A social worker told me once that one of her university professors started the term by telling the class that the correct question to ask oneself isn’t ‘am I racist?’, but ‘how racist am I?’. That story has stuck with me for years. I’m sure that I have made mistakes in my work and will make more in the future, but I am committed to writing anti-racist, inclusive genre fiction. This means:
hiring and paying sensitivity readers
hiring Black and POC contractors
amplifying Black and POC voices by sharing on social media, word of mouth, and any other platform I may have
listening to Black and POC voices, apologizing when I’m wrong, and learning how to do better
speaking up when I see or hear others engaging in racist speech or behaviour
avoiding stereotypes and harmful depictions of racialized characters in my stories
There are several self-help books with titles that are variations on the title of this blog post, but it’s an apt phrase for that feeling I get sometimes that tells me I need to do some existential spring cleaning by giving up bad habits, embracing new ways to be productive and creative, and setting healthy boundaries. I’m currently in the middle of some serious life upheaval, and as a result, I spent four months producing almost no creative work. This is unusual for me, since I LOVE my work and always have way too many projects on the go at any given time. But toward the end of last year, I got overwhelmed by emotional baggage and needed a kick in the butt to get back on track.
That kick came in the form of a close friend of mine who works as a project manager. She introduced me to the concept of kanban, a Japanese scheduling/production method that was developed at Toyota to improve manufacturing efficiency. It gets way more complex than the stripped-down version I’m using, but the basic idea is that all tasks that must be completed are sorted into three categories: To Do, In Progress, and Done. My friend helped me create a spreadsheet listing everything I needed or wanted to accomplish over the next several months and set realistic guidelines. But the most fun part was making the system physical with a wall of sticky notes so I can see exactly where I stand.
Admittedly, I have slacked off some in the midst of the confusion and stress surrounding the first few weeks of social distancing, but my sticky note wall is helping me stay on track. One of the most valuable things I have learned in the past month is that it’s ok to adjust deadlines and be kind to myself. Other ideas that have helped me enormously are ones I have borrowed from Marie Kondo – going forward, I am only taking on creative work that sparks joy in some way. I have also decluttered and organized my home and work space so that there is minimal clutter and I am surrounded by things I love.
This update was too cool to lump in with yesterday’s general updates. If you follow me on social media, you may already know that I wrote an interactive novel for Choice of Games that launched a few months ago, but I totally forgot to update my site with that info. (Bad author!)
Jazz Age is a 125,000-word interactive novel, where your choices control the story. It’s entirely text-based, without graphics or sound effects, and fueled by the vast, unstoppable power of your imagination. You can play the first few chapters for free and the entire game is only $3.99, which is an excellent price for a book that has a ton of different endings, subplots, and scenes that are only visible depending on the choices you make.
It’s 1926 and there’s no place on Earth like New York City. You left the small town you grew up in to seek fame, fortune, and romance on Broadway, but success and true love have both proven more elusive than you imagined. You never dreamed you’d be torn between helping one lover save their illegal speakeasy, while another lover tries to destroy it!
Play a leading role…in Prohibition! But will your heart find its match with a worldly club owner or the street-smart federal agent who wants to shut it down? Along the road to love, you’ll also have the chance to become a star, fight for workers’ rights, and save your family home. Who can you trust in a world of guns and glamour?
As we all struggle to adjust to the “new normal” of a world in which Covid-19 has fundamentally changed our lives, it feels frivolous to talk about new releases or other publishing news, but I believe that this world needs art to thrive – and survive – so I hope my fellow writers and artists will keep working to share their art with the world. I was listening to CBC Radio (the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) earlier this week and the host said something that has stuck with me – “without the plague, there would have been no Renaissance”.
So here’s what I’ve been up to so far in 2020:
New England Furies – Unfortunately, I’ve had to postpone the launch of Fury Reborn, the fifth book in the series. The new publication date is September 1, 2020, and the book remains available for pre-order everywhere but Amazon. (When you change an Amazon pre-order date by more than a month, you lose pre-order privileges for one year).
Film projects – I have a documentary short currently in production that is now on hold for obvious reasons (you can’t shoot a film while social distancing). I am also working on a feature script that is “in development”, meaning someone is paying me to write it, but it may still never get made (that’s just how the movie industry works). I’ll write more about the script and the process of making a movie in days to come!
Comic book projects – Wild Rose #3 is done! I have thoughts about a release plan/possible Kickstarter for printing costs, but there are still some details to work out. I’m also working on a comic book adaptation of the Furies books and the artwork is ah-mazing. Stay tuned for news/sample pages from both projects!
I also have a bunch of other half-baked ideas at various stages of completion that I’m not quite ready to talk about at greater length, but all will be revealed in time!
The FIN Atlantic International Film Festival just ended in my hometown of Halifax, Nova Scotia, and I had an amazing time at my first festival. The two short films I made this year premiered at the festival alongside dozens (maybe even hundreds?) of other films that were programmed. I definitely will need a little break before I go see anything new in theatres!
The opening night party was very glamorous, complete with a red carpet, but not too formal – this is Halifax, after all! The dress code here is always flexible, so festival-goers might show up in anything from a ball gown to jeans and a denim jacket. Here I am with the cast and producer of Welcome – Ahlan wa Sahlan.
Of course it was a thrill to see my films on the big screen, but the real highlight of the festival for me was winning an award for my first feature script! Breeder is a feminist horror movie about a young woman who is kidnapped and forced to become a surrogate whose baby will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. (I pitched it as Get Out meets Rosemary’s Baby).
It seems like the busier I get, the less often I make time to update my blog, so I apologize for the radio silence lately. That being said, it’s a good sign that I’m working on a TON of projects when I don’t have time to write about them! The current state of the union looks something like this:
Various novels – I’m starting to plot out the next New England Furies book, with plans to start writing in September (and thank you so much to my fans and readers, who have been incredibly patient while I have been playing in other sandboxes). I’ve also been picking away at a YA steampunk project, which is half done, and tinkering with a couple new first-in-series that I’ve mentioned in passing before (a cyperpunk UF and a lesbian sports romance).
Wild Rose issue #2 – Finished! Rewards have been sent out to Kickstarter backers and work has been started on issue #3.
Welcome – Ahlan wa Sahlan – Almost finished! We have picture lock (meaning the story is edited and finalized). Now we are just working to finish the score and colour correction/sound mixing. Announcements about festival screenings coming soon!
Victim Impact – Also nearly finished! This is my absolute FIRST film project and I’ve been working on it for almost a year, so it’s very exciting to know that it will be totally done in a matter of weeks.
As always, there are a couple more projects being tinkered with that I can’t talk about yet, but I do have one last project completely finished, which I will talk about soon. It blurs the boundaries between gaming and novel-writing in a really cool way. I’m holding back details on that one until I have a release date, but I WILL say that it was both one of the hardest things I’ve ever written and one of the coolest. More info on that project coming soon!
I have mentioned my film projects on the blog before, so I’m excited to share an update about Welcome – Ahlan wa Sahlan. This short film is a queer fantasy romance about Shadia, a Syrian refugee newly arrived to a small house on the coast of Nova Scotia with her aunt and uncle. When she finds a shell carefully placed on her dock one morning, she takes an interest in her new home for the first time. More gifts follow, and Shadia leaves her own in return. She is soon shocked to discover that her benefactor is a mermaid. Shock gives way to friendship, and friendship to something more as Shadia and the mermaid share wonders from their very different worlds.
Production is largely being funded through the FILM 5 program at the Atlantic Filmmaker’s Cooperative (AFCOOP), but contributions via Kickstarter will allow me to include more special effects, pay my crew more, and top up funds for things like set design and craft services (food for the cast and crew). And even if you aren’t able to contribute financially, sharing the project page with friends/online is a huge help!
I feel very fortunate to be working with some amazing people on this project, including Lina Arafeh, a member of the Syrian refugee community in my hometown of Nova Scotia. Lina’s advice has been invaluable in making this film inclusive, accurate, and respectful. The role of the Mermaid will be played by Stephanie Norman (aka Raina Mermaid), who is a professional mermaid/actress/model/educator. I have already learned a ton from her about everything from working and shooting underwater to ocean conservation!
I love making New Year’s resolutions (though I don’t always keep them). For 2019, I have resolved to be more purposeful in my business decisions. While I’m still pursuing projects I’m passionate about, I also plan to devote more time to developing career goals and specific objectives to accomplish them. In the past, I have taken more of a “try everything and see what sticks” approach but this year, I have developed a business plan to keep track of everything.
I presented a workshop on business planning at this year’s first meeting of the Romance Writers of Atlantic Canada. As part of my research and preparation for the workshop, I developed this Power Point presentation. I hope it is useful for some of my readers and fellow authors!
Man’s Ruin is the second of my novels available in Spanish, and I am happy to share this translation by Maria Guaicara with you. I especially like the translated series title. In English, it translates to A Wolf at Work, which is very fitting for either the hero or heroine. They are both tough, loyal, and deadly in the right circumstances.
While Maria was translating the book, I learned of several interesting coincidences between her own life and the heroine. Like Magdalene, Maria attended a Catholic school as a child and her mother’s name is Carmen. In fact (minor spoiler alert), in the book Magdalene’s birth name is Maria!