Friday, December 30, 2005
Firstly, it took longer than expected. More of an elongated blur of several unpleasant moments than a tidy scene from a cop movie, where the bullet-holed partner gets some minutes of reflection.
Secondly, there was order to it. Food was regularly provided at the same times daily (but not always eaten). Friends and family came by and spoke softly (or not at all) during scheduled hours. Doctors magically appeared (but only between 9-5) and tinkered with cold steel devices, frowned over charts, then suddenly stepped out of the room. Nurses indifferently checked vitals every 2 hours, 24 hours a day. A TV was set up, and I could watch whatever I wanted. Nothing was asked of me, and nothing was expected. It was easy.
When I went through treatment, I know some things were going through my head. They're becoming difficult to recall. I've chosen to forget this time in purgatory for some reason, although I may have envisioned (flickering) lights and a very long tunnel.
Since I’ve rejoined the living, a lot goes through my head. Most people who have reached the zenith of trade and status now seem lacking in any meaningful leadership. Everything around me seems more frail and mortal. I find myself smiling at children a lot, also old people - especially old couples. I try to visit friends more, or at least attend their children’s birthday parties when asked. Work is accomplished, but hardly at the maddening pace it used to get done. I listen to a lot more music now, as much since my teen years. I recognize little things all the time: pleats in pants, swimming lanes that are divided for the slow, medium, and fast people, coffee shops that have posts to leash your doggie to and the like. I feel the need to honour my wife and family more then ever, but find myself slipping back to old habits.
Elliot very much lives in Toronto, Canada.
The above was written by Elliot, my first guest poster.
Thursday, December 29, 2005
I've gone a bit political lately, and was coerced by ariadneK into a shared political blog.
I wanted to keep this blog separate as I'd hate to lose any of you to politics so I didn't mention it so far. However, there is a Canadian election on January 23 and if any of you are interested, I wrote a quick Primer to Canadian Politics in my other blog.
New Feature - Guest Poster
I'm adding a new feature to this blog where I'm inviting guest writers/bloggers or anyone who feel like it to post here. The feature will probably be sporadic at first with the intention of it running once a week eventually.
Since this blog is about All Kinds of Writing, the only guideline for submitting a post is that it can be of any kind of writing and about anything. My preference is for posts not to exceed 500 words. If accepted, I will not edit the post unless I am asked to.
So tomorrow will be the first time I run the feature and will have a guest poster.
More Tracking Submissions
I had some great response to my Tracking Submission post.
Benjamin directed me to a great little program called Sonar that you can download and use for free. In fact, it's more of a database that stores your work, submissions and markets. If you have time to work with it, it's the best thing.
If you don't, that is, if you're a bit lazy like me, you can use the spreadsheet I mentioned.
Here is an example of how it looks:
You can also download the actual spreadsheet Tracking Submissions although I cannot promise how it would work for you.
Oh, and for the real coders out there, don't you make fun of my basic visual basic :)
Categories: politics, guest, writing, submissions, process, freelance, organization
Wednesday, December 28, 2005
I'm not a very organized person myself. I used to be, but somehow, instead of gaining wisdom and grow to be more orderly, I seem to be going in the opposite direction, becoming messier and more disorganized.
So while I don't normally do the resolution thing, I do want to manage my writing work better next year and would therefore like to put a system in place for organizing my writing work.
I'll start with tracking my submissions.
If you're solely a novelist then you probably don't need as much tracking as those of us who also send short stories and articles out. But if you're like me and submit to magazines both short fiction and non-fiction pieces, you lose track of your submissions pretty fast.
I'm not very good with paperwork, so the famous index card method doesn't agree with me, not to mention that cross-referencing is a bit*h when it comes to index cards.
An Excel spreadsheet, I decided, would be the easiest thing for tracking my submissions. Excel allows to sort and order data so that I can not only track the submissions but also track one particular work to see how many times it was submitted, where and when, or I can track one particular publisher to see how often I submit to that market. I can also see what months I was more productive, or how many submissions I still have out awaiting response.
- Tracking writing ideas
- Organizing the writing process itself
Any other organizations and order required of us that I'm missing?
Categories: writing, process, discipline, freelance, publishing, submissions, work, organization
Tuesday, December 27, 2005
On Yonge street, a little north of the Eaton Centre, around Dundas area where Sam the Record Man is and the Hard Rock Cafe and other hip places and stores, an area which is a hangout for teenagers and young people, someone (or more than one) opened gunfire just outside the Foot Locker. Seems to be a gang related crime.
The victims are bystanders who just went shopping. As was the 15-year-old girl.
I don't know what to say.
Gun violence has been plaguing Toronto increasingly the past few years, and while still not at the rate of a large US city, it is worrisome, devastating, frustrating and infuriating.
I cannot imagine what brings a person to care so little about anything in life. To care nothing for himself, others, laws, basic morals, society, family. How can one get to the place where the only solution to any problem is violence? Where honour is worth more than life and freedom?
My thoughts go out to the wounded, the families, and the girl who is no longer with us.
Seven shot on Yonge St.
Teen killed, 6 wounded in Toronto shooting
Categories: misc, news
Monday, December 26, 2005
But you see, in Canada (and other common wealth countries), the holiday isn't over yet. Today is Boxing Day.
What, pray tell, is boxing day? you, my American friends, ask.
Well, you see grasshopper, it is not enough that in the days leading to Christmas we spend our time shopping, we must also do so the day after Christmas. Therefore, December 26 is a national holiday in which stores open their doors for the day after sale.
And each year I vow not to leave the house on that day and not to listen to all the commercials and read all the ads. 'This year,' I always say, 'I'm staying in. Nothing, but nothing at all will make me go out and be part of the madness.'
As quiet is Christmas Day is, Boxing Day is the opposite:
So... you get my point.
Thursday, December 22, 2005
You should have asked for hazard pay when you joined the ranks of writers.
Somehow writers have a way of stirring things up and cause such emotions in people that some of them lose their heads and want to hurt the writers.
Often it is an organizations/government that thinks the writer is a subversive element and not only bans the writer's written word, but also go out to punish the writer himself/herself.
The latest, if you haven't heard, are the trials in Turkey of the novelist Orhan Pamuk and publisher Abdullah Yildiz in unrelated cases.
Orhan Pamuk is charged for his remarks about killings of Kurds and Armenians in 1915 - Turkey claims the killings should not called genocide.
Profile: Orhan Pamuk
More ridiculous are perhaps the charges against Abdullah Yildiz, the publisher who printed a bestseller "The Witches of Smyrna" by Greek author Mara Meimaridi.
Apparently, some passages in the novel describe Izmir's (Smyrna) Turkish quarters as dirty, which prosecutors say is an insult to Turkey. Abdullah Yildiz actually faces several years in jail.
Turkey orders fresh insult trial
Last, even in our little corner of the blogsphere I came across Neil the Novel Head who received hate mail from a reader who read one of his short stories.
I think I'm going to start a new category of posts, honouring writers, publishers, journalists, novelists, poets etc. for being prosecuted/persecuted as I come across them.
Categories: writing, news
Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Compliments of Erin from Rarely Likable here is a funny one: SNL - The Chronic of Narnia Rap AKA Lazy Sunday.
Erin claims in her post that she's seen it everywhere. Well... I'm a bit slow on things and only seen it on her blog. Thanks Erin for posting it anyway.
Categories: fun, misc
Monday, December 19, 2005
I was very impressed with their new house, sure, what's not to be impressed? Their walk-in closet is the size of my bedroom, and their five-year-old daughter's room is bigger than my living room. Not to mention that her (the daughter's) adjacent bathroom is twice the size of my main bathroom.
So we walked around the house and I kept complimenting the finishing and the layout and cracking jokes about the sheer size and saying how pretty and all, until... until we reached the nanny's room. In a basement the size of a large, no, huge apartment, one corner was closed off as the nanny's room. Small and cold. Heck, it is smaller than any room I have in my little place, has a lowered ceiling which in some parts a person can't even stand straight. After seeing the size of everything else, this was quite a letdown. But I said nothing. I didn't comment on the fact that this nanny who has been with them for nearly five years and is raising their three little ones (the five-year-old is the oldest) has a dinky tiny cold room in the basement.
If that was the end of things, it wouldn't have been that bad, but later on in the evening, another person asked my friend if it is true that her nanny is away for a month. My friend explained that yes, she's away for a month to see her family in the Philippines. 'How did you agree to that?' the person asked. My friend explained that it was in their original agreement that the nanny would combine two years vacation and instead take a month off every two years. 'I wouldn't allow it,' that other person said in a belligerent and decisive tone.
It was at that point that I felt I should have said something. It was at that point that I wanted to say that just because we are fortunate enough live in a country that enables us easy life doesn't mean we should forget how others live. I wanted to say that just because we can afford having slave labour doesn't mean that we should act like slave drivers.
But I didn't. I didn't want to stir things up, you see, I didn't want to offend my good friends who stood by me when I needed them. I didn't want to criticize that person and indirectly my friends in their house. So I said nothing. In fact, no one said anything and I left wondering if no one said anything when the Nazis slowly came to power and people simply didn't speak out because they didn't want to insult their hosts, or because it wasn't appropriate in that social setting, or because whatever other reason. Of course, there is a big difference and I'm taking it to an extreme but I was just wondering.
And now, now I feel sick to my stomach you see. Sick for me, for everybody else who was there and especially for that other person, whom I always considered a friend, and probably will continue to see in social settings. And I know I will be polite, and that makes me sick. I don't think that person was polite, you see, I don't think that person considered saying things like that in a social setting the same way I considered answering. That person offended me and I will continue the relation ship as if nothing happened. And that makes me sick.
Saturday, December 17, 2005
A disturbing scene is any scene where something 'really bad' happens.
Personally, 'disturbing' is confined to actions performed by characters (protagonist, antagonist, minor player), as opposed to natural disasters for example. By actions I mean torture, murder, rape, beating, abuse and the list goes on.
Sometimes writing these scenes affects me in the manner expected from the action. I get sick to my stomach.
Sometimes writing these scenes can be a cathartic experience where I'm happy with my writing capabilities and my abilities to convincingly convey gruesome events, perversions and abnormalities. (Which, of course, leaves me disturbed for being able to express it in the first place :).
I have written such scenes from both POVs.
I find that it is by far easier to describe the horrors from the "recipient's" POV. It is also by far easier to describe the recipient's feelings. It hurts, stop, the horror.
Yet, it is when I write from the POV of the person inflicting the pain that I find the writing experience to be rewarding.
Now, from the reader's perspective I also find that readers love to be introduced to dark thoughts and feeling and to be pushed to the brim of the evil abyss so as to stare it right in the face.
How does it affect you? Does it affect you at all? As a writer? A reader?
Categories: writing, plot, process
Thursday, December 15, 2005
In my neighborhood you can actually see people in the streets going about their way, if it's children walking to school (you heard me right, I said walking), moms strolling with their babies, or people hurrying to work.
In my neighborhood we know are neighbors by name. On hot summer evenings we meet outside, on our porches and have a beer (or two).
The children in my neighborhood don't need their parents to drive them to their friends, they can just walk, and on Saturday evenings the teenagers, too young to go clubbing, hang out in the streets and alleys, making a little noise when they pass under your window. I love that noise.
In my neighborhood we have a few corner stores, mom and pop shops and even a little cafe.
There are two supermarkets I can walk to, one outside, surrounded by other stores, another in a dingy malls.
I can also walk from my neighborhood to one of the trendiest places in town, a street full of restaurants (mostly Greek) and shops.
I love my neighborhood.
Occasionally, and it flows naturally from the makeup of our neighborhood, kids ring my doorbell for donations. Sometimes I ignore the ring, sometimes I go ready with some money to the door. Of course, we have salespeople too. But I can usually tell by the ring or the sound they make as they climb the four stairs leading to my front door.
Well, and this is where my story really begins, I was all alone at home the other day when I heard the door bell ring followed the screeches from the screen door hinges as someone opened it, followed by such bangs on my door I would only expect the Gestapo or KGB to use when coming in the middle of the night to haul people out, people who are never seen again.
I was certain something happened. No one, but no one would knock like that unless they had a good reason. Perhaps there was an accident and someone needed my help, perhaps the police were in search of a fugitive criminal. The thoughts ran wild in my head while I climbed the stairs to reach the door.
I did not open it.
"Yes?" I said from behind the door. I have a clear glass window on the door that allows me to see the person outside. He was no policeman but he wore a kind of uniform.
"Ma'am, I'm from the utility company," he said showing me a fancy name tag.
There's a gas leak, I thought.
"I wanted to make sure you are protected---" for sure a gas leak "---in your bill from gas price increases."
"What?" I said, confused. It didn't sound like a gas leak. In fact, he didn't really sound concerned at all, only very aggressive.
"I wanted to make sure it says on your bill---"
I looked more closely at his name tag. It belonged to a utility company, not my utility company as he alluded to. "No, thank you," I said.
"---you're protected from price increases---"
Remember that I didn't open the door? Well, that was his lucky day because if the door was open I'd probably have given him quite a beating using one of the shoes always near the door, or at least a good shouting right there. But I'm such a wimpy wuss. Instead, I said, "I'm protected," which seemed to be the only thing I could say that would make him disappear and then I walked away.
He, in turn, shouted at me something like 'are you sure?' before finally leaving.
I'm only sorry I didn't take a better look at his name or the gas company he represents. I would have complained, but not to them. They couldn't care less, I'm sure. In fact, I'm certain they teach this scare tactic to their sales people. I have no doubt.
Which brings me to today's topic - sales and marketing. It seems that sales and marketing people have lost all scruples. Unethical conduct, dehumanizing ads, subversive practices, not to mention privacy intrusions with telemarketing or door-to-door sales.
Since I don't usually rant here, I will leave the rest of my opinions on the subject to the political blog I share with a few others. I did come to the conclusion, though, that I prefer junk mail to door to door sales people, believe it or not.
Oh, and compliments of Ryan, here's a list of things you can say/do when a telemarketer calls you.
Tuesday, December 13, 2005
You're probably right. I probably would never have if I wasn't getting frustrated with it.
You see, I never used to mind editing. Not at all. It was fun, but lately, I guess I could say in the last year, editing has become more of a chore. It's gotten to the point where I dread finishing a piece just because I know I'd have to edit it after.I don't know how you go about editing but for me it's always been a mix of editing while writing and editing at the end.
I know that the recommended way is to write a "vomit first draft" but it doesn't work for me. I have to edit while I write. Mind you, I don't edit too much during the writing process. Somewhere in between.
I also don't edit after each chapter is written, which I know some do.
So maybe if I ask you, my fellow writers, how you edit your material, my current aversion of the editing process will subside.
Do you edit chapter by chapter, in the middles of chapters or the whole thing?
Do you print it all and work with a hard copy or are you monitor bound?
Is your editing process different for shorts?
Anything else you'd like to tell me?
Categories: writing, editing, process
Sunday, December 11, 2005
In case you haven't, let me introduce you:
- Place numbers in the grid, only single digit numbers (1-9)
- The numbers must add up to the marker at the top or to the left
- Each number in a block must be different, so if you have to add up two numbers to 8 - you can only use 1&7, 2&amp;6, 3&5, but not 4&4.
Hint: it is easy to start with cells you know at least the combination. So starting with a 4 is good because it can only be 1&3 for example.
Some places you can play on the net:
- Kakuro Live
- Kakuro San
- And obviously the place I got the puzzle from: Kakuro Puzzle
Categories: games, fun, misc
Friday, December 09, 2005
My friend Ryan has just begun too.
His blog is crazy, his blog is funny, his blog is disturbing...
I cannot repeat most of what of he writes there because I've committed to a PG-13 blog, but those of you who are disturbed by nature--you know who you are, don't make me name names ;)--must go check out Ryan Oakley at The Grumpy Owl.
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
Sensible or not, that's what I did and the shorts came gushing out of me, but at some point I figured that writing for magazines wasn't going to help me make writing a career. For that I needed to write novels.
I started writing a novel three different times, each time I got stuck somewhere in the beginning, around the 15,000-30,000 word mark and went back to writing another short or two. It wasn't until my third attempt that I figured something out. I was writing a novel, not a very long short, which meant I had to change my whole concept of writing.
You see, shorts describe an event, or a sequence of events that happen at some point in the character's life. They describe it quickly and to the point. But novel writing is different. Writing a novel is describing everything that led to the crucial event that a short would concentrate on, it's adding a few other events, it's a plot and few subplots intertwined together, etc.
Of course I knew all that, but it wasn't wired in yet. I had to get into the novel writing state of mind. Instead of getting to the point quickly, I needed to get to the point differently. See what I'm saying? And then I discovered that there are many points along the way leading to that one big event, interesting ones, there is more character development, there are more voices.
I've always been a very quick and succinct person. I don't know how to philosophize at length (although I'm sure some of you are rolling your eyes just about now) and it shows in my writing, compact and condense. Maybe that's why I gravitated towards shorts at first.
My point? I have two:
The first is that while both forms are fiction, the mindset required for each is different.
The second is that if you are in the beginning of your writing endeavors and wish to write novels, don't start with shorts.
And if, on the other hand, you are like many of my friends who wrote their first short story after writing three novels, don't think it would be a breeze to write a short, but we'll tackle that some other day (maybe with a guest poster).
Categories: writing, short-stories, novel, process
Monday, December 05, 2005
Let me tackle this one from a different point of view though.
About a week ago I read an article about a groundbreaking find: Mildly Depressed People More Perceptive Than Others.
Surprisingly, people with mild depression are actually more tuned into the feelings of others than those who aren't depressed, a team of Queen's psychologists has discovered.
At first the researchers were so stunned with the results that they performed the study again with a different group only to produce the same results:
People with mild symptoms of depression pay more attention to details of their social environment than those who are not depressed.
Previous similar studies were done with clinically depressed persons and I guess that now they have reached the conclusion that mild depression and clinical depression may be two different things, which is a controversial idea.
You may have the same reaction to this article/research as I had.
To be honest I don't know much about clinical depression but I think most people have experienced mild depression at some point in their lives, either due to objective reasons or simply because they are more prone to it.
From our experience then, haven't we all noticed that when depression hits us, we become more sensitive, that we can notice every little thing in the people around us, a lingering look, a sigh, raising of the eyebrows?
So why were the researchers surprised?
Also, if I return to what I started with, the argument that depression helps the artist be more creative, then again I'm at a loss with the researchers' surprise at their findings.
Aren't creative people usually 'accused' of being artiste types, prone to depression and forms of madness? And don't we all know how sensitive creative people are? They must be. Artists' social and environmental sensitivity is almost a requirement to their artistic expression. If artists wish to express other people's feelings in their art, to show the world's beauty, people's goodness, or even plush fields, they must know what that is like.
How would otherwise writers describe people's feelings and behavior if they weren't sensitive to it? How would a painter show emotions in their drawings if they weren't sensitive to those very emotions they're trying to paint?
I'm not saying that all artists are, by definition, mildly depressed. Far from it. But we've all encountered those little depression spells that somehow cause the sensitivity to become acute and the creative juices to flow.
If they had asked me, those researchers, I could have told them what to expect. It seems rather obvious to me.
Categories: writing, general, science
Saturday, December 03, 2005
I only found out about Don't Date Him Girl last week - a site that has lists (upon lists) of cheating men.
Here's what they have to say about themselves:
DontDateHimGirl.com is changing the way women date! Browse our search engine of cheating men right now! Finally, a way for women to check a guy out BEFORE dating, marrying or otherwise committing to him! Warn other women about the men who have cheated on you! Register and become a member today! You'll receive our free newsletter and other valuable goodies just for women! It's fast, easy and best of all, it's free!
Well... I just thought that one could get some plot ideas about cheating bleep-bleeps from this site.
In any event, while I don't take lightly the pain of the women who posted in the site about their cheating men, I still find the whole concept to be, well, weird.
Categories: writing, plot, weird, misc
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Now I'm coming from the other side of the coin and want to give you an opposite example, a good one, a movie I liked. A lot.
I saw A History of Violence last week and I am recommending it whole heartedly. I couldn't stop thinking about it for a few days after I've seen it, in fact, I'm still thinking about it a week later. Viggo Mortensen (or as we better know him - Aragorn) is superb in it as are the other actors in this movie.
I'm not a movie reviewer, nor do I have aspirations to become one, hence I don't know if it was the plot, the acting, directing (Cronenberg), or cinematography that was the one thing that 'made' the movie. Probably the combination of the lot.
In any event, the movie has that understated, almost subdued quality to it. A quality that I like. While the characters display emotions, they don't necessarily have to cry, shout, wring their hair out or whatever other devices and vices directors and actors choose for the purpose of emotional display. A History of Violence is similar to In the Bedroom in that respect (if you recall that one from 2001).
Another similarity between both movies is the dialogue, or lack there of. Don't get me wrong, there is a dialogue, and pretty darn good one, but it isn't the idiotic verbal stream most Hollywood movies are 'blessed' with. Thus, instead of the characters saying things, explaining their feelings, intent, thoughts, we see and understand what they want to express by their actions, motions, facial expressions or even sometimes from the camera angle the director has chosen, what we see on the screen and how we see it.
As writers we all know the Show, Don't Tell rule. It seems that some directors / film makers have heard of the same rule and when they use it in their films, the result is--as it most often is in writing too--amazing, intelligent and touching. A movie can have that much more impact if not everything is spelled out, if the characters occasionally act out their emotions instead of explaining to us that they're standing at a cross-road and have a hard time making a decision. Most times viewers are able to figure these things out on their own. Same with writing.
1. Show, Don't Tell - works well in both media
2. Give your audience/readers some credit, most are intelligent and don't need to be spoon fed
3. Sex scenes can be a wonderful device if they're not gratuitous (yes, after forgetting all about sex scenes (seems no one does sex scenes anymore since the new millennia started), this movie had a couple and they worked very well!)
I hope for more movies such as A History of Violence and if you haven't seen it yet, then what are you waiting for? It is one of the best movies I have seen this year, and if Viggo doesn't get the Oscar for his performance there then that would prove once and for all what the Academy Awards are worth!
Categories: writing, process, movies