Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Bad Sex

That's right, it's once again time for the Bad Sex in Fiction awards. Tom Wolfe took home the prize for I Am Charlotte Simmons last year and now the longlist has been released for this year's award. Read the entries here.

Of course, if you're averse to explicit scenes, I'd advise you not to read on. If you're not, get ready for some hilariously bad sex. I'd make note of some of my favourite lines, but there are far too many great ones here.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Short Novella

(Or, The One Form of Literature in Which it is Entirely Impossible to be Published in Unless You Already Happen to be Incredibly Famous and Popular)

I've been doing some thinking about Mass Romantic over the past few days and have decided that it's best suited to being a short novella of around thirty thousand words. This decision is based largely on two issues:
  • The story just doesn't seem to accommodate more than a few relatively uncomplicated subplots. It's a first-person narrative and, for the credibility of the plot, it's necessary for my main character to be almost entirely focused on one thing. Therefore, any subplots that take place have to concern the book's supporting cast. And, you know, his coworkers can only come to him with so many problems.
  • I'm afraid the narrative style will become either stale or irritating for readers after a certain length of time. I know it'll turn off some right away, so I'd prefer not to alienate anyone else along the way.

The downside of this choice is that it's damn near impossible to get anything of this length published. Basically, your only hope lies in serialization, but most short story markets, especially ones paying on a per-word basis, just aren't interested in that anymore. And when a market does publish a serialization, it's almost always by an already established author.

So, I suppose I've consigned the story to the realm of the unpublishable. Nonetheless, I'll finish it off and I might post it on my website. Or, who knows, maybe I'll stumble across a market that's perfectly willing to publish serializations by complete unknowns. Then again, I might wake up tomorrow with some great idea that'll make my two issues irrelevant and I'll be back to writing a full-length novel.

Coming Soon...

...a brand new fancy-schmancy layout. Not sure how long, maybe a week, maybe two, but it shall arrive and I'm extremely stoked. And, just like that episode of The Simpsons where Moe's went art-chic and became M, The Blurred Line Blog will simply become Blurred Line. Why? Because I'm so ultra-modern it's crazy!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Kissing Jessica Stein

The greatest thing about this romantic comedy is the fact that absolutely nothing has been romanticized. This is why I give it such a good rating - it's just refreshing to see something that doesn't follow genre convention, and even more impressive that, in my opinion, it should manage to do so without losing any of the target audience. There were a number of moments in the film, especially near the end (where most rom-coms lay on the cheese pretty thick) where I found myself thinking that this is what should, or what would, happen in this situation, were it to take place in real-life. Although this movie has been slotted into the gay/lesbian niche category, to me it had less focus on the girl-meets-girl relationship, instead choosing to concentrate on a theme of opening oneself up to the possibilities of life. Beyond all that, it's actually good for a few laughs, too. Actually, with the lead character's neurotic and uptight personality, this at times feels much like a Woody Allen flick. Solid acting and a great script here. My grade: B+

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.1 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.0 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: After an optimistic but nightmarish dating spree, neurotic New York journalist Jessica Stein happens upon an intriguing personal ad whose only drawback is that it's in the 'women seeking women' section. On a daring whim, she decides to answer it and, to her surprise, ends up instantly clicking with downtown hipster Helen Cooper. The women proceed to muddle through an earnest courtship in which, with conventional gender roles absent, they are forced to make it up as they go along. (via Yahoo)

Director: Charles Herman-Wurmfeld (Legally Blonde 2)
Writers: Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen
Stars: Jennifer Westfeldt, Heather Juergensen (The Haunted Mansion), Scott Cohen (Gia), Jackie Hoffman (Garden State), Tovah Feldshuh (Happy Accidents)

Useless Trivia: The cab scene where Helen and Jessica talk about blending lipstick was filmed after the filmmakers hailed a cab and paid the driver $20. The director drove, the director of photography was in the front seat and the sound woman climbed in the back trunk.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Weekend Features

I realize this might be a little ironic, considering the nature of my last post, but due to waning popularity I'll be suspending Saturday's SF Read of the Week and Sunday's Weekly Writing Challenge.

However, I'll continue to make mention of any great shorts I read, though you probably shouldn't expect anything approaching a weekly regularity. Likewise, I plan to retain the writing challenges, but will be doing them on a monthly basis, as opposed to weekly.

Friday, November 25, 2005

On The Death of the Short Story

So, after coming home from a long ten hour shift at work, I decided it was most certainly time for me to cruise on over to Speculative.ca and check out David McGillveray's story "Twice A God". Clearly, I've gotten sidetracked (I'll get to it though, really, I will). The reason is that Speculative keeps a count of how many times each story is being read. Now, David's story has been up for about two weeks now. How many reads does it have? Thirty-three. That's right, thirty-three.

Now, I realize that Speculative is a brand new market, so obviously they might not have a lot of traffic. Still, thirty-three reads over two weeks is a paltry number. For a new market, they also pay a pretty decent amount - $60 CDN. However, with the apparently low level of interest coming from the reading public, you have to wonder if it's even worth it for them to buy these stories in the first place.

That brings me around to the recent closing of SciFiction. Now, SciFiction (along with Strange Horizons) was THE place online to turn for great SF short stories. It had won numerous awards, had a great reputation, and had one of science fiction's best editors in Ellen Datlow. The decision to shut it down, then, must have come from a profit/loss kind of scenario.

I wonder, what is it, exactly, that has forced people away from short fiction? Nothing against the novel, but the short story has become marginalized to an extreme point. In an age when the latest hardcovers are wading into the $30 US range, this surprises me - you'd think the more voracious readers would branch out and search out short stories that are free of charge. Of course, I know there the whole argument about having something to hold in one's hands, but what about lit magazines?

In the SF realm, the two magazine giants, Analog and Asimov's only have circulations of approximately 50,000, and I have a suspicion that these circulations share a pretty significant overlap.

Is it just me, or is the form dying out? Furthermore, do any of you actually know anyone who subscribes to a lit magazine (and a lot of you are writers, so I'm assuming you travel in literary circles) who isn't a writer themself?

Thursday, November 24, 2005

It's Over!

Apologies for the lack of any sufficient postings lately, but I'm going to leave you all hanging once again. My academic hell week is over, as I wrote my Canadian Literature midterm this afternoon - it actually turned out to be disturbingly easy, so I didn't need to stress out about it nearly as much as I did. So, I'm going to kick back for the night and try to come up with something intellectually stimulating for tomorrow.

Anyhow, to put you all in a mood as good as mine, I'd like to recommend the song "World of a King" by David Mead. I'd need more than two hands to count the number of times I listened to it at work yesterday and it did wonders for my morale. I'm not sure where to find it, but I can only imagine that iTunes has it. And trust me, it's definitely worth your 99 cents.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Ugh...

I've now been fully conscious for over 34 consecutive hours. As you can imagine, work was a pile of fun today. Anyway, I'm off to turn in craptastic essay #2. Then I'm going to come home and sleep for a very, very long time. See you tomorrow.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Wicker Park

I decided to take the time on my break between classes to watch a movie, since I didn't want to spend the entire day stressing. Anyhow, I wasn't expecting much from this one, since it starred Josh Hartnett. Fortunately, though, it exceeded my expectations. There's nothing really outstanding about this film, but it manages to entertain nonetheless. Even though the plot and execution are something of a clichee, its done expertly and its tough not to enjoy watching all of the pieces fall together. Some critics had nice things to say about Hartnett's performance, but I found him to be pretty wooden and downright laughable in the more emotional scenes. Byrne is quite good as the lovestruck manipulator and Lillard, as always, is great - it's just too bad we never get to see more of a range from him. Overall, this one works well for entertainment, but not much more. My grade: B-

Avg. Critic's Score: 4.3 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 6.6 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A young Chicago advertizing executive believes a woman he sees in a cafe is his long-lost love. His conviction leads to obsession, as he puts his life on hold to trail her. (via Imdb)

Director: Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1)
Writer: Brandon Boyce (Apt Pupil) based on the film L'Appartement written by Gilles Mimouni
Stars: Josh Hartnett (Black Hawk Down), Diane Kruger (Troy), Rose Byrne (Troy), Matthew Lillard (Hackers), Jessica Pare (Lost and Delirious)

Useless Trivia: The restaurant where Matthew overhears Lisa talking on the telephone is called "Bellucci's". Monica Bellucci was the female lead in the French original L'Appartement, of which this film is a remake.

Essay #1 Complete!

It's a bit of a bummer to spend the course of an entire day (and then some) writing about how much love sucks but, hey, it's gotta be done. I was going to call it "Love is a Battlefield" but thought that would probably be a little too jokey for an academic paper, so instead I worked in a snazzy quote and called it "'Love-slain, lo, here I lie' : Love As Defeat". Anyway, this means I have about two hours between my morning and evening classes to get a headstart on essay number two. That one, of course, is due tomorrow, and I have to work tomorrow, so I imagine I'll be up quite late tonight.

Anyhow, on the subject of love, here's a reason to never, ever consummate your love. Ever. You might end up with the kid from hell. And, if you have kids, you can take solace in knowing that you're a better parent than what this kid has because he's clearly never been disciplined in his entire life. (via Scalzi's Whatever)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week's winner: The sole entrant was greywulf, but I imagine that was because people were so awestruck by his excellent piece of flash fiction that they couldn't possibly imagine competing against it. If you missed out on reading his piece, check it out here.

This week: At this very moment, I'm writing an essay about the depiction of love in metaphysical poetry. Sound like fun? Well, it isn't. But you know what would be fun? Writing a serious scene (or your favourite scene from a book or movie) as if it's the climax of some cheesy bodice-ripper romance.

(Personally, I suggest doing any scene from Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith.)

SF Read of the Week

RotW got lost in the mix yesterday, between Harry Potter reviews and my excessive napping, but I've made good and found a story I first read about five years ago.

Georgie still wasn't there at 8:05. Rayno checked his watch again, then finally looked up from his caffix. "The compiler's been cracked," he said. Lisa and I both swore. We'd worked up our own little code to keep our Net private. I mean, our Olders would just blow boards if they ever found out what we were really up to. And now somebody'd broken our code.

It's the story that gave a title to the most famous SF movement of the eighties. It's Bruce Bethke's "Cyberpunk", and it's reprinted at Infinity Plus.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

Now, I figure everyone and their dog will be posting their reviews of the Potter movie over the next few days, so I guess I should be a little more in-depth than usual. And lo, so I shall. I'll warn you, though, I didn't get back from the movie until 2 AM last night and had to be up by six to get ready for work. The day of work which followed was jam-packed full of the dullest drudgery one can possibly imagine. Needless to say, I'm not operating at one hundred percent, so if some of this comes out as unintelligible, I apologize. Now, before I get to the review, let me talk a little about the whole experience.

Our tickets were purchased at two in the afternoon (my girlfriend lives right beside the theatre, so it's an easy trip for her) and the 10:30 showings, of which there were two, were nearly sold out. So, in anticipation of a large lineup, we decided to arrive early. We arrived at 9:15, behind at least one theatre-full of people. The line continued to grow behind us until there was no more room on the second floor of the theatre (where both of the screens showing the movie were located). Around 9:45 we noticed that a ridiculously large queue was forming on the floor below. Turns out, those were the people were going to the same movie, same time. Anyhow, we also had to deal with some pushy people in line - a rowdy group of teenagers and a fortyish Asian woman who never gave an inch and kept setting her heavy bag on my feet. Most aggravating, though, was the teenager beside us who spewed his guts all over the floor. Turns out a bunch of people had been drinking before the show (my girlfriend discovered an empty bottle of Canadian Club in the ladies washroom) and this unfortunate seemed to be paying the price. Anyhow, when the theatres did open, the lines were badly mismanaged and quite a few people were angry with the staff. Fortunately, we got decent seats. The previews were either great (Superman Returns and King Kong) or abysmal (The Shaggy Dog and Cheaper By The Dozen 2). All told, the movie finally got started at 11:00. Now, the review....

Some critics (I'd go so far as to say most of them) have awarded Goblet the title of best Potter movie thus far. They're right to do so. Another idea consistently expressed is that this film lacks the emotional resonance of its immediate predecessor. Again, true. Here's the thing about Goblet of Fire. It is not a perfect movie. Indeed, much of the reason I think it's the best of the bunch thus far is because book number four was the first truly great book of the series. The film version has a lot going for it but, ultimately, it's the quality of the book on which it's based that really elevate it above the others. Also, it's the first movie of the series where you'll absolutely have had to read the book in order to enjoy it to its fullest. The plot has been hacked down to a bare-bones minimum in order to jam everything into the two and a half four running time. As a result, some important plot points can be missed if you're not already familiar with them. As for the emotion comment, I think it's fair to say that this film is not as interested in the emotions of its characters as much as the original three were. Part of this is because of the large amount of material to be covered. Part of this is also, I think, because director Newell makes the film feel like an adaptation. In a way that I wasn't during the first three films, I was consciously aware of the fact that I was watching a book being brought to life. This is not to say, however, that the film is bereft of emotions - it's not. In my opinion, it's the funniest Potter film yet and there are a few genuinely emtional scenes given by the actors, just not many. Anyhow, let me do a rundown on what I thought of the performances from the cast and crew.

Director - Mike Newell (Donnie Brasco, Mona Lisa Smile): For the most part, Newell maintains the dark atmosphere created by Azkaban director Alfonso Cuaron. I mean that, though, largely in a visual sense. Otherwise, things aren't nearly as dark as they were in the third movie. Newell handled the action scenes quite well and the quiet, plot-related scenes as well as anyone else in the series. As some critics noted, where he really shines is in making Hogwart's feel like a school, as opposed to some magical playground.

Screenwriter - Steven Kloves (Wonder Boys): Kloves has been on board for every Potter film so far, but this one will be his last outing, as far as I know. He had his work cut out for him here. I don't take a huge issue with what was ultimately cut out, but things like the Rita Skeeter subplot were so marginalized that they might as well have not been there at all. I was also a little disappointed about how the tensions between the three leads (Harry and Ron early on and Ron and Hermione later) were carried out. The former seemed to spring up without any warning and the latter seemed to be forgotten about when the plot needed attending to.

The Leads - Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson: All three are settling into their roles nicely. I think Grint has Ron nailed down and Watson is almost there with Hermione. Radcliffe, I think, still seems a little awkward at times, as if he's just going through the motions, but generally he's solid, which wasn't a given during the previous films. Something that drastically improved in this film was the interplay between the characters. I expect this has something to do with familiarity, but I think the three actors did a great job of portraying their group's dynamic. One scene in particular, where Harry and Hermione are chatting about Viktor Krum, seems so natural that it could have been entirely unscripted.

Voldemort - Ralph Fiennes: He's absolutely amazing as the pure evil Dark Lord. In fact, this is the first time the films have managed to one-up the books in any fashion. Voldemort is far more menacing up on screen than he is on the page. Fiennes does a great job.

The New Kids - Katie Leung, Robert Pattinson, Stanislav Ianevski, Clemence Poesy: Personally, I wasn't very impressed by Ianevski's Krum or Poesy's Fleur. Of course, the pair of them only had a couple of lines each, but most disconcerting was the fact that each of them only had one expression - strike that, Poesy did have to do both aloof and scared. Pattinson was solid as Cedric Diggory. Not much more to be said - he didn't go above and beyond, but he did all that was expected. Leung, as Harry's love interest Cho Chang, seems to be garnering the most press, however. Frankly, I thought she was entirely average, but not much was asked of her, so we'll see how she pans out in the next film.

The Professors - Michael Gambon, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson: Gambon's Dumbledore, Smith's McGonagall, Coltrane's Hagrid and Rickman's Snape continue the status quo. None of them do much more than they did last time around. Rickman, who is always fantastic, barely makes it onto the screen, so I was disappointed by that. Now that I'm used to Gambon as Dumbledore (who took over from the late Richard Harris), I like what he's doing with the character. Gambon, I think, will do a great job of portraying Dumbledore as he becomes less of a kind old father figure and more of a hugely powerful wizard. Gleeson, as Mad-Eye Moody, really shines here.

The Supporting Cast: Save for the Weasley twins, who are featured prominently in this movie and get a huge number of the laughs, the rest of the cast is largely disposable. Even perpetual jerkass Draco Malfoy isn't given enough time to draw any ire, as he only appears in three relatively brief scenes.

My grade: A-

Now, I'm going to go take a nap.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Nerding Out With Harry

Yes, I'm going to see the Potter movie. On opening night. Honestly, though, it wasn't my idea. The last thing I want to be is surrounded by unruly eight year olds who might get bored during a 157 minute movie, twelve year old girls who will later be making blog entries along the lines of "OMG! Dan Radcliffe is so totally HOTT!!!", and anyone who dresses up in Potter costumes. On the plus side, we did get tickets to a 10:30 show (which won't let out until a little after one in the morning), so hopefully those types will be snug in bed by then. Anyhow, I'll be sure to let you all know what I thought of it tomorrow.



Above: Harry gets a B- on the "Turn your wand into a lightsabre" exam.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

"A Note on Publishing Your Writing"

This is the email I found in my inbox today. A message from the Xlibris Corporation, who have "either learned about [my] passion for writing or [they] have had the pleasure of coming across some of [my] work". Or, if they wanted to be entirely honest, they could've just said that they stole my email address off of a list somewhere. Looks like the POD industry has now resorted to spamming, putting them among the lowest ranks of vermin on the internet.

My favourite part of the email, though, was this: "I completely understand how annoying unwanted email messages can be; if this is the case here, my sincerest apologies."

If I'd wanted you to email me, if I wanted to be given a spiel about how great your company is, then don't you think I would've made some effort to contact you? And, yes, unwanted email messages are annoying. I'm glad you realize it, but I have nothing but contempt for you since you've gone ahead and done it anyway.

I make my solemn vow to everybody that I'll never spam anyone with information about Apodis. If I do, I'll commit ritualized suicide via webcast right here on this blog.

NaNo: Day 17

Well, if you haven't already guessed by looking at Mass Romantic's wordcount, I've decided to part ways with NaNoWriMo. To keep on pace, my wordcount should have been at a little over 28,000 by the end of the night. I'm currently at 11,500. Additionally, next week is going to be rough, since all of my midterms and essays have been jam packed into one four day stretch.

On the one hand, I'm a little disappointed with myself for dropping out, but on another I think that it's probably the best thing to do. Mass Romantic, over the last couple of days, has really come together in terms of the direction I want to take with it. Originally, for the sake of being able to write quickly, I'd planned for it to be a series of scenes revolving around one character, with only the loosest of plotlines to hold it together. However, I've discovered that these scenes can all be made to be interconnected and I'm feeling that this is really the best decision for the story. Frankly, I didn't expect anything I churned out for NaNo to be any good, but I've grown pretty fond of what I have so far in MR and I don't really think that the whole quantity over quality mantra is right for it anymore.

Anyhow, I'm quite pleased with my first NaNo effort - obviously not in terms of the progress I made towards being a winner, but in terms of what I actually produced as a result of signing up. If I hadn't taken the plunge, MR probably would never have gotten off the ground.

For the moment, I'll leave you to ponder the following somewhat-relevant passage: This is a good word; flux. I write it on a Post-It note. It sounds like something far off and futuristic, but really it is eternal. This is an irony everyone can enjoy.

Welcome to PepsiCo, Kansas

Really, it doesn't look that far off. This week the small town of Clark, Texas became DISH, Texas in exchange for ten years of free satellite TV for each of its 55 homes. There are also talks to rebrand the town of Santa, Idaho as Secretsanta.com. Read the article.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Unleashed

You'll probably find this flick under in the Action section of your local video store but, in reality, this film feels a lot more like a drama with some really great fight scenes thrown in. Jet Li, as always, delivers some amazing martial arts action. Where he really impresses, though, is in the dramatic side of the film, where he proves that, given the opportunity, he can act. I'm not saying he's going to win any Oscars over this performance, but he does a solid all-around job. In fact, he even stays in character during his fight scenes, choreographed by the legendary Yuen Wo Ping (if you've watched any martial arts movies in the past, you'll notice the difference pretty quickly). Hoskins and the young Condon also turn in great performances. My grade: B

Avg. Critic's Score: 6.3 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.2 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A man raised into behaving like a dog escapes from his captor, who seeks to reclaim him because of his unnatural martial arts skills that are triggered when unleashed. (via Imdb)

Director: Louis Leterrier (Transporter 2)
Writer: Luc Besson (Leon: The Professional)
Stars: Jet Li (Hero), Morgan Freeman (Million Dollar Baby), Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?), Kerry Condon (Ned Kelly), Michael Jenn (Quills), Michael Ian Lambert

Useless Trivia: Albert Finney, Anthony Hopkins, Michael Caine and Brian Cox were all offered the role of Bart.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Winter Angst/National Pride

Like Dave's most recent post, this one has its origins with The Da Vinci Code. I'm not trying to leech off his popularity by replicating his posts, I swear. It just looks that way. Anyhow, I sold my illustrated hardcover copy on eBay a couple of days ago. It was a Christmas gift from someone who apparently wasn't acquainted with my pickiness regarding the books I read. A lack of interest combined with the complete failure of Brown's writing to hook me in any regard resulted in me never progressing past the fifth page. So, I sold it. Picked up a decent amount for it, too.

So, last night, I'm off to the mall to mail the thing. And the mall's soundsystem is belting out some riff on "Jingle Bells". Now, I can deal with the Santa display up on November 1st, but must they assault us with Christmas songs so early on in the season? I was, of course, moved to murderous rage by the mall's playlist, but was able to take solace in the fact that I'd just made $30 off something I never even paid for. Afterwards, all I could feel was sympathy for the mall's workers.

Then came the winter weather. This morning, on my way to work, Ottawa began to receive its first snowfall. After a few hours of that, Ottawa received its first dose of freezing rain. If you're not familiar with these kinds of weather conditions, the end result of this is that, when you return to your car, you find a thick layer of snow that's been solidified into a solid mass of ice and fused onto your entire car. Much ice scraping ensued.

Now, one might say that it's paradoxical for someone to continue living in Canada (especially Ottawa, which happens to be the second coldest national capital on the planet) when they hate winter so much. It might seem even more paradoxical for someone to love Canada when they hate winter so much (as opposed to our other season, road construction). Actually, I argue the opposite - I'm downright patriotic. I stick around despite the winter. And really, even though I hate it, I wouldn't trade it away. After all, if Canadians didn't have bitterly cold winters to complain about, what would we complain about? (Besides taxes, that is.)

As for Christmas, I reserve the right to remain humbuggish until at least December 1st. Who's with me?

Monday, November 14, 2005

How To Be A Popular Blogger: Episode 1

I know I've been droning on about writing, as I have a tendency to do, so to all of you who don't have very much interest in writing, I apologize. This new feature which, hopefully, will end up being semi-regular should be of interest to everyone.

Because the easiest way to become popular is to scrutinize the cool kids and see exactly what it is they're doing that's so special, I've decided to interview popular bloggers in order to see if they can pass on some advice to us also-rans.

Today's interview is with Dave of Blogography.

Q1: First things first - how popular are you, exactly? How many hits do you get on a typical day and where do they come from?

A: That's a hard question to answer, because it all depends on how you want to analyze it. I don't really keep track (except when my bandwidth limit is exceeded), but a quick look at my stats shows that Blogography currently gets around 150,000 hits a day. Once you get down to page visits only, it's about 10,000 hits a day. Once you whittle that down to "unique visitors" I'm down to 4,500 a day. If you knock off the random hits from Google referrals and image searches, it's more like 2,000 per day. How many of those hits are regular (or semi-regular) readers is anybody's guess. The numbers keep going up each month, so I haven't spent much time trying to sort it out. I suppose if my readership drops, and I suddenly start caring about the numbers, then I'll try to find a way to track that.

As to where readers come from or how they find me, I don't really have a way of figuring that out. I think most of it is word-of-mouth. Other bloggers stumble upon something they like and link to an entry. Or, if they really like me, they'll put me on their blogroll or something. If people following these links happen to hit my blog on a day that I write something they like, then maybe they will keep coming back. It's something I am curious about myself.

Q2: All the articles on blogging I see these days tell people to write for a niche group. Your blog is pretty general and ranges from one topic to another. Do you see that as a help or a hindrance to your blog's popularity?

A: In theory, I'd have to agree that writing for a niche group is probably the way to go if you are trying to become popular. The problem with having a blog that lacks focus (like mine) is that you are inevitably going to write about things that your readers have zero interest in. I'm pretty sure that most of my readers don't care about Macintosh computers. But it's my blog and I am a Mac-lover, so if something Mac-like comes up in my life... well, I will be writing about it. Do this often enough, and Mac-indifferent readers will leave. If they wanted to read about a Mac zombie, they'd read a Mac blog. On the flip-side, Mac-lovers won't find my blog Mac enough and leave as well.

But even though what I write about changes from day to day, I would argue that ultimately Blogography does have a single niche topic: me. Most every entry is either about me or my reaction to something. For reasons I can never hope to understand, there are people out there who are actually entertained by that. So even though the topic changes, ultimately I am the "real" topic of every entry. Is that a hinderance to my blog? Probably. :-)

Q3: People tend to pay less attention to blogs that are designed with templates (ie. blogger). Do you think having a unique blog design has any impact on your blog's popularity?

A: I agree that casual surfers might tend to skip a blog that uses a standard template. But having a unique design only gets you noticed. It doesn't matter how pretty your blog is... if your content is crap, people won't be sticking around.

That being said, getting noticed in a sea of blogs is half the battle. So I guess my answer would be yes, I do think that my unique blog design has an impact on popularity... even though it's probably a small one. Maybe there's that one person who stumbles upon Blogography, sees a cartoon at the top, and decides to stick around. Maybe they wouldn't have stayed if that cartoon weren't there. I don't know for sure, but it probably hasn't hurt my readership. Anything that makes you stand-out from the crowd is probably a good thing (even if it is crappy, badly-drawn cartoons!).

Q4: How did Blogography get its start and what was its original audience like? How do you think you built up a following?

A: I travel a lot which makes keeping up with my friends and family difficult. I created a blog as a way to keep people I know informed as to where I'm at and what I'm up to. It's far easier than having to answer the same thing over and over again when people write and say "hey, what's happening with you?" And that was my initial audience... people who know me. Unfortunately, blogging sounds easier than it actually is, and my first two blogs died from neglect. Eventually, I decided to try one last time. But to ensure I was more vested in the project, I decided to buy a domain name for it and make a commitment to writing in it every single day. It took a while to get in the daily habit but, once I got there, Blogography was born.

Then something unexpected happened. People who don't know me started reading. I am still completely mystified as to why. Outside of a few interesting trips here and there, I don't really consider myself to be a very interesting guy. Furthermore, the most interesting things in my life (friends, family, work, relationships, and other personal stuff) never appear in my blog. Maybe I am so dysfunctional that people find me entertaining? Maybe my sarcastic, cynical, quirky way of looking at life is appealing to people? I honestly don't know.

Ultimately, I think the fact that I blog every single day goes a long way towards keeping people coming back. But building up a following is something entirely different. I don't think I even had a following until I enabled comments on my entries. Suddenly, people weren't just reading, they were participating. This not only provided material for me to write about in future entries, but it also took the conversation in entirely different (and often far more entertaining) directions. Now THIS was fun! I retroactively turned on comments for all my entries, and started writing in a way that invited feedback.

It turned out that those who commented regularly are as much Blogography writers as I am. Soon we're all commenting and participating on each other's blogs and a community was built. I can't take credit for it, but I love being a part of it. And since new people keep jumping in, it's a thriving community. These are no longer strangers, but friends. So calling my friends "a following" is not really accurate because it implies that I'm leading them somewhere... in reality, it's quite the opposite.

Q5: A brief scroll down the current front-page of your blog shows a couple of your groovy cartoons, tasty pizza, a couple of attractive women and a picture of David Hasselhoff so disturbing that I had to gouge one of my eyes out with a fork. Do pictures make a blog more enjoyable to read?

A: It depends on your skills as a writer. Many of the blogs I enjoy rarely have graphics because they are entertaining enough without them. I, on the other hand, barely have skill enough to string two sentences together. As a visual-type person, I compensate for this by using cartoons, photos, and such to get my point across.

As to whether pictures make a blog more enjoyable to read... it depends on the blog. If you are a stunning writer, then pictures can be a distraction. If you are a photographer or a cartoonist or designer, or whatnot, then images help you to communicate. There's a balance every blogger needs to figure out for themselves, and I think blogs can be equally enjoyable with or without pictures. Whatever you are most comfortable using to share your thoughts, you should do that.

Q6: What's the most enjoyable thing about blogging, aside from the ability to mock others in a public forum?

A: Hands down it's the people I meet from having a blog.

Well, not so much the ones who write me hate mail, but hey... even they cared enough to write!


Thanks to Dave for taking time to do this interview. I think it merits a few cool points. Be sure to head on over to Blogography - maybe some of his coolness will rub off on you.

(Interested in participating? Click here.)

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week: I'd like to bestow the top prize upon genderist, whose story of first-angst really appealed to the frustrated writer in me.

This week: A character sketch. This character is about to embark on the greatest journey of her life. What is she in search of and why?

If you're so inclined, you can include name, occupation and any other background information. Bonus points to anyone who involves the Yakuza, just because I think they're cool.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

How To Become A Successful Self-Published Writer

Step 1: Spend a couple years working in sales for a large company.
Step 2: Write market-oriented action thriller.
Step 3: Sell 2000 copies inside three weeks.

Alright, that doesn't cover everything. It seemed to work for Vince Flynn, though. Check out this interesting article.

Bad News for Short SF Writers and Readers

Consistently one of the best sources for great SF short stories, not to mention one of the best-paying markets for writiers, SciFiction will say goodbye at the end of 2005. This is the message that appears on their site:


As SCIFI.COM gears up to expand with exciting new ventures utilizing the newest technology, it will discontinue SCI FICTION, the online publishing division of of the site, at the end of 2005.In almost six years of groundbreaking online publishing, SCI FICTION and its editor, Ellen Datlow, had an unparalleled record of critical success, earning 10 major awards, including three Hugo Awards, four Nebula Awards and a World Fantasy Award.We wish Ellen the best and look forward to seeing her future work.



Definitely not a good day for SF. In the meantime, cruise on over to SciFiction and read a story or two.

SF Read of the Week

I watched Kyra walk uncertainly toward the cafeteria tables. The monitors were keeping a close eye on everybody. We have monitors everywhere, just like the street has National Guard everywhere. Clean up America, my ass. Kyra squinted; she's near-sighted and doesn't like to wear her contacts because she says they itch. I ducked lower over my milk.

Another reader request today. This one goes out to Melly, who put in a request for some Nancy Kress. This one over at SciFiction is called "The Most Famous Little Girl in the World".

(P.S. - You can still request a story by your favourite authors. Just leave a comment.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

The Jacket

Question: How does anyone read this script and not have to toss it aside thanks to all the blood that's suddenly started to spurt from their eyes? Really, this film's script and dialogue is just atrocious. Brody and Knightley both deserve standing ovations for their performances here because, frankly, they elevate the material to a postition far above where it deserves to be (the trash bin being its proper place, of course). The director's plan seemed to be to turn a bunch of flashy shots of Brody's eyes, a barely-there nude shot of Knightley and the line "You gotta believe me!" into a cohesive whole. Guess what? Doesn't quite work. For Bond megafans, you can get a glimpse of Bond-to-be Daniel Craig as Brody's insane asylum pal. My grade: C-

Avg. Critic's Score: 5.4 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 6.8 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A military veteran returns to his native Vermont suffering from bouts of amnesia. When he is accused of murder and lands in an asylum, a well-meaning doctor puts him on a heavy course of experimental drugs, restrains him in a jacket-like device, and locks him away in a body drawer of the basement morgue. The process sends him on a journey into the future, where he can foresee his death (but not who did it or how) in four days' time. Now the only question that matters is: can the woman he meets in the future save him? (via Yahoo)

Director: John Maybury (Love Is The Devil)
Writers: Massy Tadjedin (Leo), Tom Bleecker and Marc Rocco (Where the Day Takes You)
Stars: Adrien Brody (The Pianist), Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean), Kris Kristofferson (Blade), Jennifer Jason Leigh (eXistenZ), Kelly Lynch (Drugstore Cowboy), Daniel Craig (Road to Perdition), Laura Marano

Useless Trivia: Scenes of Adrien Brody sobbing in the body drawer were real. He had asked director John Maybury to keep him locked in even when they weren't filming so he could get the feel of the character's despair. Eventually, Brody lost it during filming, and Maybury caught it on tape.

On Mass Romantic

Instead of a general progress post today, I thought it would be more interesting if I wrote a little about Mass Romantic itself. As some of you know, this is my first shot at literary fiction. Personally, I haven't found it to be much of a stretch for me. Much of the SF I've been writing lately has been skewing towards a LitFic-esque style, so this has really all been about taking it one step further.

The most difficult part for me has been getting used to the idea of writing a book that's not dense with plot. That's not to say MR doesn't have a plot, but the plot is more a vehicle to get my protagonist to express himself as a character. The problem this is leading me towards, though, is the fact that the story might not even be novel-length. Unless, of course, I can find a way to stretch the three remaining plot points I have over forty or fifty thousand words.

Generally, I've been quite happy with the story thus far. I've been having doubts about scenes with the female lead(s). There's only been one so far, but I haven't been able to nail down the character of Helena as well as Stephen or Prentice. Why? Well, she's supposed to be perfect but not, beautiful but not, witty but not - the entire essence of her character is that she's everything and nothing at the same time. That, as you might imagine, is troubling to write.

Anyhow, onward and upward (sorry - I've seen the John Cheever episode of Seinfeld twice this week).

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fever Pitch

Generally, romantic comedies aren't my thing. Neither is Jimmy Fallon. It was one of those compromise movies (because there was no way in hell I was going to watch Guess Who). Anyhow, despite my early misgivings, I was impressed by this movie. Sure, it's still cheesy. Sure, it has a pretty slapdash final third. Still, I enjoyed myself. Fallon (who finally pulls something off without being really irritating) and Barrymore have the perfect sort of chemistry for this movie. This one doesn't veer very far from the path that everyone expects of it, but the ride is more enjoyable than you'd expect. My grade: B-

Avg. Critic's Score: 6.2 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 6.5 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: A contemporary romantic comedy about a high school teacher who meets and falls in love with a successful businesswoman. Although their lives are vastly different, the relationship seems perfect until the baseball season begins and she has to compete with his first true love: the Boston Red Sox. (via Yahoo)

Directors: The Farrelly Brothers (There's Something About Mary)
Writers: Lowell Ganz (A League of Their Own) and Babaloo Mandel (City Slickers) based on the novel by Nick Hornby
Stars: Jimmy Fallon (Taxi), Drew Barrymore (The Wedding Singer), Ione Skye (Say Anything), KaDee Strickland (The Grudge), Marissa Jaret Winokur ("Stacked"), Evan Helmuth, Willie Garson ("Sex and the City")

Useless Trivia: While filming in Toronto, Drew Barrymore was asked to throw the first pitch of the game. It barely made it to the plate and she was extremely embarrassed.

Blog Exchange Experiment: Week 10

Another slow week, especially in comments, possibly because I had to turn on word verification since the "Refinance now!" folks had finally tracked me down. Things seem to have peaked for the experiment, so this will be the last weekly update. I'll still be recording the stats and I'll update the PDF file each week but I don't think there's really enough to report on to merit a weekly post. When it's all wrapped up, I'll write up a big results post for everyone to enjoy.

In the meantime, for those of you who are getting bored with my NaNo posts, I'll have something of blogging-related interest for you all soon. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

A Little Help?

If any of you out there happen to be members of a science fiction writers' community or a general writers' community, for that matter, I'd like to enlist your help. Submissions for the Apodis anthology are lagging pretty badly, and I've only accepted about half of the number of stories I'd like to see present in the book (damn my high standards and low pay!), so I need stories to keep rolling in.

I'd be very much indebted to anyone who would let people know about the anthology. Guidelines from Ralan:

APODIS PUBLISHING - 1-time POD; sf/speculative (fic). Pay: $10 (+copy for Top 3 stories). Words: 2-8k. RT: 1 month. Reprints: no. E-subs: only. Cavan Terrill/G.R.C. Lewis, Editors (QS). Deadline: when filled PubDate: when filled

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

One Year Later

Today marks the first anniversary of the release of Blurred Line by PageFree. Since that time, I like to think that I've become something of an expert on the POD industry, having done my fair share of research, started my own POD company and re-published the book myself. What a long, strange journey it's been. I was going to do some special event but then I decided that I'd better keep working on Mass Romantic. Instead, here are some of the posts I've made over the past year on POD publishing. And remember, there's no better way to celebrate the anniversary of a book's release than by buying your own copy!

Blurred Line: The POD Journey

POD: The Quality Question

POD: What It Should Have Been

Monday, November 07, 2005

NaNo: Day 7

I'm behind schedule. I've come to the conclusion that I'm not going to make it. This bothers me less than you'd think. Why? Well, because it has taken me roughly three months to get to 7000 words in Glistening Edges and Right Angles. For Mass Romantic, it has taken me seven days. While my output will probably fall short of the 50,000, I'm not exactly stressing over it since, for me, consistently churning out 1000 words a day is astounding. It's something I've never done before, since I started writing eight years ago.

Local Pride: Ottawa is sitting at #33 on the list of most productive NaNo regions. That's third in Canada, after Edmonton (#17) and Toronto (#22). I guess it's cold enough in Edmonton that people have nothing to do but sit inside and write.

Magnolia

I'd had this movie sitting around for nearly a week, thanks to NaNo. I finally decided to watch it last night. To put it bluntly: This is a truly great movie. There are flaws, of course, (and that's why it doesn't get an A+) but nonetheless, this film is simply amazing. Its cast is massive, as it follows the intersecting stories of a large group (nine, I think). As a result, it is necessarily long, clocking in at three hours. However, it definitely doesn't feel that long. The cast is amazing. Tom Cruise gives the centerpiece performance and will manage to make you forget about all of these couch-jumping, "You don't know psychology - I do!" antics that you see in the news. Frankly, and though I feel a little odd saying this of Cruise, it's a shame he wasn't given an Oscar for this performance (he was nominated, but lost out to Michal Caine for The Cider House Rules). In fact, this film was a glaring omission from 2000's best picture nominees. Other performances are very good as well, especially those of Reilly and Hoffman (two of the most overlooked actors in Hollywood) and kid actor Jeremy Blackman. The dialogue is excellent and the script, while it meanders a little and definitely crosses over into the surreal, is fantastic. Highly recommended. My grade: A

Avg. Critic's Score: 7.6 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 8.0 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: On one random day in the San Fernando Valley, a dying father, a young wife, a male caretaker, a famous lost son, a police officer in love, a boy genius, an ex-boy genius, a game show host and an estranged daughter will each become part of a dazzling multiplicity of plots, but one story. Through a collusion of coincidence, chance, human action, shared media, past history and divine intervention they will weave and warp through each other's lives on a day that builds to an unforgettable climax. Some will seek forgiveness, others escape. Some will mend frayed bonds, others will be exposed. (via Yahoo)

Director and Writer: Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights)
Stars: Tom Cruise (Minority Report), Julianne Moore (Hannibal), William H. Macy (Fargo), Philip Seymour Hoffman (Almost Famous), Melora Walters (Boogie Nights), Philip Baker Hall (The Insider), Jeremy Blackman, Melinda Dillon (Close Encounters of the Third Kind), Jason Robards (Once Upon A Time in the West), John C. Reilly (Gangs of New York)

Useless Trivia: The telephone number (877) TAME-HER is shown on the "Seduce and Destroy" infomercials within the movie. Dialing this number used to give a recording of Tom Cruise giving the Seduce and Destroy pitch.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Writerly Dilemmas To Avoid

I'm writing about a character who is a little like me, but twenty years older. He's writing a novel about a character who is a little like him, but twenty years younger. The character in that novel is writing a novel about a character who is a little like him, but twenty years older. Argh! Read on, if you dare.

I sit down in front of my computer. I wiggle the mouse to escape the star field screensaver and bring my story up on screen. The novel I am writing is about me, or someone a little like me, when I was young. This younger me is in his early twenties. He is a student. He is desperate to become a writer. He is sometimes very good at writing and often very bad. He is an optimist who believes he is a cynic. He is a layman who believes he is an intellectual. He is entering into a very interesting stage of his life; he is just beginning to discover that he knows very little.

In the novel, this younger me has a notebook in hand and is writing a novel about an older version of himself. It is a disconcerting choice. For both of us.

I write: My novel was getting out of hand. This futuristic me had not become the much-celebrated, highly sought after man of action that I’d envisioned. I’d made him a sad, pathetic loser. But he was likeable. He was the kind of person you could invite to parties and have a good time with. When he left, you would gossip with your friends about how he wasn’t making anything of his life. So much potential, wasted. Was this going to be me, twenty years down the road? Spending his time alone, with no one who truly understood him? Writing books that no one would read?

I closed my notebook and tossed it into the fireplace. Five surreal seconds followed. Then, with a yelp, I reached into the fire and retrieved my ruined manuscript. My hand was burned. The pages were beyond saving.

Weekly Writing Challenge

Last week's winners: Well, there was only one entrant, and I think greywulf deserves a big heap of cool points for the extreme thoroughness of his entry. That said, I'd argue that horribly graphic violence does belong on the set of Big Brother.

This week's challenge: Since I'm doing NaNo (and many of you are, too) I thought this might be a good way to alleviate some tensions. Write a short passage about a frustrated writer. Bonus points if it's based on a true story.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

SF Read of the Week

"I will repeat my discovery. In simple language, I have invented a technique to tell how long a man will live. I can give you advance billing of the Angel of Death. I can tell you when the Black Camel will kneel at your door. In five minutes' time, with my apparatus, I can tell any of you how many grains of sand are still left in your hourglass." He paused and folded his arms across his chest. For a moment no one spoke. The audience grew restless.

Last week I asked reader to tell me who some of their favourite SF writers were. That way, I could dig up some stories by these writers in an effort to save myself some time while doing NaNo. For this month's first installment, I present a story by Robert Heinlen (requested by Gabriel at The Punk Parent).

The story, the first Heinlen ever published, is called "Life-Line" and also comes with a little foreword from the author. (P.S. If you still want to submit your fave authors, feel free to do so.)

Friday, November 04, 2005

Nano: Day 4

Ack! This is harder than I thought it would be. Much harder. And I wasn't exactly expecting a walk in the park, either. By the end of last night, I was supposed to have hit 5000 words to stay on pace. I've got a little over 3000. If I want to be on pace by the end of today, I'll have to more than double my wordcount. I'll have an hour to write at work (breaks and lunchtime) and about an hour once I get home, but then I have to scamper off to a murder mystery party (the email addressed to my girlfriend indicated that it was most important I be there). Anyhow, hopefully I'll be able to write for a bit more once I get home from that.

On a positive note, I don't think I'm writing crap. This might be expected when you're far exceeding your normal pace, but I think the actual quality of my story thus far is decent. Not great, but decent.

Also, for those who need caffeine to complete Nano (which, invariably, you do), but don't like real coffee and don't want to ingest massive quantities of carbonated beverages, I recommend Nescafe Ice Java. It's kind of like making chocolate milk with chocolate syrup, except that you're making something that tastes like a French Vanilla coffee flavoured drink. It passes the taste test and it has twice as much caffeine as a can of pop.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Blog Exchange Experiment: Week 9

I realized that I'd forgotten to upload my results for last week, so if anyone out there is (for some reason) following my experiment with disturbingly intense interest, I apologize. I've just uploaded the PDF with results up to this week. Things are relatively quiet, though some Google restructuring has had some impact on results.

I've also surpassed 17,500 BE visitors and, on account of me not noticing yesterday and therefore not pausing it for today, I'll do so tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The Weather Man

If you're one of those people who go to see movies based solely on the trailer, this is one of those that is definitely not as its trailer portrays it. Instead of being a slapstick comedy, as you might have presumed, this film is a somewhat depressing drama with more funny moments than it really deserves to have. Actually, one of the best descriptions I've seen so far was something along the lines of "an indie film, on a Hollywood budget". Cage is terrific here, though he's not exactly breaking any new ground in playing an unhappy, pathetic middle-aged man. He manages to induce quite a lot of sympathy for his character and, in the end, that turns out to be a problem. We want to see Spritz (Cage's character) find something better in life, but a disappointing ending leaves us to wonder if he manages it and, if not, why did we bother with the movie in the first place? Overall, though, a good movie with some quality performances and an amazing script. My grade: B

Avg. Critic's Score: 6.1 (via Rotten Tomatoes)
Avg. Viewer's Score: 7.3 (via Imdb)

Synopsis: Popular Chicago weatherman, Dave Spritz, has a shot at the big time when a national morning television show calls him for an audition. Professionally, Dave is on top of the world, but his personal life is in complete disarray. Dave's painful divorce, his dad's illness and trouble with his kids have him poised on the knife's edge between stability and disaster. The harder he tries to control events, the more he finds life, like the weather, is completely unpredictable. (via Yahoo)

Director: Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean)
Writer: Steve Conrad (Wrestling Ernest Hemingway)
Stars: Nicolas Cage (Adaptation), Michael Caine (The Cider House Rules), Hope Davis (American Splendor), Nicholas Hoult (About A Boy), Gemmenne de la Pena (Erin Brockovich), Gil Bellows (The Shawshank Redemption), Michael Rispoli (While You Were Sleeping)

Useless Trivia: While shooting the film in February, director Gore Verbinski was surprised to find that the weather in Chicago was warm, as it didn't produce any snow. The production designers had to recreate snow from scratch, as the film takes place during the winter season.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Nano: Day 1

Already I'm making bad decisions - like going to see The Weather Man tonight instead of writing. Oh well, over the course of the day (and remember, I had work and school to contend with) I managed to get down a little over 1000 words. Now, I won't do this every day, but I thought I'd give you all a little sneak peak at what I'm writing. So, for your enjoyment, here are the first 1000 words of Mass Romantic. (Sorry in advance for the horrid formatting.)

She likes to play a game where I am the sheep. One where she is dressed in sheep’s clothing. She says baaa-aa and we both pretend.
But this is just an epigram. It has very little to do with the story.

----Chapter One----

A pregnant pause follows.
Let me freeze-frame things right here. Let me catch you up.
There are three of us seated around the table. It is an obscenely long table and so unmistakably phallic that Prentice and I have a running joke about the office manager’s need for overcompensation.
Prentice is sitting across from me, arms in the air, frozen in their last enthusiastic gesticulation. Downcast eyes, the hint of a slump in the shoulders – he has already guessed the outcome.
He’s young. Graduated three years ago and has been working here since. God knows how he came upon us out of school. We’re not exactly in the job placement program.
This is his pitch. His first stab at his own headline. Big letters across the monochrome newsprint beside a fuzzy picture of a UFO or the Abominable Snowman. His pitch is shaky. Too wordy. Too realistic. He knows it, I’m sure. You can already see the resignation in his eyes as they sweep the floor, too frightened to make contact.
All of this is because of Stephen’s glower. It’s hostile (unlike Stephen), it’s resentful (unlike Stephen), it’s overpowering (unlike Stephen).
Stephen is standing at the head of the table, Prentice and I to either side. His back is bent forward slightly, his arms straight with fists clenched and knuckles leaning into the table.
Clearly, he had been expecting more from Prentice. The glower makes that obvious enough, but even if that look hadn’t been in his repertoire, you would have been able to tell by the utter lack of emotion on his face during the pitch.
Meanwhile, I’m sitting back. I’m taking things in. I’m tilting back my chair, trying to strike a perfect balance between looking relaxed and looking totally attentive. I’m disappointed in Prentice. I’m wishing Stephen didn’t need to glower. I’m wondering if the pub we hit after work will be full of college girls.
This is the scene.
The pregnant pause continues. Prentice’s arms remain suspended for just a moment before crashing into his lap. Stephen continues to glower and rocks back and forth on his knuckles. I continue to pose.
This is how the scene continues for a few seconds. Stephen waits until the silence becomes audible. He straightens up. He straightens his tie. He straightens his shirtsleeves.
“Unacceptable,” he says. The rebuke doesn’t faze Prentice much. We are all aware that the glower is what does the talking. Stephen’s words merely present a finality to the meeting.
Stephen and I share a brief look. I want a few moments alone with Prentice. Stephen says nothing more and walks out of the boardroom.
I allow for another interval of silence. He needs to compose himself. I need to adopt a new pose. Caring. Fatherly. Interested, but not too interested. When the agreed upon amount of silence has passed, I begin:
“Come out tonight. After work.”
“I thought you were going out with Stephen.”
“I’ll ditch. He’ll understand.”
“You sure?”
“Yeah. We’ll go over some things.”
He nods and then I nod, as if something very important has passed between us. As if we are soldiers saying final goodbyes, preparing to charge. This is our inflated sense of importance. Prentice leaves.
I fold my hands and place them on my stomach. This is a brief moment to myself. I let my mind wander aimlessly, through a soup of convoluted images. Something occurs to me and I remove a pad of Post-It Notes from my pocket. I scribble down Investment banker covered in snakes. I hold up the note, look at it. A dream, maybe? Something metaphorical, surely. It probably won’t fit anywhere, but I return the note to my pocket all the same. Sometimes, you never know.

It is Friday. On Fridays I leave the office at five sharp no matter what. Of course, I’ve set my laptop’s clock four minutes fast, so that when it reads 5:00, it is really 4:56. I’m out the door by 4:58. This is my little act of rebellion.
I tell Stephen the bad news, that I want to help Prentice out a little. I tell him his presence would probably make Prentice nervous, that it’s best if Prentice and I go out alone. Stephen, of course, understands. Anything for the paper. This is not Stephen’s motto, because he would never say it. Even so, it is what he believes.
“You’re still coming tomorrow, right?”
Unfortunately. “Yeah. I’ll be there,” I answer. Stephen’s son, Nathan, has won the lead role in his high school’s production of Othello. It premieres tomorrow night. Stephen believes that Nathan is going to make it big as an actor. I believe that Nathan is the only black kid in his drama club.
“And you’ve set up the Blair interview, right?”
“Yeah. It’s done.” I have a Monday morning interview with Eric Blair, who always gives us good stories. Ones we can’t think up on our own. He wears aluminum foil deflector beanies to keep the government out of his head. Monday, he wants to talk to me about the microscopic black helicopters that Big Brother has inserted into his bloodstream.
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow. Seven. You’ve got directions to the school?”
“Yeah.”
“And you’ll be there?”
Bye, Stephen. “Yeah.”
“Good. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Yeah.”
“Seven.”
Bye, Stephen. “Yeah.”
“Alright. You have a good night. Talk some sense into Prentice.”
“Yeah. Bye, Stephen.”
I turn briskly, walk away from the office. Sometimes, Stephen will call after me, try to continue the already dead conversation. Tonight I am lucky. I stop in front of Prentice’s office. He is sulking, staring at the wall. This is what he does when he is depressed and wants to talk about it, but wants someone else to initiate the conversation.
“Are you feeling depressed, Prentice?”
“No, I’m fine.”
“No, you’re not. You’re doing your depressed thing.”
Prentice frowns. “What? I don’t have a depressed thing.”
“Yes, you do. You were doing it. You were staring at your wall.”
“I was thinking.”
“About being depressed?”
“About a better headline.”
“What did you come up with?”
Prentice smiles. “Nothing. Too depressed.”
“I’ll meet you in three hours. The usual place?”
Prentice nods.
I am late. I don’t make it out of the office until 4:59.

NaNo Begins and Your Favourite Authors

And I'm already falling behind. Really - I should have 450 words by now if I want to stay on pace for the 50,000. For the next month, you should probably expect this blog to be almost entirely about muddling my way through the event - but I'll try to spice things up with a little variety every so often.

One thing I won't have time for is the Read of the Week. Scouring the net for a really good SF story generally takes an hour or two of my time each week, and I'll need all the extra time I can get for writing. So, here's what I propose: I'd like everyone to leave a comment in this post telling me who they're top two or three favourite SF writers are. I'll take the four most popular and seek out some short works by them (it's not too hard, if you know where to look). So, who are your faves?

Now, I have to go dash off my opening scene before work.