Art

Interactive Love Art

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Want to participate in some of our art?

Head down to the Distillery District where there is an installation called ‘LOVE’.  It’s an interactive piece where you lock down your love by putting a padlock bearing your initials on the fence-like letters that spell L-O-V-E.  Inspired by the Love bridges in Paris and elsewhere, this is a fun and sweet piece of art that we love!

When you are there though you will find an extra hidden surprise.  Look for the black lock box with the silver stars on it, type in the answer to life, the universe and everything and find a hidden treasure!  If you decide to take it please leave something else behind and, if you want, write to us to tell us about your experience with surprise and we can post it here on the blog!

Also, while you’re there don’t forget to bring your own padlock to add to the piece and lock down your love!

A conversation with a disheveled, smoking Russian man I had while we locked down our love:

Russian man: Do you know where this comes from?
Me: What do you mean?
Russian man: This comes from Paris.
Me: Oh yes, the love bridge.  It collapsed under the weight of love.
Russian man: (Laughs) You know it!
Me: Yes.
Russian man: We don’t love in Russia.
Me: No?
Russian man: Not like this.  In Russia we get drunk and punch each other in the face.
Me: Well I suppose…that’s…a kind of love.

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Roleplaying – Lessons in Creativity

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This was inspired by a blog post by Darius I read on I Believe in Story.  I typed a whole long response into the comments and then something happened and I lost it all, so I thought I would reiterate it here and add in some more.  If you haven’t read Darius’s post yet, I suggest you do that first, because he explains roleplaying beautifully (for those unfamiliar).  So because he covered the intro I’m just going to dive right in.

I’m currently actively playing three roleplaying games and so I have three different characters:

Dixie the Pixie – an all time favourite of mine, Dixie is precocious as hell and powerful to boot.  She can fly, turn invisible and change into any creature between the size of a mouse and a hippo at will.  She’s short and cute and she’ll press any button in her path, or use any magic item she can get her hands on with no thought for the consequence because she’s just a crazy kind of gal.

Nectar Sweetums – Nectar is a sixteen year-old paladin halfling.  She fights for freedom from oppression and lives for adventure.  Her mother was an adventurer (now retired) and Nectar is taking up the banner and venturing out in the world.  She tries to do what’s right and makes mistakes along the way, but like any good paladin she will fight the good fight until her dying breath.

Ophelia – she’s a dark, mysterious, broody teenager who pretends she lives in the graveyard when she really lives in her parent’s mansion and is a secret bronie.  She’s selfish and obsessed with the dark power (demon) who gives her anything she asks for…for a price…

Three characters, three personalities, a million different choices.

What I love about roleplaying is that it’s liberating.  For the hour (or six) you are playing, you can be someone else entirely.  You are transported to a rich, exciting world of the imagination and you get to occupy someone else’s head space…sound familiar?

I guess I love roleplaying so much because I love writing.  I love trying out different characters, exploring their choices and mistakes and ultimately (usually) helping them overcome and grow into heroes.

Because I have a rudimentary grasp on the concept of story arcs and character development, I find that the lessons I take from roleplaying aren’t so much technical as emotional.

Ideas aren’t finite

The first and most important lesson for me is about concept development.  When I’m playing a character I’m often asked to describe a scene or a person by the DM (Dungeon Master).  This helps me feel involved in co-building the world, but sometimes it makes me panic.  What if I don’t have a clue what a place looks like?  What if I create one great character and I’m never able to create another one again?  This is similar to the process I go through with my writing.  I’m always terrified that I’ll run out of ideas, that my most recently penned story was the last and I’ll never have a good idea again.  Obvious nonsense, but still it plagues me and that’s where I find roleplaying helpful.  I’m asked to make choices so instantaneously that I don’t have time to think (or more specifically panic) and the ideas just flow.  Roleplaying helps me to remember that ideas aren’t a finite commodity, I’m actually full of them.

Saying yes is best

Sometimes it’s easier to say no.  No to adventure, no to risk.  Maybe in real life there’s a reason, but saying no in a game just doesn’t make as much sense.  So what if the guy you met on the road to the next kingdom looks a little shady, doesn’t it make the story better to follow him into the woods?  So what if that woman crying in the distant hills might be a trap?  Aren’t you just a little curious?  I find roleplaying teaches me the art of saying yes and that starts to translate into my fiction too.  What would happen if I let me characters say yes more often?  It doesn’t just apply to writing either.  How many more interesting experiences would you have had if you just said yes instead of no?  There are limits obviously, but emotionally I find roleplaying cracks me open and makes me more of a yes girl, which is a state I like to be in when writing, playing or sometimes even living!

Do you role play and write?

What emotional (or technical) lessons have you learned?

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ADVENTURE TIME! The Kindness of Strangers

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(We made a variety of ‘Nutcracker’ faces)

As writers it’s our job to go out into the world and have adventures so we can bring them back and write about them.  So I’ve decided to create an Adventure Time Series to chronicle some of the crazy adventures Ben and I get up to!

Adventure Time: The Kindness of Strangers

It all started with a contest.

In our neighbourhood (The Beaches) the Business Association gave nutcrackers out to a bunch of stores.  The contest was to find the nutcrackers and take a selfie with them.  Once selfied, we had to post the pictures on the FB page and each picture = one chance to win a draw for $300!
So we did it.  In fact we did the hell out of it.  We ran around like crazy people all day and ended up finding 166 nutcrackers!  166!!!

We had so much fun, met many wonderful people and pumped the spirit of the Beaches to the max.  We had people cheering us on and in some stores our reputation preceded us and people knew of us when we arrived.  It was super fun.


When arrived at Castro’s Lounge we were more than half way through and getting a bit tired.  Their nutcracker had been stolen so we made a sign explaining the theft for our selfie and while there, a man (who had seen us at two other bars before that) introduced himself.  He told us he thought we were cool and gave us his business card.  He said to write if we didn’t win.

So we ran on and collected the rest of our selfies then went home, satisfied and adventured out.
Then came the draw day and we didn’t win.  Can you believe it?  We couldn’t!  But it really didn’t matter that much because the adventure was reward enough.  I know a lot of people say that, but in our case it was true.  We got out, met people and had fun.  What more could you want?


So we wrote to the bar-hopping stranger, thanked him for his kindness and enthusiasm and told him of our loss.  Not a day later he wrote back and told us he had deposited an envelope for us at The Gull & Firkin and it was to be considered a consolation prize!

Let me tell you right now, it was no mere consolation.  Not winning the contest seemed almost a bonus because what is more exciting than secret packages left in quaint pubs by strangers?  The answer is nothing.


We raced to the Gull & Firkin and it was all very clandestine and although I don’t want to be crude and disclose the amount received from the kind stranger as a ‘consolation’, I will say we were indeed consoled!  

Our faith in humanity was soaring, our neighbourhood spirit intense!  

So we collected one of the nutcrackers from the lovely owner of Nesters (who along with the BIA kindly agreed to donated it) and set about creating The Nutcracker of Kindness Award for the kind kind stranger who made our day.  Then of course we left it at The Gull & Firkin so he could experience the delight of a clandestine pickup himself.  And so the adventure ended!

Or did it?  Later we were in Midoco when we heard rumour of our names being mentioned at the BIA meeting.  We were offered the job of being the body guards of the BIA mascot (a big furry dog of some sort) at Family Day due in part to our exceptional showing of Beaches spirit!  Huzzah!  Not only that but we are being awarded a secondary prize from the lovely folks of the BIA for being the crazy nuts who collected 166 nutcracker selfies!

Adventure ended and most satisfyingly I might add.


When was the last time you had an adventure?  Get out there and have fun!

Image(The Nutcracker of Kindness Award)

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How I plan

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The truth is, I’m not much of a planner.

I’m more of a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kinda gal.

I think I’m too impatient for planning most of the time and sometimes it’s gotten me into trouble, other times it’s led me on the greatest adventures of my life.  I flew to England a while back with the single goal of going to Stonehenge for the summer solstice and the rest I left up to the winds of fate.  I ended up living in Brighton, making friends and hitchhiking around Europe.  Hooray for no plans.

When it comes to writing I have difficulty planning as well.  Having a vague idea for a story constitutes a plan for me.

My most recent completed novel (in beta reading now) started out as an idea and I didn’t really start plotting until later when events unfolded that needed to be explored.  It was an adventure to be sure, but still a little unnerving as it left me wondering, is this going to work?  As it turned out it did (at least Ben and I think so, we’ll see what other people have to say), but after that writing free-for-all I thought it might be a good idea to try the next book with an actual, full out plan.
Ben and I started that process yesterday.  After a bumpy start (sitting there staring at each other), we went for a walk (apparently the only way we can actually think) and worked out some ideas.

So here’s how the planning is going so far:

Step 1: Idea – the idea for the book came from a short story I wrote (which is how it seems to go for me) and I told Ben.  Ben said…‘hmmm…interesting….’ and off we went.

Step 2: How to plan as we’ve never officially done this we had to work out how to plan, which basically consisted of a discussion about the best way to approach the idea.

Step 3: Characters/research – as many of the characters are based on gods of various pantheons we had to do some research, so we spent some time on good old Wikipedia.

Step 4: Define characters – as this more of a character study than an adventure, the characters seemed more important than the plot.  The plan is to create the plot around the characters but first they all need names, backstory etc…

Step 5: Define the world – as the world has limitations we needed to make some decisions about what it is and how it operates.

Some basic ideas about all of the above is as far as we’ve gotten, but it seems to be going well.  The next steps will involve plotting and more fleshing out of the backstories so that they connect with the main plot and create a little drama.

Ben is perfect for me for a million reasons and one of them happens to be that he loves plotting and planning stuff like this.  We’re essentially planning the story like it’s a D&D game, but instead of playing it, I’ll be writing it.  Personally, I love the writing part most, making the words go together and sound beautiful and interesting and meaningful.  I like to live in the now, minute by minute.  He’s a bigger picture kind of guy which works for me perfectly, because without him, I’d probably just write a lot of rambling novels.

So planning.  I’m still trying to work it out, but it seems to be going well and I know the more we plan now, the smoother the process of writing will be and that will make it even more fun in the long run.

How do you plan?  Have any hints or tricks you use to plan effectively?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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A Good Read

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I read a lot.

I guess that makes sense, because they say a writer ought to do that, but as much as I read, I’m also pretty picky.  I want a lot of things from a book and I have my preferences (just like you do I’m sure) and I’ve lately been finding what I’ve been able to get into and what I haven’t interesting.  For example, despite my love of urban fantasy, I just can’t get through ‘American Gods’ (by Neil Gaiman), I enjoyed some of his short stories in an anthology of his I read, but there’s just something about American Gods I don’t like.  ‘Gone Girl’ (by Gillian Flynn) however caught me and kept me reading until late in the night and there’s not a hint of magic in that book.

So what is it that keeps me reading and makes me loathe to put a book down?

Let’s see here…

Emotional over physical

I like a style that gives more personal and emotional information than information about the environment and appearance of the characters.  I often try to do that in my stories and I’ve been told in the past that I don’t put in enough physical detail (someone told me once they didn’t like that they had to work to imagine the environment), but I like to use my imagination.  If I’m drowned in detail I get bored pretty fast because it slows down the pace and does all the work for me.  I also like to know what the characters are thinking and feeling as well as their emotional history, this gets me involved and makes me feel like they’re real.  I want to feel like the characters have an impact on the world and the story isn’t just taking them along for the ride.

Cheese factor & exposition

Contrary to popular belief, it is easy to be cheesy.  Exposition and info dumps are the bane of a good story’s existence.  I don’t like a story where things are constantly explained or dumbed down.  Cliche also falls into the cheese factor camp.  Unfortunately things are cliche for a reason, because they are true or good ideas, so sometimes one can’t avoid it altogether but it’s best to try wherever possible.  The stories that keep me up all night are the one’s with high amounts of realism (this can be achieved even in fantasy) and low exposition.

Keep moving

I love a story that moves swiftly.  I want to be pulled along on an adventure, I want to get lost in other worlds and learn new things.  Good pace is essential to keeping my attention.


Defying expectations

I’m currently trying to read Game of Thrones.  It’s a bit of a slog for me because it’s so rich in detail.  High fantasy has always been a tough nut for me to crack because of that, but what I love about the concept of Game of Thrones is that Mr. Martin writes with the specific intention of defying expectations.  I like that.  I want to be surprised, shocked and even horrified.  I want to experience things and think about things in ways I never would have thought of myself.  Because that’s the joy of reading to me, exploring the depths of other people’s minds and lives.

Solid Characters

If a character is solid enough I’ll care about them even if they’re sitting there eating cheese and playing solitaire.  Good characters are the foundation of a great story.

A little love

I like a little love.  If it’s all war and politics and business it eventually gets boring to me, and unrealistic.  Love is all around us, it motivates us and permeates the fabric of our existence.  Without a little love in our lives, things tend to fall flat.

Those are a few of my thoughts on what makes a good read…tell me about yours.

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!

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Beating Writer’s Block

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In my experience, writer’s block means one of two things.  Either fear of moving forward, or being lost in the woods of your imagination.  I suppose it could just be a bad day too, but those pass more often than not without much ado, so let’s stick to the big two.

Tell fear to fuck off

Ben said a great thing to me once: ‘being angry is better than being sad’.  At the time I was trying to overcome a phobia (agoraphobia triggered by the subway) and it was the best advice I’d ever gotten.  So I started swearing at my fear, under my breath of course.  I tried my best to think of all the things in the world that made me angry and I got pissed.  I told my fear to fuck off and it worked.  Getting sad or low about writer’s block will probably only serve to send you into a funk that ends with you sitting on your bed, watching the ceiling fan and thinking about nothing.  But that’s just boring.  So before you get sad, get angry.  Try giving your writer’s block a few mental kicks and a little bit of rage then settle yourself down and…

Just write

Write anything.  It doesn’t have to have anything to do with the offending novel or story that got you into this mess in the first place.  Write a list of your favorite foods, make up a character and write about him or her, write about a day at the beach gone horribly wrong.  Don’t think too much, just write, no pressure for greatness, footloose and fancy free.  Once you get back in the saddle of free and imaginative writing, you’ll remember why you love it, I promise.

Don’t try to be amazing

While in the midst of this ‘just write’ trance, don’t try to be awesome, don’t try to write the next great novel or story that you want to have published by the New Yorker.  Just write because you love it and it feels good and real and wonderful.  Trying to be amazing is a fool’s errand anyway because everyone has different opinions on what greatness is, so it’s up to you to find out what YOU love, not what everyone else loves.  So after you’ve done the anger, then the free form joyful remembering why you love writing, it’s time to find your way again.

Make a map

Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t want to ask for directions out of pride or the feeling that you ought to just ‘know’ which way is west.  Make yourself a map.  If you’re writing a novel this will look an awful lot like a story outline and if you’re like me and writing a fantasy novel (yes my short story suddenly turned into a novel) then it will be an actual map.  Structure and form can often be helpful for writers, even if we’re used to flailing about and simply ‘being creative’.  Order is good, but remember you only make lines so you can colour outside of them.

So now that we have the big two covered, let’s take a quick peek at the other options for beating that jerky writer’s block.

Exercise

I know you’ve already done your 30 minutes of exercise today, because it’s healthy and you can’t just sit around writing all day long letting your muscles atrophy, but when writer’s block strikes, it’s time to get up and move.  Exercise is awesome for a million reasons.  It loosens you up, gives you time to think, makes you feel good and apparently, makes your brain bigger!  Holy cow, how awesome is that?  Go now!  Run or walk (preferably in nature as that has stress reducing benefits as well) and get your brain working for you!

Talk to someone

Ben is my muse.  We get endless hours of enjoyment from planning out my stories and novels together.  If I’m facing writer’s block there’s nothing like a half hour walk with my honey to get me back on track.  Find yourself someone you can trust and bounce your ideas off them.  Writing doesn’t have to be a stoic, lonely thing and there’s no shame in talking it through.

Have an adventure

Go out there and live, then come back and write about it.  The world is a big place, filled with inspiration and excitement.  If you spend all your time at your computer writing about life, you might just end up not having anything to write about.  Go live it up and don’t be afraid to take a moment away from your writing, it will still be there when you get back…I promise.

Okay that’s all.  If you’ve done all these things and still have writer’s block, perhaps it’s time to switch gears and start a new project.  Leave your old one behind and give it some breathing room, then come back to it in a couple of months and see if it still has legs.

What do you do to beat writer’s block?

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This is a post for www.writesofluid.com’s blog writing challenge.  One blog post a day for all of June!  Check it out at the website or on twitter: @sofluid or #wpad!