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Wicca Wicca what?

“I stood staring at the bath, then she told me to get naked and get in it, so I did.”

If I hadn’t already wondered if this meetup I chose to attend was a bit on the weird side, this guy’s story convinced me.

What meetup? Well, let me tell you!

When I first moved to Victoria, I knew one person who lived in the vicinity and had just made some new friends with my coworkers at my new job. I have a pretty diverse range of interests (who doesn’t?), and I wanted to build a larger social network around them, so I could have touchpoints everywhere. My solution? I joined meetup.com, a resource that lets you find local groups based on your interests to meet like-minded people.

I was off to see the wizard

The closest upcoming meeting that piqued my interest was for a witchcraft group. I had an idea in mind about how this group would look; I imagined people my own age who were maybe dressed like Stevie Nicks, or like Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire, so I signed up. I’m always full of realistic expectations.

The meetup was going to be held at a fairly public coffee shop, and I made the decision to, at the very least, walk by and see what the group looked like. If everything looked okay, I’d go in. I’m not sure what wouldn’t be okay, but I’ll leave that up to your imagination.

Game time

Peeking through the window a few minutes before the event was set to start, I saw a group of four people whose ages ranged from 45 to 90 years old. They seemed harmless, so I took a deep breath and went inside.

I wandered in and acted like I owned the place (a new tactic I’ve taken to pull myself out of any social anxiety I might feel – act like you’re way more comfortable than you are and then others assume you are fine and don’t feel additional pressure to try to include you), smiled at everyone and asked if they were part of the witchcraft meet up. They all smiled, welcomed me and invited me to sit down and join them. I grabbed a tea and settled in to make some new friends.

The facilitator of the group was a woman in her early 40s, curly brown hair, warm smile, the type of person you immediately feel comfortable around. She started the conversation by asking us what drew us to the group and what our experience was with witchcraft.

We went around the room, beginning with a woman beside me who reminded me a lot of Katey Sagal as Gemma in Sons of Anarchy (I was immediately inclined to like her), and then to a white-haired woman whose age I couldn’t guess. Both of them had standard answers (as standard as you can get for discussions around magic), describing how they got involved, and created rituals for themselves that included meditation and interests in energy practices like Reiki. Next, the facilitator moved to a man who looked to be in his late 80s or early 90s.

Let the good times roll

He shared his story about discovering witchcraft in England, in the late 50s, at a time when it was still considered underground and people didn’t really talk about it. It was difficult to find any covens, and then harder still to be involved with them. He managed to do so, meeting a man around his same age at the time who said he would help him get connected.

It started with an initiation, which involved being picked up in the dead of night by a car full of men. They drove him to a house in an unfamiliar part of town and dropped him off, telling him to go to the door. He was left alone there, so he went up to the house and knocked on the door, which was answered by a woman wearing an ankle-length robe. She led him towards a bathroom where she directed him to take off his clothes and get in the bath.

As an aside, he mentioned that a bath in the 50s, with the way plumbing was behind the times in England, were usually a “fill up the tub once” type of affair, and that other people had already bathed in this particular bath during the course of the day.

After the bath, he was given a robe to put on, then was blindfolded and led into the basement.

At this point in the story, the woman facilitating the group stopped him and continued to ask the group why they were interested in joining. The only person who hadn’t responded yet, was me.

After this story, the reason why I was there seemed quite…lame in comparison. I responded, “I’ve always been interested in tarot, crystals, divination and magic and am new to town. I thought it would be good to connect with others with similar interests.”

No blindfolded, shared bathtub experiences for me.

I stayed for a bit longer, enough to hear the Katey Sagal lookalike next to me say in annoyance, “Men are stupid. If they weren’t, they would be here to meet women like us.”

Not willing to go into some weird male-bashing conversation, I chose this moment to say goodbye.

Although it was interesting tale-telling fodder at work the next week, I chose to not go to any more meetups with that group.

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Slip, Sliding Away

Vancouver Island Adventure Series: Ammonite Falls

Unsurprisingly, the weather is different all over the island. On the Ammonite Falls adventure day, it was sunny in Victoria, but clouds had gathered and rain started to clean my car as I drove towards Nanaimo. Coming from Calgary though, rain is preferable to snow and ice in the winter, so I happily made my way into the wilds of Vancouver Island. Also, I was intending to find waterfalls which are usually made better by mass amounts of rain, so I gleefully called it down.

https://www.tourismnanaimo.com/2018/02/16/directions-ammonite-falls/
This image, from www.tourismnanaimo.com, was what made me want to go seek these falls out.

Knowing my tendency to get lost, I spent the day before scouring resources online to make sure I knew where the trail was and how to navigate to the falls.

I found the right parking lot, so I was already one up on the Salt Spring Island adventure. I also got started on the right trail. Under the cover of the trees, the rain wasn’t coming down as hard, but I kept my hood up for most of the hike anyway. It’s about five kilometres, so about 45-60 minutes of walking that even with some droplets of rain could result in being soaked through. Also, even though I had read up on the trail, I wasn’t overly confident that I wouldn’t get lost and spend extra time backtracking and working my way out.

That lack of confidence in my navigation skills turned out to be right.

There was one part of the trail guide I had devoured that said to follow the trail down a steep slope. I looked at a slightly worn path off to the right of the more well-worn trail, and saw that it was a steep slope, and so off I went “walking” down it. I put walking in quotations because with all the rain, and it not actually being a path, the walking turned into slipping down a mudslide. It was SO MUCH FUN! Or, it was fun until I landed at the edge of a cliff. I could hear the falls to the right, but I couldn’t see them. I also couldn’t see how to get down, or where to go from there.

I figured that I had gone the wrong way, because…well, it’s me, and so I started climbing, sliding, scrambling back up the mud hill. Even though it was a pain to get up, it was still a lot of fun. I got to the top, covered in mud and soaked and just took my hood off, because at this point I was already a wet rat. I might as well revel in it. And so, I did.

Once at the top of the wrong steep slope, I kept following along the trail and managed to get myself to the correct steep slope, which had the added benefit of a rope to help guide hikers down.

lesser-steep-slope
The less-steep slope.

And then I made it to the falls! Which were not impressive. Summer on the island is remarkably dry, and I hadn’t waited long enough in the rainy season to let the water accumulate before checking out the falls. They were fairly dry. The benefit of this dryness, while underwhelming to look at, meant that not many other hikers were in the area and I got to enjoy having the space to myself for a long while.

It’s me and a wee waterfall!
Ammonite Falls

I hung out for a bit, enjoyed nature, and then made my way back to the car.

It’s a nice little jaunt that I’d recommend.

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Writing advice to ignore

I recently read an article titled 10 worst story openings that sparked the flame of annoyance for me. To sum it up, the advice was “don’t start your story with something boring, but don’t start it with something interesting either.” The foundation for this advice was the belief that both of these were dead giveaways that you’re an amateur. As if that was a bad thing to be.

Side note: it’s not bad to be an amateur. Everyone has to start somewhere, and everyone started as an amateur. It is brave. So, be brave. Be an amateur and wear that badge proudly.

Here’s what I think about that advice

First, it was contradictory. Of course, I oversimplified it, but essentially that’s how it read for me.

Second, if we all wrote the way these lists tell us to, every book would be the same and you wouldn’t need to read more than one since you’d know how every other one was going to end, and then all the authors could just curl into themselves and burn out like dying stars.

The product of our writing, like any art form, is subjective. Everyone will have a different opinion about what it should be, and they’ll like whatever they like for whatever reason that is personal to them. You can’t control that, nor should you try to.

Now that I’ve told you to ignore advice, I’m going to leave you with my two cents for what I’ve found helpful. Take it or leave it:

  • Start your story exactly where it starts. Continue writing until it’s finished.
  • Don’t second guess yourself. You know your story best.
  • Write for yourself, not for anyone else.

When it comes to having beta readers and editors looking at your work, you need to know what it is you are trying to convey, and make sure your work reflects that.

Pull the things you find helpful from these people who are offering suggestions, but don’t for one second think they know what’s best. You decide what goes and what stays. It is YOUR story.

Okay, that is my rant for today.

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Moving write along

It’s been a while since I posted

What the hell have I been doing for over a month?

Writing

I finished revisions on Deer Ethan! I ended up cutting a huge chunk of words out, over 30,000 of them and reduced the book to a novella. This was just the first round of revisions though and I know I need to build my characters and setting out quite a bit. It could potentially reach novel length again at some point, but for now, it’s a novella.

I also started writing my next book and I’m using pen and paper instead of my laptop. It’s really slowing the process down for me, but I feel like what I’m putting down is of a better quality. It gives me time to think through things and I’m feeling a stronger connection to my work, which is exciting for me.

Crafting

I’m working on some new crafting projects for Christmas gifts. In case people I’m gifting choose to read this, I won’t elaborate. After Christmas, maybe I’ll share pictures of what I made. Or maybe I won’t. This is a blog dedicated to writing, not my weirdo crafting projects. Although, I like to take time to be creative in other ways as part of my writing process – it gives me a break and lets me see something else through to completion.

Living

I took a week off around my birthday (yeah, I got older since I last wrote). I usually take the week off and just hang out, relax, de-stress, and this year was no different. I tried climbing (so much fun!), explored the island, explored the city, and didn’t write more than a paragraph. It was perfect.

Getting back to it

Last night, as I was trying to go to sleep, my brain decided it was the perfect time to scrutinize my connection to the things I write. Of course I’m going to share some of those thoughts with you, considering this is supposed to be about my writing process.

When I was writing Deer Ethan in 2015, I was in the midst of a relationship that inspired a lot of the character and action of the story. I’m no longer in this relationship and working through the book brought up a lot of memories and emotions.

For my current novel, the main character is based heavily on my own personality and it’s set in my current geographical location. This might change, but for now it’s working for me.

I remember advice I heard in 2013 when I was writing my first book, to write what I know. I didn’t pay much attention to it because at the time I was writing an epic, high fantasy novel where everything was made up. How can you write what you know when there is absolutely no knowledge base? Thinking back though, a lot of dialogue, events, and characters were inspired by conversations I had with friends and family. Now, I’m almost certain you can’t help but write what you know. I’m inspired by everything around me.

Considering my work is loosely based on my life and the people in it, does it worry you that I write about murder? 😉

I do wonder if my connection is a detriment to my writing, and maybe I should stop basing them off specific people in my life, including myself.

I’m curious to know how other writers feel about this, about their connection to their work, and the characters they build. Are they based on you at all? On people you know? Do you completely separate them from your own life? What do you think about the impact of any of this on yourself and your reader? 

Comment below, or feel free to message me privately at ang.unsworth@gmail.com.

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From computer, to paper, and back again

There she goes, overthinking again

As you know, I’m trying to get through revisions of Deer Ethan so I can write a new book during Nanowrimo. And, as you know, I’ve been struggling through these revisions and attributed this to many different reasons, all of which are still applicable. But, I think I found a new one – because I can’t seem to shut my brain off when it tries to figure everything out in the attempt to find an all-encompassing solution.

Here’s my long-winded explanation of a solution

I love writing. I enjoy creating worlds where the forces of good and evil battle day in and day out, or just a space where we can question human behaviour, dancing along the edge between sanity and murderous madness and wonder if we would topple over it put in the same situations.

Side note: even though I have a degree in communications and write daily for work, I am not the best with grammar. I have an obsession with commas and unnecessarily long sentences. It’s a problem. I find it amusing that I’m the editor of an intranet, but am happy to have something that challenges me to overcome this issue.

I love editing – other people’s work anyway. When I edit, it’s mostly just to make suggestions for better ways to phrase things, or to identify holes in storylines, rather than for grammar.

Anywho, I was listening to a podcast which covered how Neil Gaiman (my idol) works. He writes his first draft out in long hand, and then his second draft comes from fixing it as he types it. That’s it. He doesn’t revise afterwards, other than to send it to an editor.

While I don’t believe I could get away with only writing and revising once, it does make me question my process of writing a book in 30 days, and then having to basically rewrite the entire thing, because, for me, writing fast doesn’t equate to writing well. (Note: count how many commas I had in the last sentence. See? It’s crazy.) Maybe that’s why I am having such a hard time with revisions, because I’m not revising. I’m rewriting. The whole damned book.

I know rewriting some sections of a book during the revision process is likely to happen no matter how I get the first draft out, but rewriting the entire thing is another monster.

I think for my next book, I want to try writing it differently. I’m going to try Neil Gaiman’s process, and I’m not going to stuff it into 30 days. I’m still aiming to finish revisions on Deer Ethan by the end of this month, so that goal is the same, but I won’t be participating in Nanowrimo.

I still love Nanowrimo

Nanowrimo was a great experience for me. Through it, I learned I have the ability to write a novel. Many of them, in fact. And now, I get to take that knowledge and experience and build on it to start writing great novel-length stories. I’m excited.