Wednesday, December 28, 2011


It's time to come clean: I am a Homestuck.

What, that terminology means nothing to you because you are not already a member of the fandom?

Wikipedia explains: Homestuck, the current adventure [in MS Paint Adventures], began on April 13, 2009 and follows many teenagers as they play a reality-altering video game that brings about the end of the world.

Fans tend to refer to themselves as 'Homestucks.'

Being a part of the fandom has drawn me to join Tumblr, as the creator, Andrew Hussie, updates sporadically there, as well as the creator of one of my other favorite webcomics, Kagerou. But what really sealed the deal for me was that Tumblr is where the creator of Kagerou writes fan-fiction of Homestuck. Called Brainbent, it really deserves a post of its own, but I'm trying to contain my fandom. Brainbent explores the adventures of the Homestuck characters if they all lived in the same place and that place was inpatient psychiatric care. The story is well-written and entertaining in its own right, but the strength of it lies in that using familiar characters and only going slightly farther in their original Homestuck characterizations contributes to an intensely non-threatening space for people to read about and ask questions about mental illness. Because the moderators reply and repost a lot of what fans contribute, I can't even count the number of people who have openly expressed that Brainbent inspired them to take more action in their own mental health.

I've seen fanfiction derided for lazy world-building or character development quite a bit, and it's often true. But in the good ones, using a pre-existing work largely just provides context. Fanfiction lets you use people or places or both that are already familiar to you and many of your readers. It also means readers have a head-place they're already familiar with, already comfortable with, when you want to address something specific or difficult. Brainbent tackles mental illness using the familiar context of Homestuck, Wide Sargasso Sea tackles colonialism and assimilation in the context of Jane Eyre, and a short story we ran in Theory Train in Issue 2, called "Seasonal Affective Disorder," touched on Stockholm Syndrome in the context of Greek myth.

Sometimes, though, it's not high-minded and thought-provoking. Sometimes fanfiction is fun, further exploring a universe you love. The one I'm working on with my friend Tristan, Here Be Dragonflies, is more in that vein.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Kobo Vox

When my boss said he'd arrange for me to spend some time with a Kobo Vox at our staff Christmas party, I thought he was going to borrow his girlfriend's.

He didn't.

He gave me one.

It's pink.

I made noises of enthusiasm that I'm reasonably certain my coworkers had not previously produced by a human.

The Kobo Vox is a backlit ereader with wifi accessibility. This means that, whenever I am in range of a wifi network (school, home, Starbucks, the library), I can download as many books as I like directly to my ereader. It also means that I can check my email, browse the web, and watch Youtube videos, if I like. One of the highlights so far is that it lets me read Google Docs easily, so I can read my friend's novel-in-progress on the bus to work.

Having not had a cell phone in three years, I was a little concerned that a touch-screen, and especially a touch-screen keyboard, would frustrate me beyond all rationality. But the keyboard has proven well-spaced, so I mis-type only about as often as I do on a physical keyboard.

The automatic bookmarking is a nice feature, as well. I find I'm curling up more frequently and more easily with my ereader than with a book or my laptop, and it's fantastic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Google Plus

So I finally succumbed to Blogger's promptings and integrated this site with my Google Plus profile. It doesn't appear to have changed anything on the front end, which is great. I guess this means I can delete the Google Plus link from the list of links for other places to find me, with this integrated.

There's something to be said for a unified web presence, and people being able to track you across multiple media. It introduces people who may know you from one area - a comic or group blog, for example - to other things you're good at, like prose writing or editing or whatever else you do.

I know I treat this very much as a hub site: every social networking site I'm on links here, even if I don't link to all of them in my sidebar (because, really, if you're coming here to find out about my editing rates, you don't particularly need to find my OKCupid dating profile, do you?), and that works well for me. I get frustrated when I find authors who have an author site, and a Tumblr, and a Twitter, and no mention is made on any of them that the others even exist, or if mention is made it's buried somewhere in the archive never to be seen again. So all of the projects I work on that are ready for public consumption are linked here for everyone's convenience.

The biggest downside to the integration with the rest of Google's services is a fairly new thing to the rest, too: the interface is now very white, and I don't like the aesthetics of the navigation.

Biggest positive might be that I no longer have to update as many places with a new profile picture whenever I get a haircut.

Next week I'll be talking about the Kobo Vox, as I get to play with one at my office Christmas party tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Island Writer Launch

Island Writer is now available for free download here:

The launch went very well. We had a lovely evening of readings from our contributors. One of the interesting things that came out with the readings that wasn't as apparent when we were putting together the magazines was how dark a lot of the stories were: we'd joked at our editing meetings about a common thread of police involvement and hard liquor, but it was quite prominent hearing them aloud that a lot of our contributors had really gone for the gritty side of life for this issue.

This also marked the first time Island Writer has gone digital, so I hope everyone takes advantage of it to read the fantastic stories and poems within.

Reading list
Judy Burgess - A is for Arthur
Lee-Anne Stack - The Bouquet
Daryl Baswick - Rainbow Park
Cathy Van Elslande - Gee Whiz
Laura - Tokyo Experience
Judith Castle - Doll
Derek Peach - a birthday poem that was not published
Ulrike Narwani - After The Opera on Humboldt St
Sheila Martindale - Under Police Escort

Friday, December 2, 2011

Oh. Right

So, I exist. Sort of. Mostly. I passed my class, and now just have licensing to face down before I can work as a paramedic in BC.

This means I get to rejoin the adventure of looking into what's new with publishing (while not working at the place that pays me or on Island Writer or Theory Train). Anne McCaffrey's death on November 22 was sad: I loved her book The Ship Who Sang. The Kindle Fire is deliciously pretty, and I am in lust for either it or the Next 7, since both perform as lightweight tablets as well as e-readers.

Amazon is looking like a better and better route for independent authors, as you are competing with the entirety of the market there. Smashwords has become what looks like much more of a niche where only the self-published live. Which is great for readers looking for indie writers, but there aren't enough of those yet. Feedbooks, where I published my novella and downloaded Wuthering Heights, is now showing me mostly porn (word deliberately chosen over erotica) under the 'New and Popular' tab. That's disappointing, as they encouraged Creative Commons licensing, where Smashwords won't accept it at all, or wouldn't last I checked.

Regular updates will, I hope, resume this Wednesday with a write-up of the launch of the latest issue of Island Writer.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Protect Your Internet

I am taking time from bitching about and practicing spinal rolls for my EMR class to post about how much SOPA sucks. has more information. BoingBoing has more information. The Silicon Alley Insider had a very well put together article for those of you for whom BoingBoing gets a bit technical.

Go forth. Read. Protest.

I'm going to email my former Congressperson and Senator and then study spinal rolls some more.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I just realized I forgot to update today. That's probably going to be a recurring theme for the next few weeks: we're just putting this issue of Island Writer to bed, with all the attendant organizing of the launch and making sure we get the number of copies we need. I'm also making my own Halloween costume - Batwoman - and I'm horribly behind on that.

Also, as of November 7, I'll be starting an Emergency Medical Responder class, which will be three weeks of what I'm informed will be lots and lots of studying. I'm already reading my textbooks to not get too far behind on that.

Oh, and I'll also still be working weekends.

And attempting the National Novel Writing Month challenge, because I'm apparently insane.

So I'm not going to be posting every Wednesday for the next while: hopefully I'll still be posting some, but I can't guarantee I'll even be at my computer until December 3 at the earliest, that being the day after the launch of Island Writer.

Hope to see you all at the launch!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different

I live in Canada, and do not understand local sympathy for the Occupy Wall Street/Occupy Everywhere/We Are The 99% movement. Canada has a shortage of workers (in the oil sands and mines, so they're cold and blue-collar and much less fun than protesting in sunny, gorgeous Victoria), and a dearth of corporate 'fat cats' controlling our economy.

If anyone can explain it to me in a manner that takes me from point A (American economic upset) to point B (global pro- . . . democracy, I think?) without undue rhetoric, I'd be much obliged.

In the meantime, I've been reading lots of comics. DC's relaunched universe, with The New 52, primarily, though also some of Fables. Fables is interesting, as it's award-winning, and has a somewhat-related TV series out this fall, Once Upon A Time. I find I like how much of the storytelling can be done through the purely visual part, and the many threads that can go on at the same time. There's not a heck of a lot of introspection, but it also happily lacks the sort of long descriptive paragraphs that drove me away from Tolkien, substituting gorgeous art.

Writing for comics is very different from writing prose. Warren Ellis and Neil Gaiman both manage both fantastically, though Neil Gaiman can apparently write for any medium he turns his hand to: the novelization of the mini-series he did for BBC, Neverwhere, evokes the same mood and imagery scene by scene. The audience walks away from both with the same feelings, which ought to be the aim of every translation between media (adaptations are tautologically different).

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Gay YA

There's another kerfuffle going on about gay teens in YA - see this for a good jumping-off place on the issue at hand.

It seems like something I hear perennially, but that may just be as someone who graduated from an extremely liberal high school in the past few years and went on to spend time with book-minded liberals and then on the West Coast.

There are gay teens in YA literature. In fact, there's a whole genre of coming-out literature.

Which is why we need more gay teens in mainstream YA. Coming-out fiction is generally awful and formulaic - like Horatio Alger's rags-to-riches stories that proliferated like rabbits in the 1860s. You only need to read one to have the whole genre down. You only need to read two to be a little bored of it. You only need to read three to sincerely believe that gay teens need to be better represented in other genres so that gay teens don't need to read this awful shit to find people whose orientation they can relate to, because at least minor romantic subplot interests most teens.

Coming-out literature is of limited use: most people only need to come out fewer than a handful of times. Fiction in which gay teens are out, and are doing interesting stuff to which being gay is fairly tangential and being awesome is primary? That's always going to be a interesting.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The 99%

I had a conversation with a friend the other day about how revolutionary stories are always a little disappointing to them, because the author builds a world and then starts destroying it immediately, and they like the world-building much better because anarchy is always the same.

And that's what I thought of when I saw Occupy Seattle featured on the Seattle news. It's a brethren-organization to Occupy Wall Street, which is kind of sort of affiliated with We Are The 99 Percent, a photo-journal of stories submitted by discontented people around the US.

There are protests being staged and organized in several cities across the US, some, like the one in New York, culminating in arrests. But the protests don't have clear demands. They are calling for the economy to be better, for the American Dream to deliver as promised or at least not to lie to them.

It's the kind of unrest that demonstrates how a world, a culture work. It's an illustration of unrest without tearing down the world and making everyone start from scratch.

At least at this point. It's getting too cold here in the Northern Hemisphere for properly enraged civil disobedience. We'll see where we are in the spring.

Thursday, September 29, 2011


An author I admire recently went on a rant on his blog about the way literature classes are taught and how in-depth analysis ruins reading, and the best way to write was to write without thought of theme or subtext - just to get the story out.

There's some merit to his points: over-analysis can make a lot of people tune out, and spending all day on one comma is an utterly ridiculous waste of time. But it's fun to insert layers of meaning deliberately. Writers can't help putting in a lot of their world view in their writing, which is part of what makes books like Lullabies For Little Criminals fascinating to read.

If a writer is used to reading analytically and approaches writing similarly, then they can insert the ideas they want into the piece, deciding themes and motifs actively as opposed to letting them rise naturally from the story if they arise at all. Neither technique is superior, but having the training in literary analysis necessary for it to be a deliberate process is not a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

By The Time You See This, It Will Be Out Of Date

But it's a fascinating speech, so you should read it anyway. Ben Hammersley spoke to the IAAC a couple weeks ago about, among other things, how we're becoming increasingly comfortable trading personal information for personal service.

I was going to post about that, but already had my blog for that week finished, and wanted to sleep rather than double-post and not have anything lined up for the next week. Which got me thinking about the length of time it takes to get a book from concept to reader.

Aside from the time it takes to actually write a book, it takes a while to produce. If it's a first book, there's finding a publisher and that whole process, but even if you have a publisher and a deal, there is the editing process, the design, the cover, any pre-launch marketing and the arranging of launches and signings, and the printing time itself. So even if a reader picks up a book as soon as it is available, there's still a lag time of, usually, several months.

This can lead to a bit of a disconnect. I find myself slightly confused when I pick up ostensibly modern mainstream fiction and characters aren't visibly using cell phones, or all their phones do is call people: and this is as someone who does not own a cell phone. That's just on the narrowest scale, though. The television show Combat Hospital is explicitly dated 2006, which gives the writers plenty of time to research what exactly is going on before trying to translate it to an audience, but also keeps the audience reminded that this is not supposed to be real-time, so there's no subconscious expectation of the things we see about the Middle East on the news to be reflected in developments on the show.

The second part of that is most relevant to what I'm trying to get at: in 2001, all the books that came out that fall that were set in New York had major discrepancies. It's a problem that authors will continue to face as the world insists on changing, and there aren't any really neat solutions. Dating everything gets tedious, and never lets the reader feel they're reading anything truly modern, and trying to push through faster publishing turnaround leads almost inevitably to more mistakes in production. Narrow scope works well, but leaves one with, well, narrowed scope. Jim Butcher's Dresden Files gets around rapidly evolving technology by having a main character who destroys technology by his mere presence, which leaves a narrative vaguely disconnected from the present. It works, as the world is full of magic and vampires and things that go bump in the night, but I think it says a lot about either technology and society or my particular technological addiction that the lack of cell phone stands out more than the rampaging werewolves.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

A Study of Scarlet

I recently found the 2010 BBC series Sherlock and was captivated. Mysteries! Explosions! Literary references!

Oh, right, I hadn't read the books. Should probably remedy that.

And that is how I found, which has all of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories, including year of release, for free.

Reading A Study In Scarlet was fascinating. I am accustomed, with classic works, to having to slip into a peculiar mindset where the odd paragraph breaks and turns of speech don't make me want to claw my own eyes out (when I do manage it, I tend to really enjoy them, but it took me three tries to get past the first chapter of Jane Eyre, and then I read it all in one fell swoop). But Sir Doyle wrote late enough in the nineteenth century that a lot of the literary customs that drive me up the wall had passed out of style, so there were no stylistic barriers between me and his fantastic storytelling.

The abrupt shift in the middle to telling a completely different story confused me at first, but amused me when reframed as the sepia-toned recreations common on crime-solving shows. His opinions of the geography of the central US aside, it was a fantastic read, and I am going to continue to enjoy the originals as I wait for season two of BBC's Sherlock.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Guest Post: Patrick Thunstrom

While I'm on vacation, my friend Patrick Thunstrom of A Digital Magician has generously provided a guest post.

Not content to focus on just the present, Patrick Thunstrom is always thinking about the past and dreaming of the future. He writes speculative fiction to examine ways to fix the problems he sees around him. When he's not lost in his dreams, he explores games with friends and family, occasionally turning his creative skills to game design.

You can follow him at his blog, or on Google+ and Twitter.

One of the most useful tools available to a writer is the writing group. They might be critique partners, dedicated beta readers, or just cheer leaders. The key point is the writing group is positive peer pressure to keep up your work.

As the world became more and more connected, writing groups have changed. Locally, I’ve had a lot of trouble finding a writing group whose goals and outlooks were similar enough to mine to be able to help me reach them. Thanks to the Internet, though, I’ve found a number of good groups that I’ve stuck with for a time and moved on when we were no longer compatible.

This evolution is great for writers, since these virtual writers groups aren’t bound by locality, they can take many different forms, and base their organization on other things.

Google+ has produced a new evolution in the concept of the ‘write in.’ Instead of meeting at a coffee shop or library, a group of writers can use the Hangouts feature to meet via video conference to chat and write.

I’ve been a participant in such a Hangout, led by Jason Sanford. The meeting is three days a week, and the writers interested log in to the Hangout and we chat for ten to twenty minutes, then it’s a collective writing session for the rest of the hour.

It’s a brilliant use of time, as it incorporates a natural task batching with breaks built in. The other thing about it, that really seems to drive everyone’s productivity, is that because it’s a video conference, you can see everyone working, and hear the sound of others keyboards flying.

In my experience, these chats have almost doubled my minute to minute productivity, which is absolutely wonderful for me!

I’d encourage everyone to try a Hangout write in sometime, whether it’s a NaNoWriMo, Camp NaNo, or just a bunch of like-minded writers doing their thing. I promise, you’ll enjoy it.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Practicality of Ebooks

Having recently moved house, I find myself again and even more enamored of ebooks. In whittling away my belongings (I swear, they self-propagate when I'm not looking), I got rid of a banker's box and more worth of books - and this had been over the course of two years where I was specifically trying not to collect books, after two recent purges (one to a bookstore, one to the free books shelf in our laundry room), and taking a big stack of them to my new place.

Some of the ones I kept I've read already, some I don't know if I ever will, but I held on to them because they were gifts or signed or both.

If they'd all been ebooks (there's nothing wrong with electronic signatures and dedications), it would have been much easier to keep them all. Just disconnect my ereader, move some files to the cloud if I'm running out of storage, and never delete anything I like ever again.

My mom has a rather impressive and oppressive collection of cookbooks, too. She's been slowly going through them and whittling them away, but likes to have them around for reference. Ebooks would be perfect: available to leaf through when uninspired and searchable when locating that half-remembered recipe. And then they wouldn't be littering every flat surface when I come over for dinner!

There's nothing quite as nice as delicately poring over a hardcover with color inserts from the 1930s, but for condo living or frequent moving, ebooks are the only practical way to go.

An additional note: next week, I'll be vacationing in Florida, so my friend Patrick Thunstrom has agreed to provide a guest post.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Thoughts on YA

YA is in some ways an easy genre, as there are some universal experiences and themes: Life is hard and no one understands and everything is so confusing.

I've recognized it as a truth in genre for a while, having watched friends dither about majors and colleges and coming out, but it's been coming home rather unpleasantly recently. It is deeply embarrassing to find oneself whining like a sitcom teen about how the world is so complicated, especially when one has been part of the working world for a few years.

But there's no dire pressure to grow up: I'm unattached and unfettered by debt or partner or children, so there's not much to do but dither. There's starting to be more fiction aimed particularly at my age group of aimless 20-somethings, things like Jeph Jacques Questionable Content, about us only in a more interesting world, things like the Machine of Death anthologies, people in general, but given at least one certainty: the method of their death.

Not new themes, but new vehicles and voices, which makes them a lot of fun.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Therapy Writing

It's a hugely extolled field, from what I've encountered, lauded as a way to recapture lost power and to work through issues. The general theory is that we lay bare our pain on page, purging ourselves of it.

Which is all very well for what it is, and can be helpful on a personal level. But then we encounter therapy writing pushed as literature: not necessarily because of the literary merit, but because it is 'raw' or 'honest.'

Therapy writing doesn't necessarily make for good literature, which is a point often overlooked. This is our rawest self, so of course it should be wonderful. Because we are so attached, it can be difficult to get the perspective necessary for editing, which means the end product will often be less than sparkling. No amount of emotional honesty makes up for dull writing, when it's being presented to an audience expected to read out of enjoyment (which is everyone).

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Factors in World-Building

I grew up in the Cariboo, a region of central British Columbia whose economy centers around forestry, ranching, and tourism. These are important things to know about the Cariboo, as they shape life there. As a member of the community there, I planted trees, owned cowboy boots with real cow-shit on them, and was in the Billy Barker Days parade more years than I wasn't (and, going to their site to link it here, saw that my kindergarten teacher won first prize).

With my mom involved in several facets of the community and my dad involved in cycling, the dog sled races, the local paper, and the local news station while he was there, I grew up enmeshed in a small town, even though Quesnel has all of thirty thousand people.

For me, this led to several important facts, in no particular order:

-I have ridden a draft horse.
-I have been outside in -52 degrees Celsius
-I never want to be outside in -52 degrees Celsius ever again
-I can name five types of salmon off the top of my head
-I pay attention, in stories, to how sensibly a city is brought about.

This is especially important in speculative fiction and fantasy, where the worlds are more likely to be completely separate from our own, but also in literary or mainstream fiction. If your city is in the middle of a desert, with no obvious water supply, it will ruin the whole story for me. If your small town is surrounded by impassable mountains and no one could get in until a tunnel was blasted through and there is no apparent wealth (mineral or vegetable or animal) there, why does anyone live there in the first place?

Similarly, how does the town run? In large cities, this can be mostly excused, as they find ways to perpetuate long after the original reason is gone. In small towns, though, where a single industry can be the beating heart of the town, what is the industry? Does it have one? Having also spent time in the Midwest, I'll accept farming as an answer, now, though grudgingly.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Finding one's voice is made much of all over. We want our writing to speak from us as people, but us made sparkling and witty and insightful, with a thin veneer of fiction if that's what we write. Some writers I know retreat to cabins at the beach to be isolated and more easily themselves, some take Hemingway's approach and drink, some outline from their dreams as closest to their concepts and isolate themselves with orchestras to hammer them into shape.

For me, it's in large part a matter of balancing the things I want to say with the way I want to portray my characters, as I largely write fiction. I try to consider the ways in which their thinking would differ from mine.

Most of my characters, for example, do not read quite as much non-fiction as I do, or at least not for fun, so they don't have the wide general knowledge I do. Or they don't value reading at all. But a voice that disdains reading isn't quite the voice I want to write with, thus the careful balance.

I've mentioned other points of consideration before, relating to gender and the construction of a character's world. But having writing sound like mine is another point, and one that changes as I do and becomes more or less important in certain kinds of writing.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Write 1 Sub 1

I didn't get the dictionary. I was too torn on whether I really needed more books, and then it was gone.

The possibility of missed opportunity seems to be a huge motivator for people in general, but most observably for me in writers. Despite accepting submissions year round, the three days before the deadline on both of the magazines I work on have more volume of submissions than any three weeks the rest of the year.

Such violent fear is easily circumvented by planning, but it's easier to plan the writing than what comes after. That's why Write 1 Sub 1 seemed like such a fantastic thing when I heard about it in January. Deadlines for magazines are less of an issue when you have personal deadlines at much more frequent intervals.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stone-Blind -- Zymurgy

In the laundry room downstairs, calling my name, is the "New Century Dictionary." Considering it's leather-bound and the book on top of it was printed in 1929, I'm thinking the 21st is not the new century to which it refers. The title of this post is what Volume Three covers. It caught my eye because it looked at first glance like one long hyphenated word, and because I'd never heard of zymurgy (fermentation, apparently).

The idea of dictionaries has interested me recently, as the new Vice President of VWS, Michael McGovern, has an impressive collection of them. Every kind imaginable, and several languages. A hundred slightly different definitions, a thousand slightly different ideas of the central vocabulary of English.

As writers, we live immersed in language. But we also live in the particular connotations associated with our word choice. I talked about gendered language last month, and all of its attendant problems, but all word choice requires careful consideration, as the language evolves constantly.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Changing Fields

I had someone write to me the other day that they find my interest in literature rare.

It surprised me, as I live surrounded by people with literary bents, and I see numbers on a regular basis about ebooks an selfpublished books as they take off. I think interest in literature in a general way is stronger than ever, but it is less of a central culture; genre fiction is immensely popular, and indie authors tend to find more success in physically local markets.

With Oprah retired, we have no central figure telling us what to like; the New York Times bestseller list shows what people already like an buy, not what they might like in the future. This is where the proliferation of all manner of small decentralized communities comes in: if you like steampunk, you can find communities that discuss it, that can recommend and review and dissect various authors and novels in the genre.

Interest in literature has just become more specialized, more genre-based, as genres and our ability to expose ourselves to only what we want expands. It's an interesting direction for an ever-changing industry.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Copyright Tango

Copyright is still a subject I'm trying to figure out.

Not the legal side of it: that's what entertainment lawyers are for, and they can explain it to the rest of us when it's relevant.

It's how I want to use it, how it's applicable to me in particular, that I have to figure out. Creative Commons licensing is more appealing on a number of levels than traditional copyright. Creative Commons licensing is more accepting of educators using the material, explicitly allows for fan-created work, and all together embodies more of the tech-edged forward-thinking social movement that I'd like to target as readers.

On the other hand, if readers are free to redistribute digital copies wherever and however they like, I'm not always going to be getting paid.

Cory Doctorow makes his novels available online in any format a fan will translate it into, and lets his publishers just handle the print versions. This is fantastic, and I've taken advantage of it more than once.

But I think digital editions are a very future-friendly option: no dead trees (stone paper and elephant-poop paper still being too pricey to practically print books on), cheaper production costs, and easy transportation to any corner of the globe with internet access. I think that, while they will never replace print editions completely, digital editions may easily become the primary distribution method. If they do, I'm not sure I want to be giving my primary distribution method available for free.

Digital editions still have associated production costs in terms of the writer's time, the editor's time, the layout person's time, and the cover artist's time.

Machine of Death has made PDF available for free, but not any other digital edition. That was initially jarring, but seems to make sense upon examination of other factors. PDF is almost universally readable, even if it is awkward at times. Like the public library, it is available to everyone but not as convenient as buying. That seems to make sense.

But that raises the issue with the more arcane editions that fans might format it into: is the writer entitled to make money from the efforts of fans? And if not, isn't that just a lot of incentive to download the arcane edition and retranslate it into whatever format is most convenient for you?

A lot of Creative Commons licensing relies on the idea that fans who support an edition won't do that, and I like the attitude of generally not treating fans like criminals.

But the licensing I'll use for my own work (not short stories or collaborations) is still something I have to think hard about.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Literary Magazines

Literary magazines exist everywhere, and they can be pretty easy to find. You just need to know where to look.

To start with what's dear to my heart, there are Island Writer and Theory Train.

But if you don't write speculative fiction or live on Vancouver Island or the Gulf Islands, it can be difficult to find a market. There are just so many to go through, and so many corners of the internet where they could be hiding.

Writers' Market is a fantastic resource, but it's expensive, and only updates once a year, at which point you have to buy a new one. Which is fine, in most cases, but errors accumulate over time, like magazines going under or changing their address, so you want to buy a new one every few years at least.

Another option for finding markets is, which is an online catalog of magazines and anthologies and whether they are currently accepting submissions. It's searchable, and usually current to within a day or two.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Author Interview: Adam Schreckenberger

Adam, in addition to being the technological heart of Theory Train, is an author in his own right. I interview him about his series, McCallister Chronicles.

Eileen Young: So, what's McCallister Chronicles about?
Adam P. Schreckenberger: Hmm, that’s a good question. Sometimes, I don’t even know the answer to that one myself. Upfront, it’s about a knight’s duty when it comes to his princess, but that seemed a little boring on its own. To some extent, it is about the endless insanity that lurks in my imagination and a mythology I created to pass the time. I can do whatever I want in those pages. I want a sword that talks? Fine. I want people that can wield fire? Fantastic! It also keeps my girlfriend happy, which carries a lot of benefits.
EY: Was she part of what inspired you to write it?
APS: Oh yes, she was. We had been thinking about writing a story together for a long time, but it just never worked out. One day, she really needed an upbeat, new tale. I sat down and wrote the five pages that became Episode 1. Like always, I posted it on my site for kicks. What I did not expect was the response.
EY: There was a lot of interest?
APS: That day still holds the record for most hits, and I got a few emails with messages asking if I was planning to write new chapters.
EY: Wow, that's impressive. And you've continued to release the chapters as free downloads. What was the thought behind that?
APS: Well, I am a physicist. Writing is my hobby, and that is how it is going to stay. It just has never felt right forcing my readers to purchase my works. Originally, it was motivated by the fact that most of my fans, if you want to call them that, were in high school and had no fixed income. In that sense, it became a simple choice. Either I’d charge for my stuff and no one would read the pieces, or I’d have them available free of charge. Old habits are hard to break.
EY: And now you have the first several episodes available in print. What made you decide to make it available that way, too?
APS: Some of my friends are diehard supporters of MC. When they asked me to make a printed copy available, I obliged. Plus, let’s face it. It is awesome to hold a physical copy of something you wrote. It certainly brings me some joy.
EY: It really is. So, you never considered publishing traditionally?
APS: Once upon a time, I did. I was in talks with a publishing house, but there were terms of the deal that I just did not like. For starters, everyone could kiss the free copies goodbye. They also wanted to put me on a timetable for the remainder of the series, which is not acceptable when one factors in my job. I guess it would be nice to have it released in the traditional sense. It would certainly make it more capable of receiving some recognition, but I am proud of what the book has accomplished.
EY: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
APS: I am grateful that I had the opportunity and the motivation to write MC. It brought me new friends, and pushed my old friends even closer. There is also something worth mentioning to those out there that are on the fence about writing a book or self-publishing. Just do it. Whether you put it on a blog, dA or some website, getting your work out there is worth the effort. We are all extremely fortunate to live in a time when these tools are available to us. Do not let them go unused.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


In an interesting collusion of events, I read an article about real-life makers the same morning I decided to spend most of the day reading Makers by Cory Doctorow.

They both touch on the proliferation of customized technology put out by people who see the need and think the meeting of it is fun; individuals with support networks they can consult, small teams of people with varied skillsets. They're not big businesses. They're representative of the social movement that has catapulted the term for a new company from 'start up' to 'start-up' to 'startup' in our cultural vocabulary. To quote from Makers, this is what the dotcom boom laid the foundation for.

Makers fill a need with their products, or at least an interest. Unlike L'Oreal, which makes everything from Lancome to Maybelline, makers make something unique, which means that anything else that comes along is real competition. There's more drive to be better when the business is more personal.

The same thing's been happening with publishing. Borders is bankrupt because it was not a model for the current and coming era. Author services like are growing faster than publishers, because authors are realizing that they can have an active role in the publishing of their book, they just may lack some of the applicable skills.

Traditional publishers have acted as gatekeepers, as arbiters of taste, but now we can find book reviewers online who review independent and self-published books, and we can find ones who share our taste in reading material. The market acts as a surer arbiter of taste than any book editor can; there's just not enough time in the world to read all of the new material coming out. But books are the ultimate niche market: all unique, all intended to appeal on different levels to different people. Making more of the good stuff available is good for everyone.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gendered Language is like 'Black' Only Worse

"Am I speaking to the lady of the house?"
"Well, I'm not a man, and I live here."

The above conversation is one I overheard my mother having. Being a former hippie, she's part of a movement that understood 'lady' as a trivializing term, whereas I understand it as a respectful term in most contexts.

But what does your reader understand it as? Your main character? Are they the same or different?

Worse, if you're writing for anyone under 30, what do you do for those characters for whom a gendered pronoun is not appropriate? "That person," "they," and [name] can be hard to navigate for the length of a thousand-word short story, ignoring completely the challenge of novels. First person can be a way around dealing with it in narrative, but what about how characters react to them? Does the entire cast have the same biases about a character of non-obvious gender, and if so, is that on purpose?

Even if you're keeping to gendered characters, there's the question of terminology to reference significant others; "partner" is en vogue, but with some subcultures it connotes a same-sex partner, while with others it connotes someone with whom the relationship is too serious for them to feel comfortable using "boyfriend" or "girlfriend," but which is not headed for marriage.

Gendered language is a similar minefield to that of finding politically correct skin-colour/ethnicity terms. It's worse, though, in that melanin content can be described as "Oh, you have a high melanin content." That makes for awkward phrasing, but it's possible without turning too many verbal backflips. Gendered language, though, can be broken down by people who subscribe to a gender binary, people who consider it a spectrum, and people who present socially as one thing but consider themselves another (drag queens are one example of that in play).

It's going to be impossible to please everyone. But in writing, it's a good thing to consider as part of who you're representing in your fiction and who you're speaking to.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Open Mics

Tonight I was supposed to go to the Victoria Writers' Society open mic night, but I was too exhausted to go.

Open mic nights are fun, especially if you get to read, but they're also emotionally draining: exposing your creative side is pointless if emotions aren't involved.

I'm going to cut my incoherence short and go watch Bones.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Full Fathom Five

Full Fathom Five is James Frey's latest project. We all remember Frey, right? The notorious author of the 'memoir' A Million Little Pieces, he's now using his notoriety - er, sorry, industry contacts - to get young and bright-eyed MFAs published, with aims at movie deals for all of them.

Sounds great, right?

Except that said MFAs don't get to claim credit for it. Their names appear nowhere on the published book. The recent movie I Am Number Four was put out by Full Fathom Five, and the author has sued for the right to claim in public that he wrote the original novel. He's now allowed to talk about it, but his name still doesn't appear on the book.

It's an interesting concept, a think tank for coming out with cool young adult novels, surrounded by other people trying to do the same thing, with someone acting as literary agent for the whole group. Even the idea of branding as a think tank more than as a collection of individual writers is kind of fun, in concept.

Where Full Fathom Five falls off into creepy and exploitative is that James Frey is modeling it after Damien Hirst's art factory - it's all to be rewritten to his orders, and bear his stamp more than that of the writer, or even of the collective, for low wages and no recognition. The contract is a nightmare.

Which is why, despite pretty people and sparkly special effects in the previews, I will not be seeing I Am Number Four, or any future project from Full Fathom Five that makes theatres.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Akrasia, and the necessity thereof

Akrasia, as defined over at Wikipedia, is "the state of acting against one's better judgement."

For example, venti creme brulee lattes with whipped cream are bad for me. They contain dairy, which I react badly to, caffeine, which renders me strung out, and whipped cream, which renders me fat. Also sprinkles, sometimes. I know, logically, that they are bad for me and that I should not drink them. But they're also delicious.

And sometimes delicious wins. That's akrasia.

As an aspiring rationalist, I want to avoid akrasia as much as possible (that's why I have tea in front of me - that and holiday beverages being over of the year).

Since I like to have characters that represent a fair spread of humanity, there are some characters who are aspiring rationalists, too. They fall victim to akrasia infrequently, since they're specifically looking to avoid it, but they still do, since they're still aspiring rationalists. And, in my stories, they end up in extreme situations where their best interests might not always be clear, making akrasia nearly inescapable.

For non-rationalist characters, akrasia is much more frequent. They do things like go off on adventures to save the world, when staying where they are and filing a complaint with their local representative or calling the police would be more practical and be the more logical decision, as there are agencies which are more effective than they are as an individual and present lower risk to life and limb.

It's important to separate akrasia from the character judging outcomes using only the information they have, as opposed to information the author has. If the character has let their dog outside and hears a scratching at the door that sounds just like their dog, but the author has shown that it's a ravenous wolf scratching at the door, the character is acting in their best interest as far as they know when they let the wolf in. To a reader, it's achingly stupid, but the character is using the information they have available. To present the same character in a situation that really would involve akrasia, install a window next to the door. The character has heard stories on the news of wolf sightings in town. It's dark out, and the shape is canine, but distinctly not that of his dog. He wants it to be his dog, since otherwise it means something has happened to make his dog not send up an alarm. Does he keep the door closed and call animal control, or let hope rule and let in the wolf?

Take out the possibility of akrasia, and you as a writer remove a great deal of suspense from your writing. The three main conflicts are man against nature, man against man, and man against himself. A rationalist who acts always towards what is best for themselves removes the third conflict. An aspiring rationalist, however, may simply elucidate that conflict more than many.

In fiction, akrasia serves a purpose, and can be good. It adds conflict, and makes characters more relatable to we flawed mortals who don't choose rationally at all junctures. If the main character of Alexander behaved in a rational way, I'd never have made it past Chapter One with that particular story. This post is a result of more ruminating on the differences between good fiction and good life.

This post is also up at my group writing blog, Lunatic Writers.

And now, blog post complete, I shall go and drink something with sprinkles.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Writing Software

Another frequent topic of debate is the technology used to write. Most frequently I see pen and paper vs computer, but not nearly enough do I see comparisons of the writing software available.

Microsoft Word and Notepad are the most obvious tools, since they come bundled with a Windows package on almost any PC you can buy commercially. But if you've had to wipe your hard drive and have lost your discs or are more interested in freeware in general, there's OpenOffice. It has a lot of the same features as Word, except it can save in more formats. The default format isn't Word, and Track Changes is hard to translate to another machine that doesn't run OpenOffice, but it's free, not particularly buggy, and has lots of online support. Probably not best for absolute computer beginners, but if you can google "how do I ___ in OpenOffice" and aren't particularly set in your ways with Word, it's a nice way to go. And if you feel bad about using freeware, you can just donate: a substantial donation at can still be cheaper than Word.

But what if you're frequently switching between machines, and can't keep track of a flash drive to save your life? What if you're collaborating on a project with six people and can't keep track of the latest version? What if, like me, you don't want your hard work tied to your hardware? Then there's Google Docs. Available anywhere there's internet, they have a few fewer formatting capabilities than some software, but are free and perfect for collaboration. There's a bit of a learning curve for using it, but it's been well worth it for me.

Then there are the writing-specific softwares, like Dramatica and StoryWeaver. The only one of these that I've tried is yWriter5 (which everyone will be shocked to find is freeware). I found it interesting, the way it encourages planning and structure and pre-writing, but didn't find that it gave me any appreciable advantage that couldn't be filled by a spreadsheet. For people with large, sprawling worlds and huge casts of characters, it might provide more of an advantage.

Like every other aspect of writing, it's a matter of finding those tools that work for you.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Island Writer Launch

Volume 9 Issue 1 of Island Writer launched tonight. It was my first issue as Editor In Chief.

There were a few minor crises, of course: un-synched lists meant that there were three people I wasn't sure were reading until tonight, the final cover with the price on it wasn't the one that went to print, Claudia de Veaux and her poem Waiting didn't make it into the table of contents, and the 2010 contest honorable mentions were forgotten from my list altogether (sorry!).

But it was a fantastic launch: the readers were funny and moving by turns, the magazine was there, with enough for everyone who attended. Marianne Altos from the City Council came by and said very nice things. The magazine looked great! There was punch and cookies and fruit and cheese!

And I'm utterly exhausted. This is the result of six months hard work on the part of myself and Kim Nayyer, the Creative Non Fiction Editor; Sheila Martindale, the Poetry Editor; Catherine George, the Fiction Editor; and Simeon Goa, the Art Director. And then a week of living on nerves making sure the details for the launch were finalized. I'm utterly elated that it went this well, and I'm crawling into bed as soon as I type this last period.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Why are your aliens wearing Prada?

Writing science fiction opens up a plethora of fascinating aspects to explore: "physics"-enabled magic, cool weapons, thought experiments on everything from economics and ethics to the viability of a nitrogen-based lifeform. It can be what-ifs for how we would deal with disaster if it struck in the next week to far-future scenarios on Earth or Earth-parallels or on spaceships dealing with revolution or alien encounters or just internal politics or relationships against this new background.

That last part is key: no matter how futuristic and strange the world, there are characters acting on that stage. And, unless those characters are all time-travelers, they come from a society shaped by the technology available in the story.

That's what baffles me most in some sci-fi stories I read: the world changes, but the social mores don't: in fact, they're about mid-90s and a little conservative, with no obvious in-world reason they'd be that way. Technology alters culture. Look at what the printing press and the industrial revolution and the Internet have done to society. It's the industrial 'revolution' for a reason.

How human beings react to new situations is the point of all fiction. More so in speculative fiction, where inherent social conditioning can be more easily examined by removing or changing the conditioning the characters have. If their conditioning is the same as that of an average modern person, it's removing an entire dimension from the story.

Of course, one doesn't want to completely remove those elements of a character which make them relatable. But everyone needs air, food, shelter, companionship no matter their environment nor their relationship with it. How they approach their search for their basic needs (are they employed? living in luxury in a post-scarcity economy like someone from Heinlein or Doctorow or Stross? do they get their social interaction in person? for pay? online?) illustrates a world as well or better than all the ray guns you can fit in the prop room.

So when an otherwise promising story has characters who might as well have grown up in the 90s in North America, I'm disappointed: we can all do better.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Networking 2.0

It's no secret that most business decisions have always happened in old boys' clubs, over drinks or golf or both. But now we do a lot of our socializing online. How many startups have been born from interest-based communities on the internet?

The same necessary camaraderie springs up just as easily from internet associations as from face to face ones for me, and for many people accustomed to socializing on the internet. Part of that is a paradigm shift from when I first started using computers, where I was explicitly warned by mentors that most of the people I met online would be predators and liars, and I'd never know who they really were or how old they were or where they lived, so I should never, ever give out personal information lest I be kidnapped.

This was before Facebook.

Now, while we don't bandy our mailing addresses about on public forums, those people I've met on writing forums I know as people, not Random Internet Strangers. We've talked story ideas, bemoaned the night shift, watched the hilarious faces one of our number makes when she has to take her cold medicine. And, when one or more of us has an idea, it's this network of like-minded individuals who come together and discuss it.

I've had a couple major ventures come out of my online networking; Theory Train and Lunatic Writers. They never would have come into existence if it weren't for my finding a group of like-minded friends on the internet.

As valuable as local groups and workshops are, it never hurts to be open to the possibilities inherent in new media.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rationalists Ruin Romance

One of the key ingredients, the glue that holds the genre together, is that tension between people in love before they admit it to each other. Forlornly wondering "but does (s)he love me?" is very nearly a staple of every romance novel I read, and that's if the character currently narrating even knows they're in love themselves.

Which is why rationalist main characters make for poor romance novels. In striving to behave rationally, it is imperative to assess one's own emotional state, which would eradicate those doubts about whether one is really in love oneself. From there, if one is indeed in love, that which would most increase happiness longterm is discovering that ones beloved is in love in return, so it only makes sense to ask.

If the answer is positive, the book is over by chapter five. If negative, then it's hardly a romance at all, and the sensible thing for the main character to do is to try to forget that they were ever in love. If the answer is uncertain flailing and ignorance on the beloved's part of their own feelings, then, well, ask again in a week.

There. Happily ever after approached and seized sensibly within a very short time span. But there's no catharsis in this, no sweeping moment of passion where all misunderstandings are forgotten. No encounter in the woods with Mr Darcy, because their engagement would have been announced shortly after Jane and Bingley's wedding, which in turn would have been only shortly after that of Charlotte Lucas and Mr Collins.

It is one of the more interesting disconnects between literature and life that the most desirable outcome for real people is the least engaging in the genre of romance novels.

This examination was inspired by the Twilight retelling Luminosity and its sequel Radiance by writer and rationality blogger Alicorn. The major departure in Luminosity is that Bella is a rationalist. As you might imagine, it changes the story significantly. One of the ways I've noticed (in hindshight: the two books are now over) is in genre: Meyer's novels are romance, with fantasy elements. The focus is on Edward and Bella's relationship, and when will they finally be fully together? In Alicorn's, while Edward and Bella are still totally and completely in love, it is a fantasy novel with strong relationships in it. The focus is on Bella and Edward's adventures in changing the world.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Peter Grant

Peter Grant grew up reading very different material than I did. He read the New Yorker, travel writers, creative non-fiction. I grew up reading sword and sorcery, the more escapist the better.
Thomas Wolfe said that creative non-fiction supplanted novels as the font of all wisdom about the world.

He doesn't differentiate deeply between journalism and creative non-fiction, holding creative non-fiction to a higher literary standard with the same core of fact. More widely, creative non-fiction needs to meet four criteria. It must be:
1. Must be based on real life.
2. Must be deeply researched.
3. "The scene" The context of events
4. Must be literary, have the style of literary prose.

The issues investigated in creative non-fiction provide the central motivation for the people, the characters. You let them emerge as you tell the stories of the people. It's about investigating a community, worming your way in to find the way the threads weave together.

In a way, that's what all literature aims for, though some genres focus on micro-communities (romance, and couples) and some try to tell the stories of entire worlds (high fantasy, like Tolkien or Carey).

Grant says that he's very aware of place in his writing, and place is almost always about people.

A considered speaker, he seems most comfortable relating stories already written down, stories about other people. Hearing him speak, it's easy to see how he's drawn out other people's stories to put on paper.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Stephanie Meyer is the first author I know of who let people know on a wide scale the sort of music that inspired her to write; I remember going up to the music section of Borders a couple of years ago and seeing a large central display with the Twilight covers plastered over it, advertising that the selection of Muse below was what had accompanied the writing of Twilight.

The role of music in writing comes up frequently on various of my writing forums, too: the validity of inspiration by music, stories written specifically to accompany certain songs (referred to as songfics), whether background music is distracting or beneficial, the genres of music best conducive to certain kinds of writing, theme songs for certain characters or stories and whether that extra dimensionality helps hold the characters in the writers head.

The answers to all those questions vary from writer to writer: some can only work in utter quiet, and consider using music to set a mood frivolous, others listen to classical to stimulate the creative portions of their brain, still others have a hard time writing unless they have a specific playlist whose lyrics exactly reflect the mood of the piece.

Like every other aspect of writing, there is no one true way, none that is inherently superior to others. As long as a good story is coming out of it, the tools and environment that foster it are little more than interesting side notes.

Music can definitely be a tool. Like lighting or temperature or having other people in the room, it can set the mood for writing. I know I would have trouble writing most parent-child affection moments to an accompaniment of death metal. With collaborations, I've found jointly putting together a soundtrack helps us gel the tone of the world: if we're both suggesting 90s punk, we have roughly the same idea of the tone, if one of us is suggesting disco and the other bluegrass, we obviously have more discussion to do to make sure we're on the same page for the story. I've found this focus on tone useful for my solo writing projects as well, though to a lesser degree, as, well, I'm the only one working on the world.

It's possible to take enjoyment of it as background and use for mood setting too far, of course: if you find that you're unable to write unless listening to a particular song, that's probably not conducive to better writing in general.

Beyond the writing end, music can be a good way to engage readers: the Twilight soundtracks were intensely popular, and people liked listening to them as they read the books. It creates a more immersive experience to have the ears engaged as well as the eyes, and can help the reader be more fully transported to the author's world.

It can also help the author engage the readers, as almost any peripheral to the story itself can: asking for music recommendations from readers creates a community atmosphere and can foster a feeling of being invested in the story. And who doesn't want readers who feel personally engaged?

If you're interested in what I listen to as I write this, you can find it here. I'm always happy to take recommendations.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Books As Personal Identifiers

What we read says a lot about who we are, or at least about who we want people to think we are. I read Wired and BBC Breaking News' Twitter feed and Silicon Valley Insider's Twitter feed (bit of a trend, there -- headline-surfing is much easier when everyone's limited to 140 characters) and romantic suspense and paranormal romance and science fiction and fantasy written by rationalists and webcomics. Those say a lot about who I am as a person - I like up-to-the-minute technology and thought, and I'm an old-fashioned romantic at heart.

Sometimes, though, I'll cave to boredom or a weakness for shiny advertising and pick up a book that's 'in' right now. The other night before a meeting in the Starbucks in Chapters, I was seduced by the New and Hot shelf near the door and looked at The Sentimentalists. A Giller Prize winner, it is also the product of small press: the initial print run was 800. It's a testament to the power of literary awards in Canada, to the fact that story still trumps all the gimmicks in the world, that I was able to find the Nova Scotia-printed small-press novel in Chapters in Victoria less than a year later.

The win for The Sentimentalists also says a lot about who we are collectively as readers. Introspective and focused on the past, it also tries to make sense of war and human relationships: current, universal issues more easily approached through veils of fiction and historical context. It says that we as readers want to know more about how everything works in our own psyches.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Becoming More Awesome Through Reading

Today on my way home I stopped in Chapters. I browsed the new and hot, the three for thirty dollars. Considered buying Cormac McCarthy, as he's considered a great writer and I want to read great writers to see what works for them so I can apply similar strategies in my own work, but decided against it as these reads are for my commute and I want to be absolutely sure of enjoying my read as well as being improved by it.

So I wandered upstairs to the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, and looked at the slim pickings of Cory Doctorow's published books before picking up a Jacqueline Carey I haven't read. But as part of my attempts to better myself, I stopped in the non-fiction section downstairs. Did you know that the section on sex is right next to the section on psychology? I found that out today, and also that anything remotely educational about sex is well-hidden by the Cosmo Truth Or Dare games. So I picked up a book on decision theory.

Decision theory features largely in my plans for world domina- self-improvement. Yes. By making better decisions and being aware of the mechanics of my own decision-making, I can improve my life: get healthier, manage time better, reach my goals better.

So I'm quite excited about my new book purchases.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You May Have Noticed . . .

. . . the appearance of an ad box on my blog a few weeks ago. I'm currently running Google AdSense. In a few months, I plan to switch to Project Wonderful. I'm going to be collecting data on how much using either would earn for me, and how well I like the ads that are displayed.

These two are the only ad services other than Facebook Ads that I'm familiar with. I'd be open to suggestions on other services to try, and would welcome them. AdSense and Project Wonderful run differently enough that I'd be interested to see whether other services emulated one or the other or innovated something else entirely.

Ads on a website or blog are excellent tools for any independent author, editor, or assorted indie-publishing related person to earn at least minimal returns whether or not they are making sales.

In an ideal world, of course, we'd all be millionaires from our book sales. In the meantime, smoothing out the times between royalty checks and payment threshholds from author services websites is something we can all appreciate.

I installed AdSense first because it's so conveniently integrated into the Blogger platform. From my end, the tabs to post and monitor settings are right next to the tab governing the AdSense interface with Blogger. They won't pay me until I've earned a hundred bucks, though, which is something Project Wonderful has on them: Project Wonderful will pay up if you've earned at least ten. Another thing I like about Project Wonderful is that I know people who advertise through it: writers I know, comics I read, games I play.

Which is another reason I installed AdSense first: unless Project Wonderful earns me exponentially less than AdSense, I will probably stick with it when I install it.

I can't run them concurrently because of AdSense's terms and conditions, sadly.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keitai Shousetsu

The word literally means 'cell phone novel,' and it's a particularly Japanese phenomenon that's spread west slower than the Japanese trends Gwen Stefani espouses.

The first one on record came from Tokyo in 2003, but probably the most notable early work was Koizora (Love Sky), published in 2005. A semi-autobiographical romance, it spawned a film, a television drama, and a manga series, as well as being picked up by a traditional publisher to be put out as a two-part paperback and earning a long article in that most prestigious of cultural bastions, The New Yorker.

Like most of its genre, Koizora was originally published to a website that aggregates them, posted from the author's cell phone, received by readers in SMS messages. Chapters were generally 70-100 words, to fit within character limits.

It was also free, as are most. Keitai Shousetsu are about sharing your story and getting it read - connecting with fans, which is one of the motivating factors behind Creative Commons. Using free media to connect to readers worked well for a lot of Japanese authors of cell phone novels: in 2007, 5 of the 10 bestselling novels in Japan started life as cell phone novels.

Part of the reason for the popularity of them is that the authors knew how to connect to their audience: their target readers are cell phone-savvy teenagers interested in upcoming trends and romance. There was also a shared culture of anonymity: most authors of Japanese cell phone novels go by handles and are never known by their real names.

The mobile culture in Japan and other parts of East Asia is one of the reasons cell phone novels have taken off there. In contrast, the highest-viewed cell phone novel in the US has had a mere 30000 views.

Part of the difference is that we're used to longer chunks in Western culture: fans of George R. R. Martin were utterly outraged when his latest novel was delayed. Some of the serial stories I read publish only in several-thousand-word chapters. Cell phone novels or Twitter novels require a shift in thinking, a willingness to let things unfold at precisely the author's pace.

But RSS feeds for continuing stories and places like Wattpad are making serial fiction more viable in the Western world, or at least to Western writers: polylingual East Asian readers are still a huge portion of the audience on Wattpad.

The literary and cultural scene continues to evolve rapidly, making this an exciting time to be in writing and publishing.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Sex Scenes with EC Sheedy

"The two most powerful words in our vocabulary are love and hate. The most loaded word is sex."

Tonight Edna "E.C." Sheedy spoke to the Victoria Writers' Society about 'the warmer side of romance.' An author of romantic suspense, Edna had sharp and funny insights to share about the adventure of writing sex scenes.

One of the first things Edna addressed was the difference between sex scenes and love scenes: many writers in her genre prefer to call them love scenes, as they're stops on the path to two people falling in love. Sex scenes can happen in any kind of writing, and the Victoria Writers society has creative non-fiction and short fiction and novel and speculative fiction writers amongst it, who might not necessarily be writing about love when they write sex.

Audience is one of the primary things to keep in mind when writing a sex scene. Harlequin publishes 30 different lines a month, each appealing to a slightly different demographic, so "it's worth knowing that even with the diehard romance fans . . . warm, warmer, and warmest are always still in play."

In fabulous fashion, Edna broke down an approach to writing romance into simple steps. First, the rules:
Rule 1 - You never. ever, ever have to write a sex scene.
Rule 2 - If you do write a sex scene, never ever ever go beyond your personal level of comfort. It'll be hard to write, and awkward, and it'll be awkward to your readers.
Rule 3 - It is a far better thing you do not to write a love scene than to write an egregiously bad one.
She talked about Rowan Somerville's adventures after getting the award for 'worst sex scene in fiction,' and read the offending line. It was quite, quite deserving of the award, though I was too busy horrifiedly picturing it to capture the quote accurately.

Then, if you do decide to write a sex scene, it's time to ask yourself some questions;
1. What do you want the scene to show the reader other than sex?

If a sex scene doesn't contribute to the book, moving the story ahead in some way, ask yourself if you really need to do it. Sex shows character. It's about as intimate as two people get. Sex can be a powerful plot device in almost any genre. This gives the sex scene, the love scene, a purpose.

2. What kind of sex scene does the tone of your book require?

"Tone sets up expectations, so if you jump from light and frothy to dark and dirty like a kangaroo on steroids, it's going to jar the reader."

3. What kind of sex scene fits your characters?

4. Have you strewn enough rose petals and have you thrown enough curves? Have you built enough sexual tension?

Sexual tension is the compelling force in fictional romantic relationships.

"What keeps your characters apart is more important than what brings them together."

The group had fun listing off pairs with great sexual tension - the iconic Mr Darcy and Elizabeth Bennett, Booth and Bones, even Edward and Bella.

Edna's tips:
1. Watch your words - language matters.
2. Watch your body parts - remember so far that no limb or appendage can be in two places at one time.
3. Use sensory writing. Avoid clinical description. Engage any and all of the five senses.
This is sometimes where comfort level comes into play.
4. Set the scene. Show enough detail so your reader is in that scene.
5. Choosing your point of view with some degree of care. Choose the character that has the most to get out of the love scene or the most to lose. Point of view is hard for a lot of writers; Nora Roberts, the queen of romance, slides rather sloppily from one character to another in the middle of a scene in some of her earlier works. Jacqueline Carey, on the other hand, has excellently consistent point of view throughout.
6. Don't forget the dialog.

Near the end of her talk, Edna mentioned something that's been coming up consistently for the last year and a bit in the circles I frequent: that publishers don't want to fix anything these days. You want your manuscript as perfect as possible before sending it in. She addressed this in part by taking classes in grammar.

Overall, a very informative talk, and hugely engaging. I need to go find some of her books, now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Snow Day!

It's the hardest snow we've had all winter here in Victoria. Catching the bus to my new job this morning wasn't any kind of fun. Yes, new job. Epublishing isn't paying all the bills yet, so I needed some kind of gainful employment, and have found it in one of the other fields that makes me extremely happy: bicycles.

Which leads me to today's mini-rant on why buying your child a bicycle from a department store or toy store means you don't love them.

Bike stores carry children's bicycles, and that's where it's a good idea to get them. First, because a bike store bicycle will be a real brand - the kind that has warranties. The kind that has people who ride bicycles as the ones designing and manufacturing them, which is important, as sometimes people who do not know bicycles will stick the fork (the front bit that holds the wheel) on backwards. That's dangerous, as it means that, if your kid hits a bump, they may come down hard enough on the shocks that are beneath their downtube and not out front where they should be hard enough to even momentarily stop steering from being possible. Second, bike store bikes are assembled by mechanics, not by you or by someone in the store who may or may not have even ever seen a bicycle before. And no matter how mechanically inclined you are, assembly by a professional helps. Third, your bike store bike will last longer - usually on to the next kid. Bike stores carry fewer sizes, but have the technical know-how to adjust the bikes to fit any kid, and to fit your kid as they grow. The bikes are also of high enough quality that they allow this kind of adjustment. Most bike stores also offer some kind of service deal, that you can bring in the bike once or twice and they'll fix it as an extension of you buying it there. That keeps your kid safer.

Bike stores also usually offer a wider range of awesome bright-coloured streamers to choose from.

So buy your kid a bike from a bike store. Yeah, it'll cost more. But that money goes towards buying a bike that will keep them safer and will last longer.

This rant brought to you by affection for children and economies of scale. Promised entry on Japanese literary culture still pending.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Bruce Batchelor at PEAVI

I went to Intrepid Theater tonight to listen to Bruce Batchelor speak to PEAVI - his "musings about books, publishing, and storytelling."

One of the points he kept bringing up is that we're in an era of massive, accelerating change in the publishing industry, but also that the publishing industry itself is relatively new. The first paper was around 150 CE, the first codex around 400 CE, movable type and the subsequent European rise in literacy not until 1650 CE (interestingly, Japan had about an 80% literacy rate in the early 1600s, significantly earlier than Europe. More on their consistently bounding ahead of us on literary matters in a subsequent post).

It's a tradition nearly as old as publishing houses themselves to fear the end of printed books and bookstores going bankrupt. Publishing houses have only been around since the 1800s, according to Bruce. Before that, it was the author as entrepreneur, which is a lot of what we're headed back to with the independent publishing options available today. Another interesting echo is the paperback vending machines available at train stations and the like in the 1930s, which smack of limited Espresso machines.

Technology continues to proliferate and an ever-accelerating rate, threatening to leave some of us out of our depth. The rule of thumb Bruce uses is to relate new technology to what would exist in a tribal situation, like the rise of audiobooks as compared to traditional minstrels and storytellers. It's an interesting comparison to think about, and an interesting approach to the complicated and amazing new world the publishing industry is becoming.

Friday, February 11, 2011

It's a Complicated New World

Having just read the Globe and Mail article bashing freelance editors, I felt the need to respond.

The publishing industry is changing, and I live in the Mecca of indie publishing. The idea of Editor as arbiter or taste is a limited one, a little old-fashioned. Editors exist to make written work better.

That can take a variety of forms, from structural editing to proofreading. And not just for what we typically think of - a novel going through traditional press, to be issued in dead tree format. Academic papers require people to look them over to make sure a coherent point is being made, proposals for books require proofing, limited runs of guidebooks for use by museum staff at a tiny museum need to be edited for clarity and flow. Then we get into the indies: people eschewing traditional publishing in favor of epublishing and print on demand and retaining control over the entire process of their book. They need editors, too, ones who will work with them to make sure they walk away, happily, with the best their book can be.

I like to think I help with that, as well as aiding in epublishing. Like most freelancers, I'm willing to provide samples: I will go over the first five pages of your manuscript for no charge, to see if we can work together.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Navigating The Ebook Jungle Now On Amazon

It took a little longer than expected, but Navigating The Ebook Jungle is now available on Amazon for download to your Kindle.

An interesting aspect of putting it up on Amazon is that, to keep the price point the same, I had to lower the royalties I receive to 35%. The lowest price at which you can receive their other royalty rate, 70%, is $2.99. Probably irrelevant for most people, as almost everyone will charge more for ebooks than the $1.99 Navigating The Ebook Jungle is priced at, but interesting from the technical aspect.

I'm already considering ways to expand on the book; with a lot more research on pricing.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Navigating The Ebook Jungle

So, this is where I usually put my writeup of the most recent Victoria Writers' Society general meeting, as it's the first Wednesday of the month.

And I get to do that tonight, but tonight it is more awesome than usual, as I was one of a panel of speakers on how to get your book out there, with Melody Poirier and Iryna Spica. Since I knew I wasn't going to be able to cover in depth everything about my area of expertise, I put together an ebook about it.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Visual Novel

A friend of mine recently introduced me to visual novels, a sort of hybrid video game and storytelling medium, in the form of the game Ever 17, a psychological horror visual novel.

When I first started describing the game I was playing to a friend of mine unfamiliar with the term 'visual novel,' he responded with, "Oh, like a dating sim but without the porn?"

Well, yes. But for those of us less fluent with teenage-male-oriented computer games from Japan than my teenage, male, frequently video- and computer-game playing friend, visual novels are more like a shiny, illustrated Choose Your Own Adventure novel.

Exploring the different options takes you through the story, with the things you look at and the people you interact with popping up in front of you in still frames that change every time you click over to the next line or instance. It's an interesting experience to play, and an interesting medium in which to tell a story and explore a world.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Bluff Detector Launch

Tonight I went to the launch of The Bluff Detector by W. Thomson Martin at the Solstice Cafe. It was lovely - Thom has a melodious voice with more than a hint of his Northern Irish accent, and started us off with the slyly whimsical tale of the first time he was accused of irreverence. The rest of the reading showcased the thoughtfulness and quiet joy in life that infuses a lot of the rest of the book.

A highlight of the reading for me, aside from picking up a copy and getting it signed, was speaking to his publisher, Bruce Batchelor of Agio Publishing House. Before Agio, Bruce headed up Trafford Publishing and helped launch print-on-demand printing as a viable route. He's going to be speaking to PEAVI in February.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Author Interview: Laura Bradford

I just finished an interview with Laura Bradford, author of the upcoming novel Flyday.

EY: What's Flyday about?
LB: It's set in the future, about a journalist who gets pulled into a murder investigation when his fiancee's brother is the accused. The journalist finds himself visited by a time traveler who brings new insight into the case, and things just take off from there.
EY: What inspired you to write it?
LB: Well, I've been writing since I was very young, but I decided to write a novel a few years back and this was the idea that took off. It mixes a lot of my interests--science fiction, music journalism, adventure stories, etc. The characters sort of captivated me, and I wanted to see where their story went.
EY: Is Flyday going to have a sequel?
LB: Yes, I have a whole series planned out. I'm editing the second book now.
EY: That's exciting! When do you think that will be coming out?
LB: Right now I'm not sure. It still has a long way to go, and I'm coming up on my last semester of school.
EY: Quite an accomplishment, to have managed to put Flyday out while going to school. What made you decide to self-publish?
LB: I sent queries to agents, and the answer was a unanimous "Interesting, but not for us." But when I showed it to people, they seemed to love it, and I had a lot of requests for copies to pass around--more requests than I could fill. Eventually I saw that e-publishing was taking off, and I decided that putting it out there was much better than letting it sit on my hard drive, especially once I started working on the rest of the series.
EY: Will you be making it available in print as well as electronic versions?
LB: Eventually, yes.
EY: What channels are you using to sell it as an ebook?
LB: I put it on Smashwords, and right now I'm waiting for it to go up on Amazon and Barnes & Noble.
EY: Is there anything else you'd like to say?
LB: Mainly that I hope people enjoy the novel. E-publishing has been a really interesting experience for me, and I'm glad to finally be getting the book out there. My blog is also if anyone wants updates about the project.
EY: Okay. Thank you for being my first interviewee for Authors' Refuge, and I wish you luck with Flyday!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The making of a book

I just finished a meeting with Michale Cnudde, the gentleman whose novel I've been editing. I'm done editing! I've handed the all-important flash drive over to him to approve changes before we start formatting. Then I format it for epublishing while Tristan Tinder does the cover and formats it for print through Island Blue.

It's fascinating and fun to be able to help put it together.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Writing in the new year

On December 4th, I published a collaborative novella that I'd done with my friend Mason on under a Creative Commons license. I had no expectations about readership: I thought it'd be really cool if we got a hundred downloads by the end of the year.

We got that in two days, and currently have 1392 downloads. It's very neat, to have that many people have read my - well, our, but this blog is all about me, so the pronoun stands - writing, and it's a fantastic impetus to write more.

Earlier this week, the Victoria Writers' Society had its Annual General Meeting, and managed to elect most of a new executive: I'm still in charge of the website, our wonderful treasurer Laura is still in charge of all the money, and Edeana is still managing all of our critique groups and the summer writing contest. The presidency is sadly vacant, though, leading to lists of candidates for us to approach.

Our new executive is a different landscape and tone than the last one, and will prove interesting to work with. The writing community in Victoria is a huge part of how I approach writing, and takes up a large portion of the time I can allot to writing. It's fun, and an adventure.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's a bright, shining new decade. In the past ten years we've had an economic collapse, Facebook, and the first lesbian kiss on TV. It'll be interesting to see what the next ten bring forth.

I rang in the new year with what I've been told is a distinctly Victoria tradition: the levee at City Hall.. It was one of at least seven going on New Year's Day, all of which were published in the paper several days ahead of time, some of which, like the one at Government House, are legendary. We got up what felt like ridiculously early after a night out before and wandered the two short blocks down to City Hall. Up the stairs in the Council Chambers, the city council was lined up in a reception line to shake everyone's hand. As the hour wore on, it started looking more like they were awaiting firing squad than new arrivals, but none of them deserted their posts.

Upon arrival, there was a very proper, and long, queue for coffee looping around the majority of the room. As I was there for the food and didn't want anything that would keep me awake once I got home and could nap, I got to sit and watch everyone else come in; the levee bus tour of city homeless that takes them around to each stop so they can stuff themselves (we were the first stop, which meant the arrival of food in addition to coffee lead to the immediate dissolution of any proper queue), the woman who lost the most recent City Council election, the Raging Grannies, each in their own eye-catching outfit (I spotted leather pants on one), but with the common thread of purple hats and signs pinned to their shirts demanding that the minimum wage be raised. One gentleman I think was unassociated with them came in and recruited them to sing a rousing rendition of "Hallelujah, I'm a Bum." Also among the attendees were Victoria's Poet Laureate, Linda Rogers, and her theremin-playing husband, and a young man in a leather jacket who sat in the middle of the floor and booted up his netbook to take advantage of City Hall's free public wifi until the photographer for the paper apparently made him uncomfortable with dozens of shots.

A short hour and a shrimp-and-lettuce wrap later, and the first levee of the year was over.