadian books were published in an entire year. I know people who self-publish that amount in a month or two! Shields goes on to explain that the centenary of Canada boosted national identity to inspire Canadians to create “Canadian content,” a catch phrase that sometimes feels like a trap to those who want stories beyond the prairies. This chapter gave me something new to think about: do I want to set my stories in Canada or abroad? My current series is set in space, but when I come back to earth, how “Canadian” do I want my stories to be? Thinking about the things I’ve written and/or published, I don’t think my stories aren’t particularly Canadian apart from likely spelling and colloquialisms. Would anyone want to read Erotica Canadiana? I’m not sure there’s enough of a market for moose-inspired sexy stories. Or maybe it’s an untapped market?! Again. Something to ponder.

Adding this since I’m apparently not the first person to think about moose porn: 

In the section titled “Be Bold All the Way Through,” a chapter of short quotes all about writing, I was drawn most of all to these nuggets about poetry, my first love that I sadly don’t spend enough time reading or writing: “There is one line that unwinds a poem. A poem should be a flash of a camera; some part of it goes off.” And “The idea of rhyme in poetry comes out of prayer, incantations, ringing bell, hands clapping.” And “Poetry hands people an experience they’ve had but haven’t articulated.” I haven’t written a poem in a while. These lines make me realize I should get back to it, maybe revisit some of my previous work to see if I have a flash of a camera in there, and add one in if it’s not there.

Two sections that didn’t hold my interest at all were “Be a Little Crazy; Astonish Me” and “From the Letters.” The former questioned whether or not writing could be taught, which I found hypocritical from someone who taught writing. The premise to the latter was that letters written by Shields to her students about particular works included universal advice, which obviously went beyond my scope since I lost interest quickly in each letter. Sometimes, a letter about a specific thing really is a letter about a specific thing and shouldn’t be made into something grander. Or maybe I was just too tired to read between the lines. Regardless, I didn’t finish reading most of the letters. Life’s too short to spend it reading something that brings no joy/knowledge/truth about marketing lumberjack erotica.

Conclusion: all in all, Startle and Illuminate contained some sound advice on various topics of writing. Not every essay is a winner, but there are enough essays here that even seasoned writers should be able to glean something useful from Shields’ experience, although if you’re anti-feminist or get annoyed by talk of Canada and/or name-dropping, you might want to avoid this book. Also, if you write genre fiction instead of literary forms, this book may not be for you as it’s mostly focused on writing for literary markets. Thoughts about maple syrup/lumberjack/moose-inspired erotica are wholly my own and no reflection on Shields’ advice to writers.

Fan Art

I told the friend I saw last night about the story inspired by the friend I saw the night before. She then asked if she could draw the characters I’d described to her. I told her that’d be fine, which made me laugh because just that morning I’d been thinking, “Oh no, what happens if someone decides to write fanfic in my universe?!” and here she was, wanting to draw pictures of it. But somehow it’s ok when a friend wants to get involved in my wacky little universe. Flattering. So why wouldn’t it be flattering if someone else ran with fanfic in that universe? It’s a question I’ll be asking myself until I have a full answer. I know part of the answer is that I’m enjoying writing my own stories and I’m not wanting it to go someplace unseemly, as these things often do when unleashed. Thankfully, at this point, my stories are mostly leashed, but wagging their tails at friendlies, allowing their ears to be scratched, knowing they’ll be appreciated when they’re fully realized/completed/edited/allowed to roam free.

As I’m writing these stories and giggling to myself, I’m wondering if Douglas Adams or Christopher Moore giggled to themselves as they wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy or Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal. Not that I think my stories are anywhere near that level of funny or fantastic, but I am curious if I’m the odd woman out with my amusement as I’m writing. I remember attending an event with an author who kept giggling as he told a story about how he came to write one of his novels. His giddiness was infectious, and even though I’d never read the work he was talking about, I thought to myself, “If he enjoyed writing it this much, I’m sure I’d enjoy reading it!” Now I’m completely blanking on the author (all I remember was he was wearing a kilt) and I never did get around to reading that book, but as soon as I recall these minor/major details, I’ll be adding that book to my TBR list and moving it up quite high because even remembering his reaction is making me laugh out loud.

For now, I’m amused that my friend already wants to do fan art for a story that’s still in its infancy. It’s still not entirely sure what it’s going to be, other than funny romantic sci fi. But in its current incarnation, it’s far too short and unpolished to be anything other than an amusing anecdote that the story isn’t even fully realized yet is already garnering fan art! If that’s not the sign of a bestseller, I don’t know what is.

P.S. I’m going to post my second writing book review tomorrow. It’s not for the book I’m currently reading, which is my first book I’m reading by the much-talked-about Chris Fox. That review will likely appear next week. Tomorrow’s writing book review will be by a famous Canadian author, someone else I’ve never read but figured I could learn a thing or two from her compiled wisdom. Until tomorrow…

WordacCountability Tally March 29:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 0
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 541
Total: 541
Grand Total: 26,029

 

Conversation Inspiration

Sometimes, I don’t see my friends for long stretches at a time. It’s not that I don’t love spending time with them, but jobs, families, distance, and life often make getting together difficult. So when I do have a chance to see some of my favourite people, I’m all for it, even if it means that my almost-fixed sleep patterns get buggered up again, which is what happened this week. Since my sleep patterns are already messed, I saw/am seeing three friends this week. They’re all creative and fun and funny in their own ways, and so far, after seeing the first two, I’ve come home inspired to think about and work on my current sci fi romance stories. Hoping tonight will provide the same sort of word-inspiring results! It’s interesting since I often feel guilty about meeting up with friends because I keep telling myself that I should be writing. But then I come away with fresh perspective after talking with good people (not the draining ones) and I’m happy I went, especially since these stories I’m writing after talking to them aren’t necessarily something that would have occurred to me if I hadn’t been talking to them. I texted the friend I saw last night to tell him the story I wrote in the wee hours of the morning is going to be dedicated to him. He said this made his day! Nice. The beauty of being a writer is that you can make (or break) someone’s day with just a few words. I hope he takes that feeling and puts it into something even better today. I needed this little reminder that I don’t live in a vacuum of creativity. I create my best work when I have something to bounce off of, be it a line I read in a book, an odd scene I saw play out on transit, or a conversation with a friend. I need to remember that when I’m wishing I could live in a mountain (yes, in a mountain. You have your dreams, I have mine!) and just write. Although that might be nice for a short period, I’d likely get bored fairly quickly and take to writing mountain porn or something equally WTF.

All right, I’m posting this early in case I get home really late from the movie tonight. I want to attempt to get to bed at an appropriate time, and don’t want the guilt of not posting a blog post (or even many this month) to keep me up.

Look at that lovely Short Stories word count for today! That’s a nice little feather in my conversation inspiration cap!

 

WordacCountability Tally March 28:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 1,038
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 462
Total: 1,500
Grand Total: 25,488

Three-Book Day

Rainy days are the best for getting stuff done around home. I managed to finish reading three books, write two books reviews, do some research, and also recycle a stack of magazines that have been sitting around here for ages. And since it was raining outside, I didn’t feel bad about missing a gorgeous day, because it was gloomy and unpleasant so perfect homebody weather. Nothing better than setting up camp with a good book or three and indulging myself in words. Yum!

I’ve been thinking a lot about my sci fi romance shorts, but I haven’t actually written anything in a few days. Hoping to get back to those shortly since I really like inhabiting that world. I’ve been trying to think how I want to publish those stories. On Wattpad? Amazon? Smashwords? I’m not sure yet. But there are at least six stories in that world I want to tell, possibly more when I have more time to delve into that world.

I’ll be posting those book reviews someday soon. One will show up here once I’ve had a chance to edit it, and the other will likely be the first review on a website I hope to launch very soon!

 

WordacCountability Tally March 25:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 0
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 1,416
Total: 1,416
Grand Total: 23,988

Dating a Supervillain

At work tonight, a coworker kept pestering me to tell him which supervillain I would date. I didn’t have an answer for him because it’s not something I really cared about or wanted to put any thought into. But since he persisted, I said, “Sir Ian McKellen’s Magneto.” He didn’t believe me. “Don’t you mean Fassbender?” “No, I want the awesome, knighted, older gay man.” Another male coworker came over to question me, disbelieving that I meant McKellen, not Fassbender. Seriously, guys, you ask me for my choice and then tell me I’m wrong? You’re asking me to choose a supervillain to date. I’m going to choose someone I think I could hang out with on a regular basis. And seriously, I’d never lose my keys. “Honey, can you do that thing with the metal for me? I’ve lost my keys again. Love you! Muah!”

Sir-Ian-Magneto

Maybe the guys I work with couldn’t believe that I’d pick Sir Ian Magneto because they couldn’t see themselves in that character, or see me, a considerably younger woman, finding the appeal of an older baddie. But considering the supervillain options out there, why wouldn’t I go for one with wisdom and class? One who struggles with his goodness within, even if he gives in to his darker side more often than not? He wears a cape but not ridiculous spandex. And I could be wrong, but I don’t think he laughs maniacally in any of the movies. What’s not to love (besides the egomaniacal, wants mutants to take over the world stuff, but who doesn’t have flaws)? The more I think about it (which I really didn’t want to think about it at all until my hand was forced by an overzealous colleague), Sir Ian Magneto is the best choice for boyfriend material should I ever be forced to date a supervillain. As my supervillain bf says, “Get over it!”

ian-mckellen-gandalf-magneto

 

WordacCountability Tally March 19:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 0
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 337
Total: 337
Grand Total: 22,580

Space Romping

I find it really interesting that my current series of short stories is Sci Fi romance. I don’t think I’ve ever read a Sci Fi romance story or book, and yet, here I am, writing a series of shorts set on a spaceport. I know it’s a never-say-never thing, but I can honestly say I’d never have expected this to invade my psyche like it has. I think about these characters and the world I’ve been building all the time. It’s a fun set of stories, and I’m enjoying it, but when I take a moment to think about it, I never woulda guessed it. But the fact that I wrote 1,078 words in that world today proves that it’s sticking in my head. This makes me very happy. I’m not writing 10K words a day, but over 1K is nothing to sneeze at!

On a related note: does anyone have any recommendations of humourous Sci Fi romance stories I should read? I feel like I’m out of my depth. Even though a story is a story, I’m not used to so much world-building to establish the setting and I want to compare my story to something else out there, should it even exist (which I’m sure it does, but I’m just not aware of it). If nothing comes to mind, that’s all right. I will continue to play around with this world until it becomes my second home.

 

WordacCountability Tally March 17:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 1,078
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 259
Total: 1,337
Grand Total: 22,243

Out Of My Comfort Zone

Screwed up sleep patterns are wreaking havoc on me at the moment. But I did manage to write 574 words today (nothing yesterday because I fell asleep when I thought I’d be writing), which is exciting! I’m working on the second story in my series of shorts, which I’ve come to realize they fall under the Sci Fi Romance category, way far out of my comfort zone. It’s exciting to explore this world and develop characters out of my usual. For instance, one of my characters is Irish (Happy St. Paddy’s Day! But my character was always Irish, even before today!) and fierce and asexual. I love everything about her and can’t wait to tell her story. Hers will be next, I think, once I finish the two stories I’ve started. I’m not entirely sure what I’m going to do with these stories when I’m done with them. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. Right now, focusing on one project is fantastic and I’m looking forward to spending more time with my characters this weekend!

Happy weekending, everyone!

 

WordacCountability Tally March 17:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 574
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 203
Total: 777
Grand Total: 20,906

Mortality: The Ultimate Kick in the Pants

Sorry if I got a bit ranty yesterday. I was upset to hear about my online friend’s passing, and even more upset to see a badly written obituary for someone who was always full of words. I will say it reinforced a couple of things in my mind: 1. Life is too damned short, and 2. I need to stick to my writing because I don’t want my own obit to say “She never married and she ate a lot of potato chips. She talked up a good storm about writing but never wrote a word.” Nope. Not acceptable.

In a surprising burst of creativity last night, I wrote a short story inspired by thinking about space pirate erotica. The actual story I wrote wasn’t sexy at all. It was meant to be humourous (although the humour seemed to get buried underneath trying to come up with spacey ways to describe things) and it’s definitely a work in progress that needs revision and/or a complete overhaul, but I’m still happy to have 900 words and potentially a new universe to play in, as this setting has potential for many more short stories. I wish I could tell Alan what he’s inadvertently inspired in me. I think it would have amused him greatly.

 

WordacCountability Tally March 15:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 605
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 237
Total: 842
Grand Total: 20,129

An Obit Worth Reading

I found out today that a writer friend whom I’d only met online, never in person, passed away recently. I was sad to hear of his passing. He was always sharing knowledge and funny memes and stories about penguins and potatoes with his online community. He wrote poetry that was shared hundreds, if not thousands, of times. He wrote short stories and erotica and likely other things I didn’t know about. He poked fun at political nonsense and generally made the world a better place just by being in it. When I read his obituary, I was expecting to read at least a few of these things. It mentioned he was a writer with one book (he had many) and about his surviving family. Really? That’s all you could write about him? We weren’t close, but even I have more to say about him than his obit. It reminded me of my grandmother’s funeral where the pastor was obviously reading from a script prepared for him, and her major accomplishments after 94 years on this earth included being married to a man who died in an accident decades before and she played softball. Wow. The culmination of 94 years, and the only thing anyone could think to ask the pastor to say about her outside her family life was that she played softball? It was a shame to witness such a lack of depth to her service. And later I realized he got all this from her obit. Wow.

Now, I know that not everyone can write New York Times-style obituaries (which tend to be pieces of art and wonderful tributes to those who have passed on, and generally dedicated to those who have accomplished great things, which not all of us have—or have we, but they just weren’t acknowledged by the greater population? But, I digress, as newspaper space is dwindling, and so, apparently, is the art of a beautiful tribute to a loved one.), and I know that it’s hard to think of good things to say about your dear departed one when you’re so overwrought with grief and being inundated with funeral details that need to be taken care of now. But for a man who spent his life writing and loving words, it seemed pitiful reading his scant obit. It was online, so space shouldn’t have been an issue. Even including a link to his poem that’s been shared umpteen times would have been something to attest to his memory. It’s too bad he didn’t have a chance to write his own obit. I’m sure it would have been beautiful.

R.I.P. Alan W. Jankowski. Without you, the world has lost a bit of its spark. Here is his poem, We Shall Never Forget (9/11 Tribute): https://www.poemhunter.com/poem/we-shall-never-forget-9-11-tribute/.

 

WordacCountability Tally March 14:

Fiction: 0
Short Stories: 903
Nonfiction: 0
Blogging: 483
Total: 1,386
Grand Total: 19,287