Rebecca Blain is a writer. When she’s not slaving away on contracted work, she is trying to finish a few books. Her major project is Betrayer’s Truth, which is a high / epic fantasy. She likes to talk about writing because it is what she really enjoys doing. She has a nyan cat fairy muse who sometimes makes Rebecca sketch her being cute or abusing her as the muse sees fit.
Rebecca is also NaNoWriMo’s Municipal Liaison for Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
I have squeaked by as a non-fiction author and editor for almost 10 years, am married and have four cats. Sometimes I think I am married more to the cats, but then my husband disagrees because the cats never buy me anything and he does. /ponder
1. Can you explain to a layreader what NaNoWriMo is?
This is a good question. NaNoWriMo is a ‘little’ project with the full name of National Novel Writing Month. This is a bit of a misnomer, since it isn’t ‘National’ by any regards. It is done world-wide, although it was created by Chris Baty in the western United States.
NaNo is pretty simple. The idea is that for the month of November, you try to write a book in 30 days. They use the term book or novel lightly, requiring only 50,000 words. No doubt, this is a lot of words, but seeing that the average adult novel weighs in closer to 75,000 words, it is more of a novella. That said, it is an achievable goal. In order to make 50,000 words in 30 days, you have to write 1,667 words a day.
If you’re curious about NaNo, or you want to give it a try, you can find their website at www.nanowrimo.org. Last time I checked, there were about 100,000 participants logged in. So, if you decide to give this a whirl, you definitely aren’t alone!
I guess I should mention this, but NaNo is meant for fiction writing, just so you don’t get a nasty surprise when you check out the official rules.
This is a good question. I’m going to have to check my profile for that one. I think my first year was 2005, and I skipped one year due to poor health. The profile agrees; I started in 2005, skipped 2008 due to health problems, and have participated in all of the rest. That brings this to my 6th year of actually participating. Wow, this makes me feel a little old, truth be told.
3. What are you writing this year?
I am an overachiever. I’m working on two projects this year. The one that I’m going to finish first is an Urban Fantasy. I wrote the short summary, so I’ll just share it with you. I’ve decided to give the book the tentative title of ‘Winter Wolf’.
When Nicky and her twin sister were attacked by werewolves, Nicky emerged relatively unscathed. Her sister, on the other hand, is transformed into a werewolf. Ten years after their separation, she can finally meet with Lisa for the first time since their attack. But a pack of werewolves in Seattle have different plans for her. Kidnapped just days before their reunion, she is given a choice: Help them find the Winter Wolf, or watch as her sister and all of the werewolves of North America succumb to plague. But the Winter Wolf is a legend among legends. If such a powerful werewolf exists, he doesn’t want to be found, even if his powers are all that can save the wolves from extinction.
The second project is a high fantasy blended with traditional. I haven’t gotten a whole lot written on that one yet, but it has the tentative title of The Jewel of the Hidden Hand. Here is the short summary.
When her betrothal turns sour, Vera flees from the Crimson Isles with the assassin who had been set on taking her life.
But until she can make the Imperial Princess Pacifica Veradine disappear completely, she will never be able to find peace. Unfortunately, every Kingdom wants her alive, for her hand in marriage will ensure an alliance with the Crimson Isles and as well as its wealth of jewels, ore, trade goods and knowledge.
I started November planning on working on The Jewel of the Hidden Hand first. I spent the first day or two on it. Got some done. Went to bed. Had this absolutely awesome werewolf dream. Decided to write Winter Wolf based off of said dream.
The funny part? I don’t remember anything of the dream now. It is a good thing that I wrote a short summary and hammered out a first scene right after I woke up!
4. What is an ML and how did you become one?
An ML is someone with too much ambition, too little sanity, and a healthy regard for self-punishment. Err, I mean, they’re the awesome people who organize NaNoWriMo on a region level. ML stands for ‘Municipal Liaison’. As the name implies, we serve as a buffer between the organizers of NaNoWriMo (Also known as the Office of Letters and Light) and the participants.
My job during the month involves a lot of things. First, I have to make sure everyone behaves on the forums. I’m in the Canada :: Quebec :: Montreal region, and as of this moment, there are 1,675 people who have affiliated themselves with my region. That is 1,675 folks who can post comments, start threads, and join in events. Now, granted, the number of people who stick around and are actually active is much lower than that, but there are enough people who do poke their head around that I have to make sure that everyone plays nice together.
For the most part, this is rarely a problem.
In addition to that, I help coordinate events during the month. We started the festivities with a dinner party at Scores. And, yep, you guessed it, it was my job to plan it. We have several write-ins a week that I have to make sure either get off the ground, get on the calendar, or otherwise happen. I join in two of them, personally. We go to a Starbucks on Friday, and a local library hosts us on Saturdays. There are other write-ins in the other areas of the city, ranging from downtown, North Shore, South Shore, and East End.
The work doesn’t stop there (and honestly, those two facets are probably the least time consuming!)
Next, I’m also the local cheerleader. If they’re having problems writing? They’re welcome to come cry on my shoulder. Really, I’m almost like a parent, except for I have hundreds of children that can all ‘call’ if needed. (Though calling is actually done by private message or by posting on the forums.)
I kind of fell into becoming an ML. Montreal’s had MLs come and go, and last year, the two co-MLs wanted some help. I’ve always been a bit of a forceful personality, which is really needed in an ML role. I like getting stuff done. So they dropped me an email and asked if I would help them out last year. I said yes, so here I am. This is my second year as an ML. One of the past ML’s since dropped to just being a regular participant, but my co-ML is super-duper.
5. Do you have any idea how many participants are in your region?
Oops,I jumped the gun on this one. Yes, as of the writing of this post, there are 1,675 people associated with my region. (Myself included.) Since I had rambled on about my region in the ML question, I’ll give some fun-facts about NaNo in this spot.
Right now, there are 96,828 registered users online poking around the forums.
Canada :: Quebec :: Montreal has had 955 posts since the forums went live in middle of October.
Plot Doctoring – a thread to help NaNo’ers write their books, has 2,920 threads with a total of 36,915 posts. If you’re participating and need help with your book, that is definitely the place to go. (This is the most active of the forums, just in case you’re curious.)
With a little spreadsheet magic, 541,504 users are associated with a region. Not everyone chooses to have a region, and not everyone has a region due to low populations in the area. My region is ranked #82 in terms of numbers of users associated with the region.
New York City has the highest number of participants, with a whooping 10,370. I tip my hat to the MLs of that region… and I thought 1600-odd was a lot!!!
6. What kind of events do you have?
We started the month with a dinner. So far, we’ve done write-ins at librarys, write-ins at cafes, write-ins at people’s homes. Later in the month, there will be an All-Night write-in. (I can’t participate but there seems to be quite a few who will be. Good for them!!)
Beyond write-ins, start parties and finish parties, we don’t do a lot of events. Planning an event with a group of writers is similar to herding stubborn cats. I love writers, I love writer-types, but we are not necessarily the best at event coordination!
7. Wait… you live in Quebec? Shouldn’t I be conducting this interview in French?
Hahaha! No, please don’t, I don’t speak any French. My Co-ML does, though. The ML that recently stepped down is writing in French. There are a lot of participants who are bilingual, and even a few who can’t speak English. We make do, though! Because we’re in Montreal, a lot of the population is bilingual, even if I’m not!
8. Which came first? The husband or the cats?
The husband. The cats came along several years later. I have four of the little buggers. The first one we got is a big, smoke-colored beast named Smoke. Yes, my husband named him. My husband also picked him out because the cat had spunk. We were looking at kitties, and I wanted the one with the extra toes. He wanted nothing to do with a cat that had too many toes, so we were making sour faces at each other. Then this lady comes up and starts cooing at this tiny grey kitten. And boy, do I mean _tiny_. This cat was the runt of the litter for certain. So, this lady is cooing at this kitten. The kitten puts his ears back, plops down, lifts his leg, and starts licking his obviously-male bits. The lady makes this horrified noise and wanders off.
My husband started making these choked ‘awww’ noises. Someone ran off with my extra-toed cat. (Those jerks!) So I flagged the girl down and pointed at the grey kitty. While we were waiting, the husband pokes his finger through the cage bars, and the kitten grabs his hand and face-rubs. Husband melted on the spot. Cat came home.
Now he weighs 25 pounds, and I’m always asking WHAT HAPPENED TO THE RUNT!?! Where is my runt!? Why is there this huge demon cat running around my house!?
Note: Smoke is very sweet. He was also six months old when we got him. The other kittens kept blocking him from the food, so he grew lots when we brought him home and put him on a vet diet. Now he has a food complex and gets very upset if his bowls get empty and is slightly overweight, but we’re working on that!
We bought Lily as a companion for Smoke after I started leaving the house. Oh, there comes Mr. Smoke, cooing for attention.
Five Minutes Later…. The next two were acquired from the local shelter. They played a radio ad for the first one. Husband interrupted shopping to get a cat because it tore his heart strings listening to the commercial. Good thing we did, too. If we hadn’t, she wouldn’t have survived. As it was, we had to take her to a 24 hour emergency vet because she couldn’t breathe due to Rhinovirus. Several hundred dollars later, and two weeks of bottle feeding her mush because she couldn’t eat, we had a healthy cat. Fortunately, our second shelter baby wasn’t sick. The sick one we named Miss Tia, and the last acquisition was named Princess. We kept the name.
9. What is a nyan cat fairy, and does she make a good muse?
Oh boy. The Nyan Cat Fairy. Don’t tell her this, but she is a figment of my imagination, and the one I peg bad (and good) ideas on. She started as a sketch when I wasn’t being productive on writing and wanted to get back in a creative mood. So I sketched the fairy talking to me and posted it on Google+.
I’ll be honest, I don’t put much stock in Muses (once again, don’t tell the Nyan Cat Fairy this. She’ll eat me.) – creativity is something that you choose to do or you choose not to do. It is harder for some, and some feel that it has to come from some outside source, but at the end of the day, your creativity is something you use or you don’t. If you don’t exercise your creativity, it won’t come easy. If you exercise it, and try to be as creative as possible, it does get easier. But starting isn’t easy. And it takes a lot of courage.
But in the interest of self-preservation, the Nyan Cat Fairy is a most excellent muse.
10. How did you get hired to design a fantasy strategy war game?
I’m a freelancer. I saw the job bid on a freelancing site, and bid on the project. I love gaming. It is fun. But to write a game? SCORE. And it being in the fantasy genre? Score x3. I can’t talk a lot about the game due to various agreements, but it is in stages of being developed. So, I have to wait till it is ready for play testing before I can work more on it. (I will sulk now.)
11. What kinds of non-fiction have you published?
Ugh, more than I care to think about. Some of the more notable projects have included a book on genealogy, the content for a few websites, and a lot of articles. A lot of articles. So many that it kind of makes me sick. The article-writing industry has changed a lot. Once, I could make $60.00 an hour working. Now I’m lucky to get $10. I refuse to work for crap, so I’m gradually breaking out of this sort of work. It does seem to be picking back up a bit, but really, I want to write fiction, so I’m taking advantage of the horrible market to write fiction.
12. Tell me about Betrayer’s Truth.
Ah, Betrayer’s Truth. This is my high epic fantasy. My protagonist is a young man with one arm, and most people want to kill him. My counterpoint is a religious cult and their summoned beasties, a species of creature I’ve named the Averanmor.
Betrayer’s Truth was my NaNoWriMo project from last year. It just went out to an agent at the end of the September after several re-writes and an editing run. This isn’t about my book, but please make certain you rewrite and edit your Nanowrimos before you submit them. Rushed writing shows, and agents and editors are already scared of projects that come from National Novel Writing Month because they aren’t usually edited.
I expect that the book series will be about 5 books when done, give or take. I have no plans on making a Martin or Jordan style epic. Instead, I will tell shorter epic style novel series that tie to one another. Same idea, but different execution. I don’t want to leave my readers cursing me with 6 year or more waits for books to be completed, or wondering if a series will ever end. I’d rather do shorter books, slightly longer series, but more series to make up for it. I built a world, not just a story that needed a world for the characters to stand on. Kalen’s journey isn’t the only epic journey in this world, so there are many stories to tell!
13. Do you ever have trouble when you are trying to work on one story and another story starts knocking around in your brain?
Once upon a time I did. Not so much anymore. I’ve matured a lot as a writer, and maturing also means having focus. This year for Nano is different. I meant to start with a certain book, but it didn’t work out that way. I got hit with this idea for an Urban Fantasy, and since it is November, I decided to roll with it. I’ll continue working on the Urban Fantasy until I need to clear my head. Then I will jump back to The Jewel of the Hidden Hand. When I first started writing, I did this a LOT. I have a graveyard in my inactive writing folder to prove it. Now, I’m serious and focused, and try not to hop projects unless I’m done a book.
14. Is your sketching just for fun? Do you sketch the characters in your stories?
My sketching is for fun, yes. I don’t usually sketch my characters. I sketch them when I write, in words. I do tend to draw my AD&D characters frequently though, since I don’t get to paint them in prose.
15. What social media do you use? Do you use them for promotion, or do you have fun?
I use Google+ and Twitter. I use them for fun. Sure, I do some promotion, but it is usually just sharing links to my BookCountry updates. I don’t actively try to hunt down people for the purpose of promotion. I use Twitter and Google+ to meet people, not spam them. I really get annoyed when writers just use social media to promote their books. I want to get to know the writer behind the books. I can count the times I’ve purchased a book based on social media promotion with one finger. Select the middle one, please. At the risk of real rudeness, that is how I feel when a writer or author spends their time just promoting their books on their social media. I want to learn about them, not about their books. If I want to learn about their books, I’ll go to the library or buy a copy… from their websites.
16. What is your favorite electronic or digital writing tool?
I just got an HP mini a few weeks ago. This is definitely my favorite tool now. It is small, light, has stellar battery life, and the keyboard fits my tiny hands just right! I’m using scrivener for NaNo this year, and now that we’ve figured out how to work together, I really like it.
17. What is your favorite non-electronic writing tool?
Uhm, a pen/pencil and paper. I’m not too picky about the non-electronics. I will admit I’m a pen-whore. I will do almost anything for a new, shiny pen. The same applies to Moleskin journals. I love them. They’re paper-sex. My husband does not like them, because he has found me in my bed curled up with them, pens strewn over his side of the bed. This involves extricating a clutched-to notebook and pens from a sleeping tiger. The netbook has ended most of the paper-in-bed incidents though.
18. What is the most persistent distraction from writing?
Social media, of course! Fortunately, my social media is often writing-related, so at least I’m learning something relevant while goofing off. (Also, World of Warcraft, but we won’t mention that too much… oops, I better log in. I have a Winterspring cub that requires played with so I can get another mount….)
19. Many writers go through a stage when they hate what they’re writing. Do you ever feel this way?
I don’t hate what I’m writing. I am disappointed in my crappy quality frequently though. So, I guess the answer is yes. But I don’t let this bother me. Every word I write is one word closer to writing good words. I like King’s comment that it takes one million bad words to write a single good one. I live by this. It doesn’t matter if I am disappointed in my crappy words, so long as I keep writing them. Crap can be turned to silver, gold, and gems in the editing phase of writing. That is why we edit.
20. Who shot first, Han or Greedo?
Han. Shot. First. I get it, I know, writers want to make their stories fit their initial dream for it. But if you submit something, and it gets published, LEAVE IT ALONE. I don’t care if you think it is better after the fixes. When I read a book, I want to go back years later, pick up a copy of that book, and READ THE SAME BOOK. That is why I liked THAT BOOK. If you change it, it isn’t ‘THAT’ book anymore.
Han shot first. I don’t want to show people new to Star Wars the new versions. It isn’t the same movie. It wasn’t the same films I grew up with, that captured my imagination, and turned my attention to the stars, wondering ‘what if’. I haven’t watched Star Wars in a long time due to this. Which is sad, because I loved Star Wars when I was young, and I feel like something has been taken away from me that I can never get back.
At least they haven’t messed with Indiana Jones.
If you get through more than 30 seconds of this video, you have more stamina than I. The shortlink for this post is http://wp.me/p1qnT4-tb