Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Catching up

Hello, again. What a couple of weeks. It's been 9 days since my white-water rafting trip on the Ottawa River, and the bruises are just starting to fade. Bruises or no, I had a great time. I like being outdoors and on the water. WWR is a lot of fun, and I highly recommend it. I don't think it's terrifying (like sky-diving might be), and it's not as physically taxing as you'd think. Yes, you have to paddle, but there are a lot of rests, and you have to wait for other boats to go through the rapids one at a time, so a 6-hour trip works out to about 3 hours of actual paddling. Now, white-water kayaking... that's something I'll have to look into.

Here's a picture of your truly, steering a little boat right into a rapid on Day 2, cursing the pantywaists in my crew.

Of course, unlike the dinghy paddled by my super-crew, not every boat stayed upright.

We're still waiting to buy non-proof photos.

I've also been busy with work. If I haven't mentioned it yet, I'm interning at Fitzhenry & Whiteside, working on contracts and rights for now. Being a writer and editor, what do I know about contracts and rights? Mmm... I know a bit now. A lot of it involves royalties and advances. (Hint: authors make very, very little. It's quite sad.) And a lot of it involves subsisting on coffee and tea. I need to start making bigger breakfasts and better lunches, or I'll start to waste away. More food, less caffeine. That's my goal.

There are quite a few good children's books at this place. My favourite so far has to be The Nine Lives of Travis Keating, by Jill Maclean. It's doing really well, and I just saw the manuscript for the sequel today. (If anyone's read it, book 2 is about Prinny Murphy. Yay!)

But speaking of books and writing, I resolved one of the elements of my story that's been bothering me: the magic. The more you explain how a magic works, the less wonder there is to that magic–but the more chances you have to use the magic in solving problems. That's how Brandon Sanderson put it a couple of weeks ago when he was guest-blogging at Borders. As a fantasy author, how can you describe magic and keep it interesting? Magic needs rules, so how clearly do you define them?

You can get an idea of how to answer these questions by understanding what kind of story you're telling. Mine involves a journey (I know, original), and a couple of people who can wield magic but do so sparingly. There are few of the stereotypical fantasy races, and no elves, ogres, or gnomes. According to the breakdown of types of fantasy, I suppose mine would fit somewhere in-between High and Low fantasy, but it's probably closer to Low.

Two more things before I break away from the fantasy thread:
1) For something a little different, how about guns in fantasy. How many people are doing this? Well, Brandon Sanderson brought it up in another post. I'm sure gunpowder was in books for ages, but I didn't know about it. Pardon my ignorance.
2) Steampunk. It's not for everyone, but I love it. AND I love Girl Genius. Adventure, Romance, Mad Science!

I was going to add stuff about my band, and some pictures, and a couple of trailers, but I think I'd like to do some writing now. Tomorrow is Canada Day, so I'll have time for another post pretty soon. Au revoir!

Monday, June 15, 2009

I hate swimming (Part 3 of 10)

My friend Dan had this to say a few days ago:
"I was reading your blog," he said, "and are you actually serious about doing a triathlon?"
"Yes," I replied, "but I need a lot of work."

Over the weekend, I realized that I might have a problem. Setting goals and telling people can be a terrible thing if they take you seriously. Just ask any smoker who publicly quit their habit, and then had to face the music when the resolve crumbled a few days later.

So now I have the motivation (if you want to call it that) to continue #$*& swimming. If I stop, this is what I have to look forward to:
Someone: "Hey, how's the triathlon thing coming along?"
Me: "Oh, you know..."

With that in mind, I hauled myself out of bed at the ungodly hour of 6:30, and biked over to the pool. (Now, some of you may say that's not early, not even for me, and you'd be right. I'd wake up at 6 when I had to work at 8:15. But now I start work at 9:30, so 6:30 has become ungodly.)

It wasn't too bad. Aside from being nowhere close to graduating from the slow lane, and aside from gasping like a beached whale every time I finish a length, I don't think I embarrassed myself too bad in front of the Chinese national swim team alumni. How do I know this? One of the older men told me to have a nice day, and gave me a smile as I was leaving. And even though he was naked, it didn't seem at all creepy, or (even worse) fake. I'm in!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

I hate swimming (Part 2 of 10)

The truth is, I never learned how to swim properly. I won't drown in the deep end, but it took ages to learn how to keep my head underwater without water getting up my nose (ages, because I rarely swam, because I didn't really know how).

For a while last year, I was in pretty decent shape. I took odd jobs, and they usually involved crazy hours, lots of walking, lots of lifting, or a combination of all three. Every one of them was fun, and I felt good. It had something to do with getting more exercise since mandatory gym class stopped after grade 10. I even fixed up my dad's old bike and entertained the notion of doing something big in 2009, like participating in a 200 km charity bike ride, or competing in a half-triathlon (a competition covering only half the distances of a real triathlon).

Before you think I was getting a little ahead of myself, this was how I rationalized it:
-I can bike
-I can run
-I can't swim, but I would work on my endurance until my ability was sufficient for competing.

Today was Day 2 of Operation Sink Or Swim. I was feeling optimistic. The bike ride felt good, so that may have had something to do with it. Anyway, my optimism deflated as soon as I walked into the building. I was glancing through the windows to the pool and I saw some woman adjust her goggles. Oh no! I thought. I forgot my goggles! As if I needed an excuse to flake out.

"This is going to be a short outing," I said to the lady at the front desk, "even by my standards." She laughed like she had no idea what I was talking about.

I went into the change-room, once again crammed with naked Asian men. In the two days I've been there, I've seen only two other non-Asians. I find that odd. Don't people from other backgrounds like to swim? Anyway, this time I remembered to bring quarters, so I got myself a locker. Yay.

The lack of goggles didn't affect me that much. Sure, my eyes stung after every lap, but I had other things on my mind. I needed to regulate my breathing better, and I was probably the loudest person in the pool with the way my arms were going.

I swam way more than I did on Monday (which wasn't very hard to do), and I'm actually looking forward to Friday morning. I still suck, but I need to do this if I'm ever going to do any kind of triathlon. 8 days left on the swim pass.

Monday, June 8, 2009

I hate swimming (Part 1 of 10)

I told myself I was going to go swimming today. The community pools have scheduled lane swims on different days, and the one closest to my house has one on Monday mornings from 6:30 to 8. I tried to go last Friday, but I mixed up the times, so today was Day 1.

I am not a morning person. My swimming goal was secondary to waking up. Being awake and eating breakfast that early on a day I don't have to work is a victory in itself. I only hit the snooze button once, so that was good. I bolted down breakfast, grabbed my necessaries, hopped on my bike, and went to the pool.

Just like I am not a morning person, I am also not a swimming person. Public pools fill me with dread because of it. Backyard pools are fine. So are lakes. I love swimming in the sea, and I've gone out until the beach is just a smudge on the horizon. But public pools? I could feel my unease as I locked up my bike and walked in. The smell of chlorine hit me when the second set of sliding doors opened, and I wondered if it wasn't too late to get back on the bike.

I gave the lady at the front desk my debit card because I forgot to bring cash, and I decided to buy a 10-swim pass. I thought this would force me to come back so I could get my money's worth. The lady took a card out of a pack, punched a hole through the number 1, and handed it over with a smile and my receipt. Armed with my 10-swim pass, I turned around and... didn't know where to go.

"Through those sliding doors," she said.

Right. So I went into the men's change-room. Unfortunately, I was still without cash or change, so I had to leave my stuff in an unlocked locker. Oh well.

I hit the showers, and the hot water felt pretty good. Maybe this won't be so bad, I thought. Maybe. I was done showering, but I wasn't ready yet. I would like to say that I sucked it up and went out to the pool, but the truth is I showered again. Then I was ready. I opened the door to the pool, and I walked out to meet my fate.

There were three options. The first lane had a sign that said "Slow," with arrows telling you which direction to swim, just in case you prefer swimming counter-clockwise. The second lane was labeled "Medium," which seems like a better descriptor for size than speed. I don't know what the third lane said. Why bother? Whatever it was, it wasn't going to be for me. Medium was my goal, so I started in Slow.

I think I'd already passed the point of no return, but something in me was still telling me to turn back. I told it to shut up. I got in the pool (water temperature: agreeable), strapped on my goggles, and started swimming. Seven or eight strokes later I remembered to breathe, which felt nice, and I eventually made it to the other side of the pool. Water was getting into my right eye, but otherwise I was ok. I could do this.

I pushed off again, and that's when things started to annoy me. Like how hard it is to swim. Swimming isn't like biking, where you see yourself covering tons of distance, and you feel yourself going very fast. There is no hill where after a ton of exertion you sense the payoff as you speed down the other side. Swimming is just you and the water, the waves around you, and the jets that tell you there's a wall nearby.

I was awful. I won't even say how much I did (or how little), except that I was so glad the lifeguards changed before my final lap. At least the first lifeguard wouldn't see me leave so soon. (I know, I know... as if he cared.) But I was done. The things I thought were muscles felt like water (to my bench press, dumbbells, and elliptical: thanks a lot), and I was so out of it that I used body wash on my hair and shampoo on my body without realizing until I was almost done.

Whatever. The ordeal was almost over. I changed, packed my stuff, and walked out the doors to the place I left my bike. I have 9 days left on my pass, and I mean to make use of every one of them. The next swim is Wednesday morning, assuming I can wake up again. I'm hoping for improvement. I mean, I can't be that bad forever. Can I?

Saturday, June 6, 2009


I started writing on a whim. It was raining one day, I saw a crow land on a tree, and I started writing. That's it. I never thought I'd stick with it, but one page became two, which became ten, and so on.

I decided very early on that I would stay away from a lot of fantasy races (ie elves), and try to have something else in a mostly-human world. I chose vampires. It was around first- or second-year university, and I was reading a lot of gothic texts. Vampires were pretty rare in fantasy texts.

Well, not any more. It's not like vampires didn't exist before Stephanie Meyer and True Blood. Anne Rice became a gajillionaire before turning super-Christian, and she did it by writing vampire novels. Dracula refuses to die more than a century after getting published, and why should he? He and Mina Karker are wicked. No pun intended. And where would Joss Whedon be without Buffy?

But... now vampires are everywhere. Is that good for my story?

Maybe I'm over-thinking things. Just to clarify: my story features vampires, but it's all about the humans.

Anyway, I've just finished re-writing the bulk of my story. This comes after three lengthy edits. I mentioned in my last post that re-writing 19 single-spaced pages in one day seemed like a lot. Until then, 10 a day was fantastic. Well, I blazed through the rest, and got the final 100 pages hammered out in 3 days.

Before I pat my back a little too hard, I should also point out that I still have about a week's worth of work to do on the ending. Everything hinges on the last four chapters. I want to say I'll be done by this time next week, but... we'll see.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A (brief) moment of self-pity and doubt

I just finished the re-write for a big chunk of my book. 19 pages, or 11,500 words. It seems like a big chunk to me, but I'm sure there are writers who get through much, much more in a day.

I suppose I'm guilty of having the same insecurities that plague most writers. (FYI, when I say 'most', I'm generalizing. Writer's Digest hasn't put out the official stats for these kind of figures.) I don't really worry about whether or not my story's good enough. I think it is good, otherwise why would I write it?

No, what I really worry about is if the story is interesting. It's one thing to say that most stories follow the same trajectory if you really break them down to their bare bare bones. It's another thing to write the story that fleshes out the skeleton. There's good fantasy and lots of bad fantasy. There's familiar but new, and then there's predictable. There's also being different just for the sake of being different. That 's probably just as bad a being boring and predictable.

*Sigh* Now I'm tempted to delete all this self-pity. Really and truly, I can't wait until my re-write is done. This is the third and last one, unless a publisher picks it up. If so, then it must have some value, and I'll be more than happy to do the editor-recommended reviews.

I'll stop here and not put the cart before the horse. Finish the re-write first. Thanks for reading. Sorry for ranting.
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