Saturday, February 3, 2024

The dog ate my shed

A phone call at work in the middle of the afternoon. “Dad, did you do some work on the shed recently? Like, taking off some of the siding?”

No, I haven’t. Why would I do that? Puzzled, and wondering exactly what had happened at home while we were all out at work and college.

This is what I found.

Planks ripped off, and some excavation either side of the door. The dogs must have been after something, probably a raccoon. Though why anyone would mistake this scene for intentional DIY handiwork beats me. Seems someone has a low opinion of my carpentry skills!

Thankfully it was a dry afternoon today and I still had some offcuts of cedar siding from building the tree fort many years ago. All patched up again ... until the next time!

Friday, December 22, 2023

Why I’ll never be a prolific writer

Since settling into proper “first draft” mode back in October, progress on The Videshi Dilemma remains on track at the moment. However I’m reminded again of something I’ve noticed from previous novels: I’m a slow writer.

This is not a reflection of raw writing speed. When I’m on a roll I can comfortably knock out a thousand words inside an hour. At that pace, if I was writing full time I’d complete a novel in well under a month.

Nor is it a reflection of time available. Yes, I have a full time job and family commitments so I aim to spend an hour a day on writing, as a reasonable and achievable commitment. But even when I have a whole day available to me, I struggle to spend much more than an hour or two actually writing.

My limitation is that I can only write as fast as my imagination works, producing ideas to feed into a scene. So, perhaps it’s better to say: I’m a slow thinker.

On the writer’s “plotter versus pantser” scale, I’m somewhere in the middle. I often start with a scene that caught my imagination but without any idea yet where it’s going. I write a bit, then step back and start plotting the outline. But it’s only a high level outline, with lots of gaps and unknowns. It gives me a sense of structure and direction, but much of the detail emerges over time as writing progresses. The outline plot feeds off the actual writing as much as the other way around. I think this style is better described as a “gardener”.

And this back-and-forth is a vital aspect of my writing process. Once I’m well into a project and have immersed myself in the story, things occur to me that would never have come to mind if I tried to figure everything out from the outset. Back to The Videshi Dilemma, right now I’m about 60% through. I know how things end, and roughly what happens to get there, but many of the details still need to be fleshed out. It’s only now my characters have reached this point in the story did I start to realize some of the pressures and conflicts that should crop up, things I suspect I couldn’t have envisaged before now. So even when I retire and have all the time in the world, I don’t see myself suddenly churning out novels any faster than I do today.

Monday, October 2, 2023

Truth and reconciliation


People outside of Canada may not be aware that September 30 was a national day of truth and reconciliation.

The day has recently been introduced by the federal government to highlight the legacy of the residential school program and invite people to reflect on the lasting trauma inflicted on the Indigenous people of Canada.

As a recent (nineteen years ago) settler in BC, I was oblivious both to the residential school program and to the wider systemic injustices faced by Indigenous people. Yes, I had a rough knowledge of the history of Canada, told from a European perspective, but that all felt like old history, something that happened way before my great-grandparents’ times and all water under the bridge.

When a children’s mass grave was uncovered on a residential school site in Kamloops in 2021, the news shocked the country. Yes, other sites had sporadically been discovered in previous decades, but the scale here was new and was followed in a matter of months by many more such graves.

The scale of the horror became apparent. This was not a few isolated incidents. This was the needless deaths of literally thousands of kids, whisked away from their families to die of disease, abuse, and malnutrition at the hands of people who saw themselves as “better”.

Along with this came the realization that this is not ancient history. This is recent. The last school closed in 1997. That is not even my generation, this directly affects the generation that came after me. I have work colleagues who went to residential schools themselves, or whose parents and grandparents were separated from their families. The trauma has been buried, not discussed even in private, locked away too painful to think about. People at work are only now starting to tell their stories.

However, I was prompted to write this post after I read this weekend about the rise of denialism. People out there claiming it’s all a conspiracy, a hoax.

This distresses and angers me. There’s a rising tide of denialism poisoning our society. Denying the existence of extermination camps in WW2, the brutal reality of slavery in the US, the slaughter of children in mass school shootings. People who directly experienced events are bullied and hounded as kooks, liars, fakes. Social media has given a strident platform to people with their own agenda to pursue regardless of facts. Evidence becomes irrelevant, truth an inconvenience.

People need to own the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable and challenges their view of how the world should be.

I stand by the survivors of the residential school program, and I respect the courage it takes, in today’s hostile world, to finally stand up and tell their stories.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Lazy Crazy Hazy days of summer?

We’re nearly at the end of August, just waiting for the autumn cool to kick in. Summer is usually a time for lazy days on the deck, reading and writing, beer and barbecues. Yes, there’s been all that this year, but also a lot of stuff leaving me feeling like I still need a vacation! Nothing dramatically disastrous, but a lot of small to medium stressors piling on all at once – family, health, mechanical issues, and the ever-present smoke in the air from angry Nature.

On the plus side, we’ve not been directly threatened by wildfires (though there have been a few small ones nearby, quickly handled) and we’re getting through the other hurdles in reasonable shape.

One of the stresses I’ve had to handle is setting up a new website.

I’ve used Webs since I first set up an author site in 2014. They got taken over by Vistaprint, and announced that they would be merging offerings. That announcement was way back in 2020. Since then there have been a couple of “coming soon” type messages, but little talk and even less action. Then, mid July, seven weeks ago, they announced the move was finally here. My site would drop dead at the end of August, and – no – there was no help or tools available to help with the migration. Just, “So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

Not much time to figure out what to do, especially as we were about to set off visiting family overseas for two weeks followed by more travel for medical reasons. Strike three weeks from the time available to figure my shit out!

Yep. A bit of a perfect storm.

Anyhow, long story short, I opted to give Wordpress a try and have been doing battle with their labyrinthine website editor this month. My biggest worries were to maintain a presence (which I have) and keep hold of my custom domain name (which I’ve done), so I'm still at:

The new site is still very much under construction as I manually recreate content that I scavenged from the old site. But it’s there! And I was relieved to see that when I updated my domain name details to point to the new site, existing links (such as my browser shortcuts and the links in this blog header) still worked.

That was a major headache sorted out. Now I just need to finish populating the site.

Wednesday, July 5, 2023

When did Sci-Fi get so boring?

Note – this isn’t referring to the actual stories, there are plenty of good stories out there, I’m talking about the visual appeal of the sci-fi shelf in bookstores.

When I was in my teens, if I had a few minutes to spare on my way to catch the bus home from school I’d often drop into one of the bookstores I passed. I wasn’t particularly looking for something to buy, I would simply feast my eyes on the cover art on display. These were the days of Asimov, Heinlein, Doc Smith, Herbert et. al.

The covers were bright, vibrant, thought-provoking, and above all – imaginative. They begged questions – what’s happening here? Who are these people? What would it be like to live there? These images, decades later, still serve as inspiration for my own art.

Recently, I had half an hour to kill waiting for a picture frame to be put together, so I wandered across the road to a bookstore. I walked out a little while later despairing for the future of my chosen genre, because there was nothing inspiring in sight.

Most of the traditionally-published covers on show seemed to fall into one of three common groups.

Stylized to death: Maybe I’m just out of touch, but I can’t forgive what Jim Tierney did to the Dune series. He isn’t alone, though. There were other covers consisting of plain geometric shapes that IMO do nothing to entice a potential reader. Boring and pretentious.

Wishy-washy: While keeping close in appearance to traditional covers, these have had the life sucked out of them as if the artist was afraid to commit to a clear picture. Distant ships and space stations obscured in an airbrushed pastel haze. A kind of Disneyfied view of space – no hard edges or nasty harsh vacuum here!

CGI perfection: Also close to traditional, these go to the other extreme. Ships and assorted space hardware rendered too perfectly to be true. And always against the obligatory backdrop of sun peeping over the horizon of a planet. Boring and sterile.

But my biggest complaint across the board was a lack of imagination. All three groups come across as generic and dull. After the first few in each group, they all blended into each other, nothing unique or distinctive about them.

Am I just imagining it? Am I being too harsh?

Friday, May 26, 2023

Wrath of Empire

Yes, it’s been a year since I last posted. I don’t know why, I guess I just ran out of things to say.

The blogging world used to be a vibrant community, and it still is around those blogs with a sizable established following, but so many of the bloggers I used to follow – and who used to visit The Bald Patch – have fallen quiet over the years. I found trying to post on a regular basis was a game of diminishing returns.

However, today I do have something to say, so I’ve come out of hibernation.

A new novel, Wrath of Empire, is now out there in the usual range of e-book formats. At the moment it’s at an introductory price of $0.99. The paperback will follow once I’ve received and approved the proof copy.

Wrath of Empire is a prequel to Ghosts of Innocence, and follows the catastrophic events that lead up to Shayla’s mission of revenge.

The Emperor wants peace between warring Families on rival worlds. His brother sees peace treaties as weakness; he aims to seize the throne and rule by strength. And then there’s Chalwen, bodyguard to the Emperor’s nine-year-old son, heir to the throne.

Chalwen takes professional paranoia to extremes, so when she suspects treachery inside the palace her superiors dismiss her warnings. Then the Emperor is assassinated. People are angry, looking for a villain, and all evidence points to one of the rival Families. Amid riots and military clashes, the young heir and his ambitious uncle fight for the throne.

Chalwen must protect the youngster while solving the Emperor’s murder to defuse the conflict. But the uncle has powerful supporters opposing Chalwen’s every move. Throw in a deranged arms dealer keen to profit from the chaos, and full scale interstellar war seems unavoidable.

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Artwork for sale

Off and on over the years, I’ve looked into ways to make my artwork available as posters. After sitting on the fence for a while, I’ve finally opened a store on Zazzle and started uploading a handful of more recent paintings.

I’m still finding my way around Zazzle. The website is ... let’s be restrained and say ... not very friendly.

Sure, it all looks easy enough, but the site seems to go out of its way to make it hard to tell what you’re actually doing, and gives no confidence that you’ve managed to do what you wanted to do. It’s taking a while to figure out some of the quirks, like clicking on “My products” gives different information depending on which part of the site you just came from. And I just created a collection to group all my posters together, and clicking on “Collections” in the menu bar shows the collection I just created, but clicking the same thing from the navigator panel says I don’t have any. Contradictory and confusing as heck!

Oh well, I have started off by creating some posters, all in the region of 40cm by 50cm to 60cm depending on the width to height ratio of the original. That’s 16” by 20” to 24” if you’re still working in Imperial units.

It’s still a work in progress, but you can find my store here:

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