Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Putting the 'A' in Impossible

I was going to do a blog about braids and braiding and how it’s become popular again to have girly-girl hair, but decided that if you want to know about hair accessories for ‘steampunking’ an outfit there’s lots of other blogs and pages out there. A good one can be found here:

And you can learn how to do a classic French braid like the one I do, here:

And it would have been nice to have posted some more design sketches for Tin Heart but it’s been a blasted week at work and I don’t have anything finished quite yet. 

But what I will tell you is a bit of a personal story instead, ‘cause it’s what’s closest to my heart. 

My little boy (who really isn’t so little anymore) hit a milestone this week. You’ve met him in this blog before so I think it’s safe to discuss the fact he’s filled with this wonderful creative energy that I wish the schools would quit trying to knock out of him, but I digress. 

Alex is a dreamer. Always got his head in the clouds. The sort of kid who you could give a box of crayons to but instead of using them to colour with, he’d build himself a tower, or drive them around the floor like cars, or pretend they were robot soldiers fighting a battle. Then he might draw a picture of the battle, but he won’t colour it in. He’d be all about planning it out and designing what the robots look like rather than making it pretty. Because he sees things different. He is different. His mind has always been so full of ideas that for most of his short life he’s had a hard time getting them out so other people could understand. At school that’s made him a bit of a loner, standing on the outside of friendships and looking in, trying to figure out why people do the things they do because he wouldn’t do it that way himself. Printing therapy. Speech therapy. Motor skills assessments (fine and gross). Endless doctor’s appointments to see what makes him tick. Hours of encouragement watching him struggle to learn to read and count. Nerve wracking meetings with the teachers to ‘assess the situation’. Soul searching nights where sleep never comes while I toss and turn and wonder, what can I do to help him more? There must be something I have missed. And all the while he’s been this great little guy, watching the world from a different angle, and wishing he could fly.

“Mom,” he said to me last fall. “I want to get an ‘A’”

“An ‘A’?” I said, feeling a bit nervous because, well, let’s face it. An ‘A’ on a report card is pretty big for someone who’s always had C’s and B’s at best and been on the lowest rung of the classroom. They stay very clear of labelling kids these days, but the whispers of ‘slow-learner’ did not pass me by. So I said to him, “’A’ is just a letter in the alphabet, you know. You do the very best you can do, and that will always be an ‘A’ in my books.”

“Yeah, but I want to get an ‘A.’

“Okay. But it’s lots of practice. Lots of homework and studying every night.” Like we weren’t already doing extra to help give him a boost, right?

 “I know,” he said, and meant it.

So that’s how it’s been over the past several months; a nightly regime of dinner, homework with a bit of relaxing TV time at the end, Harry Potter for a bedtime story and then lights out. Fridays and weekends are always off, where we walk and talk and have fun watching movies or playing board games and vising with friends. But otherwise, we’ve stuck to his commitment of putting in the time to help him with his schoolwork. It’s been hard at times, for all of us. Discipline isn’t one of this family’s superpowers. Life throws curveballs and often gets in the way of the best laid plans. But we did our best for us and for him and perseverance wins in the end, right?


Report card day arrived this week.

He handed it to me all excited with shining eyes and a big smile. “Open it, mom! Let’s see what I got.”

So I did, mentally composing a quick, ‘It’s okay, we’ll do better next time,’ to soften the blow, just in case. ‘Cause sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life hands you disappointments.

 I scanned through the report, glancing at the subjects and counting.

 He didn’t get one A.

 Nope. Not a single one: Nine.

 Nine A’s.

 Nine freakin’ golden A’s?

My little guy went from being a struggling student to an “A” average in a matter of months?

He didn’t just fly, he soared!

Well...I cried.

He patted me on the shoulder with that lopsided grin of I-told-you-so which he has perfected, his eyes beaming with pride. And man, does he deserve all the happiness he’s feeling right now. He put in the hours and it paid off. Big time. He reached his goal.

Perseverance, persistence, patience; golden qualities and so hard to learn. It’s always easy to just give up when things get hard, to lose focus when tired, to stop believing in yourself when the world looks the other way, especially if you dance to a different tune than everyone else. (Or are working on a project that takes longer than a day, like writing a book. *ahem*)

But as the saying goes, the difference between impossible and possible are 2 little letters: IM.


I am.

I am possible.

And I’m so proud my little man learned that about himself this week. It was by far the real prize of getting that letter ‘A’.

Thanks for stopping by today J



Monday, February 18, 2013

Dreams and Designs

Lady Anne Amberleigh
Thought I'd post a sketch of my heroine from my romantic steampunk work-in-progress: Tin Heart.
I wonder what Anne's thinking about. She doesn't look very happy. Then again, after all the trouble she's been put through in the story lately, I wouldn't expect her to be.
But what do you think? Does she look the part? A petite, blonde woman, not beautiful, but pretty, with 'memorable' grey eyes? I'm not certain if I've captured her quite her yet, but it's always nice to visualize what a character is like when writing a story. And steampunk, well, it's just such a fun, visual genre. The gadgets, the fantastic settings, the hats and parasols... I can't help but think this story would make a lovely graphic novel as well as a novella. Perhaps, one day, a publisher out there will think so too. :)
Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

When Good Characters Have To Die

Villains make it easy to justify the end. A ‘bad guy’ does dastardly deeds throughout the story culminating in a suitably proportionate demise.  Authors are happy, readers are happy and everyone walks away from the story satisfied that there’s justice and symmetry in the world.

But what happens when a good character dies? A character who has supported the lead throughout the story and become someone the reader and writer like very much, if not love? There’s shock, there’s sadness all round, often tears and angry letters to the editor: in short, no one is happy.

So why do it then? Why spend the time to introduce a good character in act one, only to kill him or her off in act three?

Let’s see, J.K Rowling apparently had slated Ron Weasley for an early demise when she was writing Harry Potter, but decided the golden triumvirate of friendship was more meaningful in the end and saved ‘the axe’ for Sirius Black and Dumbledore instead .

Han Solo, too, is rumored to have been on the chopping block, but George Lucas reportedly decided he didn’t want to kill off any of his characters. Yet Ben Kenobi and Yoda didn’t live to see the end of the series in corporeal form. The best they could manage was as an ethereal presence, guiding Luke from the great beyond with glittery spectral wisdom.

So, what’s going on with Sirius, Dumbledore, Ben and Yoda, which make them ultimately expendable? Why did it become necessary to kill them off?

There’s the obvious shock value, of course, which heightens the conflict in the story and creates a sense of realism and danger. But when it comes to mentor characters, the wisdom-spouting ‘fatherly’ characters who’ve been with the fledgling hero since page one—their death is almost as certain as a ‘Red Shirt’ on a Star Trek away mission.

Main characters need to grow as the story progresses. They need a chance to choose their own path, as it were, and if they are lucky enough to begin their journey with the aid of a mentoring friendship, that friendship has to be altered in some negative form in order for them to have the opportunity to show the reader what they are truly made of.  As bittersweet as it is, the main character needs to experience sorrow and loss in order to gain the strength and depth of a hero and take on the odious bad guy at the end.  

I felt Harry’s pain and disbelief when Dumbledore died. My jaw dropped in the theater when Ben Kenobi disappeared in a flutter of brown cloak as Darth Vader’s lightsaber passed through him. And oh boy did I ever want Harry and Luke to avenge their deaths.  I couldn’t help but think at that point, no matter what their twisted motivation might be for becoming evil, Voldemort and Vader must die. And I was suitably satisfied at the end when the bad guys did die at the hand of the avenging hero (or in the case of Vader, becoming the hand of the avenging hero). 

As a reader or a writer, what’s your favourite story character you wished had never died? Whose untimely death turned your insides into a knot and made you scream for revenge?