Tuesday 15 November 2016

"14" by Peter Clines

Peter Clines
Published 2012 by Permuted Press

After reading “The Fold” (review earlier in the root cellar of this blog), I became quite a fan of Peter Clines’ writing.  Peppy, fun, engaging.  I like his style.  I guess I’m unintentionally working backwards in his playlist, since “14” is one of his earlier books.

I enjoyed “14” for the first…70% (give or take) of the book.  Oddball characters in a quirky apartment building that only gets more quirky as the book progresses.  There’s a mysterious puzzle that keeps unfolding and unfolding, sweeping most of the tenants in the building in an effort to solve it.  As personalities mesh and teamwork bonds form, said characters become increasingly fun to read.

As with his other books, Clines continues to push the pop culture references right to the edge of tolerance.  (many modern writers go sailing right over that edge and into the digital or literal trash can)  Clines keeps the pop drivel corralled by only having the quotes and allusions come out of the mouths of characters that would be legitimately in that frame of mind.  And he has other major characters who need these references explained, which helps any reader keep moving along with the story.

I’m reading and having fun as each aspect of the mysterious building is peeled back.  But then I hit that 70% mark (give or take).  There is no way to proceed further in this review without inserting a…

•=•=•=•=•=•=•=•=•= SPOILER SPACE •=•=•=•=•=•=•=•=•=

…where was I?  “14” suddenly became “The Fold”.  Or, if I had read these in publishing order, “The Fold” would have become “14”.  I’m not saying the two books are copies of each other, but rather like two different road trips to the same city-destination.

I reeled back when the Heroes of “14” ran afoul of the exact same neo-Lovecraftian dimension with the same bug warriors and the same flying behemoth creatures.  It was with great effort I returned to reading.  The events fired along with vim and vigour, but I was no longer as engaged.  I dragged along a big load of “been there, done that.”  

Both “14” and “The Fold” are built on the same plot foundation.  A group of eccentric characters try to comprehend a machine that is not, as it turns out, possible for current human minds to comprehend.  A magic (nearly literally) machine that hurls the heroes into the (literally) same dimension of danger.

Did I enjoy “14”?  Yes, but not as much as I could have.  Will I read another Clines book?  That depends.  He’s already tricked me into reading the same book twice, sort of.  I don’t know if I want to read the “magical machine > alpha predator” story a third time.  

I’ve read authors who have churned out similar tales.  I think this instance upsets me because Clines went so specifically to his favourite dimension of danger again.  And pulled his totally unexplained “Men in Black” out of his ass, again.  There’s “similar” and then there’s a feeling of “copy & paste”.

In summation, I can heartily recommend “14” or “the Fold”, but not really both.

Wednesday 9 November 2016

New statistics just in...

Nothing about writing-creativity today.  I hate to break the theme of my blog, but this has my guts in knots.  Hopefully this will soothe me somewhat.

For much of my younger life, every Canadian I knew had a “dopey American” story.  Americans an hour away from the border being amazed at our facility with English.  Americans coming up in July looking for snow to play in.

As I grew up, I came to understand the entire world had “dopey American” stories.  (in some grimmer locales, “ugly American”).  American isolationist attitudes and the resulting geographical ignorance made their tourists the easy butts of jokes wherever they spent their tourist dollars.

BUT, for me anyway, under the mockery lay the unspoken subtext “this was a yokel minority”.  This was, for crying out loud, the country that organized the Moon Landing.  The home to many of my favourite authors.  Creators of much to admire in the arts and sciences.

A year or so ago, I should have spoken this unspoken subtext, because my claim “Americans are stupid” fetched me a strong rebuke for uttering such a sweeping bigoted remark.  I plead guilty to the charge and apologized.  

Well, after Election Night 2016, I retract my apology.  There are hard numbers to prove that the majority of Americans are racist, sexist, ignorant hammerheads.  This fact gives me no pleasure and I’m frankly worried for the intelligent minority.  

I’m worried for the world in general, come to that.

Friday 4 November 2016

Brand of soapbox...

I need a show of hands, here.

How many of you have lost all respect for me as an author and a human being because you're reading this on "Blogger" as opposed to "WordPress" or some other hosting method?

I'm really keen to know.

In the course of my wandering the web on questions related to blogging and generally reaching out to the World, I discovered a few pompous lists.  These lists rank blog sites, their ease of use and, to my gobsmacked incomprehension, how cool it is to use each of these hosting sites.  If these self-important arbiters of All Things Cool are to believed, the fact I've chosen this Blogger venue marks me as some level of sad punk.

I don't get it.

Certainly, a chap wants to put his best foot forward, but really?  When searching for an author spewing words of wisdom and wit, does it really matter what virtual coffee shop he's staked out?  When I find a blog or website of an author, or any creative type, that I admire, I'm only looking for what he's saying, not where he's standing when he says it.

If it were real life, would you run in disgust if he had a signing at bookstore B rather than bookstore A?  Would you recoil with a sneer if he was wearing an odd hat?

Well, I hope you all are made of sterner stuff and deeper values.  I've got better things to do with my day-to-day chores than worry about this stuff.

Thank you for your attention.

Tuesday 1 November 2016

Dying is Easy. Comedy is Hard.

I have this minute seen yet another posting in a writing group of "Write the saddest story you can in four words".  The number of words can be tweaked, but the instruction is always for "saddest"

"Dying is Easy. Comedy is Hard."   That maxim of acting and writing is the only explanation I can conjure for this repetitive challenge.  People are addicted to misery.

Well, I put it to you all:  write the funniest (or most uplifting) story you can in...(roll two dice) seven words.

Perhaps it should just be "as short as possible".  Over a sentence and you might as well finish it as a book.

I haven't actually given it any thought at all.  I only stomped over here to crack off this rebuttal-challenge.  Let's see if anything is possible...

Sunday 25 September 2016

Elevator Pitch

I came across an informative blog on creating an "elevator pitch" for one's book.  A logline, a tagline. To generally create a short and pithy description so one does not appear a total schmuck when the question is innocently posed "What's your book about?"

My attempt:

A woman stumbles through the dimensional bubble to stand on an alternate Earth facing her alternate twin self.  Together, these sisters born of different worlds gallop into a wild odyssey of adventures across a prairie full of perils in a desperate race to stop a war.


Spoiler outrage is a lie

“Stress and nervous tension are now serious social problems in all parts of the galaxy and it is in order that this situation should not be in any way exacerbated that the following facts will now be revealed in advanced: The planet in question, is, in fact, Magrathea. The deadly nuclear missile attack shortly to be launched by an ancient automatic defence system will merely result in the bruising of somebody’s upper arm, and the untimely creation and sudden demise of a bowl of petunias and an innocent sperm whale. In order that some sense of mystery should still be preserved no revelation will yet be made concerning whose upper arm has been bruised. This fact may safely be made the subject of suspense since it is of no significance whatsoever. “

and soon afterwards:

“It is, of course, more or less at this point that one of our heroes sustains a slight bruise to the upper arm. This should be emphasised because, as has already been revealed, they escape otherwise completely unharmed, and the deadly nuclear missiles do not eventually hit the ship. Our heroes’ safety is absolutely assured.”

Those quoted passages are courtesy of the legendary radio play, “HItchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.  When I first heard these satirical quips about preventing stress by results ahead of time, I was vastly amused.  Years later, I realize Adams is, essentially, reporting the stark truth.  

And it baffles me.

A major point of etiquette across the internet maintains that the most unforgivable breach of etiquette imaginable is for reviewers or discussions to reveal Spoilers.  That is such a lie.  It is my observation that the teeming masses crave having the plot laid out for them ahead of time.  They go into convulsions if they don’t know whodunnit ahead of time.

Evidence Exhibit #1:  Movie trailers routinely lay out the basic outline of the plot.  Not all, by any means, but too many reveal too much.  If it is a movie I’m definitely going to watch, I’ve taken to closing my eyes to avoid having the story ruined.  (I used to plug my ears with my fingers, but modern cinema audio volumes cannot be stopped with mere fingers).  And yet, official and anecdotal polls show most people insist on having the trailer preview the story for them.

Baffling and insane.

Evidence Exhibit #2:  Television once did this all the time.  “Scenes from tonight’s episode”, followed by a rapid montage of the show I was sitting down to watch.  Again, like with movie trailers, I learned to close my eyes or not bother to watch the episode.  They don’t do that any more.  I suspect the practice stopped only because they realized those few seconds spent on teaser scenes could be better employed with dancing rabbits selling toilet paper.

Evidence Exhibit #3:  The absurd practice of Time Jumbling.  The writing practice of putting events out of sequence.  To start the plot with events and commotion until the first pause in the narrative when we're told “13 hours earlier”, “Ten years ago…” or some time measurement.  The consumer is then pulled to this previous period.  It’s not a brief flashback of memory.  The main story now commences.

Television has an especially egregious track record in this.  We sit down to watch our favourite show  only to be bombarded with our hero dodging flame thrower blasts while trying to defuse a bomb.  And then…”earlier the same week…”  We have to watch the hero go blithely about his/her affairs, all the while knowing the sunshine and lollipops of their day will go into flaming ruin.

In TV’s case, I understand it is their fumble-witted attempt to hook the viewer to stay tuned thru the first of many repetitions of the dancing rabbits and toilet paper.  I’d have to see some convincing statistics to prove this annoying practice works, but I’ll give them a grudging pass for now.  I do imagine keeping the ADHD eyeballs of the world on this particular show is a nerve-racking task.

Books.  I cannot forgive authors who do this.  I cannot understand readers who lavish praise on the books written in Time Jumble.  Occasionally it is done in the television style, with a quick chapter of action to (hopefully) get the reader hooked and the proceed with the “dull stuff”.  Too often in my life I’ve read Time Jumbles that are substantial and not an action appetizer.  It is rather jarring to suddenly be thrust back into the protagonist’s past and stay there.  And it sucks the juice out of the entire book.  It becomes limp and nearly lifeless. Any attempt at suspense as we wander thru their past is gone.  Will he die in this teenage car crash??  No.  We were introduced to him as a middle-aged man.  Will he ever win the heart of his lifelong love??  Yes.  He and what I now realize is the woman in question were together in the future segment.  Will be indicted and imprisoned??  Maybe for awhile, but he wasn’t in jail, nor seemed a fugitive, in the future segment.

So, I maintain that readers don’t give a squeaky fart about the plot being spoiled.  They are only interested in how the writer painted a word portrait of characters or described the war-torn wasteland.  I can only assume the sequence of events leading up to these descriptions are a bottom priority in their literary enjoyment.

Me, I want those dazzling word descriptions and clever characterizations, but I want a strong plot to carry it all along.  Telling me straight away that nobody gets hurt except for a bruise on their arm is just stupid.

I await some kind of explanation.

Thursday 22 September 2016

Hobbit Day song

I just learned that September 22 is "Hobbit Day".

This composition erupted out of my fingertips.  

(To the tune of "Rockin' Robin") 

He hops in the Shire all day long,
Eating seven meals and singin’ his song.
All the mangy creatures on Middle Earth
Overlook the hobbits and can’t see their worth.

Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Oh, hoppin’ hobbit you really gonna quest tonight.

He don’t wear boots, doesn’t give them a chance,
Only bare feet let you really dance
He loves to party and bless my soul,
He’ll host an army in his hobbit hole.

Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Oh, hoppin’ hobbit you really gonna quest tonight.

Call for a dwarf and holler for a ranger,
Bad things are bringin’ a bucket of danger.
Whoop for a wizard, give an elf a shout
Pass the ring to the hobbit and let’s head out.

Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Hoppin’ hobbit (chew chew, chewedly chew)
Oh, hoppin’ hobbit you really gonna quest tonight.

Wednesday 14 September 2016

The Fold by Peter Clines

The Fold
Peter Clines
2015 - Crown Publishing

I almost didn’t read this.  I have a collection of new books waiting to be read.  Whenever I scanned the list for a likely candidate, I skipped this one.  A couple of months ago, the rubbish work of an author named “Cline” left such a stench in my brain, the similarity in names put me off “Clines”

Fortunately, I overrode such irrational decision making and gave “The Fold” a try.

It’s GOOD.  I can’t say it’s “great”, but it more than held my interest. 

Clines’ writing is dynamic and full of pep.  The story moves right along with lively characters.  The hero, “Mike”, is very accessible despite his remarkable (but still human) abilities.  Rather than simply presenting a protagonist with a Holmesian level mind, Clines skillfully, and plausibly, rationalizes that Mike has been downplaying his mental acuity since childhood in the name of Having A Normal Life.  As a result, we ease comfortably into the shoes of this chap who is hanging off the end of the human abilities bell curve.   The secondary supporting cast are all well-constructed and fun.

The story.  How to describe this without spoiling anything?  From luck, native ingenuity and/or years of reading science fiction, I deduced the Big Plot Twist very quickly.  Only by reading dozens of online reviews will I maybe discover if I’m “special” or if many folks saw the Twist coming.  I ain’t gonna do that.  

The thing is, even as more clues were dropped and the mystery intensified, I kept enjoying myself.  Even when the crescendo reveal took place and I was 100% correct that “the butler did it”, I kept right on reading without pause or any feeling of disappointment.  Plenty going on.

The book won’t give you much to chew and reflect upon.  It’s a grand sci-fi adventure, but I can’t claim it to be “deep”.  Maybe I’m biased towards enjoying it.  That’s rather the way my own writing trends.

The downsides?  

There’s this sloppy, juvenile trend in modern writing to fill the narrative with pop culture geek references.  Some authors (the aforementioned Cline without an “s” for one) hurl this sludge by the shovelful.  Peter Clines keeps running and splashing thru that mud puddle, but he possesses the skill or awareness to then explain the reference.  Also, the references come from characters who are established as pop culture geeks, so it is legitimate, if increasingly tiresome, that they keep making these references.  

Thru 88% of the book, we stay firmly rooted in Mike’s point-of-view.  Thus, the three times Clines yanks us to another character’s view, the effect is a jarring, major speed bump in the prose. 

In summation, if you’re in the mood for some energetic sci-fi fun, I can recommend “The Fold”.  I’m going to see what else Mr. Clines has written…

Monday 22 August 2016

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore
by Robin Sloan
Published 2012 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Finally!  In my recent reading history, actual entertainment and fun have been hard to find.  Several have been well-written and hardly "duds", but neither have they left me with the "maybe recommend it to someone else" sparkle in my eye.

I believe I can rank this book in that happy category.

The writing skips along in merry measure.  The setting of the strange old book store with its impenetrable mystery grips the imagination.  The hero is lively and personable as he peels back layer after layer to scratch his curiosity.  The writing skill is more than adequate to the task.

The essence of the plot is young, and desperate for employment, Clay Jannon landing a job at Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore.  A man of the internet and ultra web savvy, this musty bookstore bewilders him.  Open 24 hours?  The number of customers that come thru the door he can count on one hand.  A most peculiar secret society seems to be a work...but to what end?

With a network of exceptional and eccentric friends, Clay attempts to pierce the secret of the bookstore, and once he crosses that barrier, to face the challenge on the other side.

There's a magical quality to the narrative without any magic actually coming into play.  The mystery is big and grand.  As I say, every single person that Clay actually meets is chock full o' skills and inner depths.  Without ever breaking the rules of our mundane reality, it still edges up so its toes are smack on the border of fantasy.

It's an easily digestible and tasty read that keeps the pages turning.

Sunday 14 August 2016

I have no face!

"This approach––minimalism––seems to be the preferred style these days."

This prefaced a blog article on Describing Your Hero (and other Characters).

To my bleating scorn a trend is coming around again where writers refrain from describing their Hero so the reader can fill in the blanks themselves.

It’s hardly a new philosophy.  I recall years ago reading archived “Letters to the Editor” (ie: pre-internet ranting venue) from a century ago.  The letter-writer was quite passionate about his intense dislike for the new trend in illustrating books.  These pieces of art through a novel totally ruined his experience.  It forced him to see characters that contradicted the pictures formed in his own imagination.  He felt this would make children lazy and dull as their little imaginations became flabby.

I don’t think a character needs to be described down to the colour of his shoelaces (unless shoelaces are important).  However, I do need to know with whom I’m dealing.  Some well-wrought broad strokes for an impression is fine.

But to NOT describe the hero?  I labour mightily for choice words to paint the setting and capture the moment.  A writer’s job is to make the environment come alive for the reader…but I’m supposed to leave the hero a blank zero?  What drivel.  My first reaction is to compare it to watching a movie where the lead actors wear loose onesie pyjamas and a sack over their head.  Just so their actual faces don’t spoil the viewer’s experience.

Really, not describing the hero is merely fobbing the heavy lifting off to the reader.  The reader might be trying to fill in his/her own dream character, but the author will keep supplying business to derail that.  Gradually, the character as seen by the author will be inferred by actions and reactions.  Why make the reader do this connect-the-dots mystery drawing?  

As I said, though, it’s not a new idea but I fear this modern age of internet communication, where dufus fads spread like mnemonic wildfire.  I can cynically imagine hordes of lazy, semi-amateur, partially-skilled writers snapping up this idea just to avoid the effort (because writing is hard).  Spin a cloak of pseudo-intellectual literary doublespeak around the concept and they’re smiling.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

Hurray! Hurray! Hurray! Step right up!

just click to see the assorted online venues

and, as I try to convince people again and again,
the ePub edition is available directly from me.

Shake the gumbo loose!

Wednesday 3 August 2016

"The Swords Trilogy" by Michael Moorcock

The Knight of Swords
The Queen of Swords
The King of Swords
(1971) by Michael Moorcock

I haven’t had much luck with new(ish) books lately.  So, I went downstairs to my library to find something to re-read.  I can’t say why “The Sword Trilogy” caught my whim, but it did.  I first read it as a dewy-eyed teen in high school, many years ago.  I know I haven’t read the whole thing thru since then, but I’ve definitely sampled excerpts.

Well…it didn’t hold up.  Mr. Moorcock’s heroic high fantasy work always fell short for me, even in the once upon a time, because of one phrase: “the Eternal Champion”.  Is there any Moorcock book where Elric doesn’t make at least a cameo walk-on?  The Eternal Champion muck intrudes into the Prince Corum/Swords Saga much more than I recalled, and that is not a fact to make me smile.  I use the word “intrudes” quite purposefully.  In 2016, several superhero movie franchises are chastised in reviews for devoting too much time shilling for next summer’s blockbusters and not staying on the plot.  Moorcock does much the same thing, essentially flogging all his books in each novel.

As a teen, I found the Elric-Champion intrusion annoying, but revelled in the high fantasy environment and descriptions.  In the modern day, perhaps I’ve become too experienced, even jaded.  The settings are no longer as sublime nor macabre.  Moorcock has written some fascinating passages of strange realms, but they feel like padding.  Filler.  Endless, mostly pointless stage sets for Corum & Co. to wander thru before finally getting to a piece of plot/action.

After reading the trilogy, I went researching Mr. Moorcock.  I found an eyebrow-raiser of a factoid.  He claims, especially in his youth around the late 60’s or early 70’s, that he could pound out 15,000 words a day on his typewriter!  That’s an insane output.  Nobody can write quality work at that pace.  It also explains the shallowness of the Sword Trilogy.  With my modern vantage point atop years of experience, I can well see how 15,000 words can be achieved when 25% of those words are repetitive runs on the Eternal Champion stuff.  No real workout for the creative mind there.  It also serves to explain the aforementioned meandering across alien landscapes that have little impact on the plot.  Bizarre, wild and provocative word paintings they might be, but pretty much serving only to pad out that page count.

This blazing word production also serves to offer a reason why some names for places and characters are unpronounceable collection of letters, as if he just hit the keys with his forehead.  Conversely, it also explains why some names are simplistic in the extreme.  “We travel to the west where we shall find the City of the Western Reaches”.

A final criticism would be the hero.  Prince Corum of the Scarlet Robe is quite the sad sack.  He becomes quite angry at how he is manipulated by the Gods of the Fifteen Planes.  This is a form of “lampshading”, because he truly wanders thru the tale doing their bidding, reacting and rarely acting.  Corum never comes up with a bold deed or a cunning plan.  None of the main characters do, except maybe for Whiskers the flying cat.

Perhaps I should have a look for what Mr. Moorcock has written in the more mature years of his career.  If he has hopefully stopped trying to break speed typing records and let that amazing imagination create a proper story, those books might really be worth reading.

Tuesday 2 August 2016

"great" isn't so great

Sentiments generally in this price range are my writing foundation.  I write for fun, and hope it entertains.  Let "greatness" and "fame" catch up if they want.

Saturday 30 July 2016

VERY good advice

The advice is good, but I'm not sure what word would do the job in the here & now.  Even a modern Young Adult novel might not raise an eyebrow at "damn".  

Tuesday 26 July 2016

"Julian Comstock" by R.C. Wilson

"Julian Comstock-a Story of 22nd Century America" by Robert Charles Wilson
Published 2009

I've now read two R.C. Wilson books (and some short stories).  His prose and writing skill is exemplary.  I won't challenge that for a second.  However, his work is not for me.

In "Julian Comstock", he has captured the stylistic tone of Mark Twain and other such period writing.  Love that!  However, he does nothing with this skill.  This book (and the much-lauded "Spin") just meanders along for 600 pages to culminate in a whole lot of nothing.  Around the 400 page mark, I realized that I had just finished the world's longest prologue.

Perhaps to a relative novice reader of SF, especially post-apocalyptic rebuilt civilization SF, this book would be exciting.  To anyone who has read more than three of that style of novel, "Julian Comstock" comes across as a pretty bland bowl of "been there, done that".  In point of fact, it barely ranks as a post-apocalyptic piece.  Only by dropping little crumbs to remind us it is the 22nd Century keeps the book from being some historical narrative of the Boer War or other 19th century era politics.

I can only theorize that Wilson receives the praise he does from "jazz lovers".  Jazz is all about virtuoso musicians plinking, tooting and strumming with great skill but building nothing.  Some people are enraptured by this.  Others, like myself, would rather these virtuosos use this great talent to make a heart-stopping, stomach-clenching and especially mind-boggling "Beginning, Middle and End" piece.  "Julian Comstock" leaves your anatomy undisturbed.  It drifts along, amiably diverting, mildly amusing, occasionally unsettling, until it finally bumps to a quiet stop.

I think I had about five chair naps while reading it.

So, with regrets, I have to bid Robert Charles Wilson "au revoir".

PS What nearly made me toss the book unfinished were the repetitive descriptions of a 22nd American "movie" performance.  Once gave us an insight into the culture/world.  After that, it was nothing but adding pages to the 600 page bloat.

Sunday 24 July 2016

"Lit Happens" interview

The late, great, much missed Wes Funk interviews me on his show "Lit Happens".

Wednesday 20 July 2016

July 20, 1969 - SPACE ERA 47


We’re so lucky that a person of your caliber came along.  Someone with the genius and clarity of mind that makes you a real-life Sherlock Holmes.

Thirteen seconds after the images of Neil Armstrong stepping on the Moon amazed the gullible, the USSR, Communist China and all the folks who consider the Americans annoying blowholes examined the evidence.  They had the IDENTICAL collection of photos, rocks and scientific facts you have in front of you.  A literal army of motivated intelligence analysts, astrophysicists, and engineers examined every piece of that evidence.  Any suggestion of shenanigans on the part of NASA would be a huge triumph, so the lights burned late into the night.  

To no avail.

There are no shortage of people around this planet who would love to score points off the USA, but no one ever seized on the clues staring them in the face!  Only someone with your laser-like focus spotted fluttering flags and misplaced shadows.  Only you possessed the scientific genius to spot the lethal impossibility of space travel. 

So, tinfoil hat off to you!  Thank you for keeping your concentration fixed on the problem that exists for nobody but you.  Thanks for not being distracted by your mother coming into the basement to do laundry!  Your revelations give the world a headache behind the left eye, but by crikey, it’s a world of truth!

Friday 15 July 2016

Avoiding a trip up the Amazon...

Am I insane or merely a principled eccentric for not having my digital book on Amazon?

I can already hear the chorus of responses all summing up to “insane”.  

But I have a bucket of reasons!

1)  I hate giant, world-conquering monopolies.  A lot.  Whenever I can manage to patronize a “little guy” (some only smaller in comparison), I do so.

2)  Not surprisingly, therefore, that I have no interest in “Kindle” or “mobi”.  If I understand correctly, an entire library of books is still attached to an umbilical leading back to Amazon.  A cord they can cut at any time they choose.  I’m an ePub dude.

3)  I keep hearing rumblings of discontent about Amazon.  There always seems to be hushed warnings in the writer forums and groups in which I’m a member.  "The reviewers are all insane."  "Amazon has changed the compensation rules again".  "This is the current clown suit to wear in order to be on some prime list or special selection".  
       These are all peripheral impressions feeding into my bias, so I can’t cling too hard to this “evidence”.  But, I rarely see an post of “BOY, have I done well on Amazon!  They’re swell!”

4)  I do have my book featured in a half-dozen other outlets (which combined, probably don’t equal Amazon ponderous mass).  Still, I would think the Apple iTunes Store carries some respect?

5)  Of key importance is that I went to some effort to sell my book on my own website.  Effort on my end so the consumer-reader can have an easy-peasy experience with PayPal.  I don’t have to pay anyone a cut of the price.  If you buy it there, you’re supporting the author directly.

No…after typing all that out, I’m going to stay the course.  If I haven’t sold a virtual bucket of digital books, it’s the fault of my self-promotion campaign (or lack thereof).  

Thanks for listening.  I look forward to any thoughtful rebuttals.

Okay, self-promotion time!

Will explain “Home on the Strange - a Brewster & Brewster Adventure” and allow you to purchase a professional quality ePub via:


At a whole list of fine online stores!

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Second bananas

Who is that behind the hero?

Another comment thread brought the problem of secondary characters in a novel to light.  How to make these co-stars come to life and not be merely placeholders?  You don’t want to have a fully-formed hero running around a bunch of cardboard silhouettes.

My method is to write biographies for each secondary character.  Not to the extent of the primary characters, to be sure, but a solid bit of background history.  This material is not for print.  If a moment pops up in the flow that allows for some of this material to be passed on, fine, but my intention is strictly as a reference for me.

For example, my recent book required a female hacker-electronics authority.  Not an “expert”.  Not one of these ultra geeks that can pierce any firewall and password with a ten second flurry of keyboarding fingers, but she knows her spuds.

More or less randomly, I decided she hailed from Kentucky.  I may have just watched an episode of “Justified”.  She wasn’t a trailer trash hillbilly but leaned in that direction.  She liked monster trucks and muscle cars, but not as much as her siblings.  She decorated her laptop and gear with the same art as went on the muscle machines.  She’s got that “lone outcast” vibe, but not to the extreme “freak geek” level.  She hung out with the good ol’ boys on a tailgate party, though her mind kept drifting back to her computers.

I decided she rolled over on some other young blackhat hackers when their shenanigans crossed the line into real crime.  She was put into witness protection but hated it with a hot, bored hate.  She also has second thoughts on testifying in general.  She enters the story on the dodge from both the hackers and WITSEC marshals.  She’s got secrets and deflects questions however she can.

And so on and so forth.  There’s more on her personality and whatnot.  

As I say, none of this is intended to see print.  The reader won’t see any bio info dump.  It’s sole purpose is to give me a foundation upon which to stand when the Hero and she have to interact.  I now have a decent idea of how she’ll respond.  What sort of wisecracks.  In a drawl.  How guarded she is.  

I’m sure this is a classic method for any writer.  The somewhat tricky angle is not to be tempted to dump this all on the page.  It’s the “magic behind the curtain”.  Too many writers mop the creative sweat from their brow after a major load of research effort and think all that work HAS to be used in the story.  Thus is born tedious info bloat.

Monday 4 July 2016

Outlines or walking without a map


I have yet to be able to write an outline, as I understand the concept.

The first hurdle I always trip and faceplant over are the changes.  I try and try to make outlines, but by the time I’ve written a few dozen pages, it’s occurred to me that the best friend character will betray the hero.  Oh, and I’ve decided it should be winter instead of summer for added complications, but that requires I plunge deeper into the hero’s biography to decide when and if he’s ever experienced snow and ice…and, when I come up for air, the outline doesn’t work any more.

Essentially, my attempts at outlining a novel match that old adage that “the battle plan never survives contact with the enemy.”

The other aspect that makes outlining a great and convoluted activity is digression.  I try to keep “arm’s length” as I outline, just tapping the major points to guide my route.  Inevitably, I reach a moment, say, this is where the hero escapes imprisonment.  And…suddenly, I get a cool flash of a scene on how he busts loose, with some snappy dialogue or description.  Before I know it, an hour has gone by, I’ve all but written two complete pages of the book and, oh look, my original outline doesn't work any more.

The complicated digression can’t be ignored.  I can’t take a chance that’ll I remember some sparkling line or character notion for when I’m done writing the outline.  Very often, in an early attempt an outline, I have so many detailed sparkling ideas that it becomes far too similar to juggling torches.  I'm sweating not to lose track of any of them.

The best I can do with an outline is to pick a direction.  I start hiking West without any guides, drawing a map of the roads and towns as I encounter them.  Dithering at forks, wondering which is the better choice.  The essential thing is not being afraid to backtrack.  “That was the wrong fork.  Back to the original choice.  Everything I’ve written down is tossed, maybe to use another day for another trip.”  Just keep heading West.

But outlines sound so useful!  

How are they for you?

Thursday 30 June 2016


Let the bells ring out and let the banners fly!  It's too good to be true, but I did it!  I DID IT!

Not only have I finally finished my novel-in-progress, but I managed to accomplish it before the deadline to a contest passed.

Look around this blog sometime in October for the announcement of my slice of fame and fortune.

In the meantime, I must celebrate my new personal best for focused, pounding on the keyboard, putting pretty good words in a row WRITING!

And I have a complete draft 1.

(which also means I can get back to writing some proper blog entries for my legions of devoted fans)

Onwards and upwards!

Tuesday 14 June 2016

Lazy early years

deadline dangers!

How's it going!




Goede dag!

For those select few who drop by this humble blog, I have another heads up/apology.  First I slacked off while enjoying the Belle Province of Quebec.  A marvellous trip, though.  Vraiment merveilleux.

Now, possibly as a result of ten days of holidaying, I have a major writing deadline getting closer by the minute.  Therefore, most of my keyboarding in the next while will be to making that book a reality.  I'll try to at least dip into my store of inspirational message-images.

Thanks for your patience.

Friday 10 June 2016

Grog Opera - two reviews

Or, as I referred to them in the heat of the moment, "clunk" and "thud".

Whilst on holiday, I naturally did some reading.  The weather is never perpetually perfect, and there is always that "rainy day in the cabin" where one has to entertain oneself.  Even more predictable is three hours in an airport between flights. And, then, of course, the actual five hours in the air being shipped like livestock before animal cruelty laws appeared where you have to read or go mad.

Out came my iPhone.  I had recently downloaded a free sample pack of new-ish authors and their military SF works.  I looked at the menu with keen anticipation.

I started with "Warship (Black Fleet Trilogy 1)" by Joshua Dalzelle.  I can't go into elaborate analysis of the plot because I couldn't finish it.  I actually gave it more of my life than I should have, but I was loathe to give up too soon.  I only had a finite number of titles to last me the trip.

The term "space opera" was born from "horse opera".  Horse opera was a derogatory label for flat, cliche stories set in the wild west era.  Space opera means pretty much the same thing, especially when early hack writers reused identical plots from a western, with cheap substitutions of "blaster" for "six-gun”, to name one example. (recent years have tried to reinvent space opera into a more positive frame - but that's another blog entry).  There needs to be a sub-category for hackneyed plots splashing out of the wet navies of Earth.  Where starships in future settings are directly lifted out of the waves and set in space.  "Fathom Opera"?  "Splish Splash Opera"?  "Grog Opera"?  Poseidon knows there are enough of these writers out there busily pasting goofy space jargon over stories pilfered straight from Earth's Age of Sail or World War II or another other time of yo-ho-ho.

Mr. Dazelle hangs lampshades at a frenetic pace to smooth over why a starship centuries from now resembles a modern-ish submarine.  It's a "forgotten tradition" why designers still put a conning tower on their ships.  The thing is armoured like a bank vault.  The crew is numerous and the lower decks are packed.  And so forth and so on.  It gets thoroughly tedious, like all “grog opera" stories.

(interjection:  Is "Star Trek" grog opera?  I don't think so, but that's yet another post)

Beyond the grog opera complaint, the characterization is stiff and clumsy.  Character actions and reactions are obscure in their motivations, though perhaps a few would eventually be explained if I had made it thru to the end.  In general, the clanking of the plot banged too off-key and I decided to go overboard. 

Sorry, Joshua.

I took in a breath shared and recirculated by several hundred other passengers.  Boredom and misery forced me to seek out a new book faster than I usually would. 

"King of Thieves" by Evan Currie.  His credits listed a trilogy or two revolving around an individual warship, but this novel looked to be an entirely new venture.  Let's go!

And I didn't even make it five pages.  I even double-checked to make sure it wasn't written by Joshua, the similarity hit me so hard.  The whiff of grog opera was distinct.  The story was hip-deep in the author's established universe.  I couldn't take that one-two combination.  A disservice to Mr. Currie, I know.  He might have been able to make it interesting, despite my unfamiliarity with his world setting.  It might have risen above mere grog opera, but I just knew I wasn't ready to chew thru this hard tack again.

And, therefore, sorry to Evan.

Simon White asked me to beta-read his novel "Age of Flight".  Third time proved to be a charm of sorts.  300 pages later…but, for the third time, that would be a blog for another day.

Friday 3 June 2016


Abigail Maye "Blackie" Brewster can't believe her luck—schlepping around in the summer heat as the assistant of a high-maintenance movie producer.  When did her life become a mix of flat and irritating?  What's a world-wandering nomad from Saskatchewan to do?

Abagael Mae "Magpie” Brewster can't believe her luck—spending the summer sailing the skies in a prototype steam blimp, flying a circuit of the Western Domains, engaging in a little light espionage.  What more could a University of Saskatchewan Academician desire?

Blackie's life veers in a direction that threatens to snap her mind.  Magpie's light-hearted spying takes a hard and dangerous direction that threatens to snap her spirit.  When the paths of these identical twins born of different mothers intersect and tangle together, their lives become a race across a rolling prairie landscape both familiar and strange.

Home on the Strange is a rootin'-tootin' daredevil tale of far-fetched fiction in a west that does not share our history.

Learn more about the book and buy an ePub copy!


For any passing visitors, my posting rate is erratic due to traveling in distant lands.  Wifi and opportunity is fleeting.


The Great Mystery