National Novel Writing Month 2016: Epic Disaster

nano-attack-2016-disaster

As I write this post it I’m feeling a bit disheartened. It’s November 27th and this was the day I had planned on validating my NaNo win. I did not win. I did not even start.

The main reason National Novel Writing Month 2016 turned into an Epic Disaster this year is because my computer crashed on October 27th and it took 18 days for me to get up and running with a new one. I wrote the long story out on Anxiety Ink, if you’d care to hear my tale of woe and anger.

So, as I sit here huddled under my blanket in my office chair, I have to reiterate that I’ve only tackled NaNo twice. At the very least I’m two for two as far as winning goes, but I’m seriously bummed that my plans were destroyed this year.

I didn’t get my computer back until November 14th. That was the week of vacation I’d taken off work in order to throw myself hard into NaNo, but I really had no faith that I’d be able to catch up and eventually win, so I didn’t even try.

I feel guilty about not making an effort, but I feel amazing after getting some rest. This year has been exhausting for so many reasons and I was in desperate need of a week to myself.

This is not the post-NaNo update I thought I’d be writing once December rolled around. Still, I want to share what I learned that I think is equally worthwhile to what I had hoped to get out of a NaNo win this November.

1) Mental rest is important. I was quite sick off and on through the start of 2016, so once I found a self-care regimen that gave me my health back, I pushed myself hard. I think I pushed myself too hard. The numerous breakdowns I had over my computer crashing illustrated just how fried my nerves were. While those 18 days without my laptop were frustrating beyond words, they allowed me to take a step back and be part of the real world for a while. I need that more often.

2) Technology breaks need to be implemented in my life. I work 30 hours a week on a computer at the day job. When I’m home I’m usually on my computer if I’m not reading, working out, cleaning, eating, sleeping, or chasing cats. That’s a lot of hours in front of a screen. After being away so long I actually got my first bit of novel writing done on the night of the 18th because I wasn’t sick of being there. I need to find a better balance of screen.

3) Scheduling well ahead on both blogs is not just a good idea for NaNo prep. I am so grateful I was two months ahead here and on Anxiety Ink because if I had had to worry about writing and scheduling blog posts on top of all of the other stuff I was worried about over those 18 days, I would have been an even worse basket case.

4) Balance is going to be my word for 2017. I had more events in my social calendar this month than I have all year it seems. I’ve become a bit of a shut-in and I don’t think that has been helping me whatsoever. In my defence, this is the first year I’ve worked 5 days a week every single week. I’m selfish when it comes to my alone time and two day weekends have been a hard adjustment for me; I’m used to having either weeks at a time, or a day in the middle of the week to myself. I must work on getting out more further apart so that when I do fight for the alone time I need I’m not neglecting others, or myself.

5) 2016 as a whole has been an enormous life lesson. I have a new appreciation for balance and actively working towards goals. I haven’t had a chance to plan out 2017 and strategize, but I have all the supplies and knowledge I need. I will not be sitting back and letting life happen and hoping to get things done some way, somehow this year. That’s a stupid way to try to get things done and I have learned my lesson.

How did your November go?

The Contention of Women Writers and Initials

The relationship of female writers and the use of initials is not a topic that is new to me. I’ve tackled it before on Anxiety Ink. Please note the comments nearest the end are the really important parts.

I myself am a female writer who writes under initials. I have a couple of reasons as to why I prefer to do so, mainly the world’s inability to pronounce or remember by first name –at least I thought this was my main, valid reason until I read this passage in Margaret Atwood’s Negotiating with the Dead:

“I used my initials instead of a first name – I didn’t want any-one important to know I was a girl. Anyway, in high school we’d studied an essay by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch which said that the ‘masculine’ style was bold, strong, vivid, and so forth, and the ‘feminine’ one was pastel, vapid, and simpy. Writers are fond of saying that writers are androgynous as to their capabilities, and that is no doubt true, though it is telling that most of those who make this claim are women. But they are not gender-neutral in their interests. Most importantly, they are treated differently, especially by reviewers, however that difference in treat-ment may manifest itself; and sooner or later that will affect them” (Atwood, Margaret. Negotiating with the Dead. Anchor Canada Edition. 2003. 21).

Having read this, and reacted like I was dealt a blow, I think my rationale for writing under initials has much more to do with feminine baggage than my own neuroses over my name. Those are my emphases in the passage by the way. I have never read a woman whose writing I would consider simpy, by the way. Weak prose are a matter for editing, not a fact of nature for women writers.

Anyway, before you set this quote aside as dated or as second wave hogwash –its 2016 after all!– know that just last year I spoke with a woman who decided at the last minute to initial her name on the marketing book she published so that she wasn’t immediately dismissed by male readers as just a woman. She wanted a chance beyond that first glance, she wanted people to read the blurb of her book at the very least before they dismissed it if that’s what they were inclined to do.

Key phrase there: “just a woman.”

Let that sink in. Seriously. It is 2016 and there are still countless female writers out there who either publish under initials or adopt a male alter ego so that they are taken more seriously. Hell, so they are given more opportunities! Don’t believe me? Joanne Rowling not only publishes under J.K. but also Robert Galbraith. And that’s Joanne freaking Rowling!

What are we doing to our women artists that they can’t even feel sure of themselves in their own female skins? It’s hard enough being an artist, it’s damn near close to impossible being a female artist sometimes.

I’ve never in my life judged a book’s content on the gender of the author unless it’s a man that really really demeans the female characters in his work, but that’s a whole other ball game. It appalls me that gender is even a factor. I didn’t even know this was a problem until I hit adulthood. Why is it that kids don’t care who writers what as long as it’s an entertaining story? Why do we slather all of these crazy labels on everything as adults?

It baffles me.

It Is Still Tough To Be a Woman These Days

The week of March 20th to 26th was a tough one for me, not to mention the globe. Between the bombings in Turkey, Pakistan, and Belgium that saw mostly women and children slaughtered by extremists, to the outcome of the Ghomeshi trial, to more misogyny spouting forth from the constantly gaping maw of Trump, and hearing about yet another sexual assault on UBC’s campus, I was ready to throw in the towel, to shut the damn door.

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

door by Dean Hochman via Flickr

Why the fuck is life so hard for women? Still?

As my Prime Minister has said, it’s 2016.

Prove it.

I can turn the TV on practically every single day and see that some woman anywhere has been the victim of some horrible violence at the hand of some monstrous man –and yet it always seems like these women are on trial. Stories are always a dissection of “how did this wholesome young man turn to this action” or “how can a culture condone this” instead of focusing on what matters: what and who he took from the world or the woman.

Since the infamous trial ended my social media has been rolling posts about sexual assault and harassment. Woman are mad. We’re tired, we’re fed up, and we’re full of rage. And you know what we’re tired of, fed up with, and full of rage towards? The status quo that always says we should take more precautions when it comes to men who aren’t taught any damn respect!

It’s only April 3rd at the time of this writing and I’m still in the mood to flip the world off.

I’m tired of the excuses. This is our world too and enough is bloody well enough.

A 30 Second Preview of Quantico That Made Me Cringe

I admitted last month that I spend far too much time watching TV, and I still have no intention of changing that. Besides, I find I’m learning a lot about the basics of storytelling from watching what’s done really wrong and really well.

September and October are the Fall Preview months. That’s when all the awesome shows that ended in spring pick back up, and where the new prime time ones are tried out. A new show that will be making a splash during the preview until Christmas, Quantico, has been building up since August. At first, the previews made it seem exactly like my kind of show: it involves a crime element with the FBI, there’s a female lead who looks highly skilled at her job, and there’s some big intrigue with the lead at the centre. I was kind of excited.

Quantico

But as the premiere got closer and closer, the tone of the show changed. I saw a 30 second preview that made me cringe, roll my eyes, and decide I wasn’t watching the show without someone I trusted telling me I’d like it.

Here’s what happened.

This preview started with the lead character huffing and puffing while sitting on some guys lap in a car. It cut to them meeting in a hallway surrounded by the other trainees at Quantico and the car guy putting his hand out to introduce himself. The lead gives him a dirty look and says (me paraphrasing here): “We had sex in your car six hours ago. I know who you are.” He turns sheepishly to their audience and announces, “I didn’t think you wanted everyone to know that.” She cuts him off with a suitable, why should I be ashamed look and comment.

Months of good setup lost me in those 30 seconds.

My problem is not the fact that she had sex with some guy she just met and wasn’t ashamed for others to know it. All the power to her and women who choose to do that safely.

My problem is that that’s supposed to be a defining moment of her characterization. And no one can convince me that that’s not a gender reversal moment where she’s given a commonly perceived male attitude towards sex in order to make her appear tougher and more capable as the centre of an FBI show.

My problem is that this woman is in my age group, a fellow millennial, and while I know what people in my era are like, these writers are using the stupidest aspects to try to convey it and make the show relevant to people my age. Actually, I think they’re just attempting to portray a millennial when they have no legitimate idea of what it’s like to be one beyond all the party anthems that make up popular music.Quantico 2

What kind of attitude and perceptions are viewers supposed to go into this show with about this woman when that scene is going to be a defining part of her character? Why does a woman’s sexual encounters always have to say so much more about her than it would a man in her position? If she was a male lead the scene wouldn’t even be relevant because it would be expected.

So, the show has lost a viewer. Maybe I’ll watch it at some point, but the subsequent previews are not making me itch to get into the story. I’m tired of young, strong, smart, career driven women being portrayed in this manner. Yes, I know it’s one little innocuous sex scene that I’m making a big deal of, but they started it. Gotham, Arrow, and Criminal Minds, just to name a few, don’t have previews detailing the sexual lives of their leads.

These 30 seconds show a lazy, uninspired, and sexist way to try to convey a female character’s foundation to a potential audience. I sure hope someone condemns me if I ever do the same without a legitimate basis. Unfortunately, I’m not willing to extend Quantico the benefit of the doubt at this time to see if they have one. I’m too annoyed.

If you’ve watched the show, please convince me that I’m wrong about it and this preview was just a poorly executed mistake.

 

*All images care of IMBD.com

CSI: A Fangirl’s Dissatisfaction and An Artist’s Promise

I need to start off by confessing that I watch a lot of TV. Like, a lot. It’s absolutely a guilty pleasure in my life, but I swear it helps me maintain my sanity. I know I would probably get more accomplished in life if I didn’t fill my evenings with time spent in front of the glowing screen. Alas.

CSI Brass and GrissomMany of these hours have been spent watching CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. When it comes to CSI, there are two people: those who love CSI and those who hate CSI. Regardless of what camp you fall in to, my post has something for you. Maybe.

This is also my mini-rant because I have nowhere else to share my thoughts.

Last weekend, on September 27th, the final episode of CSI aired. Shows end. I get that. There was absolutely no warning from the end of the season finale in spring to this September. I don’t follow TV show blogs and I did not see any previews, so I was really in the dark. I can get over that, but this alone was enough to upsets me because I’m really emotionally attached to the characters and the world. It’s not so much the loss of the show as the fantasy. I think any reader can understand where I’m coming from here in this regard. I had no time to learn the information about the absolute end, process it, and come to terms with it before I had to watch the episode.

You might think I’m overreacting, but you have to understand just how long I’ve been watching CSI. I’ve beenCSI Catherine and Grissom watching since the very beginning. I was 9 years old in 2000, but I remember sitting in the living room with my parents and brother watching the “Pilot” episode with its eerie green tinge and overworked forensic perspective. Those two aspects are what I fell in love with. And the science.

I’ve seen every episode over the past fifteen years. That’s fifteen years of me faithfully entering this world of crime and following the lives of the people who populate it. That’s investment.

What’s worse than an abrupt ending though, what I am legitimately angry about, is what a crappy ending the network powers-that-be created for CSI. I was up all night after watching it because I was so frustrated.

CSI DaveI warn you, there will be spoilers.

First off, the premise of the episode that brought all the major characters back into play, Grissom, Brass, Catherine, and Lady Heather, was so tenuous at best that I felt slightly insulted. Things only got worse.

There’s a love triangle, a ridiculous one, between Sarah, Grissom, and Lady Heather that was once again put into play despite the fact that Sarah and Grissom have married and divorced and the fact that Grissom has never been attracted to Lady Heather in a romantic sense. But how could the writers pass up a chance to make Sarah such a jealous nag? It was infuriating to watch her constantly snap like a little girl who’s pigtails were pulled.

Then, none of the current actors of the show were given much air time at all. I know they pulled in the big guns, but these people who have carried the show without them deserved more. And at the end we discovered one was dead via CSI Greg anda memorial plaque that was being placed in a box by another character along with a token mention. It wasn’t even explicit that she’d died.

Beyond all of that, the investigation was barely given any attention. Leads and crime fighting were spottily followed and there was absolutely no discussion or closure at the end which is very much a part of the CSI formula. At one point a third person died and we were never told who it was, why they were where they were, or how that tied in the eventual capture of the main culprit.

But to top off the heaping pile of BS, the story ended with Sarah and Grissom riding on his boat out into the sunset. I should mention this happened roughly five or six seasons back. Both of them quit the crime lab and took off together for happily ever after. Then Sarah came back, still married to Grissom, but wanting to be a part of the crime solution again. Eventually the long distance killed their relationship and it ended in a quiet divorce.

CSI Marcy, Hodgins, GrissomHowever, because they both realized how much they missed each other in this episode, doing the EXACT SAME THING made perfect sense. They talked through none of their problems of course repeating history would be the ultimate solution. My inner hopeless romantic fool couldn’t even swallow that. I won’t even get into how irate I am over them having a woman give up her career AGAIN because the man wants to pursue something else.

I feel robbed. The entire two hour story was fraught with basic plot problems and ended on such a bad note that I still have a sour taste in my mouth. I just want to know how the show’s producers and the TV powers-that-be could do that to their fans. I’m insulted. To the bone.CSI Nick and Russell

So here’s my promise: I will never, ever wrap up any story or series that I write this badly. If I can take away nothing else positive from this nightmare of a series finale, that is it. I promise any fans I may ever have that they will only be angry that the story is over, not that it ended on such flimsy, mediocre legs.

Thanks for bearing with me if you’ve made it to this point. Have you finished any TV or book series that left you dissatisfied?

 

*All images from IMBD.com