Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Today was video day

I have no clue why, but today I saw three (3!) little videos about writing, all from different blogs.

The first, oh so funny, from Blurred Line Blog, is the Adventures of Cavan in the Blogosphere #1. Our blurry friend faded into a cartoon of himself writing, or trying, or drinking. Anyways, hilarious. Oh, and when you watch it, enlarge to full screen.

The second, from Flash Flood about How Flood Writes. I must say, that stats screen is awfully familiar.

The third, courtesy of Miss Snark, is a reaction to a rejection letter: Black Books - Bernard's Letter. Oh, so British.

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Snip snip snip - from a new editor blog to interviewing 101

Yesterday was great. I had some spare time to do with as I choose. I chose to roam around the blogosphere and visit blogs I haven't visited in a while due to lack of time. And it is unfortunate that this is so, but at least yesterday made up for this. Here are my travels:

First I discovered a new editor blog - Evil Editor. Right now the editor has two main types of posts. One is a usual Q&A, the other is Face-Lift where he shows original and revised versions of query letters. Most interesting. If you go the April archives there are posts about agents, synopses, queries etc.

Then, I found myself nearly on the floor by Paperback Writer. She wrote about LagTime but explained it in the form of prose. Hilarious. Here's a little example:
"No, dear." John shook his head in such a way that required a paragraph of hair movement description.

And you know what they say, what goes up must come down and that's exactly what John Baker's article on How To Sell Your Book did to my mood. In the article John explains the insides of recommended book lists. Apparently there is a lot of money involved.
To have your book '‘chosen'’ as Waterstone'’s book of the week, the publisher will have paid £10,000 for the privilege.

A very good piece from Writing Fiction about Dialogue and Detail caught my eye after that.

Interviewing 101 from A Newbie's Guide to Publishing was also interesting and I thought it could teach a thing or two both the interviewee and the interviewer.

Finally, I settled on a subject dear and close to my heart - The Literary Value of Science Fiction. This one got me into angry mode again. So many sci-fi writers have proved themselves recently and overtime with regards to their literary merits, why is this still going on? Why is sci-fi still regarded as second rate?
Vonnegut pointed out that, when he went to teach at Smith college (I wonder if Andrea Hairston met him) as a creative writing prof, he did not find himself in the library stacks. If Vonnegut is as ubiquitous as dirt, that must be a snub.

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Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Amazon TV: Bill Maher Interviewing Stephen King

I found this on Blogging Poet and I couldn't believe it.
Maybe I'm slow on the mark but I had no idea there was such a thing as Amazon TV.
Needless to say then that I also had no idea Bill Maher has a show there called Amazon Fishbowl with Bill Maher.

The show will start this Thursday, June 1st, but the pilot episode is already up and in it, yes indeed, he interviews Stephen King (could he be "suffering" from hypergraphia?) among others interviews of course.

From the interview, and this may come as a shock, but Stephen King doesn't write for the drawer!

Go see, have fun. I sure laughed.

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Creativity and Talent - One and the Same?

That's me trying to be creative
Many of us are creative, in one form or another (heck, even writing code can be very creative - I know, I've been there).

The question is how many of those creative people are also talented at their choice of expression?

A while back I read an article in National Geographic about hypergraphia - The driving compulsion to write; the overwhelming urge to write. Hypergraphia may compel someone to keep a voluminous journal, to jot off frequent letters to the editor, to write on toilet paper if nothing else is available, and perhaps even to compile a dictionary. (From
[I left out the last sentence of this definition, by the way, and tomorrow I'll explain why.]

I thought this sounded heavenly, maybe I could catch that neurological disorder and have a constant drive. Yet the more I read about it and thought about it, the more I understood two things: the first, I do have my own compulsions to write. I may not write on toilet paper while in the bathroom, but I do feel compelled to write my ideas. The second thing I realized, and perhaps the more disturbing of the two, is that none of this promises any talent.

And that's talent
My teachers have always beat Edison's words into me: "Genius is 1 percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." I have a few lazy bones in my body so it only worked to some extent thus far in my life. That is - working hard, paid off. Shocking, I know

What about writing, though? Since a true creative work requite both the drive and the talent, what to do about that 1% talent? Worry about it, or concentrate on making it to the 99% rather than the 75% (which is where I think I hover at the moment)?

I will add here that many believe the drive to be more important than the talent. I tend to disagree. This has to do with one of the discucssions we had here about the kinds of writers - do you, as a writer, aim for art or for entertainment?
I think it is rather obvious that those who wish to achieve a glimpse of art in their work, need some talent in addition to drive.

Finally, if the frontal lobes are important in "providing the judgment and flexibility of thought that underlines talent," and "structures in the temporal lobes and limbic system supply drive and motivation" - will there be a time where we could simply take pills to increase one or the other?

[The quotes are from a print National Geographic issue which I found a(n illegal?) copy of it here.]

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Monday, May 29, 2006

In a Flash - Isolation

Here are two firsts: my first flash fiction and my first horror story.
So in less than 600 words here is my submission for Tastes of the Darkness:


"Don't do this," Jacob said. The knife on his throat was cold and sharp. "Don't do this," he said again. "Please."

There was silence. Jacob couldn't see his attacker but he could feel his thoughts. Another endless moment of rapid blinking passed and finally, "Why?"

"Why?" Jacob's surprise nearly drove the fear away but as soon as the knife dug deeper into his throat, it returned, full-blown. "Why? Because I want to live, that's why."

Silence. The wheels turned in the mind that belonged to the hand holding a knife. "I don't think so."

"What? What do you mean 'you don't think so'?"

"I don't think you want to live."

Jacob considered that for a moment. So this wasn't a random attack, someone thought this through. How did they get to him anyways? Wasn't he all alone here?

"I know what you're thinking," the man said, "and you're not wrong. I've been watching you for a while now. Just as I said, you don't want to live." The hand moved away, easing the pressure on his neck but Jacob knew it was misleading; it only moved to gain momentum before plunging the knife into his throat, slashing it.

"Wait," he nearly yelled. "Wait."

The hand stopped.


The knife rested back on his throat. Jacob was almost relieved to feel it again.

"Why do you think I don't want to live?"

A snort. "Obvious, don't you think?"

Jacob managed a slight shake of the head but stopped as the knife cut him somewhat. A trickle of warm blood started running down his throat. His mouth dried.

"Careful there. I thought you wanted to live," the voice sniggered. "See, any man who chooses to live away from civilization, basically shuns the living."

Uploaded on Sep 22, 2005
by ghostbones
"But it is only temporary. I just needed some time alone."

"And that 'some time alone' turned into how many months?"

Jacob's head would have slumped if it could. "Fourteen months, one week and two days," he said in a defeated voice. "I justÂ…" He closed his eyes. "Ever sinceÂ…" He swallowed carefully, feeling the blade as he did. "You knowÂ…"

"Oh, but I do know." The hand moved away again. "And that's why you want to die. I'm doing you a favour, really."

"But wait."

"Now what?"

"What if I promised to return to the land of the living? You know, go back to my home in the city, resume work and all that?" Jacob was scrambling, he knew, but hoped this would help nonetheless.

Silence. Knife back at his throat. Then, "I don't think so."

"Why? Why not?"

"I don't think you could do that anymore. You would be just as miserable if not more." Pause. "Come on, it's time you accepted this."

Jacob's heartbeat increased, his mind clambered for another way out. "Then what do you want?"

Jacob tried to count his quick breaths while waiting for the answer. When it came, it was final in its calm delivery. "I want you dead."

The hand pulled the knife again and Jacob followed it with his eyes.

No, he couldn't accept this. "But who are you? How did you find me? How did you get here?" Jacob asked in a final attempt, his breaths now quick and shallow.

The chuckle was followed by the quick slash of his throat.

As he fell to the floor, Jacob caught his distorted image on the metal side of his desk. His right hand was still holding the knife.

Death Screams
Uploaded on January 29, 2005
by ghostbones
Read the rest

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Saturday, May 27, 2006

Changes - Robots and Immortality

Uploaded on May 25, 2006
by oafbot
Who here doesn't know Asimov's rules of robotics? Oh, don't tell me, I don't want to know. I could recite them when I was eight.
I didn't think I would see this day in my lifetime, but I do: Japan Sets Rules for Robots:
Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is working on a new set of safety guidelines for next-generation robots. This set of regulations would constitute a first attempt at a formal version of the first of Asimov's science-fictional Laws of Robotics, or at least the portion that states that humans shall not be harmed by robots.
For those who need a refresher, the first law states (and I paraphrase) that no robot shall ever harm a human, or allow by inaction for harm to come to a human. The Japanese ministry will require sensors and other security measures to ensure the safety of humans especially since they might try to create robots to help with care for the elderly.

As if that wasn't enough to get me excited, and as if my fascination with aging, or anti-aging wasn't enough, another article in Live Science - Toward Immortality: The Social Burden of Longer Lives discussed many issues that are constantly of sci-fi writers and readers' mind.
How would our lives change if we lived twice as long? the article asks and discusses marriage, family and work. The opinions on the matter differ significantly to the point that some think we shouldn't continue our quest towards extending our life span.

Cosmic Log has some interesting commentary on the matter on Immortality's pros and cons.

Naturally, I'm in the pro camp. I do think that the change would be difficult, just like any change is, and just like with anything else we should look beyond the short term effects. Already we see world-wide changes with the population becoming older. Do we say, stop medical advances? No. It is a change that we will simply have to live through to its end, then establish new standards.

Another point I always grapple with is how we could really imagine a new society. Most of us can only imagine a new society based on the one we know, ours. Can we really then imagine an immortal society based on morals of a mortal society? I believe that this is what most who are afraid of the change do.

I know, too much science fiction, but hey, it's Saturday night and we just had a surf and turf bbq, and I had some wine and I like talking about it.
Oh, yeah, and it's my blog.

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Friday, May 26, 2006

Best Fantasy Novel


Uploaded on April 21, 2006
by karl_eschenbach
It's my birthday, two weeks from today that is. But one can't start preparing too early, right?

See, other than a "brain-machine interface [that comes] with an optional invisibility array, four speaker sound system and 2.9% financing", I'll probably be getting some gift certificates and after satisfying my pressing needs: Teva sandals, and my girly needs: a skirt, I hope to have enough left over for about 3-5 books.

Yesterday, then, I did some preliminary research at our local Book City (something in between indie and super-book-store, re my post about bookstores. As usual, I skipped the popular fiction table, looked at the literary aisle, skipped mysteries, took my time at the SF section and was about to continue to the non-fiction science books before I stopped myself. Why, of why do I skip fantasy? I don't know.

Here, my secret is out. Other than reading LOTR, I've hardly read any fantasy books. Ever. I tried Neil Gaiman (if he's considered 100% fantasy, I don't know), but it didn't do anything for me.

After spending half an hour in front of the fantasy books and having no idea what to buy, I walked home really annoyed. I mean, know some names - Goodkind, Pratchet, LeGuin, Jordan etc. - but I still don't know what to get.

The first thing I did when I got home then was to look at some Best Fantasy Lists, which with the exception of LOTR and Harry Potter (oh, yeah, I've read that one too), they were all over the place:
World Fantasy Awards
Locus Poll: All Time Best Fantasy Novel - I actually read a few books from this list.

So I'm asking for help. If there are any avid fantasy readers out there please tell me which books you think are best and why. (If you post about it, I'll link to it here of course).
Just for reference, I don't like fluff and much prefer disturbing.

Thanks all.

Jack actually wrote about this in April:My Favourite Books
Cavan also directed me to a list: EXHAUSTIVE ESSENTIAL FANTASY READING LISTS - I think he meant exhausting...

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Barbara Bauer isn't Jack's Wife

Okay, so I'm in a bit of a 24 withdrawal, forgive me.
(For those unfamiliar with 24, first - why, what's your excuse??? Second - the protagonist's name is Jack Bauer).

We did it!
Absolute Write is up again.

Remember my post about community and all that?
It's amazing that I posted about the importance of community only five days before all this happened.
We are much stronger as a community and when we help each other. No good ever came to those who tried to hurt the community.

I'm not going to get into all the details and gossip, mostly because I don't know the facts myself and cannot vouch for them either. However, needless to say that there are people we trust more and people we trust less, if at all.

Look, then, what we just did as a community. We supported those who have been there for us for years with valuable information, and we've put Barbara Bauer, the one believed to be the main evil doer, on the top ten list of Technorati searches, not in a good light.

(If you have no idea what I'm talking about, look at my previous post about 20 worst agents).

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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Twenty Worst Agents

Yesterday I saw on Tamboblog the list of twenty worst agents. I didn't stop reading but only saved it so I could mention it quickly today. Well, I really should have because a whole story was developing behind it.

You see, the list isn't of agents that authors simply found difficult to deal with, the list is of agents who demand reading fees, have no sales and so on.

Originally, Absolute Write, one of the 101 best websites for writers according to Writer's Digest, put the list up. However, due to complaints and threats from the "agents" on the twenty worst agent list, the wonderful site, Absolute Write, is now down. You can read about it more on Tamboblog, Miss Snark, Benjamin Solah and Making Light.

The full list can also be found on SFWA's site and I'll copy it here for just in case. In any event, I hope each writer checks out the agents before sending mss to the. Googling, writer's sites and forums and writers associations can be a good place to check all about the agents.

* The Abacus Group Literary Agency
* Allred and Allred Literary Agents (refers clients to "book doctor" Victor West of Pacific Literary Services)
* Barbara Bauer Literary Agency
* Benedict Associates (also d/b/a B.A. Literary Agency)
* Sherwood Broome, Inc.
* Capital Literary Agency (formerly American Literary Agents of Washington, Inc.)
* Desert Rose Literary Agency
* Arthur Fleming Associates
* Finesse Literary Agency (Karen Carr)
* Brock Gannon Literary Agency
* Harris Literary Agency
* The Literary Agency Group, which includes the following:
-Children's Literary Agency
-Christian Literary Agency
-New York Literary Agency
-Poets Literary Agency
-The Screenplay Agency
-Stylus Literary Agency (formerly ST Literary Agency, formerly Sydra-Techniques)
-Writers Literary & Publishing Services Company (the editing arm of the above-mentioned agencies)
* Martin-McLean Literary Associates
* Mocknick Productions Literary Agency, Inc.
* B.K. Nelson, Inc.
* The Robins Agency (Cris Robins)
* Michele Rooney Literary Agency (also d/b/a Creative Literary Agency, Simply Nonfiction, and Michele Glance Rooney Literary Agency)
* Southeast Literary Agency
* Mark Sullivan Associates
* West Coast Literary Associates (also d/b/a California Literary Services)
Read the rest

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Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Blogger Habits vs. Writer Habits

Yesterday I wrote a post about my blogging habits as part of a group writing project over at ProBlogger.

Since this is a writing site, most of the comments related to the writing part of blogging and how blogging affects writing.

I thought it would be interesting, as a personal exercise if anything, to see if my listed blogging habits also pertain to my writing.

1. Consistency - we often mention how important it is to write daily. I'm pretty good at that.

2. Shy - being shy never helps. When it is time for self promotion, it is also time for confidence. I'm not that good at that. I fail to tell people about my publications and I even fail (sometimes) to disclose such information in query letters.

3. Lazy/lack of backbone - okay, laziness is a bad trait to have, period. However, my laziness isn't across the board. While I give myself slack regarding blogging, I'm much better when my fiction is concerned.

4. Drafts - I guess that for writing, it would be something like going around with a notebook and writing things down as they come to mind. Check.

5. Aesthetics and artistic tendencies - luckily, none of that is needed in writing.

6. Written language - must be good and constantly improving. So while I feel that I write well in my blog, I'm never confident of my fiction.

7. Fresh ideas - I'll just repeat - not often, but when the occasional one comes along, it can be a very good one.

8. Vision - I have a much better strategy when it comes to my writing. I know where I want to get and how to get there.

9. Absence - I travel often and for long periods of time during which I post very little but I write quite a bit!

10. Diverse interest - my diverse interests have supplied me with many plot and story ideas.

I think that my writing habits and traits are much better than my blogging habits. I should definitely work on that shyness business though.
Read the rest
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Best American Fiction of the Last 25 Years - Yet More Reactions

Everything started when The New York Times decided to choose the best American fiction of the last 25 years. Initial reaction from me and others can be found on this post - Best American Fiction, Bookstores and UFOs

Then, I mentioned in a second post Slate's reaction to the list, especially the near absence of shorter novels.

Now the Valve tackles this whole thing from yet another point of view. An interesting one to say the least. Can you guess what The New Republic's review of Toni Morrison's Beloved was when it fist came out? You wouldn't believe it.
From The New Republic:
The New York Times recently proclaimed Toni Morrison's Beloved to be "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years." Judging from this 1987 review of the book, TNR critic Stanley Crouch strongly disagrees.

Since I cannot access the original 1987 article, I thought it was mighty kind of The Valve to blog about it in - Beloved? Meh. It Could've Been Important.
(Don't you just love The Valve's style?)


Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Habits? What Habits?

Darren over at ProBlogger asked his readers to write a post about their blogging habits. In fact, his goal is to compile a list of habits of highly effective bloggers.

Well, at first I thought I'll participate since this relates to my blog's subject matter, in the same manner as habits of highly effective writers would. Then I thought that I shouldn't participate since I hardly qualify as an effective blogger, at least not under the ProBlogger category - I hardly make any money from my blog and my traffic is abysmal compared to the pros.

However, I do enjoy my blog, I enjoy writing it, the readers who come and comment, those who come and don't comment, I enjoy other writers' blogs and so on. On that note I'd say that I consider this blog to be a positive thing in my life.

A compromise then - I should write a post to see what my habits are (I didn't even know I had any until today) and then see which ones are conducive to effective blogging (maybe I can keep those) and which ones aren't. It could, if anything, teach me a thing or two about myself.

So here's the list of habits and at the end I'll list them under good and bad:

1. Consistency - I tend to post at least once a day and I tend to stay on topic.

2. Shy - I'm shy about divulging even basic private information, shy about writing in an authoritative, confident, 'know-it-all' tone and shy about tooting my own horns.

3. Lazy/lack of backbone - I will allow myself not to post if I really don't feel like it. I will also not follow through with a plan to make my blog more visible if I'm too shy about it or if it's too much work.

4. Drafts - I write and save drafts of posts for later use. I write ideas as they come, save interesting links and articles and remember to save issues if I come across them during my work day.

5. Aesthetics and artistic tendencies - I have no artistic tendencies and my aesthetic taste is questionable. Meaning? Meaning I hardly have any pictures and my graphics, well, what graphics?

6. Written language - what do you think? (Remember that I said I'm shy? I do think I write well - phew, I did it!)

7. Fresh ideas - not often, but when the occasional one comes along, it can be a very good one.

8. Vision - half the time I'm not even sure what I'm going to do next, let alone figure out what my blog should do next.

9. Absence - I travel often and for long periods of time during which I post very little.

10. Diverse interest - I regularly read newspapers and blogs on a variety of subjects and often it is in these places that I find the most interesting post ideas.

It turns out that I listed not only habits but some traits as well. Habits might be easy to change, but character traits will be much harder.

My Good habits: Consistency, drafts, written language, ideas, interests.
My Bad habits: Shy, lazy, poor aesthetics and artistic tendencies, shoddy vision, absence.
Read the rest

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Monday, May 22, 2006

May Two-Four Long Weekend (and Short Novels)

I'm off today.
That's right.

Canada has a long weekend on May 24 (or closest to), the first of the summer. Why do we call May Two-Four you might ask? Well... because you see... because it is traditional to drink some on this weekend and a Two-Four is also a case of beer (24). So that's Canada's tradition and culture for you.

But who cares??? I'm off today and that's what counts! And soon I'll even get started on that drinking tradition...

So what did I do so far on my day off? No writing, but I -

  • cleaned the shed

  • ran the dishwasher

  • re-did my template - you'll see it soon

  • updated my links - added many and put in the right ones for all those who moved. If I missed anybody, please let me know. And thank you for being patient with me.

  • read the following article from Slate - Debating the Best American Fiction - In praise of "small" novels. The article relates to the best works of American fiction of the last 25 years listed on the New York Times (remember? I've mentioned it on my post - Best American Fiction, Bookstores and UFOs) and notes how there aren't many shorter novels on that list.
    Allow me to quote a few key sentences:
    [...] our notion of the great American novel became entwined with a perception that shorter books weren't, somehow, as serious. Seriousness required self-consciousness, and self-consciousness required expansiveness.

    The notion that "small" novels are unworthy of high critical esteem has been especially pervasive of late.

    What's been lost in the conflation of "small" and "small-minded" is the recognition that small books can be powerful vehicles for big ideas—to say nothing of powerful examples of aesthetic rigor.

    Well, I love shorter novels if they're good and I love longer novels if they're good... seems I like good novels no matter the length so the writer in this piece didn't need to go far to persuade me.

  • Categories: , ,

    Sunday, May 21, 2006

    Getting Some Action, or Writing Action Scenes

    To continue my series of posts from keyword searches, I chose to forgo this phrase: xxx short stories, and instead talk about this one: writing action scenes. [[I'm pretty sure that the searchers of the first phrase don't mean short stories with lots of words that contain xxx in them, and even if they did I'd be hard pressed to find that many xxx words, if any...]]

    So let's talk about action scenes, an exciting subject.
    What makes an action scene good?
    A good action scene grabs the readers in such a way that they hold their breath and don't want to put their book down. A good action scene allows readers to see the action in their mind and to live it as if they were there.
    So how is it done? Good question. I'll try to answer the best I can, but input, additions, disagreements and sources are, as always, more than welcome.

    First, I'd like to establish that action is movement. Maybe it seems stupid to mention it given the meaning of the word 'action,' but I thought I'd mention it anyway. And since action is movement, then it is movement that needs to be described, described with enough details so that readers can understand what's going on, but not too many as to slow the action down, which brings me to...

    Second, action scenes need to move quickly. Don't get me wrong, someone can crawl slowly in an action scene, but when reading, the action needs to move fast. Or it's no action. So either something happens while the protagonist is crawling, or skip most of the crawling and get to the gist.

    Third, action scenes tend to have more than one character in a chaotic structure. It is difficult to keep describing what each character does. Keep the POV and don't get frazzled with wanting to describe everything. Keeping things from your protagonist can only add to the tension for example. Speaking of...

    Fourth, tension. Action scenes are all about tense emotions. Even if the protagonist is cool, the reader should feel the tension. How? Probably not by getting into the protagonist's head and describing his thoughts and feelings at that time, most likely, she's concentrated on dodging a bullet and has no meaningful thoughts. Sometimes it's enough to mention a flickering vain or twitching eyes.

    Five - dialogue. Yeah, right. Short, very short. And to the point.

    Six - descriptive language? - Yes, indeed! When describing action it's not enough to write: John hit Jane and she fell to the floor. See it - How did John hit Jane? Did she dodge? Hit back? Was she afraid? Hurt? Did she taste blood? Cracked her ribs when she fell? Maybe something like this? : John lifted his right arm and looked at Jane, his eyes narrowing. For a moment, their eyes locked and Jane opened her mouth in disbelief. She started dodging but John's right hook caught her in the chin. Her jaw cracked and she flew to the floor yelling, exactly on the spilled wine. Her white blouse turned red.
    (I know, I know, no need to comment on this and keep the jokes to yourself :)

    Seven - pace. Not all action scenes are alike. Some move faster, such as fight scenes, some slower, such as breaking into a place or following someone etc. Use more or less descriptions for the pacing, or shorter and longer sentences. Remember also that adverbs and adjectives slow things down.

    What did I miss?
    Read the rest

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    Saturday, May 20, 2006

    As a Community We Are Stronger

    I've been blogging for a while and have come to know quite a few people. A feel of community (not a clique) where new "members" are very welcome. The community has been growing and branching with "members" helping each other on many issues.

    When Clive, Deborah and John started the Writers Blog Alliance for purposes we all have in common, it was the first time the collaborative initiative bore fruits in the form of the two anthologies: The 2006 Writer's Blog Anthology and Naked Tales.

    Now, two more of our friends have started two different initiatives that may benefit writers:

    The first, Tastes of the darkness, which comes from Benjamin Solah is a carnival of horror flash fiction -
    'Tastes of the darkness' is a carnival of horror flash fiction where each fortnight, one blogger will play host to a selection of flash fiction of the dark and disturbing.
    Submissions are now open for the first edition.

    The second initiative comes from Jack Slyde in the form of Fiction HQ, a site for online fiction:
    As somebody who has built the odd website and tangled with the problem of attracting visitors, it occurs to me that [...] some [writers] might struggle to gain the sort of traffic (and therefore audience) they had hoped for.
    Fiction HQ is somewhere novelists can post samples of their work, if nothing else it's another link and a place to show off their wares, but if enough interested novelists got involved mentioned Fiction HQ on their sites, readers would start to find their way here and, hopefully, filter through to other member's sites and work.

    Jack is inviting writers to post their work as of now.

    I think both initiatives are fantastic. Naturally, with more participation, both the carnival and the new site can gain momentum and help writers build a name and reputation.

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    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Best American Fiction, Bookstores and UFOs

    Okay, I'm not even apologizing this time. Suffice to say, I was indisposed. I would really like to get back into the groove. Thanks for being patient.

    Now that that's out of the way, here are a few things I picked up this passing week. Hope you find them as interesting.

    On the subject of books:
    The New York Times has chosen the best American fiction of the last 25 years. Only American, I reiterate.
    Beloved by Toni Morrison won - excellent choice of course. I agree whole-heartedly.
    There is also a list of runners-up and honourable mentions. I will definitely have to add some of the books from the New York Times' list to my own TBR (to be read) list.
    [[Side note: While Morrison is an African-American female, the list (if we recall the two posts about authors' gender and race) is once again comprised of mostly white males. Just interesting.]]

    On the subject of bookstores:
    Who here has never dreamt of opening up a bookstore? One where s/he decides on the content, the ambiance, the culture, the employees, even the clientele?
    But indy bookstores are becoming a rarer sight and Slate has an article about the death of independent bookstores.
    I'm lucky, I live in TO where there are more than enough book superstores and still many indy bookstores managed to survive. I enjoy the best of both worlds then but I imagine it isn't the same in other cities.
    There are pros and cons to book superstores. They do make books more accessible, however, many titles get lost in the all important selling mentality. It's a toss-up, I'd say.

    And finally, for the sci-fi geeks:
    A British fellow, awaiting extradition for hacking into NASA and the US military networks among others, claims to have seen proof UFOs exist. He also claims we'll have anti-gravity technology within the next seven years.
    BBC News, in their article - Hacker fears 'UFO cover-up', also have the 16 minute interview in a video/audio format. I'll let you be the judge of that...

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    Friday, May 12, 2006

    Two Months is a Long Time

    Told you last post that me no speak English no more...
    Obviously that was truer than I intended it to be. I tried to write there (in horrendous English) that I won't be back to blogging before today, but failed miserably. Oh, well, hope I'm better understood from now on.

    I came back home yesterday after a near two months absence. Probably the longest I was away from my home (not my parents'). It was weird coming back.

    Toronto wasn't welcoming. Just as I landed (early in the morning) it started raining and it didn't stop all day long. People swore to me, assured me, that the weather was very nice the whole week before, until I came back. For your information people, knowing that isn't comforting!

    And then there's the case of this strange man in my house claiming to live there too. He swears he's my husband -- what an odd notion! Yet he supports his claim by showing me a funny wedding picture that is hung on top of the stairs. But c'mon, can't even see the couple's faces properly - they're kissing. I remain suspicious.

    Glad to be back.

    [Remind me at some point to tell you why that wedding picture is funny. It's a tale about internet, family, commercialism, and even a little romance.]


    Sunday, May 07, 2006

    I Blame... English

    Lately I've been doing everything I usually do, only not in English.
    That is, I worked, talked, read, laughed, wrote, surfed sites and the rest of normal daily life, but in a different language, not in English.

    This is why I found it hard to take a break, go back to English, even if it was for the 15-30 minutes it takes me to write a post. But, here, I've done it. I wasn't expecting to post before the 11th, this Thursday, which is the day I'll finally come home and immerse myself in English again, but I have.

    Languages are interesting. To each their own little nuances, or not so little. Languages can be forgiving and strict in different areas. For example, English is very forgiving gender wise, while some languages, such as French, have a gender for every object. English, on the other hand, is very strict with its tenses, all that progressiveness (past progressive), while other languages have only the basic past, present and future tenses.

    Take melody and intonation. In Chinese, for example, a word can receive different meaning depending on the way it is said, the melody. In other languages, the whole sentence can take a meaning just from the intonation. For example, questions in some languages need not be phrased in the form of a question, the intonation makes it clear that the sentence is a question.

    Then we have vocabulary and synonyms. Some, like English, are very generous with synonyms, while others have quite a stingy vocabulary, practically half the words of the English language, or even less. And yet, even the "smallest" language, can have 300 different ways of expressing something important to that culture. The metaphors and idioms are also culture and language specific.

    I do recommend studying a second language. Wholeheartedly. New ways of expressing things can easily come from other languages, not to mention that there aren't many things more rewarding than reading a book in the language it was written.

    So while I'm usually confined to one language, English, lately I've been confined to another and found it difficult to write or even post in English. I'll be back by the end of this coming week to regular posting.
    Read the rest

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