Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz June 8-14, 2014

Right now, I’m down in Orillia, Ontario, attending CanWrite! 2014. Started the day with a light breakfast and yoga, and I’m going to get Thoughty Thursday out before the sessions start up after lunch. Life is good.

Dame Judy Dench and Daniel Craig explore the question: Are we truly equal? See what you think . . .

What’s new in the war on Alzheimer’s Disease? from the Psychiatric Times.

Why we need creative confidence from Ideas.TED.com.

The quest to understand consciousness, a TED talk by Antonio Damasio.

Let these stunning photos of incredible storms inspire you. Also from Ideas.TED.com.

More inspirational ideas from i09: 12 futuristic forms of government that could one day rule the world.

All our patent are belong to you (did you catch the pop culture reference?). Tesla Motors makes its patents open source.

The most important sci-fi film never made from the Japan Times. Jodorowsky’s vision of Dune launched the careers of several notables in the field, including Geiger, and influenced moviemaking to the current day. I really want to see this documentary now.

Wired’s absurd creature of the week: the lion’s mane jellyfish. When I visited the Vancouver Aquarium last fall, they were featuring jellyfish. Apparently, they really do like global warming.

This week was pretty thoughty 🙂

Enjoy, my writerly friends, and I hope you garner some inspiration for your writing from this crop of curation.

Thoughty Thursday

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First, a few notes

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto

Flight from Vancouver to Toronto (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My flight was seven hours.  I had to be at the airport (a 20 minute drive) an hour ahead of time, fly to Toronto and have a brief layover before boarding my connecting flight to Vancouver.  There’s a three hour time difference between Ontario and BC.

Having arrived in Vancouver, I had to then make my way to Surrey.  I asked hour much it would be for a shuttle.  Even the flat rate was more than I was prepared to spend.

So I back-tracked, bought a train ticket, and rode the sky train for another hour and a half.

At the terminus station, I still had to catch a taxi to get to the hotel.

So, altogether, I spent about ten hours in transit and though it was only four-ish when I got here, I was done.

I checked in, got to my room, and discovered something:

I had to pay for internet access, and I could only pay for either in-room or meeting room access.  I opted for room access, hoping that my smart(-er than me) phone would have enough connectivity to tweet.

After supper and a bath, I went to bed, about eleven pm Pacific, but about two am Eastern time.

I woke up at 3 am.

Though I did my best, I only managed to send one tweet before my phone bogged down altogether.  I haven’t been able to send or receive much of anything since.

Also, Kristin Nelson was unable to attend, her flight from Colorado having been cancelled due to the weather.

I dealt with these small disappointments and have since had an absolute blast (so far).  Will be posting the day’s sessions and my notes as I go, but these will likely be at least a day late.

My Journey to the Misty Lands – Guest blog post by John Rice

John William Rice (1942-) was born in Iroquois Falls Ontario to parents of Scots/Irish/Welsh ancestry, spent his public school years in Charlton Ontario, and quit school after completing grade eight. In the spring of 1968, he returned to school under a government upgrading program, completed high school and studied electronics at Northern College of applied arts and technology where he earned the nick name, “The Whisky Poet.”

After graduating in 1971, he began a 34-year career as an instrument technician at International Nickel Company. Along the way, he married and fathered two sons. His wife Patty died from cancer in 2003. John retired in 2005 and after completing a book of verse, From the Heights to the Enchanted Places, he plunged head first into his fantasy novel, Keeper of the Sword.

John lives and writes in Sudbury, Ontario and can be reached on twitter, @keeperofthsword, on Facebook, and on his blog.

My Journey to the Misty Lands

I lie on my bed, let Return of the King, the last volume of Lord of the Rings drop from my hands, and close my eyes. My mind drifts far away from my small room in the Piccadilly Hotel, far away from Vancouver, and far away from my job as a sheet metal helper at Humble Manufacturing, to Middle earth, where I march with Frodo and Sam toward Mount Doom.

The sounds of feet shuffling outside my door bring me back to harsh reality. I prop myself up on the pillow, rummage around in the rickety dresser drawer for a pen and scribbler, and write, “Keeper of the Sword” across the top of the page. Images of a completed epic poem dance through my mind and I bend all my thoughts to the first word, the first line, but nothing comes. I struggle for a while, still nothing comes, and it seems my muse, such as it is, eludes me once more. “Someday,” I whisper, “Someday I’ll write it.”

I put my writing utensils away, snuggle under thin blankets and let my mind drift over towering mountains, across the endless prairie, through the rugged Cambrian Shield, to the village of Charlton Ontario, to the house where my sister, mom, and dad live. For a moment, I wish I was there, instead of in this city by the sea, thousands of miles away.

I kick the homesickness out of my mind, and go back, back into my past, back to my first attempts at writing verse. I remember finding a love poem my brother wrote for some high school girl, remember thinking if he can write poems than I can write a song.

I remember the name of the piece, “There once was a horse named General Jim,” but little else of my first plunge into writing, and most of all I remember sending it away to an address I found in Popular Mechanics, to a person that promised to turn it into a hit record.

Days, each one seeming like a year, passed while I waited for my first of many checks, and at last one day after school, my mom handed me an envelope. I took a deep breath, and taking care not to damage the contents tore it open. A piece of folded paper fluttered to the floor. I bent over, scooped it up, and unfolded it. “We don’t think this subject matter is suitable to become a commercial song,” burned into my eyes.

“What’s wrong,” mom asked.

I turned away, hiding my tears, hiding my disappointment.

For years I never wrote another thing, but at last my bitter disappointment slipped deep into my mind. One day a cousin of mine wanted to know if I had any songs he could sing to the girl he was courting, and over a couple of hours I managed to write a piece he liked. This adventure sparked a creative flurry and dozens of lyrics tumbled out of my mind onto paper.

My alarm clock’s strident ring drags me out of my dream of home and to the reality of a new workday.

Forty-six years have come and gone since I first read Lord of the Rings in that small dingy room, since I first came up with the title, “Keeper of the Sword.” Over those years, I’ve completed high school, completed two years of electronics at Northern College of Applied arts and Technology, worked thirty-four years as an Instrument Technician, fathered two amazing sons, and lost my wife to cancer.

During that span I had periodic spurts of writing verse, most notably while attending college, where I earned the name, “The Whiskey Poet.” Of course I didn’t deserve the title because at that time of my life I could only afford to drink beer.

While at northern college I believe I let an opportunity slip away, an opportunity that might have changed my life in a dramatic way.

I always sat with my peers from my Man Power retraining days, where I completed high school, for lunch, and often wrote poetry during the hour-and-a-half. One day our English teacher joined us and asked if he could see the poem I was working on. I finished the last line, and handed it to him with a degree of trepidation.

He took several minutes to read the short poem, nodding several times. He handed the poem back and said, “Not bad, as a matter of fact it’s quite good. I know someone in Toronto that might be able to help you, but before I put you in contact with him, I want you to learn ten new words every day for two weeks. You not only have to be able to spell them, but you need to be able to use them correctly in a sentence.”

I folded up my poem, “Waiting,” and placed it in the binder.

As the years have speed by on the one way train of time I’ve often wondered what my life would have been like if I’d taken his advice, but I preferred to spend time in the bar with friends instead of taking the time to improve my vocabulary.

The dream of becoming a writer and completing at least one novel has always lingered in the deep recesses of my mind, and in the winter of 2007, I decided it was time to make my dream come true. I started off by attempting to write a play. About half way through, “Music Box Dancers,” the concept for another play, “I taught a Mocking Bird to Sing,” came to me.

After completing two plays, and feeling confident, I wrote several short stories, a book of poems, and remembering that title from long ago, I plunged into Keeper of the Sword.

I still live and write in Sudbury.

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And here is a free excerpt from John’s novel:

In the beginning

 

Morgan Connelly, stunned, unable to move for the moment, feeling a warm wetness dripping down her skin, fluttered violet eyes open and stared at the growing red stains on her blouse, the amber feathers attached to a long slender egg yolk colored piece of wood jutting out from under her collarbone, and whimpered, “Josh. Josh. Josh. Help meeee.”

 

Something crashed to her right, and screams sounding like a cat in pain filled the air around her.

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To read more of Keeper of the Sword visit John’s blog, tweet him @keeperofthsword, or friend him on Facebook.  His novel is available on Smashwords, on Kobo, or on Amazon.

How it all started

Maid’s Hall: University of Guelph

So there I was, away at university for the second year, and still no idea what I wanted to do.

I’d started September of 1987 as a fine arts major, but after being dismissed as “an illustrator,” I flirted briefly with psychology before changing to music in January 1988.  In the fall of 1988, I had a rather disastrous classical guitar audition for the practical music program involving performance anxiety and was seriously considering English as my major.

I wrote music and book reviews for The Ontarian, the University of Guelph student newspaper, and helped them with layout.  This was the old fashioned layout with waxed prints of the columns that had to be precisely trimmed and placed on the board.  It was work that suited my wall-flower personality.

My roommate, Sandra Reynolds, though floundering similarly, always had more direction than I did and was a steadying influence on me.  Her sister is Susan Lynn Reynolds, who published Strandia in 1992.  She had drawn maps for Guy Gavriel Kay’s first novels.  He continues to be one of my favourite authors.  Sue’s ex, Michael Hale, had just published The Other Child.  Sandy was working on her own story ideas and with all of this creativity bouncing off the walls of our little dorm room I caught the bug to do more than record my dreams.

I’d started keeping a journal the year before, not only to capture my dreams, but also to capture insights I had in my classes.  It was a wonderful time for me intellectually.  Everything seemed to interrelate in the most interesting ways: my English literature survey course, Introduction to Psychology, Anthropology, Biology, the History of the Language and Old English courses.  Chinese Philosophy kind of blew my mind.  Sadly, little of it translated to academic success.  I was rather mediocre.

With all of these thoughts ping-ponging off one another in my head though, ideas started to occur to me, including the idea that would eventually become Ascension: Initiate of Stone.  I started writing notes.

Sandy invited me out to Mike’s place.  It was winter, snowy, and I ditched the car on the way.  A tree was mere inches away from the passenger side of the car and Sandy (!)  We were able to get a tow out of the ditch and made it to Mike’s, though late.  We still managed a lovely evening of creative chat, I got a tour of Mike’s graphics studio, and we made pie.  We all decided that since the crust was the best part, we’d make a crust pie.  It was fantastic.  Through Sandy and Mike, I learned some great techniques for character development.

I’ll share one:

Early in the character development stage, while you’re still getting to know them yourself, get together with some friends/fellow writers and have them ask you random questions about your characters.  Rapid fire.  You’re not to think about the answers, just come up with them and make notes as you go.  The idea is to access the inner writer who already has a handle on your characters and let that voice answer the questions.  The questions could be anything: what colour are his eyes?  What’s her middle name?  What happened when he was three?  What was her grandmother like?  Did he ever experiment sexually?  No question is forbidden.  It’s organic and very effective.  Nothing is written in stone, either.

If, in the course of your writing, some of those answers no longer hold true, or other answers that seem more appropriate present themselves, then the character changes.  Even to be thinking of these questions and answers through the writing process is helpful for your character development and therefore for the work.

Try it.  You may be amazed.

Sandy was taking Children’s Literature with the incredible Jean Little and Jean was bringing a friend into class to talk about her work.  That friend was Welwyn Wilton Katz.  Though she waggled a finger at me for my lack of research, I did get a chance to talk to her and was inspired by the lecture.  Subsequently, I started reading her novels, and became a fan.

By this time, I had one spiral notebook full and another started.  I had an old portable typewriter that I typed my essays on and started to type bits and pieces out in between essays.  I had no confidence however, and declined to show my stories to anyone.

My lack of direction in school eventually reached a crisis point and I decided to take some time off.

How did you get started on your magnum opus?  What or who inspired you?