wish I'd said that

A desk is a dangerous place from which to watch the world - John le Carre

Thursday, August 26, 2010

 Okay. Here's the longest running gap between parts one and two in history.

I was either a) kidnapped by alien life-forms b)in a writers comma (like a coma, only different) c) on a religious retreat  d) or hammering away at the outlines for the two books that are mentioned later in this post.
Choose one.

 Anyway. I believe in finishing what you start, no matter how long it takes you. So here it is.

The Read Off was packed with readers. I met the wonderfully helpful Cliff Stornel who organized the event and got my slot near the end of the pack. Arlene and I sat through some really good stories and some skilled readers. (Although I would suggest the secret to success is edit, edit, edit. AND the story you read is not exactly the story you write. Use the venacular, use your voice for intent instead of speaking text adverbs and attach yourself like a leech to the emotional ups and downs of your story)

So there we sat. My stomach was grumbling hunger and butterflies. Then I was called. (2nd secret - start out LOUD, because chances are you won't be as loud as you think you are because your words are getting swallowed by FRIGHT!.
I had a good dialogue opening, including a sound effect (can't have too many) and within moments I knew the audience was with me, and just like that the stress lessened and the fun returned. Give your audience something and they will give you something in return - kind of simple isn't it.

If I placed somewhere in the top 10 (out of 27) , that meant inclusion in a chap book whose proceeds go to the Winnipeg Library. I would be content. (especially since my writer's group had pretty well panned my story. Aha!)

The Con organizers were going to announce the winner at the Masquerade, which Arlene and I didn't attend. We were starved and went out for a beer at the Albert Arms and dinner in an area of Winnipeg where I used to live many moons ago and had a great time. We came back, did the  " do we go to bed early? ( as we had just flown in at 1pm and I had a panel to lead at 4pm, then the Read-Off was 5pm, until 7pm, so we were pretty pooped) , but gamely decided we'd check out the dance before heading to bed  .

So there we are semi-dancing, not really there at all and we see Julie Czerneda who published my first short story in her anthology Ages of Wonder, (co-edited by Rob St. Martin) dancing away with Roger to beat the band (or in this case DJ) with  so we dance over.
On the way, the irrepressible Leamber, one of the Con organizers, throws her arms around me and gives me a big hug. She says something but the music is blasting, and besides, I don't need a reason for a hug.
Then Julie comes over and gives me a big hug, ( I'm thinking, maybe I should go to dances more often,) and Julie says congratulations. I yell," thanks", then she says, "You don't know do you?" I say, "Know what?" This is the part I'll never forget. She yells, "You won, you idiot!"

The night changed after that. So many complete strangers, some of them writers who had been in the audience told me how much they loved my story, how they were glad they didn't have to read after me, how I made them cry and how they knew I'd win as soon as I was done.

But here's the icing.
Besides a nifty piece of software, I won a 15 minute one on one, face-to-face pitch session with Sheila Gilbert, masterful editor and co-owner of DAW books, one of the best sci-fi fantasy publishers in the business and  I pitched two novels, and she wanted to see them both. Wow! (now I just have to write one of them, Or at least figure out my through line and what the heck, maybe an ending or two.)

We went to the Auroras the next evening and had a great time. My table mates were spectacular. Julie, Roger, Arlene, Nalo Hopkinson, Sheila Gilbert and Edward Willett to name a few.
Even though I didn't win my very first nomination (there will be others), all  in all, having met and successfully pitched to Sheila Gilbert  I'd say I won. 

Apropos, it was my birthday weekend and I really liked my presents.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Key Con frantic and fun part 1

Whew! Finally getting around to reporting on Key Con in Winnipeg which was FANTASTIC!
(even though I didn't win the Aurora Award,  I am so very grateful to have made the 5 finalists) 
congrats to all the finalists and especially Eileen Bell who as one of the Women of the Apocalypse, smote us all and took home the prize.)

So the Con...

I had to work at Home Depot on Friday so Arlene and I flew in to the 'peg, Saturday morning. We arrived at the Con at 1:15 and got Arlene registered.

--  Flashback- Friday night - Arlene trying to vote for
Auroras and of course, techno-tyke (that's me) helping out. No go. Tried three times and each time the Aurora voting site told her "the computer says nooo."  
Okay we figured she can vote at the Con when we get there, as voting is open until Sunday Noon. (note to self- get new glasses). Then we discover that techno-tyke has registered her for the Aurora meal but not the Con. In my defense, weak though it is, amidst the flurry of readying my new short story "Mr Go Away", for the 5 minute Read-Off AND preparing my panel on Brit TV vrs US TV, I mistakenly registered her for SFContario instead of Key Con. Hey, could happen to any..idiot.

So at Key Con, she could eat, but she'd have to hang around the hotel room, like a well, you know, like a hmnn, I believe the old parlance was a doxy. But even that word would earn me an icy cold shoulder and glare so let's just say we got her registered, first thing at the Con.

Registration was a breeze. Great staff, sooo helpful (even to shamefaced idiots) All around good folk working the Con. BIG KUDOS!!

 I prepared for some last minute subtle Aurora schmoozing, booklet copies of my nominated short story "Here There Be Monsters" in open, introductory hand, badge proudly announcing 2010 Aurora Finalist (with my name on it, still blows me away) ... and then we discovered the problem with my eyesight, or the brain the eyes are connected to, (which was suspect right from the beginning). Seems Aurora voting had closed an hour before we arrived, yes, that would be Noon, Saturday, not Sunday. 
What a difference a day makes. Game plan goes phhht. Shame face idiot takes another hit.
When you think of it, Saturday makes more sense as award presentation was Sunday evening, but in my defense - see above pathetic excuses.

Okay. Bright side. That pressure was off. No last minute pork barrel politicking.

Time to turn up the heat on my other commitments. I leave Arlene, to get in less trouble than she would if I stayed, and zip off to our hotel room to get Mr Go Away down from 5 min 30 sec, in order to beat the clock. Can I just read it faster? No.
(I quickly discovered that cutting a chunk out of a three page story is like slicing the skin off a grape, especially since I'd started with a watermelon. But that's better than a lemon.)

Should I have a nap? No, focus. Munch on Granola bars and cheese and crackers, courtesy of Arlene, the smart one of the pair. 

Story. Still 15 sec over the limit. Could I have a nap? No! 
Aha. Found a redundancy trying to masquerade as a vital piece of information. Gone! Yes! 4 min 40 sec. Have cookie as reward. Woof! Me and Mr. Pavlov.

Now. Switch to panel. Some pithy quotes concerning US TV. Where's my pith pile? Oh no. I left my quote page in
Toronto. Aw pith.

Bed is still beckoning. Shhhh. Yikes! Clock is louder than bed. 3:10. 

Panel is at 4pm and Read-Off immediately after. Okay that's Good enough. Robbie Bourget, my co-panelist is a good talker, and carries a hatful of experience with her, so... And we'll tet the audience ask questions to fill in the rest. (audience, ha! We had quality not quantity, as it turned out) 

One last read-aloud of Mr Go Away. Ouch! How did it get back to over 5 min? Panic. No. Bed? No? Window? Hmmn. Won't open. Okay. Be brutal! There! Revise the ending and hey! I like that better. Who'd a thunk it?  4min 30 sec. Wow! Done. 
Stick face in sink full of cold water. Dry. Leave the room. Bye bed, I'll be back.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fiction Writer's Rules

Here's some tips from some of the best culled from an article in TheGuardian.

Elmore Leonard: Using adverbs is a mortal sin

1 Never open a book with weather. If it's only to create atmosphere, and not a charac­ter's reaction to the weather, you don't want to go on too long. The reader is apt to leaf ahead look­ing for people. There are exceptions. If you happen to be Barry Lopez, who has more ways than an Eskimo to describe ice and snow in his book Arctic Dreams, you can do all the weather reporting you want.

2 Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword. But these are ordinarily found in non-fiction. A prologue in a novel is backstory, and you can drop it in anywhere you want. There is a prologue in John Steinbeck's Sweet Thursday, but it's OK because a character in the book makes the point of what my rules are all about. He says: "I like a lot of talk in a book and I don't like to have nobody tell me what the guy that's talking looks like. I want to figure out what he looks like from the way he talks."

3 Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied". I once noticed Mary McCarthy ending a line of dialogue with "she asseverated" and had to stop reading and go to the dictionary.

4 Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . . he admonished gravely. To use an adverb this way (or almost any way) is a mortal sin. The writer is now exposing himself in earnest, using a word that distracts and can interrupt the rhythm of the exchange. I have a character in one of my books tell how she used to write historical romances "full of rape and adverbs".

5 Keep your exclamation points ­under control. You are allowed no more than two or three per 100,000 words of prose. If you have the knack of playing with exclaimers the way Tom Wolfe does, you can throw them in by the handful.
6 Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose". This rule doesn't require an explanation. I have noticed that writers who use "suddenly" tend to exercise less control in the application of exclamation points.

7 Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly. Once you start spelling words in dialogue phonetically and loading the page with apos­trophes, you won't be able to stop. Notice the way Annie Proulx captures the flavour of Wyoming voices in her book of short stories Close Range.

8 Avoid detailed descriptions of characters, which Steinbeck covered. In Ernest Hemingway's "Hills Like White Elephants", what do the "Ameri­can and the girl with him" look like? "She had taken off her hat and put it on the table." That's the only reference to a physical description in the story.

9 Don't go into great detail describing places and things, unless you're ­Margaret Atwood and can paint scenes with language. You don't want descriptions that bring the action, the flow of the story, to a standstill.

10 Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip. Think of what you skip reading a novel: thick paragraphs of prose you can see have too many words in them.

My most important rule is one that sums up the 10: if it sounds like writing, I rewrite it.

Elmore Leonard's 10 Rules of Writing is published next month by Weidenfeld & Nicolson.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Where Asimov leads, On Spec boldly goes

More E-mail subs. Yay!
First Asimov's and now On Spec...sub world just got even more friendly.


On Spec is one of those little Canadian mags who thought they could, and they did. Again and again.

Read the sample copy.


Subscribe. Submit. Sublime.

what a world

Slivers in your ear?

Proving that phones do not need to follow the plastic standard, the Maple Phone has been developed by two Koreans, Hyun Jin Yoon and Eun Hak Lee . The wooden phone exhibits a touch sensitive keypad and also a camera. (photos may be a little grainy... wood grainy, that is)

For the touch-pad to work correctly, some different materials must be used, as this would be impossible based on wood alone. (woodn't it?)

But hey, three ring a- dings from the environment, since wood is natural and completely renewable.


How will this affect t branch lines and trunk calls?
Are wooden laptops next? Yew tube?
Fir sure.


Wow. I 'm bad at this...but I guess you already know that.

Lots has been going on.
Had a short, story that I had to write and prepare for the Read-Off at Key Con in Winnipeg, where I attended the Aurora Awards, not really expecting to win as I have no web presence or readership, okay, some, as I did make it into the 5 finalists, but not surprised when my name wasn't called. (I got smote by Eileen Bell, of Women of the Apocalypse. No surprise.)

Anyway I had to cut my original "vomit draft" of 5700 words down to 3 pages (850 words) as the requirement for the Read-off was under 5 minutes. Ouch. But, hey, I did it!
It's a fascinating, frustrating but ultimately rewarding exercise for any masochistic writers out there (Is that a redundancy?)

On top of my frenzy of editing, I was working extra shifts at Home Depot and dealing with computer problems, so any way, I'm back and have promised myself, and by extension, the Greater U, to do better.

So, we'll see.
But, you know what the road to Hell is paved with...no, not tombstones and not Persephone's tears, although I like that.

So how 'bout that oil spill? So far in the game Mother Nature - 7, BP - 0.

Monday, May 3, 2010

man made awe

This is amazing. Art made on a grand scale by using a palette of different colored rice plants in Japan.
I mean...wow.


What a great idea - exacting, methodical and yet majestic. And 100% natural to boot.
(Of course, hanging one on the wall would be a little messy... you'd have to have a great wall.)