Saturday, May 18, 2013

Back to the Keys

This weekend in Canada we are celebrating the Victoria Day long weekend.  It's a beautiful day.  The sun is strong in the clear, blue sky.  Somewhere, people are riding bikes in the park, playing with their kids in the backyard.  Someone is probably building a deck.  Me?  I'm going to sit down at my computer and write for the first time in months.

I'm hopeful that I haven't gone too stale since the last time that I sat down to punch at the keys, to blacken the screen.  I guess we'll see.  Scrivener has finished updating itself so I should end things here for now.

I've been writing for about two hours.  Took a break for lunch and I'm going back to it.  Should have a new part drafted for "The Little Loan" by the end of the night.  Review it tomorrow and post it on Wattpad and

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Worth Reading

"If you would not be forgotten as soon as you are dead, either write things worth reading or do things worth writing."
-- Benjamin Franklin

For those of you who have been kind enough to download "The Little Loan", I apologize for the delay in putting up the next part of the story.  I do not (cannot) write full time and, as much as I try to prevent it, my day job sometimes gets in the way.  Be patient.  I was "ass in the chair" tonight and managed to crank out about 500 good words.  Not a helluva lot, but they're good words.  Words I can hang onto until better ones come along.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Empty Page

An empty page, be it a physical sheet of crisp, white paper or a "page" on a computer monitor, represents the same thing to anyone hoping to fill it up with meaningful prose: a sweet promise and a daunting challenge.

The empty page speaks to the writer subliminally.  It's like a billboard: "YOUR IDEAS HERE."  All fine and good if you can find some ideas worth pinning down.  More accurately, the ideas are there, the writer's had them--quite likely for weeks or months or even years--but they are like birds swooping and diving your head.  Try and lay your hands on one.  Try and describe it.  Try and find a good hook to snag a few readers.  It is then, after a dozen or more attempts, that the sweet promise becomes the daunting challenge and the writer's confidence is shaken.

That is the moment I'm experiencing right now.  A story of mine--Conservation--is up on Feedbooks, but I'm not happy with it and I've spent the last two or three weeks expanding the action.  Existing scenes have been heavily revised while whole new parts have been added.  My trouble is, it's all in outline form.  Ten minutes ago I was staring at a blank page in Scrivener where the new beginning will go.  It's still open at this very moment in the other monitor.  I can see it in my peripheral vision...mocking me.

Jack White

Cut off the bottoms of my feet
an' make me walk on salt.
Take me down to the poe-leese
an' charge me with assault.
Smile on her face,
she does what she wants to me.

(That's right.)

She don't care what kinda wounds
she's inflicting on me;
she don't care what colour bruises
that she's leaving on me
'cause she's got freedom in the 21st century.


Two black gadgets in her hands,
it's all she thinks about.
No responsibility, no guilt or morals
cloud her judgement.
Smile on her face,
she does what she damn-well please.


An' she don't care 
what kinda things people used to do.
An' she don't care
that what she does has an affect on you.
She's got freedom in the 21st century.

Cut off the bottoms of my feet
     (Cut off the bottoms of my feet...)
Make me walk on salt
     (Make me walk on salt...)
Take me down to the poe-leese
     (Take me down to the poe-leese)

lyrics by the incomparable Jack White III
(you rock ,brother)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

From Bad to Worse

I woke up this morning with good intentions.  On the heels of a productive night of research into the Washington Metro Orange and Green Lines, I decided that I would take advantage of the peace and quiet of the empty office and get some writing done.    So I packed up my laptop and took off.

I was the only one here at about 10 in the morning when I got myself setup to write.  I had my coffee ready, my laptop all fired up and the Internet turned on.  The only thing left to get out of the way was a quick trip to the washroom.

Nothing seemed amiss until I left the washroom and started back down the hall.  It was then that it hit me.  My wallet was sitting on my desk.  My passkey card was in my wallet.  Uh-oh.  But I didn't panic.  Not all was lost.  The door outside of IT had a keypad combination lock on it.

I would like to pause here for a moment and remind my readers of how important it is to use our minds for more than just remembering hockey statistics or which Starbucks serves the best mocha frapps.  There are many facts that transcend the mundane and often prove useful to us in the event we don't have our digital devices handy.  One such fact is the code to the keypad combination lock on the door outside of IT at my office.  Another fact is the telephone number of someone who would remember the door code.

Yes, dear readers, there I was: standing in front of the door and asking myself, "What the hell is that number?"  I think I must have tried 40 unsuccessful combinations before the electric edge of panic started to saw away at my nerves.

No passkey.  No cell phone.  No telephone numbers in my head.  I mean, really, why would anyone remember a telephone number if they've got it stored in their phone?  Why indeed?

The real peril of my situation made itself apparent when it suddenly dawned on me that everything was in that office.  I had no car keys, no house keys.  My winter coat was in there.  It was minus fifteen celcius outside and I was five or six long kilometers from home.

Ideas started swimming through my head like guppies through murky water, along with a few choice words about how stupid a person could be.

I could reef on the door until the wooden frame gave way.  (And then wait around until the cops showed up and try to explain who I am from the back of a police cruiser.  Brilliant.)

I could sit on the floor and wait until someone comes in for overtime.  Better, but there was no guarantee anyone would come in.  (In point of fact, a few people did come in but not for a few hours later, and I had no knowledge at the time that anyone would show up.)

I remembered the telephone outside the main door, but it was about as useful at that moment as broken umbrella in a downpour because I couldn't remember any of outside numbers to call.  Brilliant.

There is a realty company on the ground floor of our building and a receptionist helped me.  I'm sure in the end she thought I was some kind of fool, but she let me use their Internet and I sent out some emails.  I also called the building management office.  I got some traction from a nice man named James on the other end of the phone, but in the end my friend Terry emailed me the stairwell door code and the door code to our space.

I cannot describe to you the sweet, sweet relief I felt when I punched in that door code, turned the doorknob and the door swung open.  You feel reality snap back into place in a moment like that.  You feel the nightmare unreality of those few moments or hours drain away from your body as you realize that you don't have to spend the night sleeping in the hallway outside your office.  The one thing that doesn't stop is the gratitude you feel to the person who helped you.

The first thing I did after jamming my wallet into my back pocket and committing the door code to memory is get in my car, drive to Chapters and buy the Keller Williams receptionist a Thank You card and a twenty-five dollar gift card.  I would have given her a one hundred dollar gift card if I could have afforded it.

Rebecca, if you're reading this, you are amazing.  This post's for you.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Idle Gossip

In the office for a bit of self-imposed overtime.  I didn't get as much done in my first week back as I would have liked and I want to make up the deficit, so by necessity this post will be brief.

Conservation, my first ebook, as been live on for about a week now and it has already gotten more (truly) worldwide attention than it ever got on  I'm not sure why that is because a lot of people seem to use Smashwords, both for publishing and for buying books through their distribution network.  Why Conservation only ever managed to reach 7 downloads is beyond me, but I'll take whatever attention it receives through

Because of that success, I've been looking more closely at a different online  They operate in the Print On Demand (POD) niche but they also do some brisk business in ebooks.  I've checked out their site and it looks good.  I've read a few reviews from authors and they seem satisfied.  The biggest plus for me is that they have some good and understandable documentation with respect to helping foreign authors get set up with the IRS with various tax numbers for remittance and withholding exemptions.  The site even indicated that their support staff will help with questions, something Smashwords refused to do.  When I'm ready to retail books again, I will go to Lulu first.

Picked up a new 24" monitor last night for use with my laptop--$129 LCD HD by Acer.  On the stand I built last year it sits at the perfect height for me and with all the on-screen real estate Scrivener looks great.

Speaking of Scrivener, I have started creating a project bible for all the stories that will appear in the Epoch Universe.  I discovered quite by accident that, unlike Word, when you open a second Scrivener project, it is launched in a second, separate window.  I also discovered that I can drag and drop text files between those windows.  This means that as I start to develop characters and settings in the active project, I can drag them over to the project bible and keep everything in one place--coordinated nice and neat.

I am more excited now about writing than I have been for a long time.  The "success" that Conservation is enjoying, coupled with new tools has in a way rejuvenated me, shown me a light at the end of the tunnel.  Expect more output in the weeks and months ahead.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Christmas Past and Writing News

Sunday morning in Cornwall and it's snowing lightly.  I'm here on the last of my holiday vacation, visiting my parents as I do a couple times a month .  The Christmas decorations are put away and we disassembled the tree and packed it in storage for another year.

Christmas Past

The tree we've used for the last fifteen years is a six foot artificial fir.  It's a fine, thick, robust tree decorated with multi-coloured lights strung up and down the branches, but it's a heavy beast and awkward to haul up and down the basement steps and we almost didn't use it this year.  My parents are getting older and, as autumn turned into winter, they started thinking a smaller tree would be more practical so they bought a three-foot table-top tree that they would display in the corner of the living room on my grandmother's old claw-foot end table.

When I heard about this change to our family's Christmas tradition, I kept my thoughts to myself.  I always loved that tree, but if they wanted a smaller tree that would be easier to manage then I was behind it.  (Fortunately,) They ran into a problem as soon as they started trying to decorate it.

Many of the decorations that they had collected over the decades, including heirlooms from my mother and father's childhood, didn't fit on the little tree.  There was no room for my father's white cathedral or his little bluebird.  My Aunt Norma's 12 Days of Christmas ornaments, cast in pewter, were too big for the branches.  And you could forget about trying to hang my sister's "Baby's First Christmas" ball.  They conferred and it went straight back to the store where it came from.  A few days later, I arrived for one of my regular visits and the old fir was hauled out and decorated to much fanfare and deep appreciation. :)

Writing News

"Conservation": Initial Success?
"Conservation" seems to be faring much better on than it ever did on  If FB's analytics are correct, as of this writing "Conservation" has been downloaded 38 times in just under 24 hours.  That may not sound like a lot, but let me put things in perspective: "Conservation" was live on Smashwords for nearly a month and got no more than seven downloads, despite being admitted to the Premium Catalogue.  

I think I may have blogged about using Feedbooks to build a readership in previous entries.  I know that that had been the plan in my head, but the siren call of the dollar lured me away.  The amazing performance I'm seeing now confirms that it was a mistake to use Smashwords at this time.  I say "at this time" because I still think Smashwords has value for independent authors, but authors who have established themselves.  In a year or two, after I have more stories to offer, I may try my hand at it again, either with Smashwords or Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing Program.

"Cool Water": Outlined and In Progress
"Cool Water" is now fully outlined in my Feedbooks interface, all five parts.  The only change from my previous post about this is that I have opted to drop the prologue, everything else remains the same.  I'm excited about this story.  After long weeks of struggling with the plot, letting it lie while working on detective fiction, then struggling with it some more, the story feels like it holds together well.  It feels like a story I would enjoy reading.  In the end that's what a storyteller should aim for, right?  Write to entertain your toughest critic: yourself.