Thursday, December 18, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction! This week it's Kathryn Janeway!

Captain Kathryn Janeway
Yes, I admire Captain Kathryn Janeway!  In fact, I love this character and the actress who played her.  I have recently watched all seven seasons of Star Trek Voyager, and my opinions have changed about the show.  I admit, I was not into the show as much when it first aired, but I feel like Star Trek Enterprise. it was underrated.  Also, I do not feel that Captain Janeway gets enough respect.  This woman, this officer was brave, selfless, put the needs of others above her own, and was willing to die if necessary for the greater good.   She had crap to deal with other Star Trek captains did not: like being catapulted into a different part of the galaxy without a compass, dealing with a shipload of cranky Marquis, hostile aliens who never heard of Starfleet or cared,  and no way to call home for some backup.
But this woman not only got her crew home, but in the process of the show's seven year run, she and her crew catalogued massive scientific knowledge about the Delta quadrant and its mysteries, made new discoveries,  fought major battles (again-no backup for poor Kathryn) with rude and often advanced aliens, including the Borg.   She also had to deal with Neelix's cooking and his experimental recipes.  I wonder if she had to replicate antacids much? 
Captain Kathryn Janeway was an officer and a scientist.  She was savvy, smart, unrelenting, and yet full of compassion.  She would defend her ship and crew with the tenacity of an angry she-tiger and not hesitate to vaporize you if you crossed the line.   Im many wat, she was more of a cowboy than Kirk ever was.  Kathryn could also be funny, she loved dogs, and was unlucky in romance, like most heroines.  She was not a twenty-something.  Thank heavens!!!  She was a real woman who spent years training and was age appropriate for her role as Captain.
So let's give this woman and officer some respect!
Next week, it's Christmas, so I will not post a new entry in my Heroic Women series until after New Year.  I will be too busy recovering from rum-spiked eggnog and too many chocolates.
Until then,  Happy Holidays and watch more fantasy and science fiction.
Verna McKinnon

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #8: Eowyn of the Lord of the Rings novels & films

Eowyn of the Lord of the Rings novels & films
This week's wonderful heroine in my series covers both literature and film.  In the novels, she was barely touched on until needed, but sill left a solid mark.  In the films that Peter Jackson so brilliantly directed, he gave Eowyn the just attention she deserved.    I mean, really, this woman faced down the Witch-king of Angmar, Lord of the Nazgul!  She destroyed the Witch-king, nearly at the cost of her own life.  
Never under estimate a woman. 
Eowyn, a most females in heroic fantasy of old, chafed against her role as woman.  She was a warrior at heart and did not need coddling.  A shieldmaiden longing to follow her call into battle.  She feared the prison of her sex, for it kept people from seeing what she really was.  She  was more than a Princess.  More than a niece to King Theoden.  She was a woman who longed to become something special.   It was her destiny.
Eowyn became special, as her deed was part of the prophesy to destroy the Witch-king.  No one, no one at all, suspected she would be the one to do it.  She did this at a great cost.  She dressed as a man and went into battle in secret, as many a warrior maiden has been forced to do in the past.  She faced the battle that was her destiny-the Witch-king of Angmar.  It nearly killed her, yet she faced it with bravery and grit.  Eowyn destroyed the Witch-king, and suffered terrible injuries from it.  
None of her male characters recognized her gifts or seriously considered her desires, despite her shieldmaiden status.  Along with being generally disregarded, she endured a lot of grief too-including the attentions of the grimy Wormtongue when she tried to protect her uncle the king. You know she kept things running as best she could for the greater good.
After Eowyn's victory, Tolkien magically transformed Eowyn with his mighty pen after her heroic battle with the Witch-king into a simple princess again, content to heal and be peaceful.  She was given a noble husband and sent off to domesticity.  No longer seeking the glory of battle, Eowyn was content to remain in the background now.  That irked me.  She fulfilled a great prophesy-yet no one seemed to acknowledge it.  I am sure Tolkien made knit something too.
I acknowledge Eowyn-a great hero of a legendary fantasy saga.  Double acknowledgement to Miranda Otto for playing her so beautifully in the film versions.  She was the perfect choice.   
More next week.  Until then-read more fantasy!
Verna McKinnon 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #7: Sarah Manning of Orphan Black

Sarah Manning, played by the mega talented Tatiana Maslany
Reviewing Orphan Black's characters, particularly Tatiana's multi-faceted performances as  its vast basket of heroines and villains, is hard.  As Tatiana portrays the many clones in the series, I will just have to take one clone at a time.  So for this entry into my heroine series, we begin with the first clone we see in the series, Sarah Manning.  (Is anyone else salivating for season 3-I know I am)
Sarah is a complex character.  A true anti-hero in many ways.  She was not evil, but at the start of the show she is a mess.  She is mixed up with bad things and bad men. She wears tatty punk t-shirts and heavy eyeliner.  She pretends to be someone else ( tragic suicide clone Elizabeth Childs) to get some money and a place to sleep.  She is drifting through life and snatching for bits and pieces.  Sarah has a daughter that she loves, but she did not take her when she took up with one of her low-life beaus and was gone for 10 months  Some may have called this neglect, (Alison was quite vocal about this) but after you meet Vic, you also realize that no matter how messed up Sarah was, she was never going to expose her daughter to him.  Despite her vagrant life and flaws, she is devoted to those she loves.  She is scrappy and a quick thinker.  Her skills, never really challenged in life, are finally tested when she entered the circle of the clones.  Her strength and thinking expanded.  Do not back this woman into a corner, because she will fight back with the resilience of angry lioness, especially if you try to hurt her daughter, Kira.   The danger she faces from everything around her only makes her stronger.   
Sarah is accidentally thrust into the role of heroine.  She never tried to be one.  She just tried to survive.  Over the course of the first season, Sarah Manning evolved into a first rate hero, putting her petty drugged-out & grifter lifestyle deep into the past as she became embroiled in the mystery of her fellow clones.  She changed for the better, stepping up to protect her clone sisters and her family.  This was not just because she decided to give Alison back her 70,000 dollars, which at the time was Sarah's escape money.  She stayed because it was right.  Sarah, who always seemed to be close to her foster brother, Felix, reforged their relationship and the two could not be closer if they were blood related.  Sarah developed a new bond with her daughter and the equally mysterious, Mrs. S, who was Sarah's foster mother and protector of Kira. 
Instead of running away in anger, as she had done her whole life,  Sarah oddly found an emotional home as she bonded with her clone sisters.  She thrived on the conflict and danger.  Her character, which was so flawed and scuffed by inner turmoil in the beginning, evolved into that of a stalwart and true heroine.  She worked to unravel the secrets that threatened them and developed skills as a leader and warrior in the process.  Sarah began as a leather-clad punk wreck at the start of Orphan Black.  Sarah was lost, as so many of us are.  In the terror of her new life, instead of running she found strength and compassion to stay.  Like a reluctant butterfly, Sarah emerged from her punk leathers and became who was she meant to be.  Sarah fights for the good and for her family now.  That's why she is a hero. 
Next week, another entry of my heroine series.  Until then-read more fantasy!
Verna McKinnon  

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #6: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Buffy the Vampire Slayer played by Sarah Michelle Gellar
Okay, this may be my favorite guilty pleasure.   What can I say- I love Buffy.  Who else can carry a wooden stake and a lipstick in her purse and look fashionable while kickboxing a vampire's face?  I started watching it out of curiosity when it first air and was prepared to hate it, but it instantly  hooked me.  For the seven wonderful seasons it aired I never stopped loving it-even when the show sideways at times.  The TV show had great casting, from the wonderful Sarah Michelle Gellar as Buffy to the tweedy Giles played by Anthony Stewart Head.  It had a great combination of humor, suspense, action, drama, and mythology,(which included consistent demon/vampire rules).  Buffy was an innocent girl compelled to face horror and darkness because she was chosen.   The one girl in the world chosen to slay the vampires and demons.  So not fair-the world is filled with these evils and she had to carry this all alone?  She did of course.  Buffy saved the world on a weekly basis from vampires, demons, obnoxious jocks, and soured-faced high school principals.   
Unlike current "glossy" vampire shows, it showed vampires as being, well, hideous, nasty demons that want to feed on you.  The exceptions to this, Angel, a vampire cursed with a soul, made her fleeting and doomed romance with Angel tolerable.  It was not about vampire love and longing.  The relationship between Angel and Buffy was always doomed, but he had a human soul.  If you are not familiar with the mythology rules on Buffy, if you were turned into a vampire the demon got your body, memories, and even your personality, but it did not get your soul.  The person they killed and turned no longer existed.  This made Angel an acceptable hero and tragic.  Before Angel got his souls back, he was a vicious vampire named Angelus.  When when a gypsy cursed him and his old soul inhabited the body again.  The real person is then restored, but they are still vampires.  No weak misunderstood demon who loves you and just wants to feed on you.   No glorification.   
Even in the last couple of years when Spike (another vampire) loved her, her relationship was out of pain and clinical depression.  But Spike loved her so much, that he went to a powerful demon to ask for his soul back.  This relationship was shaky for me, but that fact that she was depressed (being ripped out of paradise with good intentions) made it an acceptable relationship. 
Like most heroes, Buffy faced a lot of difficult battles alone.  She never fit in at school.  She was never understood at home.  Never special academically (C average). Buffy was rejected by most of the usual high school cliques, so she was out of step and often mocked by her peers.  Principals did not trust her (it is hard to explain burning down a gym chock full of vampires) and even her mother regarded her as a delinquent.   Thankfully, Buffy had her sidekicks Xander and Willow, plus her mentor, Giles.  Even an outcast needs other outcasts to make a support group. 
Like most heroines, Buffy often had to make sacrifices and endure a lot of personal and physical pain.  She did it bravely and accepted her duty.   It was hard, as it ruined her dating life and shopping time.  She protected her friends and family, and all of Sunnydale, even though she knew she wold never get credit for it.  She was human, despite her super powers, and moaned her curfew and lack of a good hair conditioner.  She was devoted to her friends and family.  She would give her life for the ones she loved and the greater good-which she did more than once.  She never whined and slayed vampires into dust with flare and gusto.  I know that the stories have continued in comic book form, but it is not enough.  I miss Buffy.    It had something today's shows are missing-heart.    
Until next week, read more fantasy!  And watch some Buffy!
Verna McKinnon-Hipps 

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #5: Samantha Carter of Stargate SGI & Stargate Atlantis

The Amazing Amanda Tapping as Samantha Carter of Stargate SG1

Samantha Carter.   I miss seeing her every week on Stargate SG1.  People scream about the lack of good role models for young girls, and yet all you have to do is watch some decent science fiction, people!  That's where they are!  Samantha Carter is one of the best role models for women and young girls anywhere, anytime, any galaxy-and Sam Carter has been to more than a few of them.  For 10 happy years on Stargate SG1, and 1 season on Stargate Atlantis, plus two Stargate films, she ruled as one of the great leading heroines of science fiction.

I do not know where to begin in praise of  the fantastic Samantha Carter, one of the major stars of the long running science fiction shows Stargate SGI and Stargate Atlantis.  An Air Force officer, her military rank over the years advanced from Captain, to Major, to Lt. Colonel, Colonel, and finally to Brigadier General.  Oh, and she could also be address as Doctor, since Sam Carter earned her PhD in astrophysics, and was also an engineer and a savvy pilot.  She even commanded a Daedalus class spaceship (if you watched the show you will know what I am talking about).  She invented scientific defenses and was awarded just about every honor an officer could hope for. 

Sam Carter helped save the world and the universe on a regular basis, yet never gloated or bragged about it.  It was just her daily duty.  Duty was important to Sam, as was loyalty, friendship, compassion, and honor.  She was a great friend and possessed a sense of humor.  The character of Samantha Carter is an incredible example of equality for women on television.  She never fought with her male characters about equal treatment or was treated differently in any way.  I loved that.  The writers treated her with respect and equality.  I am so tired of hearing how women have to work twice as hard to get same recognition as men.  It is an old chant that deserves to be obliterated with a laser pistol like a nasty Goa'uld (watch the show and you will know what I am referring to.  Seriously-WATCH IT!) 

Then there was Samantha Carter the warrior.  She fought battles on earth and in space.  She could handle herself in hand to hand combat and could master any weapon, including some powerful alien weaponry.  She could kick ass while punching calculations into her computer and powder her nose all at the same time.  Sam was a brainy scientist that I am sure all the world's geeks and nerds pay homage too.  She was also so damned gorgeous you wanted to hate her-but you can't because she is so wonderful.

I credit much of this to the actress who portrayed Samantha Carter, the fabulous Amanda Tapping.  She is amazing and such an endearing goofball with a great sense of humor.  I love the special features on DVDS because you see these folks off screen and you can tell if they are jerks or wearing a mask or just normal nice people.  Amanda struck me as nice and silly.  You forgive her perfect blond beauty because there is character and personality under all that glamor.  Her subtle but sincere acting gave Samantha depth, and I know that she fought for it.  I mean, in the pilot they had her say a couple of stupid things that the actress did not like and was nothing a feminist would say.  Feminist is a word women need to take back.  We need it today more than ever.  Amanda Tapping worked hard to make Sam Carter not only a worthy and important character, but one that to me is a role model and example of what women should try to achieve.  Forget the mythic warrior and perfection and think about the bedrock of her character.  She was brave, honorable, and worked for what she wanted in life without betrayal or relying on the superficial foundation of looks or nepotism, or stepping on anyone.  She did not accept roadblocks to her life goals.  She pursued them with tenacity and grit.       

I know she sounds mythological, but that is fine.  Most of our greatest heroes are a bit on the myth side.  They are supposed to inspire us!  Sam Carter was very human and had issues like any normal human woman.  She had issues with her father, lost her mother at a young age, and had trouble in the romance department.  I guess it is hard finding the right guy when you are saving the universe.  But that was just background sprinkles for her character.  In science fiction shows like this, the lead actress is not moaning about the lack of a husband or howling in terror of her biological clock.  She has better things to think about, like saving the world from being sucked into a black hole and fighting evil aliens who want to dominate us. Sam had friends and a great life that she enjoyed.  She made her own choices in life.  She was fearless.  She knew what she wanted and did it.  

Not that men did not love her.  Many a human and alien fell for Sam's charms.   Even Jack O'Neill loved her, but their roles as work comrades prohibited their romance.  She was open to love, but also refused to compromise.  Life is complicated, and no one's life is perfect.  But you can try to find a life that is perfect for you.  You can achieve great things in life if you work for it with your whole heart.  That is what Samantha Carter achieved.     

People also complain about the lack of young women entering the fields of science, mathematics, and engineering.   A show like this would encourage young girls to have an interest in science.  Sam Carter made science cool.  And science should be cool!  They did some great things on the show and it can be inspirational to a young mind.  We are often shown images of scientists as being weird, misfits, awkward or wallflowers with poor fashion choices.  They have made being a nerd or geek as something beneath everyone else.  A laughable image that normal people can mock.  This has become a stigma.  I do not like it. Normal never gets anything done anyway.  It is the geeks and nerds who make change in the world.  Hence, I forbid it in the future and you should too.  Sam Carter was none of those things.  Embrace the science! 

I miss seeing Stargate, but I have all the DVDS.  Again, science & technology at work.  So check out some Stargate SG1, one of the better science fictions shows that was ever filmed.  And it was real science fiction!  Aliens, space travel, and a big dash of mythological mystery with Ancients and the Ori makes Sam Carter and her team of intrepid heroes worth checking out.  Plus, it was not dystopic and depressing, and the the main characters were not betraying each other in a doomed storyline.  They were a team, that trusted each other and loved each other.  They never left anyone behind.  They were bonded like glue, and I believe the heart of the bond of that team was Samantha Carter.  Stargate SG1 was about hope and making a better world.

Next week I will review another great strong woman of science fiction and fantasy.  Until then, watch some Stargate SG1!  Enjoy the aliens til then. 

Verna McKinnon


Thursday, November 6, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #4: Juliet Parish of V (the original)

The wonderful Faye Grant as Juliet Parish of V
In the 80's (1983-85) there was this great miniseries called V.  V was about us, in modern day US, dealing with alien invasion under the guise of "we come in peace." It was also about heroes and the unsung freedom fighters, to which the first mini series was dedicated.  It was also about heroes and villains that arise in such times.  Some people we just look at on the street and would never guess if they would be a great hero in times of great darkness or a sniveling coward collaborator.  The main characters in the series and its sequels & short-lived but beloved show were not soldiers or beings with super powers.  They were just normal people who found courage.  A street kid, factory worker, teacher, journalist, cop, housewife, and more, became heroes when their world was threatened by alien forces beyond their imagining.
I know most of you are more familiar with the recent "reboot" of V, but check out the original two miniseries and show.  It holds up because there was decent writing.  I do not want to hear whining about the lack of fancy CGI effects.  It's about the characters.  One of my favorites in this series was Faye Grant as Juliet Parrish.  She was a main character who at first glance you could never imagine running a resistance, and doing scientific research and being a doctor, all at once. 
Juliet is a great example of the unexpected hero.  She is this tiny little blond, and though smart (a med student putting herself through school on scholarships),  you could never imagine she could be tough enough to become a leader of the resistance.  Not even she could!  She was amazed and flummoxed that people, tougher and bigger than her, looked to her to lead them through the darkness.  She was brave in the ways that mattered.  A soldier will understand the trust you put in your fellow comrades at arms.  While stealing some lab equipment, the "visitors' opened fire on her and her companion.  These were advanced laser type weapons.  Her partner was mortally wounded.  She risked her life to drag him into her little car, even shot in the hip and in pain, hauled a man twice her size to safety.  She was not trying to be brave.  She was a soldier who refused to leave one of her own behind.  That was kind of hero Juliet was.  In the series, she was brave though you knew she was scared to death inside.  But she did what was needed.  She did not whine.   She was a hero.  And because of Juliet and her resistance fighters, they had V for Victory.
Next week, another great female hero.  Until, read more fantasy and science fiction.  And check out the original V!
Verna McKinnon          

Thursday, October 30, 2014

                               Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #3

                                           Polgara the Sorceress

This week, we are moving from TV to the land of literature.  Fantasy is filled with incredible women characters that are a wonderful inspiration.  This week I am reviewing one of my favorites: Polgara the Sorceress.

David & Leigh Eddings created a wonderful magical character in his Belgariad and Mallorean series- Polgara the Sorceress.  The series was so popular that it even had spin offs novels just about Belgarath the Sorcerer, and his daughter, Polgara the Sorceress.   I have posted the book cover above because it is one of the better visual examples of Polgara-beautiful, proud, independent, and strong.

Polgara is a powerful natural sorceress who has devoted her life to protecting the rightful heir to the Rivan throne in Edding's epic saga.  For those interested, the Belargiad is 5 books and the Mallorean is 5 books, plus the individual books on Polgara and her father, Belgarath.  The books are not huge, so it is actually a good read. 

Polgara is extremely complex, noble, volatile, moral, virtuous, lovely, brilliant, and the best cook in the world.  She is a multi-tasker.   She has sacrificed her whole life to protect what is good and the people she loves.  She has sacrificed eons to this task.  Polgara is devoted to saving the world from the evil god, Torak, and his followers.  Magic in this world is normal, but to only a few.  So Polgara is precious.  She is a disciple of one of that world's seven gods, Aldur.  Aldur is the supreme of all the seven gods, and the most caring.  This is a secondary world, so the world is not earth, just earth-like.  So in many ways she is like a great religious figure as well.  Her legend in that world is long, and people adore her-and fear her a little too.   She is funny-though her humor is very dry and subtle.  Whether she is Aunt Pol or Mistress Pol, or Polgara the Sorceress, she is loved and respected. 

Polgara is not a "save me" type of girl.  She saves others.  Polgara is strong and not just magically.  A strong woman is jot just about her fighting capabilities or magical destructive skill.  It is about what is inside and the depth of character.  You had better not prick her temper too.  There are passages in the series when she loses her temper and raises such a thunderstorm that kings, one of which is seven feet tall, cower and run for safety.   The one quirk in this world is that it has some very old fashioned sexist attitudes.  There are a number a smart and strong women in the series, but they are nudged into the shadows by the men.  They still manage to shine, but it is still irritating.  One character that could never be pushed into the shadows was Polgara.  Her reputation one of the great heroes in her world is revered by all.     

Polgara never uses "weapons" but she uses her sorcery to great effect.  The concept of Edding's magic is unique.  It has nothing to do with gods or chants or spells or rituals.  It is the will and the word.  If you have this power, you can do a great deal.  But it also takes discipline and skill, and much practice.  The magic also has limits and consequences too.  There is almost this great element of physics and science in the magical system of Edding's works.  I found this very interesting and loved its application in the novels.   

Polgara's looks are unique.  In the books, many remark on her being a magnificent beauty. Even her ultimate nephew, Garion, thinks his Aunt Pol is the most beautiful woman in the world.  Her long lustrous black hair with the single snowy lock above her brow, fair skin, blue eyes, and voluptuous figure, melodic voice, have encouraged many a poet in her world to praise her.  Despite this, Polgara is never vain about her appearance.          

What is satisfying about the series is that the main characters get what they deserve.  the good suffer sacrifice, loss, and trauma, but are rewarded at the end with a happy ending.  The evil ones suffer the terrible end.  Very satisfying.

So, so yourself a favor and check out this David Edding's classic series!  as it has been around for awhile, you can find it in used or new bookstores and it is also on Kindle.  The books have never been out of print.  There is a reason.  This is good stuff.  Read it.  I will not tell you how many times I have read it.  That's what a good book or book series will do, keep calling you back.  I usually obey.

Until next week, read more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Heroic Women of Speculative Fiction #2: Susan Ivanova of Baylon 5

                                        Commander Susan Ivanova

How can you not love Commander Susan Ivanova of Babylon 5?  An officer of great integrity and sacrifice, her character on Babylon 5 was a favorite for many of us-including me.  Her character was strong and thoroughly Russian in character, morose yet determined to do the right thing no matter what the cost  Her humor was dry and if you vexed her, that seething glare would have sent one of the Shadows running for cover.  Do not confront Ivanova in battle, for wrath of god would be inflicted up on you.

For those of you out of the loop on Babylon 5 or the era it was filmed (90's era), find the series on DVD and watch it.  It is worth the time to see real science fiction.  There was an evolution in the 80s through the 90's in science fiction and fantasy on TV that is now sadly lost.  Babylon 5 is not flashy, oh look at the pretty special effects science fiction, though the series was one of the first to use computer generated special effects.  Babylon 5 had a specific 5 year story arc.  There were alien races galore and the main characters are a variety of ages (and alien races).  There is a mix of science fiction, multi-layered characters, mythology, epic battles of dark and light, mystery, political chaos, and heroes that emerge over that time.  The evolution is slower paced but more satisfying.   There were many amazing characters on B-5, as we fans have nicknamed it. 

Commander Ivanova was a fantastic evolution of women on television.  Of course, it was through science fiction that we received that gift.  Ivanova was not a cardboard one-dimensional warrior figure, but a fully developed woman with flaws and gifts.  She had personal tragedy in her past, as many heroes do, but rose above it with her stubborn Russian  sense of duty.  Romance was hinted for her character, but she had a universe to save.  That came first.  You can try to hide secrets from Susan Ivanova, but she sees everything.  So do not even bother, foolish mortal. 

One thing about Ivanova, is that while she had a few secrets of her own, you could always trust her.  That space station would have gone up in flames without her.  Her co-workers respected and admired her, and I think a few even worshipped her.  She was professional and a great example of a female officer. 

We can credit not only the writing of B-5, but the talent of Claudia Christian, who so brilliantly portrayed Commander Ivanova.  She was truly the best person for the role!  We love you, Claudia.   

Alas, will we ever see characters like Susan Ivanova on TV again?  One can hope-but I sadly doubt it.  But thanks to DVD we can cherish the stoic Ivanova standing on the bridge of Babylon 5, facing down the darkness with stoic and unflinching bravery, ready to fight the shadows.

Until next week, read more fantasy (and science fiction)!

Verna McKinnon






Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Heroic Women in Speculative Fiction #1-Nyota Uhura

Heroic Women in Speculative Fiction
Lt. Uhura
What can I say about Uhura of Star Trek?  Goddess of the Federation?  Yes.  Role model to all women?  How can you doubt it.  Iconic? Definitely.  Beautiful and smart?  Always.  Important to all women?  Absolutely!  Even if it took decades to officially give her a first name.

Uhura was one of my earliest influences when Star Trek first aired on TV.  Not only was she a woman and an officer, but she was on the bridge of a star ship!  That was cool.  She started out as a Lieutenant but advanced to the rank of Commander over the years.  Uhura was black and female-and portraying a professional women and an officer in an era that did not care to support or advertise women in powerful roles, much less women of color.  It is so important that she was not the maid, which was sadly the type of roles offered to women of color in that time.   Nichelle Nichols was also the first African American woman cast as a regular in a television show who was not in a menial role.  People take these things for granted now.  She was an equal in an era of inequality for women and race.  We love her because she not only gave women everywhere hope to be something more, but because there was warmth and humanity in her character as well, which sprang from the actress herself.  We love you Nichelle Nichols. 

Uhura's character and the actress who played her deserves a galaxy of tribute.  Uhura was brave and stoic, but that was only part of her appeal.  Though she was Starfleet officer, she never lost an ounce of her femininity or her authority.  She was warm and caring.  There was nothing stereotypical about the character or the way Nichelle Nichols played her.  She was not the helpless female that TV so often shown on television.  Despite many sexist attitudes that existed in that time, happily Uhura did not fall into those same traps.  It is important that Uhura was in a respected position.  She did not just answer the phone.  As an officer, Uhura had people under her command and was a linguist of skill.   She was not just the wife or girlfriend of the space scenario.  Uhura's character was free of those stereotypes.  It was refreshing.

Perhaps that is why characters like Uhura are so important.  I never understood why women had to be portrayed as weaker or not as important.  As a young child, I did not care what color she was.   I never understood why it mattered, yet it did to society.   Another reason why Uhura was important.  I was also becoming aware, even at a young age how women were portrayed on TV.  These things bugged me and still do to this day!  I am weary of romantic comedies or dramas where a woman's life is not fullfuilled unless she has a husband or a baby.  There is more to life.  Uhura did not moan about boyfriends or wanting a baby to make her life worth living.  There are elements of that attitude that are still in force.   Tune into any show with a young cast, and there is a lot of stereotype and shallowness going on with female characters, or they are just the tough lawyer or doctor.  Or a mom.  Don't get me wrong, I respect moms.  They are important.  But the entertainment world is narrowing the focus on women and their place even today, forcing us to fit into little easy open character boxes that they can easily control so they can feel in power. 

I do not like to be controlled, thank you very much.  I'll keep my power too.

I never knew about the difficulty Roddenberry and Nichelle's character faced until I was an adult.  Many years ago when I was in college, I  had the opportunity to see Gene Roddenberry lecture.  I was thrilled.  I learned a lot about how stupid TV executives can be.  He talked about the trouble he had convincing the studio to have a multicultural crew for Star Trek.  He spoke about how the studio executives insisted Roddenberry get rid of Uhura and that guy with the pointed ears.  So tragic and unfair how small minds singled out what became two of the most important and  fan favorite characters on the show.  It is a miracle Roddenberry saved Uhura and Spock from oblivion, but thank heavens and the alpha quadrant that he did!

Uhura was a strong women without martial arts or super powers, which makes her even more special.    There is a whole universe of possibilities, thanks to Star Trek and Uhura.  The courage of Gene Roddenberry fighting for her deserves a medal of bravery.  Uhura showed us that we can be anything we want to me-and that is what's important.  Uhura lived that dream.  The beautiful and talented Nichelle Nichols that played her gave us something very precious.  We must treasure that always.
Next week, a different heroine!  Until then, read more fantasy!  And enjoy some classic Star Trek.

Verna McKinnon



Monday, October 13, 2014

The Importance of Heroines

Greetings Familiar Friends,

As I will be in the process of doing a few polish edits for my new publisher and awaiting updates for the re-release of Gate of Souls from Sky Warrior Books, I decided that I will do a series on some of my favorite female characters in science fiction and fantasy.  These amazing heroines will be from many genres: TV, film, comics, and novels.  I will focus on a new favorite heroine each week.   Heroic females are a mainstay of my writings.   There are many different types of strong women in fantasy, and what makes them strong is not just kickboxing or that they carry swords.  I will do an in depth review of these characters that I love and admire.  These women are part of my inspiration.  I hope they will become yours too. 

I also dedicate these weekly heroic females profiles to my fellow geek girls in the world.  You never get the recognition you deserve.  I have always loved science fiction and fantasy.  I read it.  I write it.  I love gaming.   I love the imaginative artwork.  It makes me happy.  It is me.  I am a geek girl and proud.

I will post the first of my tributes to the science fiction &  fantasy heroic woman each Thursday starting October 16.   So check out my Heroic Women in Speculative Fiction post each week for some inspiration, a new perspective, and a jolt of courage.

More later.  Until then, read more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon

Friday, September 19, 2014

Familiar's Tale Trilogy & Sky Warrior Books


 Hello Familiar Friends!

Great news.  This week I signed contracts with Sky Warrior Books.  My complete Familiar's Tale Trilogy (Gate of Souls, Tree of Bones, Fires of Rapiveshta)  will now be published by Sky Warrior Books.

Go to link: to check out their great selection  of books.  I am thrilled.  All dates right now are TBA for release dates, but my Familiar''s Tale series has a new home.  I would like to thank Maggie and Larry Bonham of Sky Warrior Books for adding me to their literary family.

More news to come soon!

Verna McKinnon

Thursday, September 11, 2014

"AForest of Dreams" Anthology Release

Greetings Familiar Friends!

The new anthology release of "A Forest of Dreams," edited by Roy C. Booth, is available at  It features 20 short stories, including my short story, "Dragon Toast." Rick Hipp's (my husband) short story, "Squire William's New Charge," is also part of this diverse collection of tales.  It is a wonderful anthology and the Kindle price is only $2.99.  I just love the cover art!  The  paperback edition is only $9.99!!!  Enjoy the imagination.  More to come soon.  I promise.  There are big changes coming soon.   I hope to have news soon about my Familiar's Tale series.

Verna McKinnon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Caffeine, Chocolate & The Pain of Novel Creation

I have entered the evolutionary state of creating a new novel.   My personal big bang.   I have polished my copy of Bard Maiden of Rhulon.  Now I am moving on to Blood of the Unicorn.  That involves a lot of work and the painstaking new mind set.  It is not just a simple template of a new novel with new characters that I build a book on.  A fresh novel takes a mental adjustment  New characters with fresh and often painful or wicked histories, different worlds (I am addicted to doing tales in a secondary world), new landscapes and kingdoms.  There is a bonding process when its all new that is often tricky.  It's odd at first.  You are working with strangers, essentially.  You make notes and character profiles, but they are not developed in your mind yet.  That comes with the writing.  For me, the characters tend to evolve as I write, which brings a number of changes to the characters and story even as I go.  No matter how much preparation I do, things change.  It is mentally painful and fun at the same time.  I go through the process of thinking of names and titles, do character profiles, etc. 
But when I begin to type-the story or characters change in various ways.  They morph.  My thought process shifts.  Often this has been good.  I have created some great characters that way-ones I never even considered.  They sort of jump at you in a your literary mind  with the stubborn tenacity of a bulldog.  Darcus from Gate of Souls was like that.  Unexpected.  Determined to stick around.  He was initially going to be a one shot character to get my main characters from location A to location B, and probably die in the process.  But when Darcus and Cathal began to verbally spar in that first scene, Darcus became a permanent character in the tale.
So I face these challenges-the first 3 chapter easy flow, the barrier of panic, the battle to move beyond chapter 3, drinking too much coffee or tea, snacking on chocolate chip cookies as I compose more changes, spellchecking, forging ahead, buying more aspirin for the headaches of creation, getting stuck around chapters 8-10 before the dam breaks and I become a manic writing machine.  It's my process.
Such is the life of a writer.  Do not envy us.  We suffer.  We are cranky.  We are doomed. 
More later.  Until then, read more fantasy!
Verna McKinnon

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Post Novel Slump Woes & Latte Deprivation

Hello Familiar Friends,

There is a transition on shifting from writing one novel to working on another is hard.  I finished Bard Maiden of Rhulon and also completed a  thorough polish edit on the novel as well.  Along with sending out queries to agents for my book, I should be roaring to go to work on my new novel endeavor-Blood of the Unicorn.   Sadly, my energy level is in a slump.  I cannot seem to activate.  I would like to add that I do not believe in traditional writer's block.   I do believe in fear and panic, however. 

I have all the basics.  A template of the new world and characters.  I even changed some names to spice up things.  I have a synopsis and outline of story as to what new novel should be.  I have my pretty new folder with my notes and character grid.  Why can't I move forward?  Do I miss Rose and Meg? (my main characters in Bard Maiden of Rhulon).  My ability to shift is unusually difficult.   ARGH.   Also, I have given up Starbucks on a daily basis for summer.  I cheated only once.  (sue me-I am weak human)  But I miss my caffeine infused lattes of happiness.

I wonder if it is because of the theme of this new novel.  The story is darker than usual.    The world and characters are in a grim place.   My main character Brona is born in the first chapter and the events around it are tragic.  She is not yet developed, just a newborn baby marked by a curse and a blessing.  She is a stranger to me.  My other characters in other books, like Runa, Opaline, and Meg and Rose-are fully formed best friends.  They are my literary sisters that I bond to.   Brona is distant, and maybe that is what I need to overcome.       

More later.  Until then-read more fantasy!

Verna McKinnon

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shame on the Emmys

Dear Familiar Friends,

Once again I am reminded why I have stopped watching any award shows, especially snobby and pretentious US based award shows (Emmy, Oscar, and others) because they often neglect to nominate people or shows truly worthy.  Though I am always tickled with joy to see Peter Dinklage nominated because be is a truly great actor, most of what the Emmy awards nominate are basic bland shows.  If it is about a serial killer or politics or drug dealing-they accept that fine.  Their idea of edgy is to reward a show about a guy making meth.  I do not care how good the so-called writing is.   I have no interest in watching a show where the bad guys are central focus and the main protagonist.  Everything the academy votes for is general bland drama like lawyer shows and period dramas with corsets.   Now I did live Downton Abbey.  That love ended in season 3 finale.  There is no point in watching it anymore.   An actor wants to leave and they kill him.  Now I simply so not care.  There rest in the nomination bowl are so expected and typical-Scandal and True Detective, and Homeland.   Snore. 

What gets me is the prejudice.  None of the actresses nominated for best actress in a series can hold a candle to Tatiana Maslany in Orphan Black.  But it is considered science fiction and therefore not worth the effort to nominate.   

Yes, the awards have a unwritten law of prejudice against science fiction and fantasy.   They proved it again.  An actor can be the greatest in the universe but if the part is science fiction, they tend to pass them over.  Game of Thrones does not count.  It is barely fantasy anymore.  It is a big HBO investment and has been reduced to being about royal serial killers with lots of unnecessary nudity, extreme graphic violence, and very few redeemable characters.  I love Tyrion.  I love Arya.  But they are outnumbered by the morose depressive and exceedingly confusing story with elegant costumes and heavy political bloat that would float a blimp.  They will probably die so what is the point in investing in watching just to watch another character I like die (in a gruesome manner).

But my salient point is they overlook people based on the genre of the work.  it is not about art.  It is a money making nomination for studios involved and it is basically all about the numbers-not the talent involved.    So I will watch my shows and root for them.  That is all any of us can do.

Until later, read more fantasy!!!

Verna McKinnon  

Monday, June 30, 2014

"The Leftovers" Premiere Review

Greetings Familiar Friends,

I decided to watch a new show on HBO to see if it was worth anything.  It's called "The Leftovers."  Great cast.   My condolences to them.  As far as the show goes-Don't Bother!  Seriously, save yourself an hour of bloated anquish.  I think I will cancel HBO for this one.
 More later.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Orphan Black: Season 2 Finale Review "We Are Family (I got all my sisters with me)"

Before I dive into my review of the second season finale, let me first say-SPOILER ALERT!  So be warned as I will be talking about things that happened in that episode and the season itself.

First of all, let me say that I started watching Orphan Black almost by accident.  I am often so put off my what is considered science fiction now on TV, that I almost missed this gem.  It was on BBC one afternoon when I was being truant from my own writing.  Even though the season was part way through, I was mesmerized.  Pulling off contemporary science fiction is not easy.  Most of what the networks try to feed us is just junk with vague scifi or supernatural threads or synthetic pretty people.   After watching that episode of Orphan Black (it was episode 5) I checked my on demand on BBC and watched all the other episodes in order.  I was hooked.   Not only is Tatiana Maslany a superb actress who can pull off so many characters in the show with apparent ease like a goddess, but the writing is tight as a drum.  It  keeps the characters and the theme of cloning and its relevance to our characters and the moral consequences bubbling.  I bought the DVD as soon as it was released.  We will not tell anyone how often I have watched it-will we?

For the second season finale, so many questions and fuzzy things were revealed and answered, and yet the writers opened up a whole new box of goodies for the future.  Unlike some shows that kill off characters like a serial killer on a sugar rush, Orphan Black keeps its character deaths of the fringe supporting cast to a minimum and when it is relevant.  Thank you.

So much happened in the finale.  I was reeling.  The chaos of the opening scene, a montage where Sarah, Mrs. S, and Felix were raging over Kira's abduction by Proclone Rachel.  The family was fighting and in pain-then Sarah unexpectedly embraced Mrs. S.  A lifetime of issues dropped in a single moment of love and forgiveness by Sarah.  I almost burst into tears.  This was followed by Sarah's sacrifice when she turned herself over to Dyad and then was treated like a hated lab rat in handcuffs, all under Rachel's vindictive orders.  I use to hate Helena-I feel sorry for her now.  I now hate Rachel with a burning passion.

Along with the suffering Sarah endured, I would like to point out that she is a great example of an antihero.  We root for Sarah, and forgive her messed up past.  But as Sarah was being treated like criminal by Dyad, her clone sisters were working to save her and Kira.  The brilliant Cosima (please let her live) and her lab buddy Scott, helped rescue Sarah after Rachel had a hissy fit and smashed the bone marrow meant for poor Cosima.   The idea that they were going to remove Sarah's ovary made me cringe.  You know that was Rachel too.  When Rachel was hit by the flying pencil, I did not feel sorry for her. (the graphic truth is too scary-eyeball injuries make me cringe).  Rachel is a mental case far worse than Helena.  I do not blame Duncan for suicide, though I blame him for his lack of responsibility that he claimed was part of his clone design.  He was weak.  He created something and then could not deal and hid away.  He is to blame for the Rachel makeup that is cracking like a rotten egg. 

New character  Marion Bowles is intriguing.  Cal (Kira's father) is interesting too and I know he will be back.  I am sure there is more to his past too.  I liked that Kira was smart and stole a cell phone to call her dad.  That girl is full of so much mystery and her abilities are astounding.  I like that Marion helped Sarah and Kira too-but her motives are very layered I am sure. The plans of Mrs. S and Paul which led to poor Helena being taken away, was upsetting, but if it meant the restoration and liberation of Sarah and Kira, I can understand.   Kira means everything to Mrs. S.  Why-who knows?  Is it because she knows her abilities or just motherly love?  Poor Helena, who knows what will happen now.  She is pregnant too-which is scary.  Mrs S. had her motives which are clear-Kira comes first.  That is the one thing that Sarah and Mrs. S are united on.  Her character is just as full of shadows as the others, but I find her oddly enjoyable and the actress, Maria Doyle Kennedy, is amazing. 

The revelation of Castor and the male clones was unexpected, more because we are so involved with our clone sisters.  Paul was a ghost and never really a monitor, but pretending to be one for the military.  I think he is sexy but not trustworthy.

Speaking of sisters, those few happy moments when the clone sisters were having an impromptu dance party in Felix's loft, was welcome and joyful.  The classic Sister Sledge song, "We are Family-I got all my sisters with me," kept rolling in my head as they bonded.  It was a much needed moment after keeping the clone sisters apart for much of the season.  Please let them have more together moments in season 3.  They need a better hideaway though-with a lab and swanky secret doors. 

The final revelation of the male clones existence and how the military used them, like Dyad used the female clones, will being up new troubles and revelations next season.   The rather mentally unstable example of the male clone (Castor) Marion had in her fancy well-guarded dungeon was disturbing. I was surprised that the character who will be playing these new male clones was also from the religious group.  Marion Bowles' interest in Sarah is intriguing.  She is not a fanatic on the surface and is very rich based on her castle like mansion.  But her layers are there.  Perhaps through her, Sarah can gain some answers.

Sarah's character has grown so much.  Her future as the reluctant hero in protecting her sisters and daughter is solid.  Her growth was slow and believable.   Sarah still has the punk fringe, the wild long hair and dark piss-off stare, but within that leather jacket persona is a woman with heart.  She was lost for so long, but now she has a calling that she is following, though she wanted to run from it.  A true antihero we can look to.   Then you add all the other characters she plays-Cosima, Allison, Tony (transgender clone), Helena, Rachel, the German.  All so different.  All nuanced and individual beings down to voice inflection, accents, walk, dress, body language, facial expression.  It's not just hair and makeup.  Its deeper and what a real actor can do.  I also send praise to the writers and supporting cast (who wants to start a Felix fan club?).     

The saddest thing is the nearly year long wait for season 3.   Thankfully, season 2 is our in July on DVD/Bluray.  Guess what I'm watching?

A final note-if the Emmy's do not give Tatiana Maslany a nomination, they have no credibility.   It will also prove my theory that the Hollywood awards hate anything science fiction or fantasy based.  They should  just ship Tatiana her acting awards to her via FedEx with apology.

More later.

Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Roles Models for Women and Young Girls

Greetings-just a visual opinion about my role models and what today's girl has as a feminist or independent woman role model.

This is a collection of some of my most inspirational role models.

Below is what most girls look to as feminist role model

I think I have made my point

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Game of Novels

Hello Familiar Friends,

I have finished a new novel, which is a different novel series from Familiar's Tale, but still exciting with strong female heroes that do not rely on boyfriends for their existence in the tale.  I am now researching agents to submit to.  A daunting task indeed.  Wish me good fortune.  I now understand why so many writers drink.  The writing part is the fun and easy portion of this brutal game of novels.

Also, I have decided to make the first Familiar's Tale series a trilogy (was 4 books) which I think will work much better for the story.   I am stalking my publisher to get Tree of Bones released by September.   Wish me luck.  I have another trilogy planned for my wonderful Familiar's Tale characters, but I need to get the first trilogy off the ground.

I am also working on another potential trilogy,"Twilight of the Unicorn."   It will not sparkle, I assure you.  There will be darkness, MAGIC and damaged heroes.  More to come. 


Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Insanity, Coffee, and the Invisible Author


It has been awhile, but I have been busy.  I know I vanished from sight, but writing can be like a possession.  And it was.  But I was genuinely busy-writing 96,000 words in 3 months busy.  But the novel I am working on is merely 1 chapter away from completion.  ONE CHAPTER!  Then the book is done.  I do massive amounts of edits over each chapter before going on to next, so what I have will be pretty solid with just some tightening and spruce up needed here and there.  Am I hopped up on caffeine and buggy-eyed?  Yes, but I'm still cute so it works for me.

As for my 2nd novel in my Familiar's Tale book series, Tree of Bones,  (which was written in 2008) my publisher Joe at Aberrant Dreams has assured me that it will be out by September 2014.    We have a wonderful new artist for  the book cover.  I look forward to the release with more anticipation than you realize.   If Tree of Bones is finally released-if it does finally happen, this will be my reaction.  
Along those lines, I have decided to make the first Familiar's Tale series a trilogy (it was going to be 4 books) -the the next novel, Fires of Rapiveshta, will complete that tale.  I found that I can combine the two tales into a single novel and make it better.  There will be lots of action, dragons (who doesn't love that) and an epic battle of Dark vs Light.  I have loads of other ideas for another trilogy for  my Familiar's Tale characters, whom I love and will continue to write about along with the other books I am working on.   Write on people.

Hugs and Love.  More to Come.

Verna McKinnon

Friday, April 11, 2014

Madness Continues

Hello Familiar Friends!

Am still like the mad hatter typing away, but a tired mad hatter.  Am writing with fury when not working at my day job.  Just wrote a scary goblin wedding scene.  More to come.  Think good thoughts that I retain my sanity as I finish this project.  I am so exhausted, like a sleepy owl in daytime.  My characters are tried too but they are rallying to the call of the author.  So tired-I need caffeine.  And chocolate. 


Verna McKinnon

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Manic Writer

Time running out.  Have personal (sort of) deadline to finish novel.  Cannot amuse you all this week, but next week will be back.  I promise.  Need more Starbucks.  Writing next chapter.  And the next...and the infinity.  Bye.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Author Insanity & Junk Food

Yep-that's where I'm at.  I am working to step up my writing process after I got lazy last week.  I was zoned unto the flow and my story was running smoothly until I got distracted with the demands of being human (work, sleep, applying mascara)  It is a fault I have and must amend as I have a goal to finish a certain book project quickly.   I feel a bit annoyed with myself.  I have been eating way too many chocolate chip cookies and haunted by book chapters demanding my hand.  My inner wolf is vexed with me as you can see:

On a different plane, my publisher promises me some real headway with book cover art for Tree of Bones and I should see something by next month.   As I am behind schedule with the current novel I am slaving over I must bid you all a fond farewell until I find my way back to the blog.  I must now figure out a way for my heroine to be cured of mystical infection after being bitten by a changeling.  Nasty creatures!

Verna McKinnon

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Truth About Writers: The Good, The Bad, and the Snooty

Greetings and Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Yes, I am wearing green, being mostly Irish.  On this happy Irish day, I shall import a little Celtic wisdom to any aspiring or newly published writers.

In my years of writing and and the goal to be published, I have met and even become friends with several well known and even legendary authors at various conventions and workshops over time.  On the whole, these people are wonderful, kind, friendly, supportive of your writing goals, and happy for any success you may have.  They make you feel like part of a literary family.  It is a usually a positive and inspiring experience.   The warmth and genuine support of your fellow writer is great.    I love these people.  BUT-you must know that there is always a bad apple in the basket somewhere and you could experience a nasty encounter with someone who is not the usual warm and supportive author.

This happened to me only once, and the strange thing is this writer was just newly published author first time.  This person (let's just call this person Snooty Face) was lucky enough to get an agent and  got a book contract with an well known publisher.  Now I was recently published too, though with a smaller publishing house .  I am proud of my novel, Gate of Souls, A Familiar's Tale, Book 1.  I was getting great reviews and even though I was not selling big, I accepted that I was an unknown  author in a small publishing house and this would take time.  Small publishing houses do not often make it into big book sellers like Barnes & Noble.   We work hard and use whatever resources  we can (thank you Amazon and KINDLE!).  My publisher knew this too and believed in my writing.  Still does.   This other writer was a casual acquaintance and we lived locally in same area at the time.

I offered Snooty Face a copy of my novel as a gesture of friendship (Snooty did not reciprocate this gesture).  When we met for coffee to hear some good news, Snooty Face gave an odd opinion on my novel.   Now, anyone who has read Gate of Souls knows it is heroic traditional fantasy with sorcerers, familiars, tons of magic, a complete world structure specific to that secondary world.  My familiars in my book live for centuries like their mages, they talk, have magical abilities, and are not regular animals.  They are special.  My magical system in my world, according to my publisher and other authors who have read me, is highly structured, consistent, organized, and believable.  The only thing Snooty had to say about my novel was "Why didn't the owl die from eating toast?"   Really?  The owl (Belwyn) talks and is a thousand years old and has telekinesis.  The toast was a concern?  Snooty also did not look me in the eye and then launched into a diatribe about how Snooty designs DNA and biology to make a creature and then bragged about all the big book numbers Snooty was getting from Borders and then quickly avoided any discussion on my novel.

Snooty did not say they disliked or liked by novel, but was quick to try to plant a seed of doubt in my ability.  Not all books are for everybody.  We all have different tastes.  I accept that.  But Snooty was completely dismissive and not objective of my novel and only wanted to talk about their own success and then bounced away happy to have done evil.  People who work that hard to make you feel bad about yourself or attack your confidence are jerks with bloated egos who only get validation from making other people feel bad-because they are jealous.  I used to wonder if my opinion was solitary until I met a few others who had toxic exchanges with Snooty Face.  Snooty also plays the game, because Snooty grovels before the feet of the famous and well known authors.  After a time, I truly came to believe that this person was jealous.  The derisive attitude about my novel was not an opinion but fear of my talent.  They felt threatened by a fellow author, despite their own blessings, and acted like a toadstool-small but poisonous.
You cannot do anything about toadstools.  So ignore them, because you know when you are great and so do other people.  Most other writers that you will be lucky enough to encounter are great people-friendly and supportive and generous.  Their light is warm and creative.  Just beware of the the rare toadstool.
More later.

Verna McKinnon


Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Write, Rinse, Repeat

Hello Familiar Friends!
I am currently a bit frenzied right now, as I am in a the wonderful and mystical state of writing flow.  The flow is a blissful and yet frenetic state of being.  Your book is whole in your mind, the story a rushing river through your brain synapses firing off events and conflicts and plot twists.  It means writing too, the actual process where I sit at my keyboard and type the tale. 
The state of getting there is a series of events that involve struggling through the first 3 chapters, character and story outlines, background and organization, piles of  scribbled notes on pastel sticky pads.  You go from having a notebook of interesting ideas and 3 rough chapters to something solid and viable.   This is good.   But it also demands attention and discipline now.  It demands the process to write.  No procrastination of watching Castle or Orphan Black, no tomorrow promises or I need a facial.  It is the stage where you must WRITE!
It is writing hardcore and sweaty.  Like the shampoo directions of old-lather, rinse, repeat.   So its now write, edit, rewrite.  Over and over as long as the chocolate chip cookies hold out.   I do this flow for each chapter in my process.  It is a 3 phased process that works best for me.  Also, always, no matter what, do a hard copy check before you move on.  You miss too much on the computer.  It is deceptive like a wicked genie in a tale.  Never trust it.  But you keep writing until the novel is finished.
So I must go back to the writing flow now.  Write, edit, repeat.  God, I hope I have enough cookies.
More later.
Verna McKinnon     


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Novel Writing & the Revision Monster

Hello Familiar Friends,
Revising a novel is a complex beast.    I am currently in the process of revising a new novel which is more intense than just editing for grammar boo boos.  I have changed some key elements in my story, and though it better and stronger, it also meant going back to rewriting some earlier chapters.  It is exciting and also tedious.-much like the life of a writer.  It also changes where the novel was heading.
I have been through this before.  When I was submitting my first published novel, Gate of Souls, I went through the same thing.  The book was good before, but the major changes I made, which there were many, for adjustments and relationships of characters, structure of the my story, deleting certain characters which were dead weight, adding new, shifting how I did things, etc.,-it was insane.  But it made my novel better and the story was stronger.  I went into power mode and revised a 100,000 word novel in less than 90 days.  Did it hurt? Yes.  Did it make me dizzy?  Yes.  Was it worth it-YES!
When going through this process, whether it is taking a fully completing novel (like Gate of Souls) or one that is only half-finished, is a challenge and a pain in the ass.    Often excessive amounts of coffee and chocolate chip cookies are involved .  But let's face it-as writers this is expected as part of the creative process.  Our initial gem of an idea has a beginning we gleefully put to pen, but often it must go through a lot of cutting and polishing before it becomes a flawless diamond.    Change happens.  If you become stuck or blocked, there is a reason and it is not the "writer's block" so many of us use as an excuse.  It means there is a problem with the novel that needs fixing.  Once you accept this cruel but necessary fact, you go in and figure out the problem.  Sometimes it is a character dragging you down that needs to be sent to the dead character graveyard.  Sometimes you must add a character.  I did that to my current and it changed how the book flowed and centered its focus.  It gave my main character a foundation for being where she needed to be.  It also changed her relationship with another character, but that is okay-because what is happening is better and more exciting.  It also gave some challenge to my main character.  It not only pushed me passed my comfort zone, but it pushed my character passed her comfort zone too.  My gem got some polish. 
So never fear the changes.    It may hurt and make you sweat, like a P90X workout, but you and your story will be stronger for it.  You will have written a better novel.
More later.
Verna McKinnon