Monday, September 28, 2009

State of the Story

It's Monday so that means another blog post.

First an update on my progress. Second revision has been completed and the story has been passed on to my friend Gary to read. I should have his feedback tomorrow and then the rest of the week will be spent revising and then it will go on to my friend Trevor. After Trevor, who knows. I might even be ready to submit it at that point and then move on to the next one.

One thing I am sure of, I'm going to reuse the setting. I've even taken some time to work on a background document for the setting, something I can refer to when making other stories set there. One event in the current story I think will occur in others will be a power outage. I can use this as a thread to tie them together. Who knows, maybe 10, 20 years from now they will be released together as a collection.

Anyways, since we are on the topic of writing (kinda the whole point of this blog) I should mention the boost I received yesterday. I went to Word On the Street at Queens Park in Toronto. Very cool event, with lots of different booksellers and literary based discussion. Getting there was a challenge. If you've ever driven into Toronto you know what I mean. Once I arrived I checked out the writer's workshop tent and this is where I got half of the boost. At 3pm they had an event where they read out one page that people had submitted anonymously, so I submitted mine and hoped to get feedback. Well, mine wasn't read but from what I was hearing about the other submissions I felt a lot better about mine. I mean, some of them were utter dreck, and I could spot that right away. I wish mine had been read, but listening to the advice being given I think I've avoided the most obvious pitfalls.

Oh, and the second half of the boost? I approached Robert J. Sawyer at this table and he remembered me from two weeks ago in Mississauga. Always nice to remembered.

Monday, September 21, 2009

New Doctor in the House?

Happy Monday Everyone!

Yeah, I know. Mondays suck. We've all read Garfield at one point or another so I won't belabor the point. One bright spot today, and the subject of the title, is the new season of House just kicked off with a 2 hour episode and it was a doozy. I'll resist the urge to reveal any details of the episode except to reveal that at the end of it House achieves a new equilibrium. Oh, and German woman are hot. If you've seen the episode you know what I'm talkin about.

So how are things going on the writing front? Well, we have a revised draft that my friend Jeff read over this weekend and he enjoyed it and he only found one obvious grammatical mistake. Why would I trust Jeff with this task you may ask. I trust him because he is a former Brock English Major, such as myself, and is even more widely read than I.

He is the first step. The next is to spend the next few days with the text and hammer out another revision. I didn't look at the story for the entire weekend while Jeff read it, so I can look at it with a fresh perspective. I will have another revision by Friday so that I can hand it off to my friend Gary for his impression, and then next week it goes to Trevor.

So, if all goes according to plan I could have the finished, or rather the submittable draft, ready by the end of next week. I already have a least two other good stories in mind, both in settings different from the one the current story is set in, but I intend to come back to this setting in future stories.

Who knows, I may be able to get a few stories out of this setting and years from know collect them and publish them in a single volume. Heck, stranger things have happened.

Monday, September 14, 2009

High Fiving a Demon

The Mississauga Literary Festival was a blast!

First off, let me say that last Friday was a boatload of suck. A friend and I went to a restaurant called The Host. My "Shrimp and Scallop Curry" was 4 tiny scallops mated with 4 tiny shrimps on top of a bed of snow peas instead of what was advertised as "stir-fried vegetables". If that wasn't disappointing enough the waitress claimed I only gave her a twenty and a five when I actually gave her pair of twenties and that devolved into "yes I did" "no you didn't fight". Then to add to the general misery we went to see the movie 9, which was OK but so short that you left the theater feeling cheated. Alright, we've established the Friday was terrible.

Now lets contrast that with Sunday. I woke up before my alarm and had plenty of time to get up, get dressed, and get going. The only hitch was forgetting the directions in the apartment and having to walk up five flights of stairs to get them. So far, not so bad. The Living Arts Center in Mississauga was not hard to find and I arrived a few hours before Robert J. Sawyer was set to talk so I decided to browse what was there. At the Library book sale I found the Janes for planes from 1996 to 2000, something I was sure my friend Jeff would love, but man were those suckers heavy and they did not fit into the backpack I was carrying. A quick trip to the car to drop them off and it was back to browsing. One thing that stood out were the people in costume, including one girl in a Queen of Hearts getup from Alice in Wonderland; very cool!

Browsing didn't take long so I checked out what other authors were on tap to speak that day and didn't find anyone else I had a huge hankering to listen to, so I head out to Square One for lunch. This meal was the exact opposite of the one I had on Friday so the day continued to shine, but the highpoint still hadn't been reached.

I got back from lunch with about an hour to spare before Rob was set to go on, so I pulled out my copy of Wake and continued reading. Wow is all I can say. After reading that the bar I've set for myself for my writing just went up a couple notches. I now have a definite standard to judge myself against and I'm keeping that in mind while revise the Tesseracts project.

After reading for awhile I got up and headed over the BMO room to grab a seat before the reading started. The author reading beforehand was just finishing up so I received the tail end of a lecture on gardening; not something I'm interested in but not torture to listen too. As the gardening enthusiasts filed out I snuck up front and grabbed a seat in the first row. A few minutes later I hear "Hi Rob" and then Mr. Sawyer's response, which I honestly can't remember after being starstruck. I turn to my left and there he is, red shirt and blue jeans with a splash of facial hair, and I'm thinking to myself here is what a Canadian author looks like. I won't describe any more, as it is not hard to find a photo of Mr Sawyer online, except to say that I was struck at how small he seemed. How could such a giant of media, the "dean of Canadian science-fiction", be contained in such an average looking frame. The truth is it couldn't.

The talk began with Rob apologizing to the audience that he was tired from celebrating his father's 80'th birthday last night and outlining that the plan was for him to read the first chapter from Wake and then he would take questions. This was the point where I learned that "dean of Canadian science fiction" could not be contained. He was on fire! He went back and forth across the front of the room, making eye contact at random with people in the audience. You could see the passion in his eyes as he read the first chapter from the small electronic device in his hand. If he was tired it wasn't obvious, in fact, he seemed anything but tired. We all clapped at the end of the reading and people started to fire off questions. A large portion were obviously related to FlashForward, the new television show based on Mr. Sawyer's novel of the same name the premiers on my birthday of all days, but I was able to sneak in one asking what resources he used in his writing and he elaborated on how the Internet was both and boon and bane for his work. Hey, it's not everyday you get to pick the brain of a Hugo and Nebula award winning author so I'm please to have worked up the courage to at least have asked one question.

Next on the agenda Rob had to dash downstairs to claim his table before it was given away so he could sign and sell books. I tromped down with everyone else and ended up chatting with a lovely Asian girl named Lillian. Heck, any day you get to spend time chatting with a pretty woman is a good day, so the bonanza of awesome continued. When I got up the front of the line I had a few brief moments to chat with Mr Sawyer. He is very personable and took the time to ask me how to spell my name. I have a very common male name with the less than common spelling and anytime someone goes to write it down I have to correct the spelling. It was nice not to have to do that. A few months earlier when Dan Abnett was signing my Gaunt's Ghosts collection he did the same thing, so I've marked that as something a professional writer should be aware of.

Anyways the chat was brief and while I was there I purchased a copy of FlashForward; the old paperback copy with the funky artwork and not the newer copy with a still from the upcoming TV show. I liked the artwork on it better than the still photo, and Mr. Sawyer commented that he did too. I had just enough time to stammer out my thanks for the advice offered on his website and that I was working on an entry for Tesseracts, before the next person in line took over his attention. I would have loved a chance to chat with him for a longer period of time but there we're people waiting and I already had taken up too much time from a very busy person. So, back to the car and off I went.

Oh, and the whole high fiving the demon thing from the title? One of the workers at the Festival was dressed up as Aku from Samurai Jack and I was able to snag a photo, turned to walk away and felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around and there was Aku offering me the high five, so I had no choice but to take it. It's not every day one gets to high five a demon. :)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Is It a Little Drafty in Here?

Well, it appears that I have a reason to post a little bit earlier then Monday. I've finished the first draft on the Tesseracts project!

My goal was to write 500 words a day, but I've been averaging over 600 and that's only with about an hour to an hour and a half of writing time. The first day was the roughest. I had to pull and tease the words out of my brain, but the next day got easier, and then the next was easier, and so on and so on. I haven't written seriously since at least 5 years ago when I was part of a writing group. That group broke up, for various reasons, and it was only recently that I've found the drive to start writing again.

It probably helps that I have a job now that provides for my needs and I can afford to live on my own, without the distraction of roommates or parents. Don't get me wrong, I love my parents but it's hard to keep the writing flow going when you're suddenly interrupted to take out the trash. Another thing that helps is that I'm much less addicted to TV. When I was younger I spent way too much time just sitting and watching. In some ways it was useful as I was exposed to a wide range of stories in various genres, but it was all passive and not creative. My one saving grace is that I was also a voracious reader at the same time, devouring any and all books I could get my hands on. To this day most of my spare time is spent reading something; breaks and lunch at work, on the bus ride home, even during the commercials while watching TV :).

Speaking of reading I should mention that I purchased Wake by Robert J. Sawyer last night. It's the first book of a trilogy he is working on about the World Wide Web gaining consciousness. Now that I'm done the first draft I think I'll spend the rest of the day reading, and that's the first thing I want to dig into. The main reason for this is that the author will be at the Mississauga Literary Festival tomorrow, and I plan to attend. Partly to see him speak as I've seen him on television and on YouTube and he is a fascinating person, but also as an example for myself when I have to do the same thing.

A big part of writing is, unfortunately, public performance. A writer has to be ready to stand in front of a crowd and read his work. It's kind of cruel, to both the author and the audience, that people who spend a great deal of time alone crafting stories need to get up on a stage and perform in order to sell those stories. To be honest I've never been interested in listening to authors recite their works, I've always preferred to read them and hear them in my head with my own voice. As well, I don't like speaking in front of crowds of people I don't know. However, if I'm going to be a successful author I'm going to have to get over it and get on up there, and the first step in this is to see how others do it. I can learn by watching them and seeing what works and what falls flat so that when I step out on stage for the first time I'm prepared.

Well, so much for a short post saying I've finished the first draft :). I'm bringing my camera with me tomorrow so hopefully I'll have some photos to share from the Festival. Now, off to the books.

Monday, September 7, 2009

In The Beginning


Welcome to the Left Hand of Dorkness.

I'm starting this blog for two reasons. One, to keep an ongoing progress report of my efforts to become a published science-fiction/fantasy writer. Two, to keep myself motivated and honest. My goal is to write at least 500 words a day for 5 days of the week and then gradually increase the amount of words over time. At first I'm going to focus on short fiction in an effort to get publish and to build a name for myself. And my first project is going to be for Tesseracts 14, a collection of Canadian speculative fiction. More information is available here.

Oh, did I forget to mention I'm Canadian? Well I guess now you know, and as they say knowing is half the battle.

Oh, did I forget to mention I'm a bit of a geek/dork/nerd. Well now you know that too. And I'm damn proud of it. I love science-fiction. I love fantasy. I love books, and this blog is also about those as well. I've played Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer 40K and just about every board game I could get my hands on. I've watched the entire run of Babylon 5 on DVD and cursed the Fox network when they canceled Firefly. I read webcomics and have Robert J. Sawyer's website bookmarked. As I said, I'm a geek.

Well, now that we have the opening formalities out of the way and you know a bit about me let's take a look at what I've accomplished so far. For the last month I've been gathering resources together to start writing. I've scoured bookstores for books on writing and picked up a few choice volumes to read. I obtained a copy of Orson Scott Card's book on writing science fiction and gone through it. I've upgraded my chair so that I won't kill my back. I've cleaned and reorganized my bookshelves so that I can turn my chair and pull any reference book I might be looking for. I've started buying magazines for interesting articles that could inspire a short story or novel. All the needed prep work has been done, so has my writing career taken off?

Well, no.

Writing isn't about all the non-writing things you do. It's about butt in seat time spent writing and revising. I could spend the next 10 years in courses, reading books, and talking about writing but it won't make a difference until I actually put pen to paper, or pixel to screen as the case may be. One can have a full toolbox but a house can only be built through time and hard work. And today was the start.

So far I've written 680 words for the Tesseracts project. That may seem like a small number but for me it's huge. I've gone from nothing to something, from a blank page to words on the screen and it feels good. It was hard work. I'm using mental muscles that have lain dormant for a very long time, but I did something. I've started on my dream of becoming a published author and I'm not going to let that go. I have until the end of November to submit a story for Tesseracts 14. My goal is to have the first draft ready by the end of September so that I can have friends and family read it and provide feedback. October will be spent in revision and further reading, and then in November I submit. No excuses, no dodging. I will have a story submitted in November, ready or not.

Well, that's about it for this week. Thank-you for taking the time to read this and I hope you come back next week to check on my progress. I'm going to try to post every Monday with an update on where I'm at on my current project and what other activities I've done to aid my literary career. Until then, may the farce be with you.