Lately I’m easily… *SQUIRREL!*

I’ve been having trouble concentrating lately. Not during important things like reading, writing, or talking to my wife. It’s while watching TV.

I’m an avid fan of television and consume a lot more than I should. Especially while multitasking. My first writing project was a fanfiction staring a post Star Trek: The Next Generation Scotty. I think both television and video games have been greatly underestimated as art and educational. That’s a completely other post however.

Full disclosure, between television, movies, and youtube, I probably watch 30-40 hours a week, most of it while working. I’m a layout artist for the government and can easily multitask without affecting the speed or quality of my work.

All that being said, a lot of shows are having trouble keeping my interest. Most of them are new shows. The particular culprits are Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, Atlantis, Haven, and Grimm. I’d watch them and suddenly find myself looking at my phone or thinking about something else.

I thought it was me until I watched Nightmare on Elmstreet 3. I assumed I would have the same problem but I didn’t. Then I started re-watching Gilmore Girls and again didn’t get distracted.

So what was my problem? Was I bored? No. Were the shows boring? Not really.

I think I’ve come up with a reason. “Pacing” any good action, cop, adventure, or genre show has high levels of tension and action followed by cool-down periods. It’s a structure that’s shared between most of them. It helps to calm the audience or build tension depending on how it’s used.

I think the problem is simply that their cool-down periods are boring me. You know the part where they get ready, or the part where they explain, or the part where they chat about the secondary storyline. It’s just not keeping my interest.

This is an essential part of the story but it doesn’t have to be boring. Look at Castle, it has more witty banter and flirting during these scenes to compensate. Or look at Doctor Who or
Buffy, they do these scenes during running, or flying or while they move to the next thing.

Some shows, like Gilmore Girls, don’t need the ups and downs and keeps to a middle ground tension.

All the shows that keep my interest are seasoned with humour. I think the combination of strong character relationships and humour is what keeps me focused during the slower bits.

In writing, I always try to write something that it interesting and funny, to me, in the cool-downs or build-ups. The hope is that the reader won’t get bored or distracted.

These aren’t bad shows, most of them are still struggling to get their balance or get their balance back. If they were bad, I’d stop watching them.

What about you? Are there shows that just can’t keep your interest? If so what would you like to see them change?

Lately I’m easily… *SQUIRREL!*

I’ve been having trouble concentrating lately. Not during important things like reading, writing, or talking to my wife. It’s while watching TV.

I’m an avid fan of television and consume a lot more than I should. Especially while multitasking. My first writing project was a fanfiction staring a post Star Trek: The Next Generation Scotty. I think both television and video games have been greatly underestimated as art and educational. That’s a completely other post however.

Full disclosure, between television, movies, and youtube, I probably watch 30-40 hours a week, most of it while working. I’m a layout artist for the government and can easily multitask without affecting the speed or quality of my work.

All that being said, a lot of shows are having trouble keeping my interest. Most of them are new shows. The particular culprits are Arrow, Sleepy Hollow, Atlantis, Haven, and Grimm. I’d watch them and suddenly find myself looking at my phone or thinking about something else.

I thought it was me until I watched Nightmare on Elmstreet 3. I assumed I would have the same problem but I didn’t. Then I started re-watching Gilmore Girls and again didn’t get distracted.

So what was my problem? Was I bored? No. Were the shows boring? Not really.

I think I’ve come up with a reason. “Pacing” any good action, cop, adventure, or genre show has high levels of tension and action followed by cool-down periods. It’s a structure that’s shared between most of them. It helps to calm the audience or build tension depending on how it’s used.

I think the problem is simply that their cool-down periods are boring me. You know the part where they get ready, or the part where they explain, or the part where they chat about the secondary storyline. It’s just not keeping my interest.

This is an essential part of the story but it doesn’t have to be boring. Look at Castle, it has more witty banter and flirting during these scenes to compensate. Or look at Doctor Who or
Buffy, they do these scenes during running, or flying or while they move to the next thing.

Some shows, like Gilmore Girls, don’t need the ups and downs and keeps to a middle ground tension.

All the shows that keep my interest are seasoned with humour. I think the combination of strong character relationships and humour is what keeps me focused during the slower bits.

In writing, I always try to write something that it interesting and funny, to me, in the cool-downs or build-ups. The hope is that the reader won’t get bored or distracted.

These aren’t bad shows, most of them are still struggling to get their balance or get their balance back. If they were bad, I’d stop watching them.

What about you? Are there shows that just can’t keep your interest? If so what would you like to see them change?

Time and perception = Time Travel

The subjectivity of time fascinates me. It’s kind of like time travel and you know how I feel about time travel (I love it).

A good example of how mind boggling this concept is, think about the bus. Let’s say, 2 people take the bus at the same time and get off at the same time. The trip lasts 35 minutes. Person 1 is a bus-reader, like me, and sits down to read a good book. Person 2 suffers from motion sickness and doesn’t own a music player.

Person 1 fought dragons or whatever they’re into reading, while Person 2 fought with nausea. They both experienced things but Person 1 would say that they’ve experience more while Person 2 would say they didn’t experience anything.

As for time, Person 1 barely noticed the trip. Maybe they even got frustrated that it didn’t last a few pages extra. Person 2 noticed every excruciating moment.

If we were going to do this in pseudo-scientific math stuff:

Person 1: Time Noticed < Real Time < Experience

Person 2: Experience < Real Time < Time Noticed

Isn’t that cool?

How a character experiences time is extremely important and is rarely exploited by authors. The reason is simple, playing with character subjectivity, is difficult. Not to mention the fact that the human mind will try to compensate while reading.

Does anyone have examples of an author doing this well?

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince by S.M. Carrière

I’ve known S.M. Carrière for a little over a year now I should have read one of her books earlier.

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is an otherworld novel in line with Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman, The Fairy series by O.R. Melling, or Jack of Kinrowan by Charles De Lint.

It borrows heavily from Welsh and Irish mythology to make a well-rounded and fascinating world.

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

There were a lot of characters in this novel but it didn’t distract from the main characters’ story arcs. I really enjoyed watching Ethan’s development from listless jock to Battle Prince. It was so well done that until I thought about it I didn’t see it happening.

I also liked the unabashedly strong and intelligent women in this book. It’s not easy to write a female warrior without falling into stereotypes. S.M. did it extremely well.

I didn’t like

There were a lot of characters and a few of the secondary ones felt like they had interesting stories to tell but never really got the chance to develop. O

There were two that bothered me the most. First was a character called Mitch, who was friends with Ethan. Their seemed to be more to the character and his odd submissiveness but his story ended with a handshake and a nod.

The other was a character called Joseph who was introduced around two thirds into the book. He was interesting and worked as an emotional foil for Ethan but felt like he didn’t need to be there.

The role that Joseph ended up playing in the end of the book was what I expected of Mitch after a step character arc.

For characters, I give it 3 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

The ease with which S.M. weaves mythology into her story is impressive and she manages to avoid info dumping by giving us tiny details throughout.

I particularly liked her use of vocabulary, in many otherworld novels or urban fantasies, the other keeps a very standard language akin to a hardboiled detective style. S.M. keeps the book’s voice in a tongue-in-cheek fantasy style that works perfectly with the story.

One of the strengths in this book is S.M.’s ability to write convincing dialogue. Each character has a unique voice that rings true and it makes it easier to follow which characters are which.

I was definitely taken back to a time I lived with three other guys during university.

I didn’t like

On TV, in movies, and in books I find great pride when I understand the language that the main characters don’t. However, when the opposite happens and I don’t understand, I feel kinda dumb. This book has a healthy dose of Welsh and Irish throughout. At times the conversations are long. Never do they last more than half a page but it still frustrated me.

One the other side of the coin, the author did put a translation for all these scenes at the back of the book. If I had noticed I wouldn’t have minded. I think the translations might have been better as footnotes.

I give it 3 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a standard otherworld story but inversed. Instead of a regular everyday person falling into another world, a Queen fell into ours. I liked the inversion and I liked how well the character handled herself, it’s easy to think she’d panic and go nuts but she dealt pretty well.

Typically this story end after the character returns, or chooses not to return, to their own world, quite often with plot points dangling, and irritating me. The story reached that point and then proceeded to give us some extra action and extra story.

I didn’t like

The story was well crafted and other than the Mitch thing, there were only a few things that frustrated me. I felt that it was a little too neat at the end. I felt like too many people got what they deserved and all was right with the world. It rang true but it also felt like the author didn’t want to wright a sequel and made sure she didn’t have to.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

The book was entertaining throughout. S.M. really knows how to keep your interest. Even through the parts that should have been slow, it was still fascinating.

I also liked the extremely subtle inclusion of herself. A character talks a lot about her roommate and I’m fairly certain that roommate is the author.

I didn’t like

This book was fun through and through. If I were to give it a fault it would be that it was a little too addictive.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

Ethan Cadfael: The Battle Prince is the perfect otherworld novel, with enough twist and turns to keep an aficionado of the genre happy. I’d happily recommend this as a “gateway drug” to fantasy novels.

The author weaves convincing character arcs with mythology and wonderful storytelling.

I highly recommend getting this book and devouring it. It’ll leave a smile on your face.

Final score is 75%

Anniversaries

Yesterday I celebrated the 8th year of dating my wife and 4.5 years of marriage.

The older I get the harder I find it to have perspective on the quantity of time I’ve spent. 8 years doesn’t feel that long, and then I realize that it’s a quarter of my life. I have spent over a quarter of my life with my wife. Wow.

We’re not big on hullabaloo for our anniversaries. For our wedding anniversaries we either relax at home or recreate our first date. Last night we went to a restaurant and the “Midnight” premier of The Hobbit. Thankfully it’s not really at midnight but 10pm.

Relationships are hard! All of them are, not just romantic ones. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of a new friendship but it’s harder to upkeep it in the long run.

A romantic relationship has so many extra stigma’s and insecurities that they are extra hard.

Like so many other things in my life, I didn’t know what I was doing when I met my wife. I still don’t, but I do know enough to be thankful. I don’t just have a wife. I have a friend, and a partner.

Anniversaries should be about enjoying each other and appreciating what you have. Love you Sweetie!

The Dying World – Story

It is the last city on a dying world. Far away from anything you or I have ever known. It is ringed by mountains so smooth and high that they are impossible to scale. The city’s name is Ending.

Ten thousand years ago, the sentient races of that world started dying. All their magic, science, and medicine couldn’t figure out why. All wars ended, all hostilities ceased, and all hatred disappeared.

The great gods that had looked over the world for over five hundred billion years were also affected by this blight. In a last attempt to save those that the gods loved so dearly they gave up their power to the god of the earth. Terhan, used all the powers available to create Ending, the only safe place on a dying world. It weakened him to the point of almost being mortal. He has ruled, uncontested, as king for ten thousand years.

The great king who was a god, hasn’t been seen in a millennia, it is rumoured that he is sick or dead. These rumours are spoken in whispers, in fear that the king’s death harkens the death of the city. He has never taken a wife and never had an heir.

In an attempt to save the world, or what’s left of its people, the Academy has been researching ways to leave the planet. They have lost too much knowledge and none of their attempts have been successful. The light of the sun grows darker and redder every year. Soon there will be nothing but darkness.

Until then there is Ending, a city whose name had seemed ironic when it was built. It had been a place of beauty, shinning pillars of stone. Lush rooftop gardens, and the Ivory tower of light that soared above the city as a beacon to all sentient creatures that there was still hope.

The stone now crumbles, the garden’s rot, and the tower collapsed long ago. Nothing but a battered stump remains. Worst of all, people have started dying without reason. The healer priests of Terhan deny that it’s the ancient plague but no one believes them. Unlike other time and places, there is no panic. No violence. There is only despair.

The castle guards, who were once the pillars of honour, have been kidnapping people. Some from the streets, others from their beds, but all of them have one thing in common. They are all marked at birth, with magical sigils on their bodies. It gives them powers that no other mortal has. They are the only ones the scream and rage against the dying of that city. They are the Marked and they have almost all been taken to castle, never to return.

The Marked are that worlds last hope for survival. Only they can, find a cure for the plague, save the dying world, and lead their people to prosperity.

Just Watch Me

It’s the holiday season. For some, that means stress piled on top of stress. For me this year it means I’m ignoring the stress and cuddling up with the good feelings. (And I haven’t even bought my yearly Irish Cream. I swear.) There’s just something so hopeful about this time of year.

Resolutions

Someone once told me to make New Year’s resolutions that you know you can accomplish. Let me give you advice my wonderful Imaginary Friends. Make New Year’s resolutions that you can accomplish, that you can fail, and that you want to accomplish.

I could easily say that this year I’ll lose 30 pounds. It’s possible, I could easily fail, but I don’t really care enough. I could say that I will breathe regularly. It’s possible, and I certainly want to but I can’t really fail. So follow the three guidelines and you’ll have nice, useful, and attainable goals.

Last year I resolved to do three things, Read more, Write regularly, and Post more on this blog. Two out of three ain’t bad right? I managed a novel and 4 short stories. Read 31 books and I’m on 32. I unfortunately didn’t update much. Sorry.

This year I resolve to do three things again, Write regularly (500 Words a Day of novels or stories), Continue Reading as much (30+ might be tiny compared to my wife who reads that in 3 months), improve my internet presence (See next).

Projects

I have multiple projects in the works, some of which have been in the works for way to long. I’m hoping to get them started and some of them finished this year. Others might take a few years but I’ll get there.

FADDS (Four Attribute Dual Dodecahedron System)

I’ve been working on the rules for FADDS for going on 3 years now. I have most of them worked out and I’m hoping to have a downloadable PDF and hyperlinked SRD finished by the end of 2014. From there I’d like to work on beta testing at Cons and maybe running a kickstarter for the basic rules book.

Elizabeth Investigates (or the Baker City Adventures)

I’m going to be taking a break from writing this series. As much as I love the characters and setting, it’s time to diversify my available products. In other words I’d like another book to shop around. I am waiting to hear from a few publishers about the first book. If they decline it I’ll look into self-publishing. (See previous post for incoherent ramblings.)

Project Kitchen Sink

When I was in high school, one of my favourite books was the Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury. I loved it for the structure. It’s effectively a series of short stories that work themselves into a larger narrative.

Lately I’ve been enjoying George R.R. Martin’s multi-character style, where he jumps from one character to another filling in their side of the story. I did this in my latest novel and my beta readers have said they enjoyed it.

Project Kitchen Sink is a going to be a Fantasy novel riddled with elements of science fiction, mystery, and adventure. It’s going to jump from one protagonist to the other in an over-arching plot with multiverse destroying consequences. I want it to be character driven with multiple different styles. I’m aiming for it to be a standalone novel that is roughly 100,000 words. I have 5 characters stories plotted out.

The Dying World

This is a story and world I’ve been working on for about half a year now and I’m hoping to turn it into a generic roleplaying game adventure. It would be a large fantasy/sci-fi adventure that is compatible with any roleplaying system.

This is a ridiculously ambitious project and I might not get started until summer. Before I submit/publish it, I’ll have to run it with at least 1 group.

The basic story will be laid out in a future post.

Youtube

Last year I became obsessed with some youtubers and decided that if I ever get the right equipment, I’d start my own show. I’d like it to take on several formats and post once a month to start and maybe every week when I get good at it.

The formats would include but not be limited to:

  • How Hard Could it be to Cook _____ (Where I cook something I’ve never tried before.)
  • The Canadian Conspiracy Nut (The fictional story of a conspiracy nut who accidently got it right.)
  • Basic Vlog (Where I can rant and talk about stuff.)

Websites

I want to create a website that combines all my online stuff and my wife’s and organizes it coherently.

The main page would be JenEric Designs and that would integrate:

And add:

  • A Youtube Channel,
  • A Store for JenEric Designs,
  • And Forums

The idea would be to have some sort of content being published at least 4-5 times a week.

In Conclusion, We’re Just Starting.

That looks like a lot more than I expected but I look forward to it. I hope this hasn’t been too long and rambling.

I also hope that the followers (or what I call My Imaginary Friends) will follow and grow as the projects get realized.

That’s it for now. Try and enjoy the season and all the joy that it brings.

Waiting, Dreaming, and Going Crazy

Waiting

There are times when I wonder if I have what it takes to be an author. Those times are usually when I’m waiting on a reply to a query or submission. It feels like half of being an author is writing queries and waiting for replies or deadlines to expire.

I try my best to push the idea to the back of my head and work on the next project. (I’m currently working on 3 short stories, one which might turn into a book in the New Year.) I still feel terribly anxious.

I love the act of writing, and I’m even getting warmed up to the idea of editing, but the waiting is hard. Like harder than waiting for the next Jim Butcher or Tamora Pierce book hard.

Thinking of Self-Publishing

Last night I was thinking of the differences between a small press and a self-published author. I came up with three major differences; Contacts, Experience, and Cash flow.

According to Ray Higdon marketing tactics, the most important seems to be Contacts. Finding a printer, editor, graphic artist, etc isn’t easy but once you have a good one life becomes simpler. Not only that but having the right contacts means that you know who to talk to for the distribution and marketing of the books. Experience adds the right way of doing things and how to do them in a cost effective way.

As for cash flow, it’s the least important. Book publishing isn’t easy or ridiculously profitable. Let’s say you have the greatest printing press deal and your book cost $6 per book to publish but you need to buy 500. That’s just paper add in editing (story and copy), cover design, layout, employees, shipping, etc. You’re talking roughly 4000-5000 for the first print run of a small book. That doesn’t count storage, advertising, or business costs.

I only know what I’ve researched so I could be wrong, but it looks to me like the first print run of a book is lucky to make 10%-20% profit. We’re talking $1-$3 per book or $500-$1500 profit. Not counting the damaged books, free copies, discounts, etc. The next print run will make significantly more but you have to sell at least 500 books for that.

You have to love books in order to want to publish.

An Idea so Stupid, it Might Work

This has me thinking. Is there such a thing as a book cooperative? The idea would be to get a group of authors, who would have self-published anyway, banding together and pooling their contacts, experience, and money. All to make the whole printing process easier and more cost effective.

It would be a profit and cost sharing partnership. Each author would be an equal partner and they would each get a vote on the books that are published.

In order to make it profitable, we’d have to make a distribution deal, and maybe apply for grants.

Most importantly each author would have to produce a book every year or two to keep the production regular and dependable.

Maybe I’m Crazy

I desperately wish I had better knowledge of publishing, business, law, and funding.

This could be a terrible idea or a great one. I firmly believe that it would succeed or fail depending on the quality of the work. I’m fairly confident in my own writing (most of the time) and I know there are some fantastic authors out there that would be great.

I’ll have to think about it and do more research, maybe talk to someone who knows more than I do. (So anyone really.)

What do you think? Does it make sense? Is it crazy?

One a Completely Different Note

Come see my wife and me, at PopExpo this weekend in Ottawa. We’ll be sharing a table with the amazing S.M. Carriere

I’ll Meet You Yesterday by Tom Barlow – Book Review

barlow

I met Mr Barlow at Can-Con (The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature). I unintentionally bought the first copy of his book. He was very nice and signed it for us. I later saw him speak at a panel on mystery writing.

When I bought the book I didn’t read the back right away. I read the title and said, “I want it”. I stupidly thought it was a time travel story. It isn’t but that’s ok, it was a great read.

He is published by the awesome people at Bundoran Press

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

This wasn’t a large book, and I appreciated that there weren’t too many characters. I easily confuse characters with similar names or roles.

Not in this book. Each character was well fleshed out and had the weight of implied history behind them. Other than one tiny exception, none of the characters did anything stupid.

I genuinely felt for the characters.

I didn’t like

As much as I know in my mind that characters thrive through challenge. It’s hard to watch them get hurt. The characters made the best of a bad situation and came out stronger but it made me sad.

I guess none of that is a criticism. It works to build pathos and character development.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

Maybe it’s that I don’t read enough mystery but I’ve never come across a writing style like Barlow’s. Some books exhaust me with stress but suck me in. Others don’t suck me in but aren’t stressful. I’d always thought the stress and the interest were a necessary pair. Barlow proved that it wasn’t.

He has a relaxed beauty to his writing. I was still worried for the characters but I never felt stressed or pressed. Everything was smooth and calm. Like the perfect sip of coffee.

I didn’t like

I can’t think about anything I didn’t like about the style.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a near future science fiction, mystery, love story, with strong elements of a road trip in the middle. It was a refreshing mix of styles.

The story wasn’t complicated. It didn’t feel cluttered and had me wondering what would happen next. It was beautifully crafted and made me feel certain that the author knew where he was going.

I didn’t like

The world wasn’t a nice place. It was also a little too plausible. Neither of them bad things but throughout, I wondered if it was necessary. They added a little background and a few of the plot devices but other than that I could have seen this work in the 1930’s or even modern day.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Any time a character does something stupid, like buying drugs, I usually feel like throwing the book away but in this book it just had me mentally yelling at the character. That shows me that the book was too good to get angry at and I enjoyed it the way I enjoy a good cop show that doesn’t telegraph the ending.

I didn’t like

I found the ending a little quick. I would have liked to see a little more but I also see why it ended where it ended.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

I struggled to find things I didn’t like about this book. It was just so good that I couldn’t put it down.

I eagerly await more from Tom Barlow and recommend you get this book and read it, as soon as possible.

Final score is 90%

I’ll Meet You Yesterday by Tom Barlow – Book Review

barlow

I met Mr Barlow at Can-Con (The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature). I unintentionally bought the first copy of his book. He was very nice and signed it for us. I later saw him speak at a panel on mystery writing.

When I bought the book I didn’t read the back right away. I read the title and said, “I want it”. I stupidly thought it was a time travel story. It isn’t but that’s ok, it was a great read.

He is published by the awesome people at Bundoran Press

Below is my review. For more information on how and why I review books read my posts Part 1 and Part 2.

Characters

I liked

This wasn’t a large book, and I appreciated that there weren’t too many characters. I easily confuse characters with similar names or roles.

Not in this book. Each character was well fleshed out and had the weight of implied history behind them. Other than one tiny exception, none of the characters did anything stupid.

I genuinely felt for the characters.

I didn’t like

As much as I know in my mind that characters thrive through challenge. It’s hard to watch them get hurt. The characters made the best of a bad situation and came out stronger but it made me sad.

I guess none of that is a criticism. It works to build pathos and character development.

For characters, I give it 4 out of 5

Writing Style

I liked

Maybe it’s that I don’t read enough mystery but I’ve never come across a writing style like Barlow’s. Some books exhaust me with stress but suck me in. Others don’t suck me in but aren’t stressful. I’d always thought the stress and the interest were a necessary pair. Barlow proved that it wasn’t.

He has a relaxed beauty to his writing. I was still worried for the characters but I never felt stressed or pressed. Everything was smooth and calm. Like the perfect sip of coffee.

I didn’t like

I can’t think about anything I didn’t like about the style.

I give it 5 out of 5.

Story

I liked

The story was a near future science fiction, mystery, love story, with strong elements of a road trip in the middle. It was a refreshing mix of styles.

The story wasn’t complicated. It didn’t feel cluttered and had me wondering what would happen next. It was beautifully crafted and made me feel certain that the author knew where he was going.

I didn’t like

The world wasn’t a nice place. It was also a little too plausible. Neither of them bad things but throughout, I wondered if it was necessary. They added a little background and a few of the plot devices but other than that I could have seen this work in the 1930’s or even modern day.

I give the story 4 out of 5

Fun

I liked

Any time a character does something stupid, like buying drugs, I usually feel like throwing the book away but in this book it just had me mentally yelling at the character. That shows me that the book was too good to get angry at and I enjoyed it the way I enjoy a good cop show that doesn’t telegraph the ending.

I didn’t like

I found the ending a little quick. I would have liked to see a little more but I also see why it ended where it ended.

I give it 5 out of 5 for fun

Overall

I struggled to find things I didn’t like about this book. It was just so good that I couldn’t put it down.

I eagerly await more from Tom Barlow and recommend you get this book and read it, as soon as possible.

Final score is 90%