Saturday, March 31, 2012

in the blue chair

I may have mentioned this, but I'm certain I haven't provided visual evidence. Remember I wanted a blue velvet chair, either wingback or rocking, to go in the Reading Corner of my Writing Room? I found one while thriftshopping with Elisa a couple of months ago. It is rocking/swivelling, so unfortunately it can't be my supervillain setting when the heroes finally reach my lair, but that's okay, because rocking has more longterm applicability.
As you may know, Bob, I already have the supervillain fluffy cat, though it is calico and not white. Do supervillains ever have calico or ginger cats? Just wondering. Priscilla has claimed the blue chair, and rests up in it for most of the day when I'm not home, storing up energy for her upcoming role as cat of the supervillain.
 Hm, I don't think supervillains have crocheted throws, either. Will I have to settle for Storytelling Crone instead of Supervillain?

Friday, March 30, 2012

celebrating other authors

The results of the Merril Short Story Contest are out. Many congratulations to the following:

First Place ($350.00 CDN) goes to:
Sarah Ennals (The Emmet)
Second Place ($100.00 CDN) goes to:
Jason S. Ridler (Rikidōzan and the San Diego Swerve Job)
Third Place ($50.00 CDN) goes to:
Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon (Your First Real Rocket Ship)

I didn't win, as you can see. However, I did get a critique, and that's always good:

Hi Barbara,

We've hashed out the disposition of the finalist stories, and,
unfortunately, "Climbing Boys" didn't make the cut for the top three.

The consensus seems to be that the piece is overlong for what it does. For
my part, I think it's the middle portion of the story that doesn't keep
pace with the rest of the piece.

Also, there is one thing I will ask you. Since the finalist stories are
going to be listed with attendant author's names once the list of winning
stories goes up in a day or two, is there a link you would like me to
attach to your name in the listings?


I had wondered if 'Climbing Boys' was going to join 'Foretold' in the category of 'won a prize but can't get bought'. Instead it joins the better-populated category of 'not quite working'. However, I shall take comfort in the association of my name with Judith Merril's, however briefly.

The rest of the shortlist as follows, with appropriate congratulations:

Colleen Anderson (The Ties That Bind)
James Bambury (The Mobius Garden)
Suzanne Church (Muffy and the Belfry)
Barbara Gordon (Climbing Boys)
Claire Humphrey (Weathermakers)
Kari Maaren (My Profit On’t Is)

Saturday, March 17, 2012

writery stuff

Celebrate UVic Authors!
which apparently includes me, with my little book and 4 stories in e-zines. Huh. I may have mentioned, around the time of the United Way booksale, that the university bookstore asked for a copy of said book for their UVic authors display, and after me saying dubiously 'You know it's self-published, right?' and them saying yes they did so what, I got hold of a copy (back from a friend) and dropped it off.
For which I was paid 2 months later, so hey.

Then March 8, as part of IdeaFest 2012, was Celebrate UVic Authors Reception & Reading. Wait, I'll borrow the text from the UVic website:

Celebrate UVic Authors - Reception and Reading

Dr. Reeta Tremblay, Vice-President Academic and Provost, the University of Victoria Libraries and the University of Victoria Bookstore invite UVic staff, students, faculty, alumni and members of the community to a Reception and Reading to celebrate and honour UVic Authors who published works in 2010.
This event is held during IdeaFest 2012, when UVic celebrates all that is creative and inventive in every corner of campus.
UVic authors who will read from their work:
John Borrows, Drawing Out Law: a Spirit’s GuideCarla Funk, ApologeticRobert Budd, Voices of British ColumbiaPeter Stephenson, Zombie Factory
Thursday March 8, 2012
7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
University Club  

I thought I'd go, it being free, and me kindly reminded of it by Paula Johanson, who had 3 nonfiction titles on the program bibliography. So I left our Thursday night open-house early, and drove up to the uni, where I had to pay 2.25 for parking (this may be a legit declareable expense).
In previous years the event has been held at the Bookstore, but since that building is being renovated,  it was in the more lounge-like venue of the University Club, formerly the Faculty Club. The room was cedar-panelled, with high ceilings and lots of glass at the far end where the readers were, a piece of First Nations art hovering reflected in the gable window above them. In front of them were ranks of wide armchairs, wood and leather and nubbly upholstery.
Trays of little cakes and sliced fruit, a punchbowl set out on two tables against one wall, and a bar at the near end, where the books were set up on counters and stands. Massive stone fireplace across from the refreshment tables.
Because of eating dinner, I missed the first two readings, so I didn't look around then, but found an empty seat and started paying attention. After a brief intro to the Voices project, the author didn't read himself, but played two recordings of archival material, which I liked for letting the subjects speak for themselves.
Zombie Factory was also a collection of testimonies, the two chosen being from a refugee camp, one from a survivor and one from an aid worker, both young men speaking of the same events how the inmates formed gangs or substitute family groups, and how one who hadn't found a group had died suddenly in his sleep. Not an easy or comfortable reading to hear.
After some questions, a chance to buy the books and get them signed. Me being broke, I snagged some nibblies and punch, and had a look at the books lined up around the corner of the room. There was mine, but I didn't take a photo of it, though I thought it did look fairly decent among the rest. Paula introduced me to some of the faculty and grad students present, and I knew most of the librarians & staff.
I was curious whether the Writing Dept had loosened up on its staunch litfic-only position, since I'd been processing orders for graphic novels on their book fund (them, French, and Spanish). The answer was 'maybe a little', and at least not as rigid as SFU. I've also ordered a self-published book on mountaineering for them, and another on travel (from lulu, actually) but they don't want to buy f/sf, even by Canadian authors, and they don't want to buy books on writing and selling commercially (without the aid of govt grants).
I had allowed myself a quiet little fantasy of dropping the phrase 'well, when I was talking to my agent' into a conversation with someone from Writing, but fortunately the opportunity did not come up, so I went the evening without being obnoxious and generally enjoyed it.

Speaking of my agent, I had the phone conversation with her to make sure we were 'on the same page' (argh) about where Cost of Silver should be going. The issues identified were:
1) Strengthening the transition from Tom/Griffin being out purely to save his own skin/soul to his being willing to fight with the villagers against the enclosures and draining. Clarify that this is a haven (even though he may not at first recognise the concept) and his identification with the group where he has found acceptance, to the extent that he will risk himself for it as well as for a specific person like Nan.
2) Lay the groundwork for the romantic arc, making it plausible that despite the adolescent lust Griffin feels for Alice Dewe and their having shared one fight against a revenaunt, the understanding and experience he has in common with Nan make her the one he loves. So, build the way Alice is creeped out by him, and strengthen the shift from Nan being almost motherly to her seeing him as a man when he comes back from the war.
3) Make each sequence as compelling as the first (Tom's flight to Holdfast's escape). Um, sure, I'll work on that.
We also talked about choosing pov characters enough to suggest sweep, but not so many as to lose reader attention. Present day storyline is Joy and Rob, and historic is Griffin, Nan, Alice and Redfearn. Charles and Cromwell don't count because they're so public it's more like omni than another character--there's a relief.
Since Redfearn has advanced himself from being a tertiary character to nearly challenging Matthew Hopkins for plot impact, we talked about making him rounded, and sympathetic as well as ruthless. I figure making him a pov character helps with that. She recommended Charlie Stross's take on a killer in Rule 34, "Charlie's so bad!"
Then we chatted about books a bit, with a recommendation of Leah Bobet's Above, just about to come out. I was surprised to hear that Tor's fairy tale series from a few years back, with the gorgeous Tom Canty covers, hadn't been that much of a success. They were popular among the people I hang out with, but I suppose that doesn't necessarily translate to popular commercial success.

I was hesitant (note to the Internet at large: hesitant, or even reluctant, not reticent; please look reticent up before using it next time!) to give an ETA for this draft, given that every deadline I've given myself on this story has had its butt kicked. But I went for 2 months to get the modern-day storyline filled in at 50k, and another 2 months to trim out and fill in the historic storyline, keeping it within 150k.
I so hope I'm not lying. It's twice as much time as Nanowrimo, I say cheerfully. My conscience mutters 'you have never won Nanowrimo', and I tell it to shut up.
A little bouncy-happy addendum: she figures that once Cost of Silver sells, Willow Knot will go as well.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

moderately eventful

Last week I was off to sunny Penticton (which it was, yes) for the Kingdom Arts & Sciences (& Bardic) Championships. A pleasant ride on the ferry, where I ensconced  myself in the buffet and nibbled my way across. Picked up by Stephen, Judy, Connie and Stewart, to drive for 4 hrs or so through ...
 no snow,
 no snow,
to sunny Penticton.

Where I helped with judging cheese made in a gourd after a Middle Eastern recipe,
 a 14th century Egyptian shadow puppet play (yes, I have video, but who knows if it will post?)
 and sat in on the judging of an Elizabethan portrait miniature. (which reminds me, I need to send some parchment scraps to the painter, so she can try them out.)

More text later!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Blogging once again from the ferry, in Active Pass just now. On my way to the Kingdom Arts & Sciences & Bardic Championships, in the Interior of BC this year. I'm sitting in the buffet section, watching thickly-forested islands rumble by while I sip coffee (with whipped cream) and nibble on cheesecake and florentine biscuits.
Some days I can taste everything intensely, so I'm taking advantage of that while it lasts.

So, let's catch up. Writey stuff first. I finally got Dread Synopsis 2.2, the tighter, leaner, yet historically expansive! outline off to my agent.
"Thank you, this synopsis looks really great. I think you've found a manageable middle ground between "small genre story" and "overwhelming historical epic"! 

We'll be talking on the phone in a few days, to discuss the characters' emotional arcs which I sort of scanted in covering the events.
If that's sorted out satisfactorily, I just have to write about 75k to finish the first draft. A mere bag of shells, as a friend of  mine says.

And my story is among the 9 finalists in the Friends of Merril Short Story Contest. I'm not naming the story, or linking to the contest at present, because there's another round of judging to go. We'll see what happens in a month. However, congrats to Colleen Anderson, another finalist, and best of luck to her!
No word yet on whether there will be a cage match for the last round.

Semi-writey, I was off last weekend to Seattle for Potlatch 21, and to visit with my friend Lynne. I went to panels on 'collapse novels' and 'librarians'--the book of honour was Canticle for Leibowitz--and chatted with people in the dealers room and hospitality. Somehow I acquired books, which I had meant not to do, but when a collection of ghost stories by L.M. Boston falls in my path, what am I to do?
Now I've learned about FogCon, which sounds awfully tempting, but not a lot of lead time to decide.
Lynne and I went for dinner to a Greek restaurant adjoining a bookstore, where I was only saved from further acquisitions by their system not accepting my Canadian debit card because it had no expiry date.
No, I don't get it either, but it means it's still my turn to buy dinner (just as it is for me for Nikki, but for different reasons).

And entirely non-writey, I've started weight training, 3 times a week in the mornings, with MC to make sure I do it right. Thirty-plus years I've worked at the uni, and only now do I take advantage of my free gym access for anything more than showers. I've always been a bit of a slow starter.