Wordsmith Studio Homecoming 2015: What are you reading?

For the best effect, please read the headline of this post with an incredulous tone 😉

WSS Homecoming 2015

1) What are you reading?

Just like I work on multiple project in my writing, I read multiple books, both ebooks and print, cause I kind of have this problem. I can’t stop buying books of any variety (!)

So here’s my current reading list:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Although I’m sure it suffers in translation, I’m enjoying this novel immensely.
  • InFusion by Scott Overton. I’m beta reading this SF novel for an author friend. I’ll save my specific feedback for him, but, just so you know, I think it’s great 🙂
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. On finding your calling. It’s kind of serendipitous that I found out about this book back in January.
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I picked this up last year after seeing Patricia at Ad Astra. I figured I should get off my butt and read it . . .
  • Pain, Porn, and Complicity by Kathleen McConnell. An academic work on SF&F movies and television series. It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in that particular non-fiction pool.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I’m listening to this on Audible. Narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton.

2) What was your favorite read in the last year (or month, or…)?

My favourite reading of recent recall is A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I rated it five stars, though I haven’t written a proper review. Yet. This is the kind of fantasy novel I love to read. It’s also the kind I write and there were a lot of similarities between Czerneda’s Jenn Nalynn and Ferrathainn Devlin, the protagonist from my WIP. I was enthralled to the end 🙂

3) Do you have a favorite genre?

Yes and no. I favour fantasy novels of any age range, but I also read science fiction, historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, and romance novels (though I must say I haven’t read many of those recently). I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading, as well. Again, most on my non-fiction reads tend to be writing craft books, but I also read as a form of research for my various works in progress, and sometimes, stuff that I’m just interested in. I learn something from everything I read, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the book. In other words, I read as a writer.

4) Bend one step further: are there alternative forms of writing or art that you have found inspiring or even dabbled in?

In my “searching” phase of university (the undeclared years) I majored in music and art at different times. Performance anxiety put the brakes on my music career, though I still love to sing. I was summarily drummed out of art class when my professor called me nothing more than an “illustrator.” From time to time, I still sketch, but I’ve honestly never been very good. I’ve sunk all my creativity into my writing for a number of years now. In 2000, I did the crazy, being in between jobs, and auditioned for a Theatre Cambrian production of Hair (Y2K). I sang and danced in that, for what it’s worth 😉

6) Back to your main inspiration: Do you have “mentor” titles for the writing you are working on?

I’ll reframe this in terms of “comps,” or comparative works. As I mentioned above, I learn something from every book I read, so I don’t have any “mentor” titles, per se, though I would identify several novels/authors whose work I aspire to.

  • The above-mentioned Julie Czerneda and her A Turn of Light. I’ve committed to read more by Julie.
  • Juliet Marillier’s Celtic legend inspired Seven Waters series.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Though he writes in a created world, it is based on painstaking historical research. I’m not that dedicated, but I love the stories he writes. He’s actually made me cry in the reading.
  • Sherri S. Tepper. Just anything she writes. I love her ideas. Or should I say lurve?

6) If you didn’t already do this for #4, what music inspires your writing?

Okay, now you’re going crazy. Or you will if I offer up all 963 songs on my iPod (!) Suffice it to say that any music I like is generally something I’ll add to my playlist. I have music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the new millennium. I like some pop, a lot of alternative, celtic, and world music. I also have more eclectic selections on CD: The Rites of Spring, Satie’s gymnopedies, The Symphonie Fantastique, Carmina Burana, Gregorian chant, a number of Sequentia recordings (including the Eddas), gamelan music, Tibetan singing bells, shakuhachi flute music . . .

My favourite artists (I’ll pick up just about anything they release):

  • Imogen Heap
  • Tori Amos
  • Sarah Slean
  • Florence + the Machine

7) Have you ever thought of this: what book is your main character reading?

Interesting question. I’ll even answer it.

  • Ferathainn Devlin: Sadly, all of Fer’s reading would be studying for her forthcoming initiation, so all of it would be history, scholarly works on magic, or non-fiction works on herbs and simples, astronomy, and the like.
  • Charlene Kalveras: School textbooks, and, because of what’s happened to her father, true crime.
  • Gerod: Owing to his impoverished upbringing in an environment of medieval feudalism, Gerod doesn’t know how to read. He learns, though.
  • Marushka: She hasn’t had any formal schooling, hopping around the world in a magical hut, so she’s had to teach herself everything. She steals books from libraries and reads omnivorously.

8) Do you have a favorite book, article or magazine for writing advice?

Again, I have several 🙂

  • Writing the 21st Century Novel, Donald Maass. Currently on loan to a member of my critique group. Actually all of Maass’s books have helped me immensely.
  • Any of K.M. Weiland’s writing craft books.
  • Any of Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series.
  • And the books that have helped me find my way to the writing life: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones; Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write; Heather Sellers’ Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter; Stephen King’s On Writing; Terry Brooks’s Sometimes the Magic Works; Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wave in the Mind.

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Alrightie, then!

I’ll have a wee Sundog snippet tomorrow about miscellaneous stuff, ‘cause sometimes you need miscellaneous stuff, you know?

Muse-inks

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Sundog snippet: Writerly events and an update on the construction

Kim FahnerOn Thursday, I went to see my friend Kim Fahner read her poetry at the Open Studio Showcase. Along with Kim were all three of Sudbury’s Poet Laureates, past and present (Roger Nash, Daniel Aubin, and Tom Leduc). Richard Van Camp was MC and storyteller for the evening.

A couple of people signed up for the open mic and added some much needed estrogen to the line up 🙂

The theme of the evening was Identity.

Today, I took a trip out to our Chapter’s to visit with Mat Del Papa and Lisa Coleman-Brown, who were selling and signing copies of Creepy Capreol. While there, I met with fellow Sudbury Writers’ Guild members Renny De Groot, Scott Overton, and Irene Golas.

Mat and Lisa

I an odd turn of events, a gentleman asked the table to watch his collie, fittingly named Lassie, while he dodged over to Kelsey’s for lunch.

. . .

In destruction construction news, the blasting is over, the rubble is cleared, and they’ve torn up all the old paving on our driveway.

SatOct18b

I think they need to move the storm drain and reconstruct the curb before they get the retaining wall started. The hold up with the driveway appears to be the mass of clay around the water shut off valves, which must, of course, be excavated and replaced with proper fill (otherwise, they’ll just have to redo things next year when the frost heaves all that clay again).

Nu is doing well. Phil and I are getting used to the VetPen, but I won’t have further news until Nu has her next glucose curve on the 30th.

And that’s all the news that’s fit to print, people.

See you all on Tipsday!

Sundog snippet

Caturday Quickies: The launch of Spooky Sudbury

Spooked authors :)

Spooked authors 🙂

Barnaby

Barnaby

What was I up to today?

Between 11 am and 1 pm, I went to Chapters to celebrate the launch of Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen’s Spooky Sudbury: True tales of the eerie and unexplained, which just happens to feature a wee tale from yours truly as well as a number of my friends: Kim Fahner, Mat Del Papa, Charlie Smith, Rob Sacchetto, and a pile of other local contributors.

Upon my arrival, the gracious Mr. Leslie brought me my contributor’s copy and my Spooky

My Spooky Sudbury swag

My Spooky Sudbury swag

Sudbury Swag Bag.  I met Jenny, and hung out with Scott Overton, Kevin Closs, and a crowd of other people.  Really.  It was a crowd.

An hour into their three-hour stint at Chapters, Mark and Jenny were sold out.  Fans were heading down to Costco to buy copies and bring them back for Mark and Jenny to sign.

This afternoon, Mark and Jenny were at Coles in the New Sudbury Centre, and tomorrow morning, from 10 am to 12 pm, they will be at Costco.  This will be your last chance, Sudbury, get your copy of Spooky Sudbury before they’re all sold out and read the true tales of the unexplained through the month of October.

Getting interviewed-yes, the media was there too!

Mind you, you can always go online and order a copy.

Either way, it’s scary stuff, kids (in my best, Count Floyd voice)!

What writerly fun have you been up to this weekend?

Review of Scott Overton’s Dead Air

This review is considerably overdue.  My apologies, Scott.

The Amazon blurb:

dead airWhen radio morning host Lee Garrett finds a death threat on his control console, he shrugs it off as a prank—until a series of minor harassments turns into a set of undeniable attempts on his life. The suspects are many—he’s made enemies—and the police are strangely uncooperative. The radio career he loved has turned sour, leaving behind a dwindling audience and the wreckage of his marriage. Then the friendship of a newly blind boy and the boy’s attentive (and attractive) teacher offer unexpected hope. Maybe he can make a fresh start. Maybe he can admit that he’s the source of a lot of his own problems. But when the deadliest assault yet claims an innocent victim, Garrett knows he has no choice—he has to find his persecutors and force a confrontation. The extraordinary outcome will test the limits of an ordinary man. In Dead Air career broadcaster Scott Overton creates the disturbing scenario of an ordinary man whose life is threatened by an unknown enemy.

My thoughts:

I wasn’t in love with the character of Lee Garrett. In fact, I didn’t like him much at all, but that’s exactly the way it had to be for Dead Air to be a successful thriller.

Lee Garrett has made enemies over the years, enough to fill a room with the usual suspects, and his wife left him, taking their two children.  She’s making a new life for herself while Garrett’s disillusioned and jaded and not a bit depressed.  He’s a bit of a schmuck, steeped in a good dose of self-sorrow.  Not an attractive package.

Garrett has his redeeming qualities, though.  The reasons he’s made all those enemies is because he generally tried to do the right thing and exposed their varied douchebaggery in the process.  He’s still in love with his wife, and the friends he has are the dependable kind that come through when the going gets tough.

Then he makes friends with Paul, a boy who recently lost his sight, and Candace, his CNIB counsellor.  As the relationship develops, Garrett learns a lot about himself, and how he is the author of his own misery.

He also makes a staunch ally by virtue of an act of kindness.  He even wins over the detective assigned to his case despite having been black-listed for ruining another officer’s career.

By the time Garrett exposes that act that haunts his life and underpins many of his poor decisions, I realized I liked Garrett, despite his not inconsiderable flaws.  I could even think of him as Lee 🙂

Dead Air is a novel about hard-won redemption and a fascinating character study as well as being a thriller with enough twists and turns to keep the reader guessing until the end.

My rating:

4.5 stars out of 5

About the Author:Scott Overton colour high res

Scott Overton hosts a radio morning show on Rewind 103.9 in Sudbury, Ontario. As a broadcaster for more than thirty years (twenty-four of them as a morning man), he knows the world he writes about in Dead Air.

To most readers, morning radio is as much a part of their breakfast routine as a hot cup of coffee. On the air, Scott has become a friend to thousands as he entertains and informs. He brings those same instincts to his writing, with clear prose and honest feelings.

His short fiction has been published in On Spec, Neo-opsis, and anthologies such as Tesseracts Sixteen, Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, and In Poe’s Shadow. He’s also a regular contributor of theatre reviews for a local newspaper.

His other passions include scuba diving and a couple of classic cars.

The Next Big Thing – Initiate of Stone

My friend, Kim Fahner tagged me in this project in which the writer answers questions about their work and then tags other authors to blog their “next big thing” in turn.

So I’m going to victimize tag Scott Overton, who though he’s just published Dead Air, I know has more irons in the fire, Brian Braden, who has a fabulous WIP to share, Tim Reynolds, who’s always working on something fabulous, and Sandra Stewart, who likewise keeps her irons hot (in more ways than one!) 🙂

Onto the Questions:

  • What is the working title of your book?

Initiate of Stone  Bonus: Series title:Ascension, book 1

  • Where did the idea come from for the book?

This is one of the few ideas I’ve had that did not come from a dream.  I just started with an idea of a young woman, forged by elemental forces, who survives war to become the hero the world needs. Everything grew out of that seed of a character and story.

  • What genre does your book fall under?

Epic fantasy.

  • Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

Actually, I’ve blogged this before, so I’ll take the lazy-a$$ route and simply link the previous character sketches, all of which include my casting suggestions:

Ferathainn

Eoghan

Dairragh

Supporting characters

Villains (muwahahahahaha)

  • What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

An uninitiated mage must uncover the secrets her family have kept from her in order to defeat the man who ripped her family, her hope for initiation, and her innocence from her.

  • How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year, writing in the evenings and weekends, working full time in the day.

  • Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I’ve always wanted to write novels.  I have lots of ideas.  This just happens to be the first one I chose to work on.

  • What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

IoS features a strong female character that doesn’t necessarily find fulfilment with a guy.  There are romantic elements, but Fer’s issues can’t be resolved in the course of this novel.  Thematically, I address the painful legacy of secrets, even those kept in care or kindness; the sometimes twisted relationship between parents and children; the difference between institutionalized religion and spiritual practice (how the one can damage and the other promise healing); and the struggle to realize one’s true potential, whatever it is.

So I hope your interest has been piqued 🙂

Thanks for the opportunity Kim, and if anyone is interested, I’ve blogged about my WIP Writerly Goodnesspretty extensively.  If you’d like, just pick my “Work in progress” category and read away.  I haven’t blogged the novel itself, just the character sketches and world-building behind it.

It’s back to the day job for me tomorrow, so I probably won’t post again until the weekend.  Have a good end-of-the week all!

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

The launch of Dead Air, Pontypool, and other Writerly Goodness

Last night was the official launch of my writer friend Scott Overton’s first novel, Dead Air.  I bought my official copy, Scott signed it, officially, I hung out with the other members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild who came out to support Scott (his official fan club?), and he even got the official CTV interview 🙂

Before I get to particulars, I wanted to share a few more views of the Living with Lakes Centre at Laurentian University where the launch was held.  Yes, that’s the same place that Scott read with John Forrest and Mark Leslie last week for the LUminaries reading series.

I won’t say that I arrived early, but it looked like I had some time to walk around the grounds and I took a couple of pictures of the centre from a different angle, and then another looking out over Lake Ramsey from the centre’s dock.

Upon entering, I immediately gravitated to the huddle of SWG members.  We chatted and caught up a bit before the flurry of purchasing and signing got underway.

There were beverages, but word soon spread that the caterer hadn’t shown up yet.  Ever the consummate showman, Laurence Steven of Your Scrivener Press gathered the crowd and ushered us into the room for the reading.

One of the SWG members had thoughtfully brought cookies and just as Laurie apologized for the lack of provisions, the caterer arrived, the result of an understandable miscommunication.

With that sorted, Laurie made a brief but gracious introduction of Scott and brought him to the podium.

Scott first introduced his wife, Terry-Lynne, to whom his book is dedicated, his co-host for his morning radio show, and then he read three selections from his novel.  Afterward, he opened the floor to questions.

Scott spoke of his inspiration, the process of writing the novel, and the interesting things he learned on the way.  He also spoke about the editing process and how he and Laurie had negotiated that.

Overall, it was a very entertaining evening.

But I got this cold, see?  So when I got home, I crawled into bed like the little illen-filled chicklet I am and settled in for the evening.  In cruising the channels, I came across Pontypool.

In the movie, adapted from Tony Burgess’s novel of the same name, a morning radio host (sound familiar, Scott?) is trapped in his radio station while people in the town around him succumb to a strange virus.

Far from the scads of zombie-related virus movies, Pontypool takes a left turn.  The virus is spread in the form of words, and the infected begin to babble and fixate on a particular word or sound.  Through the timely visit of a doctor to the studio, the protagonist learns that it is the understanding of a word that seems to trigger the infection and that speaking in another language is an effective means of evading the illness.

As everyone around them succumbs, the protagonist and his producer are hiding from the hordes and she (the producer) begins to babble, “kill, kill, kill …”  The morning man, twigged by the words of the visiting doctor, begins to try to break his producer’s loop, telling her that kill isn’t kill, that it’s sun, dress, flower, and finally he settles on kiss.  Kill is kiss.

He knows he’s been successful when she says, “kill me.”

I just found the premise fascinating.  A semiotic virus.

You may have noticed me dropping that academic bomb from time to time on my blog, and the reason for it is that I love semiotics.  It’s the study of meaning, to put it simply.  Ultimately all language is invented and arbitrary.  Language is a series of signs or symbols that we chose to mean things so that we can communicate with others and think about them.

We accept that the letters D O G spell dog and that means a certain class of canine quadrupeds that many of us choose to coexist with, but why is it dog and not cap or tree of bazooka?  Who came up with the word and why did everyone accept that this wee beastie should be called dog (and not tomato)?

Two things: have you ever repeated a word to yourself over and over again until the word loses all meaning and just becomes a sound?  Have you ever written or typed a word that you’ve written or typed thousands (perhaps millions) of times before only to think immediately that the word is somehow wrong?  Have you been so convinced of this illusion that you look the bloody word up in the dictionary just to make sure you’ve not gone insane?

That’s semiotic confusion, or uncertainty and may just lead to the thought that it’s not the experience that’s the illusion, but all language and meaning lumped together.

That’s the kind of mind-blowing awesome of a movie like Pontypool.  Not to mention the eerie serendipity of coming from the launch of my morning radio show host friend Scott, whose novel is about a morning show host who receives what turns out to be a very serious threat and finding a movie about a morning radio show host in the middle of a semiotic virus breakout.

Gave me dreams, man …

One last thing, well two really, but they’re related.

I’ve been so busy guest blogging, hosting guests, blogging events, and interviewing that I forgot to mention that Brian Braden of Underground Book Reviews interviewed me last week!  And this week, as the result of the number of comments and likes, he’s posted an excerpt from Initiate of Stone, my work in progress.  Sure, he may have misspelled my name, but everyone does 🙂  Hazard of being me.

So if you want to find out what my WIP is made of, go read for yourself!

Need to curl up with my dog and some wicked cold meds.

Shivering yet? Seasonal chill? No, it’s just Dead Air

An interview with Scott Overton.

Scott Overton is a radio morning man on Rewind 103.9 FM in Ontario, Canada, who blames his off-kilter perspective on years of lost sleep from waking at 4:00am. His short fiction has been published in magazines including On Spec and Neo-opsis, and the anthologies Tesseracts Sixteen, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, among others. His first novel Dead Air (a mystery/thriller) is now available from Scrivener Press, while several SF novels are looking for good homes in the publishing industry. When not writing, Scott’s passions include scuba diving and a couple of collector cars, in which he hopes to someday find enough story inspiration to make them tax deductible.

Scott’s webpage is www.scottoverton.ca

An interview with Scott Overton.

Scott Overton is a radio morning man on Rewind 103.9 FM in Ontario, Canada, who blames his off-kilter perspective on years of lost sleep from waking at 4:00am. His short fiction has been published in magazines including On Spec and Neo-opsis, and the anthologies Tesseracts Sixteen, and Canadian Tales of the Fantastic, among others. His first novel Dead Air (a mystery/thriller) is now available from Scrivener Press, while several SF novels are looking for good homes in the publishing industry. When not writing, Scott’s passions include scuba diving and a couple of collector cars, in which he hopes to someday find enough story inspiration to make them tax deductible.

Scott’s webpage is www.scottoverton.ca

_______________________________________________________________________

Thank you, Scott, for taking the time to visit Writerly Goodness in advance of Dead Air’s launch on October 11, 2012 (Living with Lakes Centre, Laurentian University – be there or be … oblong).  I’m very pleased to have you with me, if virtually.

WG: For those of my readers who may not know what your novel is about, could you give them a brief synopsis?

Scott: Sure. It’s about a radio morning man named Lee Garrett who makes a joke on the radio about a neo-Nazi gang and a few days later he finds a death threat left for him. Then a series of incidents of mischief and vandalism turns into outright attempts on his life. Someone wants him dead, and he doesn’t know who or why.

WG: Where did the idea for Dead Air come from?

Scott: I’m a morning radio broadcaster myself, and I was struck by the vulnerability of even small-scale celebrities. People think they know us, but we don’t know them. And it’s very easy to make an enemy without meaning to, or even knowing that you have. I also wanted to explore how an ordinary person would try to cope with such a devastating threat (as opposed to some Hollywood hero who’d just get a gun and blow the bad guys away).

WG: Writing process is a personal interest of mine.  Would you be able to speak to your process in writing Dead Air?

Scott: It took at least five years to write the first version of Dead Air because I was working full-time and was involved in quite a bit of charity work. I worked on it whenever I could: evenings, weekends, and vacation time, but was impossible for me to stick to a routine because of my other commitments. Fortunately I have an upstairs room that became my study and interruptions were discouraged (even when I was hogging the family’s only computer!)

My writing habits are better now, though I still can’t tolerate any distractions or listen to music. I don’t know how writers can do that and still feel the rhythm of their words.

WG: Dead Air is a thriller, but you’ve had a fair amount of recent publishing success in another genre.  If readers would like to find more of your work, where would they look?

Scott: Everything else I’ve written would be considered science fiction or fantasy, though often with thriller elements. I’ve been fortunate to have seven short stories published and, as a Canadian, I’m particularly proud to have been published in the two top Canadian SF magazines, On Spec (twice) and Neo-opsis, as well as the quintessential Canadian SF anthology series, Tesseracts (I have a story in the latest edition, Tesseracts Sixteen). So I feel like that’s the Triple Crown of SF in our country. Now I really hope I can get my SF novels published.

WG: How did you first start writing?

Scott: I’ve been writing stories ever since I was a child, and briefly tried to write full-time in my twenties, but couldn’t stick with it long enough to break in. I’ve always been determined to become a published author, so when I came up with the concept for Dead Air I just went for it, and I’ve been writing consistently ever since.

WG: Getting back to Dead Air, how did you get your contract with Laurence Steven of Your Scrivener Press?

Scott: I’ve always had a lot of respect for the quality of the manuscripts he chooses and the books he produces. My friend and mentor, Sudbury author Sean Costello, spoke highly of his own experience working with Laurence. Scrivener Press is also a recommender for the Ontario Arts Council’s Writers Reserve grants. I applied for a grant to rewrite Dead Air, Laurence recommended it to the OAC, and when the MS was ready I submitted it to Laurence. I didn’t get his answer for about six months, but he says that was because he was trying to work out the timing of the publication. He’s a busy guy.

WG: Finally, aside from your launch on October 11, are there any other upcoming events you’d like to promote, and where can readers purchase your book?

Scott: I’m sure I’ll be doing more readings and book signings at Chapters and places like that, but nothing has been scheduled yet. The book is available directly from Scrivener Press (though the web site’s a little behind on the direct purchase linkage), and I understand it’s now in stock at Chapters in Sudbury and likely Coles, too. Online it can be ordered through Amazon and Chapters-Indigo.

Scott, thanks for joining me 🙂

________________________________________________________________________

Don’t miss the launch of Scott Overton’s thriller Dead Air! Thursday, October 11, 2012, at the Vale Living with Lakes Centre, 6:30-9:30 pm: free admission and refreshments. (Scott will be reading from the book at 8 pm.) More info at http://www.scrivenerpress.com/default.asp?id=580

 

LUminaries: The Power of Popular Fiction

On October 4, 2012, I attended the first of Laurentian University’s new season of the LUminaries readings series, held at the Living with Lakes Centre (LwLC).  The theme of the evening was the power of popular fiction, with authors John Forrest, Scott Overton, and Mark Leslie.

The first thing to note is that the LwLC is beautiful.  It was built with the landscape and the environment in mind, using a lot of natural or reclaimed materials, a green roof, and wonderful views of Ramsey Lake on the shores of which the centre stands.

The parking was a bit of an issue and I understand the reasons for this.  The builders wanted to encourage a more environmentally sustainable mode of travel, such as walking, cycling, or public transit.  Sadly, this would only work for individuals who work and/or live in the immediate university area.  The room in which the reading was held has a capacity of about 60 I believe.  There’s no way the cars of 60 attendees could fit into that wee parking lot.

This is unfortunate, because it makes the site unattractive for larger events where attendees from off-campus might want to participate in numbers.

This year’s LUminaries was co-sponsored by the English department, through Laurence Steven, the big squishy brain behind Your Scrivener Press, and by the English Arts Club, who are also behind the university’s new literary journal, Sulphur.   

The evening began with a meet and greet/author signing session out in the foyer of the centre.  I decided to hold off on picking up one of Scott’s books until his official launch this coming Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 8 pm (also at the LwLC).  I picked up Tesseracts 16, however, and Mark Leslie’s Haunted Hamilton.  I chatted up the authors, including John Forrest, but I must confess to selling Mr. Forrest short.  The books he had for sale were of Christmas stories and I wasn’t interested or yet in the mood for Christmas.

Laurence Steven began the reading more formally with a brief talk on popular fiction, its attraction, and its denigration in the literary/academic community.  Then he called John Forrest to the podium.

John was an educator and principal in his past career, but then turned his considerable talents to writing.  One of his claims to fame is that he’s had eleven stories published in various Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies, three in the one about hockey.  That’s what he started with, his recounting of the ’72 Summit Series from the perspective of a young teacher working the sporting event into his teaching unit.

He then read part of a story from his story collection entitled Home for Christmas, about a WWII bomber tail gunner and his struggle to get home for Christmas.  Finally, he pulled out his first published short story, a humorous tale about purchasing condoms pending his vasectomy.

John’s first Christmas short story collection, published by YSP last year, has gone into three printings and was sold in Home Hardware stores as well as online and in book stores.  Home for Christmas has already sold out its first printing even though it hasn’t formally been launched yet!  John was dropping off boxes of his book to a couple of the local Home Hardware stores this week, so look for them in the Christmas home decor section.

Next, Scott Overton took the podium, and read three excerpts from his new novel Dead Air.  Without giving too much away, because I am going to blogging more about Scott in the next week or so, his novel is a thriller about a morning radio host in northern Ontario who has a strange dispute with a caller to his morning show and subsequently finds a hand-written threat on his desk.

Several possible love-interests, a snow mobile chase, and car trouble on a cold and stormy night are among the thrills in Dead Air.

Then Mark Leslie read a humorous horror story about what it might really be like to be Frosty the Snowman and some of his poetry from his collection One Hand Screaming.  He also spoke about his experience at editor for Tesseracts 16.  He’s never cracked the anthology as a writer, but lost his “Tesseracts” virginity at 16 🙂

As you can see from the picture, Mark is a very animated presenter and performer, changing his voice for the various characters in his stories.

At that point, there was an intermission after which there was to be a Q&A session.  Unfortunately, it was what I like to call a “school night” and I had to get home to complete my interview responses for Brian Braden and Underground Book Reviews and then get to bed so I would be marginally coherent at work on Friday.

I’m sure it was a fantastic second half and I’m sorry I had to leave.

If anyone who was there would care to fill in the blanks in the comment section, please do so!

Fairy tales, Snow White and the Huntsman, and Mirror, Mirror

Once more, I find myself a day late and a dollar short, but for good reason.  Last night, I attended the Sudbury Writers’ Guild meeting and caught up with my fellow writers in arms 🙂

A lot is happening up here in the north.  Matthew Del Papa published Green Eyes through Capreol, a collection of short stories based on life in the railway town.  Scott Overton had one of his short stories accepted into the recently published Tesseracts 16, will have his first book, Dead Air, launched October 11, 2012, and next week, he will take part in the LUminaries reading series at Laurentian University along with Mark Leslie and John Forrest presenting on the topic “The Power of Popular Fiction.”

Several members are nearing completion of their various works in progress (yay!) and the Guild is moving forward on an anthology of northern writers.

Exciting creative times in Sudz!

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Last week, I was a little out of sorts.  My response to stress seems to be to heap more of the deadly stuff on until my overwrought brain insists on a break.  Thanks to the kind comments of my writer friends, I embarked on a dedicated weekend of relaxation, and as part of that, I watched a couple of movies: Snow White and the Huntsman, and Mirror, Mirror.

In the beginning

Both movies are based on the fairy tale of Snow White.  Now the original story is much the same as the one most of us have become familiar with through Disney.  With a few subtle differences.

A young queen, desperate to have a child, sits spinning at her wheel.  She looks out through the ebon-wood frame of the window, onto a snowy field.  So distracted, she pricks her finger and three drops of her blood fall.  In that moment she wishes for a child black as ebony, white as snow, red as blood.

She has the child, but dies in childbirth.  The king remarries a vain woman who owns a magic mirror.  As the child grows in beauty, the new queen grows jealous and orders her huntsman to murder the girl.  The huntsman, touched by her beauty, cannot kill her, and she runs into the woods.

The huntsman figures the girl will be killed by wild animals in any case and shoots a deer with his bow, taking its innards (not just heart) to present the queen.  In the meantime, Snow finds her way to the home of the dwarfs and they allow her to stay if she will cook and clean for them.

The queen learns from her mirror that Snow still lives, and the artefact is so kind as to tell her where.  So she disguises herself and visits the dwarfs’ home while they are away working.  First, she gives snow a lace collar that once tied around the girl’s throat, chokes her.  The dwarfs return and remove the collar, restoring Snow.

They warn the girl not to receive strangers but the naive thing does so twice more, once to be poisoned by a comb placed in her hair, which the dwarfs also remove, and then to be poisoned by an apple, a mouthful of which lodges in her throat.

The dwarfs cannot revive her this last time, and determine to encase her body in a glass coffin.  As they transport the coffin to a mountain top, a traveling prince literally runs into them, upsetting the coffin, and dislodging the poisoned apple.

The prince announces he will marry Snow and invites everyone in the land.  The queen, preparing to attend the great feast and not knowing the identity of the bride, checks once more in her magic mirror, and is told once again that Snow White and not she is the fairest in the land.  The mirror neglects to tell her where Snow is this time, however, and she goes to the wedding still ignorant.

At the feast, the queen and her treachery are exposed and she is presented with a pair of iron shoes that have been heated in the fire.  She must dance until she dies.

Clarissa Pinkola Estes, in her anthology of the Tales of the Brothers Grimm, writes:

A tale invites the psyches to dream upon something that seems familiar, yet often finds its origins in a far away time.  In entertaining the tales, listeners are re-envisioning the meanings of them, “reading with the heart” these important metaphoric guidances about the life of the soul.

As my recent foray into Fairy tale blogging madness will attest, fairy tales have an enduring fascination.  Snow White has been given homage in many novels and movies as a result.

Snow White and the Huntsman

This movie is quite faithful to the original fairy tale at the outset, but then takes a radical departure.

**Warning: Spoiler alert!**

Snow White & the Huntsman

Snow White & the Huntsman (Photo credit: Ludie Cochrane)

The queen, a fearsome sorceress who drinks the life force of beautiful maidens to remain young and beautiful, murders the king and keeps Snow White a prisoner for ten years while the country grows desolate around them.

When Snow White escapes into the dark forest, where she has no power, the queen recruits a huntsman and binds him with the promise that she will resurrect his dead wife if he will kill Snow White.

In the forest, Snow meets the dwarfs, who have fallen on hard times.  The huntsman finds Snow White, but Snow convinces him that the queen has deceived him and that they will both die if he takes her back to the queen.

They flee with the dwarfs, through various adventures, and joined by Snow’s childhood playmate, the son of a neighbouring duke, they defeat the queen’s brother and his men.  The queen, however disguises herself as the duke’s son and offers Snow the fateful apple.

When she is revived, Snow convinces the Duke to go to war against the queen and in a final confrontation, a Snow that appears more like Joan of Arc than a fairy tale princess, kills the queen.

What I liked about it:

  • The queen.  She was a brilliant villain, made more complex by a back story of abuse and tragedy, and more creepy by implications of incest with her brother.
  • The dwarfs.  They were a mystical, gruff bunch.  Bob Hoskins was fantastic 🙂
  • The lord of the forest.  At one point, the group enter fairy lands, and the lord of the forest blesses Snow.  It was a scene reminiscent of Princess Mononoke, with the lord of the forest appearing as a giant white stag with gloriously branching antlers, though I much preferred Myazaki’s Puff ‘n’ Fresh-like head rattlers to Huntsman’s eerie fairies that crawled out of the bodies of animals.
  • The scarred women.  To protect themselves from the queen’s predations, the widowed and orphaned women of the land scar their faces.
  • The awakening kiss.  Though it is the duke’s son who loves Snow, his kiss does not awaken her.  It is the huntsman’s kiss that proves to be the kiss of true love, but not because he loves Snow.  It is a kiss born of his sorrow for failing Snow as he failed his wife before.  I liked that a lot.
  • The ending.  Snow White, having defeated the queen and reclaimed her kingdom, sits on the throne, no man by her side, not the duke’s son, and not the huntsman.
  • The song.  Breath of life by Florence + the Machine is awesome!

What I didn’t like:

  • Some of the plot points were too convenient.

Why keep Snow White a prisoner?  The queen could have just killed her, or better still, take the girl’s life force to maintain her beauty.  It’s only when the mirror reveals to her (ten years on) that Snow’s heart will keep her forever young that she thinks to do anything with her rival.  Why did the mirror wait so long to tell her?
The queen has no power in the dark forest, so she recruits the huntsman, but she still sends her brother in after Snow.  Why didn’t she just send her brother in the first place?
The duke’s son gets himself recruited to the queen’s brother’s hunting party, but when they find Snow, he’s more concerned about maintaining his cover than in helping her.

  • The fairies creeped me out.
  • Snow is innocent and pure.  It’s that purity that allows her to defeat the queen, but for the final battle, she’s done up in plate mail.  It promises bad-assery that Snow fails to fulfill.  The queen tosses her around like a rag doll and she only succeeds in killing the queen because she’s lucky.

Mirror, Mirror

Mirror, Mirror, from the outset, seemed a movie that didn’t know what it was trying to accomplish.  It starts with the queen, narrating her own story in a British accent, which she doesn’t maintain.

There are moments in it that are potentially dark, but they are overwhelmed by the silly.

In this revision of the fairy tale, Snow is merely locked away while the queen fritters away her money on parties and trying to look young.  She is advised by a maid to go out and have a look at the kingdom herself.  Snow is horrified by the poverty she sees.

When the prince comes on the scene, the queen settles on him as a means to continue her wastrel ways.

The prince, however, has fallen in love with Snow (who rescued him after the bandit dwarfs left him hanging), so the queen decides to get rid of her, sending her chief boot-licker out to do the job.  That part is faithful to the fairy tale.  The boot-licker is unable to kill Snow, but leaves her to the beast that lives in the forest and shows the queen some organ meats that were left in the kitchen.

The dwarfs are highwaymen in this version.  They rob the prince twice, and in keeping with the fairy tale, permit Snow to stay with them if she cooks and cleans for them.

As the queen tries to seduce the prince, Snow becomes a highwayman herself, insisting that the dwarfs return the money they steal to the townspeople to whom it truly belongs.

The queen eventually sends “the beast” out after Snow and the beast turns out to be her father.  Snow breaks the enchantment, marries the prince, and when the queen sneaks into the wedding feast and offers Snow the gift of an apple, Snow sees her for what she is, and refuses to be fooled.

What I liked:

  • The mirror.  In this version, the mirror is a kind of portal to another place where the queen communes with the mirror, which is herself.  Kinda nifty.
  • Snow as a highwayman.  She delivers on the kick-ass, though not terribly convincingly.
  • The beast/the king.  It was Sean Bean!  He got to live, for once!

What I didn’t like:

  • The queen.  Shallow and careless.
  • The prince.  He’s depicted as a doofus from the beginning and totally unworthy of Snow.
  • The dwarfs.  Though they’re thieves, they run around on stilts and do circus stunts.
  • The potion.  In the queen’s attempt to seduce the prince she gives him a potion without first examining what it is.  It turns out to be puppy love.  More doofus action for the prince.
  • The puppets.  The queen sends marionettes after Snow and the dwarfs.  Lame foes and once Snow sees their strings, she easily cuts them and saves everyone.
  • The Bollywood production at the end.  Totally misplaced.
  • The soundtrack.  Very traditional orchestral stuff.  Probably very good, but easily ignored given the ridiculousness of the movie.

Takeaways

  1. Villains that have a reason to be villainous and who do truly terrible things as a result are always better than purely selfish divas.
  2. In the same vein, flawed heroes are better than the goody-two-shoes, but …
  3. Heroes need to be heroes.  No doofaci (the plural of doofus, don’t ya know?) need apply.
  4. Convenient plot points will always be noticed and called out by the faithful reader.
  5. Go for the subtle twist.  The kiss of true love doesn’t necessarily mean what you think it means.
  6. The trails that your characters go through have to be dangerous, dire, challenging.  If no one is truly in danger, the reader won’t care.
  7. Even minor characters can be awesome: the scarred women.
  8. If in doubt, borrow from Anime before going to Bollywood for inspiration 😉
  9. Similarly, go for the quirky new artist rather than the traditional soundtrack for inspiration.
  10. Your story doesn’t have to end with a kiss, or even a relationship beyond mutual respect.

Have you seen any movies lately that got you thinking?  Do you watch movies for plot?  Learn anything about your craft in the process?

Writerly Goodness must hit the hay.  Reading at the 100 thousand poets for change event in North Bay tomorrow!  And you know I’m going to blog about that 🙂

Draft two and what it taught me

I printed out and read through my first draft.  It was painful.  I made notes all over it and as I went, made additional notes on scrap paper.  Afterward, I physically mapped out my next revision.  At that point, it was just a bunch of pieces of paper floating around like a free-form puzzle on the table.  I looked for the pattern, made sense of it, and put the papers in ordered groups.

My scrap paper novel map

My scrap paper novel map

I revisited all of my previous work: the character sketches, plot sketches, and timeline.  The title changed again, finally to Initiate of Stone.  This emerged from the text itself, organically, the way I like it.

There were a number of metaphors and events that related to the earth element: taking shelter in caves and underground, the hidden people, who have a special skill with shaping the stone, whose father was the elemental spirit of the continent, now entombed in the mountains awaiting rebirth and acting as a kind of gatekeeper to the otherworld at the Well of Souls, the seal that must be broken to free the dark god is buried beneath the desert sands.

I decided to reinforce the theme and add to the images.  I made even more notes for all the changes I wanted to make and dove back into writing.

I wrote more, started playing with the prologue, nearly 50 pages on its own.  Each chapter now had a framing piece about the world, its history, and other things that I thought I couldn’t bring out in the story but wanted to share.  Characters developed further, names changed, existing plot lines developed, and new plot lines evolved.

I started sharing this revision out to select readers.  In retrospect, it was too early, but I got some excellent feedback from Scott Overton, then president of the SWG.

Part-way through, I abandoned the preface pieces, and decided that the prologue, though important for me to have written, was largely cut-worthy.  I redacted whole sections and added new ones.  I rearranged their order to make more sense with the timeline.

This time, the draft was close to 1200 pages.  I’d done a lot of cutting, so this was a surprise.

What I learned:

  • Step away from the novel between drafts.  You need figurative “space” to approach it fresh.
  • It’s okay to murder your darlings, especially if you keep previous drafts stored on your computer and backed up onto CD.  That way, you haven’t done away with them altogether.
  • Physical mapping is liberating.  Being able to see the structure of your novel, and to play with it, is extremely helpful.  It’s like putting a puzzle together.  Some pieces may seem similar, but they only fit together in one way.  Looking at the story in its concrete representation can help you to find the best fit.
  • Sometimes, you write things that don’t make sense, and you don’t see it until revision.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that to have to throw them out.  If there was a reason that you wrote it, try to figure out what the core intention was.  Don’t put too much intellectual pressure on it or you risk forcing it the wrong way, but if you realize why it was important to write it in the first place, that will give you the key to revising the section in a way that improves your story.

What has your revision process taught you?