Saturday, February 23, 2008

The importance of support

As writers, we are necessarily loners. We have to be. It's not only the creating part that requires solitude but also the sheer time it takes to put those ideas on paper and then finesse those words into a story. I'd wager to say that most writers prefer their own characters to real people.

What's not to like? They come from your own mind, you're their God, even though if you've done your job well they develop a will of their own and often drive the story instead of you. Every character you invent, even the very evil ones, come from a small part of your psyche, even if you couldn't imagine doing one thing in real life those characters are doing.

Real people, well they're... real. Unreadable. Uninventable. Uncontrollable. That's tough for a writer who's used to control his or her world.

I've never been good in social situations, and up until a few years ago had difficulty getting past extreme shyness. What people took as standoffishness was simply pure terror. I've worked hard at overcoming that, with mitigated success. I also live in a different culture than I grew up in and sometimes I just don't get it. Them.

But there are also times when I feel lost and completely alone in a world (the writing world) where it is almost impossible to succeed in, and I end up sitting at my computer thinking "what the fuck am I doing this for"? Problem is, I can't see myself having a regular nine-to-five job (been there, done that, got the t-shirt and the burnout), so what else is there?

To me, that's where the Internet comes in. It has been, truly, a miracle for me. I belong to several groups, some with similar interests, some out of whimsy, some out of reaching out to different people. There's LiveJournal and Facebook, but there's also my Publishers Yahoo! Group and my SF Canada group. These groups provide me with contact from across the world, give me different perspectives on things because of culture, age, geographical differences.

So if I need to whine (very unattractive, I know) or ask for advice or information, there are dozens of people there to help. They may not replace physical contact, and I often need that from the few friends I have in my town, but they can be there at the touch of a button.

This week I was in a fug and needed a pep talk. I approached a fellow SFer through email and asked him for advice. He doesn't know me, in the sense that we've only communicated through our SF Canada group, but he very generously took the time to respond and give me a boost. He not only gave me a pep talk but gave me some very concrete suggestions that have perked me tremendously.

So if you're a lone writer out there and you feel alone in the wilderness, think about the various means you can communicate through the Internet. You'll often get support without criticism and generosity and kindness you wouldn't encounter on your street.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Read an ebook week 2008


Contact Information:
Rita Toews

(204) 661-2734


How "Green" is Your Reading Material?

"Carbon Footprint", "Environmentally Friendly" and "Green". Have you considered these words when it comes to your reading material?

We're encouraged to buy, use and dispose with the environment in mind. While it's easy to recognize the negative impact of excess packaging and chemical content in many of the products we purchase, it's not so easy when it comes to books, magazines and newspapers.

We do have alternatives other than paper for our reading material. Many books, newspapers and magazines are created electronically. No trees are cut to produce them. No ink is used to put the words on the page. No fossil fuel is used to run presses or trucks to move them around the country. Heated storage facilities are not required to warehouse e-books until they are shipped to bookstores.

March 2nd-8th, 2008 is Read An E-Book Week.

E-books are delivered to the end user electronically. They are read on electronic devices such as the new Sony portable reader or Amazon's Kindle. They are destroyed with the push of a delete button, without ever taking up room in a landfill.

It takes 24 trees to produce a ton of printing paper, the type normally used for books, 12 trees are harvested for a ton of newsprint. Up to 35% of books printed for consumers (down from nearly 60% several years ago) are never read. They are used for window dressing in book stores, and eventually returned to the publisher for disposal in landfills. Given that a mature tree can produce as much oxygen in a season as 10 people inhale in a year, a serious alternative to paper books, magazines and newspapers needs to be considered. That alternative is e-books.

Before purchasing your next paper book, magazine or newspaper, consider your carbon footprint commitment. Read electronically.

Read An E-Book Week, March 9-15, 2008

Monday, February 11, 2008

Found me again

Some of you may have read my posts on the withdrawal symptoms I suffered from Effexor . Some also commented they were experiencing similar problems. Some emailed me personally to tell me they'd tried to get off Effexor several times and gave up because the withdrawal symptoms were so severe they couldn't function.

I was lucky to have the luxury of working at home and having no other responsibility than myself -- my husband can take care of himself -- and when I was disabled I could zombie-out and let the world go by. Not everyone is capable of doing that.

I've been off Effexor since September 2007 and I can pretty much say I went through hell. And you know what? If I had to do it over again, I'd go off the drug in a minute. Once I went off it and read about the symptoms (especially the brain zaps, but also the muscle cramps, the constant nausea, the diarrhea), I was reluctant to go back to my doctor because I knew what he was going to do: put me back on it. A few times before, when I'd talk to him about feeling "not right", he'd up my dosage, telling me I "wasn't there yet". I ended up taking the maximum dosage, 300mg, and still feeling lousy. That's when I decided that, although Effexor did help me when I needed it 6 years ago, it wasn't what I needed anymore. Unfortunately, although my doctor agreed that I should go off the medication, I wasn't as certain about his ability to listen to my symptoms and believe them, especially after I'd read so many people saying their doctors discounted their symptoms as being "in their heads" (well, duh). So I decided to tough it out and found some ways of alleviating the worst.

But what is this feeling of feeling "not right" when I was on Effexor? I could function well, no more panic attacks, anxiety, or blues attacks. I could write, got involved in all sorts of internet groups, volunteered. Yet, I didn't feel like me. There was a kind of buffer, something between me and the world that made me feel off all the time. I started not to care about a lot of things, from personal relationships to my personal hygiene. Oh, it wasn't drastic, but there was a constant lassitude that made me become more and more passive, or slow. The sleeping problems, the insomnia, for which I'd originally started taking Effexor, were still present: now I needed another pill, Desyrel, to counteract the other effects so I could sleep. I'd wake up groggy and not really rested.

Ironically, I was beginning to see myself as more depressed and dissatisfied while I was on Effexor than I was before I started taking it. Since I stopped taking the drug, my, I'm finding myself again. My brain is sharp like it hasn't been in a long time. I've returned to some of my old activities, like cross-stitching and painting, that I'd stopped doing because my hands were constantly shaking. The world around me is more vivid. I laugh more.

I'm not there yet, and sure, there are parts of my old self I would've probably hoped not to see again. I'm moodier and more sensitive, and I haven't completely chased the diminished energy levels I suffered while on Effexor. I still get muscle cramps and severe tinnitus, and sometimes still brain zaps. I've gained 12 pounds -- exploded, really, and I can put that directly at the drug's door (it acts on the brain's norepinephrine, so it's like quitting smoking).

But I'm getting there. I like myself better. I found myself again, the person I knew, with all her faults, quirks, and weirdnesses. Like any 12-step program, one day at a time. That's all I'm looking at.

Monday, February 04, 2008

The rush is on

My second novel, "The Wildcat's Victory", was released on Thursday. It was scheduled for January and just made it under the wire. It's on Double Dragon's site right now and should be out in POD on Amazon by the end of the week. I should post the links when I get them.

I have a virtual book tour booked for March and am just starting to get things done in preparation. Then, my editor has a blog tour going right now for her YA fantasy and I'm preparing a blog interview for her -- maybe we could do one here. (?? Dom?) I don't know if they sell a lot of books, but the cross linking should drive a lot more traffic. I'm also supposed to start a new blog for my blog tour -- with some promotional coaching. I may shift everything to it if it gets better traffic than my other two sites -- keeping to two blogs, it and this. I've decided to suspend my rant blog and post on a discussion group instead -- Canadian Content.

Another couple of jobs showed up this last week. I was already secretary of a local constituency association and the treasurer is moving away -- so I took that over temporarily because of the election. Election being the next job, the writ was dropped today. Will be doing my bit to get rid of the second worst government in North America -- the Alberta Tories.

The Wildcat's Victory --