22 July 2014

BIGGER THINGS by Ev Bishop is out today!

There are few authors I respect and adore enough to want to read everything they produce as soon as possible, but one such person is Ev Bishop. I've been lucky to have her in my writing life for some years and she consistently impresses me with her talent and determination.

She's showing both in abundance by launching her own publishing house, Winding Path Books, and its first novel is released in ebook form today!

BIGGER THINGS is now available around the world at Amazon and Smashwords. It will soon be available at iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles, and will be released as a trade paperback in August. I admit I've had early access and can confirm not only that I find this book funny, heartwrenching, and true, but that the synopsis is right on:

Best friends since childhood, Jen, Chelsea and Kyra know everything about each other. Or think they do.
 Jen should be celebrating her whopping 121-pound weight loss. Instead she feels like she's betrayed fat girls everywhere. Will anyone love her for who she is inside, fat or thin? More importantly, will she?
Chelsea appears to have it all--a husband, a family, a beautiful home--but plaguing memories threaten to destroy everything. In her desperation to maintain control, will she succumb to a compulsion that costs her life?
Kyra is sick of the superficial persona she's worn for so long. It's exhausting to pretend to be an airhead while running a successful business. But if she sheds her life-of-the-party facade, will she ever find the boyfriend she thinks she needs?
When a nervous breakdown leaves one of them fighting to survive, all their secrets are laid bare. To stay friends, they need to battle personal dragons, confront the past, and embrace change. But can they break free from the roles they've played so long? Or must they leave one another behind in order to move forward?

If this sounds like a book you'd enjoy, give it a read and let me know what you think. Better than that, write a review at Goodreads, LibraryThing, Amazon, or anywhere else, and help small publishers and all authors to continue bringing us great stories.

Happy launch day, Ev!

30 April 2014


Seeking help moving my current project forward, I've structured the end of the thing using Joseph Campbell's Hero's Journey, or


Sorry, it just seems like it deserves big letters.

It's a fascinating structure, using for fiction but derived from stories that have already been told, and have been told since we (humans) started telling stories. It's kind of our legacy, if you believe we have one of those. And why not? Despite government budgets and the shitty quality of artistic life (don't take that last link too seriously, it's The Daily Mail for goodness sake) we do love our classics. And classics are basically stories that have survived long enough that we admit we guess they have some merit, we suppose, even though we hated reading them in school, it was probably good for us anyway.

Campbell's Monomyth moves through a three act structure of Separation, Initiation, and Return, with several more detailed steps in each, and it's easily identified in modern stories once you know what to look for. It's a little old fashioned, though, and has been criticized for being sexist as well as ignoring cultural differences. It's not difficult to see the former, considering a few of its steps are flat out "Confronting woman as temptress" and "Atonement with the father." It's possible the structure can still be just as useful as it always was, however, if we admit that those gender norms are also part of our legacy, and by understanding them we can use them as a tool rather than allowing them to tell our stories for us.

But this is why it's a powerful thing: the structure is useful in fiction because it gives our readers something easily recognized and understood. And I'm using it to help me finish my project because it gives me a path in an otherwise murky impassable forest.

I can always remove the temptress in revisions.

24 April 2014

Reflections on publication

I’ve had the honour of being published a few times, so experienced the process a few ways. In particular two stories were treated very differently by the publications that accepted them.

For the first, the story was accepted and I was given notice I’d receive changes. I soon got the attachment that had comments and notes all through the thing, giving me instructions how I could improve the work and make it better suited to the magazine. These changes were extensive and some of them seemed to change the heart of the piece. Scary stuff. I played around with what they wanted versus what I could accept, and we sent edits back and forth maybe twice until we were both happy. It wasn’t a long process but it was useful. The last thing they changed was my main characters name, because another story’s character in the same issue already had that name. What were the odds?

The other story was accepted, and I was sent an email containing comments from a group of readers. Each person had a short, general bit of feedback like “I didn’t understand why they were drinking coffee” or “I liked the description of the mugs.” After I got this message I was asked if there was anything I wanted to change before publication. Since the feedback seemed to be disparate personal opinions, I said No, and the thing was published exactly as I’d sent it to them.

The difference between the publications boils down to quantity. The first publishes a few stories every month, and the other publishes one story a day. This makes a huge difference to the amount of work required to get their stories finished, but I didn’t realize what it meant for me as a writer. I found the first experience far better because their priority was obvious and I knew my place, and my story’s place, in their publication. With the other, giving me the undirected option to change it after acceptance made me wonder what the trick was. What if I changed it to something they liked less? I didn’t have enough information to know what might be wrong, and after all, some stories just aren’t right for some people.

After publication, the first story was much better received than the last. I realize this could be because of the extra attention given it generally, but I think it’s more likely the specific attention given to fit the publication. The second story had a rocky reception at best. And still I don’t regret not changing it after acceptance. I don’t submit my stories unless I’d be happy with the world seeing them as-is. I understand why that publication doesn’t give extra attention, as they don’t have the time. It’s completely fair. On the other hand, given their schedule, if they didn’t think the story fit as it was they probably shouldn’t have accepted it the way it was.

10 April 2014

Beautiful libraries: VPL

While visiting home last month I got to visit the Vancouver Public Library's central branch. You might know this building from television, if not personally, but otherwise let me introduce you.

It was was opened in 1995 and cost over 100 million $CAN to build. There was a public referendum and then a design competition, and Moshe Safdie's strange and wonderful design was the winner.

Aside from the library, where I explored and found the best nooks to read while I was visiting, there's a sushi place in the outer spoke and a few other shops. This place is breathtaking but also comfortable. And a friend who works there admits there's a rooftop garden. I need to see it. One day.

It didn't surprise me when this building was shown in Battlestar Galactica as Cylon design. It's bizarre and beautiful and the kind of place that feels like it'll last.
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