Monday, December 20, 2010


Today is the first time in 456 years that the Winter Solstice and a lunar eclipse fall on the same day. From about one to two in the morning, all across North America, we can watch the moon fully eclipse.

As my friend Mike Cnudde says, this probably means there is a shadowy cabal somewhere planning global domination now that the planets are aligned, only to be foiled by some guy, his girlfriend, and their plucky dog.

Happy holidays, and here's hoping you get to foil some nefarious plots!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Theory Train Issue One

After adventures with formatting and finding artists and the interesting process of getting on Duotrope, we are live with the first issue of Theory Train! It's exciting, because it's the first for-profit venture I've helped launch. We started in September, putting the whole thing together. Adam put together our website, Michelle got us listed on Duotrope, and I handled submissions. Meetings by Skype were our primary mode of communication, and it made for very odd one-sided conversations for anyone who happened to be in the same room as us.

And now it exists!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Social Network

I just watched The Social Network, the movie about the founding of Facebook. It's vaguely reminiscent of the dotcom boom, where the dream was becoming a billionaire overnight by coming up with some clever new idea.

Then it all collapsed.

In the ruins of startup companies and emerging bodies of law, there as formed a singularity, a point beyond which culture is unrecognizable. The singularity was driven foremost by Facebook and the accompanying phenomenon of social news.

We control who and what we see; online friends, whose status updates we see, feeds from news and comics and Twitter. Reddit and Digg and how many others let us decide what news is noteworthy.

It's like small-town gossip on a world-wide, interest-based scale. There are drawbacks, of course, but those, too, you can talk about with your network; everything has a link to Digg or repost somewhere else.

And the heroes of the new millennium are drunken twenty-somethings really handy with code and ideas. I really like this idea, of the transmutation of heroes from the Justice League to their animators and the people who maintain their fansite. Inventing something technological is the easiest way to change the world these days, as evidenced by Gates as much as Zuckerberg.

Thursday, December 2, 2010


Wednesday was the launch of issue 8.2 of Island Writer, and it went wonderfully. All of the editorial staff were able to be there and we had a packed room with all the contributors and people there to hear the readings.
Chelsea Rushton, our Editor in Chief for this issue, did a great job of emceeing the night, and we got to hear from more than half of the contributors.
Excitingly for me, I will be the next Editor in Chief. I get to work with the same wonderful editorial team I worked with for this issue, and now that everyone has experience we should be able to smooth it out and make the production more seamless for everyone.
I'm starting to really enjoy the chaos and hubbub of setting up an event like this - the frantic arranging of tables and fretting over acoustics and food, the joy in getting rid of a whole box of the magazine not for the sake of sales but for the sake of fewer things to store in our wonderful treasurer Laura's garage.

In other news, the science fiction collaboration I've been working on for the last several months with friend Mason Kochanski is now finished! And published. I suppose this is a sort of launch for Intervention, which is available for download under a Creative Commons license to your computer or phone as a PDF, Kindle file, or EPUB. We're using Feedbooks as opposed to my usual site, Smashwords, because Feedbooks explicitly allows for Creative Commons licensing, which is important to both of us. The site is also accessible through the smartphone app Aldiko, which is cool. Click over to download it!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Russia's Doomsday Device

As an excellent follow-up to writing about a science fiction future, I read an article today about Russia's Doomsday device, Perimeter. I was first shocked that they had one - the most familiarity I have with one is watching Dr. Strangelove in high school. But it exists, and it's active, and it continues to be upgraded to this day.

Perimeter's very existence is surreal and far from comforting.

The very idea of such a relic of the Cold War mentality is alien to me; the Berlin Wall came down about the time I learned to talk, so it belongs very firmly in the realm of The Past, that mystical country of questionable relevance. Perimeter drives home in the most graphic way possible that nuclear war is something that was seriously considered for a long stretch of time.

I'm quite glad we never tipped over that brink.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Science Fiction Future

It probably says a lot about my social group that "how should we end the world?" is not a question that even makes me blink anymore.

I do a lot of collaborative writing; I currently have three on the go, though one I've taken over most of the writing portion while my collaborator gives me ideas. They all tend to be post-apocalyptic science fiction, as is a fair amount of what we read and pass around to each other. But the focus isn't on the end of the world, it's on what happens after, in the days-weeks-months after everything changes. The way it ends isn't usually important, either; the most recent collaboration the end of the world was decided based on an article I'd read in the paper that morning, with no real emotional investment in it or plan to explore how we got to that point in the story.

A concept bandied about in science circles nearly as much as science fiction is that of a singularity, an idea or instant or tipping point beyond which the future is unrecognizable and can't be accurately predicted. With the rapid rate of change in technology, my friends and I tend to take for granted that we'll live through at least one more singularity.

But, given the very nature of a singularity, it's difficult to write past one. So we write not singularities, but the kind of disaster that comes from attempts gone wrong; anarchy, oppressive regimes, and accidental genocides. It's half adventure and half thought experiment as to how radical a shift we the writers could survive.

And it's a lot of fun to write.

All of it, if we ever finish, will be available free online under Creative Commons, because a communist approach to intellectual property is something else we four share. As one succinctly put it, it's better to have it out there for free and have people read it than to charge and sell one copy. In an ideal world, of course, we'd be able to exist on our writing and other people would be able to read it whenever they liked, but we don't have one yet.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Robert Wiersema

Last Wednesday Robert Wiersema came to talk to the Victoria Writers' Society about writing in the real world and his new book Bedtime Stories. He will be touring the Island and the Gulf Islands for the next eight weeks. His wife will drive, to protect society. In the book, father and son bond over bedtime stories, since father is a big reader - a writer, actually - but the son is dyslexic. Despite the similarities to Wiersema's own life, he reiterates often that his main character is not him. They may both get up at 4am to get in an hour and a half of writing before facing the day, and both write everything longhand in fountain pen before typing it up, and both have sons the same age. But the character is not him. "Chris is not me. I want to be very clear on these things," Wiersema says with a smile.

The very funny Wiersema never plans what he's going to say . . . ever. Which has gotten him in trouble on more than one occasion. He doesn't specify the occasions, but talks of surreal moments in his career as a writer. "Some days are strange. Some days you stay after work getting your picture taken for the Globe and Mail lying on the floor with the book open on your chest like publishing it has killed you." He nods at the VWS audience, "some days you give speeches you're in no way prepared for."

His topic for the night was "writing in the real world," so he elaborated on how and why he got into writing. He started by as an English Literature student, commenting that "there are few things more arrogant than a second or third year English Literature student, especially one with creative writing pretensions." Working in a bookstore was one of the two more important things in his career as a writer - the other being getting together with his wife. Working in a bookstore exposed him to what people actually read, not just what was considered part of the CanLit canon. "That was a great moment for me as a writer, realizing that there was value outside of what was considered normal."

He then posed the question, "What part of your real life gives birth to the writing?" For him, it's fear. What kick-started his first novel was he and his wife getting pregnant. He realized that he was going to be a father, and thirty. He was happy, then terrified, then wrote Before I Wake in three months in a white fear of "what's the worst that can happen?"

As a last point, he said, "If you take nothing else away from this, take this. This is the double underscore point. Write what you know is bullshit. Write out of what you know. If you have a happy marriage, don't write a happy marriage. Write about someone else's happy marriage, or about someone's bad marriage. . . . Give your characters their own tragedies."

He finished with a reading, then entertained questions he promised to answer entertainingly; a promise he fulfilled. As a writer and reviewer and bookseller, Wiersema has a lot of insight into the local book world.

An interesting note from the question period is how he got his agent; he already had a reputation as an honest reviewer who didn't pull his punches, and that got his name moderately well known, and known for integrity. That came up particularly glaringly in my notes as I've been writing this, as this is the first time I've let a speaker know I'll be writing about them for my blog.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Continuing Education and Augmented Reality

I spend a lot of my free time involved in the Victoria Writers' Society, and a lot of that time involved in Island Writer, a literary magazine based around Vancouver Island. We only accept stories from the Island and the Gulf Islands. I do a variety of interesting things, none of which involve selection. It's kind of fun how much of that there is. As the Editorial Assistant, I accept and blind all the submissions, convert them all to Google Documents, format them for the genre editors, and pass them on after the deadline has closed. I also verify that they're from the Island, keep track of a multitude of spreadsheets, and answer questions. Today I sent out the rejection letters for the upcoming issue, which was slightly less fun, as I know it will disappoint some people. The acceptance letters will follow shortly, but they're pe4rsonalized, and from the genre editors, so I don't need to do anything more until we do the copyediting.

It's been an education being involved with the magazine. When I started on the last issue, I'd only helped with selection for my high school literary magazine, and that was a dramatically different experience. This issue has been more of an education, as I've been involved since the beginning, including posting ads on Craigslist calling for submissions, and my duties have grown in other areas.

So I'm really looking forward to the launch of this issue, and working on the next one. I hope I'll continue to be able to work with a great team and learn a great deal about the publishing industry.

This bout of sentimentality brought to you be a meeting earlier today; no, I most likely won't be the next Editor in Chief, but we're hoping that I'll be able to do some definite training with the next Editor in Chief about production schedules and the other duties of the Editor in Chief.

As I've been typing this, I've had MuchMusic on in the background: music and 3-minute videos make good company later in the evening. One of the persistent commercials is one by Doritos about the band Down With Webster. One part of the ad focuses on the special edition bags of chips that have a spot on the back that you can hold in front of your webcam to get a free music download.

The MuchMusic website having that capability means that the spot is electronically coded, like barcodes, but in a different shape, which brings home far more that augmented reality, that 90s sci-fi darling, is very much a physical reality.

Video games that take place half in the real world and half electronically have popped up with regularity for the last while; my favorites of the genre are Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, which features a virtual scavenger hunt over physical San Francisco as a minor element, and Invitation to The Game by Monica Hughes, which approaches it from a different perspective; the involved subjects continue to think they are playing an electronic game even after the game becomes their reality. The blurred lines between the electronic and the physical makes this an interesting time to be experimenting with technology. And the blurred line is becoming increasingly more prominent; it's more than just sales, like barcodes, and some electronic games for teenagers; the British postal system has come out with new stamps that, if you put your smartphone camera over them, will bring up a video presentation about the historical place or event depicted in the stamp. And if the British post is doing it, you know for certain that it's no longer a fringe technology.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Know Your Audience

Having recently quit my office job, I am devoting most of my time to applying for jobs and my most recent copyediting client.

And obsessively checking my stats on here. Not many of them, but they're there, and the statistics I get are fascinating: I wasn't even aware that there was a browser called Flock. Nor do I have any idea how someone from Israel would have found my blog. Most of the statistics are as expected, but it's the outliers that are fascinating. For instance, 3% of my pageviews are from China? That's an interesting statistic.

It's a bit reminiscent of the resume process; you have this collection of information, of stuff, and you put it out there and hope for hits. And, unless you get the job, or someone commenting, you will never have any idea as to why.

But the outliers, while the most fascinating, aren't the primary audience. My primary audience is people local to the Victoria writing community and people from the online forums where I discuss writing. Predictably, the sites my target audience uses are the top referring links to come here. That means I'm doing a decent job of being visible. I'd be extremely worried if I was getting most of my referrals from my Facebook page, considering that Facebook is more social and familial and I hardly discuss writing or the writing community there. It would mean I was making some kind of mistake on the other places I post links to this blog.

So, thanks for clicking over, wherever you came from.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Spreadsheets Are Amazing

I recently quit my job, and am on the hunt for a new one. It makes me particularly glad that I live in Victoria, where the job climate isn't quite so dire as in many parts of the U.S.. Maclean's recently ran a front-page article on the way a lot of the U.S. is deteriorating into circumstances comparable to a developing nation. It's terrifying; as a citizen of the U.S., as a citizen of a country that borders the U.S., as someone who will be in the job and political arenas for decades to come and dealing with a shifting reality no one expected. The U.S. is such an international standard that even BBC reports in pounds and USD - usually with the pounds in parentheses, not the dollars. But, even with the recession officially over, the U.S. continues to slide slowly; I was in the market last week and American tourists, while still allowed to pay with USD (we're a port, after all), were paying on par.

But one to happier subjects: spreadsheets.

I have a deepseated love of them. They make organization simple, clean, and direct. With Google Docs, they're also shareable, and so even more useful! Everything it makes sense to organize via spreadsheet, I do.

Surprisingly, then, it wasn't I who proposed that my latest project be organized via Google spreadsheet. Mason Kochanski and I share a mutual love of music and desire to expand our musical horizons. This project was born out of that mutual love, and an evening when I visited that was spent listening to 90s grunge we'd forgotten about and adored. We started a spreadsheet keeping track of bands we like and why. Having a goal - expanding the spreadsheet with more information - has helped us both find interesting new music we wouldn't have come across under the normal circumstances of itunes and internet playlists. It's a fun project, still underway.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Theory Train and Dying of Suspense

I've recently gotten involved with a brainchild of a friend of mine; starting an ezine. It's coalesced, over the past few weeks, into Theory Train, an online literary magazine specializing in poetry and speculative fiction. As the second literary magazine I've been involved in - the other being Island Writer, and different in being a print magazine, and local - I feel not completely adrift in helping launch it. It's exciting, and interesting, looking into the myriad factors of it. We lucked out in a major way in that another of the people involved with setting it up is able to provide us free hosting and a domain name. And now we have the basic infrastructure set up, so it's just a matter, now, of drumming up submissions, advertising, drumming up advertising on our site, sorting and selecting from submissions, and getting the magazine itself together. Oh, plus registering it with the Canadian ISBN Service System. No big deal, right?

At least we have until December.

And while I can wait for that, and enjoy the time we have until crunch time, I'm currently caught up in anticipation for the results of this contest. It's been going on all summer; a round every two weeks, and I've made it to the final round, going for the championship. All of the entries have been in since last night, and, even though not much time has passed, I'm incredibly anxious for the results. A fun sort of anxiety, in that I'm up against a formidable opponent who won in one category while I won in another, and I know we both put a lot of effort forth. But I want to know! Really, it's so inconvenient, the judge (also, coincidentally, Theory Train's webmaster) having a life outside of judging the writing contest.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Trying to be Less Wrong

I recently discovered the blog Less Wrong, written collectively by a number of interesting people. I found it through a writing project of Eliezer Yudkowsky's. The whole idea of approaching human rationality as a sort of extended humanitarian science experiment fascinates me. The power of it is really evident in Yudkowsky's, where his characters actually examine how and why they think; it gives them a depth of character, and makes reading about their adventures linear in a compelling way. They do things because of a trackable train of thought that follows logical processes, not because of magic or unarticulated ideals. How much more interesting, then, for real people to model the same behavior.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Beautiful Red

I just finished reading Beautiful Red by Darusha Whem. Whem has made it available in hardcover, numerous electronic text, and audio form; the latter two available free under Creative Commons licensing. The new-wave distribution ideology suits the subject matter; in the future, corporations literally run everything, and everyone is plugged into the everywherenet - the new internet - by skull-implanted chips.

Well, almost everyone. The story follows Jack as she runs into a group that is radically against machine integration. It's a fascinating look at how reliant we are on technology; some of the imagery really hit home for me. People on the street slack-jawed and vacant as they log into their virtual worlds - how different is that from staring intently at a smartphone?

The story was hauntingly real, and the world was such that, aside from a few incidental heinous crimes, I would love to live there.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

True Stories

Lynne Van Luven came to speak to the Victoria Writers' Society last night about Creative Non-fiction and how it's thriving on the Island. She mentioned how many people are branching into it; Patrick Lane and Lorna Crozier, both noted local poets, have written creative non-fiction now, and more and more fiction writers are adding creative non-fiction to their repertoire as well.

True stories have become more compelling to us as a culture. It's taken a long time for In Cold Blood to seep into our collective consciousness, and many more solid works have come along, with that strange panache of the fantastical actually happening. It's leaked into movies, as well - 21 followed the dated adventures of the MIT blackjack team, Middlemen followed turn-of-the millenium pornographers, The Social Network follows Mark Zuckerberg's still-expanding supernova.

In that way, creative non-fiction is becoming more immediate; there's less of a time lapse between doing something and writing about it. The plethora of information and stories of every kind available now means we have to write it down, quickly, to remember any of it, need to tell the story to ourselves to make it true.

As terrifying as the comparison is, the rise of creative non-fiction is parallel to scripted reality television. Subjectivevtrue stories allow for a more developed voice than we sometimes have access to in our immediate lives. We can relive, and mock, our own esprit de staircase.

Creative non-fiction is an interesting world, spanning everything from travel writing to memoir, and it was a fascinating talk by Lynne Van Luven.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Fourth Wall

I'm in a contest where the latest prompt is breaking the fourth wall.

Conveniently, in the anthology Stories which I read on my recent trip, there are several examples of fourth-wall-breaking stories. But, without exception, they broke it internally; a woman asking her boyfriend to stop writing her into stories as she was losing bits of herself in them, a man who was offered the choice between staying in his adventure story or living as a peasant in the real world. It worked really well, and is the way I've seen it work. Breaking the fourth wall and talking directly to the audience is never something I've seen work all that well in a static medium like books and comics.

It's somehow much less jarring if the layers of reality are internal to the story, so that's the route I'm going to try to go.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I drove for the first time today

It was exhilarating and a little terrifying, and it only lasted about ten minutes. Tristan, the friend I'm visiting, took us on a country drive, that most American of activities. We went along county roads so overlooked they didn't have painted lines on them, and were only wide enough for traffic to go each way if both drivers were polite and neither had a very big car. Corn lined both sides of the road, interspersed with mailboxes and deciduous trees.

She finally found a place to turn around at a small junction, marked by the Countryside Restaurant and the Broken Spoke Roadhouse, the biggest buildings for miles. Once we were back on the quiet road facing the other way, she pulled onto the grass and made me switch seats with her. It's the first time I've driven, something I've been meaning to learn to do for years but never gotten around to.

With my death grip on 10 and 2, I managed to stay in my lane for the most part, and even managed to pass a truck going the other way. Tristan threatens that next time we'll go at night, and I'll actually have to stop at a stop sign.

Driving and the road compass a huge part of the American journey to adult-hood. One of the iconic works of the 50s and, really, the entire twentieth century, was On The Road. The act of it occupies a huge place in the American psyche, and I'm starting to learn, which makes me very happy.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sea-Tac Free Wi-Fi is a wonderful thing

I'm on the intermission of my journey to Chicago, IL for a two-week vacation, and very much appreciating the free wi-fi. I have with me Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio's collection of short stories simply entitled Stories, which includes, among others, a story by Chuck Palahniuk. There's a sort of meta-pleasure referential to his cult hit Fight Club in reading Palahniuk on an airplane.

Yesterday I finished a book cover for the wonderful Sheila Martindale's forthcoming book, Here, There, and Somewhere Beyond. I'm immensely happy to have been involved in the project.

In other artistic news, the webcomic I started in college with a friend of mine (I write it, she does the art) is undergoing somewhat of a revival. Here's hoping for more to come!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Playboy Documentary

There's a new documentary piece on Hugh Hefner coming out, about his role as a social activist. Seem weird? Yeah, to me, too. This article takes a look at some of the driving motivation behind the documentary. I have yet to see the documentary (it opened yesterday), but I am really looking forward to it.

The things he, Kinsey, Steinem, and Meads have done - their contributions to the Sexual Revolution, have changed society in a lot of ways. The internet has contributed. In discussing the documentary with my mom the other day, we discussed the fact that she first encountered BDSM culture in her 30s, while she was living in San Francisco. I encountered it in a fairly mainstream fantasy novel when I was 15 and so, curious, Googled it, and found a well-laid-out Wikipedia page.

And that was normal for me, for my generation. Yes, there is a lot of hypersexualization, but there's also a lot of information available to work with that - information on STDs and where and how to get tested, information on how to be safe in myriad ways. In my social circle, at least, it's something to discuss -openly - near the beginning of a relationship, just to determine compatibility. Kinsey and later, when we were old enough to sneakily read The Onion, Dan Savage taught us that nothing was weird, simply potentially incompatible. And that was okay.

Hefner, of course, isn't solely responsible for the social movement towards openness. But he's a contributing factor, and one in iconic silk pajamas, so I very much look forward to the documentary.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Island Writer

On Tuesday we had the first meeting of the new editorial board of Island Writer. We gathered at Simeon's house and had his own white wine and chips and salsa and chocolate in his sunny living room, with Christine and I plugged into our little machines. It's exciting, to have the working period of the next issue looming. Not too many submissions so far, but they're trickling in. And, if the last one is any indication, I can expect about 70 in the two days before the deadline.

But talking about our vision for the magazine and the ways we want to organize it was great - I jumped in very late in the game on the last issue, and so wasn't part of that. It wasn't necessary, of course, but I really like having a better idea of what we're doing. And I like that I'm going to be more involved in the process.

The rest of the board; Chelsea Rushton, Simeon Goa, Sheila Martindale, Christine George, and Kim Nayyer, all seem wonderful. Kim wasn't able to attend, but Chelsea took minutes. I'm looking forward to working with everyone on this issue.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

CanWrite 2010, part one

So, it's been a week since the end of CanWrite, but I haven't been able to put anything together because of the sheer volume of information I gathered there. It was a fascinating experience, and highly educational.

Jean Kay, the coordinator, was very nice, and extended a generous invitation to the awards banquet on Saturday. She was intensely busy all weekend, and I rarely saw her for more than a few consecutive minutes.

I spent the weekend mostly at the registration desk with Sheila Martindale and Brock Clayards, both Victoria residents. Sheila Martindale is the venerable English author of eight (soon to be nine) volumes of poetry, and is a member of the local branch of the Canadian Authors Association, and is the Poetry editor for Island Writer magazine.

Brock is a retired RCMP officer and now has a small vineyard and many dogs. He's had a fascinating career in various branches of the RCMP.

Thursday all three of us manned the desk, as there were registrations all afternoon. Friday and Saturday we all switched off as we attended sessions with the various speakers.

Friday we were joined by Julie, a publisher and the creator of InspireABook, who helped manage the blue pencil sessions - the ten minute periods where conference attendees could make an appointment to talk to four authors who had volunteered. Behind the desks were kc dyer, Lois Peterson, Anthony Dalton, and Bernice Lever.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

CanWrite starts tomorrow!

I'm volunteering all weekend at the CanWrite! 2010 conference. I'll be at registration, and then doing signup for the blue pencil sessions. I'll probably be everywhere, but I can be tracked down there, if anyone is so inclined. I'm excited at the prospect of my first writing conference, and this one is focusing on something dear to my heart - applying technology to your writing.

It's interesting how technology is changing the industry. People are experimenting with storytelling via Twitter the mind-bogglingly broad spectrum of webcomics. Two of my recent discoveries have been Metaphysical Neuroma by Attila and FreakAngels, written by the iconic Warren Ellis.

Comics are their own separate world from writing and publishing books, but they have strange and sometimes beautiful overlap, such as that personified in Neil Gaiman, who has written everything from the screenplay and then novel of the BBC's Neverwhere to the children's book Coraline to the fantastic graphic novel Sandman to the novel American Gods. He's amazingly dynamic, and has had a definite impact on both my writing and the variety of vectors my interests follow.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Open Source - not just for computer people

Open source is more than a way to get great software like web browsers Firefox and Chrome, word processor Open Office, art program GIMP and antivirus program ClamWin. It's a movement towards freedom of intellectual property - towards intellectual communism.

Open source software isn't new, though - the GNU Project, the precursor to Linux (a family of open source operating systems), was started in 1983. But in the past few years, open source has moved from a computer thing to a culture thing. Creative Commons took the idea of open source and applied it to intellectual property other than code.

Now some of the same principles - not being forced to pay for interesting things - are being brought back to the physical world through things like Decentralize Dance Paries. Which looks completely awesome.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Character Creation

The Victoria Writers' Society had its last meeting before the summer on Wednesday. Tricia Dower spoke about character creation and read from her book, Silent Girl. Despite being sick and having to leave the room a couple times, she gave a really great talk.

Character creation, and the role of the character in the story (should they drive the plot? should the plot dictate everything about them? is setting a character, and should it be?) is a topic that comes up on every writing forum I'm a member of. Every writer is different, and takes different approaches, even amongst different of their own works.

Tricia Dower had an interesting approach to interviewing one's characters, getting to know them as individuals beyond the page so that they inhabit the page as whole beings.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pacific Northwest

I spent this last weekend trekking fabulously through the Victoria Steampunk Expo then down to Port Angeles and thence to Seattle and back to Vancouver and then home. In three days. I think. It was a great deal of fun. Working inside most of the day, I don't tend to appreciate what a gorgeous corner of the continent I live on.

Met Christine Hart at the Steampunk Expo, though didn't realize we were both in the Victoria Writer's Society until Monday when I came back and she'd found me on DeviantArt. It's a wonderfully small community out here.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Reading Lists

So, I am in a discussion with someone of Wuthering Heights; I've been to the home of the Bronte sisters, and have read about them, and analysis of their work - I've even read her sister's great work, Jane Eyre. But I've never read Wuthering Heights.

I'm realizing I am not all that well-read in general; I've read The Great Gatsby, and The Jungle, and The Yellow Wallpaper, and a few other classics, and I've seen the BBC versions of every Jane Austen novel as well as attempting to read Emma. But somehow I slipped by all that required reading, A Clockwork Orange and Lord of the Flies and all those other books people of letters have read.

So I'm going to attempt to rectify the situation, with aid from Time, The Best 100 lists, and these blogs. Even with overlap, that is probably well over 100 books. I'm going to compile the total list and add another page to list all of them, so I can check them off as I read them. The goal will be to read all of them.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Island Writer Magazine

The launch for the Summer 2010 edition of Island Writer was this last Wednesday. It was my first launch; I was on vacation during the last one, and it was also my first launch as a member of the editorial staff. I was and am the editorial assistant for the magazine, and it's a tremendous learning experience for me, seeing exactly what goes into a publication. I was also lucky enough with this issue to have two illustrations included. At the launch I got the meet the author of one of the stories I illustrated, Judith Mackay, and that was wonderful, to actually meet the person whose work I worked with. I hadn't even spoken to her before that, except in form letters sent in my capacity as editorial assistant.
This issue was also the last issue for the editor in chief I worked with, Stacey Curtis. She's spent the last several issues as the editor, and is moving on to other projects. She was wonderful to work with; creative, open to input on the technical side (we used Google Docs for some stages, which was a great and easy way to get everyone the files), and patient of my inevitable mistakes.
I met several of the new editorial staff at the launch, as well, and am looking forward to working with them on the next issue, coming out in December.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Epublishing and Publishing Companies

Went to a very interesting talk by the estimable Ruth Linka of Touchwood Editions and Brindle and Glass about the effects of ebooks on the publishing industry. This was a couple of weeks ago, but it took me some time to both process the information in her very informational talk and examine my own feelings about it.

It's a complicated subject, the role of ebooks in the world of publishing. I read a lot of ebooks, and a lot of books released free online under Creative Commons licensing. Ruth mentioned something about the new "Cult of Free" that I wish I'd written down, about how my generation very much believes in free things, and how that's not exactly harmonious with the publishing industry. More on that later.

Ruth also said very definitively that ebooks are not a trend. They are here to stay. The difficulty lies in that there are easily two dozen separate and unique file formats that someone at a publishing house has to convert them to.

There is a movement, of course, towards some sense of uniformity. And PDF, of course, never goes out of style, though it's less than ideal for several platforms. And a different ISBN is needed for each individual e-release. All of which takes man-hours, which contribute to the price of a book. This leaves aside the fact that the cost of editing remains the same, and one of the biggest components of book price. There is a general feeling that ebooks should be cheaper than paper because there are no associated printing, storage, or delivery costs, but those are much smaller factors for small printers. For large distributions, like that of bestsellers (Harry Potter, Twilight, or anything else people dress up and wait for hours in the rain for the release of), editing and other man-hour costs become a much smaller part of the cost, which allows them to keep the cost of ebooks low. Given the low cost set as the standard for ebooks, it is harder for small publishers to keep up with low prices.

On the other hand, ebooks are ideal for self-publishers. The cost of a print run can be hugely intimidating for an individual, but ebooks have, wonderfully, no printing costs. With no initial capital outlay (other than an editor, of course, and a graphic designer), epublishing allows many more authors to get their work out there. There is still, of course, the attendant hard work and devoted marketing required of any self-publication, but it makes it more accessible. But part of that accessibility is that the market for ebooks is flooded, and not everyone is willing to pay for an ebook by an unknown author, especially a novel, when there are novels available for free under Creative Commons and public domain. Novels by noted authors, too, including Cory Doctorow.

Part of that is my own devotion to the Cult of Free (backed up, you'll note, by there being no price tag on any of the stories I have up). But it will be interesting to see how the Cult of Free and other market forces affect the future of the ebook and the publishing industry.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Speculative Fiction

A couple of weeks ago, the Victoria Writer's Society was able to invite Kim Bannerman to speak to us about Speculative Fiction and about her own fiction, a very Speculative Fiction series of novels about a family of werewolves. Because of her anthropological background, a lot of it was about the evolution of Spec Fic, both as a term and as a field. When the term was first coined, and when it was used widely by Heinlein, the term was interchangeable with Science Fiction, and specifically excluded fantasy. But genre evolution and label defiance being what they are, Speculative Fiction now refers to everything that happens in a reality different from our own. That covers horror, fantasy, sci-fi, superheroes, steampunk, cyberpunk, post-apocalyptic dystopias, and magical realism. Pretty broad spectrum, there. But in some ways it's necessary, with authors like Richard Kadrey writing things like Metrophage one year, with Los Angeles futuristic and technology-laden, and then for his next book Butcher Bird, which takes you into Hell. With this variety, books that fit into science fiction and fantasy and dystopian post-apocalypse fiction, he's hard to describe as anything other than a Speculative Fiction author.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Collaborative Writing

Subtitle for this would be "Legitimizing the geeky things I did in high school."

Collaborative writing spans many things, from the group of elders at a local church who work on their memoirs together to the group of romance authors who beta read each others' work to the online role-plays popular among many high school and college age people.

It's a great tool; collaboration with others encourages you to write more, both in terms of wanting to keep up with other people's output and encouragement in that other people are reading your work. And the immediate feedback helps you improve as a writer.

One of my current projects is collaborative; I'm writing a story with a friend of mine. He loves the world-building side, and I really like storytelling, so we work well together. I do a lot of the writing, posing him questions as we go along to be sure it's a coherent world. He goes over what I've written, tweaking some things that stand out and adding more to the story, especially focusing on fleshing out the character that is primarily his. And, most helpfully and most fun, we get to discuss it. The story becomes that much more concrete with someone to discuss it with.

That is one of the perks of a critique group, another form of collaborative writing. You may not, and probably don't, write in each other's stories the way I and my friend do, but the feedback helps you shape the edits, and having a group to discuss it with helps make the story more real; it isn't just something you are doing, it is real, and other people are reading it. I find that for me, knowing that I have an audience helps me remember to fully articulate my points in my writing.

A role-play is an even more involved collaboration; rather than it being one person's story being examined, or a project with an agreed-upon outline, most are free-form, with the plot developing as it progresses. In general, every writer writes from the point of view of their one or more characters, and have little or no understanding of the other characters except as they are presented in the role-play by the other writers involved. And the number of contributing writers can vary from two to over thirty, such as in some of the more long-running ones on the popular site LiveJournal.

The image of writer as a solitary creature chained to typewriter, emerging only for coffee, doesn't necessarily hold true. There have always been support networks, artistic enclaves, to further a creative spirit. Now there are more, more readily accessible, and more tailored. The friend I am collaborating with lives 2000 miles away; the memoir group at the local church all meet in person, and all have similar interests. If you are interested in a support network or a more collaborative sort of collaborative writing, a quick google search will most likely find you something that fits your needs.

Monday, March 29, 2010


A friend of mine just expressed confusion on the usefulness of networking. It can be a foreign concept if one doesn't live in the world of social media, which was surprising to me, since I've lived in social media for the last few years. Social media is networking applied on a wider scale; you're making contacts, but with more people. It is one of the most important aspects of business, but it doesn't have to be scary and insurmountable to get into. Even a Twitter account can let you follow companies relevant to your industry without much time commitment or technical know-how.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Online Security

Reading articles about Google, particularly Buzz and the problems blogger Harriet Jacobs faced, brings home a lot of the attitude shift that has come with a lot of new internet technology. At the beginning of the noughties, the internet was seen as a foggy area full of malicious predators, and one was supposed to never, ever share information about one's real life - address, phone number, and real name were all taboo. Then came social networking; we found our friends on sites like Facebook and Myspace, and now we search for new business contacts that way. And on our profiles, like the Google profile, there are blanks just begging to be filled with all of our email accounts and IM accounts and address. And if you have the Android operating system on your phone, you can have it tag your updates with your exact GPS.

If one has a network of only close friends, family, and business contacts, that might not be such a bad idea, but when one is using the internet for prospecting business contacts, or has a wider social network, it becomes an issue of balance. You want new prospective clients to be able to contact you, but not to know where you live. I think I've found what works for me; my city and my email are everywhere, my age on some things, and my real name, while my offline contact information is kept private. But my business is conducted largely online or in an office, where it's the office and not my personal information being used as contact. Business-people in different fields, especially writing and editing, where marketing of yourself matters so much, need to find their own balance, and one that takes into account every tool they put out there. If you want to be anonymous, putting your full name and address into your gmail (and in turn your Google profile), might not be the route for you, whereas if you want to be highly public, you don't want different nicknames and out-of-date information on every account.

So check your settings, and google yourself so you find what other people can find about you. Make sure it's what you want them to be able to find. I'm off to check my Facebook privacy settings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Google Fiber

Google is continuing to revolutionize the internet with their latest project, Google Fiber, blogged about here. Accessible broadband is an important step forward for any country; the old ideology of the 'information superhighway;' information about everything available to everyone, only holds true if everyone has access. But, with growing access, including projects like this, it becomes more and more important for a business to have an internet presence.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Many Wonders of Social Media

Today I got to give a mini-tutorial on Twitter at my workplace, and talk about the benefits of it for a business. It's exciting to have it branching out in different ways; this started as a simple question of publicity for an upcoming event.

Twitter really is a necessity for any business or business-person; there are a growing number of businesses advertising positions on Twitter, sometimes exclusively. And with news sites, retweets, and the ability to sort into timelines, it is a growing Internet hub.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


Mid-way through reading Accelerando by Charles Stross. It's an interesting take on the dot-com boom and what might have happened if it didn't bust. It's also an interesting look at evolution; technical modifications allowing us to continue to advance and adapt. Our ability to adapt is key to staying on top. That, and those are really awesome glasses.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Social Media Packaging

It's quite a paradigm shift, reading about social media in articles like this one. I've been on networking sites of various kinds since early in high school; at that point, we were the young end of the target audience, and it was a good way to find and make friends with and procrastinate on homework by talking to people all around the world with similar interests. Now, as I'm becoming a young professional, and looking for ways to reach my target audience, I'm encountering all of this information and excitement about the uses of social media for professional networking. And I realized; I can do this. I had to be kicked off Facebook late at night in high school, and I had a Twitter to follow some of my favorite comic artists. But the approach was new, the view of it as a real professional tool and not just a way to keep in touch with friends half way around the globe. It really is an exciting thing, altering my views and approaches to keep up with this wave.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The perfect solution

The meeting for the Victoria Writers Society tonight was fascinating. Nicola Furlong spoke about e-publishing and social media, and was largely the impetus for me to finally get this going.