Fiction Friday, TGIF, Writing

Words With Friends

I have no idea what I’m walking into, but I stride forward, into my favourite place: the library.

Of course it would be my favourite place. It is a building full of books. I would live there if I could, but I don’t think those in charge would really appreciate that.

I don’t know what took me this long. Why did I take this long to check this out? There had to be others around me who loved to write and I wanted to gather with them. And so I have.

I am always apprehensive going into a new situation, but this is stacked with a whole new set of expectations. This time, I’m supposed to share my writing, to open up that part of me.

Oh, of course I do it all the time here, now, and I don’t know what took me so long to do that either, but here I am.

This, however, is something entirely different. This time, I am not hiding behind a computer, waiting for the comments or likes to trickle in. This time, I am face-to-face with those who also love to write, or else they wouldn’t be here. This time I can’t hide.

I approach the checkout desk where people are taking out library books and I ask for directions to the room where the writer’s group meets.

I have been in this building many times before, for years and ever since the library from the old church of my childhood became the new location. This, though, is new to me. I was not aware of this room, just off the main area.

I find it with little problem, even with signs and people in my path. The room is to the left and they are inside, waiting for me, or new members like me.

I made sure to come on time, but I like the room almost immediately.

Someone shows me to a chair. I can’t remember who it was now. It’s all a blur of frazzled nerves. I’m doing this and I hope it is everything I’ve ever imagined a writing group would be. How unfair to put oh so many expectations on these poor fellow lovers of the written word.

There is someone across the table and people sitting over to my right. They appear to be engaged in some casual conversations when I appear on the scene, but they welcome me warmly. I can be one of them if I put my best foot forward.

My best foot is my coming-out-of-my-shyness-shell foot. I will put it out alright. If not here, where?

This is the time to drop that silly shyness and give it my all. They seem to agree.

There is someone on the other side of the room, bustling around and making tea. The guy to my right speaks with an English accent, which I can make out through a cracked voice, the ends of a sore throat. He still talks enthusiastically and seems to be one of the first members of the group. He is friendly and has a sense of humour, which I notice right then and there.

I hear my name. Someone recognizes me. She works at the library and runs the group, but she does not stay for the whole thing, instead overseeing it and taking hot drink orders. She speaks with a soft voice, the perfect library voice I suppose. She has met me through my sister, my brother-in-law, and I strain to remember when, although I knew she worked here.

The guy sitting across the way appears to be a new comer like I am. This makes me relate to him then and there. He has come from out of town.

I am still taking time to get an idea of who is here. I wasn’t sure what the cross section of people at a writer’s group could be. Age. Male or female ratio. From different backgrounds.

As people take their seats and we push tables together, I try not to shuffle and fidget more than is necessary, but in new situations I tend to do both to excess. I try to focus on the cues I can get from the people now sitting around me.

National Novel Writing month is discussed. I think I should speak up and say that I did it once, but not this year. I was sure showing up here for the first time in the month of November would mean NaNoWriMo would be a common topic of discussion, but I had no idea if everyone else would be doing it, as a writer’s group would be the place to bring it up.

I have come equipped with my laptop and earphones. Oh, how I wish I could go the old fashion route and write with a pencil or pen and a notebook. I would have picked out a special notebook for the occasion. It would have been red and the pages would have smelled like books, like paper smells.

I wonder how this is all going to work. I can’t write by hand and so how will I join in and share my writing at the end?

Do we even share?

Do we just bring in writing we do at home, for it to be shared and commented on?


Something is happening. I am talking and speaking up and out. Finally, it’s a whole room and its full of those who only want to talk about the writing they love, like I do. There is nothing else I’d rather talk about.

There is tea for the one with the lost voice and ginger cookies from a local bakery being passed around the table.

I decline, hopefully in a polite manner, a cup of anything hot. I even offer up the story of my disgrace from last spring and the ensuing events leading up to me, using a generously provided laptop in a pinch. I am new here and the nerves still could cause a problem. I wouldn’t want to knock my cup over, in a move to open my laptop, as I hear the guy sitting beside me has a laptop too and I seem to have the worst luck. I would hate for that to “spill” over to anybody else.

He asks me if I spend a lot of time in Waterloo. I hesitate and ask for confirmation that he is, indeed, speaking to me and not someone else. I am bad for that because I have gotten it wrong before and I hate that sensation of embarrassment, even though the feeling of discomfort is one I still end up feeling either way.

I tell him he must be thinking of someone else, but it is a strange, deja vu sort of moment. I liked that it happened here. I seem to get mistaken for someone else, in the most interesting moments and in the strangest situations. I wonder who that other girl is that I keep getting mistaken for. Could make a cool story sometime.

Next there’s talk of a mystery object. This, I hadn’t expected, but I like where this is going.

A model of a dragon is being passed around, painted by the one with barely a voice, when he was a teenager.

People compliment him on the painting he did of the creature and it is passed to me.

I take it in hand, ever so cautiously, and I feel the wings and the head. I ask for a physical description of it, mostly its colour. It is small and intricately detailed. I try hard to detect every bump and groove with my fingertips.

The maker or someone else mentions Lord of the Rings. He painted models, or meant to, from LOTR, the sort of thing you might expect a teen boy to do after school.

I like to be developing a picture of everyone here, even if it’s bits at a time. We could give rambling explanations of ourselves, going around the table, but instead we simply state our names.

It is hard it first, taking me a while to learn which name belongs to each and every one of these lovers of words, but I will get there.

NAme tags are made, the spelling of my name is wrongly guessed at, but this isn’t uncommon. I like to have this discussion. How long will people require a glance at another’s tag, before the name to the face will come right to mind?

This is a group of barely ten. I like this number. It’s not such a large group that I feel lost in a crowd, but not so small as I imagined, making a writing group less a group and more a few people.

So I guess we are writing now, or after much of the conversation dwindles. Our group leader brings up dialogue and character development in a story. I announce, perhaps over confidently that I have specifically been complimented on my dialogue, by a trusted friend whom I gave my NaNo project to when I’d finished the month. This speaking up thing I seem to be doing feels good, although still rather foreign to me.

Now the pressure is mounting. The talk grows quieter and less frequent and it’s time to write, right?

So I need to write about a dragon?

Okay. Here goes nothing.

I like the noise of the guy’s fingers: click click click. He is writing, then pausing to think, I suppose. I do the same.

I try not to fear him being able to glance over and read the few words I’ve managed to write. I guess I have some self absorption that writers are prone to. We are all hoping to produce something we can share when time’s up. We all likely think about sharing of ideas vs stealing them.

I take in the smell of ginger and the sound of keyboard keys clicking and I just write.

It slowly dawns on me again. Oh yeah, dragon, dragon, dragon. Don’t forget to write about the dragon.

I don’t write fantasy. I can’t write like Tolkien. That’s not my thing. Or is it?

I pick a locale and two characters and I write a scene for them. The dragon is coming up.

Time is up. The silence is broken by people’s uncertainty at what they’ve just put down, on paper or on screen. Will it be good enough?

Well, that’s what I am thinking, but maybe they aren’t. But wait…how will I participate?

I volunteer to just let my VoiceOver speak my story to the room, as a joke. I don’t want to be different, and I’m glad I didn’t not bring my laptop, or I would have been sitting there and twiddling my thumbs while everyone else wrote, but now how do I read what I’ve written for comments and reactions?

Others read their stories. They are all fantasy themed. They all involve real live dragons, but I did not go that direction. Maybe I should have, but instead I enjoy their little tales of discovery, intrigue, and adventure.

I listen to their reading styles and the inflections they place in the words. I try again not to move around, if possible, as this is a sign of boredom. I want to respect all these people who share, as I want to learn from them and to earn their attention when it’s my turn to share.

When it comes to me I don’t want to miss out entirely, so I go ahead and describe what I wrote. I receive a few comments and nods of approval at my subject matter, as I’d chosen to write more modern and contemporary, about an antique shop, one of my favourite settings for a story.

I talk about my one character not knowing what he’s exactly looking for, when his girlfriend asks, but his declaring that he’ll know it when he sees it.

This part seems to get people’s attention. I am happy they believe that I wrote what I’m saying I wrote and that my relaying of that writing is coherent.

Now that I know what actually goes on during one of these things, I must revise my plan and go with my braille display, as long as there is a plug nearby and I can bring a cord long enough to reach. I can write my stories in there and be able to read them back in the moment, along with the rest. My first idea to bring what I’d written from last time falls flat in my own estimation because I don’t want to be always behind a week. I want to be in the moment with this room and these people.

The guy beside me informs me there is an available spot to plug in my device and that he too may require it at some point. My laptop has held up this time, but I know its battery life is limited.

My laptop’s voice was an interesting bit of discussion this time. It has resulted in talk of a Gilbert Gottfried reading of Fifty Shades of Grey somewhere out there online. I had never before compared VoiceOver to Gilbert, but it makes sense.

I wonder what they will think when I walk in next time, with my Braille Sense over my shoulder, like a purse. I’m already looking forward to next time. I love this. I’ve found my tribe. I did not want to get my hopes up about this whole thing, but the real thing did actually surpass my expectations, in unexpected and interesting ways, some of which I’ve mentioned here.

I feared they wouldn’t like me, that I would feel out of place, as I do in a lot of places, but here I have this one thing in common with these people.

I don’t play Words With Friends, but I like the name of the game.

I don’t know what might come of being a member of a writer’s group, whether we become friends or not, but I like to hold back on any expectations I may harbour and just be in the moment, in that room, with those who love words as much as I do.

Paperback Writer

Fiction Friday, TGIF, Writing

What’s in a Pen Name?

If the rumours are, indeed, true:

Hillary Clinton to Announce 2016 Run for President on Sunday – New York Times Politics

It’s funny that I mention her in this post from just over one year ago,

(Women & Books),

as I spoke about women, on International Women’s Day, 2015 and as I thought about feminism, equality, writing, and the pen name.

I wrote about two specific women writers in that post last year: L.M. Montgomery and J.K. Rowling.

I have a lot to say on women’s rights, but today I wanted to focus on another issue that has been at the back of my mind lately. The two things come together in the end though, as is often the case for me these days.

For this week’s Fiction Friday I wanted to discuss pen names and both L.M. and J.K., other than the fact that these two follow the order of the alphabet,


they also represent actual ladies, with real, full names: Lucy Maud and Joanne Kathleen.

Why do authors use pen names?

I have heard several reasons for the act of writing by one name or another, or more, when publishing several books or series of books.

Funny how I wanted to write this post and then, suddenly, I come across a few blog posts on the subject.

I am including them here, but I want to mention that I have not yet read them, as I write this.

I know writing is repetitive. It’s hard to truly come up with anything original anymore, so I did not want to have read another blogger’s thoughts on this topic, before I could explain my own.

Pen Names-Necessary Evil or Ticket to Crazyville?


What to Do When You Absolutely, Positively NEED a Pen Name

Anne Rice is best known for her novel Interview with the Vampire.

She had written so many novels over her career, but I only recently heard about her romance/erotic series of novels: Beauty’s Kingdom.

With the release of the Fifty Shades of Grey books and movie, Anne has been discussing the place erotica takes up in literature.

I visit Ms. Rice’s Facebook page on a regular basis.

Anne Rice on Facebook

And so I heard about the release of her newest Beauty’s Kingdom novel, on April 21st, first one since they first came out in the 80s.

Back then Rice wrote these erotic fiction stories under the pen name A.N. Roquelaure.

Funny how her initials are AN, so close to her actual name. What a coincidence.


She said on Facebook that she preferred a pen name back then because it distinguished her persona, from one genre to another.

I happen to think that vampires can be a highly suggestive and erotic creature. It isn’t such a stretch from one to the other. I can’t say I was totally surprised, when I first heard about her alter ego.

From mainstream author to the indie world:

On Facebook I became aware, recently, of a female writer named Joanna Penn.

The Creative Penn

Perfectly literary name and the perfect name for today’s topic.


Joanna writes thrillers, under the “penn name” of:

J.F. Penn.

She goes by Joanna when she does podcasts, interviews, and speaking engagements.

She writes non-fiction on writing and on being an entrepreneur.

Anne Rice was trying to separate her writing personas, but in the 80s erotica was mostly secretive.

Nowadays, with Fifty Shades, it is becoming mainstream.

There is no more need to hide. Or is there?

It’s still important to keep separate, even when the audience knows the truth.

Hiding in plain sight I suppose.

Today’s world is a lot different from the one where Anne Rice wrote Beauty’s Kingdom.

It’s not the 80s anymore and nobody can keep a secret in the technological age we now live in.

Why does Joanna Penn even bother with the distinction now? Why do any of them?

When Harry Potter came to an end and Rowling wanted to go in a different direction, she first wrote The Casual Vacancy.

After a mixed review, she moved even further away from wizards, with a good old fashioned who-did-it detective story.

Only Rowling did not write this.

A man named Robert Gailbraith did.

J.K. Rowling to Publish Another Book Under Pen Name

So she has already fiddled around with her name in the past, using initials to disguise the fact that she was a female writer.

Now she chose to go with a male’s name, surprise surprise, when writing in a genre that has historically been known as a male genre.

This makes me mad and it confuses me. I love her and Harry Potter, but I can’t say her choices since have impressed me.

I wish I could talk to her about why, as a writer who has been given the extreme honour of writing books, why she has done what she’s done.

So I see it, still, partly as a fear of being unable to sell as many books if people realize you are a female. If you use initials, at least it may fool readers or customers, in the moment.

Is this a male writer or a female writer?


Oh well…

But the creation of a whole new male author, Gailbraith, this is baffling to me on many levels.

No room for ambiguity with initials here.

On the one hand I know all about the importance of branding.

I have branded myself as Her Headache, for my writing blog.

I don’t disguise the fact that I am female or hide my real name, but I do put myself out there in a certain light.

Even more recently I have rebranded myself, for my “alter ego” as The Insightful Wanderer, with the creation of my travel blog.

So I have two names now, plus my real name underneath.

I see the value in having separate titles, to distinguish oneself in separate areas of one’s life. I just wish there was no issue, from a feminist perspective, but I believe there is.

I guess I just wanted to explore this topic, here, and to hear your thoughts on branding and pen names.

Do you understand why these authors and others have chosen, in the past and in present, to go by different names?

Okay, now I will go and read those other blog posts on the existence of pen names.


What’s in a name anyway?


In the News and on my Mind: Gandalf is the Original Grey

Watching the news in the evening is a bit like being on an emotional Tilt-aWhirl. “Isis now sets people on fire.” “Harper Lee has a new book out!” “Some oddballs are bringing measles back because they’re scared of autism, which is a bit like saying I’m worried about birthday candles, so let’s start a forest fire.” “It’s going to be gorgeous this weekend!” “Look, a politician being deliberately rude.” “And also, look at these adorable puppies!” My limbic system does not work that fast!

I found this Facebook status, a few weeks back, on a friend’s timeline and I thought it perfectly summed up the world right now. Add a splash of humour and that helps, it helped me to smile for a moment, even as I was horrified by what I was seeing on the news that night.

I have had these news stories on my mind for a while now.

Every night on the news there’s: Isis engaged in holding people hostage and burning them alive, measles seems to be spreading with a fear of vaccinations and a backlash to go along with that, here in Canada the assisted suicide debate is being ignited by our court’s recent ruling, Deflate-Gate was the name for this year’s Super Bowl, and the Fifty Shades hype just won’t be silenced.

For the next five weeks, I will be discussing one of these news stories and sharing my thoughts here because I just can’t seem to get all five of these stories out of my head.

In this case, I will go backwards and work my way, from last to first. In five weeks time I shall see where we are with terrorism and extreme groups because I’m sure this particular story isn’t going away.

I liked to make the joke that all that Fifty Shades hype stole my birthday thunder, but on a more serious note I feel there is a bigger discussion going on here than any movie, no matter how much it rakes in.

I read the books after they came out and they are no Lord of the Rings: from Gandalf the Grey to Christian Grey. This, in no way, is a comparison of the two, other than their character titles.

When I read, I was curious what kind of writing to expect and I thought it was a lot of ridiculous catch phrases and emails, back and forth, between the two main characters. I guess, in modern fiction, email and texting are to be expected.

Laters, Baby

My most loathed line from the story is the line “Laters, Baby,” getting on my nerves after the third time or so and there were three whole books of it.

Cheesiest line ever? I would have to say this one takes the cake.

I don’t like to judge anyone who has written a novel, let alone three, but as a writer I can’t say it stayed with me after I finished it.

To explain why this story took off is beyond my expertise, but I can’t ignore the cultural significance, for whatever it’s worth.

SEX, LIES, AND FIFTY SHADES – Entertainment Weekly

If it has our society on fire, getting us talking, I can’t fault it. If you have a history of being sexually or physically abused and violated, it’s going to touch a nerve and I can’t say I wouldn’t feel the same way.

Rape Culture, Ana Steele and the Dark Desire of Codependents

I have never had that happen to me and I could come from a more neutral point-of-view. It touches no nerve for me to read. The battered women’s shelters were protesting and suggesting movie-goers should take the money they’d spend on Fifty Shades movie tickets and instead donate that to one of the abuse awareness organizations or shelters.

I think the whole thing is a snapshot of where we, as a society, are concerning sexual politics, gender roles and studies. I have been really fascinated by feminist issues and yet, I don’t totally reject a movie like Fifty Shades of Grey.

I don’t care what others want to watch or read. I will not see the movie in the theatres. I have read so many articles about the movie’s release, pro and con, some with a brilliant twist of humour.

The following is one written from a man’s point-of view, which I was pleased to find because most are written by women:

Elite Daily – Fifty Shades of Grey Was 50 Shades of Disappointing

I have had a great time reading the comments, on Facebook, when these articles are posted.

“Fifty Shades of Terrible!”

I’ve heard everything from the belief that Fifty Shades of Grey must be about a grey-haired, old man to an African-American comedian’s joke that she’s had enough with the idea of whips and chains for her race.

From silly to edgy.

And of course there was eventually going to be that one story of some fan getting out-of-control:

Cinema Workers Left Cleaning Up Blood After Fifty Shades Attack

If he were poor, nobody would be in love with main character Christian Grey. Stocking and obsession wouldn’t be so cute anymore.

The BDSM experts are all up-in-arms about the inaccuracy of those infamous red room scenes.

Abuse isn’t love.

I don’t believe author E.L. James did all she could to research the BDSM world. I don’t know how much research she did do. To many women, the power the character of Christian has in the story is attractive, in some way. I could make the argument that overall Fifty Shades is a romance. The BDSM scenes are the thing to grab all the attention, mostly from people who certainly did not read the books and never would.

I read everything from reviews on the cultural and social significance

The story is about a guy with a dark past, abuse included, and these issues are uncomfortable for us to talk about, but I think it’s important that we bring them into the light. For some people, the female readers of the books, that is how the discussion would get started.

Fifty Shades Of Grey’ Isn’t A Movie About BDSM, And That’s A Problem – The Huffington Post

I may have read the books, but that was a few years ago now. I don’t feel even I can accurately discuss the subject because, truthfully, a lot of the books have grown fuzzy in my mind. It wasn’t, for me, a favourite or a memorable enough story. I did not read it over and over, like so many fans have.

When I say this is not really a BDSM movie and more of a romance at its core, I say that because of all the inaccuracies that all those BDSM experts have been screaming about. Sure, the cliches and archetypes are everywhere throughout the book and movie.

I have included links to some of the articles and blog posts I have been reading on this whole thing, but of course, these are only a small sampling of what’s being said and debated all over the internet.

I do know the soundtrack has gotten a lot of attention, especially Beyonce’s slow and sultry rendition of “Crazy In Love), Sia’s (Salted Wound), , and my personal favourite:

Ellie Goulding, Love Me Like You Do, YouTube

So the acting is getting mixed reviews, but for the most part I would have to say people weren’t blown away, other than those hard-core fans.

Based on some Twilight fan fiction in the very beginning. I was never a fan, even after reading those books to see what all the hype was about, of the bruiting and mysterious guy who doggedly pursues the somewhat inexperienced and (some would claim) vulnerable girl.

Pretty much, if you add sex to it, Twilight and Fifty Shades come close to being the same thing.

There are something like 8 billion people on the planet and that’s about how many different versions you could expect to get of feelings concerning Fifty Shades of Grey. As many humans as there are is going to be how many different opinions of this book and/or film there will end up being.

I don’t feel this is a review exactly, as I haven’t seen the film of which many are reviewing with such gusto right now.

I wanted to show that this underlies some more vital issues of our time. I want there to be compassion and understanding for everyone, concerning each individual’s experience with such touchy topics. I feel for every victim of sexual, physical, mental, or emotional abuse. This movie does bring up some rather bad feelings for these people. I have a sensitivity for every last one of them.

As for what this says about the kind of entertainment, the sort of thing that gets so many women excited, I have to consider what this does to our young people.

For James this was all a fantasy, in her head, as a fifty-year-old woman. It seemed to fill some need she had to express herself.

But what about all the young people, both male and female? What, if anything, are they taking away from the huge popularity of Fifty Shades?

I think about the world my niece and nephews are going to be growing up in. I don’t know what sort of an imprint this movie might have on modern pop culture and on the way we continue to view gender roles, sexual expression, and morality.

I am stumped and I hoped, by writing my thoughts down, I could make sense of some of this.

Um…it’s not revealing, to me, any broad, sweeping revelations.

I don’t know what over 90 million dollars at the box office in North America alone says about us as a whole. I know the outcries have been impossible to ignore and the publicity has been enormous.

Whose to say why certain things like this catch on and become so huge. I just want us all to be mindful of one another’s feelings and to be aware of what we need to do to remain sensitive and empathetic.

Submission and Dominance. Love and control. Romance or abuse. These distinctions are hard to find, some more clear to one person than for another.

I am lucky I grew up in a good and positive environment, learning boundaries and healthy relationships. I can’t say how others, who weren’t so lucky, process the same things I have been thinking since all this craziness began.

Stole my thunder is right.


I was a big fan of romance novels as a teen. I would listen to them on audio books as often as I could get my hands on them.

Whether it’s romance novels for young women or porn for young men, or vice versa, it does have some affect on how we see love and relationships going forward in our lives.

It can be healthy or not. I wish I could know that everyone comes through it unscathed, but if just one girl sees what’s in the media, from any film or book, and thinks they deserve any less than total respect and love then I can’t say it’s all harmless fun.

On the other hand, these sources of entertainment aren’t going away anytime soon. We need to learn how to deal with them, to enjoy them for what they’re worth, while still doing our best to live compassionate lives, both for ourselves and for those around us.

Oh, yeah, and one final thing:

No disrespect, to you, Professor Tolkien; wherever you are.