Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Submission Rule - Do Not Send Confetti With Your Submission

I mentioned writing rules in the previous post, so I decided to add a submission rule. Just because I happen to come across it today.

Okay, this would be funny if it wasn't sad.

Slush God wrote today of "the most obnoxious slush submission EVER."
Apparently someone added little shiny stars to his/her submission and they were sticky to boot.

I can just imagine an editor opening an envelope of a submission and out fly confetti and fall all over the editor, her desk, the floor, her hair. That submission goes straight into the garbage with the confetti, without even looking for the SASE.

Which reminds me of another story I've heard, this time about an emailed submission where the writer introduced himself and the story for more than 500 words (how great he and his story is).
Anyway, two minutes later he sent another email. This time with the attachment of the story...

So don't be obnoxious, keep cover letters to the minimum necessary and be professional, which alas does mean - no confetti!

As I said, it would have been funny if it wasn't sad.

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Rules of Writing Fiction

Seems that lately I've been bringing one thing after another from GOB.
This time it's a reference to Elmore Leonard's ten rules of writing fiction. GOB doesn't say much about them it seems he agrees with the rules.

I read the rules in Elmore Leonard's site and while I tend to agree to one degree or another with most, I also know bestseller authors who break these rules regularly.

Of course Elmore Leonard does bring examples of authors who have "broken" these rules, and explains each rule in more details in his site so it is really worth to go and check out.

Elmore Leonard's ten rules:
1. Never open a book with weather.
2. Avoid prologues.
3. Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue.
4. Never use an adverb to modify the verb "said" . . .
5. Keep your exclamation points under control.
6. Never use the words "suddenly" or "all hell broke loose."
7. Use regional dialect, patois, sparingly.
8. Avoid detailed descriptions of characters.
9. Don't go into great detail describing places and things.
10. Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

We are also all familiar with Heinlein's Five Rules which I will bring through Rob Sawyer's site because he adds a sixth:
Heinlein's Five:
1. You Must Write
2. Finish What Your Start
3. You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order
4. You Must Put Your Story on the Market
5. You Must Keep it on the Market until it has Sold
Rob's Sixth:
6. Start Working on Something Else

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Writing News: J. B. MacKinnon Wins $25,000 for Literary Non-fiction

From the Globe and Mail - Story of murder wins $25,000

Charles Taylor non-fiction prize goes to author J.B. MacKinnon

J. B. MacKinnon, author of Dead Man in Paradise yesterday won the fifth Charles Taylor Prize for literary non-fiction -- and the $25,000 that goes with it.

Part mystery story, part travelogue, MacKinnon's book tells the story of the murder of his uncle, a Catholic missionary in the Dominican Republic 40 years ago, during a time of political upheaval.

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Monday, February 27, 2006

Octavia Butler

Octavia Butler died on Friday.

From bloggers Nalo Hopkinson and The Valve.

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Writing News: Dan Brown in Court for Copyrights Breach

Historians accuse Dan Brown of copyrights breach:
'Da Vinci Code' author accused of copyright breach
Historians take Da Vinci Code publishers to court
Dan Brown in court for Da Vinci Code copying case

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Leah McLaren About Blogs - Boring and Tedious

It is not often that I open the Globe and Mail and find a column about blogging.
I don't usually read Leah McLaren's columns as she writes in the entertainment section, a section I rarely get to.

But this column caught my eye. In this column about blogging McLaren explains why she "decided to swear off the blogosphere." Apparently, what got to her was a search in Technorati. She searched her own name and the names of several other writers she claims to know and admire. What she found was -
... countless chat rooms full of bitter unpublished writers venomously slagging published ones -- their terrible spelling, poorly constructed sentences and outrageous amounts of displaced hatred and envy a testimony to why they became bloggers in the first place.

This hasn't been my experience. Not even close. In fact, quite the opposite. I find most bloggers to be encouraging and supporting toward other writers - published or not. And if someone doesn't like a book - what can be done?

I do agree with McLaren on one point - most blogs are boring and not well written:
The dominant quality is tedium: writers without editors, fact-checkers or paying subscribers to keep them in check. As Butterworth succinctly puts it: "If the pornography of opinion doesn't leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium."

But when McLaren asks why bloggers blog and reaches the conclusion that it's because what they write is unfit for publication, I disagree again. Not that what bloggers write is fit for publication, but that the reason doesn't have to be one or the other. I know many bloggers with no real aspirations in publication. But even the ones with such an aspiration don't necessarily blog what they would like to publish.

When McLaren asked a well established writer, David Eddie, why he blogs, here's what he had to say:
"It's a good way to limber up. You get up in the morning, fire up a blog, write the thing in 15 minutes and then you know what's on your mind. I think it was Nabokov who said, 'How do I know what's on my mind until I write it down?' "

McLaren ends with some point about blogs being fragmented, not sphered, not connected. I'm not sure where she was going with that one.

However, what I found most interesting is that the reason McLaren swore off blogging in the first place was the slagging of writers by bloggers only to turn around and seem to do the same in her column. And as for editing - did she mean slagging or slogging? I still wonder.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Fun Sunday - Escapa!
The Could You Have Been A Pilot Test?

Here's a game - Escapa! - that apparently the US Air Force uses for fighter pilots.

It is extremely simple, but it will drive you nuts.

I get the feeling guys will do better at this than women given their eye-hand coordination tends to better on average. (For all those who want to jump my throat - note that I said "on average" meaning there would be guys that suck at this and women that will do extremely well.)

It says that 18 seconds is brilliant.
I heard that 22 seconds is phenomenal.
And the pilots, you ask - they are expected to go for at least 2 minutes.

My best is 11.6 seconds but I have no patience for this, and it's not an excuse :)

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Saturday, February 25, 2006

If you were immortal - would you still have kids?

Rail's eye-view
Uploaded on January 14, 2006
by Kyrion
This whole thing started with Deborah Woehr. Deborah wrote a post Living to be 100? in which she referenced a Yahoo! article saying that "Life expectancy may balloon to 100 years old in rich nations thanks to scientific advances, but such progress could widen the gap between wealthy and poor nations, according to researchers."

Being the geek that I am, naturally I am familiar with the issue. I have written about it in July twice: Forever Young - Immortality and Bones, Cats and Shock Absorbers (please excuse the state of that blog I'm not sure what I'll be doing with it yet and it was inactive for about six months).

Being also the dense person that I am, I never thought it would interest people on this blog, but that was rather ridiculous of me to think, given the large amount of genre, especially sci-fi, writers out there.

So Lee Carlon and I hijacked Deborah's blog and started a little debate there.
In short, my point of view is that once we would become immortal or have a very extended life span, we would also fundamentally change, as individuals and as a society, probably beyond what we can imagine. For example, I offered, I doubt people would have kids.

If you recall my singularity post, I contended there that we couldn't possibly imagine now what our society would be like if we ever grow beyond our intelligence (and hence its affect on writers). Same thing with immortality, I say.

Lee's point of view was more cynical than mine (I am, after all, the eternal optimist). First, Lee offered that "we should be concentrating on ensuring everybody (in the world) has a good quality of life, before we reward ourselves with even more." And I fully agree with that. He's a better person than I am.

Second, Lee claimed that society is run on fear of not having enough and he thinks that this fear will only increase if we live forever and that our concern for others will further diminish. And this is where Lee and I differ.

Both Deborah and Lee also disagreed with me regarding people having kids. I know it's a hard concept to swallow, the notion that the thing that's been driving our society for thousands of years will be no longer, but if one thinks of the reason we were driven to procreate - for continuity - then that would no longer be an issue. Then why have kids?

Don't answer from the emotional point of view about how much kids mean to us. Remember, if you live to be 500, the time the kids are young is a speck.

As for the fears of not having enough resources to sustain one self as Lee suggested, I can offer this as a thought - if we're immortal, we take care of the one resource we always run out of - time. Once we feel, know that we have all the time in the world, and that seeing the Pyramids can wait another year or hundred, then our attitude changes. Dramatically.

Now go to Deborah's blog to continue the discussion there :)

Read the rest

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Friday, February 24, 2006

So I was thinking...
About Tammy Nyp, gloating, science, Canada and etiquette

Remember how I promised myself at some point to keep with pop-culture events but never could really fulfill my promise?

Well, there is one thing I do to keep with events - I look at Technorati top searches. For the past week or so, probably more, something called Tammy Nyp was the top search. Being me I naturally assumed Tammy is a model/actress I never heard of and I left it that. But then, Tammy Nyp kept dominating the top searches. I mean, even when Britney gave birth she didn't dominate the searches for more than two days. Not Tammy. So I had to find out.

You're all probably laughing at my late catch-up, but for those even 'later' than me, apparently Tammy Nyp is some home porn video of two students and that was released without their consent over the internet. Feel free to correct me if I have it wrong.

So now I got it; now I understood. People want to watch the video. That's why they keep searching. Porn and sex have always dominated our society and always will. Maybe I should just write porn...


Then I noticed quite a gloating around as Frey was apparently dropped by his publisher. Yes, it made the news all over.


Speaking of gloating and adult footage, "Google could be forced to change its image search service following a court ruling in the US."


There was also some news about Shakespeare's mask. Apparently "SOME nifty detective work on a little-known bust from London strongly suggests that a 17th-century death mask really is that of William Shakespeare."


I mentioned blogging etiquette only two days ago, but I failed to discuss gladiator etiquette. Yes, apparently "real gladiators stuck to strict rules of combat and did not resort to the savage violence and mutilation typical of battlefields of the era." They even had two referees who enforced the rules. Well, I'll be darned, if gladiators had rules...


So... diet, eh? Apparently, a good idea. More than diet - starvation. Yes, indeed. As was found recently "A hormone that triggers hunger might also improve memory and learning - the substance improved mental performance in mice by up to 40%." I knew there was a reason I kept fighting with my mom not to eat. Alas, she kept feeding me.


Sometimes I worry. About many different things. I worry about our sun getting cooler for example. This is why I was so excited when I saw this: Enormous laser beam produces artificial star, or this: Man-made star shines in the southern sky. But it was just for some optics reason. Exciting, but not as much.


And for all those paleontologist wannabe out there, those who write "ancient sci-fi," nothing would make you happier, especially if you're Canadian, than the discovery of a Jurassic "Beaver" - the largest early mammal. But unlike our nice, vegetarian, Canadian beaver, this early one was a carnivore and had a poisonous spur on its ankle.


Finally, I ask you, if our own Milky Way galaxy steals stars, then what hope do we have to teach our kids morals???

Read the rest

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

A Short-Story Contest, Market and Script Writing Magazine

Compliments of GOB:

- A short story and poetry contest from King's Lynn Writers' Circle.

- A new magazine for those interested in writing screenplays: ScriptWriter Magazine

And compliments of Chris also a new publication: Jupiter World Press

Jupiter World Press publishes short fiction (up to 15,000 words) in the science fiction and fantasy genres. We welcome blends of genres, which include speculative elements, as well as those which cannot specifically be classified as either science fiction or fantasy.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Blogging Etiquette

Okay, I'm not much for etiquette. I don’t usually mind how others behave but I do have my own “rules of engagement.” It's true, I don't cuss, don't use four-letter-words and in general try to be at the very least cordial.

But you know me, I love a good debate and don't shy away from arguments or controversies. In fact, quite the contrary.

I also write in a shared political blog where some of the other bloggers do not follow the same "etiquette" as I do, and that's fine by me. Usually on their posts one can find personal insults in the comments going back and forth, but nobody seems to mind. It's a certain style, I guess.

On my posts, however, no matter how controversial, the discussion tends to remain more civil. I once received a severe reprimand from someone for not quoting him properly, which I did apologise for given the sensitive subject matter. That was as harsh a comment as I ever got.

It therefore surprised me (very much) that of all places it was on this blog and on a benign post where I celebrated Canada's women hockey team success in the Olympics that I received the nastiest three comments yet. All from the same person.

This person deleted his own comments, it wasn't my doing. I still have them in my email. I left my own comment where I responded to his comment. Responded in kind. I left it because I have yet the felt the need to delete a comment I have written, and I still don't.

This brings me to etiquette:
Always make sure before posting a comment that you won't regret it later. If you have the slightest doubt, don't publish your comment. Wait a while, sleep on it if you have to, then publish.

Remember, a blog is not a forum. In a way, it is someone's personal space they've chosen to share. Behave on other blogs as you would want people to behave on yours.

Far be it from me to preach, but these were my 2 cents like it or not. It is, after all, my blog :)


Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Publishing 2010

I've been following a very interesting discussion among some big and medium guns on Google Book Search (GBS), copyrights and the future of publishing.

I wanted to summarize the articles and give you my opinion at the end (as I do like doing so often), but it's been three days that I have no time to write the proper post appropriate to opinionated self. So I'll just give you the headlines and hope to write about it properly some other time.

It all started (as far as my following the matter) with Cory Doctorow's article on Boing Boing Why Publishing Should Send Fruit-Baskets exactly a week ago. His article, obviously argues the case for GBS. In Doctorow true fashion, he shows how GBS can revive "dead" books and how free ebooks (along with GBS) can lift authors from obscurity.

Then, Michael Allen from GOB, referred to Doctorow's article only to refer to another article the next day. The article by Val Landy starts with a long description of the Great Barrier Reef, which in his eyes is "a perfect metaphor for the violent change and transformation the Web is having on all forms of media: music, film, newspapers, and soon, books."

Val Landy also bring two other changes/trends in addition to GBS: Amazon’s print-on-demand publishing company, BookSurge, and self-publishing (the likes of Lulu). He quotes Victor Keegan's article in the Guardian - Frustrated Author, Publish Yourself - [Are] “books about to go the same way as music and videos, with everyone able to publish from their back rooms, cutting out all the agents in the middle?”

So now I wonder. I've seen a few writers trying to sell their books using Lulu or Pdf downloads. Cavan, Benjamin and Chris are examples just off the top of my head and I'm sure there are many others. Not being an early adopter, I still hold on to traditional publishing, but it does seem the industry is changing.

Wouldn't it be nice one day not to get rejection letters?

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Oh, Canada - Women Hockey Team Wins Gold

I couldn't do much yesterday. First I was too nervous, then I watched, then I was ecstatic! And how!

This team is the best hockey team I've ever seen, men or women. They're amazing.

Thank you - Charline Labonté, Kim St-Pierre, Gillian Ferrari, Becky Kellar, Carla MacLeod, Caroline Ouellette, Cheryl Pounder, Colleen Sostorics, Meghan Agosta, Gillian Apps, Jennifer Botterill, Cassie Campbell, Danielle Goyette, Jayna Hefford, Gina Kingsbury, Cherie Piper, Vicky Sunohara, Sarah Vaillancourt, Katie Weatherston, Hayley Wickenheiser, ,Delaney Collins, Sami Jo Small and head coach Melody Davidson.

I just hope the men took notes...

Without words:


Monday, February 20, 2006

Small Press Markets

Compliments of Miss Snark's post Avoiding the Dark Side. Miss Snark says these are "very good and legitimate smaller houses:"

  • Ig Publishing - "alternative literary fiction that pushes the envelope in terms of language, sexuality or content," my favourite "highbrow literary fiction" and "political/cultural nonfiction with a liberal/progressive/radical/investigative edge to it. Anything too hot to handle, too controversial--we want it!" - guidelines

  • MacAdam/Cage - "quality fiction and non-fiction" but not genre as far as I could tell - guidelines

  • Akashic Books - guidelines (not accepting now, but have links to other publishers)

  • SoftSkull Press - history, politics/current events, fiction, memoir/biography, music, poetry, art/graphics/comix, gay/lesbian, erotica - guidelines

  • Bleak House - mysteries and literary fiction - guidelines

  • Stonebridge - seems to be a publisher about everything Japan. From anime, non-fiction about Japan and literary books with a Japanese theme - guidelines
Cavan from Blurred Line blog noted another good small-press market especially for SF&F:

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Truman Capote - A Conceited Manipulative ****

A bit late, I know, but I finally went to see Capote last night.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is great. No doubt. I actually forgot I was watching a movie. It was gripping, interesting (redundant?), and emotional but not in a sappy way.

I had my misgiving before seeing the movie that I'd just keep laughing at Capote's high-pitched voice and way of talking, but it didn't bother me all that much while watching the movie. Okay, I did snigger a couple of times. Very mature, I know.


To be honest, I haven't read one Capote book yet and didn't really know what to expect. I knew nothing of his life and the only thing that hinted anything was the funny voice in the previews. (Sorry, I can't seem to get over that).

The movie did not present a pretty picture of Capote. He came across as very manipulative, conceited and proud, as well as egocentric and narcissistic. I had no idea he was friends with Harper Lee (I did read To Kill A Mockingbird), and that was his best trait.

Capote was so engulfed in his own belief that he's God's given gift to humanity as an author that he forgot basic human feelings and decent behaviour. And this reminded me of our past week discussion re pretentious artists, ego, the One Ring, fallacies etc.

Of course, it isn't the same. A person with an ego with some merit, i.e. famous, successful and what not, vs. one before he's famous are two different things, but it still reminded me of our (sometimes passionate) debate.

Ego and the belief of being God given gift is not only authors’ domain, not only artists’ domain either. It is shared across all professions. Most CEOs are like that, most politicians and the list can go on.

I don't usually read or see movies about writers' lives. I don't really care what kind of person they are; I'm interested in their writing. So this movie was a change for me. I learnt about Harper Lee who was portrayed as sensible, sensitive and unassuming. Capote was portrayed as her opposite except for the sensitive part. He was sensitive alright, but only to his needs and emotions.

I’m not sure I have a point somewhere in here, but I just wanted to share.

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Saturday, February 18, 2006

Green Bin Protest

To those of you who don't live in the TO I have to explain Toronto's recycling policies, or rather, the very complicated garbage policy:
  • Garbage Can is only for your regular run-of-the-mill garbage, which is what's left after you made sure you couldn't put it in one of the four other boxes/bins/bags:

  • Grey Box - paper and cardboard and such

  • Blue Box - plastic, cans, glass

  • Garden bag - garden trash, you know, leaves etc.
And now (a few months ago actually) they've added,
  • Green Bin for organics such as food leftovers, fruits and veggies, paper towels, you know, all the kitchen yuckies
It's great, I know.

Well, I've had it!

We have a pick up calendar of what is being picked up when and I also feel like I spend too much time sorting out my garbage. I have two smaller trash cans in the kitchen under the sink, one for the organics, one for not, and they go into their respective bigger trash cans. The problem with organic type garbage is that it leaks, smells and makes a hell of a lot of mess.

I know it's a sound environmental program, but it's just baaah.
I officially had it !

And thanks for listening.

Now excuse me while I go clean and disinfect.


Friday, February 17, 2006

Publishing 101 - Short Stories

This morning I had a surprise in my Inbox. I received a 'Plea for Help' email:

    Melly, I came across your blog and I liked your style.
Why thank you.

    You seem very approachable [oh my] so I decided to ask for your help.
    I've been writing for a while but lately I started toying with the idea of publication only I don't have a clue how to go about it. I have a few short stories that I think are good enough to be published.
I started emailing (let's call him) John back, but then I thought to myself that perhaps John could benefit from all your experiences.

So here's what I've got so far:

Let me start by saying something that may or may not be obvious. Publishing is a business just like any other. The reason I mention this first is that once you've decided to be published, your attitude and behaviour should be the same as if you were to approached any business dealing. That is - professionalism.

There are some rules to learn and follow, but once learnt, there's nothing to it (other than actually getting the acceptance letter).

  • Make sure your story (manuscript in publishing lingo or ms. for short) is your best work and that it is as ready as you can make it - no misspellings, no grammar mistakes (that don't work) etc.

  • Find a market. This is probably where most first time publishers get stuck, but with the internet today it can't be any easier. Almost all magazines you read or have heard of have a website. You need to find the writers guidelines in that website. Some will have a clear heading saying guidelines, but most magazines list them in the 'Contact Us' page. If they do not have the guidelines anywhere on their site you can either email the editor - be concise and write Guideline Request in your subject line, or you can snail mail the editorial department - attach a Self Addressed Stamped Envelope (SASE) and ask them for the guidelines.

    Here are a few websites that contain markets lists (a list of publishers and/or guidelines): Ralan, A list of market lists, Literary markets.
    And then there are these wonderful books: Novel & Short Story Writers Market 2006 (Novel and Short Story Writer's Market) and 2006 Writers Market (Writer's Market)

  • Follow the guidelines to the letter. If the publication doesn't want stories over 5,000 words, don't send it to them. If they want elf erotica, then that's all they're accepting. Don't waste their time and your time when your ms. can be circulated elsewhere. Make sure you send during a reading period, address your email to the right person, etc. All things professional. And most important, know your market, that is, read at least one copy.

  • Prepare your manuscript. There are two general ways to format a manuscript, one for e-zines and one for print magazines. Here is the SFWA standard and here's an example from Rob Sawyer of this format. There might be small differences, don't sweat them. Strange Horizons, however, an e-zine, wants a different format and there's an example there too.

  • cover letter. Keep it short. Something like - enclosed is XXX for your consideration. If you have any publishing credits you can list a few. Nothing more.

  • submit your manuscript: in the body of the email, as RTF attachment, Word attachment, snail mail with a SASE, using an online form, whatever and however the editor requires.

  • query. If sufficient time has passed (usually the guidelines indicate the time) and you have yet to receive an answer, send a polite query. Be concise, polite and don't forget to add your name and the name of your story.

  • Some lingo:
    - Simultaneous submissions or sim sub - meaning sending the same ms. to a few publishers at the same time.
    - Multiple submissions - sending more than one ms. to the same publisher.
    - Payment on publication - you will receive payment when the story is published.
    - Payment on acceptance - you will receive payment when the story is accepted.

Read the rest

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Change of Pace: This is Canada

Lately I've been reading too many bloggers complaining or simply telling about snow and snow-storms and cold weather like it's a big deal.

Well, here's a normal Canadian scene I thought I'd share with you:

Withrow Park

This park is a five minutes walk from my house.

Broadview Park

This park is ten minute walk from my house.

You'd notice there's no snow on the ground, due to a remarkably mild winter no one is complaining about. Today we have snow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Kinds of Writers

My last post stirred quite a debate regarding formula/form/structured plotting.

Eric/Redchurch from Quantum gave us his final thoughts on the matter:
I think part of it depends on how revolutionary or artistic you want to be.

I don't feel the need to reinvent the wheel. I just want to provide a story that's as entertaining as possible. To me that doesn't necessarily require re-invention. The aforementioned structures exist because they work.

For me that's good enough. I'd rather spend more time focusing on the branded and unique elements of my story than trying to significantly change the storytelling process itself.

I'm also not much Le Artiste. Art is not my concern. On one hand, I tend to think if you aim for that you're likely to fail. My other reason is that entertainment has more value than art to the casual reader. I'm approaching the craft from a pop/hit mentality.

They [readers] just want an entertaining story. So that's all I'm really concerned with. Admittedly short-sighted on the artistic front, but I'm not aiming for art.

That raises a question for all of you though. What are you aiming for?

Since Eric put the question to everybody, I thought it only appropriate to post it and see the response.

I'll be the first to answer. I aim for art. I don't delude myself in thinking that I can actually produce art, but I want my writing to be the best it can be.

As far as sales go - I do think that good art can sell but those in the mid-range, the ones striving for it, don't sell that much. At the same time, those who do follow proven formulae sell much better. Yes, as you said, Eric, they work.

By the way, I remember writing a post on the matter not too long ago - Idol Writing - Compromising your Artistic Integrity.

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Monday, February 13, 2006

12 Steps to a Novel / Screenplay

It was in May 2004 that I first came across Vogler's book: The Writer's Journey : Mythic Structure for Writers.

Vogler, a motion picture producer and a story consultant to major movie companies, lists 12 steps in his book to structure a good novel/movie. He gives examples from different movies. (While I know many like to illustrate literary issues through movies, I still think it is a strained relation-ship given the two media are so different.)

In any event, I thought I'd bring the 12 steps here. Vogler takes a whole book explaining them, I think they're pretty self-explanatory.

1. Ordinary World
2. Call to Adventure
3. Refusal of the Call
4. Meeting with the Mentor
5. Crossing the First Threshold
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
7. Approach to the Inmost Cave
8. Ordeal
9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)
10. The Road Back
11. Resurrection
12. Return with the Elixir

This is not a formula, but a form, Vogler is quick to point out.

I'm not a big fan of 'writing books'. I prefer to learn by assimilation. That is, I prefer to read and learn from these fine examples (or not). But of course, each of us is different. Among those who read 'writing books,' the views range from the best book ever written on the craft to the worst one yet. Quite a range, although many think it is an improtant resource for writers.

To me, this 12 step program seems to apply more to adventure/fantasy movies/novels but Vogler gives examples even from The Full Monty. I guess one can tweak the meaning to apply it to other genres as well.

It is important to learn the 'craft' and to pay attention to what's going on, but it is also very important, in my opinion, to maintain a personality-uniqueness-originality.

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What Should You Read Next?

A new service What Should I Read Next? helps you decide just that.
Apparently, if you enter the name of a book, they claim to infer from their database and suggest what you should read next.

Here are a few of my results:
  • Current read: Ann-Marie MacDonald - Fall on your Knees

  • Results (first 5):
    - The Stone Carvers - Jane Urquhart
    - Bertie Wooster Sees It Through - P. G. Wodehouse
    - Dodsworth - Sinclair Lewis
    - Welcome to the Great Mysterious - Lorna Landvik
    - I Do - Cara Lockwood

  • Finished not too long ago: Margaret Atwood - Oryx and Crake

  • - Tea from an Empty Cup - Pat Cadigan
    - Slant - Greg Bear
    - Oxygen - Andrew Miller
    - Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered - Geoff Dyer
    - Cracking India: A Novel - Bapsi Sidhwa

    A few random others:
  • Joseph Heller - Catch 22

  • - The Natural - Bernard Malamud
    - Complete Father Brown - G.K. Chesterton
    - Animal Farm: A Fairy Story - George Orwell
    - Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains - A.L. Kennedy
    - And the Ass Saw the Angel - Nick Cave
    - The Catcher in the Rye - J.D. Salinger

  • Orson Scott Card - Ender's Game

  • - Golden Key, The - George Macdonald
    - Four Past Midnight - Stephen King
    - Glinda of Oz: In Which Are Related the Exciting Experiences of Princess Ozma of Oz, and Dorothy, in Their Hazardous Journey to the Home of the Flatheads - L.Frank Baum, John R. Neill
    - Tex - S. E. Hinton
    - Golem in the Gears - Piers Anthony

  • Neal Stephenson - Snow Crash

  • - Across Realtime - Vernor Vinge
    - The Club of Queer Trades - G.K. Chesterton
    - Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus - Orson Scott Card
    - Farewell, My Lovely - Raymond Chandler, Colin Dexter
    - Lord of Light - Roger Zelazny
I must admit that I'm not familiar with about 60% of their suggestions, and read at most 15% of their suggestions so it's hard for me to form an opinion on the quality of this service and how fitting the suggestions are. What do you think?

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Sunday, February 12, 2006

4 - four quatre vier quattro arba

Georganna from Writer's Edge tagged me for this four meme. Some of the responses are going to be embarrassing. Please be kind...

Four jobs I've had:
1. Cleaning lady - I really liked the physical aspect, wasn't very keen on the slavery aspect though ;)
2. Tutor - I really sucked at this one, I'm not a very patient person
3. Project manager - my favorite job yet, loved my team, loved the job, even the clients were ok
4. Stock broker - the job that nearly drove me over the edge...

Four movies I can watch repeatedly:
1. Ocean's 11 - and laugh every single time
2. Pride and Prejudice - the series with Colin Firth
3. Fargo - Cohen brothers at their best!
4. Okay, this is too hard because I'm trying to think of movies that didn't go in and out of favor with me. For example, for about a year I could watch the first (didn't like the other two much) LOTR over and over, but I wouldn't be able to watch it again now. So I don't have a fourth.

Four places I have lived:
1. Vancouver, BC - the younger years
2. Toronto, ON - the rest
3. No comment
4. No comment

Four TV shows I like to watch:
1. 24 - we're running out of time...
2. CSI (Las Vegas). Miami's starting to be insanely boring with their holier than though attitude and Horatio being the center of everything, and never got into NY.
3. The Shield
4. Battlestar Galactica
(To be honest, any day Veronica Mars can replace any of these, but if anyone says anything about this, even the smallest thing, or laugh in the smallest way - beware! :)

Four places I have been on vacation:
1. Arizona, Nevada and California road trip - my favorite vacation ever: Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Death Valley among other things like getting married in Vegas :)
2. Merida, Mexico - the real deal.
3. Canada's Atlantic Provinces - amazing, best lobster, most desolate
4. New-York - for Y2K (and other times) - it was insane!
(I've been to Europe a number of times, but alas, never on vacation, always on business)

Four favorite dishes:
1. Steak
2. Salads of all kinds
3. Crab and scallops
4. Long and slow cooked meat dishes such as Osso Bucco, brisket, pulled pork

Four websites I visit daily:
1. Newspapers
2. Search engines
3. My blog and fellow bloggers
4. Industry sites, that is - writing sites, finance sites, science sites, etc.

Four places I would rather be right now:
1. Someplace warm
2. Someplace pretty
3. Someplace with character - either green or golden
4. In bed with my book

Four people to tag:
You who read this far and
1. Was bored - show me you can do better
2. Laughed at my answers - your turn, he who laughs last blah blah blah
3. Found it interesting - then give it a go
4. Oh, just do it! (Swoosh...)

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Friday, February 10, 2006

Valentine's Day Romance Or Science?

I'm hopeless when it comes to romance. I don't know how to do it, worse, I don't know how to accept it (embarrassing in the process those who try their hands at romance with me).

A sunset is a pretty sight, but romantic? Give me a break. After two minutes of watching it I get bored out of my skull.
I prefer actions to words, and comfort and logic to gestures that don't even make sense to me.
I guess I'm a realist through and through.

For the coming Valentine's Day, I started collecting a few scientific
items that relate to some romantic ideas. Enjoy (or not):

Love is in the air:
Perhaps discussing BO isn't the most romantic thing, but it is what attracts women to men. Honest.
Apparently some immune system odor-affecting gene attract women with a different immune system gene. Go check for yourselves if you don't believe me. The article is Opposites Attract, oh, and while you're there check out the Love photo gallery.

The cutest gesture in the world:
As if pregnancy isn't hard enough, many males decide to steal the
show with a "sympathetic pregnancy" of their own - oh, how cute...
Not at all, apparently. It seems that Male 'pregnancy' isn't all in the mind. A study performed on primates found that "Males gained on average an extra 10 per cent of their body weight during the pregnancy" and this is probably triggered by higher levels of
a hormone called prolactin (which may also affect how good the prospective daddy will be).

She blushed, He shaved:
Colour vision, unique to primates, has so far been believed to evolve to aide in spotting ripe fruit. Now, a new study claims that Colour vision evolved
to spot our blushes
, and that it is probably also related to our bare, fur-less face. "So that I can see you blush better, my love..."

Sitting under the night sky, gazing at the moon:
Can you imagine anything more romantic than looking at the man
on the moon
, the one face that accompanied us ever since we were little, walked with us, chaperoned us. Now the same face is illuminating the little grass patch you and your honey sit on. You know that face well.
You do know these are craters, right? Latest findings have finally come up with its origin - Man in the Moon's cataclysmic birth revealed
Their findings suggest that the impacts of ancient collisions on the far side of the Moon were so great they caused a corresponding bulge on the near side, and the Earth's gravitational pull further tugged at this bulge.

I hope all this didn't ruin anything for you. Maybe it added?


Thursday, February 09, 2006

European Companies Buy American Publishers

Did you know that Time Warner Book Group was just acquired by Lagardure, a French company?

Did you also know that "Random House, the largest U.S. publisher, is a division of Germany's Bertelsmann. Germany's Holtzbrinck owns the venerable Farrar, Straus & Giroux and Henry Holt, along with the not-so-venerable St. Martin's. Britain's Pearson owns the sprawling Penguin Group, which includes American imprints Viking, Riverhead, and Putnam. And Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. (OK, he's an American citizen and the company is based in New York, but both are of Australian extraction) owns a lot of American publishers, too, including Harper Collins and William Morrow & Co." ?

An interesting article in Slate, Das Book (where the above information was quoted from), examines the trend and its causes.

Daniel Gross, the writer of the article, focuses on business reasons. One reason is that publishing houses usually comprise a small portion of large American corporations. Two is that the publishing business has near-stagnant growth, unfitting the American business culture of focusing on high growth industries. Three is the small margins in the publishing industry which American businesses tend to shy away from.

This explains why Americans companies sell their publishing arms.

As to why European companies buy them, Daniel sites different corporate culture, less public ownership demanding certain results and the size of the US market. For a small European company a near-stagnant US market still offers quite a bit of growth. Not to mention the purchasing of a brand-name.

The article ends with a prediction that CBS-owned Simon & Schuster will soon be dumped as well.

As for us, the writers, does the European ownership of a publisher mean anything? Would editorial guidelines change?
Despite Europeans being portrayed as more cultured (not my saying), I doubt that would be the case. The intended market remains the US (and Canada) which implies still catering to the N.American consumer taste. So no, I don't think this trend will affect the industry greatly.

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What do you mean it's fact?

Kenneth sent me this most hilarious article he wrote and published in The Times Online.
If you followed the James Frey big brouhahaha (ha), you will be interested in this:

From The facts. Don't give me the facts:

AFTER READING JOHN BANVILLE'S Man Booker prize-winning The Sea, a slim volume trumpeted as fiction, I was startled to discover, upon perusing my hefty atlas, that this supposedly fantastical place named Ireland was an actual island. While reading, I thought it sounded familiar, yet I let it slide, not wanting niggling particulars to ruin the experience.
But as a page-by-page analysis of The Sea turned up a plethora of verifiable facts, I believe a comprehensive investigation is in order. If the sanctioned percentage of fact (to be determined by James Frey) exceeds the appropriate percentage of fiction, I suggest that it would be prudent for the Booker committee to strip Banville of his award.
This feeling of being cheated and of violation to my very soul led me to contact a lawyer who is at present engaged in writing a class action against authors who have mis-stated fact for fiction.

Well, I believe that says it all...

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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Is There Money In Writing Shorts?

A while back, I can't remember the exact post, I commented that it is difficult to make a living from writing for magazines.
My wording was off. I meant to say that it is hard to make a living writing short fiction for magazines .
But it was too late and I was caught (I believe it was Fred), and was corrected: Many freelancers make very good living writing for magazines. Only too true.

Then, last week I noticed this article: Finding Profits In Shorts. Naturally, I was curious.
The article, by John K. Borchardt, mentions a different type of short - short articles of 100 - 800 words.
For those who write articles or wish to make a living doing that, this article explains how shorts can be a part of the writer's business plan and a supplemental source of income, not to mention a foot in the door of higher paying magazines.
The article even ends with a list of magazines accepting shorts.

Very interesting and enlightening.

So there you go - I can eat my hat now...

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Welcoming a Few Blogs

Lately I've noticed a few more bloggers around (doesn't mean they haven't been around, only that I was a bit slow):

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

From now on call me Master Yoda

Finally a quiz to redeem my Wesley Crusher fiasco:

You scored as Master Yoda. Yoda: The Master.

Master Yoda


Qui-Gon Jinn


Count Dooku


Mace Windu


Luke Skywalker


Anakin Skywalker


Obi-Wan Kenobi


Darth Sidious


Random Jedi


Darth Maul


Darth Vader


What Force User Are You?
created with QuizFarm.com

Thanks to the Slush God

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Monday, February 06, 2006

Novel Writing Made Easy

Do you ever look in your stats to see what kind of search phrases bring people to your blog? Well, the above title is one such phrase that brought someone here (and now probably more than one).

Novel Writing Made Easy? Yeah, right. Like a get rich quick scheme. Make $3000 a week just from working at home two hours a day. Sure. I believe that.

People always look for the quick route and usually there isn't one (unless of course you're born into it, just ask Paris Hilton). Novel writing isn't any different. It takes years for writers to develop their writing skills and master the art.

So I did a quick search myself about the above phrase and found either CDs, books or software for sale, all claiming to make your novel writing easy. Oh, and some sites were just ad pages with no real information.

Let's just look at some of the components a (decent) novel might have:
- plot
- characters
- narrative or POV(s)
- grammatically correct (or purposefully incorrect) writing
- beginning, middle and end
- dialogue
- descriptions
... and on and on

So my advice to those just embarking on this fantastic adventure called novel writing is to start. Start writing it.

With the writing come the experience and through it authors find out and learn about the different components required, they learn what works for them (and no software or bestseller author can tell you what works for you) and they learn about their strengths and weaknesses.

Usually first novels aren't successful because of all the reasons above. But hard work and a learning curve rewards the persistent writers.

I guess this is somehow related to my previous post about the publishing industry. No short cuts, no excuses. Work!

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Saturday, February 04, 2006

Miss Bennet Was a Sensible Woman -
About the Frustrating Publishing Industry and Writing Biz

Lately I've been busy writing. A good thing by all account, right?
Sure, but only as far as my writing goes.
My blog, for example, suffered. I've been posting intermittently and more out of inertia than actual will.

Also lately I've been reading posts about the writing business and the publishing industry:

Deborah asked if the saying Most writers are as poor as churchmice makes you mad. Well, my take on this is that if this saying does make you angry then you will probably beat it.

Clive discussed the difficulty of getting published, lamenting the lack, or the limited amount of inspired agents and editors.

All I want to say is that each time I get into a writing business rut, I always try and remember Miss Elizabeth Bennet's words:
    "I certainly have not the talent which some people possess," said Darcy, "of conversing easily with those I have never seen before. I cannot catch their tone of conversation, or appear interested in their concerns, as I often see done."

    "My fingers," said Elizabeth, "do not move over this instrument in the masterly manner which I see so many women's do. They have not the same force or rapidity, and do not produce the same expression. But then I have always supposed it to be my own fault -- because I would not take the trouble of practising. It is not that I do not believe my fingers as capable as any other woman's of superior execution."
Getting back to my first two sentences, I can only say this to be only too true. Case in point, my suffering blog.
I try to live by Lizzy's statement and whenever frustrated also remember Asimov's words:
You must keep sending work out; you must never let a manuscript do nothing but eat its head off in a drawer. You send that work out again and again, while you're working on another one. If you have talent, you will receive some measure of success - but only if you persist.

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Anatomy of a Super Bowl Party

A friend just forwarded me this chain of emails:
Five guys, Bubba, Dani, Bonehead, Brent and Felix, deciding on what to eat on Super Bowl Sunday.
And here I thought that what mattered was the game…

Bubba writes:

    After further discussions with interested parties, it appears due to popular demand (for KFC skin only) that the Super Bowl party will be held at my house this year.

    Not certain, but I think my HD channels get American commercials, so that will be good. The food will be shit as usual.

    See you there.

Dani Writes:
    This is the breakthrough we've been waiting for.
Bubba writes:
    Felix, you up yet?

    Just kidding - I couldn't sleep b/c I am so worried about the menu for Super Bowl.

    I still think KFC is completely unnecessary, but I require a 3 person majority to cancel it in its entirety.

    After further discussions with Bonehead last night, it appears the inclusion of "big-ass" rigatoni might sway him a little further to the right side.

    Also, keeping in mind that I am doing the ordering and that Rossetti's Pizza is best left to just Schneider's pepperoni by itself, I am willing to entertain thoughts of additional toppings. Dani, this does not include salty, hairy fish.

    I believe the final menu should look like this:

    3 orders of Rigatoni with Meat Sauce

    2 orders of Veal (both with hot peppers instead of green peppers, and one no cheese).

    1 Large Pizza with Schneider's Pepperoni

    (Note: Proper Italian Buns will be purchased at a bakery earlier in the day and provided so that veal sangwiches can be assembled)
Dani Writes:
    I'm ok with the above........but, may I suggest, 3 orders of veal and 2 orders of pasta instead of the other way around? Pasta is so filling.....

    3/5 = 0.6 orders per person. Yes, I think I can eat 0.6 orders in one sitting....as long as it is not in a sandwich (I'd have some pasta too).

    Also: remember those apps Brent had? Remember those baked potato skins from TGIF? Should I bring?
Bonehead Writes:
    Dan, I disagree. Bubba's order makes more sense. This is what I plan to eat:

    Bonehead's Check List
    - assorded appetizers
    - half to 3/4 order of pasta
    - 1 veal sandwich
    - 1 slice of pizza
    - assorted desserts
Brent writes:
    So Bon Jovi walked right by me yesterday and I got tackled by some 18 year old YP trying to get to him. Ya baby.
Bubba writes:
    More importantly, what about the ribs from last year. That was nice.
Brent writes:
    The ribs can be incorporated into the program but I am worried that I would be opening up a whole new can of worms.

    If you guys handled the diplomacy for the US and the EU, Iran and Hammas would be none issues.
Bubba writes:
    I might have a way to solve all the world's problems.

    I am going to ask Cousin Alex to attend. If he says yes, we will get three orders for 6 people, bringing it to 1/2 order per person - less than the 0.6 Dani is lobbying for, yet an increase from the 0.4 that Bonehead seeks.

    However, we will wait to see how the supreme ayatollah of Rossetti's sees all of this. FELIX, where are you?
Read the rest...


Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Right Point of View -
The Protagonist's POV isn't Always the Best

It just dawned on me yesterday, while I was writing the 47,324th word (or there abouts), that I may have chosen the wrong point of view.

Usually (but not always) I choose the protagonist's POV and write in a stream-of-consciousness, that is, from inside the protagonist's head (in third person). So far it worked well for me.

But yesterday something happened. Yesterday, my protagonist became incapacitated. If there are no thoughts, feelings and action coming from my protagonist/POV, what do I do next? The story has to jump to when the protagonist comes to and gets filled in the blanks of what happened when he was incapacitated.

Of course, this can work and has worked for me in the past, but in this instance I didn't feel it would be the best way to do this. Many things happen, important things, that continue the story, and telling them "later" is mitigating their importance.

Another option is to have multiple narrators and solve the problem this way. A second character's point of view can take over and tell what happened while the protagonist is incapacitated. But again, I felt that bringing a second POV this late in the novel wouldn't quite work.

Which led me back to the first thing I thought. Perhaps the novel would be better told from the protagonist's best friend's POV. Perhaps his view of things, of what happens to/with his friend (the protagonist), perhaps all these observations can give the story another dimension, one I didn't expect to have.

For now I'm going to put this aside for a couple of days and then re-evaluate. It would be quite a project to go back and change the POV, but if it would make the novel better, maybe I will.

Oh, lordy!

How much thought do you give to POV before starting a novel???


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Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Thank You Darren Rowse

Yesterday I needed some advice about blogging and I didn't know who to turn to so I emailed Darren Rowse from ProBlogger.

I don't know Darren other than subscribing to his blog. Darren sure doesn't know me, but within minutes he answered my email in detailed fashion. Being most helpful.

Darren - Thanks


A (not so) New Speculative E-Zine

Maybe all of you already heard of this e-zine, but I only came across it yesterday: Sage of Consciousness.

I'm not sure what attracted me so to this e-zine that it stood out, but perhaps it was the spider picture in the front page, a picture that reminded of another spider from a previous post of mine. (To be honest, I haven't read the stories yet and cannot vouch for the quality but I will.)

According to their site, they are looking now for submissions and I just know many of you will like the theme: Death and the Super Natural: The Afterlife

From their guidelines:
This theme features death and the supernatural events that occur in life. The eerie feeling one gets at the base of ones spine; the glimmers of spirits dancing passed in a cold shadow; the poetry and stories that a close death calls forth from the depths of the writer’s being; and the paintings and photography that forms within and brings all of these elements into a crescendo, burrowing into the bravest heart.

I don't think they pay, perhaps $10 if you are the featured writer/artist. It wasn't clear to me.

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