Friday, December 31, 2010

Last Post of the Year

Well, we're all about to say goodbye to 2010 and welcome in 2011, so I thought I'd do the obligatory post to wrap-up this year and welcome the next.

So what did I accomplish this year? Let's see:

1. I continued to write.

I've written at least three original stories this year, and one was even a novella (which I really should look into getting published). I've also started writing my first novel, and as of today I have completed over 24, 000 words on it. Also, my week of writing a bare minimum of 2000 words a day has gone smashing so far, as I've been able to make my goal each day, or at the very least made up the shortfall the very next day. This proves to me that I can do this. I can write, and each day it gets a little bit easier as I continue to stretch my mental muscles. I've spent this entire year proving to myself that I can be a writer, even with everything else that's going on in my life.

2. I got out to conventions.

This may not sound like much, but I've never been a terrible social person and I hate being in crowds where I don't know anyone else. So of course I ended up going to two different conventions all by myself without any of my friends, and one of them being an eight-hour bus trip away from home. Oi! But it all worked out in the end. I met a lot of great people at both and had my eyes opened in a whole new way. Going to conventions is part of being a science fiction/fantasy author, so if I want to succeed I'll need to go. The funny thing is, I found that I actually enjoyed going and look forward to going again to see all the people I've met before and I look forward to meeting new people. I can't wait to go as a published author and be on the other side instead of being just a fan, yet at the same time I also really do enjoy the fan experience.

I've already booked my two conventions for this year. My plan is to hit Ad Astra and SFContario. While I really enjoyed ConCept, I really didn't like the hotel it was at and this year I think I'll stay closer to home. Who knows, I may also get out to Anime North with a bunch of sword nuts I know who put on a demonstration.

3. I started working out and joined a kendo dojo.

Kendo is something I've always wanted to do. I love swordplay and have a fascination with Japenese culture, and luckily there is a great club in my city. All the members are very supportive, the training is fun, and I'm actually doing quite well at it. Also, I found a gym I like with an owner that offers free training advice. Heck, I even bought an exercise bike for home and have been using it. I still need to work on my eating habits, but I'm a long way from where I started a couple years ago. I'm in much better shape, I'm much healthier, and I intend to keep it that way and keep improving in the future.

So where do I go from here? Well, I'm going to try to get my novel in shape for March so that I can submit it to Angry Robot books while they have their open submissions period. Aside from that, after I'm going to start putting the stories I have sitting around out there to see if I can get them published, and after I finish writing my current novel I'm going to start on the next.

Look out 2011, here I come!

Oh, and before I forget, Happy New year. May you and yours be safe and happy.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Dork Review: Tron Legacy

I'm just going to come out and say it, this was an awesome popcorn flick.

The visuals were stunning. It probably helped that my friends and I went and viewed it in IMAX 3D instead of going to a local theater. Thank you time off for Christmas!

The story was, well, let's say at parts it was telegraphed and you knew exactly what was going to happen. It wasn't ground breaking by any means, but this movie was more about the spectacle rather than the writing. That being said, the story wasn't a solid steaming lump of excrement like say, oh I don't know, Avatar.

All in all I enjoyed it and would recommend you go and see this one in the theater.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Angry Robots and the 2000 Word a Day Week

So, first I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas. My friends and family were brilliant this year and got me Chapters gift cards which I've converted very handily to books.

So, you're probably wondering about the title of this post and what it all means. Let me explain.

First item, Angry Robot books is having an open submissions month in March of this year. This means then will take in unagented, unrequested manuscripts, read them, and possibly offer to publish them. If you know anything about the publishing world then you know this is almost unheard of, and could be a great opportunity. I've already got a book in the works, so my hope is to get the first draft completed and get it self-edited to the point I'm not embarrassed by it in time to submit it by the end of March.

This leads to the second part of this blog post. December kicked my butt writing wise. Before today I'd completed 14 and a half thousand words on my novel after starting at the beginning of November, and the majority of that was actually in November. With the holidays and other things happening, December was just a really bad month for writing. Well, ok, it was a bad month. Right now is the week between Christmas and New Years. Right now, with the time off I normally get and the vacation days I decided to take, I have from today until next Tuesday free. Oh, there are some plans in place for New Years and to see the new Tron movie, but aside from that I'm free. So with that in mind, I've decided to shackle myself to my desk each day until I've produced two thousand words worth of writing.

And today was the first day.

And I did it, with a whole word to spare.

This may not sound like much, and compared to some writers it isn't, but it's what I can do and what I need to do. I need to write more, I need to stretch my mental muscles and get more done. I know I can do this. By the end of this week I will have written at least two thousand words per day, and doubled the word count of my book.

After that, the goal is to be finished and edited to a submission point by the end of March.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Since I probably won't get another chance before the actual day, Merry Christmas to you and yours.

(Note, please feel free to substitute the appropriate holiday greeting for Merry Christmas, as my intention is not to exclude but to wish everyone well. And if you feel the need to be a Grinch, please feel free to kiss my butt)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Balaclava/Baklava Confusion

OK, so it has been freaking cold where I live, and I take the bus to work so most mornings I'm standing out in the cold waiting for it and after work I like to walk home. Naturally I did the smart thing and purchased the appropriate winter wear, known as a balaclava or a face-mask or ski-mask. I got it at a local army surplus store and it's all black with two eye holes and a mouth hole. I look like a terrorist wearing it, but it keeps me warm so who cares.

Problem is, I keep wanting to call it a baklava, which is a type of honey sweetened pastry. Each time I go to tell someone what I bought or what I'm wearing I have to stop and correct myself. I know I'm saying it wrong when I start, I know I'll have to stop and correct myself, yet it still comes out.

Have you ever had something like that happen to you?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Very Much A Moment of Squee!

So you might be wondering what I'm talking about with that title. Well, the truth is last night I got to see Jeff Dunham perform live in Hamilton! Yay!

What's even better is I got to share this experience with my dad. I see my parents often, about once a week for dinner, so it's not like I don't get to spend time with him, but last night was different. Last night, I was the one who came up with the idea to go and I was the one who bought the tickets. Last night was my dad's Christmas gift and I got to be there and watch him enjoy it. It was great.

Now about the show. If you've never seen Jeff Dunham's work, which is hard to believe as the guy is freaking famous, he's a very skilled ventriloquist and a superb performer. He was on stage for nearly two hours but we didn't even notice the time pass as there wasn't a single moment that was boring. And it's amazing how much life Jeff can get out of those puppets. I mean, his oldest puppet Peanut has very little articulation, basically just a hand puppet with an arm that is moved via a stick, but Jeff can make it seem that Peanut's face is full if different expressions, make him smile, make him give a wild-eyed looked. It's great.

If you ever, ever get the chance go see him live. It was awesome!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Dork Review: Megamind

So I really needed to get out of the apartment tonight. My friend Jeff suggested going to see Megamind, and while I wasn't all hot and bothered to see it, I figured what the heck. At worst I'd have a story to tell about how awful it was.

It was actually pretty good.

Let me set this up for you though. Honestly, I think the commercials for this movie don't sell it that well. I mean, I'm not fond of Will Ferrell as an actor. When he's funny, he's bloody hilarious. When he isn't, which is most of the time, he's just bloody annoying. Annoying beyond the scope of everything else annoying on the planet.

So yeah, not a lot of Will Ferrell movies in my past. What can I say.

However in Megamind he hits just the right note of over the top without going too far. It helps that he's surrounded by a great cast, including Brad Pitt (who's actually a much better actor then his looks might suggest - Check out Twelve Monkeys if you don't believe me), and Tina Fey (a geek goddess and sexy beyond belief - ok, yeah, minor celeb crush). David Cross is in it as well, who when I hear his voice I always think it's Patton Oswalt, as Minion, Megamind's henchfish.

The movie's funny, playing around with a lot of the tropes of super-heroes. While this is well trodden ground I think this movie is a nice addition, with a few twists to some traditions. However I would never really describe Megamind as all that evil. He's more frustrated and lonely then anything else, and acts out knowing the hero will stop him. When he actually wins a fight he can't believe it, and has no idea what to do with himself. He has completely based his identity on being opposite to the hero, and has to find another way to define himself when the opposition is gone.

Don't worry, I haven't given away that much. There are still plenty of twists in the movie that will surprise, including a take on the traditional reluctant hero trope.

I recommend going to see Megamind. Not strongly though. It was fun, but if you miss it in theaters you can always rent it later.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

First Chapter Done!

Yea! I've gotten the first chapter of Transmission written with the over 1200 words I've done so far today. I think I'll take a break and get some lunch, and then maybe reward myself with the Scott Pilgrim Blu-ray that just came out his week. Hmmm....

Saturday, November 6, 2010

The Plot Thickens

The plot of my novel to be that is. Just finished the rough outline tonight, after spending the week on it and the characters. I'm actually really, really happy with what I've got. I've tried to make the characters each unique and not exactly what you expect.

I'm still not sure how much I actually want to reveal about my novel or even my writing on here. It seems that some people think that anything put on the Internet is public domain. (Oh Cook's Source, you are so going to get owned by your editor's colossal stupidity). Also, I don't want to give away too much because the novel is dependent upon revealing things at a certain pace. It starts with third person narration, switches to first person in a kind of flashback explaining how things got to the point we see in the beginning, before switching back to third at the very end. The thing I like about it is that there is a story contained in the prologue and epilogue that then encapsulates the rest of the story. And it actually will make sense in the end and help to setup the main story I want to tell.

Will it work? Well the only way for me to know is to write the dang thing and then get someone to read it. All I can do is my best, and if this doesn't get published then I move on to the next idea and start writing, and keep writing until I make it or keel over, whichever happens first.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Novel in November

Ok, so it's Nov 1. Time to start a novel.

First off, I'm NOT doing NaNoWriMo this year. As I've stated elsewhere I do want to write my first novel without the added pressure of an artificial goal on top of it. I'd much rather take my time on the first one as I'm still figuring out my process and what works for me. Also, I still have a novella and two short stories in various stages of completion and waiting on feedback, so I may be interrupted to work on those and get them out to be published (hopefully).

So what's the plan? Well, this week is going to be spent getting characters and plot squared away. I have an idea about what I want to do with both but need to get them written down so I have something concrete rather than the random fuzzy firings of my brain. Once I've got the characters sketched out I can get a rough idea of the plot for the book and then start writing to fill it in.

I don't know if this will ever get published. I may write this and then hide it somewhere to never be seen by others, or it may be the first thing of mine that actually gets published. All I know is that I have to do this, I have to do it now, and I have to keep at it. I want to be a writer, and the only way to do that is to write.

The Dork Review: Red

Meant to put this up on the weekend but better late than never. So last Friday I went and saw Red with my friends Jeff and Gary, and you may be asking what we thought of it. Well, I guess there's only one way to put it:

Freaking awesome!

Ok, first off let me be blunt. This movie is over the top. How do I know this? Well, it's spelled out in the trailer when Bruce Willis' character WALKS out of a moving, spinning car and isn't immediately turned into roadkill. That being said, it's over the top in just the right way.

The basic story is a bunch of former spies get together to find out why one of them is being targeted for death, and end up causing massive amounts of mayhem and property damage along the way. The scene stealer of this movie is definitely John Malkovich, playing a paranoid former operative that thinks satellites and helicopters are out to get him and has faked his own death numerous times. The scene where he's running with the bomb strapped to his chest is hilarious.

All three of us enjoyed the movie and ended laughing our butts off. If you've had a bad week and need something to cheer yourself up, go see Red.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Congrats To Trevor and Toosje!

This weekend I was in the wedding party for my friend Trevor. First time I'd ever worn a tux in my life. Thank goodness they came in early, as the rental place screwed up everything above the waist and had to reorder. Getting a tux for me is, let's say it's a challenge as I'm a bigger guy over 6 foot.

The bride looked radiant, the bridesmaids were lovely, heck, even us groomsmen didn't look too bad in our tuxes. Heck, I even got told I clean up nice. Of course it was inevitable that my mother would find something that needed to be adjusted. 


Thankfully there weren't too many people in the church when she started man-handling me. :)

And yes, that's as much of a picture of me as you're going to get right now. If I find a better one amongst the wedding photos I'll post it, but so far I haven't seen one I really liked. Of course, I really do dislike just about every photo that's ever been taken of me so finding one I like is going to be a challenge.

All in all the wedding was a blast. I'm really happy for my friend and his lovely wife!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Block Busting

I'm feeling really good tonight. Wanna know why? Cause I wrote over 1000 words today, in about 2-3 hours!

You have no idea how good it feels to get that much word count out on the page, especially since it doesn't feel like I was just putting down words to fill up said page. What I wrote down actually felt good, like I was actually putting something down that wasn't total shite. Now, it may be, I wont really know until I go back in a few days and work at editing it, but still, it's nice to feel things flow. For the last few weeks getting words out has felt like wringing water out of a dry towel. In other words, friggin impossible. I was lucky some nights to get 100 words on the page, for those nights I was able to write at all because life kept interrupting.

But tonight I finished the first draft of a new story, and soon I should have some feedback on the novella/novelette I've written so I can work on that. Also, I will start getting things in line soon to start my novel in November, which will not be a NaNoWriMo project. I can't guarantee I won't get blocked again (I hate using that word but it's the only one I can think of that's accurately descriptive), so I don't want to put added pressure on myself. Writing a novel is pressure enough.

I can do it though. I'm going to write a novel, edit it, get it read and get feedback, edit it some more and then try to get it published, then start another novel while that one makes the rounds. I can do this, I know I can.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A Bold Marketing Plan

Just read a story where an unknown author hurled his book at President Obama to make sure he got a copy. Very inventive, however, I think I'll avoid using that tactic when I finally get published. I mean, there are plenty of things I'd love to hurl at Stephen Harper, none of them books. I mean, what a waste of paper that would be.

Original story can be found here.

More Focused Writing

Something interesting I've noticed in my writing lately, is that I'm more aware and conscious of what exactly is going down on the page, as in I can see a wider perspective storywise with every word I put down.

Hmmm... how best to explain this. Ok, right now I'm working on the first draft of a short story involving a samurai fighting demons. I noticed early on in the draft I had him talking to his horse, but this made no sense at all because I wanted him to be taciturn and stoic seeming, so it made no sense for him to talk to his horse. It may sound odd, but this was a revelation to me. I could better see how to evoke this character on the first draft instead of having to go back and edit it later. Therefore my first draft feels stronger to me.

What I guess I'm trying to say is, that instead of just vomiting forth words onto the page I've become more mindful of what I'm actually writing, essentially I feel I actually writing better now that my mind is better attuned to what I want to actually accomplish.

Put another way, instead of just reaching out and using whatever cliched thing comes to mind I'm actually thinking deeper in my construction of my prose and characters. Maybe I'm not as hopeless as I thought I was. (Even though I have had words said to me I'm not hopeless, but still, that little voice at the back of my head telling me I suck still exists).

This should make things really interesting when I start writing a novel come November. The plan is Nov 1 I start writing it, with an update each week, probably on Monday, as to where I am in my progress. I hope to have a first draft done within three months, then take a break to work on a short story before tackling a second draft. We'll see.

It should be interesting.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Dork Review: Virga: Cities of The Air

Let me just say that Karl Schroeder makes me feel like a drooling idiot, and I mean that in the most positive way possible.

So full disclosure, when I first heard of the concept behind the Virga novels I didn't think much of them. They just didn't excite me, and I hadn't read any of Karl's work at that point so I had no interest based upon knowing the author's style yet. Then I read a free copy of Ventus available on his website between calls at work and loved it. Everything about that book was believable and fantastic at the same time. Ventus became as real to me as the chair I was sitting in or the the bus I ride to work each day. That is the mark of a great author.

So, at this point I'm interested in Karl's work, and willing to read something else, but having a shelf full of books to read and promising myself I wouldn't by any more books until I had read all the pending ones it was unlikely I'd have a chance to read anything of his anytime soon. Two factors changed this, a gift card from Chapters for my birthday and an eight hour bus ride to Montreal.

Virga: Cities of The Air is a trade paperback priced just above $20, and with a gift card for that amount that I didn't want sitting around till it was forgotten I picked it up in time for my trip to Con*Cept. I love trade paperbacks. I love the feeling of value I get in buying them, and knowing that I'm getting multiple books for the price of one. The only drawback is not getting the individual covers, but this can be a blessing or a curse depending upon the cover art anyways.

So on the to meat of the review. The trade collects Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce, both books set in the artificial world of Virga, where life literally revolves around multiple smaller suns and one giant sun in the center known, funnily enough, and Candesce. Just like Ventus this world is evoked so strongly and clearly in the text that it lives in the reader's mind, taking root and thriving in the imagination. It's a world where gravity is optional, where heroes ride on jetbikes and airships prowl the endless skies dodging floating icebergs. And it's hard-SF! There is no magic in this book except for the words contained within.

This unbelievable world is filled with believable characters, from the dashing military man, his scheming yet loving wife, to the tormented hero on the jetbike who wants revenge against the man who caused his parents death. The characters grow throughout the books, becoming more than the just brief descriptions, becoming real people who speak to the reader. 

My opinion of Virga could not be any different now then when I first heard about it. Truly these books are a masterpiece, and I can't wait for the next two books to be released in trade paperback. Aside from being great books they give me a goal to strive for, to make my writing as powerful and evocative. I may never reach that level, but I'm inspired to try.

I recommend you pick up these books, for the world contained within, the intriguing characters, and the adventure of traveling through a realm beyond imagination.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Con*Cept 2010 Con Report

I'm back from Con*Cept and had a day to decompress. Needed it after over 8 hours traveling by bus. Ugh, next time I'm taking the train, for reasons that will become clearer below.

First, let me state that I had a blast at Con*Cept. It's important I say this, because there were a few things about the trip that annoyed/irritated me and I'm going to mention them. The things that annoyed me had absolutely nothing to do with the people running the con or the con itself or any of the guests, and I want that to be absolutely clear before I go any further.

Ok, so here's how it all began. Friday morning I'm up and raring to go, get to the downtown bus terminal and find out that what was supposed to be a $129.00 open return ticket is actually going to cost me $220. Thank you St. Catharines Transit employee who either gave me the wrong price by mistake or flat out lied to me. Too late to make the train which would have been about $15 cheaper and I really did not want to drive nearly 8 hours straight all by myself. Grrrrr....

Alright, no worries, just a little bump. I had to switch buses in Toronto and thankfully the driver of the first bus warned me that the one to Montreal leaves 5 minutes after we arrive in Toronto. So I grab my bag and rush over, only to find out it isn't one of the regular Coach Canada buses, it's a "Megabus", meaning no overhead for my backpack and I have to hunt and peck for a seat as I'm one of the last people on the bus and it's nearly full. Again, grrr....

Now, I'm no stranger to long car rides. All of the family vacation I went on while growing up involved me and my sister jammed in the back of a car, so I can amuse myself on a long trip. I'd just bought Virga: Cities of The Air, a trade paperback of the first two Virga novels by Karl Schroeder (review on the way later this week), so I had that to read on the trip, but seeing some people with laptops able to access the internet on the Megabus had me puzzled for a bit. The girl in the seat in front of me was updating her Facebook, far enough away that I couldn't read it so I wasn't snooping but close enough I could recognize the page. I figured she must have a Rogers or Bell stick, but I found out on the way home that the bus had wireless Internet when the driver announced that the Internet had been turned on, meaning if I had a laptop or iPad I could have been using that with wireless access the whole trip up. Something to consider for the next long bus or train ride, as while I really enjoyed the book there were times it would have been nice to have something else to look at/watch for awhile.

Alright, so I arrived in Montreal a little worn around the edges but not too tired. I get to the hotel and get my room key, fascinate the clerk with my umbrella that has a handle like a katana, and head to my room to drop my stuff off. Once in the room I find it a bit warm, but there are no controls that I can see for the temperature and the windows don't open. It looks like there's an air conditioner in the window, but I don't see a way to turn it on and, really, it's the fall. I'd much rather have the windows open and a nice breeze blowing through but that ain't gonna happen. Grrrrrrr....

So the traveling is over, I'm at the con, now what? Well, registration was quick and simple, opening ceremonies had cake (yeah cake!) and then off to some panels. Really, the day started to pick up from this point, though I did make the mistake of eating dinner in the hotel. Ugh, overpriced and lackluster, blah!

Still, I really did enjoy the first night. Con*Cept really does have a different vibe then AdAstra. I don't think I saw anyone in costume on Friday night, and there weren't that many in costume on Saturday or Sunday either. The Masquerade on Saturday only had six participants, including one very sexy Barbarella, as compared to the dozens of people I saw at AdAstra in some really elaborate costumes.

The real gems at Con*Cept were the panels. I think I attended just about every single one there was on writing, with panelists that included Marie Bilodeau, Erik Buchanan, Violette Malan, Karen Dales, Jo Walton, and the guest of honor, Tad Williams and his lovely wife, Deborah Beale. Really, there wasn't a single panel that I didn't come away from wishing that we'd had more time on the subject.

The highlight of the whole con had to be the Sunday morning brunch. Now, originally my plan had been to sit near Lar De Souza because I love the webcomic he draws and would love the chance to ask him about the process of creating it. Yeah, that plan got tossed out the window after seeing Tad Williams on a few panels. Now, I've never read one of Tad's books. I think I tried to start Memory, Sorrow and Thorn at one point but if I remember correctly I got the wrong book as it was a few books into the series and so much had happened in the previous books that would have been useful to know, yadda, yadda, yadda

So back on point, I sat near Tad and his wife Deborah at the brunch, and really the hotel could have served us cardboard and I wouldn't have noticed. Both of them were intelligent and engaging, with stories galore, but they also listened and had real conversations with the people around them rather then just talking and attempting to sell books. There were just really, really nice people, and so obviously still in love with and comfortable around each other after twenty years of marriage which is always nice to see and pleasant to be around. There was just so much positive energy around that table I couldn't leave, even though there was panel I wanted to get to.

The rest of Sunday was pretty low key and fun. I got to attend my first Dead Dog party and ended up going out to dinner with a bunch of people from the con, including Twitchy and a couple others involved in running the WTFur con (sorry, couldn't find a link for it).

Monday was another day spent traveling. I decided to forgo extending my stay as I hadn't a single decent night's sleep the whole time I was in that hotel room, even though I'd figured out how to turn the fan on the air conditioner on it still didn't make a difference. Plus the bed was too soft. And the rooms they had the panels in weren't really soundproofed well so noise leaked in from outside. Let's just say I hope next year is held in a different hotel.

So, would I go again next year? I dunno. At this point I plan to hit AdAstra for sure next year, and spend at least a day at AnimeNorth with a group I know putting on a sword demo. Other than that, I would really like to go to Polaris. I didn't go this year because of a special commitment that won't be in place next year, and in 2011 they'll have Adam Baldwin who played Jayne in Firefly, one of the coolest characters on one of my favorite shows.

To sum things up, for a freaking long blog post, con was great, hotel sucked, bus ride sucked, met and hung out with some great people. Totally worth it!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Wheeeeeee!!! Vacation

Today marks the start of my fall vacation. I'm packed and ready to head to Montreal for CON*CEPT. Really looking forward to it. I had a blast at AdAstra earlier this year, so I'm super excited to be going to another con this year.

I'll be in Montreal for a least 4 days, though depending upon how I feel I may extend that by a day and do some sightseeing. Once I get back I'll have the rest of the week off, and it's going to be spent writing. I want to finish the first draft on the story I'm working on and then get some background material written up for the novel I want to start in Nov. Still have not decided if the novel will be part of the NaNoWriMo challenge, as I'd have to write over a thousand words a day every day for the month to do it. We'll see.

Later!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Everything At Once

It amazes me sometimes how everything seems to come up at once. So many things seem to want my attention at the same time.

For example, let's look at last week. Tuesday and Wednesday I was at Showcase Ontario, an IT conference/show for the Ontario government. So right there are two days of walking and standing around, and they were long days as well. Showcase took place in Toronto and I live in St. Catharines, and it was determined that we were within "commute" distance, so no hotels paid for by the government; we had to drive in each day. This meant leaving at six in the morning and not getting home till after six at night, with at least 4 hours spent driving each way. At least I didn't have to drive and was able to catch a ride, but still, being stuck in a car for the equivalent of half a normal workday is far from pleasant. So Wednesday night I was exhausted.

And did I get a chance to veg out and rest? Of course not!

Saturday was a kendo tournament in London, Ont., and Wednesday night was the final class before the tournament so I had to head to class as soon as I got home from Showcase and get all my equipment squared away so that there was no delay on Saturday, and Wednesday was the only chance I'd have. So, exhausted beyond belief I dragged myself to class and got that dealt with.

So fast forward to Saturday, and I'm up at 5AM to get ready to leave at 6 and drive over 2 hours to London. Thankfully I'd had a chance to rest a bit the previous two days, but I was so tempted to roll over and go back to sleep instead of going to work. But, I made it in to work and wasn't completely wasted for Saturday.

It was my first kendo tournament. I just started kendo about 4 months ago, so I wasn't about to get all dressed up in armor and start swinging. I was there to compete in the basic skills over 16 years old competition. It went well. I thought I could have been better, but I did end up in third place and took a metal home. The other guys did well, with our senior sensei taking second place in the masters over 50 section. But in the end, I got home exhausted from a long week.

So what about Sunday? Couldn't I just spend the day lounging around and recovering? Sadly no.

Sunday was Word on The Street in Toronto. Now, I could have skipped it this year, but I really wanted to go to the writing workshop tent and browse the vendors to see if I could find any really great deals. Well, I did end up sleeping in and didn't get there till nearly 2PM. Still, that gave me enough time to browse and catch a couple workshops. Really didn't find any deals that struck my fancy, which is the exact opposite of last year where I could have dropped a few hundred easily.

So the next few weeks are going to be nice and quiet, right? Nope. Next weekend I'm off to Montreal for Con*Cept. This should be interesting. I had a blast at AdAstra this year, and I'm hoping the experience in Montreal is the same.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Clash of The Geeks Now Out

The Scalzi/Wheaton Fan Fic contest that I didn't win (Grrrrrr... ah well, better luck next time) has now been made available for download. Find more on Scalzi's site here.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Dork Review: Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks

Fantasy Freaks and Gaming Geeks by Ethan Gilsdorf (yes, the guy's name sounds like he belongs in a fantasy book, and yes he does make mention of this in the book) bills itself as "An Epic Quest for Reality Among Role Players, Online Gamers, and Other Dwellers of Imaginary Realms".

So, does it hit he mark on this?

I don't know about epic, but it definitely is a personal journey for the author where he attempts to reconnect with an earlier self, the part of him that needed to escape from a life torn asunder by a parent's illness. He found solace in a group of friends playing Dungeons and Dragons, back in the early eighties when it was as far as cool as possible to play. Not that most DnD players are really that cool now, but hey, we can count Lexa Doig and Vin Diesel amongst us now so at least the average level of attractiveness has risen. (Referring mostly to Lexa Doig on that one, as I'm not into guys, but for those of you who are please enjoy the mental image of Vin)

Anyhoo, let me break down the book for you. Guy has midlife crisis and problems with girlfriend, guy attempts to figure his shit out by going back to the fantasy escapism that dominated his teen years and that he gave up in college, guy tries to see if it's possible to be into fantasy and still be a normal regular person. Finally, guy finds out a lot about himself and sees many different facets of geek behavior and writes it down for many to read.

Did I like this book? Yes. It reminded me a lot of my teen years. Let's face it, I was a loner through high school. Heck, I'm still pretty much of a loner now, but with much better social skills then back then. I get where this guy is coming from. I remember being the outcast, the weirdo, the new kid in school that had no friends and didn't know how to make them. Like Gilsdorf I was never the jock or the stoner or the art dude or what have you. I was the guy in the library devouring books, the guy who rarely spoke up in class, the guy who wondered if he'd ever fit in. This book reminded me a lot about that time in my life, so it struck a very personal nerve. Dungeons and Dragons and other RPGs were one of the few ways I had to connect with others and start to come out of my shell. I don't know if I would be even contemplating being a published author if my imagination hadn't been filled and developed by stories I crafted with friends over paper and dice.

If what I've described above touches a nerve with you, then I recommend reading this book. It may well be worth it just to remember what it was like to escape for a little bit, before you go back out to fight the dragons that exist in real life.

Find Ethan's site here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Another Rejection

Well, Riding Europa has been rejected by another site/publisher/magazine. Looks like I've exhausted the pro-rate markets I can submit to online, now to start printing and mailing. I think I'll start Canadian and submit it to On Spec first.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Apparently I'm a 36 year-old Happy Female





Ok, so Jen from Blag Hag (the lovely young woman behind BoobQuake) posted a site a few days ago that performs text analysis on the content of blogs and then provides a report. Here are my results to the left.

So, apparently I write as if I'm a woman in her mid thirties to late forties, who is generally positive and personal. So, I'm a happy cougar on the prowl who likes to get personal.

Hmm... not bad, except that I'm a straight male just about to turn 33. The happy parts seems about right though. I'm a lot happier now than I was a few years ago.

If you're interested, the site can be found here.

The Dork Review: Filaria

So are you looking for a nice light read? Something fluffy you could read with your brain parked in neutral, your neurons gently resting while you watch happy bunnies and kitties frolic?

This book ain't that.

Let me be frank, and not Frank the guy who owns the gym I go to, but frank as in honest. I like this book, so keep that in mind when you read the rest of this review.

Filaria is dark. Dark as in coal covered in tar buried deep underground in the middle of the night. Underground works as well, for the setting is a complex buried in the crust of an unnamed planet. It could be Earth, it could be anywhere in the universe. Where it is doesn't matter. What matters is the people filling this world, their struggles, triumphs and defeats as they live in a world that seems to be coming apart at the seams.

The book is told from four different viewpoints, and switches between views regular as clockwork. It's interesting to watch how events in one persons view are perceived by another viewpoint character, and to see what characters from each section appear in others. Brent Hayward, the author, does a great job of weaving a story out of these very different takes on the world, and reveals information with style throughout the book. Each viewpoint character lives on the page and you really do get into their heads and begin to understand how they view their world. To me this novel is a great example of artistry to keep in mind when I write.

I must issue the following warning though: If you primarily read more direct literature, say Harry Potter or Honor Harrington, be aware that this book is much closer to what some English majors would consider "literary" instead of the "genre crap" that the rest of us real people read (please be aware this is not a dig against genre fiction, which I love and read and do write, or against English majors, of which I was one, but I have seen that attitude amongst some of them). I could easily see this book being part of a course on Modern literature I took in university, or perhaps it would fit better in Post-modern studies. I dunno. I never studied Post-modernism.

So to sum up, Filaria is a university level read. It's dark, complex, loaded with imagery and well crafted characters, and not to be undertaken lightly. Still, go out and read it and stretch your mind a bit. If you don't your brain may get stiff from disuse.

Oh, and before I forget, this book's should be available in stores so good hunting. If they don't have it, ask them to order you a copy or order directly from the publisher here. (Yes it's another Chizine book. I had to read it before I go to the convention in October in case I ran into the publisher and he asks if I have, so it got placed on the top of the pile. And now I've read everything from Chizine I currently have. Guess the means I have to buy some more in October.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Dork Review: Objects of Worship

Wow, it's been awhile since I've done a book review. You'd think I hadn't been reading. Truth is I read a lot, but a lot of it lately has been non-fiction and/or really niche items that would only be interesting for a limited amount of people, like books about kendo or samurai, or the book's been nice and all but not worthy of the effort of a blog post.

Alright then, so what makes Objects of Worship by Claude Lalumiere worthy of me taking the time to review it? Because it's freaking awesome!

Ok, maybe I'm going a bit overboard with the praise, but I really did enjoy this book. It's a collection of short stories by a Montreal author, all of it work that has appeared elsewhere. To be honest, I generally prefer to read short stories in this format. Grabbing a bunch by the same author at the same time just works better in my opinion. The stories tend to be more consistent in tone and structure, at the very least in the skill level in which they are executed.

Now, before I bought this book I hadn't read anything by Lalumiere. I was taken in by the sales pitch put forth by the publisher, Brett Alexander Savory of Chizine (real nice guy BTW), and picked this up at Ad Astra earlier this year. I think the phrase that sold me was "gay zombies raising a human child". Yes, there are zombies in this book, in more than one story. Don't worry, they're good stories and not tired retreads of an already exhausted concept. Add in at least one Cthulu-like being, a few superheros, and a dash of weird family values and you've got one heck of a mix. Sprinkle a bit of sex, in a few different forms, and you're done.

Pick it up direct from the publisher here, as you aren't likely to find this in any bookstore. That's both the unfortunate and wonderful thing about small publishers. When you find them they can be gems, but like most gems they're hard to find lying around.

EDIT: Turns out I was mistaken. This and many other fine CZP books can be found in stores across North America. Go out and find them, and if your store doesn't have any, ask for them to get some in.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Nerd Rage: You Run a Blog? $300.00 Please.

Of all the bureaucratic stupidity I've ever heard, this has to take the cake. The City of Philadelphia wants to charge blog owners/runners $300.00 claiming they are small businesses. For those who want the original story, it can be found here.

This is their reasoning as I understand it:

1. We need money.
2. Blogs make money.
3. Therefore they are businesses.
4. Therefore, we can charge them license fees.
5. Money problem solved!

Gah! Ok, first off, as I understand it most blogs do not make any money, or if they do it's to the tune of, like the article mentions, $11.00 over a few years. From what I've seen most blogs are like mine, a chance to share your thoughts and feelings with the world, a matter of expression and free speech. Only in Philly, it ain't free.

Granted, some blogs are run as media outlets/advertising/business communications. Heck, I'll even so far as to admit that one of the reason I had when starting mine was as advertising for my writing career, such as it is. But note, I have no advertising running on my blog, nor do I earn anything from it. Everything I've posted here has been free of charge (and will remain as such for the immediate future), and I've gotten no special favors or opportunities because of it. It's not like say, Whatever, which is essentially a marketing tool for John Scalzi, or Robert J. Sawyer's site. Both are for established authors, both advertise their works/services (they are available for appearances/talks/bar mitzvahs/whatever), and you can even buy autographed copies directly from Sawyer's site. So for those two examples I could understand classifying them as businesses and charging a license fee. I'd still think it's cheesy, as let's face it, most authors don't make that much money and essentially you piling another tax/fee upon them.

Interesting thought though. Philly already charges freelance writers the $300.00 (yes, yes, they are that money grubbing that they're already sticking it to people who probably can barely afford to make rent much less pay a license fee), so I wonder if they can start blogs and claim it as part of their established business. Even better, get the people who have blogs to team up with a freelance writer who claims the blog under their existing license and "hires" the other person as a work for fee writer, the fee being the occasional smile. :)

Nah! Wouldn't work. The city would likely just claim the blog was a new business and to cough up the fee anyways.

Do I expect a huge outcry about this? Yes and No. I expect on the Internet it will be a huge issue and fought tooth and nail. The regular media/mainstream audiences are likely to say "so what?" For them it's likely not that big of a deal. Keep in mind that while the number of people online is growing, it's still a relatively small number worldwide. And even then, how many bloggers are there in Philly?

I can see this going too ways. First, the blog community in Philly could dry up completely as people start shutting down or registering the blog out of city to avoid the fee. Second, I can see someone fighting this tooth and nail and get this shot down as a impediment to free speech. Honestly, I think it's going to be a mix of the two. A lot of people won't care that much and will close their blogs, but a few will be pissed off enough to fight it.

For those who are going to fight it, you have my support and well wishes. Just not my financial support. Hey, I'm just a poor blogger too.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served... Well Not To Me Apparently

Well, as you've probably already heard the winners for the Scalzi/Wheaton contest have been announced, and I'm not one of them.

Dang.

Part of me would like to use much stronger language in regards to this, but that would be counter productive and truly unfair to the actual winners. As much as I'd like to vent and rant about it, there is no good reason to. Heck, I should be proud of myself for even entering. I could have just sat on the sidelines and then regretted not trying. The only way I'll get published is if I keep trying. Who knows, maybe John Scalzi will take the suggestion about making this an annual thing to heart and I'll get another chance next year.

I'm glad I took a few days to mull over my feelings before making this post. I think the thing that really, really bothers me, is that the rejection for this was impersonal. There was no other way it could be of course, with the over 350 entries (I think that was the total number they quoted), so it's no one's fault. And it's not like I'm not used to rejection, but what I've been getting from other places has been so positive.

I know, I know, positive rejection, what's that? The best way I can put it is, the messages I've been getting back on the Riding Europa submissions have been polite, mostly form letters, but encouraging me to still submit. That may not sound like much, but it's a big difference to hear "this doesn't work for us, but please continue to submit," instead of "this doesn't work for us."

Maybe I'm just grasping at straws. Who knows? Still, I've written three things since I finished Riding Europa; a novella that's being read by friends, the Scalzi/Wheaton submission, and the first draft of a short story I just finished tonight. Each one has felt stronger than the last, so even if Riding Europa doesn't make it I've still got things in the pipeline I can send out.

Also, I haven't run out of ideas, not by a long shot. Gonna spend the rest of tonight reading, and then start working on another new project tomorrow while letting the first draft of my current story percolate in the back of my brain.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Dork Review: Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World

Go and see this movie.

Right now.

You're still here? Alright I'll give you some reasons to see it. If you've seen any of the trailers for this movie your probably have one of two reactions; shouting "awesome!" or scratching your head and going "WTF?". Alright then, my reaction was the first, but I can fully understand the second.

Scott Pilgrim is a wild and frenetic movie filled with geek love, and not just the love between the two main characters Scott and Ramona. It's rife with video game references and wild characters, but at the same time remains consistent and, dare I say it grounded. It's wacky, but not over the top wacky. Everything that happens in the movie makes a weird sort of sense, even the stuff that should make most of the audience clutch their heads and scream. Fair warning; if you do not have any imagination do not see this movie as it will likely fry your feeble little brain, so fair warning to business and phys-ed students.

And the movie is more than just a geek love story. We get to see Scott change and develop, to become someone truly worthy of being in a relationship, while he fights the demons (somewhat literal) from Ramona's dating past and realizes some of the damage he's done in his own dating past. The ending is done just right, with a bit of a twist yet still meeting the audience's expectations.

When this comes out on Blu-ray I will be picking it up. This movie is destined to be one of those, as my friend Jeff put it, love it or hate it cult classics. I love it, and you should to.

Go now, as a movie this awesome isn't likely to last much longer in theaters. It's just too weird and too fun.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Nerd Rage: Book Prices

Ok, so this is going to be a bit of a rant. Fair warning and all that.

So, lets set the stage. Last night a friend and I went out for sushi and then ended up wandering around Chapters to look at some books. Nothing to unusual at that. I love to just browse, and it's not unusual for me to pick something up. Saw one book that caught my interest, checked the price and it was 14.95 American and 16.95 Canadian. So, about two dollars difference. Not really that much when you get right on down to it. Seems reasonable to me, only being about a 13% difference, well within what you would expect with current currency fluctuations. So I decide to pick it up.

Little bit later I find another book, this one on how agriculture and the movement of foodstuffs has affected empires. Sounds cool to me, so I check the price; 25.00 American and 32.99 Canadian! Excuse me, why the 30% difference in price? Especially considering that the Canadian dollar hasn't been, on average, under 10% different than the American dollar this year? And this isn't even an isolated example. I looked in the fiction section and found the new Starcraft book detailing the early history of Jim Raynor and considered picking it up (don't judge, I like backstory to Starcraft) but the price differential is the same. Why should I buy any books at Chapters, when I can go over the border and even with duty and exchange rate still save probably around 15%?

The 15% is of course an estimate, as I'll admit I haven't crunched all the numbers and if I do make a trip over to the States it's likely to be for more than just books. But still, 30% difference in book prices when the Canadian dollar is as strong as it is and has been for an extended period is redonkulous.

It's even worse for a friend of mine. He's really into naval history, much more than I am, and looks for books on the subject. First off, he had to use the American Amazon site because the Canadian one sucks beyond belief (you can search for something using the same search string on both sites, find it on the American but not on the Canadian, then take the ISBN number and find it on the Canadian site). He'll find the book on the American site, then look it up on the Canadian one and the price differential will be even worse. A book that goes for 200 on the American site will be over 600 in Canada! Gah!

How many book sales are lost because of this? How many authors are getting shot in the foot by the cover prices of their books? Hell, how much of the Canadian book market, heck even the overall economy, compromised by this? If the Canadian price was more in line with the American price we would probably see a nice bump in book sales by chains up north, and hopefully more independents getting a slice of the action as well.

I know this stopped me from buying two books last night.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Proposition 8 Overturned!

This (link) makes me very, very happy, as someone very dear to me is gay, and I'd love for her to be able to get married no matter where in the world she may be. Not that it's really an issue, as she lives in a country where it is legal, but anything the increases the acceptance of gay and lesbian rights in the world is alright by me.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Riding Europa - Rejection 1, Submission 2

Well, the fine people of Asimov's have decided they don't want my short story Riding Europa. It was nice that I did receive a response in just about a month, so at least I know. Now to try placing it somewhere else. Hmm... where to send it, where to send it. Ah, Lightspeed! Away it goes.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Dork Review: Inception

There is only one word that adequately sums up my feelings for this movie.

WOW!

Ok, now for the longer explanation/review. This movie kicks ass on so many levels. At the superficial level, it has tons of action, well placed special effects, and gorgeous scenery. So if that's all you're really looking for in a movie, you won't be disappointed. However, this movie is even deeper, kind of like a dream within a dream. (That last line will make sense one you see the movie.)

First off, I'm reading a book on plot and structure right now. This movie could easily be bundled with the book as a how to example. Christopher Nolan hits all the right beats at all the right time. The movie started at around 7:40 PM and didn't end till after 10:00 PM, and I swear it could have gone on for another hour and I wouldn't have noticed. (My bladder may have objected though.)

The end ties right back to the beginning. Everything is tied up satisfactorily, but at the same time there is a mystery left open, so that the audience is left wondering, and the elements that support this mystery are spread out through the entire movie. All of the major characters seem well crafted and human, none of them cardboard cutouts there just to fill a role. Again, the only word I can use to describe it is WOW.

This movie illustrates why I love writing. That may sound weird, but it all ties together. Nolan wrote and directed it, so what was up on screen was as close to his original vision as possible, as he had the greatest amount of control. A movie like this inspires me to do better in my own writing, to meet the unspoken challenge to craft something as good or even better. (Though crafting something better will be difficult to say the least.)

Go and see it. For me it has been the best movie this year, even better than Iron Man 2, which I really enjoyed.

Friday, July 16, 2010

The Dork Review: Mission of Honor

Ok, I not going to number these things anymore, as it's become blindingly apparent to me that I'm not going to do them often enough to keep track. I really don't want to have to filter through months worth of posts in order to figure out what number I should be on. That being said, I really should start reviewing more of the books I'm reading and movies I'm seeing. Oh well, now on to the good bit.

Have you ever picked up and book and had trouble putting it down? That's what it was like for me with Mission of Honor by David Weber. I picked up the book last Saturday and just finished it tonight, and by the end of it you couldn't have pried me away with a crowbar. I was so desperate to know what was going to happen I even started reading at work between calls!

If you're a fan of the Honor Harrington series you'll probably already know what to expect. This book has the usual naval action and wholesale destruction we've come to expect. It also has some significant plot movement, with the "Oyster Bay" attack finally taking place and a few other significant events as well. I really did like the way the attack was handled, with so many different viewpoints provided, and the foreshadowing leading up to the attack was spot on.

For those who want to know more about the Mesan Alignment, a few more layers of the onion get peeled away and we get an idea of the core plan they've been following. It's interesting, Weber has been slowly revealing details over the last few books, and instead of seeming endless it's pushed me to read more and more so I can find out what is going on. That to me is the sign of an excellent storyteller, when you're hanging on every word wanting to know more.

Without a doubt I recommend this book. If you've heard of the series and are hesitant to pick it up since there are so many books in it, get your hands on one of the first printings of this hardcover. Baen includes a CD in each book with all of David Weber's previously published Baen books, so buy buying one book you'll have access to the whole series. Trust me, it's worth it.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Following the Herd

I thought I wasn't going to do this, but what the heck. Since so many others are posting their Scalzi Wheaton Stories, here's mine:

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold, So Wear A Sweater

John Scalzi was walking through a back hallway at Whattacon, netbook clutched firmly in hand, when the Star Trek the Next Generation theme started blasting from the phone in his pocket. That could only mean one thing. Wil was calling.

“Hey Wil,” said John, answering the phone. “What's up?”

There was a dead silence that seemed to last for years, then a gravelly and worn sounding voice said, “You know what's up John. I know. I know it all.”

John flushed red, and started gesturing with his notebook. “It's not what you think. It was years ago, and an honest mistake.”

Wil continued, sounding more and more like he was speaking from the grave, “How could you John? I suffered for years because of this. Did you think some fancy velvet painting would make up for that?”

“Look, Wil, I'm at a con and late for a panel. We'll talk next week when I get back home. Bye.” John ended the call, turned the phone's ringer off, and stuffed it back in his pocket. He hadn't been completely lying when he said he was late for a panel, so he tried to force the guilt out of his mind as he continued rushing down the hallway.

***

“He hung up on me,” said Wil. His words were directed at the Infamous Clown Sweater hanging on a plastic hanger from the knob of his office door. There was no anger and no sadness in his voice, not even a little irritation. The words arrived dead, as if the body that uttered them had long since lost it's soul.

You knew he would. The voice seemed to flow across Wil's brain, like a spreading oil slick. He'd been hearing it for weeks now, ever since he'd found the sweater, ever since he found out what John had done. At first he'd fought the voice, railed against, but bit by bit, piece by piece, his resistance had failed. The part of him that kept fighting had grown smaller and weaker, until now it was almost gone.

“What can I do,” Wil asked. He looked at the sweater, faint lines of hope showing on his face. Maybe if he had an answer this would all end, and that little part of him that still fought could recover the man he used to be.

Revenge, purred the voice, lashing Wil with images, sounds, and smells, each one tied to a painful memory. He put his hands to his head to steady himself. Revenge, it said again, the sensations coming faster and faster. He rose from the chair, clutching his head as if to keep it from bursting. REVENGE!, it screamed, overwhelming his senses and sending him to his knees.

“Yes,” he said, his voice hoarse from the effort. “What do I need to do?”

Put me on, and say the words. Wil rose from the floor and walked to the door. He slid the sweater off its hanger and pulled it over his head. It fit like a second skin. Some of the threads touching his skin began to unravel, and there was a brief moment of pain as they penetrated his body and began to wrap around his nerves and burrowed into his muscles and bones. A moment later the pain intensified as the sweater began to change Wil, warping him from the inside out.

“I WANT REVENGE!” he screamed.

It has begun, oozed the voice, and the last bit of Wil that fought was snuffed out like a candle in a rainstorm.

***

John was lost. Somehow he'd gotten turned around while navigating the back hallways. It should have taken him only five minutes to get to the next panel, and been a nearly straight walk down the theatre service access, but the direct route had been blocked by equipment for tonight's dance, and his detour and left him completely and utterly lost.

“Man, where the hell am I?” he said, rounding another corner in the seemingly endless maze. He spotted a sign that said EXIT and, hoping it lead somewhere public he could get his bearings, he opened the door and walked through. He found himself in what appeared to be a small storage room, stuffed to the brim with food products, and no exit that he could see. The door clicked shut behind him.

“Crap,” he said, turning around and pushing on the door's latch. It wouldn't move. He pressed harder, his face turning red and sweat forming on his forehead. It was no use; the door was either stuck or locked. Either way it wasn't opening.

“Oh, this is just great. First Wil and now this. Can anything else go wrong today?” John pulled out his phone, and was about to call for help when he noticed the LOOKING FOR SERVICE message. He sighed and started wandering the room, looking for a window or another door hidden in the back. He didn't get far before he ran into a pallet brimming with tightly wrapped bottles of Coke Zero.

It was then that John realized how thirsty he was. It felt as if all the moisture had been sucked out of his tongue, like it was a lump of hardened clay in his mouth, covered with a gummy paste of saliva. Surely no one would mind if he took just one bottle. He placed his netbook on the ground and then ripped into the pallet's plastic wrap, like a junkie after a fix, and yanked out the first bottle that came loose. He opened it and raised it to his mouth, his body practically vibrating with anticipation.

It seemed forever before the liquid touched his lips, as if time had slowed. He could hear his heart thumping, his breath filling his lungs, and then it hit him. The soda rushed past his lips, over his teeth, and onto his tongue. The bubbles burned away the dried saliva, and then soaked into his taste-buds, infusing them with flavour. Next the delicious nectar flowed to his throat, tickling and tingling all the way down. Then the sensation was gone, as the bottle was empty.

John barely registered reaching for the next bottle and drinking it. Grabbing the third was only a hazy feeling of his hand moving, and after that all he could sense was liquid filling him, being absorbed by every cell of his body. It seemed as if only seconds passed before the last bottle on the pallet was empty. John looked around to see himself surrounded by empties, like spent shell casings.

“Whoa,” he said, and then let out a thunderous belch. “Must've been thirsty.”

It was then that the hole in the wall registered in his Coke addled brain. It wasn't a big hole by any means, but it was roughly Scalzi sized, and roughly Scalzi shaped, and blacker than a Republican's heart. It had been hidden by the pallet of soda. It never occurred to John to wonder why it was there. All that entered his brain was, “Hey, there's an exit.”

He pulled out his phone and walked into the hole, pressing the buttons every few seconds to keep the display lit. It was a tiny beacon of light in the smothering darkness.

John just kept walking, farther and farther into the hole. Each step took him Somewhere Else. The temperature started to rise, and a sulphurous smell filled the tunnel. It was so gradual that John didn't notice, just as he didn't notice the changes taking place within himself. His Coke Zero soaked cells started to warp and twist, changes starting in the centre of his body and flowing outwards. His skin turned green, his muscles grew, and his ears lengthened and formed into points. The changes did not stop with his body. His clothing compressed and formed crude leather armour with a skirt of metal scales and spiked shoulder pads. His right ear suddenly sprouted two gold earrings.

The phone in his right hand warped, lengthened and widened, it's light going out as it turned into a rough wooden shield, banded and cornered with thick pig iron. It didn't matter to John, as his eyes could see just fine in the ever lightening gloom. A point of red light in the distance grew larger with each step he took. His new ears could hear the steady rumble of thousands of tons of molten rock shifting and rolling. The last thing to change was his netbook, and as he stepped out of the tunnel, into a blasted volcanic landscape, he hefted a wicked looking axe in it's place.

John continued to walk, exploring his new environment.

***

Rise, said the voice to Wil. The body holding the shattered remnants of his mind obeyed. Open the door, it commanded next, and a wave of heat and sulphurous odor struck him as he complied. His expression didn't change as eyes surveyed the seething volcano the thrust itself upward from what should have been his neighbours lawn.

Look down, said the voice next. At Wil's feet was a gleaming bronze spear. He reached down and picked it up, and as he rose he saw the mount. It was as if a kitten had been crossed with a pegasus and a unicorn. Without being prompted by the voice he walked towards it. Slitted green eyes watched him as he approached and then reached out to the creature, petting and scratching the fur at the base of it's golden horn. It purred, a subsonic thrum that travelled through Wil's arm to the rest of his body. He stopped stroking long enough to mount and grab the reigns. Knowledge of how to command the beast flowed into his brain. With a flick of the wrist they were off, flying through the air with a seemingly feline grace.

“What now?” asked Wil.

The voice replied. Fly south, look for green.

That shouldn't be too hard, thought Wil. Everything around him was either red or brown, including his mount. After only a few moments his spotted a green figure making it's way across a cracked plateau. He steered his mount towards it.

That is Scalzi, said the voice. Kill him, kill him, KILL HIM!

A nearly blinding rage overtook Wil. His vision rimmed with red and locked onto the green figure. He signalled his mount into a dive. The closer he got, the more his anger intensified. It didn't matter who or what the figure in front of him was, it was going to die.

Just before he struck, Wil screamed, “SCALZI!”

John looked up just in time to see his doom.


Riding Europa - Submission 1

Just submitted my short story, Riding Europa, to Asimov's Science Fiction and Fantasy. This is the same one that I submitted to the Writer in Residence program for the Merrill Collection and had evaluated by Karl Schroeder.

Sweet Jeebus I actually submitted something. Heck, with this and the Scalzi contest I've submitted two things within thirty days of each other, and finished the first draft on a twenty thousand word novella. I may actually be able to do this whole writer thing.

Scalzi/Wheaton Contest

Just a quick update on the John Scalzi/Wil Wheaton fanfic contest. Apparently they've received about 350 entries as of the close of submission, and it looks as if there are a lot of good ones in there.

Oh well, here's hoping. :)

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Reign of the Hobbyist

So Robert J. Sawyer has posted a blog entry where he asks the question "Are the days of the full-time novelist numbered?" For those who are interested, it can he found here. Go take a look, if not for the article then just for the picture where he has this kind of WTF look on his face.

So Mr. Sawyer raises some good points. The point he makes about there only being about 10 years left for professional authors to make a living at what they do he also stated at the writing workshop he gave at Ad Astra this year. Yes, he told a room full of aspiring writers that there was a 10 year deadline before the chances of becoming a full-time writer disappeared like a puff of smoke. Well, at least he can't be faulted for sugar-coating the medicine.

The article expands upon this theme, and a whole host of examples are given. Most of them are just amusing, mostly examples of people or organizations asking for something ludicrous, though one I did find, lets just say interesting enough to quote here. The offer to teach at a writing retreat for 10 days for $3000. Mr. Sawyer states that this essentially would be a pay cut for him. Hmmm... interesting. Also, it's interesting that very next words are "so this would be me subsidizing the cost of the event so that students could pay less". Hmmmm.... yup, very interesting.

So are we headed to a time where it's impossible to be a full-time writer who only writes to the exclusion of all else? Probably. Is this a bad thing? Probably not. I say this because it will encourage those of us who have an idea but feel we'll never make it as a writer to go ahead and try anyways. The stigma for being a "hobbyist" will be, if not removed, then at least lessened. This could mean that people who would have thought, "well, I'm not good enough to do this for a living, so why should I bother," may actually put something out there now. Yes this may lead to a glut of slush hitting us all in the face, as mentioned in this article, but we'll survive and new ways of picking out the gems will emerge. Do I know what those ways will be? Nope, but then even the methods we use now are subject to the reader's whim and taste.

Oh, and don't for second think that there isn't a stigma attached to being a "hobbyist". It's subtle, but it's there. The same sort of stigma has attached itself to fan-fiction, which thankfully I can honestly say I've only produced one piece of, and then only for a contest that could lead to being published. (Yes, I don't like fan-fiction and think a lot if it is garbage. Sorry if that's your thing, go ahead a write it but don't expect me to read it, especially if it's set in something I've created.)

A defining moment for me was when I realized that I may never be able to make a living writing. I've struggled with this for years. All of these ideas have been rattling around in my brain, wanting to get out. I'd write something and a friend would read it and say they wished I would continue the story, but I never did because I was afraid and depressed that I'd never be a full-time paid writer. Once I got over that, and realized that, hey, it's not so bad to write on the side and work a day job, it doesn't make me any less of a writer than anyone else. Even if I never get published, I know that I worked at it and developed my skills and enriched my life. Yeah, that does sound kind of selfish, but that's kind of the point. I'm doing this for me, but I do hope that others will enjoy my brain droppings.

Oh, Mr. Sawyer does make one other point that bears upon this post. He states "Still, lengthy, ambitious, complex works — works that take years of full-time effort to produce such as, say, Kim Stanley Robinson’s Mars trilogy, or, if I may be so bold, my own WWW trilogy of Wake, Watch, and Wonderaren’t things that could have been produced in any kind of reasonable time by squeezing in an hour’s writing each day over one’s lunch break while working a nine-to-five job."

So what is a reasonable amount of time? Is it a year between books? Two years? George R.R. Martin hasn't published a new novel in the Song of Ice and Fire series since 2005. Should we hunt him down and chain him to a desk until he does? Will I enjoy the next book less because I had to wait? Nope.

Yes, these massive and epic projects will take longer to complete, or will be cut down in scope in order to be published in a more timely manner. This is not a bad thing. It certainly would have helped the Wheel of Time series, which has grown so bloated it metaphorically resembles a parade float about to burst. (I mean really, not only did Robert Jordan die before finishing it, they hired someone to take over and the last book of the series ends up getting split into three? It should have ended about two books ago. I love the early books of the series, but after reading an entire prologue filled with characters I cared nothing about and who added really nothing to the story I was done.)

Also, we may see the "new" novelist get even older, as burgeoning writers work a regular job and slowly develop their craft and stories until they can retire and then devote more time to it. Literary careers may be shorter, but, if as Mr. Sawyer has commented before we're all going to live a hell of a lot longer and become near immortals, there may be a lot more time devoted available to us all, especially once we all have smart homes in the bright new future of free energy and boundless material that futurists have been promoting for, what, the last 50-60 years?

Let the full-time writer go the path of the dinosaurs (something Mr. Sawyer is infinitely fond of). While some may lament, some may whine, and some may take their ball and go home, I'll be over here working my day job and then writing for my hour when I get home. My only advice to those who don't like the fact that they were born too late to be full time writers is this:

Suck it up, buttercup.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Revenge Is A Dish Best Served Cold, So Wear A Sweater

Ok, so it's been awhile since I've updated. What can I say. My time is probably better spent actually writing than blogging, but I really should do both, and eventually I'll have to get a Twitter account (I'm putting that off as long as possible). Oh well, enough kvetching about what I should be doing and how about I say what I've actually done.

Lets see. Already covered the meeting with Karl, which went well. The send off the Merrill collection had for him at the end of May was nice, too bad it couldn't have gone later but the library had to close. Work on my time travel Santa/Jesus novella has gone well so far. The first draft is approaching 20,000 words and is likely to top that once I get back to it. Right now that project is on hold for something else.

And what might that something else be you ask? I'm glad you asked so nicely. The title of this update is a hint. Hmmmm.... not much of a hint is it? Alright, I'll tell, I'll tell! Check out the following link:

LINKY!!!

Ok, read it? Good. As of today my submission for the Wheaton/Scalzi great fan-fic contest has gone through three drafts and is now being perused by trusted readers. So far it's gotten the reaction I want. The first reader was reduced to mad laughter, and everyone else who's read it has found it amusing. What can I say. Based on the picture I had to go for over the top melodrama, and I think I nailed it just right. The story's funny and extreme and just the right amount of ridiculous that it can be enjoyed without being too much.

I really, really hope my story makes the cut. So far Scalzi has revealed that over 100 submissions have been put in, which is actually a lot less than I thought there would be. I was afraid there might be, well, thousands. I may actually have a chance.

Oh, and the title of this post is the title of my story. If it gets in, then I'll let people discover it once they purchase the collection. Heck, it's not like a ton of people are reading this blog, but if you are let me just say thank-you. If it doesn't get in I'll post it up here. We'll just have to wait and see.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I'm Published (Well Sorta)

Well, let me explain. No, is too much, let me sum up. (Gotta love Princess Bride quotes.. hehehe)

Ok, so the story I submitted to Tesseracts 14 didn't make the cut for Tesseracts, but the lovely people over at the Aphelion webzine found space in their hearts and on their webpage to publish it for me. So, in essence I've been publish. It's on the web and I didn't receive any money for it, but it's out there for complete strangers who've never met me to read. Keep in mind, up to this point I've met everyone who's actually read the story, even the editors for Tesseracts 14 (Lovely gentlemen I met at Ad Astra).

So why am I pointing this out? Well, it means I'm actually getting feedback from people I have no direct relationship with and have absolutely no reason to care about me one way or another. I'm going to assume, well, hope really, that they're decent human beings and will give me usable feedback and not comments like, " it was total garbage, the guy who wrote it should be taken out back and shot," and so far that's been the case. There have been two posts about it in the Aphelion forum, and both have been honest and helpful.

I did have the chance to change the story before Aphelion posted it, but aside from a couple of typos I didn't. There were a few reasons for this. First, the story's done and I should resist the temptation to continually tinker with it. Maybe in a few years I'll pull it out and rewrite it and see if I can get it publish for payment, or maybe I'll just leave it as is so it remains as an example of where I was in my development as a writer when I finished writing it. The second reason I left it as is, I wanted to see if the feedback I received matched my own thoughts and what I received from the pros, and that wasn't going to happen if I started making changes.

I'm happy to see some of the parts I was worried about go so well. From the feedback it seems the character of John went over alright, and no one has told me that Unwyn was unrealistic. Also, no complaints about my dialogue. So, while the story wasn't perfect at least it wasn't a complete flop.

All in all, I'm happy to see it published somewhere, and Aphelion looks to be a great starting point for authors looking for an knowledgeable audience. Hopefully, someday someone will pick up a novel I've written, read it, and say, "I remember when this guy published on Aphelion. He sure has come a long way."

We'll just have to wait and see. Well, you wait, I gotta get back to writing.

For those who are interested, the story can be read here.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A Cold and Windy Update

Why is it I seem to get good news on really crappy days?

Anyways, on to the good news. So today was my meeting with Karl Schroeder, the current Writer in Residence for the Merrill Collection in Toronto. When I got onto the bus in St. Catharines the weather looked fine, but on our way to Toronto we hit a solid wall of water, which stopped before we hit Toronto and then picked up again as soon as I got off the bus.

Note to self: Check the friggin weather report next time I'm travelling more than a few kilometers.

So, wet, cold, and let's face it, nervous, I arrived at the Merrill Collection. Thankfully I had time to wring myself out and dry off before my meeting. Heck, I was over 2 hours early thanks to the bus schedule so I took my time getting there. Yeah it was cold and miserable out, but I saw something happening on a side street so I had to investigate. Turned out to be some kind of science festival, since a bunch of U of T students were setup outside in booths. One kiosk/tent invited you to submit names for a new pair of supercomputers. I submitted Bender and Fry. Wouldn't it be great to have a supercomputer named after a drunken violent robot?

Another booth asked the question "How Unique Are You?" According to the assessment of 9 of my traits, less than 1 in 1000 people are like me. This is a scientific fact. I have a certificate to prove it. :)

Anyways, so after that I did reach the Merrill Collection with over an hour to spare. I ended up perusing the Pulp display/sale that was on in the basement. Some interesting stuff down there, and I'm glad I didn't have any cash on me or I would've been tempted to pick something up. But that is immaterial to the reason I was there, so on to the good stuff.

My meeting was at 1:00 PM, and Karl and I headed to a back office to speak. To sum things up, I'm doing well. My mechanics, such as dialogue, are good, and from what emerged in our discussion the way I'm doing things will work in the long run and I should just keep plugging away. He even said I "sound like a writer" which has to be one of the best statements about me I have ever heard. I do need to work on characterization, and there were a few other quibbles about the story. Part of that is that Karl is a hard science fiction author, while I am, hmmm... let's say my scientific background is not as extensive as his. Still though, while the story wasn't perfect what needs to be fixed isn't Earth shattering, nor will it require the entire story be nuked and paved. Another nice comment I got was that I'm writing complete stories, and that my structure is good. All in all it was a very encouraging experience, and Karl gave me his email address and asked that I keep in touch and let him know when I finally do get published.

The main thing to take away for this, is that I may actually be able to pull this whole writing thing off. Huh, who woulda thunk it?

:)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

One Week and Counting

Well, I heard back from the Writer in Residence program at the Merrill Collection in Toronto. Mr Karl Schroeder has read my manuscript and my appointment is next Saturday in the afternoon. I'm scared, excited, nervous, thrilled, and slightly overwhelmed, all at the same time in some kind of whirling vortex of doom. It will be nice to get some feedback on that specific manuscript, and to get a general sense of what I need to work on as a writer. I just need to remember to keep positive. I know I'm not where I want to be on my writing, but I can get there as long as I keep at it. Even a little bit of forward movement is progress.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Dork Review #3: Small Magics

Call this the post where I pimp one of the books of an author I met at Ad Astra. Of course, it helps that Small Magics by Erik Buchanan is a well crafted story with engaging characters, which makes pimping it so much easier. Please note, that while I've met the author and do like the guy, everything I write below is my opinion and I have accepted no compensation for this review. Not even a free book. I mean, I bought the book and now I'm giving out free advertising. I really should start charging for this. (Just kidding!)

Anyways, on to the review. Standard spoiler warnings apply.

Where to start. How about with the title, Small Magics. It is appropriate, as the main motivator of the story is the theft of small magics from others by an evil bishop and how it impacts upon the life of Thomas, a young man come home from the Academy to see his family. The bishop has stolen the power to influence others with his voice from Thomas' father, and boy does he use it effectively. The only one that can actually stop the bishop is Thomas, as the young man has the ability to hear and see magic, apparently a rare gift because even the other magically gifted in the book can't see or don't realize what they are doing. The gifts appear to be random, as the gift that Thomas has is completely different from his father's. So while the ability to perform magic is hereditary, how it manifests is different. Kind of an interesting take upon hereditary ability.

This brings up an interesting point, and something I'd like to comment about. I like the way the author deals with how magic is "seen". I've put seen in quotes as there is more than one definition I'd like to cover. The obvious "seen" is how Thomas actually perceives magic. The author does a marvelous job of describing how intense it is to actually see the magic in the world, how it all ties together, and how it is different in everyone. Even those who do not actively use or have a gift seem to be touched by the magic of the world. It is a beautiful testament to how everyone is connected by life.

The other "seen" is the prevailing attitude towards magic in the world the author has crafted. Magic is a dirty little secret, and those who understand that they have a gift and aren't using it without knowing are afraid of being branded as witches. One of the arguments Thomas has to make is the difference between magic, which comes from one of this worlds main four gods, and witchcraft which comes from the Banished, this worlds demon/devil equivalent.

And what organization has made it so that no one can tell the difference between the two, and at the same time made it so only one god is ascendant over all the others, why it would be the Church of the High Father, an analogue of the Roman Catholic church at its worst. The bishop as its representative is a vile, putrescent, slimy, arrogant, bubbling piece of filth that should be burned at the stake, and then the ashes collected and launched into space so that no part of him will continue to pollute the planet. So, in other words, a really well done villain. You want to hate this guy, viscerally. Thankfully the book is not all potshots at the church, as there is a noble character that is on his way to becoming a priest who is intelligent and sympathetic.

As for the hero, Thomas, there is very little not to like about him. He's intelligent and determined with a conscience. Even when he has the opportunity to run he refuses, as he not only wants to save his family but also wants to see the bishop defeated. The artful part about all this is that you believe in this when it happens. The character is consistent throughout the book, and his dedication doesn't seem forced or artificial. Also, he isn't a wanton killer, nor are any of the heroes. They stand up against those who would kill or abuse power, which has always been a very powerful image in fiction, for me at least.

Let me finish by saying that I really enjoyed this book. I enjoyed it so much that I'd recommend it to my friends, family, and random strangers on the street or internet. Pick it up!

Small Magics on Amazon

Small Magics on the Edge website

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ad Astra 2010 Con Report

Ad Astra was awesome!

This was the first time I've spent the whole weekend at a science fiction/fantasy convention. The only other experience I've had was a Star Trek convention in Niagara Falls years ago, and then I only spent a day at that con. This experience was completely different.

Alright, so here's how the weekend started. Friday I finished work, got home, and finished those last few bits of packing that can only happen when you're just about to leave. Then I was out the door and driving to Toronto, hoping to get there before the start of the con. I made it, with enough time to spare to check in and drop off all my stuff before heading to the opening ceremonies.

The con was packed with panels. I hit three on the first night, even with time to squeeze in some much needed dinner. I nearly had a geek out moment when I saw the two lovely ladies running the con and the Guests of Honor sitting at a table not too far away. Thankfully I didn't completely spaz out, and was able to finish my meal in relative dignity. My favorite panel of the night probably was the Working with Small Presses panel, because it gave me a greater insight into that part of the business and now I think I'll start submitting work to them before attempting to hit the big boys. I like the sense of freedom that was there. I'd have a lot more control over my book, and the panelists came across as very friendly and welcoming. This is important to note, as there was one glaring example of the opposite on a later panel.

After the small press panel there was one on World Building. It was a hoot as well. I must admit, I'm not a big fan of the Forgotten Realms, but I do have to say that I enjoyed listening to Ed Greenwood. I ended up going to a few other panels he was on and it was always a fun experience. The one on System vs. Setting for role-playing games with Ed on Saturday was a real treat.

Another nice thing about the World Building panel was hearing Erik Buchanan, author of Small Magics and Cold Magics (which launched at the con, go Erik), talk about how he ended up putting a lot of fencing terms in one of his books and the comparison between western and Eastern sword-fighting styles. I found this interesting because I love sword-fights, and I trained in Ona Ha Itto Ryu, a style of kenjutsu or Japanese sword-fighting. I had a chance to talk to Erik after the panel and mention it to him, even gave him the name of the dojo I went to in case he was interested. I always love meeting people with similar interests.

Speaking of meeting people, I originally intended to head to the Meet and Greet but somehow ended up going to the Con Suite with Liz, another convention goer, and chatting with her and a few others for the next few hours. It was amazing how quickly 1AM snuck up on us.

I was up early on Saturday, from a mixture of, I think, excitement and the fact that my body is used to getting up early for work. I was out of bed before 6:30AM and ready and willing to hit panels all day long, which I did. The first one was on the Life of An Anthology, and one of the panelists was John Robert Colombo. Now, you may be wondering why this name is important. It's because Mr. Colombo was one of the editors for Tesseracts 14, for which I sadly did not get accepted for. However, when he I got to chatting, and I introduced myself as someone who had submitted and didn't get in he asked me what I'd submitted, and he remembered it! Well, OK, he didn't remember all the details but he mentioned that he and the other editor, Brett Alexander Savory did have a discussion about it, and that Mr. Colombo graded my work as an 85. The main reason I didn't get in was that there were so many works graded at a 90 level. Still, getting an 85 out of a professional editor and creator of anthologies, not too shabby. Mr. Colombo did suggest I ask Mr. Savory about it as he might remember more, which I ended up doing on the last day of the con, and that led me to getting Mr. Savory's card and picking up a couple of books from Chizine Publications, the press he co-runs. Yeah, I'm a sucker for new books, what can I say.

I think I floated through the rest of the day. Really, I was just really blown away by how well my first submission had done. Yeah, I didn't get published, but I was a heck of a lot closer than I'd ever been, and I know my work has improved since I wrote that story. Maybe I'm not as hopeless as that small part of my brain keeps insisting I am. If I take nothing else away from the con, I'll take a renewed sense of hope that I can get my writing out there published one day.

Anyways, enough about hope and all that crap, now on to the rest of the day, or as I call it, the endless sea of panels. I don't think there was a single free moment throughout the day. In fact, there were panels I would have loved to go to booked at the same time, so I had to make choices all day long. So for Saturday and Sunday I targeted the panels that would be the most use to me as a writer, and even then I missed good ones. Oh well, just means I'll have to go next year.

Saturday night there was a launch party for Cold Magics. I ended up running into Liz from Friday night again, and found out we both went to the same university but a few years apart. Small world indeed! The party was a blast. Erik had been selling it all day long at the panels, saying there would be really good chocolate. He wasn't kidding! The chocolate was dark and had some hot pepper in it, so it had a nice bittersweet taste with a little bite at the end.

I also ended up meeting a different Liz at this party, one who is involved in running a convention out in Montreal this October. A few years ago I kept on meeting interesting women named Carrie, with a few variations on the spelling, this year it seems the name is Liz. It's been years since I've been in Montreal, and it would be nice to go to a con outside of Ontario, so I'll have to check the money situation and decide. The con sounds like it would be as much fun as Ad Astra.

Sunday was a blast as well, and I wasn't nearly as tired as I expected considering I'd only gotten 5 hours of sleep each night for the last two days. The only real negative experiences I had during the convention were on Sunday, both involving the same individual who I have now lost a lot of respect for, and that's all I intend to say on that subject. I debated mentioning it at all, but in all fairness to myself I had to put something about it out there so at least I feel better and don't have it bottled in.

Wow, this post went a lot longer than I thought it would. Final word on Ad Astra is I had fun, I'd do it again, and I have some great memories from it. The good outweighs the bad by an astounding amount.