May Goals

It’s time for another monthly goals post. I’m not shooting for the moon in May, but with Mother’s Day coming up, a convention to prep for (Keycon 30! W00T!) and my presentation at Inside Publishing behind me, I think I’m going to go light on the goals. Besides, it’s revision season, and the next round of edits on Tombstone Blues could drop in my lap at any moment.

May Goals:

  • Write at least 31000 words on the third book in the Thunder Road trilogy. Why 31000? It works out to 1000 words a day. 1K a day for May. I like the way it sounds. Also, somewhere around 30000 words is when a work in progress starts to actually feel like a book to me. My first drafts are usually in the 60K range (Thunder Road was 68000 in first draft, and Tombstone Blues was 62000 words in first draft), and so this will take me to roughly the halfway point of the novel (though I have a sneaking suspicion that Book 3, will be the longest of the trilogy)
  • Prepare for my Keycon 30 panels. I’ll be interviewing Ann Aguirre and moderating audience questions as a part of the “Hour with an Author” program. I’m also doing a panel on Myth and Folklore with Karen Dudley and Leia Getty, and sharing a reading slot with David Annandale.
  • Draft a new short story (I’m told there will be a post-Keycon write-off with some of my writing chums, and I always get lots of work done at these things, so what the hell, let’s add this to the mix).

So how did I do in April? Not too shabby…

  • Finish the first draft of my current (and newly untitled–man I hate thinking of titles) urban fantasy Work in Progress.
  • Look at my short fiction not currently on submission and send those stories to new markets.
  • Finish my latest review for Quill and Quire
  • Finish my latest review for The Winnipeg Review
  • Finalize my soundtrack for as-yet-untitled book three of the Thunder Road Trilogy(The soundtrack is the first step of my novel writing process–its essentially my first rudimentary outline).
  • When I finish reading or watching something that I really like, say something about it here on the blog.

Colour me as surprised as you, but I did indeed finish the first draft of book one in an entirely new urban fantasy series. Lots and lots of work left in this one before I’m ready to send it out, but I think it has promise (even if it still doesn’t have a name). Probably the darkest thing I’ve written so far, and skirts closer to horror territory than anything I’ve written in the Thunder Road trilogy so far.

I didn’t get all of my short fiction back out into the world, but I did resubmit most of it. There were a couple of stories I wrote for theme anthologies that I decided to take a long second look at before resubmitting, and a couple stories came back, one with a rejection and one with a rewrite request that threw a spanner in the delicate work of juggling stories between markets that are open and stories that have already been submitted to those same markets. All in all, of my stories that were sitting fallow, five were resubmitted, three consigned to the rewrite pile (one at editorial request), and one more ready to go out.

My review of Barbara Fradkin’s The Whisper of Legends was turned in to Quill and Quire, it’s not online yet, but you can read my review of Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars on the Winnipeg Review website.

The soundtrack for Thunder Road book 3 is currently in regular rotation in my car, good thing, because I’ve started to write that book! I won’t reveal the tracks just yet, but the soundtrack for book 2, Tombstone Blues, will be revealed this summer.

I did finally post a review of J.M. Frey Triptych, on the blog, and a couple of brief reviews on my Goodreads account, so I’m counting that last one.

Looking forward to next month, I’m going to try and get my June goals up before the first week of the month is over. But that’s a goal for June. 😉

Write on!

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Strange Bedfellows

Regular readers here know I’m quite fond of Kickstarter and Indiegogo as a means for creative types to get their projects off the ground.

The current Indiegogo campaign I’m really excited about is for Strange Bedfellows. Author, editor (and now publisher at Bundoran Press) Hayden Trenholm is very close to getting his second anthology of political science fiction tales funded. I’ve chipped in to make this project happen because while I want to sell a story to Hayden, I also really want to read this anthology.

Strange Bedfellows — as in ‘politics makes strange bedfellows’ — will seek short fiction from the best writers in the field: writers who are passionate about the importance of ideology and political action as a source of solutions as well as problems.

As a long-time political analyst and advisor and an award winning SF writer and editor, Hayden Trenholm is perfectly placed to edit this 80,000-word anthology.

Hayden is also a familiar face at KeyCon, Winnipeg’s science fiction and fantasy convention and is planning on attending this year, so if you’re a science fiction writer in Winnipeg, this is the perfect chance to talk to an editor before you write your story and submit.

Below is an interview I did with Hayden about his writing and his then latest novel, Steel Whispers.

CG: Why Calgary? What made that city the perfect home for Frank Steele and the SDU?

HT: I lived in Calgary for over ten years so I knew it pretty well physically. A number of the locales — such as the Garry Theatre and Kaos Jazz bar were places I actually worked in when I was living as an artist. That made writing about it quite easy in the write what you know sense. But Calgary also has this wild west quality — as much imagined as real — and an admiration for corporations and right wing politics that made it perfect as a place that would somehow survive and even, for some at least, thrive in a world gone to hell. They say Calgary has more churches per capita than any city in Canada, but it also has more liquor stores and porn shops. Projecting that sense of anarchy and entitled class inequality — combined with the really fundamental goodness of many of the people who live there — into the future seemed natural.

CG: You make use of the first person point of view for the character of Frank Steele, the quintessential hard-boiled detective, but the remainder of your characters are presented in the third person. Why did you decide to alternate back and forth in this manner?

HT: There were several reasons to do this. First, Frank to work as a noir character had to be in the first person but the story I was writing was bigger than he could encompass by himself. Second, thematically Defining Diana was about the self, Steel Whispers about the family so using multiple points of view allowed me to explore how slippery both those concepts are. A first person narrator is always assumed to be reliable — and Frank is reliable as far as that goes. But he is also biased and sees the world through a very particular lens. By contrasting his views and values with those of other characters I got to show that all narrative — especially our narrative about our selves and our families — is essentially suspect. Third, people kept telling me it couldn’t be done. i can be a little stubborn that way.

CG: The Singularity, the analogy between the breakdown of modern physics near a gravitational singularity and the drastic change in society thought would occur following an intelligence explosion has been a trope of recent science fiction since it was popularized by Vernor Vinge in 1993. You name one of your corporations — a company that has seemingly done the impossible– for it in Steel Whispers. Do you worry that technology will advance beyond our ability to understand it? Is it something you considered in building your world of 2044?

HT: There are huge pieces of technology that most people don’t understand NOW and yet most people muddle along quite well. Take an MRI or any number of other scanning devices. We happily slide into them and let the technicians take their pictures but have no idea what the images actually show. Even the technicians aren’t always sure. Consider for a moment a peasant in rural Nepal or central Africa who has never used a telephone let alone a computer. Hasn’t the Singularity already happened for them? Or how about the 15% of Americans who don’t know that telephones run on electricity? I generally take the view that we, as individuals, learn exactly as much technology as we need to fulfill our desires. My 84-year old mother-in-law uses e-mail and Excel and is on Facebook because it keeps her from being isolated. My boss refuses to learn how to retrieve his cell phone messages because he sees his cell as being for his convenience not that of those who want to call him. Oddly enough, despite the dystopic nature of my novels, I’m generally an optimist — up to a point. The future will be better than the past but the benefits of that future may not benefit everyone equally — unless we make it so.

CG: You name drop Robert J. Sawyer — even having Frank Steele reading one of his novels. Sawyer is known in fandom circles not only for his passion for good science fiction but also for his mentorship of other writers. What has Rob meant to your career?

HT: First and foremost, Rob is a great friend. It’s true that he has been very supportive of me and a lot of other writers but he’s also been a friend to many of us in the truest sense of the word — someone whose company you value for its own sake rather than for the help it might be to you. But Rob deserves all the credit and accolades he gets — both for his work and for his mentoring and supporting other writers. And I will say I’ve learned almost everything I know about being a ‘professional writer’ in all senses of the term.

CG: You are a winner of Anvil Press’ 3-Day novel contest. What kind of madness does it take to attempt this, let alone to win?

HT: That was the first long piece of fiction I ever wrote so maybe it requires an absolute lack of knowledge about how impossible a task it is. I wrote A Circle of Birds in 1992, just after i moved to Calgary to become a writer. I had a couple of plays under my belt and a few short stories — none of them really good. I decided to try the contest as a way of kick starting my learning process. I was running a lot those days and actually composed the story during long runs along the Bow River. Big chunks of the story are sort of magic realist interpretations of episodes in my own and my father’s life — plus a big dollop of sex and violence that came out of wherever those things come. So, when I sat down to write it — with nothing more than a two page outline in front of me — the first 10000 words came pretty easy. After that I kept writing until I was finished the chapters I had outlined. I guess it worked.

CG: Do you have a favourite fictional detective?

HT: Lots. I’m a big Sherlock Holmes fan (I have a Holmes story in the new Gaslight Grotesque collection coming out from EDGE this fall) but I’m also fond of Poirot and Nick Charles from The Thin Man — though I’m not sure if I like the light hearted film version or the darker literary version better. And lets not forget Phillip Marlowe and Joe Leaphorn.

CG: If you could have any piece of tech from one of your novels, what would it be?

HT: One of the cars owned by the Singh Wannamaker Detective Agency.

CG: You won the Aurora for your short story “Like Water in the Desert“, and Defining Diana was shortlisted for the award as well. How important is it in your mind to celebrate Canadian science fiction and fantasy? What do you think would mean more to you, the Aurora, chosen largely by fans, or the Sunburst, which is a juried prize chosen by your peers?

HT: Can’t I have both? Juried awards have more prestige but it still comes down to the opinion of the people on the jury — a voting block of five. Fans have a special place in SF and F — unlike any other genre — so I think getting an award from them does mean a bit more to me. But I’d still like both.

CG: You have one more novel planned in The Steele Chronicles, after that, what’s next?

HT: As I answer these questions I’m about 15000 words in Stealing Home, so it is hard to think about the next thing. However, I just finished the first draft of a young adult SF novel so I’ll probably go back to that once Stealing Home is done. Then I have this big environmental collapse and recovery book I’ve been making notes on — something set about two hundred years in the future.

A Blog About Blogging

Is it too meta to write a blog about blogging?

One of my goals for my holidays was to write a blog post every day. So far, so good. One of my goals when I started the blog was to post at least every week. If I look at my number of posts so far this year it looks like I’ve succeeded, but in reality, there were weeks with multiple posts, and stretches where my site was lying very fallow.

The thing I love about using WordPress, is the access to stats. A fellow could get lost analyzing them, breaking them down, and eventually, writing towards them. And why not? I want to draw traffic to the blog. So what have I learned since January?

1. People love my convention roundups.

My two biggest posts thus far have been my post on Keycon 2012 and When Words Collide 2012. What does this tell me? Step One: Go to more conventions. Step Two: Don’t know. Step Three: Profit! But seriously, Underpants Gnomes references aside, I love going to conventions, and love writing up the experience afterwards, so that’ll happen regardless.

2. When I post something, I get more hits.

This should have been self explanatory, but it’s nice to see the data backs it up. It would be very disheartening indeed to see blog traffic go down when I posted. Another thing I’ve noticed is that there is carryover to blog traffic the day after a post, but not much beyond that. Keep posting everyday and even if the numbers fluctuate up and down, the average views have been significantly higher than they have been. August has been my busiest month for page views as a result of this.

3. Most of my page views have been from Canada.

Another stat that I expected. Most of the people I know are from Canada, my publisher is Canadian, and I rarely travel outside of Canada. That said, there have been multiple views from The United States (also expected), Great Britain (interesting), Korea (really?) and Iceland (awesome!). I can only hope these aren’t the spambots that have been trying to comment about Search Engine Optimization.

4. Blogging everyday is exhausting.

I don’t know how folks like John Scalzi do it (maybe if I had a cat I could tape bacon to…no, that’s been done. Maybe pics of my belt buckles or bad moustaches?). I’m glad they do, because I love reading their posts. I’m still committed to blogging every day of my holidays, but I think I’ll need to find a schedule that suits me better, while continues to provide more benefit than the once a week goal that I had originally set for myself. Perhaps every other day or three days a week would work.

5. Once you start writing about any topic, it isn’t hard to wind up with five hundred words or so on that topic.

See, I just did it.

Write on.