A World Without Fear

Last week I wrote a post about some of the issues faced by female horror writers – it’s something close to my dark little heart, what with horror being what claws its way out me. While there is a lot of support for female writers within the horror community, there’ll always be those naysayers who believe we shouldn’t tarnish their ‘man-cave’ with our cooties.

But today I’m going to take the ‘horror writer’ out of the equation and talk about living in society as a female – yep, I’m poking that bear again. Sad, really, that the idea of me speaking out about feminism means I’m ‘poking a bear’. I’m not being over-dramatic; there’s a lot of hatred directed toward the word ‘feminism’ – wrongfully directed. And my last post on feminism had a man telling me I was ‘doing feminism wrong.’

So… cards on the table. I’m a feminist. I’m not a ‘humanist’ or an ‘equalist’ – I’m a feminist. I believe in equal rights and equal pay for women (because the gender pay-gap exists); I believe that while steps have been taken in the right direction, equality still eludes us. Does this make me an ‘equalist’? No, that would mean I’d be fighting for the equal rights of women and men, of which there is surely a current imbalance. So I’m an unapologetic feminist.

feminism 1

Right, now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s head into some pretty awful territory. Two days ago I woke to the news of a young Australian woman murdered in Melbourne. Seventeen this girl was, and viciously murdered so very close to her home. At this stage, investigative police believe it a random, sexually-motivated attack (they have a suspect in custody). My daughter watched this with me and said: “This is why you worry, isn’t it?” A seemingly innocent question, but there was an undertone I had to address. I don’t want my daughter to go through life frightened or hyper-vigilant, believing the onus is on her to remain safe – why should she have to?  To stay alive? To go through life not being a victim of violence because she was born female?

I told my daughter the truth. Yes, it is why I worry. You see, this young woman who was murdered the other evening was the twenty-third woman this year in Australia to die from a violent attack. That’s right, twenty-three women to date this year – that’s almost eight women a month; two a week.

I’ve seen the questions being asked already: what was she doing out at that time alone? And while that might seem like an innocent enough question, that’s victim-blaming right there. Why not the question: what monster thought it well within his right to do that to her?

It’s that type of seemingly innocuous question that shifts rightful blame from the perpetrator. It’s that type of question that should never be asked. Just as the questions about what the victim was wearing, if the victim had been drinking, if the victim made the right decision by walking home alone, should not be part of the conversation. It. Does. Not. Matter. Apportion blame where it’s due. (Just so we’re clear — that’s the perpetrator.)

The minute these questions make it into any news report, any conversation, any online ‘debate’, then it’s nothing more than excusing the perpetrator. The blame always lays squarely on the offender.

Rape-culture-pic

But that’s not always the case. When there are instances of schools telling their female students not to wear certain articles of clothing because it’s ‘distracting boys’ – that’s reinforcing a belief that girls must be responsible for not only themselves, but take into account ‘male thinking’ and act accordingly. That doesn’t just insult women, it insults males as well. I also remember the case where a young girl was kicked out of prom because some fathers were having “impure thoughts”. When is it ever okay to place the onus of another’s behaviour or thought process on the person on the receiving end of such idiocy? Why are they responsible for another’s actions or thoughts? It’s this type of thinking, this type of victim-blaming that is prevalent in society that often makes women who are victims of assault not come forward.

The online world is particularly guilty of rampant misogyny in certain circles, as seen by GamerGate and the subsequent doxing of those women who spoke up about death threats, threats of sexual assault, and ongoing harassment by ‘men’ who felt vilified. Just this month Ashely Judd was subject to such threats for a twitter comment she made re a basketball team during March Madness. Judd, is rightly pressing charges against those who threatened her.

This is the world I live in, the world my daughter lives in. Even walking down the street I’m subjected to whistles or men yelling out things they’d like to do to me. Just last week some jerk smiled and leered “niiiice arse” at me while I was out getting groceries. When I told him to fuck off, he was offended. How dare I speak to him this way when he’d paid me a ‘compliment’. How dare I? How dare you. I’m not here for your amusement, your will, your words, I told him. He then said he wouldn’t fuck me anyway.

When I gave a ‘whistler’ the finger, I was called a lesbian. This is the world I live in. One where I have to be vigilant, one where I have to be aware of my surroundings and who’s in them. It’s a world that has me fear for my daughter – we both deserve better than that. As does every woman.

It’s my right to live in a world without fear, a world without blame, and a world where exercising opinions, ideas and thoughts don’t result in threats against your person. It’s every woman’s right.

 

 

 

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Without incurring the wrath of the Jinx Faerie *invokes sign*, my reading for pleasure is going well this year, and it really has been pleasurable reading. While I have a few other reviews to write, I’m jumping ahead here with Prince of Thorns as the book is still very fresh in my mind.

This is the first of Mark Lawrence’s work that I’ve read, and I want to thank my pal, Tracy, for nudging me toward it. Prince of Thorns is the first book in the Broken Empire Trilogy and sits well within the ‘grim-dark’ of fantasy, and it’s a sub-genre in which I’m happy to spend a lot of time. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, ‘grim-dark’ is, as it sounds, a story that is grim and dark in tone and doesn’t shy away from the realities and brutality of such themes. Lawrence hits the ‘grim-dark’ mark with Prince of Thorns.

prince-of-thorns

Now before we get into this, it’s spoiler-alert time, now while I haven’t gone into too great detail with the plot (this really is something you need to experience in all its awful glory), I’m warning you all the same:

SPOILER ALERT: *clanging of bells; blaring of sirens* READ ON AT YOUR OWN RISK. REPRISALS WILL OCCUR TO ANYONE BITCHING OR COMPLAINING ABOUT READING SPOILERS. (I have an angry cat and I’m not afraid to use him. Grim is his name, and he lives up to his moniker.)

Prince of Thorns is told from the first-person point-of-view of main character, Prince Jorg Ancrath, heir to the kingdom of Ancrath, we begin in the aftermath of a village plunder. Right from the outset the reader is plunged into the blood and death that surrounds Jorg, and it’s unapologetic in its telling – as it should be. The first surprise for me, which came at the end of the first chapter, was Jorg’s age – just shy of his fourteenth birthday, his savagery is something a reader would expect in one much older.

Jorg has been on the road with his outlaw ‘brothers’ since he fled from his father after an ambush that killed his mother and younger brother. Jorg, held firm within the thorns of a hook-briar, could do nothing to help his mother and brother, nothing except watch. The betrayal by his father to not seek vengeance on the man who orchestrated the ambush, pushes Jorg to seek vengeance on the mastermind on his own.

Slowly, the story unravels, but just when you think you have a hand on what’s at play, Lawrence manages to turn it on its head, and does so adeptly. There are connections with everything, foreshadowing done so well that it’s not until a revelation appears that those connections shine through.

The cast of support characters, especially Jorg’s band of brothers, are a motley crew, and by ‘standard’ fantasy tropes, not a good one amongst them (apart from Sir Makin and the Nuban – both favourites of mine), but in keeping with the grim-darkness of the book, they’re a perfect fit for not only Jorg, but the story as well. These are interesting, quirky, yet disturbing characters that I was more than happy to get to know better.

But it’s Jorg who commands the story here, and while he embraces the doing of evil deeds with much gusto and little-to-no conscience, there’s an honesty about him I liked. Hell, I was rooting for the kid the whole way. With Jorg, there’s no half-measures, and in a story such as Lawrence’s, there can be no half-measures, for those who lack commitment live very short lives and tend to die horribly.

bloody handprint

Jorg is driven by the murders of his mother and brother, but there’s more at play in Jorg’s choices and ‘non-choices’ than meets the eye – another revelation that sat well with me. Magic – there is much of it – and yes, dark magic it is. You expected different? And the monsters, aaah, the monsters, they’re plentiful and unique – the scenes that take beneath Castle Red are some of my favourite. Gog, you scamp!

There’s a revelation in this section (no spoilers – it’s well worth the wait) that puts a lot of Jorg’s… learning into perspective – at times I was pulled toward the alternate-universe theory, but this revelation was punched right out of me and I was glad for it.

Right from the beginning you know, Jorg is bound for home, for a confrontation with his remarried father. Another queen sits on the throne, one who bears the king’s preferred heir. Jorg, torn between present and past, finds himself vulnerable in ways he hasn’t been for four years – a dangerous place for him. He’s a wily fellow, Jorg, resourceful and ruthless, and the more I read the more I liked this ‘wholly unlikeable’ character. That’s the thing, I can see why some would find him unsympathetic, soulless, reaping of all that befalls him, but for me… well I liked him. Is he a sociopath? Odds kinda head that way. Is he a monster? To those who get in the way of his goals, yes. Or, is he a product of his environment and history? Aren’t we all. And it’s that honesty, the not shying away from the darkness that lives inside Jorg that makes him wholly likeable for me.

The structure of the storytelling took a little getting used to as Lawrence jumps from present to past and back again often during the storytelling – but this is clearly marked by the different fonts (and the fact it’s signposted: Four years earlier). It’s also how Lawrence gives you the breadcrumbs to Jorg’s story, his history, and the why of his nature.

I have the next instalment of The Broken Empire Trilogy – King of Thorns, and I’m very much looking forward to seeing where Lawrence takes Jorg and his ever-dwindling band of brothers.

For those who are looking for more standard fantasy fare, this might not be for you. And for those who don’t like the blood, gore, death and torture that comes with war, then this probably isn’t the book for you either. But if you’re looking for a story that doesn’t shy from the vulgarities of conquering lands and kingdoms, that is as dark as it is twisted, and has characters who have less redeeming qualities than those you find in most fantasy epics, then this is definitely the book for you.

On a goodreads scale, I give it 4.5 stars.

Four and half stars

Why You Can’t Argue With Crazy (and should you?)

No, I didn’t forget Women in Horror Month. Yes, this isn’t technically posted in February, but I wanted to see the month out before I wrote my opus. I’m a woman who writes horror, and on my good days (when the writerimposteritis isn’t gnawing on my ankles) I think I write horror well. So when I hear of those who think women can’t or shouldn’t write in the genre I love, I get my back up. But what good does that do? Those who spout such nonsense want exactly that angry reaction. Most of the time they’re trolls, but every now and then you’ll find that misogynistic belief really is their truth and nothing and no one can dissuade them. You can’t argue with crazy.

Last year I wrote a piece on the best way I’ve found to handle any vitriol thrown my way regarding my choice and ability to write horror: Fuck the Naysayers and Make Good Art. I’ve heard all the arguments against female horror writers: we’re too soft, we’re nurturers, we don’t understand horror, we dilute it, we’re… (wait for it)… always putting romance in horror.

Like I said, you can’t argue with crazy.

can't argue with crazy

February 2014 was particularly nasty when it came to WiHM. Truly terrible and disgusting things were said. The first two weeks of this February, however, were fantastic. There were blissfully positive posts and interviews, the sharing of fellow authors’ work – a real sense of community and support. Then someone had to ruin it for everyone.

I’m not going to name names here but it spawned #horrorhags, and that should give you a pretty good idea of what was said about one female horror writer in particular before all were tarred with that same brush. It united horror writers and had, I’m guessing, the opposite effect the person intended. Or did it?  One has to wonder if the stupidity of comments such as these is nothing more than to raise someone’s profile, garner interest in their books, get the horror community talking about them et al. But really, who’d be that stupid? You’re insulting potential readers, you’re embarrassing your publisher, and the chances of you getting another publisher are now pretty damn slim. Authors remember. Editors remember. Publishers remember. The horror community remembers.

Thing is, you can’t control what people think, what people say, and how people act (especially on the Internet). You can only control what you think, what you say, and how you act. I’m not saying don’t take on the controversial issues, self-censorship isn’t the way to go either, but remember that trolls and those who forgot to activate their ‘don’t-be-a-douchewaffle’ button, are always going to be around, and they’re going to say and do things that will make you want to rage-quit humanity, but is that what they want from you? An escalated reaction? Notoriety? Do you want to feed that?

horror hag

WiHM seems to attract those who want to start a brouhaha (not a discussion) about exclusivity when it’s all about inclusivity. Why give the douchewaffles what they want? I’d never heard of the writer whose rant started the #horrorhag – now I do know their name. So was this ‘mission accomplished’ on the writer’s part? Tough call that. Yes, I know their name (some would say that’s marketing gone right), but it also went very, very wrong as a lot of publishers now have this person on a ‘blacklist’. They won’t publish them. Ever. I’d say that’s marketing gone wrong.

Writers are a passionate bunch, and as a whole a damn supportive one – woe betide anyone who messes with our community. And community it is. Writing is a mostly solitary profession, so when we find and meet like-minded folk, we celebrate the wonder and weirdness that is who we are and what we do. No one understands a writer like another writer. So when a scribe takes aim and fires those misogynistic bullets, they don’t just hit the female horror writers, they hit us all. I mean, dude, that shrapnel goes everywhere. And no one likes to be shot at; no one likes their friends and peers shot at, regardless of gender. But to do so during WiHM? That shit be crazy, and I do have to wonder at their motives.

It’s no secret that getting your work and your name out there and recognised isn’t getting easier – it’s simple mathematics (I can do it and I suck at math). The advent of self-publishing has increased the amount of books available to readers, which, as a reader myself, isn’t a bad thing; as a writer, you need to stand out in the crowd. (Hint: decrying female horror writers probably isn’t your best bet). So part of me wonders if this wholly uncalled for #horrorhag rant wasn’t a publicity stunt gone wrong. If so… bad call, dude. If not… well, you can’ t argue with crazy.

All I know is that I will continue to write the best horror I can, and I will continue to support WiHM until there’s no need for it, and I will continue to support my fellow horror writers regardless of what does or doesn’t swing between their legs.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go disembowel a despot…

WiHM 2015

 

 

Review: Bloody Waters by Jason Franks

I’m a wee bit behind on my reviews as I read like a fiend through January… then life laughed and laughed and laughed at me (I also believe it gave me the finger) when I wanted to keep the pace through February.  Sooo, without further ado…

*taps microphone* Check, one, two… One, two.

Welcome to the stage… Bloody Waters!    *crowd goes wild as Clarice Marnier strides on stage with Motherfucker*

Bloody Waters is Jason Franks’ debut novel released through Possible Press, and a damn fine debut it is. This is the first of Franks’ work I’ve read, and as with any book, you go into it with excitement and a little trepidation: ‘please be good, please be good…’

Well it wasn’t good – it was fan-freakin’-tastic.  Now before we go any further, I’d better put the requisite spoiler warning in…

SPOILER WARNING! THAT’S RIGHT. SPOILERS. LIKELY LOTS OF THEM.  SPOILERS I MEAN. SO READ AHEAD AT YOUR OWN RISK, ‘CAUSE, YOU KNOW, SPOILERS.

Bloody Waters

The story begins with the a chat between an old bluesman and the devil at a crossroads (think Robert Johnson folklore) and the horny dude’s warning of ‘rock and roll badness’ on the horizon. The devil is worried, you see, and the bluesman tells him ‘rock and roll boys ain’t nothin’ to concern himself with.’ The devil agrees, ‘but this one’s a girl.’

It’s the … quirk in the supernatural I really found enjoyable. Satan? He’s a character who holds his own here, and the interactions between him, Clarice, and Clarice’s boyfriend, Johnny, were some of the highlights of the book for me. Kudos to Franks on the great dialogue. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bloody Waters follows the life and times of guitar virtuoso, Clarice Marnier.  There’s nothing Clarice wants more than to be a rock guitarist, and when Clarice sets her mind to something, nothing (and I mean nothing) will stand in her way.  She’s focused, forthright, stubborn and proud – she’s a pretty kick-arse character who can actually kick your arse. And seriously, anyone who names one of their guitars ‘Motherfucker’ is alright by me.

You see, no one knows guitars like Clarice, and no plays guitar like Clarice. She has a single-mindedness that sometimes comes across as arrogant, but it didn’t take me long to realise that her no-nonsense attitude is what makes her… Clarice. Oh, and keep an eye out for her one-liners and terrifically and sometimes groan-worthy puns – they’ll put a smile on your face.

After being blacklisted by the music industry, Clarice seeks out band members to form ‘Bloody Waters’, a band she knows is the best out there, but no one will touch them. So Clarice, with the help of boyfriend and frontman, Johnny Chernow, make a deal with the devil for a second chance at taking the world by storm.

And storm the world they do. No band is bigger; no guitarist is better, and no one wants to bring them down more than the music industry that spurned her.  Ensuing battles with demons, wraiths, witches and all other manner of supernatural nasties, then throw in some gangsters, other rock bands, crazy fans and you’ve got one hell of tale taking place on the pages. Most of the supernatural takes place toward the second-half of the book, but there’s no end to the magic that rips through the story.

While Clarice is the star of the book (and the band), frontman Johnny Chernow really does hold his own in this book, and holds his own against the force of nature that is Clarice. He’s also one of the most easy-going warlocks about – nothing much rattles his cage. Without Johnny, a lot of what Clarice can achieve on the supernatural level would be impossible, and while I would have liked to have seen some more…tenderness toward Johnny on Clarice’s part, the final revelation makes you understand why she is the way she is.

pentagram

There’s a lot at play in the novel, but Franks’ works well to not only keep the reader hooked but also guessing as to what’s really going on. The interactions with the Devil always hint at some ulterior motive (no real surprise there, he’s the Devil, Father of Lies and Deceit), and he has an almost soft spot for Clarice, but always at the back of my mind was the crossroads talk with the bluesman at the beginning of the book.

But it’s the revelation at the end of the book I didn’t see coming, and one that was so brilliantly thought out and delivered, it had me reflecting on it for quite a long time afterward.

The only negative I found with my copy of the book was that it could have been edited and proofread with a more expert eye. There were more than a few typos and grammar issues that should not have slipped through. However, the standard of the story and the storytelling itself made this (almost) easy to overlook.

Franks takes the reader on a fast-paced ride filled with black-humour, bloody battles, and a look at ideology from an altogether different standpoint.  His characters are well-fleshed out, engaging, and were perfectly suited to the parts they played. I flew through this book, so engaged was I with the story and the characters. I sat up ‘til 3am to finish it, and if that isn’t the sign of a good book, I don’t know what is.

On a Goodreads scale, I give it five stars. And no, the devil didn’t make me do it.

five stars

 PS. Check out Jason’s comics/graphic novels — they’re well worth the look.

Artful Conservation of the Imaginarium

Art, how I love thee! Like my collection of books, my collection of art is getting to a point where I’m running out of wall space. But I’ll not stop buying either, ‘cause that’s just crazy talk. Crazy talk!

The difference between my buying of books and my buying of art is that I don’t actively seek out art. It kinda finds me. In my previous post here, I mentioned that should I meet the deadline for the Black Friday Wager (the completion of the eleventy-first draft of my novel), I would win by not only having a completed novel-draft but get the bonus of some art as well. And it was a bet I won. That’s right – draft complete! That was the bet I had with the wonderfully-crazy Elizabeth Wayne.

It was Elizabeth who put me onto the artist from whom I get to choose two pieces. I already have two artworks (below) from Jeannie Lynn Paske’s ‘Obsolete Worldthat sit perfectly on the walls of my hallway. There’s a melancholy about each piece that really struck a chord, and her use of colour, light and shadow reinforces the solemnity she creates in her work.

Flight of the Recently Departed
Flight of the Recently Departed

In Paske’s own words: ‘Obsolete World is a name that was originally taken from the 1961 Twilight Zone episode “The Obsolete Man” where in a future totalitarian state, Burgess Meredith’s character (a librarian) is a man put on trial for the crime of being obsolete. I had always loved that episode and I pictured a similar scenario in which the make-believe creatures of childhood suffer a similar “crime” as one grows old. I took to the task of conserving these victims of consequence, and created Obsolete World as a place where my own creations could safely while away the hours.’

As a writer, I live in make-believe worlds with make-believe creatures –creatures of my own creation. I breathe life into them; give them purpose and reason, lives and loves – both beautiful and terrible. I laugh with them, rage with them, bleed with them when I must. I’m connected to them in ways that might seem a tad odd to non-writerly folk, but a little piece of you goes into each creation.

Once the story is done, I leave them to their world, their lives (or their deaths) and move to the next creation. While they are never truly forgotten, do they venture into the realm of obsolete?  Like the imaginary friends we have as children. Or the teddy bear that knew all our secrets and gave us unconditional succour. What happens to them? Where do they go?

Lovely Intangibles
Lovely Intangibles

There are those ‘creatures’ we can’t let go – we all have them. Mine is a teddy bear I’ve had since my second Christmas – Pink Teddy, her name is (cut me some slack; she’s pink and I was two when I named her).  She hasn’t always been with me.  I put her atop my cupboard when I was a teenager where she stayed for a long time; she didn’t come with me when I moved out of home, and she was soon consigned to memory…until my parents returned her to me when I was 35. I remember opening that shoebox at Christmas not at all expecting Pink Teddy to be inside. My parents had a bet: my father said I’d cry, my mother said I’d smell her. I cried as I put my nose to her tummy and breathed in deep. I’d reconnected with my past and all the memories that came with Pink Teddy’s return.

It’s this part of Paske’s work that resonates – the memories of what once was – and why there’ll be more of her art on my walls.

Pink Teddy
Pink Teddy

Horror and Writers and Interviews, oh my!

This February marks the 6th annual ‘Women in Horror Month’. Started by Hannah Neurotica, WiHM aims to: [assist] female genre artists in gaining opportunities, exposure, and education through altruistic events, printed material, articles, interviews, and online support. The vision is a world wherein all individuals are equally given the opportunity to create, share, and exploit their concept of life, pain, and freedom of expression.

I have mixed feelings about WiHM, but I understand the need for its existence (this will be the subject of a post later in the month). I will always support authors – especially in my genre – and particularly female horror writers. Hell, I am one. Pay it forward and pay it back; karma will always be good to you.

I’ve received a lot of support from horror writers and readers, and I’ll be forever thankful for it. One of those who helped me enormously at the beginning of my writing career was the extraordinarily talented and supremely wonderful Kaaron Warren – one of the best horror writers about, no doubt.

I was lucky enough to be mentored by Kaaron, and what she taught me I will never be able to repay – her knowledge of storytelling and the industry was priceless. She was always there to look over my work (no matter how nervous I was) and answer any questions I had (no matter how ridiculous they may have been). I hope to one day help others as she did me.

WiHM 2015

Support comes in all forms, and I was the beneficiary of said support from the very talented Greg Chapman when he asked to interview me for WiHM. His questions were insightful and ones that deserved to be delved into. Not only that, I was interviewed along with Kaaron, which was like the icing on the cake for me.

The interview is here, and you’ll see that I’m far more ‘chatty’ than Kaaron – she really does know how to get to the heart of things succinctly! Our interview is part two of a series Greg’s doing. You’ll find part one here, where he interviews Marge Simon and Stephanie M. Wytovich – two very talented author/poets from the United States.

Greg asks us all which female horror authors we believe should be read, and if for nothing else, take a look at the lists the four of us offer – they’re wide-reaching and wide-reading.

So if you’ve never read horror written by a woman, or would like to read more horror written by women, check out Greg’s interviews.

Right then, time for me to get back to destroying a world of my own making. Horror writing really does rock!

 blood spatter

NOVELS AND ELEVENTY-FIRSTS

There’s a count-down calendar on this page. See it? Over there on your right… scroll down a little… a little more… Bingo! TWELVE DAYS TO GO! Ahem. ‘pologies. Didn’t mean to yell.

This is my second round at ‘The Black Friday Wager’ and my second attempt to finish the first draft of my novel. Well, to be completely honest it’s really more like draft eleven of the first draft of my first novel. ← That makes a weird kind of sense, trust me.

‘The Black Friday Wager’ is the brainhild of Elizabeth Wayne and Marty Young. Now, when I say ‘brainchild’ I mean a lovechild born from a sarcasm-riddled back and forth between the two on Facebook (it was a short pregnancy and a relatively pain-free labour – so not like actual births with the swearing and the pain and the blood… Hmm, now I think about it….)

BFW 2

The idea behind the BFW is a support network with incentives. We all have goals we’d like to achieve be it with writing, exercise or quitting the smokes… you get the idea. What the BFW allows those in the group to do is set a goal they’d like to achieve by the next Black Friday in the calendar year then another group member takes them up on said goal and a wager is set (decided upon by the two wagees).

I didn’t hit my goal last time ‘round, which cost me a bottle of scotch (happily delivered), but I’m very close to hitting my goal of finishing this eleventy-first draft of my novel. With twelve days to go, I just passed the 60,000-word mark, and I know I’m on the home stretch, which holds both relief and excitement.

Relief because this is the longest piece I’ve ever written, and there were times when I lost faith in myself as a writer and believed it was just something I could not do. I raged and swore, hated and kicked, and there were quiet moments of despair. Writing a novel is hard; writing a first draft of your first novel can be soul-destroying at times but here’s where the BFW group kick in. Beyond anything else they’re a support network, even those with whom you have a wager want you to succeed as much as you want to succeed. They’re your cheer squad, your sounding-boards, your oracles and your pickers-up when you’re down. I could not have come this far without them and I’ll be forever thankful.

And excitement because I can see where this novel is going; I know where the characters are going (not anywhere good, ohh no, not anywhere good at all), I know what they’re doing and what they hope to achieve despite all the crap I’m going to be throwing their way. And it’s a lot of crap. Apocalyptic worlds are never a fun place to be… for them. For me, I’m finally starting to enjoy myself, enjoy the process, and that’s something that’s been seriously lacking.

It’s been more stressful than I thought it would be, but that’s due to the unwarranted pressures I put on myself. I’m my own worst critic, and being an editor that tends to double the self-recriminations. It may not be right but it’s honest.

Is the draft good? Some of it, yes. But not all. Hell, some of it’s pure shite and I’ll admit that a lot of it will probably go in the rewrite, but it has created a greater focus for the story and a much better understanding of the characters and the world they inhabit. And that is all kinds of good.

BFW

So, with Friday the 13th closing in fast, my wager with the ever-wonderful and crazy-smart Elizabeth Wayne looks like being a success. And I don’t mean just the success of having a completed draft with ‘End’ sitting at the bottom of the page, or the fact that I’ll receive two illustrations from one of my favourite artists – Jeannie Lynn Paske – but the success of understanding that I can write long pieces, that I can be kind to myself – I should – and that maybe the short-story form isn’t the only place I can lay my hat.

ELEVENTY-FIRST, IT’S TIME TO END YOU!

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