Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Well, yesterday's post was just slightly ahead of its time. About fifteen minutes after I made that blog post, whether through Karma for making light of the situation in Japan, or mere impudence, my drive finally gave up the ghost.

I spent a good chunk of time last night and again this morning trying to fix Windows or at least install it on a spare drive with no luck. Then I threw up my hands in disgust and decided I would just use Linux to recover everything and then switch back to windows. Under an hour later I have Linux installed nicely and I'm getting all the system settings where I want them. It has all the tools I need for writing and seems generally smoother and more user friendly than Windows. It even seems to be doing a good job of copying my old drive so I won't lose any data.

I'll keep Windows, just in case there's something I can't do in Linux, but so far I haven't found anything.

In a few days I hope to forget all about Windows. I'm sure there will be flashbacks, like a Vietnam veteran sleeping under a ceiling fan. But I'll get over it.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Computer is a Fukishima

I should have saved that last picture (the exploding blimp below) for today. I spent all morning struggling to get my computer to work. A bad boot sector on the hard drive stops the computer mid-boot about 95% of the time, the only approach I've found that works is to simply try over and over until it works.

It put me behind in my work and I ended up sending out a sub-standard synopsis today because I was frustrated and feeling pressured to get something out.

So far I've been unable to set up a drive image, but I made a boot disk which I hope will work (I am reluctant to test it for obvious reasons).

This is what happens when you are your own tech support.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Progress Bar 6

Well, it's done. Almost exactly on my targeted word count of 75,000 (74,688 is close enough), and nearly a week ahead of schedule. There will be more edits, I am a tinkerer at heart, but I am happy with the manuscript.

This novel began with the idea of a steampunk world with flying cities that sprang into my mind in the bathroom one night while I was looking at nasal spray. Yes... saline nasal spray, in English it said, "full stream" (the manufacturer sells three different power levels), but in Canada all labelling is bilingual. In French it read, "jet fort". I found it amusing that the French version said something entirely different to an Anglophone mind so it stuck. That is honestly where the first nugget of an idea came from.

The idea sat in the back of my mind for a long time. I was working on trying to get my previous novel published, but in moments of frustration I turned to my steampunk project called, Going Down (terrible name by the way, even setting the sexual connotations aside). I had a pretty good idea of how the story went, with a few major holes when I started work in earnest about four months ago. Another week of planning and plotting and I was ready to go. A month and a half of writing, followed by two months of editing and here I am. Ready for the next stage.

I hope it's ready for prime-time. I feel alternately like a father, proud of his new creation, and like a sergeant, ordering his man over the top, into no man's land to die horribly in a hail of machine-gun fire.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Writing Advice

This has done the rounds, but I think it's a good list so I thought I'd share. Here is a list of writing advice from Gordon Silverstein.

1. Avoid run-on sentences they are hard to read.
2. Never use no double negatives.
3. Use the semicolon properly, always where it is appropriate; and never where it is not.
4. Reserve the apostrophe for it's proper use and omit it where it is not needed.
5. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
6. No sentence fragments.
7. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.
8. Avoid commas, that are not necessary.
9. When you reread your work, you will find on rereading that a great deal of repetition can be avoided by rereading and editing.
10. A writer must not shift your point of view.
11. Do not overuse exclamation marks!!! (In fact, avoid them whenever possible!!!)
12. And do not start a sentence with a conjunction.
13. Place pronouns as closely as possible, especially in long sentences, as of ten or more words, to their antecedents.
14. Hyphenate only between syllables and avoid un-necessary hyphens.
15. Write all adverbial forms correct.
16. Don't use contractions.
17. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.
18. It is incumbent on us to avoid archaisms.
19. If any word is improper at the end of a sentence, a linking verb is.
20. Steer clear of incorrect verb forms that have snuck into the language.
21. Take the bull by the hand and avoid mixed metaphors.
22. Avoid modernisms that sound flaky.
23. Avoid barbarisms: they impact too forcefully.
24. Never, ever use repetitive redundancies.
25. Everyone should be careful to use singular pronouns with singular nouns in their writing.
26. If we've told you once, we've told you a thousand times: avoid hyperbole.
27. Also, avoid awkward or affected alliteration.
28. Do not string a large number of prepositional phrases together unless you are walking through the valley of the shadow of death.
29. Always pick on the the correct idiom.
30. "Avoid overuse of 'quotation' 'marks.'"
31. Never use more words than are necessary to get your point across: be concise.
32. Awayz check you're spelling. (Your spellchecker would only pick up one of the two errors here.)
33. Always be avoided by the passive voice.
34. Every sentence a verb.
35. Last but not least, avoid cliches like the plague: seek viable alternatives.


Well, I'm nearly there. Less than two weeks to go and I'll start sending out some queries. In the meantime I've prepared an excerpt to submit to The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy and a few other places.

Here is an excerpt (from the excerpt) describing Terra do Pao, a district to the south of the volcano on the island of Pico in the Azores.

Then it was Flight Three's turn to step into the elevator. The lift swung in the breeze on the way down. Konrad's nostrils began to sting from smoke, garbage and the smell of millions of humans pressed together in close proximity.
The view was spectacular though. The setting sun cast a reddish light on the volcano to the north. The streets were already in shadow and streetlights were flickering on, illuminating the teeming masses of people and machines below.
After waving good-bye to Tinibu, Konrad, Grover and Zylphia wound their way through the busy catwalks of Terra do Pao. All manner of bizarre contraptions zipped along the streets at breakneck speed. Velocipedes, like the one Konrad had ridden north from Paris were common, some had a small carriage behind for passengers and accepted a fare for transport. There were steam cars and trucks, even a few steam-powered velocipedes which wove in and out of traffic at speeds that made Konrad fear for the drivers' lives.
Most pedestrians kept to the network of bridges and catwalks suspended about six metres above the streets. Steam pipes passed through the entire district, providing heat for the caliphos lights. In some places small leaks in the network of pipes sent shimmering clouds of mist into the night. Shops at catwalk-level sold a dizzying array of merchandise; clothes caught Konrad's eye, especially some which he felt should not be displayed in public, let alone actually worn by a woman, there was all manner of food for sale, alongside jewelry, watches, firearms, knives, swords, artwork, and a hundred other things he could not identify.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


I want to get my book out there. It is not perfect, but I am resigned to the fact that it will never be perfect.

Right now, my plan is to revise until the end of the month, then send out queries to a dozen good agents. If I don't get a very positive response (at least 2-3 full requests) I will revise further. I made the mistake last time of querying everybody before the manuscript was truly ready so I'll pull it if the response isn't good enough.

Maybe that's overly ambitious, but, if I can't attract an agent fairly quickly there must be something wrong with the book. I don't want to publish a book that sells a few thousand copies. I don't have to be the next Stephen King, but it would be nice to earn a solid living as a novelist. That's all I ask.

In the meantime I plug on, improving the manuscript a little at a time, impatiently waiting for the first round of query responses.

Maybe I'm just a rejection addict. I spent most of last year querying my previous novel, I haven't had a rejection in my inbox in a few months, it makes me antsy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Prologue Comparison

To follow up on what I was saying yesterday. Here is a before and after on one of my prologue fixes describing a riot.

For three days the rioting continued unabated. Elsa began to worry for her baby, even though it seemed like the Institute for Science and Technology was the most secure building in Berlin. A ring of guards protected it day and night, armed with steam-guns and rifles. When the army couldn't control the violence any longer they gassed the streets. Thousands of rioting synari died alongside hundreds of humans, including the Institute guards, who had received no warning.

Simply a quick summary of events. I thought it worked but a lot of readers found it confusing and/or too distant from the action to be interesting.

Take 2 (first draft so please excuse any typos etc.)

Utte ran from the police with a crowd of fellow synari. Moments before her best friend Heinrich had been shot while trying to storm a blockade. She helped him to his feet as he stumbled, clutching at the hole in his side. She led him through the swirling mass of grey synari, up to a door stoop, out of the crowd.
“We have to get you off the street.”
“I think it is too late for me Utte.” He pulled his hand away from the wound to show her. Blood came gushing out.
“If we can get you to a doctor, I am sure they can fix that.”
“Utte, the doctors will not see me. We are all criminals to them.” He smiled at her. “They think it is only fair we should be slaves, after all we are merely sub-humans to them.”
Utte hardened her lips. “They will see who is sub-human when we storm their seats of power. They are the inferior ones. We should make them the slaves.”
Heinrich smiled. “That would be equally wrong. We should work together. Remember the first tenant of the revolution. 'All men are equal.'”
The crowd of synari in the street began to reorganize. Someone was shouting instructions at them.
Heinrich put his hand to Utte's face. “Go with them. We nearly broke through in the last attack, this time you are sure to succeed.”
“Just go, I will die a happy man, knowing that you are about to change the world.”
Utte nodded. She wiped a stream of tears from her cheek, turned and joined the crowd as they began to advance on the barricade for one last push. She picked up several bricks that were lying at the side of the road.
The crowd began to chant, “Equality for all.” As they rounded the final corner before the barricade. They gathered momentum, picking up speed until they were running faster than a human could go.
Utte realized something was wrong. The men on the barricade were not shooting.
A moment later she realized they had fled.
Others in the crowd saw the barricade was unmanned and a great cheer arose. The headlong charge turned into a celebration. The city's last line of defense was defeated, Berlin belonged to the synari, they controlled the streets in every district.
Synari men and women cheered and danced. Utte yelled herself hoarse. She hoped that Heinrich had lived long enough to hear the celebration. He might still be alive, she decided to go see, maybe he could be saved after all.
Overhead, above the noise of the crowd she could just make out the howl of aircraft engines. She looked up to see a large aeroplane, skimming the buildings above.
Moments later she felt a spatter of liquid across her exposed face and arms, as if a sudden rainstorm had arrived. She looked up, but saw no clouds in the sky. The air suddenly smelled like a bed of geraniums.
Utte's arms itched where the liquid had hit them. She scratched and tore a strip of skin off. Her arm was blistering, the itch turned to a burning sensation as though each droplet of the liquid was on fire.
Utte coughed, she sneezed, spraying blood. She realized everyone in the crowd around her was coughing and sneezing too. A spasm of coughing wracked her body, it was so intense she fell to the ground. Blood and other things came up with each cough. All around her people fell to the ground, gasping for air. Utte choked and tried to inhale, but could not draw another breath.