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!
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