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Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Five Hundred, Twenty-Five Thouand, Six Hundred

Five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred. That's how many minutes there are in a year. 525,600. At the risk of sounding like the theme to my favourite musical, how do you measure those minutes? How do you measure a year?


For some, a year is a long time; for others, it's merely the blink of an eye. For me, 2014 has been a bit of both, and I've been trying to come up with a way to sum everything up. It's had its ups and downs, its fun and its torment, its joy and its sorrow. But, all in all, I really cannot complain. I have met some amazing people in this last year, whose lives have come to run alongside mine. Friends have come and have moved away. I have gained, lost, and then gained employment. I spent 30 days alongside and leading an incredible group of writers. I have been given an amazing opportunity that does not come every day.


2014 started on a slightly somber note when a friend I have come to regard very highly moved back home to London (the real London). I count him among the very best of my friends; he's one of those people who makes my world seem right and my life would not be complete without him. I would see him again in April and again in November when he came back to visit, visits I wished had lasted much longer than they did.


April saw me taking on the Camp NaNo challenge, during which, I finished a Power Rangers fanfic I had been working on for about four years. It was both exciting and grievous to have something that had been in my life for so long come to an end. But, end it did. Throughout it, I met with some fellow writers every Friday at a local Starbucks (a meeting that has continued all year and will do so for what I hope is a very long time to come), was reunited with my friend from London, turned 26, and welcomed the coming of Spring with open arms.


The closing of June saw the end of my career in retail when the store I was working at closed. The lack of employment gave me a chance to work on my writing, but at the cost of my pay cheque. I would become employed once more in September at the company my mother works, and I have been there ever since.


July saw another Camp NaNo session, a session that seemed to fly by but gave me the beginnings of a story I hope to one day complete. (My trilogy takes presidency over all, though.) I also had the chance to meet with a friend I hadn't seen in many months.


In August, while meeting a glorious Green-cheeked Conure named, Frodo, I was asked if I would consider being NaNo event and chat room moderator for the Toronto region. I humbly accepted, and started the 2014 session of NaNo as, not only a participant, but a leader. It came with a new set of challenges, but I was prepared to meet them. So, with my trust mascot, Perry the Owl, I embarked on a month long journey with thousands of others worldwide to reach the ever-evasive 50,000 word goal. 2014's NaNo proved to be one of the toughest ones I participated in as the fates seemed to be against me. I started out behind and was never able to catch up. Halfway through, I gave up on reaching the 50,000 word goal, but just continued to write for the sake of writing. Then, on November 12th, an amazing opportunity was cast my way. The publisher, Simon and Schuster hosted a write-in event at a downtown Chapters, and I was in attendance. Everyone filled out a ballet, and entered to win the chance to have their manuscript read and reviewed by one of the publisher's editors. My name was drawn. I then spent the rest of November in a daze and alternated between writing and editing. I was also able to catch up with people I hadn't seen in a year, and I got to spend a much needed afternoon and evening with the friend who had gone home to London in January.


December brought on a flurry of editing (which I'm still in the throes of), and preparing for the upcoming Christmas season. It's also brought me to the movie theatre twice for three viewings of the final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies. Each time I have seen it, I have noticed different things, and this last viewing brought out the tears for me.


Christmas this year will me spent at my cousins', and for the first time in a very long time, there will be children involved, including a one-week old. It has been years since children have been a part of my Christmas Eve tradition, and I am very excited. Children make Christmas was it is. They make it joyous, and exciting, and innocent. They make Christmas beautiful.


2014, for me, has been measured in new experiences, changes, and, most of all, friendships new and old. 


To everyone who has crossed paths with me, whether in person, or online, thank you for being a part of my life. To those who have chosen to walk alongside me, thank you for sharing your road with mine regardless of how long or short that shared road was. To those who are still walking alongside me, thank you for allowing me to just be me and allowing me into your lives. Thank you for sharing in those five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.


TO EVERYONE: I wish you all the very best!


Merry Christmas, and all the best in 2015!

Saturday, 6 December 2014

What Is My Purpose In Life?

Do you ever wonder why things happen the way they do? Do you ever wonder why you're here, what your purpose is in life? Do you ever wonder if you're meant to be here? Over the last few months, I've been giving these questions quite a bit of thought.

Late August, my family doctor retired, which meant my mom and I had to find a new one. We did, and we picked up our medical charts to take to this new doctor. Between our last appointment with our former doctor, and our first appointment with our new doctor, we had some time to look through our medical charts. In doing so, we found out something neither one of us knew about me. I was still born.

I'd always known that my first few days of life had been touch-and-go. My mom had an appointment for a non-stress test, and the doctors discovered I was in distress. So, as a result, I was born a month premature. I've also known that I had stopped breathing a couple of days into life, and I spent 15 days in NICU, as well as that my development was slowed in part due to being premature. (I'm also aware that I didn't speak in full sentences until I was 4; I'm making up for lost time, lol.) However, I did not know that I actually hadn't been alive when I was born. When I was born, I was clinically dead.

This knowledge sparked a few questions, the most prominent one being, "Why did I survive?" Why did I come back to life? Am I meant to be here? Why? What is it that I am supposed to accomplish in however many years I'm granted? Whose lives am I supposed to enrich, if any?

I have many acquaintances and people I see fairly regularly, but I have very few close friends. It's been that way since I was a child, primarily because I choose who I want to hang out with. The people I make time to meet with are, in many ways, very special to me. In spite of this, there have been people who have come into my life I feel like I was fated to meet for various reasons. A couple of them got me back into playing my guitar fairly regularly, another few have, and continue to be, my inspiration for my trilogy and other novels, and one other reminded me how much I used to love playing board games. There are people with whom I feel the most at home, and the most free to be me. They are the people who have enriched my life. If they have enriched my life in their own big and little ways, have I done the same for them? What is my purpose in their lives? Am I fulfilling that purpose?

Those who really know me, know that I can sometimes be completely off the wall. I am really not so different from say, Peter Pan, in that I am a kid at heart and always have been. My difficult birth has provided me with a humourous response of, "I didn't get enough oxygen as a baby" when people look at me as though I've got two extra heads. On occasion, that response becomes, "Ain't you glad I survived?" when those same people can only smile and shake their heads at me. In spite of this, it's something I have struggled to grapple with since August, and I suspect that I will continue to struggle with it forever.

Why did I survive on my birthday when thousands of other babies in the same predicament may not have? What makes me so special? Why me?

In thinking about it, I've come to realize that everyone has a purpose, something they are meant to do. Everyone is meant to touch someone, everyone is meant to influence someone else. Everyone has a path to travel, even if that path is not clear, and those paths intersect for a reason – some bad, some good.

With this in mind, everyone who has crossed my path has meant to. To those who have made me feel at home, I am forever grateful. To everyone to has crossed paths with me, thank you, for you have made my life what it is.

"One never reaches home, but wherever friendly paths intersect the whole world looks like home for a time." ~ Hermann Hesse

Monday, 1 December 2014

The End of a Chapter

As of midnight December 1st, the 2014 season of National Novel Writing Month came to an end. My word count was a measly 18,860, but those words would not have happened were it not for the support I received from my fellow Wrimos. I have yet to win a NaNo, but maybe 2015 will be my year.

In spite of my horrible word count, I had an amazing ride. I was an event and chat room moderator, which was an awesome experience that both thrilled and terrified me. I was suddenly responsible for hosting events and keeping chat safe. I think I was successful.

I also got to hang out with people I have come to love dearly, people who have encouraged me, supported me, picked me up when I've fallen. These are people who are just as insane as I am and who have influenced my life for the better. Many have been there since my first NaNo in 2012, and have been my pillers, my rocks, my source of laughter, and a source of inspiration.

As I rode the bus home from the last NaNo write-in of 2014 with my trusted mascot, Perry (aka my NaNoWrimOwl), I thought back on the crazy month that had just passed. I had become a leader of sorts, I barely saw much of my home as I ventured out to coffee shops to get the words out. I spent a night in a church kind enough to let us use their facilities for an overnight writing session. I received the opportunity to have my manuscript ready by publisher, Simon & Schuster. But, most importantly, I had been reunited with friends I hadn't seen in far too long, including one I wish didn't live so far away.

The one thing to remember about NaNo, regardless of whether you win it or not, is, you become part of an international community of writers. You instantly acquire the support of everyone else who is doing this at the same time. Should you make it out to write-in events within your local community, you are met with people who are striving to reach the same goal you are, the same people who will give you a pat on the back for finishing regardless of what your word count ends up being.

To those who won: CONGRATULATIONS!
To those who didn't reach 50k: CONGRATULATIONS!!! You have more words than you had in October! That's something to be proud of.
To EVERYONE: congratulations on everything you've written! You are awesome! Keep writing!

And to EVERYONE who has been there to support me, whether through encouragement and cheering, through laughter and shenanigans, through listening to my rants, or through simply putting up with me: From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

Perry and me riding home after
the last 2014 NaNo write-in.

Thursday, 13 November 2014

The Chance of a Lifetime

I have a few busy weeks ahead of me. I have a manuscript to finish!

Yesterday evening, November 12th, I attended a NaNoWriMo write-in session hosted by book publisher, Simon & Schuster at the Indigo bookstore at the Toronto Eaton Centre. It was amazing to be writing mere feet away from books, some of which have been written by fellow Wrimos. (Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell are two of them.) Fifty of us were sitting in the Starbucks within the bookstore for this write-in. I did not get a whole not written, as I was fulfilling some of my mod duties (I am an event and chatroom moderator for the Toronto region this year), but I had a great time.

As part of the festivities, Simon & Schuster provided us with free coffee and baked goods, and gave us all a chance to win an opportunity to have the first 50,000 words of our manuscripts read by one of their editors. At 11:30pm, I was fulfilling my mod duties when they got our attention, and drew the winner.

"Jen Flynn!"

It took several seconds for me to realize that the name they had drawn was mine. When the realization struck, shock came with it, and I really wasn't sure what it all meant other than, I now had a manuscript to finish. I now have a manuscript to finish! And I know exactly what it is going to be. Four others also won free books courtesy of Indigo and Simon & Schuster.

I have been working on a trilogy for going on six years, and it has been a labour of love. I've had to climb a few walls, and scramble out of a few pits, but I have stuck by it. It even underwent a rewrite ten chapters in because things, namely characters, changed. It began as such a tiny, insignificant idea that, over a month of tending and planning, began to grow and become something much bigger than itself. It became bigger than me. It became my baby. It is a project I've been itching to finish, but now, I have the motivation to actually put my time and energy into it full time. And it deserves every second and every ounce of my time and energy; it always has. (Thank goodness I am almost 100,000 words into it!)

I do not know what will become of this future meeting with Simon & Schuster, but I am a cauldron of emotions. I am happy, I am anxious, I am thrilled, I am terrified. My head is a whirlwind of thoughts, and of wishes and dreams. As it's sinking in, I am realizing just how much work I have ahead of me, and just how important this trilogy is to me. And not just the trilogy, but the people who have stood behind me and beside me during this venture. They are just as important as the trilogy is, if not more so. I am very so grateful to my good friend, Robin, who told me about a conversation he'd had with his mom. Thank you, Sheila, for having that conversation with your son! Shannon, author of the blog, The Creation of Beauty is Art, for allowing me to take her along on this trip, and for being there to read each chapter as I complete them. To everyone in the Toronto NaNoWriMo (ToNaNo) community who has encouraged me, picked me up when I've fallen, knocked me down a peg or two when needed, and just simply been there along the journey: Thank you! You are very much a part of my extended family, and you are a huge part of the reason this trilogy is still being written. To anyone who has ever read this blog, I thank you, too! Your support means a tremendous amount.

I shall keep you up to date with my editing progress, and what happens when the first bit of the manuscript is read!

Saturday, 25 October 2014

O Canada, We Stand on Guard for Thee

On Friday, October 24th, I stood atop a bridge that spans across a long section of Highway 401 called the Highway Of Heroes. I stood there with a hundred others, all of us strangers, all united for a single purpose. To pay our respects and to give our thanks to one of our own.

On October 22nd, an armed man walked up to the War Memorial in Ottawa and shot a Canadian Armed Forces Reservist twice before moving on to Parliament Hill, firing rounds steps away from where our Prime Minister was meeting with his caucus. My country was attacked by a brazen gunman, a man who was born here, but whose heart lied with extremists. What compelled him to attack the country he called home, I will never know. And, quite frankly, I don't want to know. What I do know is, he murdered a man, a soldier, who had devoted his life to protecting this nation.

Corporal Nathan Cirillo was serving with the Hamilton Argylls, and was stationed at the National War Memorial in Ottawa. The memorial has been guarded for several years after an idiot urinated on it. While guarding it, Corporal Cirillo was killed. He was killed while serving on Canadian soil. He leaves behind a six year old son, as well as countless siblings in arms.

The gunman was shot and killed by the Sergeant-at-Arms inside the Parliament Building. My heart goes out to the Sergeant-at-Arms, as his life is forever changed by the fact that he killed a man. Yes, it was a man who was attacking his country, but he was still a man. My heart also goes out to the family of the gunman, as they, like Cpl. Cirllo's family, must bury someone they held dear.

So, I stood on the overpass to pay my respects to Cpl. Cirillo. As I stood there waiting for his motorcade to go by, I was filled with several different emotions. I am still filled with them. I am shocked. I am sad. I am appalled. I am angry. I am shocked that someone, a Canadian, would attack their own country. I am sad that we have lost one of thousands of selfless people who put themselves before their nation. I am sad for the family of the gunman as their lives are forever changed. I am appalled at the senselessness of the crime committed. How dare he murder someone who had devoted their life to protecting him in a time of war? I am angry that this atrocity happened in the first place. I am angry that our nation of peace has been attacked. The fact that Cpl. Cirillo was killed while serving on Canadian soil makes it hurt all that much more; it's like pouring salt in a wound. It has hit extremely close to home.

Cpl. Cirillo's motorcade.

Note all those who pulled over
to pay their respects.


If you haven't figured it out by now, I am a proud Canadian, and I stand by my country. I am proud that my country is as peaceful and accepting as it is. My city of Toronto is a beautiful mosaic of different cultures, all of whom are calling Canada home. Canada is a place of refuge for many; it is a place they come to to escape their own war-torn countries. They come here seeking peace. They did not come here to see our nation's capital attacked so brazenly by a gunman with a grudge. They came here for the same reason I continue to live here: Peace.

I pray that the fallout from this does not cause a war against races and creeds. I am a spiritual person, and I will gladly be friends with anyone of any religion, so long as there is mutual respect. I have friends who are Muslim, Wicca, Buddist, Shinto, Heathen, Pagan, and Atheists. I love each and every one of them because they are my friends. I have stayed at work for an extra ten minutes past the end of my shift so my Muslim co-worker could pray. The thing we need to remember is, there are extremists in every culture, and in every religion. (It's one of the reasons I consider myself spiritual rather than religious.) However, good is to be found in the other cultures and religions of the world. I love my country, because I love being surrounded by the different cultures, and being able to try all of the different cuisines. I love learning about other cultures, because every culture is unique.

I won't lie to you, a part of me is glad the gunman is no longer walking among us. He murdered a soldier in a country of peace, someone who is a brother-in-arms to my cousin, who is also a Corporal with young children. However, as I stated before, my thoughts are with the gunman's family as their lives will never be the same. My thoughts are with Cpl. Cirillo's family, and I can only hope his son understands the sacrifice his father made. I hope everyone understands the sacrifice Cpl. Cirillo has made. As someone with family in the military, and as someone who is pro-military (but anti-war), I understand. My great-granduncle was killed in 1917 in France, two weeks shy of his nineteenth birthday. My cousin is in the Armed Forces, and though I would be extremely proud to tell anyone that I have family serving overseas, I pray he remains on Canadian soil; I pray I never have to worry about him the way so many others worry about their family members.

I am confident that, as a nation, Canada will rise from this tragedy far stronger than it went into it. Canada is a strong country; we are strong people, though to outsiders, we seem very docile. In reality, Canada is a sleeping bear. You do NOT poke a sleeping bear, and you sure as hell do not go after her cubs. Our military is strong and swift, and I am proud of each and every member of our Armed Forces on land, sea, and in the air. O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

With that, I will leave you with this sentiment: If you do not stand behind our troops, you are more than welcome to stand in front of them.

Friday, 17 October 2014

The Throes of Planning

November is two weeks away! Two weeks! That's it! This means that I am currently a cauldron of emotions. I am excited, I am nervous... I am on the verge of insanity. Why? Because, the 2014 session of National Novel Writing Month (NaNo) is just around the corner. For those who do not know what NaNo is, it is a challenge for writers to write 50,000 words between November 1st and November 30th. It is the time of year you may find your friends, colleagues, or family members stocking up on coffee, tea, and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. It is the time of year when these people can look like death warmed over while somehow coming alive. Those people are a very special breed of Human. They are the ones who, for one month of the year, get very little sleep, are highly over-caffeinated, just about go insane, and still manage to function. They are amazing. And I am proud to be a part of this amazing, crazy, enthralling group of people.

November has become my favourite month of the year because of this lovely writing challenge. I first heard about NaNo back in the early 2000s not long after it first started, but I never gave it much thought. A friend of mine brought to my attention year after year, but I still didn't give it much thought. 50,000 words? No one could ever write that in a month! Then came November 2012. I had been working on a trilogy for 4 years, and was having a very slow go with it. Things had changed in it; I originally had three main characters – two females and one male – and things were feeling a bit lopsided. So, I decided to split the one male character into two; his personality and appearance went into one character, and his story arc became a whole new person. This meant I had to rewrite what I had of the first book because suddenly adding in a fourth character wasn't going to work for me. So, I started rewriting the first ten chapters. Then, October rolled around, and I realized I was still having a slow go with this project. Suddenly, NaNo had a purpose for me. I was going to use NaNo to finish that darn rewrite and then continue the novel. I finished that rewrite! But, I also ended up bouncing back and forth to a fanfic I had been working on. (I have a very bad habit of bouncing between projects.) I did not win that NaNo; I finished with 18,000 even, and every one of those words was handwritten. In spite of not winning, I had a great time. I met so many people who were incredibly welcoming, and warm – some of them were downright cuddly. They were amazingly encouraging, especially on those days when writing even two words is like pulling molars. They made my word count of a mere 18,000 feel like a victory.

2013 was another jam-packed NaNo for me. I did not win that year either; I finished with 28,000. But, again, I was among a group of wonderful people who encouraged me, held me accountable, and held my ending word count as a victory. It was great for me just to participate again.

Now, I'm gearing up for the 2014 NaNo season. My planning has included writing biographies for my four main characters as well as some important supporting characters. I am hoping these biographies will also help me organize what is to come, and make the writing easier. I have taken on a new role this year within my NaNo region. * I am an event mod for the Toronto NaNo group, as well as a chat room mod. I am honoured to have been asked to become a mod, and I am both nervous and excited to take it. NaNo 2014 is going to be a whole new experience for me, an experience I cannot wait to have. I am hoping this new role will give me a whole new batch of inspiration and enough of it to hopefully win this year. Winning a NaNo would be an awesome accomplishment.

I cannot wait to see the faces of all those I have met over the three years I have partook in his daunting challenge, and I'm even more excited to meet new faces. NaNo is a journey that is beautiful, yet scary. It is a journey that, I find, is best done in good company. The company makes the journey all that more worth while.

When I tell people about NaNo, I am often looked at as though I have three heads and I am crazy for attempting such a feat. Perhaps I am crazy. No... I know I'm crazy; I'm downright insane! But, it is a wild ride, and as I've said, I have met some incredibly wonderful people along the way. They make all the insanity of little sleep coupled with a dangerous amount of caffeine so very much worth it.

Are any of you partaking in NaNo this year? Are you a veteran, or are you new to the craziness? Regardless of your NaNo stature, I wish all of you the very best of luck in writing your novels. It doesn't matter if you finish with 50,000, 100,000, or 1,000. The only thing that matters is, that you have written.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Importance of Fanfiction

As you probably know by now, I am a writer. Not by trade or profession, but I write novels so, in my mind, I am a writer. But, I didn't start out writing original fiction. Let's face it, original fiction is hard. Writing, in general, is hard. My first story was about my friends and me. We were ten-year-old weather chasers chasing everything from tornadoes to floods. Some of the things we were experienced also included natural disasters like earthquakes and avalanches. I live in Toronto, the biggest city in Canada, and a place where avalanches will never occur. I know that now. But, as a kid, my imagination was limitless. Now, I am aware that sometimes imagination needs the constraints of reality. In reality, Toronto won't experience many of the things I put it through in that story; avalanches and volcanoes are simply things we only see on the news. However, events such as tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, though not all too common, do happen. Every year, the Toronto area experiences several tornadoes. Every hurricane season, there is a decent chance that we will get clipped by the tail end of a storm. (We were recently hit by Superstorm Sandy, which resulted in one fatality.) We also experience earthquakes every two to five years. Toronto is situated between three fault lines, and on a layer of bedrock and sediment. Because of the geological makeup of the ground Toronto sits on, if any of those fault lines move in the right places, we will experience a quake that's about a 3-4 on the Richter Scale. I know, 3-4 isn't really anything to snuff at, but they're big enough to rattle windows and make our buildings sway back and forth. I've been through a few in my lifetime to know what a 3.0 quake feels like in a third-storey apartment. But, natural disasters are not the focal point of this blog. Writing is.

The story in the above paragraph was my first serious story, and the first one I completed. It wasn't long after this that I turned my writing attention to fanfiction. At the time, I didn't realize that's what I was doing. I just thought, “I want to be a Power Ranger!” I wrote it, and it was so. And Lord, it was fun! I still write fanfiction to this day, and it's still ridiculously fun. In my years of writing – fanfiction and original fiction –, I've heard mixed reviews on fanfiction. I've heard it said that someone who writes fanfiction is not a real writer. Well, I disagree wholeheartedly with that statement. Some writers write only fanfiction, and that's awesome. Other writers use fanfiction merely as a stepping stone. That is just as awesome. And then there are those, like me, who do both. They have used fanfiction as both a stepping stone and as a means of writing. I use fanfiction to simply keep myself inspired, and to keep myself writing. As long as I am writing something, I am happy. But, fanfiction is more than just a means to write.

Fanfiction, regardless of what people think of the medium, is a great way to learn about character development and world building. Writing is hard. Writing believable, well-rounded characters is even harder. If you can write Tony Stark, Professor Xavier, or Dean Winchester just as they appear on screen, then you're awesome. If you can add layers to those characters, believable layers, that may not have shown up on screen, you're fantastic. If you can set an original story within the confines of Xavier's School and keep it as true to the setting as possible, you're golden. It's not as easy as one may think. There are rules that depict what you can do inside Xavier's Mansion, or the Enterprise, or Dean's 1967 Chevy Impala. Of course, those rules can be bent. Trust me; I bend them all the time! Now, you may have noticed that I said, “If you can set an original story within the confines of Xavier's School.” I can hear some people telling me that there is nothing original about fanfiction. Well, I beg to differ. Even though you are writing about the Winchesters or Wolverine, you are creating a scenario, a situation for them to be involved in. Perhaps it's something as simple as the moments after a particular episode, or film, but it is still going to be YOUR ORIGINAL IDEA. Or, maybe you're plucking Professor X and dropping him in the middle of the Australian Outback. Why? Why is he there? What has he done to deserve that? Who did it? How are you going to get him home? Is someone going to rescue him, or is he going to get out merely on his own devices? Most importantly, how is Professor X going to react to all of this? See what I mean? You might be writing about characters from a particular film or television, but they are merely your play pieces. The story is your own. In spite of this, you need to have these characters react in a realistic manner, a manner that is true and unique to them. All of this is important, and just as it's important to fanfiction, it's important to original fiction.

Now, you can also take fanfiction one step forward, and bend the rules even further. You can add an original character *GASP*! Those who know me know that one of my guilty pleasures is adding myself to a particular piece of fanfiction. I do it all the time. I get a thrill out of inserting myself into a world that I wouldn't otherwise be able to be a part of. It is also an amazingly fun challenge to make myself, and my interactions with the characters, real. I love figuring out what my reasons are for doing the things I need to do and what my reasons are for interacting with these characters in the first place. Writing original characters (even if they are, essentially, me) has helped me figure out just who my characters are in my original fiction.

I was talking to a friend, and fellow writer, about fanfiction and how important it is. She had been at a writing event and sat in on a panel with the writers of Degrassi. One of the audience members asked about script writing. One of the writers responded with something along the lines of, “You need to be able to write a Degrassi episode exactly the way it would appear on screen.” It was this response that spoke to her, and it is a very true response. To write something believable, you need to know your characters inside and out. I started with fanfiction for this very reason. I knew who the Power Rangers were, I knew their different personalities. I know the Winchesters (as far as about Season 7), and so I know how a typical conversation between Sam and Dean might go. I just like to have fun figuring out how a conversation between Sam and me, or Dean and me, might go. What would they find funny? What would they find annoying? What, if anything, would they simply tolerate? Would Dean let me drive the Impala? If so, why? If not, why?

I'm glad I've written fanfiction. I'm glad I still write it. Fanfiction has prepared me for my Trilogy and my other original fiction. It has helped me figure out what makes people tick, and has helped me come up with believable back stories for the characters I create.

Like I said before, writing is not easy. It is the most thrilling, beautiful, horrendously frustrating thing I've ever embarked on. It's like a garden; it needs patience, and constant tending and looking after if it is to become something beautiful. The same can be said for fanfiction. Some people only write fanfiction. Some people only write original fiction. Some people write both. Not everyone is at the same level. I've read a decent amount of fanfiction in my lifetime. I've read some amazing ones, and I've read ones that were in great need of improvement. However, I cannot trash an author just because he or she isn't at the same writing level I am. That's simply not fair. I've published some of my work on, and I know just how scary that can be. That author who wrote that fanfic you felt wasn't up to par is one very brave soul for putting that story out there for all to see. That fanfic is their baby, their child. It is a piece of their life. It is a part of them. Every author puts a piece of themselves onto the page. Those words you're reading on your computer screen contain the author's sweat, tears, blood, mind, and soul. Maybe that story took up a week of their life, or maybe it took up six months of it. I have some that have taken up years of my life. Every story is special and unique to the authors who have written them. For that reason, a fanfiction writer is no less of a writer than Stephen King is. Speaking of, did you know that Stephen King started out writing fanfiction? He may never admit it, but he did. And if Stephen King can start out with fanfiction, so can you.

So, to all of my fellow original fiction writers: You are awesome. To all of my fellow fanfiction writers: You are awesome. To all of my fellow writers: YOU ARE FUCKING FANTASTIC!!! Keep doing what you're doing.

Saturday, 2 August 2014

If You Don't Try Something New, You Won't Know if You Like it.

I love trying new things, and learning new skills. I love trying new foods, trying a new eyeshadow colour, a new makeup brand. I also love learning new skills. I am in the process of learning Japanese, and I know some Sign Language. I would love to learn calligraphy, and perhaps another language or two. Well, last week, I had the opportunity to learn a skill completely different from anything else I've learned.

Last week, I was hired by a painting company (for all of three days, but that's besides the point). My job? Painting the exterior of a house. This involved climbing ladders to paint soffit and windows, getting down on my knees to paint doors, and learning how to paint professionally. In no way am I a good painter, and I only held the job for three days, but it was an amazing experience. I got to learn just what it takes to paint a house. I learned a few things about myself in the process. I learned that I have a steady hand, yet my eye isn't sharp enough to catch everything the professionals would. And I learned that painting is not easy. The professionals make it look easy, but it is not. It is far from easy. There is a technique to it; it's an art. I only worked for three days, but I am not upset about it at all. It's far too busy a season for them to take the time to train me properly. I was appreciated for the fact that I showed up on time and I tried my best while I was there. I am grateful for the learning experience and the opportunity the company owner gave me. I'm also grateful for the money those three working days gave me. That pay cheque paid my cell phone bill.

That pay cheque also allowed me to try a new makeup product. I was in Shoppers Drug Mart yesterday/Friday to pick up a thank you card for a fellow organizer of my language exchange who is going on to bigger and better things. Well, these stores are strategically laid out. They're laid out to ensnare a makeup lover like me. As soon as you walk in the entrance, you're taken into the makeup section. Since I was unsupervised (a very dangerous state for me to be in), I took a look through the various drug store makeup brands they had. I stopped at the Revlon section, and my eyes caught sight of a recently released product, Colorstay Shadowlinks. They are these little eye shadow singles that you can connect together to create your own unique colour palette. They have about 30 different colours to choose from, but I zeroed in on the shade, Purple. With this colour in my hand, I started looking for another one to go with it. My eyes found, Periwinkle. Then, my eyes found a third colour. This one was, Seafoam.
Shadowlinks separated.

Shadowlinks together.
From left to right: Seafoam, Periwinkle, Purple.

 I love them! They're subtle, yet have just enough colour. And at $4.99 a colour, I couldn't resist!
There are many, many more colours I want to get, but they will have to wait. Until then, here is the look I created with the new eye shadows:

I used Purple for my lid, Seafoam for my brow bone, and Periwinkle for my crease and lower lash line. I used Avon Big Colour eye pencil in Eggplant on my upper lash line, and Clinique Waterproof Mascara. I finished off the look with Revlon blush in Softspoken Pink and CoverGirl Gloss Balm in Pinot.
What do you think?

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Best Finds

Have you ever walked into a store and found the perfect find? It's an awesome feeling, isn't it? I love it when I see something and I'm immediately drawn to it. Well, it's happened twice for me this weekend.

Every Friday, I attend (and have hosted) a writing session at a Starbucks in mid-town Toronto. For the past couple of weeks, I have seen a mug sitting on one of the shelves. It made me smile every time I passed it so, on my last visit to that Starbucks, I bought it.

Inscription on the mug: Fresh-brewed inspiration for the day ahead.

As a writer – a writer who makes herself a cup of tea before sitting down to write –, the inscription on the mug is uncannily fitting. When I showed it to my fellow writers sitting around the large table with their laptops, they all agreed on how well it fit in with what we were there for. While we don't always get a lot of writing done (if any), we arrive with the intent to write. Most of the time, our writing turns into four hours worth of procrastinating and immense giggling. But, we always have a good time.

One of my favourite stores to browse through is, Value Village. It is full of gently used items, and every week there is are new items to be discovered. I found the entire Chronicles of Narnia book series at a location in Ajax for around $10. I was very happy. Yesterday, my mom and I took a gander through the location in Scarborough nearest where we live. I'm glad we did. We stopped by the music rack, and I started looking through the vinyl LPs they had there. I found five of them.

From left to right: Top: Hair, Oklahoma!, The Sound of Music (all Broadway Musical soundtracks).
Bottom: The Kingston Trio,
Once Upon a Time (a live double album), and Neil Diamond, Stones.

I don't know many songs from the Neil Diamond album, but I cannot wait to learn them. It does have one of my favourite songs of his though, I Am, I Said. I have never heard the Kingston Trio album, but I will very soon. Hair is a musical I wish to one day see, and now, I have the soundtrack on vinyl! The Sound of Music is one of my favourite films, and, even though I have the soundtrack on CD, there is nothing quite like listening to music on vinyl. Oklahoma! was an album my father had a long time ago. About seven years ago, he decided to throw his records away because we didn't have a turntable to play them on. My mother and I both could have killed him. My mother, because many of those albums had been hers, and me because I thoroughly enjoyed listening to them. Oklahoma! was one I played over and over and over again. But now, I have that record in my possession once again.

Last night, I listened to two of those records. Oklahoma! had the honour of being played first. Good heavens, it brought back some good memories. It had to refrain from singing too loudly as my mother had gone to bed. Oh, and the record itself is in amazing condition. The second album I played was, The Sound of Music. Side one has a couple of scratches that cause the record to skip forward a bit, but it's tolerable. Side two, unfortunately, has two deeper scratches that cause the record to repeat in parts. (This is why we tell someone they sound like a broken record when they've repeated something many, many times over.) Despite the flaws, I can't complain. The vinyls were $2.00 and used. I can't wait to listen to Hair, Stones, and Once Upon a Time.

Oklahoma! being played on the turntable.

Acorn investigating the strange, twirly, sound-emulating thing.

For me, the best finds are the ones that speak to you the minute you lay your eyes on them. They whisper your name, wish you good day, and ask to be your friend. Then, you pick them up, and realize they are perfect for you. Have you ever walked into a store and found something (or a few things) you felt was perfect for you? What was it? How did those items make you feel? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Yes All Women

I am sure that by now, you are aware of the murderous rampage that occurred in Santa Barbara, California this past weekend. I am also sure that most of you know who the murderer blames for this rampage. I am a few days late in giving my opinion, but I feel that my voice must be heard.

In his manifesto, the murderer (he does not deserve to be made infamous) stated: “You girls have never been attracted to me. I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it. It's an injustice, a crime because... I don't know what you don't see in me. I'm the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at these obnoxious men instead of me, the perfect gentleman.”

And only hours after the shooting, another man shot at two women because they refused to have sex with him. You can read about that incident here:

Tell me, does a man who blames women for his rampage sound like the perfect gentlemen? It certainly doesn't to me.

I can hear any men reading this saying, “Not all men. That's only two men out of millions.” Please, tell me something I don't know. I know a few good men; I've even dated a couple. (Sadly, only a couple, though.) The fact that men feel they need to defend themselves when something like this happens doesn't help the issue at all.

But, Twitter came alive and one brave woman (who does not wish to be named) started a conversation with the hashtag, #YesAllWomen. I have lent my own voice to it, and now, I am speaking out here. Our voices must be heard.

One in three women will be assaulted in their lifetime. I am part of that one in three. More than half of those will not report it. I am also in that group. Why? Because we are so often told, “You should have said no,” “You should have fought back,” “It was a hard lesson learned.” We are asked, “What were you wearing?” every time.

I was raped by an ex-boyfriend after I told him “no” several times. I did not fight back because I was afraid of being beaten; my ex-boyfriend was much stronger than me. My own father told me it was, “a hard lesson learned.” What lesson do women have to learn from being raped? I was taught that men cannot be trusted, and that rape victims should be ashamed of themselves. My rape was a huge wake up call to how women are viewed and treated in our society.

As children, we are taught to always be aware of our surroundings because there could be a bad man lurking in the shadows who wants to kidnap us. As adults, we are told to carry pepper spray and rape whistles, and take self-defence classes to protect ourselves. We are taught to fear men, and the misogynistic views some of them have do not help us any. We are objectified and viewed as sex objects. Some men views us as serfs and as reproduction machines. We are not sex objects. We are not serfs. We are not reproduction machines. We are women. WE ARE PEOPLE.

Here's a question to all the women reading this: How many times have you gone to a bar and been approached by a drunk man? How often do you politely listen to what he has to say? How often do you laugh at his often not-so-funny jokes? All the time? Me, too. And I can hear the men, “Why would you do that?” We do that to protect ourselves from any potential aggression that drunkard may give us. Women: How have you ever claimed you have a boyfriend when a man is bothering you? Yup, me, too. And how many times has that man then walked away because he believes you belong to another man? Yup, that sounds about right. Why is that it's only when we claim we are taken by another man do those men stop their advances? Why aren't the words, “No” and “I'm not interested” enough? Why do they respect another man more than they do women? WHY?!

I've even had men say they don't care that I have a boyfriend, or say, “Well, if he doesn't show up, you know where I am.” At this point, it takes either one of my male friends, or another woman to finally get that guy to leave me alone. And many men think women should be flattered at this point. It is not at all flattering; it's downright rude.

Catcalling makes me pull my skirt down and pull the top of my shirt up to cover myself. It makes me feel very uncomfortable. I feel like an object rather than a person. When a man happens to get off the bus at the same stop as I do, especially late at night, I listen to his footsteps and watch his shadow until he turns and goes in a different direction. My keys are often in my hand to have them ready to go inside my apartment building, and to use as a potential weapon if need be. There have been nights when I've sped into the elevator or up the stairs because of the feeling I've gotten from a man loitering outside the building.

I wish I didn't have to do these things. I wish I didn't have to consider using my keys as a weapon when a strange man happens to get off at the same bus stop I do, or happens to be walking in the same direction I am. But, I have been raised, I have been conditioned to think these things. I have been taught that I need to fear the strange man.

We live in a society where misogyny is the norm. There are songs written about domesticating women, and rape. Blurred Lines is a blatant example, and a song I absolutely refuse to listen to. We live in a society where Robin Thicke can perform a song that is outright degrading to women and no one bats an eyelash. “It's just a song,” I hear people say. No, it's not just a song. It's glorifying rape. As a rape survivor, I find that song absolutely disgusting. Blurred Lines gives our young men the idea that rape, and domesticating women is okay. It's NOT okay.

Women are the reason men are on this planet to begin with. We give birth to the next generations. Why are the people who give you life being treated like we're less than human? Why are we being raped, assaulted, and harassed by the very people we gave birth to? Why don't we matter? Why must we be asked what we were wearing when we report an assault? Why must we be shamed when we are beaten by a man? Why is it, “Why didn't you leave?” instead of, “Why didn't the abuser stop?” Why must we be taught to fear men instead of men being taught to respect us?

The #YesAllWomen conversation on Twitter gives some real insight into the gender inequality women face on a daily basis. One wrote, “'I have a boyfriend' is the easiest way to get a man to leave you alone. Because he respects another man more than you.” Another said, “#YesAllWomen because the media will mourn the lives of ruined high school football players, but not of the girls they assaulted.” Yet another spoke out with: “#YesAllWomen because when a girl is harassed or even groped by a stranger in public, we're told to “take it as a compliment”.” A former college student told us: “In college, a police officer told us to scream FIRE if we were in danger of being assaulted otherwise people won't get involved.” And then there's this one: “When I had a seizure in my home, the EMS guys asked my roommates if it was possible I was trying to get a boy's attention.” And this last one came from a friend of mine on Facebook: “#YesAllWomen because last night on my way home from the movies I was verbally accosted for ignoring a man's kissy faces, and ignoring another man's attempts to hit on me.”

Since when is having a seizure getting a boy's attention? Why do we have to scream “FIRE” before someone helps us? My mother was mugged in our own apartment building, and when she yelled for help, people thought she was a kid fooling around. It wasn't until a friend of hers recognized her voice and opened his door that help was given to her.

We live in a society where men think it is okay to harm a woman, that it's okay to blame us for the crimes done onto us. We get the blame when we don't respond to a man's pickup lines. We live in fear of a man acting aggressively towards us if we turn him down. We live in a society where single fathers are praised while single mothers are shamed.

We teach our girls to fear men, and we teach them that wearing a short skirt advertises that men can come and ravage them. This is NOT what we should be teaching our girls. When I wear a short skirt, I'm wearing it because I want to, not because I'm asking for a man to have sex with me. Instead, we should be teaching our boys to have more respect for women. We should be teaching our sons to treat women as people, not as objects and sex toys. We need to teach our sons that no means no and that's final. We need to teach our sons that they are not entitled to our bodies. The only person who is entitled to a woman's body is the soul who lives within that body. We are the only ones who are entitled to our bodies. We do not belong to anyone. We are not animals that need domesticating. WE ARE WOMEN AND WE ARE PEOPLE. WE SHOULD BE TREATED AS SUCH.

For a link to the tweets used in this blog, click the link below.