Axel Howerton – Jimmy Finn

What do we as a society do with misfits? More importantly what do misfits do with themselves in a society hell bent on conformity and the norm? In Furr , Jimmy Finn’s mother sends him to a psychiatrist and eventually to the mental health ward of the local hospital so he can be cured. Society tries to cure our misfits with drugs and therapy but for Jimmy Finn, none of those work. He’s a misfit with urges and rages. They come and they go and he can live a somewhat normal life with a job and an apartment. He drinks to cope, consuming a burning liquid to incinerate what he can’t control. 

Until he starts drinking on the job, and he wakes up in a park with the police chasing him. He runs from the city into the hills, where, through a series of unexpected discoveries, he finds himself because he finds others like him and finds his past. 

Who hasn’t felt out of place at some point – at the office, with friends, surrounded by family? My current out of place environment is the office. I ride this cusp having been so long in one job I’m considered experienced and senior yet realizing that younger, less experienced people are passing me by. I stick out like a sore thumb. 

Our need to belong is strong, hard wired into us to maximize our survival, and Jimmy wages a constant battle with that need to belong when he is so out of place in modern society. He desperately wants acceptance but can’t have it, squirming against the order that society tries to impose upon him time and again, fleeing the skyscrapers and cement and roads for open skies, woods and small towns.

Oh, how I would love to do the same when that out of place feeling strikes, waiting to pounce on me from behind every cubicle wall. 

In the mountains, Jimmy finds an unexpected place where everyone knows him and what’s going on, leaving him to wonder why he doesn’t know what’s going on. What he does find is a place where he belongs, one way or another and he will carve that place out for himself or die trying. 

Good on you, Jimmy Finn.

Finding Time to Write

I am busy. Are you busy? Everyone is busy! Everyone is so busy…

IMG_1911

So, how do you find time to write, or play the drums, or run or build models or whatever it is that brings you pleasure? I find it by scheduling my life in a militaristic manner where I know exactly what’s happening and for how long at each moment of the day. At least I do that until illness or exhaustion or work stress knock that idea sideways and I have a day or a few days or even a few weeks where I don’t write. This used to drive me crazy. To have my carefully planned schedule thrown out of the windows was an insult, a slap in the face taunting me by pointing out what I wasn’t going to accomplish. Then I learned to let it go and accept that I couldn’t control most of my day let alone every minute of my day and that I would still be able to write my 600 words a day.

That’s the big part of what I’m doing when I’m writing – keeping the daily goal realistic and with a dog, cat, 21 month old and a full time job, I need to pick a goal that I can actually accomplish. I’ve managed 600 words (give or take a 100 here and there) a day with enough flexibility to miss days when I needed to, and I was able to finish my work in progress. If I can’t reach my goals until the end of my work in progress, I adjust it. Goals can vary as needs change and if I can accept that, then I will be more likely to finish my work in progress. Otherwise,  I may just burn out and never finish it.

Seanan McGuire – Toby Daye

I first found Seanan McGuire through a friend. Word of mouth is so important for books! Spread the word for those that you love.

Ms McGuire has a couple of series but I started with her October Daye series, which follows October (Toby) Daye, a changeling who navigates the Fae courts and its denizens in modern day San Francisco. 

Toby does dumb things. Really stupid, dangerous things that get her injured and push her limited magical knowledge and ability to dangerous territory. However her tenacity and moral code have given her powerful friends who want to help her, when she will let them. 

Doing the right thing is what we are taught in most of our childhood and adulthood stories. We’re told that doing the right thing will be rewarded. Adulthood teaches us this is not actually how the world works. But Toby’s actions, doing the right thing even when it means she may lose everything, does get rewarded through her relationships and the high regard people hold her in. 

It is this ideal that draws me to her, that we could do the right thing to help someone else and have that decision be a positive action. Characters like her are important because they remind us that intention can count for something, even if the results are never as pure as what shows up in our books.

 

Returning to Exercise

Sometimes though exercise just isn’t possible due to the other commitments I have. 

Life takes me away from exercise from time to time, whether it’s illness, playing with my son, taking my dog for a walk, vacation, getting together with friends or any of a bunch of other things. It happens and I’m at peace with it. Sort of. I’m trying to accept that I can schedule my life all I want but events will happen to disrupt my plans.  

IMG_1598

By giving myself a pass and being okay with not exercising for whatever period of time I don’t, I find it much easier to get back into exercise when I’m ready physically and mentally. Sometimes I have to start at the beginning with the 1, 2, and 5 pound weights but even then, I find it easier to progress and get stronger than when I first started exercising.

I used to make myself feel guilty about all the things I should be doing and wasn’t –  exercising, finishing assignments early, writing, cleaning. Feeling guilty about not doing those things sucked all my willpower to do those things. I would feel so bad about myself and feel like such a failure that I still wouldn’t start them. So I decided to stop making myself feel guilty about something I hadn’t done and start being kind to myself. I started to recognize that I could only do so much in a day and could only say yes to so many things before I burnt out so now I give myself a pass and decide that tomorrow will be a day that exercising may happen. 

I’m slowly getting back into regular exercising. I run with my dog when I can, I go to the gym, I walk. Illness and work pressures have made this a stop start process so I’m not really into a routine yet. That’s okay because I’m doing what I can when I can and sometimes that’s amazing.

In one of my previous posts, I talked about being stuck and as a result, not exercising. I’m coming out of that total paralysis that sucked all the joy out of exercise for me. Fingers crossed!

Mary Robinette Kowal – Elma York

I decided to read The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette Kowal because I’ve been listening to her podcast for years and thought I would give it a try. 

I’m not a fan of alternative histories, because I like history. History is already full of interesting twists and turns and there’s enough of it for a lifetime’s exploration rather than imagining what could have been, in my opinion, anyway. Alternative history is a big section of the fantasy/science-fiction market so it obviously has an audience and people always enjoy asking “What if?”  

The Calculating Stars (Lady Astronaut, #1)

I was so surprised how much I enjoyed this book! Elma York, the main character, hooked me with her strong contributions to the space program and her desire to travel into space.  

In this alternate history, a meteor slams into Earth and brings about climate change on such a scale that humans have to seek out another planet. Yet, this is the 1950’s so they must speed up the space race. 

Elma is smart, very smart, so smart that she does calculations in her head faster than anyone can do with calculators. She works at NASA as a computer, since computers don’t exist yet,and supports those who are working to get rockets and men into space to colonize Mars. 

Notice I wrote men. I should have also written white men. This is the 1950’s so even though Emma flew in World War II (this still took place in this alternative history), she is not considered a suitable candidate to be an astronaut because she is a woman. 

Elma handles the judgement by pushing back against it, time and time again, applying for and demanding her place amongst the men who are going up. 

Fighting for something that should be merit based and isn’t, is exhausting. It shouldn’t be happening and Elma asks why it happens when she sees black men being excluded from the space program because of their skin colour, and when her and her colleagues are excluded or worse, paraded around as astronauts only if they show enough skin and do their make up to be a part of the game. 

In our own times, these are questions that should have been left in the 1950’s but they remain with us still.

Someone shrieked. That was me. I had jumped and thrown my hands into the air like I was some sort of gymnast…They were staring at me, and I didn’t care.

“They’re taking women astronauts!”

Those lines can very nearly be written for today. Thankfully, we have had and hopefully will continue to have women astronauts like Roberta Bondar, Christina Koch and Stephanie Wilson.

 Elma gives us an opportunity to re-examine whether or not our society is actually merit-based and if it isn’t, how can we make it merit-based. This is a complicated problem that requires us to ensure all have the potential to get the skills to participate in a merit-based society but if Elma and her fellow humans can get off the planet, then why can’t we demand that equality?

Camaraderie in Axe Throwing

Shared interests create commonality and friendships, even with people who are disparate. 

I forgot that. I saw it when I was a kid watching my parents in their dart league. Through a shared activity, they could chat with other people that they normally might not talk to or have much to talk about with. 

A friend invited me to axe throwing night at his club, Batl: Backyard Axe Throwing League. The scoring is simple and for a more complete description than I could give, check out the FAQ page. At this club, people face off one another in a round robin style tournament each night for a season (eight weeks).

The night was filled with axes bouncing off targets, people throwing one or two handed, people showing me their axes, people sitting at tables and watching others throw axes, and people watching their own scores in comparison to others. It’s a loud but not too loud event where things are happening and everyone is relaxed and enjoying themselves. 

IMG_1234

Of course, darts is nothing like axe throwing. One person (who I later learned works at the axe throwing club) visibly winced when I asked about scoring and commented that it was nothing like darts (don’t make this mistake!). Fair play, the scoring is nothing like darts but the camaraderie, the chatter, the ambiance, all of that energy and warm human interaction buzzing around me, was. 

People love to lament nowadays that social media has led us down a path of no human interaction where we lack empathy and understanding of each other. I saw no evidence of that when I watched people throw axes. And guess what everyone was doing every time they threw an axe – exercising and having fun at the same time! It is possible. 

**I didn’t participate in throwing axes only because my shoulders dislocate (subluxate? Physicians, discuss!) when they are out to the side so throwing at or above shoulder height is out of the question, especially large, sharp objects. 

When Words Collide 2019

I’ve been going to When Words Collide for 7 years and the knowledge I’ve gained has taken me much farther in my writing than I would have ever gotten on my own. I attended this year’s festival (check out #wwcyyc2019 for highlights) I was really surprised how many new and different panels there were, ones that I had never seen before so of course I had to go see them. Unfortunately that meant I didn’t make it to enough publisher events but I bought enough books to make up for it. I’ve just started The Dame was Trouble edited by Sarah Johnson (published by Coffin Hop Press) and it’s off to a delicious start with a tale of a shrewd woman looking out for herself even as she holds her hand out to help others.

img_20190810_2005555-1558909773.jpg

Dwayne Clayden’s presentation on “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” had tears flowing (I refuse to acknowledge that any tears touched my cheeks or that my nose was running) and surprised quite a few people, in a good way, with its heartfelt tenderness and fresh honesty. His presentations are always interesting and he’s got a wealth of knowledge from years working as a police officer and as an emergency medical technician (EMT).

Dave Sweet’s presentation on “How to Sell a Life Sentence” was relevant to my own work and so I had to go. I’m never disappointed when I go to his presentations. They are often filled with sad stories of those who have suffered, but his gritty lived experiences give writers and readers a glimpse into the city outside of our house, our car, our workplace where people are experiencing the most powerful stories when their loved ones don’t come home, or their own choices catch up with them. Characters and books and adventures and the theory that we explore at such festivals can often feel disconnected from people out there who may be experiencing their own trials and bridging that disconnection, for those who see that suffering every day, can bring a story to life.

img_20190811_1704030-199246588.jpg

Next year will be ten years for this fantastic festival! The organizers have done a phenomenal job building a bigger and better festival every year, one where new people arrive with fresh faces and repeat attenders can’t help themselves and gush.

A lot of people give their time and effort to make events happen – presenters, editors, agents, volunteers. I have to give another big thank you and shout out to all who volunteer their time.

#wwcyyc2020 looks like another promising festival. In the meantime, time to put my new knowledge to use. Happy reading and writing!