Wednesday, November 16, 2011

IRL Fairy Tale.

So, I promised you guys my news! And as promised, here it is:


I know some of you may be scratching your heads and asking, "Katie, how old are you again?" Trust me when I say this has been a long time coming, and I couldn't be happier about it.

Le happy family: My older brother Matt, The happy couple, my mom Tracy and James, and me, with my terrible haircut.

James met my mother about 12 years ago now. When he met her, she was a young mother of two, married to my father, and working show homes as a new realtor. He described it to me as, "I knew she was married, but I just thought she was so cute." He would make excuses to come by her show home to talk to her. He had to come up with some pretty good excuses, as her show home was across the city from where he lived. At the time, my mother was in an unhappy relationship, and she felt she needed to get out. That summer, she brought my brother and I to her hometown in BC to think about what she wanted to do with her life. James and my mom fell out of contact.

After the summer, my mother came back to Calgary and filed a divorce with my father. At the same time, James was thinking of moving, and a friend gave him my mother's card. They got back in contact and over the years that followed they became good friends. I remember being about 9-10, and James would come over and play with me. He'd run around in the backyard or wrestle me to the ground or talk to me. They made a strange pair. James was a high school dropout who worked hardwood floors. He had about 9 piercings in his face, and was covered in tattoos. My mom was a single mother of two children living in suburbia.

5 1/2 years ago, James and my mom started dating. Want to know how I found out? I was in Junior High, sitting in the back seat of my mother's car. James at the time had a DUI (Did I mention he went to prison for 30 days for it? No? James is the bad boy all right.) and couldn't drive. My mother was dropping him off at his house. We pulled up, and before James got out, he leaned over and kissed my mom. My jaw dropped, and I squealed something along the lines of "WTF!" and they explained that they had started dating.

James soon moved into our little house in suburbia. My brother and I were more than accepting. We had known James for years and he'd always been more than respectful to both of us. Unfortunately, James moved in during a difficult time for our family. I was a teenager and my brother was dealing with his own issues. There were a lot of bad times. There were good times too. But through it all he was there. He was more of a dad than my real father. Within two years, he was my dad. He was the one who threatened the boys with a rusty shovel when they came over. He was the one who joked, "I have a shotgun and no one's gonna miss you." He was the one who sat with me when I cried, and came to celebrate my successes. More than that, he was always there for my mom. He respected her, he told her everything, and supported her. He never hesitated to show he loved her, which was way more than my own father ever did.

My mom had never really been lucky in love. Her husband had cheated on her, she didn't get the big wedding or a fancy proposal. In fact, she didn't get any proposal. My father turned to her and said, "Hey, your family's going to be in town next month. Why don't we surprise them with a wedding?" My mother was a lot like me in her younger days, and kept quiet and accepted that her husband would never appreciate her with flowers or surprises, never help her with her kids, and would go out and cheat on her. The divorce was probably the best thing she ever did.

For the last few years, James has been studying to get his high school degree so he can get a better job. The hardwood job was hard on his body, but also hard on his relationship. Working late into the evening left my mother lonely, and he wanted to come home to her. Everyone (note: me) said they should get married. James had never believed in marriage, and never wanted to be one of those "sheep" that lives in suburbia, with a white picket fence and mows his lawn every Saturday. It strikes me as such a YA happy ending. The bad boy and the good girl become friends, deal with their trials and fall in love.

The plan was to wait until after James graduated before they got married. But that would have been another three years. This weekend, while my mother was in California for a real estate conferences, James came to a conclusion. He didn't want to wait. He talked it over with me and my brother. I was ecstatic. He bought the ring, prepared his speech, and I helped him with the details. Like the candles and rose petals and the quotes and the pictures and all that. James's plan was to bring her into her room and just propose. *snort* Boys.

So when James brought my mom home from the airport, he led her up the stairs and brought her into their room. Me, my brother, his girlfriend, and my hetro life partner Kirstie were huddled in the dark living room in silence. ("They home! Quick, everybody play Skyrim!") He got down on one knee, and asked her to marry him.

She said yes!!

James and my mom are the perfect fairy tale. It just goes to show that sometimes true love is right in front of you. That real love is worth the wait.

The best part? I GET TO PLAN A WEDDING!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Privacy and Social Media

So I just read this and it got me thinking. Andy Boyle was recently in a Burger King in which he watched a fight between a married couple. He tweeted the play-by-play of the fight, including pictures of the couple, and even a video of the fight. And I don't know what to think of it.

On the one hand, there is an indignant part of my brain that wants to stamp my foot and exclaim, "THAT'S JUST NOT RIGHT." I want to get all huffy and say it's unfair to broadcast their problems across the internet without their consent. And yet, another part of me is completely indifferent to how THEY feel. After all, if they didn't want their fight to be public, they would have discussed their issues in the car or at home. There is no privacy in public anymore.

In the end, I'm so torn by what to feel that I can only feel saddened for the couple, if only for Andy Boyle's last two tweets. Because whether it was broadcast all over the world or kept absolutely private, their marriage is still ending, their love is lost, and these two people have to decide how they want their marriage to proceed.

But it's a perfect example of how our views of privacy are changing. What is "private", really, when we spend our time on social media sites, telling the world about ourselves? Updating our relationship status, something extremely private (especially when break-ups are concerned), or tweeting about our ups and lows? We pour ourselves into these pages, and because it's the internet, we almost feel anonymous. It's hard to fathom that every time we hit send, enter, or open our browser, we are utterly exposed to the world. Anyone with internet access can find what we've written, read it and know us, without ever meeting face-to-face.

And that can be scary. More so, it can be just as frightening when we realize that we have absolutely no CONTROL over what we post on the internet. The second you hit "send" it exists in the internet, even as some small piece of code, whether or not you choose to delete it. People can take what we've posted and spread it in seconds. Your picture could be half-way around the world, on eighteen different websites, and there is virtually no way to undo it. And that's not counting the content about us, that's not posted by us. Unflattering Facebook pictures, incriminating tweets, maybe even downright rude text messages. Our entire lives exist on the electronic devices we carry and the websites we visit.

We are the tech age. In cyberpunk terms, we've become one with the machines.

Which may not be a bad thing. However, if we continue along this trend, and the world grows even more reliant on the internet and our gadgets, our perception of privacy MUST change with it.

There's a great quote from a recent South Park episode that reflects what I mean here. The clip is here, but since it's highly likely that it will get taken down from youtube, I'll also transcribe a bit from it.

In this episode (called Bass to Mouth, btw) a site called Eavesdropper has appeared in South Park, and is posting up gossip about the kids at school.

KYLE: I'm not looking at that.

STAN: Come on, dude, it's pretty funny.

KYLE: It wouldn't be funny if that website posted something about you.

STAN: I wouldn't care.

CRAIG: (reading) Exclusive, Stan Marsh thinks Elise Thompson has a hot butt crack.

STAN: What?

CRAIG: (reading) In an email sent yesterday to Kenny McCormick, Stan Marsh wrote, "Dude, you should have been in PE today, Elise Thompson's butt crack was totally showing." He went on to call her butt crack "Nice" and that the whole experience was "pretty awesome."

STAN: Kenny! (Runs to Kenny's locker) Kenny, what the f**k?

KENNY: (muffled) What?

STAN: How did Eavesdropper get a hold of my email to you?

KENNY: (muffled) I don't know.

STAN: Do you just leave your emails open for everyone to read?

KENNY: (muffled) No.

STAN: That was a PRIVATE email from ME to YOU.

The scene goes on, but I think you get the picture. We have an assumed privacy that I think stems from the social convention of keeping secrets. If we confide in someone face-to-face, show them a picture, tell them about our day, it's expected that the person will not run around town telling everyone they know. Sometimes it's because it's private, sometimes it's just polite, and sometimes it's not our news to tell. And yet with social media sites, those social conventions of confidence are thrown out the window. Because with a click of a button, we tell EVERYONE, and it's become an easy way to stay completely connected and yet emotionally distant from everyone we know.

I wanted to bring up another aspect of how privacy and accessibility have clashed. Emails are considered a semi-private thing, right? Same with DM's, private messages, and the like. But what about queries?

I never thought of queries as something to be kept private. After all, on the AbsoluteWrite forums, people post their queries all the time to be critted. I still don't believe queries should be private for this simple reason: Your query is a business proposal. This is a matter of business, not personal life. Yes, your book is your baby and wah, wah, you're an artist. And you are. But the second you send your query, you're opening yourself to the world, and presenting yourself as finished, polished, and ready to be critiqued by a professional.

Do I have a problem with Sara Megibow's #10queriesin10tweets on Twitter? No. Because the moment those authors hit send, their work is no longer private. More so, Sara makes sure the queries cannot be identified, and does not ridicule, but uses the mistakes some writers have made to help others better their craft. If this is a violation of privacy, it's certainly a much kinder violation than Andy Boyle's public broadcast of a deteriorating marriage.

Our perceptions of privacy will change, inevitably. It probably won't be spoken of. Like most social codes, our ideas of privacy will shift and change without much conscious thought, until one day we look back and realize that what we're doing now would have seemed ridiculous 20 years ago. Perhaps in the future, in 20, 30 or even 50 years, we'll stop hiding behind this false anonymity the internet provides. Maybe our social contracts will shift so much that keeping secrets is nullified, and we speak the truth, no matter how blunt or mean or incriminating.

Maybe that won't be such a bad thing.



Wednesday, November 2, 2011

4 Ways To Get The Ideas Flowing

As writers we are often bombarded by ideas for books. Sometimes we have so many shiny WIP ideas we can't get a handle on the book we're writing. And that's great. But sometimes there aren't that many ideas. Sometimes there are NO ideas.

Sometimes it's writer's block. Sometimes there are family or emotional issues that keep you from coming up with anything. And sometimes you're just stuck.

Unfortunately, we can't wait around for inspiration. This doesn't just apply to writing, this applies to coming up with ideas, plotting, creating characters, all that jazz. Sometimes we have the luxury to wait around for another idea, but if you're a professional writer, people may be waiting for your next book. You may be under contract. The world won't wait for you to come up with an idea.

Here's a short list on ways to inspire inspiration. 4 easy ways to kick your butt in gear.

1) Compile a list of the things you want to write. Go through your favorite books and write a list of everything you've always WANTED to write. Have you toyed with the idea of a western romance? Have you had a character lingering in the back of your mind you wanted to try writing? Write it down. Once you have a list, try and match some together. Pair the sci-fi with Chinese culture and add an OCD main character whose petrified of space ships. How many aspects can you weave together? Can you create a story from that?

2) Write from prompts. Tried and true, but it works. You can find prompt generators online, or even just ask the people around you for objects, situations, and locations for story ideas. Go to three separate people, ask one for a location, as one for a profession, ask the last for an object. Taking those three ideas, can you weave a story out of that? For a different approach, you can take word prompts and write short blurbs to timed sessions. Let the words unravel without planning anything out. If the ideas come, run with it.

3) People Watch. This is my favorite, and the easiest. It's best done in public with strangers. Pick someone from the crowd and watch them. Study their clothes, their behavior, the way they talk or stand or walk. Then create a story for them. Create a name, create their family, create a backstory. Figure out why they're there, and be creative. Your character profiles can be mundane, or fantastical. That woman may be a spy from a British Academy waiting on orders from the US division. That man could be meeting with his wife to tell her the results of the chemo treatments. Create them as characters in your mind and build your story from there.

4) Bounce ideas. This one's difficult for me, but every time I do it, I'm always amazed and delighted at the results. Talking to other people, especially writers or heavy readers, is a great way to generate ideas. Even if the other person doesn't give you ideas, sometimes they ask questions that can get you thinking, and lead you to your own epiphany. This is definitely the most fun, as it works wonderfully. Whenever I'm stuck, just a few hours with my beta and there's nothing we can't solve.

Happy Writing,