Wednesday, December 23, 2015

A writer’s Christmas wish list

Dear Santa,

I’m sorry I trashed a planet and killed all those people. I know it wasn’t very good of me and I’m probably on your naughty list, but I’d like to make a special wish list for writers everywhere.

I know you and the elves do a lot of reading up at the North Pole, in between toymaking and annual deliveries. So, if you enjoyed a good book, the best gift you can give any writer is to lead others to discover them.

Here’s a few gift ideas...


Reviews: Reviews on well-traveled sites like Amazon or Goodreads are vital for getting work noticed by a wider audience.

Social media: For example:
Right now I’m reading Revenant by Kat Richardson and really enjoying it. I’ll have to look out for more of the Greywalker novels.
There, that was easy, wasn’t it?

Word of mouth: Do you know a friend, relative, or work colleague who you honestly think would enjoy that book you just finished? Don’t keep it to yourself, mention it!

Posters: Do you have somewhere at work, at your local supermarket or bookstore or gas station where advertising is OK? Try contacting the writer and see if she has a promotional poster she can email you.

Libraries: Ask your local library to stock that book you enjoyed. All libraries I know of welcome suggestions from their community to add to their shelves.

I don’t do resolutions, but my promise for 2016 is to do more to help other writers along. I hope that makes up for at least some of the grisly deaths I’ve caused.

Happy Christmas!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Book blast starts at midnight


http://www.freebookblast.com/

The page at http://www.freebookblast.com/ is now live. Books should be available free from midnight to midnight on Saturday, though exact times may vary depending on Amazon.

Check it out and pick up some free e-books. I counted 67 titles available!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Support Indie Authors - free book blast

It's the season of giving, and the good folks over at Support Indie Authors, a Goodreads group I joined this year, are hosting a free book event.

On Saturday, the 19th of December, forty authors will be offering more than fifty books in a wide variety of genres absolutely free! What better way to de-stress, decompress, and take a well-deserved break from the hustle and bustle of the holidays than to curl up with a good book? All of the free books will be listed on the official Book Blast website:

www.freebookblast.com

As is our tradition, each of the authors participating in the book blast has told us a little about themselves. Each name links to the author’s Goodreads profile, so feel free to give them a follow if you like what you see. Below are interviews for ten of the forty participating authors. At the end of this post are links to three other blogs with the additional thirty authors. Please be sure to visit each and thank you for continuing to #SupportIndieAuthors

Now for the first ten authors:

Name: V.M. Sawh
What genre or genres do you write in?
Historical, Western
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
CINDERS is the classic tale of Cinderella given a murderous Gothic twist. HONTAS is an ass kicking, bounty-hunting Wild West Pocahontas. Both are part of my Good Tales For Bad Dreams series of re-imagined fairy tales.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
I actually like the combination of gingersnaps and coffee crisp hot chocolate. Apple Cider is also quite nummy.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
I would like to highlight the SPCA, as I feel animals are often the forgotten victims when hard times hit. The SPCA is there not only to provide education, insight and help for owners of our four-legged friends, but also helps save lives through adoption. I strongly urge you to consider adoption if you're looking for a pet companion. You could be saving a life. https://www.aspca.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: www.supportindieauthors.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/VMS_author
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vmsawh/
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/VMsawh/

Name: Eugene Linn
What genre or genres do you write in?
Science Fiction
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
An ET spacecraft headed for Earth and mysterious red dots that baffle even world-renowned scientists provoke violent outbreaks around the globe—will humans destroy themselves before the aliens even arrive? Red Dot is a thought-provoking sci-fi thriller complete with a remarkable cast of characters and an intriguing portrayal of alien life. Expect the unexpected and you’ll still be surprised.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Cranberry salad
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
Red Cross. I'm in the Philippines, and the Red Cross has been a big help for victims of Typhoon Haiyan. http://www.redcross.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Red-Dot/1028047867229514

Name: Miss D
What genre or genres do you write in?
Urban Fiction based on true story WITH profanity AND sexual content
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Naughty
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
Corrupt: Rise To Power was inspired by the Tavon White Baltimore City Detention Center scandal of 2013. I am a Corrections Officer in Maryland and used 1st hand info which makes the events in the book very authentic. It is my 1st urban novel and very graphic.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
My favorite underrated holiday treat is a new pair of flannel christmas pajamas and fuzzy slippers. Great for late night writing sessions.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
My favorite charitable organization is the Salvation Army. They are always lending a hand to families in crisis situations. http://www.salvationarmyusa.org

Name: Patricia Loofbourrow
What genre or genres do you write in?
Science Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, steampunk neo-noir
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
My novel is about a female private eye in a neo-Victorian domed city split between four crime families. She runs her business in secret because she's married to one of the mob bosses and the Family frowns on this sort of thing. In this first book of the series, she's trying to find a missing child, the little brother of her best friend (who was murdered in front of her ten years before).
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Canned whole berry cranberry sauce
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
Habitat for Humanity, which builds homes for people who don't have one. https://www.habitat.org
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://www.jacqofspades.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/Jacq_Of_Spades
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheJacqOfSpades
Other: http://red-dog-conspiracy.tumblr.com/

Name: K.B. Goddard
What genre or genres do you write in?
Horror, supernatural
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
An homage to the classic ghost story. My book is a collection of six short stories set in the Victorian era. Victorian inspired ghostly goodness.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
I'm not sure I have one! Possibly rum sauce for the Christmas pudding.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
Crisis do wonderful work for the homeless especially at Christmas. http://www.crisis.org.uk
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: https://kbgoddard.wordpress.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/kbgoddard
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/kbgoddard
Other: http://kbgoddard.blogspot.co.uk

Name: Susan Stafford
What genre or genres do you write in?
Mystery/Thriller
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
Trouble in the Keys is a murder mystery that takes place in Key West. Desperation and curiosity have Liz and Maggie searching the island and making inquiries that don't always end well.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
fruit cake!!
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
St. Jude's Children Hospital in Memphis https://www.stjude.org

Name: Alp Mortal
What genre or genres do you write in?
LGBTQ
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
In Delayed Reaction - Andrew is waylaid by a snow storm; his flight is cancelled and the only hotel in town is full. An old motel on the edge of town looks to be the only choice. He meets Morgan in the hotel's reception; together they drive to the motel - their worst fears are realised but at least it has vacancies.
In A Dog's Life - Orion is an escort at the pinnacle of his career. He meets Stephen who is also an escort during a weekend in Nice. Is it time for them to give up the dog’s life and re-discover the joys of sex without the pay-off?
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Walking on the beach after lunch
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
Saint Catherine's Centre in Ventnor Isle of Wight. A residential school and respite Centre for children with learning disabilities, funded entirely by donation. http://www.stcatherines.org.uk
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://alpmortal.weebly.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/carterseagrove
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/thecarterseagroveproject
Other: http://www.amazon.com/Alp-Mortal/e/B00BJ5FH7Q

Name: Ian S. Bott
What genre or genres do you write in?
Science Fiction
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Only a Sith thinks in absolutes.
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
Sci-fi action adventure. One book is a far-future tale of planet-wrecking revenge. The other is closer to home, our own civilization stealthily corroded by the technology on which it depends.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Good old-fashioned British Christmas pudding, with brandy butter and cream.
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
The local food bank, which is run by the Lions Club.
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://www.iansbott.com/
Other: http://www.thebaldpatch.blogspot.com/

Name: Susan Catalano
What genre or genres do you write in?
Fantasy, Historical
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
Merry Chalmers is an accused witch who leaps from the 17th century into modern-day Salem and embarks on a race to save both herself and the man she loves from the disastrous fate history holds for them.
The Timeless Ones is the first of an exciting two-book series. The sequel, A Necessary Darkness, is due out early 2016.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Lebkuchen - A german gingerbread dipped in chocolate
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
Blues City Animal Rescue - This organization is filled with some very special people who rescue dogs from high-kill shelters and foster the dogs in their homes before sending them off to their new families. We were fortunate to adopt our amazing, wonderful pup, Finn, who was found at a construction site at approximately 5 months old. We are still in touch with his foster family. https://bluescityanimalrescue.wordpress.com
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://susancatalano.wix.com/susancatalano
Twitter: https://twitter.com/scatu2
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TimelessOnes
Other: https://www.pinterest.com/knitcat1/the-timeless-ones/

Name: Shari Sakurai
What genre or genres do you write in?
Horror, LGBTQ
Have you been naughty or nice this year?
Nice
Tell us a little about the book(or books) you are offering.
Demon's Blood: Japanese vampire Kokawa Taku and his English lover, Thane Bremen, were forced to flee their home in Tokyo after being discovered by vampire hunters and have resettled in Norfield, England. Ever since Thane has been haunted by the events in Tokyo and suffers from reoccurring nightmares. Yet unknown to Thane there is more to those events than he is aware of, and as a consequence Taku is struggling against something much darker, something that could ultimately destroy him.
What is your favorite underrated holiday treat?
Candy canes! They're really yummy but many of them just get left hanging on the tree as decorations for all of the holiday season!
In the spirit of giving, tell us about your favorite charitable organization.
The Blue Cross is an animal charity that finds homes for unwanted pets and also provides veterinary treatment to pets whose owners are unable to afford to take their pets to private veterinary clinics. https://www.bluecross.org.uk
Where can readers find out more and connect with you?
Website: http://www.sharisakurai.com
Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/ShariSakurai
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/sharisakurai
Other: http://sharisakurai.wordpress.com

And you can read about the other thirty authors giving away books at:

http://www.invertedworlds.com/the-ghost-of-christmas-book-blast/

https://annalsofgentalia.wordpress.com/2015/12/13/the-ghost-of-christmas-book-blast/

http://brkingsolver.com/author-s-blog/item/book-blast-interviews?category_id=3


Happy reading!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Free books!




Coming soon!

40 authors
50+  **free**  e-books

Look out for more details here on Monday

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Tempus fugit

As usual at this time of year, Christmas is just around the corner and seems to have ambushed us. I’m sure it hides out in some dark corner of the calendar and lies in wait, because it always seems to catch us by surprise.

I started collecting notes for our annual family newsletter way back at the start of November. Plenty of time, I thought. But November’s upped and gone and we’re already 20% through December, and newsletter still not done, cards yet to be mailed overseas. How did that happen?

At work, alongside normal work assignments I seem to have got roped in to organizing an unusual number of events recently. A fund-raising chilli cook-off, a trip up-island to visit some of our regional offices, and a staff lunch for our whole branch.

BTW - Our Movember team at work raised $1,460 for causes related to men’s health. Thankfully I didn’t have to do anything for that other than grow hair, which seems to work everywhere but on top of my head.

Outside work, I’ve been busy on critiques and cover art for The Critique Survival Guide. Things coming along nicely there, I hope to publish the e-book early in January. Add in various after-school activities and sundry appointments, and the month has been busy. We’ve even made a couple of abortive attempts to be sociable, but plans got scuppered by illness.

Now, we need to get this newsletter licked into shape, and take advantage of a break in the rain to get a Christmas tree and put up decorations.

With various seasonal events already crowding the calendar, December is shaping up to be just as hectic.

How do you find this time of year? Frantic? Energizing? Do you enjoy it, or want to crawl into a hole?
 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Movember

I grew moustaches and beards a couple of times in my twenties and thirties, but I’ve now had a beard continuously since 2001. Yes, I keep it trimmed - often brutally so - but it’s been a part of me for the last quarter of my life.

So it was quite a shock all round when it came off for Movember.

For those of you who may not know, Movember is a global charity aimed at improving men’s health by funding programs in areas such as prostate and testicular cancer.

My group at work has registered an official Movember team - the Service BC Sidekicks. Check out our team’s fundraising progress here: http://moteam.co/service-bc-sidekicks

Meanwhile, here is a quick view of my facial progress:

At the start of November - who said Halloween was over?
 One week in:
And today. Yeah, I know I look drunk. I'm not, but maybe the camera is trying to tell me something:

Normal service will be resumed in December.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Chrys Fey - 30 Seconds sale

Chrys Fey is visiting today to tell us about the limited-time sale of her romantic thriller, 30 Seconds.
Take it away, Chrys...



99 CENT SALE on 30 SECONDS by Chrys Fey!!! 

Sale ends Nov.
20th so take advantage now!


Blurb:

When Officer Blake Herro agreed to go undercover in the Mob, he thought he understood the risks. But he's made mistakes and now an innocent woman has become their target. He's determined to protect her at all costs.

The Mob's death threat turns Dr. Dani Hart's life upside down, but there is one danger she doesn’t anticipate. As she's dodging bullets, she's falling in love with Blake. With danger all around them, will she and Blake survive and have a happy ending, or will the Mob make good on their threat?


Excerpt:

She had no time to react when a strong force bowled her through the doorway of her apartment, and a large hand plastered over her mouth. The man she had bumped into on the stairs had a firm grip on her as he kicked the door closed behind them. She struggled to get free, but his hold kept her back pressed against his chest.

“It’s okay. I’m a cop. My name is Blake Herro.” He hauled her into the living room. “There are six armed men coming up the stairs. We need to hide. Where can we hide?”

Her mind went blank, she even forgot about the ice cream.

“Where?” he demanded with a quick shake.

She pointed to the six-foot long, three-foot high handcrafted cedar chest she used for a coffee table. Officer Herro pulled her to it and flung open the lid.

“Get in,” he ordered.

BOOK LINKS:


Sunday, November 1, 2015

Introduction to the Critique Survival Guide

I’m posting the draft introduction to the Critique Survival Guide.

This is all new to me, so I’m happy to hear your views on what works and what doesn’t. Yes, I will be putting this through the full critiquing wringer, but right now I’m interested in your gut reactions.

My first attempts felt dry and “preachy” so I’ve tried adding in a few sections of dialogue to help get some of the points across. The introduction starts off with dialogue then slips into exposition. My questions to you are: (1) Do you think this approach works? (2) Any suggestions for how to convey the switch to and from dialogue, especially for people viewing in an e-reader? I’m used to laying out things like this with careful use of fonts and formatting to help, but these things need to be kept to a bare minimum in an e-book.

The Critique Survival Guide

“I’ve done it!” Ernest Hummingbird hopped excitedly on his perch. “I’ve done it. I’ve done it. I’ve done it.”

His old friend and mentor, Sage, cocked a beady eye, twitched his tail feathers, and settled his spectacles more comfortably on his beak. “Done what?”

“Finished, of course.”

“You mean ...”

“Written those two magic words, ‘The End.’ ”

“Hmm.”

Ernest gave Sage a sharp peck. “Didn’t you hear me? I said, I’ve finished.”

“What? Oh, yes. You’ve finished the first draft of your novel. Yes, well done. An admirable achievement, something indeed to be proud of. Let me see, it was a tale of love and betrayal in a Parisian boulangerie. What was it called again?”

The Bun Almost Rises.” Ernest gave Sage a suspicious look. “You don’t seem all that impressed.”

“As I said, my hopeful young friend, completing the draft of a novel is a big step. Something most people, even those who set out as writers, never accomplish.” Sage squinted at Ernest, who clung to one end of the perch, gazing out the window up and down the street. He hooted softly to gain his friend’s attention. “So, what happens now?”

Ernest sidled to the other end of his perch, where hung a faded photo of a hammock slung between two palm trees overlooking a sun-drenched expanse of white sand and cerulean seas. His eyes took on a faraway look. “Well, it gets published, of course. I can retire from my job at the nectar factory and spend my days writing. In between book signing events and writing conventions, of course.” His gaze flickered from the window to the telephone. “And maybe the occasional speaking engagement. I’m sure I’ll be too busy for many of those, though.”

“Soohoo,” Sage hooted, “do you have a publisher then?”

“I let all the big publishers know I was about to finish.” Ernest glanced uneasily out the window once more. “They should be here any moment with advances and contracts.”

Sage sighed. “Ernest, my ambitious young friend, I think you and I need a little chat.”

Popular myth versus reality

The popular media has a lot to answer for. There’s a deeply-ingrained stereotype of writers, bolstered by numerous TV and movie portrayals, where rich and successful authors spend all their time doing anything but actual writing, where writer’s block is seen as a glamorous rite of passage. These shows skip the tedious bits between ‘The End’ and actual publication, the bits that in real life represent ninety percent of the effort, because they don’t make good viewing.

As a result, many writers start off, and a significant number continue, blissfully unaware that this thing we call ‘critiquing’ even exists. They may have a vague recollection of this mysterious thing called ‘editing’, that presumably happens in a back room somewhere once they’ve graciously deigned to sign up with one of the publishers tripping over each other to ply them with offers.

The reality is that writing sometimes feels like the labors of Hercules. Just when you think you’ve reached the finish line and you’re over the worst, new obstacles loom, each more intimidating than the last.

You slog through the swamps of the first draft. You write those magical words ‘The End’ and breathe a happy sigh, thinking you’ve finally mastered this writing lark.

Yes, ‘The End’ is a tremendous landmark, especially first time around, but then reality sets in and you realize you have to face the critiquing and editing jungle. You plough through it, or maybe are tempted to skirt around it, until your way is barred by the precipitous cliffs of publication. These cliffs you scale, through blood, sweat, and shredded fingernails, and finally launch yourself into the airless interplanetary void of promotion.

Out in those cold wastelands you realize it’s true. Nobody can hear you scream.

There are plenty of books and articles out there on the craft of writing, the mechanics of publication, and the arcana of promotion. Backing up to that critiquing and editing jungle, there’s endless advice on editing techniques. It’s even easy to find advice on critiquing, but mostly how to give critiques. Not so much on how to receive them and make them useful to you.

That’s where this booklet fits in.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Critique Survival Guide

This time last year I was preparing to give a talk at my local library on how to handle being critiqued. Most of this was drawn from my own experience of receiving some pretty blunt critiques over the years, and the talk presented tips and techniques for getting past the pain, achieving balance and objectivity, and sifting the wheat from the chaff.

Back then, I felt this would be good to turn into an e-book to reach a wider audience. This is aimed mostly at newcomers who’ve drafted a book and are wondering what the next step might be. All too often, writers hitting this part of the journey are fearful of getting critical feedback, or don’t even realize how important it is. And, let’s face it, until you grow armor-plated skin the critiquing process can be darned painful!

This booklet is intended to help people through that hurdle.

Of course, most of this year has been taken up with getting Tiamat’s Nest out the door, but in between times I’ve been plugging away at this next project. After making good progress in the last month I’m close to finishing the first draft.

This is exciting for me because I’ve not tackled a non-fiction project before.

How has critiquing or professional editing featured in your writing? How important do you think it is, and how do you handle those painful truths that you really didn’t want to hear?

Monday, October 19, 2015

A vote against apathy

Canada goes to the polls today and the results are coming in. Regardless of the final outcome, today was a major milestone for me.

At the age of 55, despite living all those years in a western democracy, this is the first time in my life I’ve been able to take part in a national election.
Until we moved to Canada I lived in the island of Guernsey, a self-governing Crown dependency. Sure, we elected out own government, but with a population of 60,000 in global terms it was the equivalent of a municipal election. And although we relished our political independence, the truth is that many aspects of our lives were under the influence of Britain. Even so, we had no representation in Westminster, so played no part in British elections.

Since moving, we had to wait several years to become citizens before being able to vote. Now we’ve passed that hurdle, I finally have a voice - however small - on the world stage.

This is significant. The right to vote is an important part of our way of life, a fact that too many people take for granted.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving

We are coming up to our 11th anniversary in Canada, and this weekend is our 11th Thanksgiving.

I’ve always thought of this celebration as Canada’s secret holiday. It’s hard for an outsider to appreciate how big it is.

People talk about it, but apart from extra prominence of turkeys for sale there’s no obvious commercialization.

Unlike the noticeable decorations at Christmas and Halloween, the only outward clues are here and there around the neighborhood, where cars spill from driveways onto the verges signaling a large gathering at one household or another.

In our years here, we’ve been privileged to be invited to a couple of such gatherings, so we have some small insight into the part this celebration plays in our adopted culture. A few other times, we’ve played host to a few friends. Most of the time, like this year, it’s a private time of reflection for the four of us.

For North American readers, how is Thanksgiving celebrated in your neck of the woods?

Regardless, here’s wishing you a happy (Canadian) Thanksgiving.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Day of The Fruit Flies

We’ve been host to an increasing number of uninvited dinner guests this summer.

It started off with having to fish the occasional six-legged connoisseur out of my red wine of an evening, which I’ve come to accept as a normal summertime hazard.

This summer, though, it started to escalate. Instead of the odd one or two, they seemed to be planning their swimming expeditions in threes or fours. Then they invited their extended families along for the ride.

Recently, I’ve poured a glass, re-corked the bottle, and turned back to find they’ve already beaten me to the first sip! They must know the routine by now and be hovering somewhere around the light fittings waiting to pounce!

Then, this weekend, Fruit Fly Armageddon!

I’m pretty sure Drosophila melanogaster is not one of those species that genetically times its emergence into the world to the last stroke of midnight on the fifth Tuesday after the Feast of Our Lady of the Out-Of-Tune Harpsichord, whereupon they hatch in their millions for seven minutes of orgiastic fruit fly pleasure before carpeting the ground three inches thick with their spent corpses, but it darned well felt like it.

It was time to Take Measures.

A quick consultation with Dr. Google yielded some consistent recommendations in terms of trap design. I’m normally skeptical of such things until they prove themselves in combat, but so far this little beauty seems to be working.

Yes, that’s a rolled-up paper cone in the top of a juice bottle. The trap is baited with a scientifically-concocted blend of cranberry juice and red wine vinegar. Don’t ask me why, but it seems to work. And just so’s you can share my primal revulsion, here’s a close-up of the little critters.

Fruit flies of the world take heed: when it comes to red wine...
I do not share!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Giveaway reminder

Five days left for a chance to win a free paperback of Tiamat's Nest.

Goodreads Book Giveaway


Tiamat's Nest by Ian S. Bott

Tiamat's Nest

by Ian S. Bott


Giveaway ends September 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway


Also, Ghosts of Innocence e-book is available at all outlets for US $0.99 up to the end of the month, then it reverts back to full price.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Liberation calamity

Has anyone out there moved away from where they grew up, leaving family and friends behind? Do you still keep an eye on local news from “the old country”? I still check out the Guernsey news from time to time because I like to keep abreast of things that affect my family and which might come up in phone conversations.

This summer, I’ve been watching an unbelievable saga unfold over the ferry service to the island.

Being a small island, air and sea links are a vital part of island life. Obviously. And the volume of traffic is too small to sustain a free-for-all competition so the passenger/vehicle route is granted to a single monopoly operator.

You’d think that the Guernsey government, which grants licenses to run the route, would want to ensure a good and reliable service on this lifeline route.

You’d think, when they put the route out to tender and sign a multi-year contract on behalf of islanders, they’d insist on a decent service with enforceable service levels.

You’d think.

You’d be wrong.

The current operator introduced a new fast ferry to the route in March, with huge fanfare and promises of “an even better” service than before, replacing two vessels with one larger boat. i.e. No backup. The story since then has been a farcical catalogue of delays and cancellations due to mechanical failures, inability to dock if even the slightest breeze is blowing from the wrong angle, inability to handle waves a fraction of the height it’s supposedly designed for (and remember, this is the English Channel we’re talking about, with winter approaching), complaints of violent see-sawing in a following sea (and suggestions from the harbor master that passengers need to “retrain their stomachs”) and challenges with loading/unloading its full load of vehicles in the scheduled turnaround times.

I can’t lay my hands on reliable statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has stayed on or close to schedule on only half its crossings. The ferry was even cancelled over the Guernsey Liberation Day weekend, arguably the busiest and most significant public holiday in the island’s calendar. Just Google “Condor Liberation” for a litany of disaster.

People are naturally fed up with this, and tempers flared when the ferry was cancelled yet again leaving people stranded at Poole harbor over this weekend.

The Guernsey government’s response?

*Crickets*

Ali is planning to take a trip back there with the kids next summer for her father’s 80th birthday. The itinerary includes her parents (who live in Bristol) taking the car over on the ferry to Guernsey. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this fiasco hoping things will improve before then.

Right now, I wouldn’t trust any important trip to this ferry. Would you?


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Ch-ch-changes

After a flurry of rain and wind at the end of August coinciding with our last camp of the season, summer is making a brief rally, but it’s noticeably surrendering to the darker mornings and cool evenings. Not long now before we’re back to lighting the wood stove, I think.

In readiness, we’ve just moved our deck furniture off the deck and to its winter home in our bedroom - a cozy seating area near the stove. This is a sure sign, and always brings a tinge of sadness after months of practically living out on the deck.

Back to school - a few groans but also anticipation. Big change for Matthew, now starting high school. Megan is excited to be starting field hockey, and puppy-training. No, nothing to do with school. She’s training our new arrival to the family. Meet Ellie, an Australian shepherd.

Now that Tiamat’s Nest is out in the wild, and my talk at the library is out of the way, I’m taking a breather before picking up my next writing project. Time to have some fun with iDraw...

Monday, August 31, 2015

A hijacking, and bureaucracy bites back

Today, I’ve hijacked Misha Gericke’s blog, in the nicest way of course, to talk about the need for research in speculative fiction. Why not pop over and say “Hello”?

I’m preparing to give a talk at the Sidney library on “A Writer’s Visual Toolkit” - based on a series of blog posts I wrote a few years ago.

And further to last week’s post about my paperbacks snared in DHL-land, I filled in and emailed the form they needed last weekend. One week later, having heard nothing further and seeing my shipment still showing as awaiting customs clearance on their tracking site, I called again.

A very apologetic lady looked into it and said I should have received an email with the amount of duty payable. Had I? No! She told me how much was owing and gave me instructions for paying online. Duties paid, and I have my receipt to prove it - see, they do know my email address, they just don’t seem to know how to use it - I’m now back to the waiting game...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A mention, a giveaway, and more bureaucracy vanquished!

Today, Tiamat’s Nest is featured over at Unicorn Bell. Please drop over and say “Hi.”

I’m also running a giveaway on Goodreads, with the chance to win a free paperback.


Goodreads Book Giveaway


Tiamat's Nest by Ian S. Bott

Tiamat's Nest

by Ian S. Bott


Giveaway ends September 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.


Enter Giveaway



Speaking of paperbacks, I’m waiting for a shipment from CreateSpace so I can sell direct to friends and colleagues locally. Yesterday I got an email from DHL Canada requesting some details from me before the shipment can clear customs. When I looked at the form they sent me, everything looked easy except the last line where they ask me for my Business Registration Number with the note that my company must be registered as an importer in order to get a release.

Holy fees and forms, Batman! I started to panic. I felt like my small box of books was being held hostage by kidnappers, and fully expected the cost of releasing it to far outweigh the value of the package. However, I decided long ago to treat this writing lark properly as a business, so I gritted my teeth and prepared to do battle once more with the bureaucracy involved.

When I decided to self-publish, I chose to make things official. Not that I ever expect to make enough to buy anything more than a cup of coffee, but, ya know, just in case... So here is a quick summary for anyone else thinking of doing the same in Canada.

Because I’m operating under my own name as a sole proprietor I don’t need to register my business in BC, but I do have a business license to operate in my municipality. This is what I regard as making me “official.”

Being “official” brings benefits. I get to claim legitimate expenses against tax, and as a sole proprietorship the process is easy in Canada, just an additional form to submit along with my personal tax return. I was also able to get an Employer Identification Number with the US IRS - an easy thing to do over the phone rather than the horrendous process to get an Individual Tax Identification Number - so I don’t get dinged US tax at source.

In BC, businesses have two sales taxes to deal with. Luckily books are exempt from BC’s Provincial Sales Tax, and I’d love to have the kind of turnover that would require me to account for the Goods & Services Tax, so I never expected to have to deal with the Canada Revenue Agency.

All that changed last night, because CRA is the body that issues Business Registration Numbers.

I did some research and found to my relief that the process is fairly painless, and free! Having already laid the groundwork, I was able to go to the CRA website and say “Yes, I’m a business.” They asked lots of questions about name and contact details several times over, which was irksome but not difficult. A little while later, I had my Business Number, which is a nine-digit number that uniquely identifies businesses in Canada. You then ask for relevant “Program Accounts” depending on what activities you need to have associated with your business. Most often, businesses will need an account for GST, but in this case I needed to register an account as an importer of goods. And that was it! I am now officially an importer, and I had the information I needed to finish off DHL’s form.

Now, hopefully, I can get my grubby mitts on my books. After all, the package has only been sitting in DHL’s warehouse for 11 days before they deigned to contact me!

Have any of you had to deal with officialdom just to get supposedly easy things done? How did things work for you?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Homeward bound

We said a reluctant farewell to Magna Bay, and headed back towards Vancouver for our last stop. Our route took us down the magnificent Coquihalla highway winding through the mountains in sinuous loops.

3 nights at Brae Island, Fort Langley

Another spacious and well-appointed campground and another check on the “to be revisited” list. All told, we’ve done pretty well this trip thanks to Ali, the tireless Internet travel agent.

This was our shortest stop, nothing more than a layover on our return journey, so we didn’t plan on doing a lot. Walked across the river to historic Fort Langley, of course...
Where we learned about the trading history of BC
And glimpsed life as a pioneer

...mooched around the pretty town with its colonial-style buildings...

...and most of the rest of our time was spent lazing by the river.
Our campground is just behind those trees on the right
And a mile's cycle through the woods brought us to the tip of Brae Island

Conclusion

Finally, it was time to pack up for the last time and head to the ferry. The one slight oversight on our part was that we were traveling back on the Friday of a holiday weekend - BC Day on Monday - so we had a 3-hour wait before we were able to sail. Something to bear in mind another year.

Summary: 18 nights, 4 stops, 1,600km driven. Wildlife: Bald eagles, deer, ground squirrels, rocky mountain goats, a brief glimpse of a bear. Lots of new experiences for the kids, lots of reminiscences for us.

When we started planning this trip, the kids had qualms about all the packing, unpacking, and long drives in between. At the end of the trip, the big question on their minds? Can we do it again next year?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Release update and spooky coincidences


-----

In the awkward silence that followed, Joseph glanced over her shoulder and his blood froze. “Exit.” The word came out as a hoarse whisper.

There was something wrong with the willowy avatar sashaying towards them across the hall. The customization was phenomenal, but porcelain skin didn’t quite hide the hint of golden scales. He stood, transfixed by dead black eyes.

“What?”

Joseph snapped back to reality. “Exit! Now!”

“I don’t—”

“Just exit, while you still can.” Without waiting to see if Serena was obeying, Joseph pushed past her and ran at the menacing apparition. He hoped this zone enforced physical rules about cohabiting space. He should be able to block the approaching danger while Serena escaped.

It seemed as if his eyes couldn’t quite focus, or as if two avatars were occupying the same space. The tall and curvy blonde in a red kimono had initially caught his eye, but scales and fangs were coming into sharper focus. Claw-tipped fingers reached for him. Ghostly wings enfolded him.


-----

Tiamat’s Nest is on schedule for official release August 29. Although everything is ready and waiting, and in principle I could release it for sale anytime now, I’m sticking with the schedule as previously announced. It also means you still have a chance to get the e-book at the pre-order offer price of $0.99 until the end of the month.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but be slightly spooked by a post on Chuck Wendig’s blog yesterday.

Chuck is launching his new book, Zer0es, this month. It’s a man-versus-machine end-of-the-world thriller. At that 40,000-foot level it has themes in common with Tiamat’s Nest, though of course the actual stories are entirely different. But what caught my eye was that Zer0es features a computer program called Typhon. Tiamat’s Nest features a computer program called Typhoon. Spooky, huh?

OK, back on planet Earth, the paperback version of Tiamat’s Nest is now available on Amazon, and speaking of offers, I have reduced the price of Ghosts of Innocence to $0.99 through to the end of September.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The third leg

When breaking camp, we’ve always packed up neatly - stowing things like camp stove and barbecue and picnic shelter in their proper places before moving off. By now we were getting good at packing up quickly and throwing things into the trailer ready to drag out again at the other end. This traveling day marked the midpoint of our trip, saying goodbye to Penticton and heading north to Shuswap lake.

Ali and I stayed at a campground on Shuswap years ago, and we chose this spot as a good base to explore the region further. We weren’t able to get into the same campground again, but were just around the corner ... weren’t we? OK, the map really doesn’t do justice to how big some of these lakes are. From the turnoff to that old campground, it was another hour’s drive along the highway and then on a narrow twisty lakeside road before we reached our destination for our third stay.

6 nights at Magna Bay resort, Shuswap Lake

If first impressions of Penticton were bad, first impressions of Magna Bay were awesome. So good, in fact, that I wondered what the downside was going to be. There had to be a downside, didn’t there? Well, really there wasn’t.

The campground is very new and spacious. They are geared up to selling the pitches to permanent buyers and there was already a growing community of “regulars” there. Megan and Matthew soon made friends with other teens on the campground, and hung out a lot on the beach and the on-site games room.

Being so out-of-the-way, we were pleased to find a very well-provisioned store a few minutes’ walk away. We also didn’t do as much traveling off site as we’d intended. We took one day trip (3 hours’ drive each way) to Roger’s Pass to show the kids some real mountains. This was one of our must-do activities, revisiting the scenery we remembered from years ago.

The kids were excited to see up-close some of the mile-long freight trains that accompany the highway across the province.

Apart from that, we made the most of facilities on the lake and nearby...



After scorching temperatures the previous week, it was actually a blessing to get some rain this week. We had one torrential downpour one night...
...and sporadic showers breaking the sunshine on other days, but it brought the temperature down to tolerable levels and eased some fears about the many wildfires breaking out across the province this summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Our BC tour part deux

Our camping trip this summer broke new ground for us in many ways. It was our first foray off the island with the trailer, the first time the kids have seen anything much on the mainland beyond Vancouver, our longest camping trip (since moving to Canada, anyway) and the first time we’ve planned multiple stops. After an activity-filled few days at Cultus Lake, it was time for our first move...

5 nights at Lake Skaha, Penticton

After a four-hour drive meandering through Manning Provincial Park and twisting minor highways to Penticton, our first impressions of Lake Skaha campground were not good. When we saw the pitch we had to cram ourselves into, tempers frayed and we came close to tears realizing that this was our home for almost a week. Positioning ourselves to open the slide on one side with less than an inch to spare before we hit the utilities post, we still couldn’t open the awning fully on the other side, it was that narrow. Our carefully-planned vacation seemed to have taken a nosedive.

We normally have everything unpacked and camp set up inside an hour of unhitching the trailer. This time, we had to take a stroll through a nearby park to collect our thoughts before tackling the question of how to lay out our living space. Eventually, we squeezed Megan’s tiny tent into the gap between our trailer and our neighbors, and set up picnic table and cooking area around the hitch at the front instead of alongside the trailer. It was cramped, but workable.

We determined to make the best of it and soon forgot those disastrous first impressions. Although the site was small, the location had a lot to offer. There was a beautiful park, beach and lake just across the road where we spent many hours walking, sitting, and swimming.

We had to walk all of 50 yards from our trailer to find ourselves here...

This was an early-morning shot. The lake is normally buzzing with activity...

In the end, we had a fabulous time in Penticton. These were the hottest days of our trip, with temperatures in the high thirties (Celcius - around a hundred Fahrenheit) most of the time. As well as the beach on our doorstep, we checked out a couple of other beaches a short drive away where dogs were allowed, and took a day trip to Wildplay at Kelowna.

Wildplay - an aerial obstacle course. Rope swings, cargo nets, bridges, ziplines...
BTW - yes, we are wearing safety harnesses and are hooked on at all times

One evening, we treated ourselves to a wonderful meal at Theo’s restaurant which Ali and I remembered from our fist visit to Canada 19 years ago. We were glad to see it was still there, and the food still as good.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Touring (a corner of) the BC mainland

After six consecutive years we decided to give Pacific Playgrounds a miss this year and go further afield for our main camping trip. Nothing against our regular spot, but it was time for a change, and we’d often talked about showing the kids some more of this vast province.

This expedition took more planning than usual if we wanted to avoid horrendously long days of traveling, so we booked short stays near Vancouver on the outward and return journeys, and two longer stays in the Interior. Ali is our family travel agent, and she was close to tearing her hair out looking for decent spots with good facilities on the days we needed, but a plan came together in the end.

We have a well-worn routine these days when setting off for camp. The trailer is loaded and ready during the days beforehand, and hitched up ready to roll the night before. This just leaves the last-minute ritual ferrying of bags of groceries across the drive as we empty fridge and larder, and we’re away.

Usually this marks the start of a long drive, but we live just a few minutes away from the ferry terminal so the majority of that first journey was actually spent on the ferry. No great hardship, because the Swartz Bay to Tsawassen trip is a calm and picturesque glide between islands with views of rugged coastlines and occasional wildlife.

Once on the other side, we’d forgotten what a long trek it was through the suburban sprawl of the Vancouver environs, but memories came flooding back as we hit the open highway and headed into the countryside of the lower mainland. A short while later, we were onto minor roads and our first stop at Cultus Lake.

4 nights at Sunnyside campground, Cultus Lake

A large campground with generous pitches set in trees, and a long stretch of beach on the lake. I think when we arrived they must have recently had rain because first impressions of the pitch were dark and damp, but the ground soon dried out and we know from experience to value shade in a typical BC summer.



Overall, this was a lovely campground that we’d be happy to return to in future years.

The kids enjoyed paddling their kayaks out on the lake, and just a few minutes’ cycle away there was a water slide park and a small but beautifully-laid out adventure park, which happily occupied two of our afternoons. The best part about these out-of-the-way parks was that, apart from a couple of rides, there were no line ups for anything so with our all-day passes it was uninterrupted enjoyment with little time waiting around.



Megan spent a couple of hours on this ride alone

To be continued ...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Tiamat's Nest


Weather forecasting is a life-or-death profession, and hard sciences and technology are all that keep people alive and fed. Anthropologists, soft and useless, rank slightly below politicians and telemarketers on the social scale. This sucks for Charles Hawthorne, Professor of Anthropology.

Worse yet, his research into human behavior has discovered how human history ended up on its current miserable course, and the perpetrator is hell-bent on keeping it hidden.

Worst of all, with everything mechanical under computer control, the most innocuous device is a potential murder weapon to a well-connected villain.

After a series of deadly near-misses Charles flees to the wilds of Greenland where the global network has yet to reach. But to deal with the threat, to save himself and his family, Charles has to confront technology full on and enter the even more hostile world online.

Freeing humanity from a lifetime of slavery comes as an added bonus.


# # # # #

Release date: August 30
Price: $2.99 after release, or pre-order now for $0.99 

at Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo.

I appreciate any help to spread the word. If you mention Tiamat’s Nest on your blog please drop a link in the comments here with instructions on how to contact you, and I’ll get you a free e-copy once the book is on general release.

If you’d like to do a pre-release review (on your blog, or on Amazon or Goodreads) please let me know. I’ll get you a PDF of the text ahead of time, and a free e-copy of the official version once it’s released.

Many thanks to those of you who’ve already offered mentions and guest posts. I’ll be in touch next month when I return from vacation.


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Selfie revenge

Ever been out as a family and your teenage daughter can't stop taking selfies of herself and her friends?

Us oldies can play at that game too!



Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Family-friendly

When Ali & I toured BC twenty years ago, long before we moved here and before we’d put serious thoughts to starting a family, one of the strongest impressions we had of the place was family-friendliness.

Everywhere we went, we saw facilities, parks and playgrounds, and people having fun as a family. This was a stark contrast to the “adults only” and “children should be kept out of the way” attitudes back home, which we had never even noticed as (at that time) a childless couple.

Every so often, I’m reminded of that childlike attitude to fun that prevails here - one of the drivers for our move over ten years ago. We’ve just returned from the Canada Day parade through Sidney this morning. Yesterday evening we watched a glorious fireworks display from the Sidney pier. I was struck yet again by the happy and casual atmosphere throughout the town as all generations mingle in a friendly and trouble-free atmosphere.

Long may those attitudes prevail.

Happy Canada Day.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Phew! It’s getting hot!

It’s been a glorious spring in this part of BC, and summer is kicking into high gear this weekend. Don’t know how long it will last, these spells of 30+ tend to last only a week or two each year around Victoria, but for now it’s barbecues and salads alfresco.

With one thing and another, my plans to get everything finalized this month to release Tiamat’s Nest early July took a hit. Seeing as we’ve also got some summer camping planned I’ve now settled on a release date at the end of August.

If anyone would like to help spread the word, I’ll be posting more details as soon as the final cover is ready. Meanwhile, the e-book is now available for pre-order on Smashwords at an introductory price of $0.99.

So, how’s your summer going? And do you have any unique or adventurous vacation plans?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Memory lane

Things have been quiet on the blog recently for a couple of reasons.

First, I'm letting life settle back to normality after a week-long trip to my old home in Guernsey, UK. This is only the second time I've been back since moving to Canada, and the last trip was six years ago. This will probably tell you that this is not a journey I choose to make for my own pleasure. Both times were to celebrate significant family anniversaries.

I was not looking forward to the traveling. It's long, tiring, and we are regularly regaled with stories of how airlines treat their paying passengers as nothing more than cattle to be herded into the smallest possible space, so I had visions of traveling conditions deteriorating even further over the last six years.

In the end, things weren't nearly as bad as I'd feared, and the trip as a whole was a good experience. The downsides were the inevitable fatigue of so much traveling for such a short spell - barely over jet lag one way before it's time to turn around and head home - and endless waits in airport lounges, shuffling in line at check-ins, security, passport control, baggage reclaim...

On the plus side, I was pleasantly surprised by the Air Transat flight. Although airline seats are not designed to fall asleep in, at least I didn't feel like my knees were pressed into my chest the whole way. And we were served relatively decent food, with a complimentary glass of wine - something I really didn't expect in cattle class!

It was good to reconnect with family and some old friends, and to revisit a few places. Things haven't changed much over the years, apart from a bit more development squeezing out the last few open spaces. The big change has been in my own perceptions. Having grown used to open spaces, few crowds, and courteous drivers, getting around the island was intimidating to say the least.

As an added bonus, I was able to meet sci-fi artist Chris Foss, who has a home and a studio in Guernsey. Chris's cover art for Azimov and E.E. "Doc" Smith books, amongst others, has had a big influence on my own work.


The second reason for staying offline (I did say there were a couple) - I'm busy finalizing Tiamat's Nest for publication. After a few back-and-forths with the book designer I think we're very close on the cover design, and I'm working through a final round of edits on the text. I'm hoping to release the e-book next month, with the paperback to follow shortly after. More information to follow in due course...

Sunday, May 17, 2015

No, I'm not a robot

I've just encountered a new level in online annoyance.

The dreaded Captcha is being replaced on some blogs by an innocuous check box saying "Please prove you're not a robot".

Up to now, on blogs I've visited this simply involves clicking on the box and posting the comment. This morning's, though was different.

When I clicked on the box, up popped a new form that at first I thought was an irritating pop-up advertisement for something to do with cookery. After a few second's hunting for a way to dismiss the intrusion, I realized it was part of the verification process.

I was presented with a dozen pictures of food, and the instruction to click on all those that involved pasta or noodles. Sounds easy, except the images were too small and grainy to confidently tell in many cases what they were pictures of. I tried, but didn't find enough to satisfy the beast and it gave me a new test. Ice cream this time. This was easier because they were more obvious, but there were clear cultural assumptions at work. Who outside of North America, for example, would know that a round carton with a big "DQ" on the side needed to be clicked?

In my view, this now officially surpasses Google+ and Disqus in the "pointless ways to piss off your readers" stakes.

I can guarantee that if your blog inflicts this on me I will not be leaving a comment.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Our connected world

Isn't it strange how technology has changed us in just a few short years? Sometimes I complain about the "always connected" life we live, especially the kids with their iPhones surgically implanted into the palms of their hands, but even I, dinosaur and closet Luddite, feel somehow vulnerable if I leave the house without a phone.

Sometimes, though, it can be handy.

Just about to leave work this evening. Phone rings. Ali, telling me to avoid the highway. Tailback northbound almost back to the edge of town, so find an alternate route. She's caught up in the middle of it so I might be home before her despite setting out a lot later. I travel on side roads and rejoin the highway several miles up, beyond where accidents usually happen.

Beetling along nicely - and thanks for the warning - when I hit another slow patch and finally reach the actual source of the trouble - a nasty accident in the other lane. If traffic northbound was slow, southbound from that point on was worse than I've ever seen it. I need to turn left at some point but all the intersections are snarled up with oncoming traffic trying to escape the mayhem.

Call Ali (before you ask, hands-free and legal!) to check on her progress - not a true necessity, but peace of mind counts for a lot at my age. They've made it past the crush. Better yet, they'd made another diversion down to the coast and just spotted a pod of orcas out in the bay. I was in time to join them, but if we hadn't been connected I would have missed the sight.

Everyday technology does have its perks.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Does music help you work?

Some people swear by music, to help them work, to help them write and create.

For writing, I generally find music more distracting than helpful. Maybe writing - actually stringing together coherent sentences - just doesn't come so naturally to me so I need to really focus to get anything done.

But I'd forgotten how much I used to enjoy music playing while I paint. For me, painting makes less of a mental demand but it's surprisingly physical, so the right kind of music helps keep the brush moving.

On this gorgeous spring day I've taken a spur-of-the-moment day's vacation. A "me" day. Just because.

With no particular pressure to do any of the usual weekend non-fun stuff, it's been pleasingly productive. I've almost finished the background artwork for Tiamat's Nest. I need to sharpen up a few details here and there, but it's pretty much ready to hand over to my designer.
This is intended as a full cover spread - both back and front covers for the paperback. The front cover will just be the right-hand half of the image, and there are a couple of other visual elements to be overlaid on top by the designer.

The last sections of the foreground were painted this morning to the strains of Tangerine Dream.

Do you find music helps or hinders you? A must-have or a no-no?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Is it safe to come out yet?


*Peers cautiously out from under rock*

I might give the A to Z challenge a go another year, but it is a big time commitment and I chose to spend it on things other than blogging. Even not taking part, the sheer volume of posts flooding my dashboard in April was overwhelming, so I visited a bit but mostly stayed out of the way.

Work is hectic and intense - not unmanageable, but certainly draining. Life outside of work brings the usual Spring activities getting things straightened out after the Winter months. In between the two, the logistics of after-school activities seem to get more challenging with each passing term.

Fortunately, I've still found time for artwork. The cover art for Tiamat's Nest is progressing well and I think I'm on the home stretch.

How was your April? Did you survive the A to Z?

Monday, April 6, 2015

iDraw

I've been getting to grips with iDraw since I last posted about it in February.

I still reckon Visio is more suited to most uses at work. The big thing Visio has that iDraw hasn't is the concept of connections. Visio is all about shapes (boxes, circles etc.) and the connections between them. Move a box, and the linked connecting lines intelligently reposition themselves to preserve the links. Great for org. charts, mind maps, and technical diagrams.

iDraw doesn't do that. Everything is a "path" which you can edit but which remains separate from other objects on the page. Having said that, I'm finding iDraw far more powerful in respects that make it way more suited to my purposes at home.

iDraw makes it incredibly easy to draw irregular shapes using the line and pen tools, and to tinker with shapes you've already drawn. Visio is fairly limited here. A rectangle, for example, can be squeezed and stretched and rotated but remains stubbornly rectangular. Many times I've had to cobble together an overlapping collage of boxes in Visio to achieve an effect, but with iDraw, you can create highly complex shapes with ease. Many of the other tools, such as line and fill, also offer huge degrees of control and flexibility.

As well as being easier in many ways, there are things I can do in iDraw that I could never hope to achieve at all in Visio. More on that another time, maybe...

I've now got a few very different drawing projects on the go, including a star chart, architectural drawings, and mock-ups for a book cover. To give it a fair comparative road test, though, I tackled a project similar to something I'd already done successfully in Visio. Over Christmas, I drew a ship plan using Visio. This time I used iDraw to produce plans for another ship that will feature in the sequel to Ghosts of Innocence.
(Click on image to zoom in)

Conclusions: Because this type of drawing is mostly collections of simple lines, both tools are easy to use in broad terms. However, iDraw makes it easier to add curved elements, and I found it handy to separate parts of the drawing into layers for easier editing. I know I can achieve good results in both tools, but my preference now is firmly for iDraw.

Case closed. Happy camper.

How's your Easter weekend going? We are having a fabulous time. Warm sun, and the deck is now cleaned and the furniture brought up from winter storage.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Da Vinci Cock-Up

I don't often post opinions on books or movies, and this post will probably illustrate why, but I feel the need to let off steam.

Last night, I finally got around to watching The Da Vinci Code. I know this movie has been hyped to death, which always I try keep from negatively affecting my views, but even so I found myself mystified and deeply disappointed.

First off, the movie was supposed to be a gripping roller-coaster action movie. Sorry, but no. I'm not a big movie-goer, but I'm sure I could quickly reel off a dozen or two recent movies that blow this out the water. In fact, practically every recent adventure that comes to mind did a better job of keeping me on the edge of my seat than this one. The Da Vinci code was tolerably OK in this department, but nothing more.

Secondly, and more importantly, I felt insulted as a viewer by overt and clumsy author manipulation.

Need to build audience sympathy? Cue one character orphaned in a car crash, and the other trapped down a well as a young boy. Sympathy engaged ... check!

The trouble is that both backstories were such blatant emotional plays and neither was especially relevant to the plot. Yes, you could argue that Sophie needed to be handed to the care of her fake grandfather, but then her real grandmother pitches up near the end, so where the heck was she all these years? There are countless less intrusive ways to achieve the same ends to mentor her.

The killer for me, though, was the countless points where characters behaved in unbelievable ways just to further the plot or introduce random tension. When the air traffic controller refused to co-operate with a senior police office to track dangerous fugitives because he was "on his break", my willingness to suspend disbelief crumbled and the rest was downhill from there. The author's hand manipulating the puppet strings was visible everywhere.

On the plus side, the underlying premise of historical subterfuge and the true nature of the Holy Grail was a gem. What a pity this brilliant concept got weighed down by clumsy author intrusions.

The lessons for writing? Respect your audience's intelligence, and respect the integrity of your characters.

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