Friday 29 April 2011

My iPhone is Stalking Me!

Some of you may have heard of the iPhone tracking system.  It's not cool because users don't know about it. It's a stalker phone.

Curious, I looked at the files from my iPhone and this is what I found:

This looks pretty accurate, location-wise.  Halifax, Calgary, and...

Everything in the Quebec City - Windsor corridor, my main traipsing ground.  

Okay, but how accurate is this? Let's have a closer look at where I'm at least 75% of my time: Ottawa.

Um, closer than that...

Looks pretty accurate from here except, well, I get around.  Closer still.

I placed a timeframe here to remove some dots, so you can just see a few of them on the map.  But I'm sure I was there on those dates, in iPhone mode, so kudos!

What about other places?  Calgary?

Accurate as far as I can tell.  Well, I could hone in on my friends' house, so definitely accurate.


Woa. Breakdown. Not accurate.  Not far, but not accurate.  

So why are Calgary and Ottawa accurate and not Halifax?  All I could think of what to look at cell phone tower placements (not actually read what other have said.  Oh no. This is much more fun!)  First I got this: 

That's all of Canada.  Not useful. I brought up only my provider's towers.

Focus on Calgary next:

 Okay, lots of 'em.  So what about Halifax?

 Way fewer.

So it triangulates your position.  The fewer towers around, the less accurate the reading.  Basic enough.  But what does it all mean?

Well, my iPhone is stalking me.  But it's only doing so when I receive a signal, which is evidenced by the fact that I get bleeps while on major roads.  I don't pick up while driving.  And, of course, absolutely not bleeps when it's in airplane mode. I certainly didn't walk to Calgary or Halifax. 

I'm disappointed in Apple for doing this, and they've yet to express their reasoning behind it. I don't expect a good reason, of course. Apple is getting bigger, and power corrupts all things, etc., etc.  (Pick up a comic book if you're not familiar with that concept. They'll explain it to you within three issues, guaranteed.)

Will I get rid of my iPhone? Nah. I'm a fatalist, not an alarmist.  I'll patch it when hackers figure out how to, or when Apple smartens up and provides an update.  In the meantime, the files are trapped on my cell phone and, quite frankly, if ever I were to commit a crime, I would simply leave it at home and make sure I get beeped then to use it in my defence.  

It's a two-way road, my friends.  Make the stalker work for you.

Disclaimer: I'm not actually planning on committing a crime, aside from sometimes (gasp!) poor fashion choices.  Ah, who am I kidding.  I wouldn't allow that to happen.

Sunday 24 April 2011

Your Story

Imagine you are writing a story.  Your hero will have good days.  And horrible ones.  Days filled with light and sunshine, and some so direly dark it's a wonder anyone gets through them.

There are demons, too, and faerie princesses with special powers.  There are lovers and enemies, sleepless nights and stormy weather, frightful days and then, out of nowhere, sunlit meadows.  They vanish again, because it's a story, and in this story trials must be faced and battles must be fought and victory isn't always just a step away, sometimes it's chapters, even books away, for the poor heroes stuck in trilogies or never-ending fantasy series.

Or maybe it's a romance.  Maybe it's a thriller that you're writing.  Or a mystery.  What about a sweeping epic?

Does it matter?  What matters is this: you have a hero.  You have someone in there, telling your story, living your story. You (YOU!), made a hero by yourself, with heroic traits and tragic downfalls, and sometimes you're in control and sometimes you're just not, because heroes have a way of taking over stories, and that's okay, because they have to do that to really, and I mean realllly, make it matter.

Now, take a step back and look at that story.  Look at that hero.

Imagine that story is your life, and that hero is you.  Imagine that you forge that hero every day through your choices and mistakes, your words and actions, your successes and failures, facing those dark days and dancing in those sunlit meadows, whatever shape they may take for you, whatever meaning they hold for you.

They're yours.

Because you're the hero.  And it's your story.

Make it a good one.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Five-Year Insanity Proofing Plan!

It's a one-year anniversary today, so it's special blog post time!  I don't tend to write too much about the business side of writing, mostly because I'm still figuring it out, but here's a little glimpse of some of my more recent thought processes.   (Warning: My thought processes are at times questionable.)

I spent most of last year analyzing immediate vs. long-term gratification.  I didn't realize I was doing it at the time, but hindsight is 20/20, or so they say.

In 2009, while writing two novels and telling at many shows, plus working full-time and maintaining an active social life, I also found myself organizing a leadership workshop (for the day job).  The facilitator encouraged me to participate in the personality test.  And why not.  It was either participate, or be bored out of your mind watching others do it.

So I filled in the quiz and the results were compiled into a chart.

To my untrained eye, I looked completely insane.  I was all over the chart, with great big spikes everywhere.  I peeked at others' charts and theirs were much more restrained.  The facilitator came by and, with his trained eye, put it much more kindly.  "You have a lot on your mind, don't you?"

I had to agree.  With two more books due at my publisher's, trying to market my book, growing both my writing and storytelling careers, I had several plates overflowing with too much goodness.  The facilitator gave me only one piece of advice (not to go on drugs, or drop everything, or shave my head and run outside in the streets, to my surprise).  He told me to create a five-year plan.

Hu.  Sounded simple enough.  I decided to take up the challenge. Why not?  It was either that or have insane spikes in my personality chart forever more.

Creating my plan involved a lot of reading, research and talking with lots of people.  I needed to gauge what was realistic for my timeline/salary/goals/ability/willingness, and I certainly couldn't do it on my own.  My banker became my best friend.

A few weeks later, once I had my five-year plan, a realistic plan of what I could control, I felt much better. It was suddenly easier to prioritize and figure out where to go next.  What to do with my money was a big one, for me.  My consumer debt was holding me back, so I made a plan to get rid of it.  I needed to be better organized (okay, still do), so I got better at it (still getting better).  And I shuffled my life around so more time could be spent doing what I needed to do to be happy, not what I needed to do because others thought it would make me happy.

I think artists in general feel that out-of-control tumbling.  I mean, you can't control your sales.  Publishers might love or hate your next work.  You can't control how performances are received, or last minute changes to programs (can you now tell your story in half the time?  Um, sure...).  And we certainly can't buy readers' hearts (I tried.  They're expensive!).  I can write the books, make 'em as good as can be, but I'm not the one buying them, so there are no guarantees.

I know it's not as easy as it sounds, but it's not that hard, either.  Once you know where you're headed, you choose the most realistic path and start walking.  Today marks the one-year anniversary of starting that plan. My life has changed, but not overly.  I have less stress because I know my priorities and goals. And I'm in a better position to achieve those next steps. My plan has been adapted to current circumstances - some goals are taking a bit longer, others are reached much more quickly than anticipated. 

It's fun looking back at everything that happened and has already been done.  By next year, I'll be in a much better position than today, which is already pretty damn good.  I'm not foolish enough to pretend I can predict the future and prepare for everything.  Hardly.  I'm not even trying.  But I know where I'd like to be, and what few elements I CAN control.  Emergency planning is in place for every other eventuality.  Back-up plans galore.

I don't know if, in the end, it means I'll reach my goals easier.  I doubt that.  But it does remove some of the daily debate of what to do next and where I should concentrate my caffeinated energies.  Now does that mean another personality chart would reveal less insanity?  Did I actually insanity proof my life?  HA!  Of course not. 

But I do like to think that I wield a more focused insanity, now.  Beware my spike-riddled insanity!

Tuesday 19 April 2011

Show in Montreal

I had an awesome time in Montreal last weekend telling stories with JD Hobbes, accompanied by amazing musician Shayne Grin, at Hurley's Pub.  The evening started off a bit dicey.  The reservation for our room was lost, so we no longer had a private performance space.  Instead we were offered a room not fully closed off from the pub.  Hobbes ordered a cider and *gasp* they were out.  And I got a splinter from my chair, which ruined my nylons.  Yet we went on.

Those few issues were quickly forgotten as Hobbes launched into a tale of Truth and Story to a packed room filled with great listeners.  The evening went by quickly and I had an amazing time.  I told stories, caught up with old friends and made new ones, ate much cake and drank wine.  A perfect evening, really!

The next day I gave two shows at a Montreal college.  The students were very receptive, and a few were interested in learning about writing and being published.  I told many different tales, including some of my old favourites.  I convinced a few students that some of my creepy stories were true, but warned them you should never trust a storyteller.  Still, I got terrified glances as they left, so I'd say I made an impression.

I have some pics coming from a wonderful photographer friend from the Sunday show, which I'll soon post.  Plus some video, if it turned out all right.  And audio feeds!  We went mad with recording technology.  Mad!!!

Again, thanks to everyone who came out and made this such an unforgettable experience.  You're all so amazing that I'll tell happy stories about you for years to come!  Truly.  You'll never know it's about you, though.  Just like you'll never be certain if some stories that are claim are true are actually true.

It's the storyteller's way.  (My Giant Jesus stories ARE all true, in case you're worried.  Just saying.)

Friday 15 April 2011


So far this year I've sold stories to two anthologies, and both tables of contents are now available!  S'gonna be awesome, my friends!

Co-edited by Gabrielle Harbowy and Ed Greenwood
Coming out August 2011 from Dragon Moon Press

A Place to Come Home To by Jay Lake and Shannon Page
An Evil Not Forgotten by Erik Buchanan
Full Circle by Steve Bornstein
Lessons Learned by Peadar Ó Guilín
Brine Magic by Tony Pi
The Legend of Gluck by Marie Bilodeau (YAY!)
One and Twenty Summers by Brian Cortijo
The Blue Corpse Corps by Jim C. Hines
Ashes of the Bonfire Queen by Rosemary Jones
Keeping Time by Gabrielle Harbowy
Scar Tissue by Chris A. Jackson
Coward by Todd McCaffrey
Nine Letters Found in a Muddied Case on the Road in Baden, Germany by Xander Briggs
The Once and Now-ish King by J.M. Frey
His Last Monster by J.P. Moore
Dark Helm Returns by Ed Greenwood
Mirror, Mirror by Phil Rossi
Knights and Beans by Julie Kagawa
Oathbreaker by Erik Scott de Bie

Edited by Jennifer Brozek
Coming out Fall 2011 from Graveside Tales

Solitary Instincts by Wendy N. Wagner
The Strange Affair of the Viennese Mathematician by Joshua Reynolds
The Adventure of the Missing Trophy by Mark W. Coulter
Blood Will Tell by JG Faherty
Vanessa McAvoy's Statement by Kelly Swails
Ties of Silver by James L. Sutter
The Long Road to Sanctum by Richard Farnsworth
Masako's Tale by Michael West

Help Wanted by Lydia Ondrusek
Act Natural by Tyler Hayes
Desperate Housewolves by Erik Scott de Bie
Life Decisions by Dylan Birtolo
Papa Pirana by Angel McCoy
Deserter by Gabrielle Harbowy and Marie Bilodeau (YAY!)
Corvidae by Kerrie L. Hughes
In One Stride Comes the Dark by Kenneth Mark Hoover

Wednesday 13 April 2011

One Heck of a Good Time!

Before every wonderful detail of Ad Astra gets crushed in the daily grind, I wanted to thank everyone who made it so special.  I'm not going to make a list, just to be clear, for fear of forgetting somebody, but to the authors, panelists, DMPers, ConCom members, fans, vendors, security, party throwers, drink handlers, travellers and bread breakers - you're all awesome.  Seriously.

Ad Astra always goes by so quickly.  The Friday night was fun, with two panels and a late-night storytelling show.  Kudos to everyone who showed up!  I ran around quite a bit saturday - stalking people, being stalked by people, and ending up in the Green Room until the wee hours of the morning, ordering whatever the person next to me was ordering (gin something something, right, Ryan?)  It's how I discover new drinks and foods (sometimes to my detriment).

And Sunday was wound down day, with lots of chatting, shopping and laughing. And hugs and tearful good byes.

Good times. I was glad to see the 30th was well attended, too.  Not one of my panels wasn't full with people standing in the back, so kudos to the organizers!

I'm sure I have lots more to report, but that daily grind squicked me too early! (Squicked = technical term meaning not quite crushed, but squished enough to go squick.  Something to do with spinal fluids, methinks.)  I got home to a sick cat and spent Monday dealing with that while trying to get organized for leaving on Tuesday to Halifax.  I'm going back home late Thursday, and on Saturday I'm off to Montreal!  I have a Sunday night public show at Hurley's Pub and two shows at a school on Monday.  Much to look forward to, so forward momentum is dragging me onwards, ever onwards!

Thanks again to everyone for making Ad Astra such a great energizing con! Looking forward to next year already.

Monday 11 April 2011

The Worst Part

The worst part is not the final verdict, not the whispered farewell, not the last sigh, nor the tearful drive back.

The worst part is coming home with an empty carrier.

Good bye, Buster Bear.  You were deeply loved.  You are sorely missed.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Tomorrow - Ad Astra!

Tomorrow I'm off to Ad Astra for much fun and reconnecting with old friends.  And making new friends, too!  My storytelling show is ready, with multiple stories on the stars.  I have a folktale, a fairy tale, a literary tale, a historical story and possibly a poem, depending on whether or not my mind is still functional by the end.  It's going to be fun, so I hope you'll come out!  It's Friday at 11pm.  I turn into a pumpkin at 10 pm, so this should be funny.

Last year, I missed my own show and created quite a security stir.  This year I intend to be there early.  If, however, you happen to spot me wandering the halls after 10:30 pm, be a dear and make sure I make it to my show, please.  I mean well, I just tend to get lost/confused/illiterate/distracted by shiny objects.

I'm not quite ready for the con yet.  I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I haven't planned my wardrobe at all. (Gasp!) That usually means I'll pack way too much.  Oh well, I can enjoy wardrobe changes as the whim grabs me. 

My luggage is going to be full in shoes alone.  I've already put four pairs aside, not including my running shoes, which I'm wearing for travel (my feet love me more that way).  Four pairs of shoes for a three-day con.  Hu.  My math-fu is weak.

I have to keep it reasonable (ha!) since I'm giving a lift to a few other people, who I assume will also bring some luggage and expect there to be room in my car.  I suppose they can keep it on their laps.  Perfectly comfortable for a 4+hour drive. 

I'm going to have what I believe is a limited supply of books (again, weak math-fu), so make sure to drop by the Dragon Moon Press table early on to nab any copies of my books you're missing.  (You know you want them all.)  I'll be there as often as possible.  Otherwise, hunt me down!  I doubt I'll be leaving the hotel, unless it's to get a Timmy's down the road.  Mmmm coffee...

See you there!  (At Ad Astra, not Timmy's. Well, maybe Timmy's too.  That'd be cool too.)

Tuesday 5 April 2011

Reminder - Aurora Awards

Nominations close on April 30, so there's less than a month to go before your vote has to be in!  Why should you vote?  Well, because democracy rules, and because it's a nice way to recognize the efforts of fans and pros across Canada.  The sci-fi/fantasy community in Canada is awesome, let's face it, and full of amazing talent.

The Aurora Awards are Canadian and fan voted, and made of win. Any Canadian can nominate a work of writing, art, or a fan achievement by going here.  You have to become a member of the CSFFA, but it's quick, free and painless. Remember - you can only nominate once!

As mentioned before, I would be honoured if you'd consider nominating:

In the long-form works category:  
Destiny's Blood
Published by Dragon Moon Press.  To help you make an informed decision, my publisher has made the work available online for free.   Pretty awesome, eh?  (Sorceress of Shadows is also eligible, but I'd prefer not splitting my votes.  As Destiny's Blood is a stand-alone, and not the final book in a trilogy, I feel my chances are best stacked there.) 

In the short stories category:
A Pint to Prophecy
Included in the Podthology anthology.  This story is available as a free podcast, for your listening pleasure. 

These are the works I hope you'll consider, but there are many other fine works by great Canadian authors.  I encourage you to check out the full list.

I hope you'll give my pieces a chance and review them, and any support is, as always, appreciated!

Friday 1 April 2011

Change of Routine

I usually write at Second Cup in the mornings, from 7 to 8, give or take 15 minutes either way.  I crank out at least a thousand words when writing, or edit two to five pages, depending on how bad the first draft was (sometimes atrocious.  Would make my editor faint.)

But coffee houses are banding against productive mornings.  I'm certain of this.  Oh sure, they offer you coffee and a seat, two main necessities for productivity, but then they offer... free wireless.  A most evil of evils.  When my writing's not going well, I'm tired or feeling like procrastinating, I love the Internet.  So very, very much.

Not great for the word count, though.  I'd managed to curb this by giving myself ten minutes of play, then writing the rest of the time.  It was working, more or less.  When I feel really weak, I just bring a notebook and pen, leaving my fateful laptop Utnois at home to rest. Then I get frustrated because the pen is too slow, unless I'm just playing with ideas. When you blow up as much stuff as I do in a book, you have to write fast enough to keep up with the explosions.

I usually know when I'm going to be weak, too.  As I rush through my morning routine, aiming not to look like a zombie by the time I reach downtown (50% success rate), I plan my writing session.  Who's going to die, what's going to blow up, which dream will I destroy... you know, the usual stuff.  But, if instead of planning death and destruction I'm instead thinking: "I wonder what so-and-so is up to," or "Maybe so-and-so updated their blog," or again "I should study everything there is to know about the royal family for the past few centuries in case I missed something good," then I can guess it's not going to be a productive day.

I'm all about psyching myself. My brain's manageable in the morning. It's like a big fresh lump of clay, ready to be moulded (except it doesn't hold shapes for long.  Very sad).

Growing tired of having to think about what I'm going to think about later, I decided to switch up my routine.  I've been spending my mornings at a different coffee shop (gasp!), writing with other members of my writing group, the East Block Irregulars.  We're all sci-fi/fantasy published authors, and the critiques I get there are amazingly useful.

So now my mornings are spent at Bridgehead.  I like their coffee, so it's okay.  Their wireless is free but requires a code, which I never get.  The other writers and I, we don't talk until the writing's done.  Well, we say hi.  That's about it. We sit and write.  It's awesome.  It makes me feel accountable.  In one week alone, I managed to add 10,000 words of missing scenes to my poor, poor manuscript.  And my morning sessions were definitely a big help!

I've always advocated changing routine when "writer's block" strikes (in quotation marks because, well, you can figure it out by your lonesome).  Turns out I give good advice!  :P

I know lunchtime writers, morning writers, evening writers and night owls, and all have routines that work for them. I hope you find the routine that works for you, and a lifestyle that supports the writing.  Well worth it.  In the end, it's all about your dedication, or "how bad you want it," as one of my friends puts it.

And the coffee.  It's definitely about the coffee, too.