Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Light at the End of...

I won't bore you with any more of my NaNo whining.

The current numbers are 42,800 words with 2 days left. That leaves 3600 words for each of those days. My best day this month was 3260 words so the gauntlet has been thrown down.

Someone whose blog I read (see Townie Bastard on side panel. He lives in, and blogs from, Iqaluit int he Canadian territory of Nunavut) had a trailer for a new TV show being put out by the CBC in the new year. It's called 'Republic of Doyle' and is set here in St. John's, so if you're curious about the place check out the attached link to the YouTube trailer.

It's about a private investigator and all the shady dealings of his life and family. He seems to get beat up a lot, very reminiscent of the Rockford Files. Townie Bastard noted that it was amusing the amount of gunfire in the trailer. We don't get much of that here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving...the Sequel

It's Thanksgiving Day for my American friends to the south and west of me. I'd like to send out a big 'Happy Thanksgiving' to you all. I hope that you dig into your turkey, or ham, or roast, or tofu substance with relish (and a bit of mustard, too). I hope that you have a great long week end and for my fellow NaNo-ites, I hope that the writing doesn't take you away from family for too long...or the other way around--Note that Canada celebrated Thanksgiving on the more 'NaNo friendly' October 12.

I am at 38,375 words (83 pages, single spaced) and am preparing for the big push to the finish over the week end.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009


I'm sitting at 34,725 words at the moment and figure that I'll need about 2200 words a day until the end to get this done. I'm happy that I have booked Friday and Monday off work. Unfortunately Friday is earmarked (cool word) for Ginny and I to do our annual Christmas shopping spree. Hear's the sound of me cheering with happiness. Luckily it's not the Thanksgiving weekend here, as it is for my US friends. Don't get me wrong. The Thanksgiving notion is excellent, it's just inconveniently placed in November for the Americans.

Newfoundland novelist Tina Chaulk (listed with other local authors on my sidebar) posted a video by Kristina Horner. A cute look at the NaNoWriMo dilemma. Or was it a conundrum...

I typed some real shite at 6:30 this morning in an effort to pad the word count. I shall attach an excerpt from that for your reading *cough* enjoyment. Please don't think any less of me...

Anatoly was even more dejected than the previous night. He left the radio station, having barely spoken to Big Ben Murphy. He caught the number 17 bus downtown, to work another four hour shift at the diner.

His shift went well, as the harbour seemed quiet tonight and there weren’t many sailors or longshoremen dropping in for their gourmet offerings. They had enough time for Donovan to show him how to make ‘Toad in the Hole’. They fried up some sausages and wrapped them in bacon strips and then poured on the mixture of flour, milk and eggs. They baked this in the oven and could cut it up into eight portions. They reworked some of the thick, brown gravy made earlier in the day for hot turkey sandwiches by scraping off the hardened skin and adding chopped onions to the mix.

Donovan noted that they used to eat this back in England. Except that it came in a Yorkshire Pudding format where the sausage stuck out of the muffin like a greasy, brown phallus. Miller wanted these added to the breakfast menu to try to bring in some new customers.

Donovan also showed Anatoly something his mother used to make for him when he was a boy. He called it the ‘Golden Eye’ and it was very simply a slice of bread fried in oil with an egg in a pan. All he had to do was cut a hole in the centre of the bread and drop the egg into it space and let them fry up together, flipping it once to cook the other side. He would have to make this for David at breakfast time one day.

They sat down at a booth and ate their creations, getting up occasionally to collect money at the cash register or to pour more coffee for customers.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Fluff and Nonsense

The word count for the the NaNo story is now at 29,300 but the going is slow. I am not meeting my week day quotas as I am beyond anything I outlined before the month started. So progress is slow.

We're off to visit my parents late this afternoon to take them out to dinner and then to a Senior Men's hockey game in the nearby town of Harbour Grace (the home of Dan Cleary of the Detroit Red Wings, for anyone hockey inclined). It's their birthday today so nothing says Happy Birthday in Canada more than dinner out and hockey. Yes, you read that correctly...both of them celebrate their birthday today. Dad is 68 and mum is 65. True pensioners now, the pair of them.

The next chance I'll have to type up anything into Word will be tomorrow night. So I'll have to rely on the old fashioned pen-to-paper for any progress for a while. I don't quite know, at the current rate of progress, how I'm going to squeeze out 20K words in just 8 days...yikes, let the crap flow (which is sort of a local joke regarding the state of the harbour at times). There's not enough character description going on, not enough conflict, almost no symbolism and generally not enough exposition. So I should be serving up a lot of fluff and nonsense for the next few days...thanks all, for the continued kind words of support (and yet you still return to endure my whining!)

As I look back on the post I notice that I have uses a lot of brackets. Apologies for that (it's kind of how my brain has been working the past 21 days)...and a lot of those dot thingies as well.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Monkey See...

Yep, another NaNo update...blah, blah blah.

I have passed the 25K hump *high fives all around* and begin the downhill slope to the end. I haven't a clue how it's supposed to end. Or how to get there.

I have enlisted the help of my three friends, below, because the say if you put enough monkeys in a room with keyboards, one will produce a Shakespeare work (and I mention the bard in my NaNo story). I think the smart money should be bet on monkey #1, he's showing a good dramatic element and he's following the NaNo mantra about never using the backspace key. Well done, Bubbles!
The whole monkey thing has got me thinking about a humorous email that was going about work regarding why certain policies were in place that nobody knew why those policies were in place...I'll attach it'll get the idea. And if you were the author of that fine logic, take a bow. Or have a banana (and hurry up and finish my NaNo story for me!)

Why Can’t We Change Our Process?A Unique Look at ‘Why Things are Done the Way they Are’
Start with a cage containing five monkeys... Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the other monkeys with cold water.
After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result, all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.
Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.
Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked. Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.
After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not? Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Midlands

I am approaching the half way mark on the NaNo word count for Metropolis. It's amazing how much "shtuff" pops into your head, and out of your fingers while working on it. My outline accounts for only a small proportion of the word count, which I'm glad about, as I've still got some notes to use to help in the second half. I still worry that I'm going to hit a brick wall where I won't know where to go with the story line or how to eventually end it.

To cheer myself up over the weekend I broke out the plastic to order a couple of books from our Amazon friends. The books were only about $18, but the shipping was an additional $12 something. That sucked, but I'm sort of used to it now due to the fact we live on an island. I recall that when we ordered a couple of love seats shortly after moving into the house, we had to wait over 2 months for manufacturing and shipping. I could understand that if they were like hand crafted by the Amish, or the fabric had golden strands woven into it...

...sorry, back to the books. I have been wanting a copy of Stephen King's "On Writing" for some time, after it was highly recommended by all of you kind folk. My second pick was anthology of fine horror stories by the fine authors of 52 Stitches. I am looking forward to the arrival of volume one any time now.

My current word count is 23,400. That is 51 pages, single spaced (I opted for the single space as it would speed up the scrolling back that I knew that I would have to do to refer to facts that I were already 'out there'. God forbid I should contradict myself.

My sister emailed me a video (which is kind of odd considering that she's living with us at the moment) that I found hilarious. It's for a product called Kiwi Bacon...and I apologise (I am Canadian, after all) to any vegetarians or New Zealanders I may have offended.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cracking the Other Whip

I was going to call this post "Cracking the Whip" but noticed that I had used "Cracking the WIP" before. I hate being repetitive.

Perhaps I should be wearing my reading glasses. The object at Indie's feet looks like a brown paper lunch back as opposed to a golden idol. I must be something mighty tasty for him to be protecting it with a whip and revolver.

My posting and commenting at the blogs of others has declined since NaNo started. My work is absorbing my day time. My spare time seems to go towards tapping out a few words here and there. I don't like that kind of writing: where I'm just typing out all of the wordy, repetitive shite that pops randomly into my head. I am constantly wanting to go back and correct what I have written, knowing full well that it all helps towards the final word count...even those sentences seem long and convoluted. Crap! I can't get it out of my system.

As of this present moment now, my word count is 16550. The half way mark is end of day Sunday, so I'll need some divine inspiration to spew out 8500 words this weekend. My thanks, especially, go out to Cate and Aaron for their daily inspirational posts to the muddy NaNo-ites hidden deep in the trenches.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Stuff and Stuff

The NaNo thing is going to start to get challenging. The basic premise of the story revolves around a scavenger hunt. I have done the 'set up' stuff to get me to the hunting part. Now I have to figure out what it is people are looking for. I have a number of scenes that I would like to incorporate into the story but have to figure out how to get from A to B to C, etc.

The word count, as of now, is 13660. I'd like to get another 5oo done before going to bed. It's after 10pm here, so bed will be soon as I'll be getting up at 5:45am to start it again. I'm really impressed at some of my 'buddies' word counts...they set a challenging pace. I bet that Danielle Ferries, in particular, will have this thing rapped up with a bow by the 25th of the month!

In other news...I'm please to announce that my flash story "Thor's Hammer" has been accepted at 52 Stitches as part of this year's line up. It's I thrill to be presented with talented writers such as: Catherine Gardner, Mercedes M. Yardley, Brenton Tomlinson and Laura Eno. If you haven't done so before, drop in to 52 Stitches for a tasty, dark story each Sunday. With Aaron Polson carefully applying the stitches, you know you won't be dissappointed...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Kelley Armstrong Q & A

I present to you, this morning, the questions you sent me and the responses from New York Times bestselling author Kelley Armstrong. She is the author of the Nadia Stafford mystery series and the Otherworld series of novels. Frostbitten, the 10th book of the Otherworld series is available now. Her YA urban fantasy novel The Reckoning, third in the Darkest Powers Trilogy, will be available May 2010. For a little more background on Kelley, and my request for questions last month, you can link to my previous post here.

The cover illustrations of your books, especially the latest, Frostbitten, are beautiful. I'd like to know if you have any input into their design or are given a choice of covers. Or is it out of your hands?

I don't choose the art. In fact, with most of the covers, I don't see them until they're done. This is common with the "big" publishers. It's only with small publishers (or really big names) that the author gets a significant say in the cover art. It's a marketing decision, and I leave it to the pros.

Was there any commercial reason to start writing conventional crime fiction, as opposed to your established modern fantasy books? Did you pull your existing fans along to the new series or have you had to establish a new fan base?

I started Exit Strategy after my third Otherworld book was written and there was some concern because the first two hadn't sold as well as the publisher hoped. I was about halfway done the book when I sold Dime Store Magic and everything took off. A few years ago, my agent asked if I wanted to finish Exit Strategy, and I did. I read a lot of crime thrillers, so it would be my second choice of genre to write in and makes a nice change of pace.

I would like to know how easy it was for you to find a publisher for your werewolf series. Were you already published when you wrote them?

In my twenties I started working on novels, and would sporadically send out query letters and sample chapters, but never got anything more than a form letter rejection. So I gave up and concentrated on improving.

When I finished Bitten, I had an instructor look at it, to see how well I was progressing. He offered to recommend an agent, and things happened very quickly from there. Within a couple of months I went from being unpublished to having multiple book contracts. So it was a long empty road, with a very quick stop at the end!

What techniques do you use as an adult to capture the teen mind when writing YA fiction such as the Darkest Power Trilogy?

I don't simplify the story lines or the characterizations at all. I think that's important. Teens understand and enjoy complex characters, dark themes, etc. I do tweak the language, not for the audience, but to suit the younger narrators. In my first trilogy, there's no sexual content. Again, though, that's a reflection of the main character, who hasn't even dated yet, so it's not an issue. In short, then, to write for young adults, I just use a young adult main character and make sure she really is a teen--in her language, in her way of thinking, in the issues that concern her and the tools she has at her disposal.

The biggest challenge was that I'm a whole lot older than my main character. As a teen, I hated it when adults tried to write in a teen voice and it was painfully obvious that they were on the wrong side of thirty. Having a daughter in the right age group made that easier--I had a living subject to study and a built-in focus group.

When you were doing your degrees, were you writing? What did you put in place to give you the time to write?

Growing up, I never thought 'writer' was a valid career choice, probably because my parents didn't. They fully supported it as a hobby, but didn't think it was something you should plan to make a living at. So I went to university for psychology. As I was preparing for graduate school, though, I realized I was heading into a career that would leave me no time to pursue a dream of publication. So I switched gears and went into computer programming, which gave me a 9-to-5 job that paid the bills while I took writing courses, joined writing groups, and worked at improving my craft. I sold my first novel in 1999 (it came out in 2001) and started full-time writing in 2002.

Everyone talks about needing to have a web presence as an emerging writer. It seems to me that the most successful writers worked on their writing, got the book deal, and then worried about a web presence. What do you think?

For promotion, I'd urge them to find what they enjoy and do that, rather than taking everyone's advice on "what works" and spending a lot of money. Other than having a decent website (which is always worth the cost) nothing has been proven to absolutely increase your sales. So you do what you enjoy. Most of all, though, you work on the next novel. That's what will advance your career far more than any promotional efforts.

I would like to thank Kelley for taking time away from her busy schedule to provide in-depth answer to some really insightful questions. For more information about Kelley Armstrong, or her novels, please visit her website here. If you're interested in reading a PDF version of her Fall, 2009 newsletter available on her website, you can click here.

Friday, November 6, 2009

NaNo Week and Reminder

Week 1 of NaNo is nearing an end. Word count is about 6900, after this morning's flurry of activity. I'm still about 1200 words behind based on my self-imposed formula of 900 words on week days (21 in Nov.) and 3500 on weekend days (9 in Nov.) Basically, to stay on schedule with this venture I need to be at 15,000 words by Sunday night. Yikes!

I will make a valiant effort to get caught up by Sunday night. I find that 5:45am rising is taking it's toll. And I'm a bit groggy later in the afternoon. At least a bit more than what's normal for me. I'm nearing the end of the leftover 5lb bag of Rockets from halloween (we won't discuss the chips and tiny chocolate bars). When the sugar rush wears off on Sunday and I crash for a bit, I hope the stuff will be out of my system for good. I'll start going to bed earlier next week to end the groggies.

A reminder to every one that I am going to post the interview with fantasy/mystery/horror author Kelley Armstrong tomorrow (Saturday) morning, so I hope you all can return for that.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Q and A and Stuff

Just a couple of little items to throw out there this morning...
  • Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall arrived in St. John's Monday afternoon to begin their cross-Canada tour. Sadly, I missed the official welcome as I was playing basketball with the geezers. And my invite to dine with them must have gotten lost in the mail.

  • NaNo is going well. I've fallen behind a bit as I haven't met my daily quota I set for myself on weekdays. I'm sure that I'll have some catching up to do this weekend. With the few words from this morning, I'm at 4265 words. It's sure slow going at the start as most of it has been conversation setting things up. I'll be glad when it moves along and 'stuff' happens.

  • I'd like to officially announce that I will be posting the Q & A with author Kelley Armstrong this Saturday morning (November 7) for those who want to read her insights. For those new to my blog, I posted here requesting questions from my readers to send on to Kelley, author of more than a dozen books of horror, YA urban fantasy and mystery.

    Frostbitten, the 10th book in her Women of the Otherworld series is now available. Please invite others who may be interested to drop in Saturday and hear from Ms. Armstrong.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Reality Check

I just thought that I would shift gears away from NaNo for this post. I hope that it's not too much of a downer. And I warn you that this may again fall into that elusive 'probably of no interest to anyone but Alan' category. But I will jump up on my soapbox again...

I notice in the news yesterday that the 133rd Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan arrived home yesterday. I think that it's really nice that the government offices here still lower the flags to half-mast in remembrance. That may be what has got me on this line of thought today. I donated my bit of money and picked up my poppy yesterday. Remembrance/Veteran's Day is only 9 days away...

I also read in the news today that another suicide bomber attacked a bank in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. It's believed that 35 died there. This follows the attack on October 28 in Peshawar, Pakistan where about 100 died. And the 6 who died in Islamabad on October 20. The article mentioned the last large scale attack in Pakistan was in October 20007 in Karachi when Islamic militants killed about 135 people. I think, though, that in North America and perhaps Europe they would be referred to as Domestic Terrorists. I think, also, what has caught my attention is that I travelled through all of those places back in the fall of 1990.

I don't doubt that there have been hundreds of news stories and blogs on these occurrences debating the issue of whether or not our military should be over there. I think that debate should be left to greater minds than I...

I've probably brought it up on my blog before, or perhaps on the blogs of others, that I was in Pakistan for three weeks back in 1990 as part of an overland trek from London, England to Kathmandu, Nepal (16 weeks in total). It was a wonderful time and I would highly recommend that sort of travel to anybody (as long as you like riding in the back of an old Bedford truck and camping every night). I will attach a few photos below to give you some views of Pakistan in more peaceful, happier times.

At the Rohtas Fort, about 16km NW of Jhelum, Pakistan.

The Shah Faisal Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan can accommodate 300,000 worshipers

Market along the main street in Murree, Pakistan (one of the locations in the book "A Thousand Splendid Suns," by Khaled Hosseini)

Along the Grand Trunk Road en route to Peshawar, Pakistan.

A little girl in the Jhelum Market. Her father motioned to me while we were driving slowly through the market and wanted me to take her photo. So I did.