On Darkness

My mom has never really liked watching dramas. I’m sure there are many exceptions, but when I lived at home and she wanted to rent a DVD (maybe back then it was even a tape? God forbid) she would always lobby for a comedy. She didn’t see the point of watching something to make herself sad or afraid.

There are times I kind of agree with her. I completely hate scenes I’ve seen or read where I wish I could delete the memory of what I saw. I can call these memories to mind immediately, almost without trying – stay away from the novel “Mister Pip,” if you’re like me. Also, never check out “Imagining Argentina,” with Emma Thompson and Antonio Banderas. Who could forget the premise of Sophie’s Choice, where a mother has to choose which of her kids to send to the gas chamber or else lose both? (This last one is the only work I could even bring myself to describe). Each of these creations burned permanent holes in my brain. I have a much thicker skin for observing emotional trauma than my mom does, but I still think there are some scenes that are better left unimagined.

So that’s what I’m writing about here today. My struggle with writing dark subject matter. My first book was a comedy, and making jokes and cute scenes comes much more easily to me than the book I’m writing now, which is in a setting of darkness. I want to write about love persevering, and goodness overcoming evil, but my mom’s face is always looming around in my mind, cringing as I delve deeper. But how can we value love if we don’t understand hate, right? The best stories embrace the conflict between both, while still not going too far.

Help me find the courage to create the demons so that love can overcome them.

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It’s the end of the world as we know it

I’m reading the most fantastic book. The surprising thing is, I may have read it before, and there’s a good chance you’ve read it too. It’s called…

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I was looking for a new YA book as usual, so I started googling “top YA books,” or some such thing and this one always came out near the top. I thought I had read it as required reading in high school, but in reading it now I can’t say I remember much, if any of it, which makes me think I never read it in the first place. Let’s let me believe that.

Reading it now has brought me many “aha” moments, which should be the goal of any truly great book. In case you’re one of the few who haven’t read it, I’ll give you a teensy plot teaser. It’s the dystopian (pessimistic futuristic…) story of a fireman whose job it is to set fires rather than put them out. And the fires burn books. In this future, people have figured out that it’s rather painful to think, and so ever so slowly, society has weaned itself of thoughts that may lead to conflict or challenge, which is why books are seen as rather problematic. The main character, Guy Montag, is happily running around torching books when he meets a teen girl who thinks and speaks differently. Poetically. With questions. The light goes on for Guy, and it looks like he has some thinking to do.

I admire insightful writers, enough that I’m almost giddy when I find one. This book was first published in 1951, but Ray Bradbury describes the future I live every day. How  there are no porches, because people don’t talk anymore (okay, so there are still porches, but they don’t get used a whole lot). How TV is absorbing everyone, but it’s not saying anything. How when people aren’t watching TV they have “seashells,” in their ears, spouting noise that takes them away from interacting. How many people are almost entirely absorbed with nothings.

Do you ever go to a party, and all the chit chat is about stuff? Things someone has bought, or things someone wants. TV shows. I remember I had one friend who used to describe interactions he’d had with customer service people in great detail. Of course I’m far from innocent – everyone gets distracted with the little things for much of every day and wants to chat about it. But whenever I finish a day engrossed in interactions like this, I feel like there’s something missing. I wonder what’s wrong with me. And then I call a close friend who doesn’t talk like that, and I’m reminded not to despair. This book also reminded me that I’m not the one with the problem.

Please. Care about something. Challenge people, and don’t be shy to ask embarrassing questions so that you can challenge from a place of understanding. Search for meaning, and don’t be lazy about your minutes and seconds on this planet. Our time is short, and we need to make the most of it.  Work tirelessly to prevent dystopia.

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Interview with Sariah Wilson, author of “The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back”

Hey, you know what one of the cool things is about being alive today? You can get in touch with authors with a simple little message ping!

I was hunting around Amazon for cute YA romantic comedies since I had just written a cute YA romantic comedy – needed to get to know my peeps better – when I stumbled across Sariah Wilson’s book, “The Ugly Stepsister Strikes Back.”

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Her fans loved the book, which gave me faith that vampires and apocalypses hadn’t unseated the smiles in every reader’s heart. I reached out to Sariah, which eventually led to the interview below. Enjoy!

(more…)

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Trudging up the toboggan hill

Ever start something new and feel so daunted by it you almost give up? That feeling happens to me a lot. Although I’m not a doom and gloom pessimist all the time, it’s easy for me to see the un-bright future of everything. The voice of caution is loud for me. “Be careful!” “This is going to take a lot of work!” “Do you think you can really do it?” “What if you have to ditch your ambitions? What will people say?” “What if you jump into the future and find out it’s been a flop?”

Sometimes I feel like this guy

Thanks free-extras.com

Thanks free-extras.com

It even happens to me before I cook a big dinner. I think to myself, “Am I actually going to pull this off?” I worry that this guy won’t get what he’s looking for.

Thanks kthadani.com

Thanks kthadani.com

But two hours after I chop some things and pop them in the oven, everyone is full of food and compliments. In general, with perseverance, even things greater than cooking work themselves out. But that doesn’t stop me from feeling like this in the beginning

Thanks o.canada.com

Thanks o.canada.com

I have to tell myself I’ll be here in no time if I work at it

Thanks calgarysun.com

Thanks calgarysun.com

And shut down the voices that tell me I might be here

Thanks thespec.com

Thanks thespec.com

As a great person must have said at some point, Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And stop looking at that last picture. And check out my new YA romantic comedy.

 

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Coronation Street and Storytelling

I guess I admire storytellers. Shocker, eh? If you’re a writer, I would hope that’s a prerequisite, because you won’t get very good learnings from yourself. I’ve been a reader for my entire literate life, and if you have too, we could probably buy each other one of those giant bowl lattes and talk about books until the caffeine buzz would eventually make us forget about literature and investigate good landing ground for somersaults. Date time and place, that’s all I need, my friend.

But what we often forget about are stories from movies and TV. Yes, we love books, and those are our guilty pleasures, but when we’re too tired to do anything else, where can we be found? In front of the good ‘ol TV. And if it’s 7:30pm in our house, you’ll find us in front of Coronation Street.

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Before I met my husband I had never seen this show. But then we started hanging out, I became a regular visitor at his cottage, and we started being semi hung over on Sunday mornings. I soon discovered that hung over Sunday mornings are best spent on the couch in front of the TV, and when you’re up north and you only get one TV station, guess what’s on? Coronation Street. Phil was already aware of the characters because he has tons of British relatives who love it, and before I knew it, I was hooked.

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I was watching it again tonight, and I paused to marvel at what a lame show it actually is. Everyone who watches it knows that it’s lame. You can’t watch an episode that’s primarily about whether or not Chesney will get to keep his dog without knowing that this program is lame.

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But at the same time, fans will defend the show’s merits until they bad accent themselves hoarse. So I wondered tonight – what is it about this stupid show?

And do you know what it is? It’s the characters. When you have strong, believable characters, you can have lame story lines. Dry story lines.  Norris can contemplate whether or not to share a trailer with someone. Roy can fret about not being able to find good help in his sandwich shop. Because we love Norris and Roy, even though they’re both extremely annoying. And of course, there is plenty of baby mama love triangle drama at the same time with others on the show. But once you’re invested in the characters, the plot only needs brief twists to keep you going. And when the characters shift – actors quit, or whatever – you wonder if you’ll keep watching. But you do (though not quite enough that you hate to miss an episode). The writers do a good job of keeping you invested.

I hope I’ll keep you invested. In me, not in Coronation Street, although as I’ve mentioned, that’s good too.

Question – what characters in programs, movies, and books keep you tuning in?

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Playlists

Okay, here comes a call for help.

Don’t click to something else. You’re my only hope. Yes, there are two giant hair buns above my ears right now and I’m leaning down to click the “off” switch for the 3D help video because even though it’s the future, wireless controllers haven’t been invented yet. I need a new workout playlist. I was going to share the one I’m dealing with right now, but as I started to type it out I realized you might judge me horribly. It’s not bad, in my opinion. It’s a bit of a hodge-podge, and you would definitely think I was a loser for the pop songs on it.  But the songs are nothing if not motivational. There are a fair number of angry songs, too. I find that when you’re out of breath and frustrated, angry can be good.  Okay, so you’re probably saying, “But how do I know what you like? How could I possibly be a successful DJ for you, when you might think that Elton John is the bomb?” Well, I’m very open minded musically, so you don’t need to worry. But I’ll give you this little bit of help. Here’s my favourite on the list, which is the best. workout. song. ever.

Mr. Hurricane – Beast

If you could suggest any songs even remotely at this song’s “level,” I promise I’ll be your friend for life. I’d offer prizes if I had any money of my own, but I don’t. And I won’t even judge if you suggest the best. pop. song. ever. I might even already love it.

XOXO

Ann

PS Get ready to download my book! I am mere days away from finally publishing.

PPS Thanks Chandrakantha.com for the groovy image.

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