Tuesday, February 28, 2006 - Immense Suckage

Sometimes, it's difficult to admit that you suck. As a writer, though, I'd like to think that it's a form of advancement when you're able to recognize your own bad writing. Back in high school, when I submitted my first story to market, I had no idea how bad it was. I'd only been writing for a couple years and simply didn't have the experience to properly gauge the quality of my writing.

So, today, as I officially take Archive off my project list, thanks to its immense suckage, I'm going to try and look at it in a positive light. On one hand, it's tough throwing something like that away. After all, I've been working on either GERA or Archive for over a year now. Funny thing is, during that time, I only managed to write about 15,000 words between the two. And that, I realize, is because they both sucked. I'd dread sitting down to write, simply because it all felt so labourious.

This isn't to say, however, that it's gone forever. I really like the new plot line that I've come up with for Archive, I just think that maybe I have to take some time away before I can concentrate on it again. One of the things I gained from participating in NaNoWriMo is that thinking about a project, but not actually writing anything down, can really strengthen one's overall view of what the project is supposed to look like in total. So, over the next couple months I'll be working on outlining (and probably re-outlining) ideas for Archive, until I've come up with something I'm really happy with so that I don't have to start this process all over again.

In the meantime, I'll be returning my attention to Mass Romantic and hopefully coming up with a few short stories.

So, who wants to commiserate with me? What's the last project you threw out due to immense suckage?

Cavan blogged at 9:39 AM | 3 comments

Monday, February 27, 2006 - RIP, Ms. Butler

It's a bad day for science fiction when it loses one of its most insightful and intelligent writers. Octavia Butler died on Friday after a fall outside her home. A Seattle paper has a nice article on her, although it does fail to note her position as one of the genre's pioneering gay writers. So, to make up for that, I'll also steer you towards this article about her and Samuel Delany.

If you haven't read it yet, I highly recommend that you check out her Xenogenesis series, which is one of the most intelligent works of science fiction that I've ever had the pleasure of reading, and is available in a nice omnibus edition titled Lilith's Brood.

Cavan blogged at 9:51 AM | 0 comments

Saturday, February 25, 2006 - Rejection #1

Rejection of the flash piece from Abyss & Apex today. Still, I was pleased that it was another one of those "good" rejections.

It was well received here, but after some thought we have decided not to accept it for publication...Specifically, lovely writing, just not quite our cup of tea.

Nice folks, those A&A editors. I'll have to submit there again sometime. Anyhow, it's off to another market now.

Cavan blogged at 5:41 PM | 1 comments

- Quake

Experienced my first earthquake last night. I was sitting on my couch doing a bit of reading when my windows started rattling loudly enough for me to get up and look out the window. Basically, it felt a lot like it feels when a jet passes close by a building (well, as close as they get to mine, anyway), except that it went on for too long for that to be the culprit.

This morning, reading the news, I see that it actually was an earthquake (not a big one - just a 4.5) that was centred about 45 kms away, over in Quebec. There wasn't any damage or any injuries caused from the earthquake, for the record. So, you know, I figure it was just a good Canadian earthquake - perfectly moderate.

Cavan blogged at 7:02 AM | 3 comments

Friday, February 24, 2006 - Archive - 1.0.3 (1)

Archive's introduction to Rodney.

This is the split second after Rodney’s knife has plunged through the hand of the man across from him. The knife digs into the table. Sticks. Secures the hand with it.
The man’s eyes are blank. They register nothing. Movement around the table has stopped. People balance in precarious mid-step positions.
Then. Screams, yells, fiery eyes, wild threats and apologies, all the dull minutiae that occurs in the moments after the person across from Rodney realizes that everything will not be alright.
Rodney removes his knife, twisting it sideways on the way out. Wipes it on the man’s sleeve.
The man cradles his hand. His voice squeaks. “Top drawer.”
Rodney pulls it open. There. Shoves the paper into his case. Walks out the front door.

Cavan blogged at 7:49 PM | 2 comments

Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - The Sacrifice

This book was one of the four assigned for my Canadian Literature class this semester. It was, by far, my favourite. The novel follows a Jewish family, as are (quite literally) stepping off the train and into the new world of Canada. The book centers largely around the family's patriarch Abraham, but also concerns itself with his son, Isaac and, eventually his grandson, Moses. The book is a pretty easy read - even the prose reads like dialogue - and Adele Wiseman so fully fleshes out her characters that it's hard not to to feel sympathy towards all of them, even when they're not being particularly nice.

To go into any more detail of the plot would, I think, spoil things, so I'll just remark that it's one of those books that explores the incongruity of different people's worlds. It's absolutely fascinating and was a pleasure to read. Check it out. (Unfortunately, the book doesn't seem to be in print any longer in the States.)

Cavan blogged at 7:35 PM | 2 comments

- The Sacrifice

This book was one of the four assigned for my Canadian Literature class this semester. It was, by far, my favourite. The novel follows a Jewish family, as are (quite literally) stepping off the train and into the new world of Canada. The book centers largely around the family's patriarch Abraham, but also concerns itself with his son, Isaac and, eventually his grandson, Moses. The book is a pretty easy read - even the prose reads like dialogue - and Adele Wiseman so fully fleshes out her characters that it's hard not to to feel sympathy towards all of them, even when they're not being particularly nice.

To go into any more detail of the plot would, I think, spoil things, so I'll just remark that it's one of those books that explores the incongruity of different people's worlds. It's absolutely fascinating and was a pleasure to read. Check it out. (Unfortunately, the book doesn't seem to be in print any longer in the States.)

Cavan blogged at 7:35 PM | 0 comments

Tuesday, February 21, 2006 - 2006 Pleasure Reading

That's right - another non-post post today.I've already got a significant portion of my 2006 pleasure reading sitting on my shelf, so I thought I'd share.

For those who don't care to count, there's 15 books there and, according to my bibliophil stats, I've read 35 novels each of the past two years. I've already polished off six so far this year, so I figure this pile will keep me going for a while.

For the record, here's what's in that pile - Lower row: Everyone In Silico - Jim Munroe, City Come a Walkin' - John Shirley, American Psycho - Bret Easton Ellis, Air - Geoff Ryman, A Place So Foreign - Cory Doctorow, Dog Soldiers - Robert Stone, Sitting Halfway Between: A Blade of Grass - Lewis DeSoto, Top Row: Schismatrix Plus - Bruce Sterling, Dyad - Michael Brodsky, Money - Martin Amis, The Tesseract - Alex Garland, Patterns - Pat Cadigan, Syrup - Max Barry, Solaris - Stanislaw Lem, Northern Suns: The New Anthology of Canadian Science Fiction.

Anyone read any of these?

Cavan blogged at 1:57 PM | 2 comments

Monday, February 20, 2006 - Meaningless Filler

A substantially increased social life (since it's spring break at school) and Olympic coverage have conspired to reduce my blogging frequency to pretty much zero lately. I apologize, but that doesn't mean I won't to it again. So, in lieu of an actual post today, I'll make a recommendation: Go to Amazon or your local music store and look up the album Over and Over by The 88.

If you're into indie rock or power pop music, you'll definitely want to check this out - it's one of the best CDs I've bought in the past two or three years (and I buy a LOT of CDs). By the way - there is no meaningless filler on this album.

Cavan blogged at 4:14 PM | 0 comments

Friday, February 17, 2006 - Heavy Weather

The massive amount of freezing rain we had here last night (the layer on my car was probably 3/4 of an inch thick - took me forever to chip it all off) and the disturbingly high winds we had today contributed to some rather nasty driving conditions in the area. Pretty much all of the highways were shut down, traffic lights were either on the fritz due to power outages or knocked down entirely, and there was even a 60 (!) car pileup (sadly, a number of deaths in that, too - so remember your winter driving skills, people). I only had to drive to and from work today, so I had it easy, although it was pretty slow going.

Anyhow, I notice that whenever I'm describing the weather in a story, it tends to be pretty similar to whatever's going on outside my window at the moment. Now, that's relatively logical - most people would agree that the weather affects their moods, so it's not surprising that it should seep into one's writing. However, a novel takes a long time to write. So, if it's set entirely during the winter and you're finished off your manuscript in July, chances are you're wishing for a little glimpse of winter at the moment. The result? Something of an idealized version of the season. Personally, in the face of, say, a snowstorm (or anything else, really, weather's just a good example for the moment), I feel I'm able to portray things very objectively, because I can see it easily. The next day, when all is quiet, and I'm continuing the scene, my descriptions tend to be a little trite. I think this has a lot to do with the idea that as a memory fades, its replaced by an archetype, ie. when you've forgotten all the specific details of that particular snowstorm, your idea of a snowstorm becomes just that - an idea of a snowstorm.

I think this applies more to general things - the commonplace, because we tend not to take much notice of them. Any thoughts on the need to be in the presence of the commonplace to correctly reflect it in writing?

Alternatively, do you ever really bother about writing weather?

Cavan blogged at 7:15 PM | 4 comments

Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - Stranger Than Fiction

Saw this news article at William Gibson's blog, who puts it succinctly with: "Can't. Make. It. Up."

Seriously, this is just bizarre. Some people made an android version of Philip K. Dick (yes, there's a picture) and as if the idea that there's an android version of PKD out there somewhere, it turns out that the android's gone on the lam. I wonder if the android had an encounter with pink laser beams?

Read the article.

Cavan blogged at 4:37 PM | 1 comments

Monday, February 13, 2006 - Photo-licious

I received my camera today and have been playing around with it a bit. The only disappointment was that it uses a male-male USB adapter, which I didn't have, so I had to take a trip to the store and relieve myself of a few dollars in order to get one. As for picture quality, well, it's actually not too bad - it's about what I'd expect from a $50 eBay camera.

And now, since I have a camera, I can engage in that most heinous of blogging trends: catblogging.

Felix says hello.

Cavan blogged at 3:57 PM | 1 comments

- Character Names

I'm up late tonight working on a short essay on Pamela and Joseph Andrews. Slow going, but it's not due till tomorrow evening, so I imagine I'll do most of it tomorrow in the morning and afternoon (as always, I am the king of procrastination).

Anyhow, someone found my site through googling "how authors get character names", or something to that effect. Despite the search results, I've never really posted on that topic before, so I thought I'd write a little about that today.

I'm one of the only writers I know who has a strong tendency not to name narrators. This is because I often write in the first person and because I want to have certain characters either a) remote, b) universal, or c) representative of something abstract. So, I have an unnamed character in Archive (the regular), an unnamed narrator in Mass Romantic, and an unnamed narrator in "Smoke and Mirrors". Strange, but it works for me.

On the topic of character name selection I tend to usually just pick a random name out of the air. In "Between Eternities", Morgan and Nina were entirely random choices, and I chose Jake as the main character's name because I'd read The Sun Also Rises a short time before. For Archive, the names are like this:
  • Rodney: Because I thought that it sounded exactly like the kind of name a professional killer shouldn't have.
  • Kat: Entirely random.
  • Jeebs: I wanted an odd name, and since he's British I decided on a take-off of Jeeves the butler.
  • Nakato: An African name meaning second of twins - I picked this one because the meaning and the structure of the name made it perfect for her role as a guide/mentor/confidante for Kat.
  • Crawford and Shae: Because the sound like conventional suburban America names, but not too conventional.
  • Tweak: Because I wanted another odd name and thought that Tweak sounded perfect for a character best described as 'adorable'.

When I'm looking for names with a certain meaning or from a certain culture, I like to frequent baby name sites, mainly BabyNamesWorld and the slightly more in-depth Behind The Name, which is better if you're looking for historical or Biblical references, instead of basic meanings. Additionally, they have a great section of names from mythology and older cultures (ie. Egyptians, Greeks, Anglo-Saxon, Roman, etc.) which I don't really use, but might be of interest for people who are writing things more along fantasy lines.

Cavan blogged at 1:01 AM | 3 comments

Saturday, February 11, 2006 - Eastern Standard Tribe

As I mentioned in my last post, I picked up this book with the idea that reading a genre novel would kickstart my work on Archive. Well, that mission was a success. Unfortunately, Doctorow's book is a solid meh.

It follows Art Berry, Canadian expatriate and member of the Eastern Standard Tribe (tribes being the Doctorow's extrapolation of user groups that congregate together over certain areas of interests - you know, the people who always hang out on IRC channels), who is working for a firm in London. A user-experience consultant (basically, he applies engineering ideas to real-world use), he's feeding a lot of bad ideas to his London firm, in order to saboutage the GMT economy. Art's a good guy, and smart, too - one day he hits on a big idea which prompts all the corporate backstabbing that takes up the bulk of this book. Frankly, there's not much there - 220 pages in large type, and no real tension ever mounts. However, the book packs a lot of interesting concepts into such a small space, and ends up being a pretty interesting read. Essentially, it's a nice description of consumer technology, circa 2012, but not much else. The fact that Doctorow finishes things off with a giant deus ex machina doesn't help things, either. Still, I had fun reading it, so there's certainly something to be said for the book.

Check it out if you think you might be interested (or if you want proof that BoingBoing isn't the only place Doctorow writes about fascinating things).

Cavan blogged at 6:22 PM | 2 comments

Thursday, February 09, 2006 - Disconnection

Even though I don't really have the time to be reading non-school related stuff, I started reading Cory Doctorow's Eastern Standard Tribe yesterday. Mostly, I did this because my work on Archive has been suffering lately, and I think it might have something to do with the fact that I haven't read any novel-length SF since last September. As a result, I've been feeling somewhat disconnected from Archive - feeling insecure about moving things along with the plot, since everything I've been reading lately has been pretty thin on plot. Also, I chose Doctorow's book because it's short - 220 pages of rather large print.

So far, thumbs up. I'm also pleased to see some similarities between my writing style and Doctorow's, which is just an added bonus.

Also, Gary Gibson points out a writing how-to book that I'd really like to get my hands on.

Cavan blogged at 9:12 AM | 1 comments

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 - Cavan's Influences: A Complete Guide

This is something of an addendum to last week's post about reading the classics. I made a point about Crime and Punishment and Frankenstein being the only two classics that really had any sort of effect on my writing. For the lack of a better post, I thought I'd write up a list of the books that have left a significant impression on me and taught me something about writing. Beside each book, I've listed what facet of my writing they helped me with. Character development is obvious. Plotting refers not just to being able to set up a plot, but also being able to maintain the correct pace and managing to keep everything tight. Setting refers not only to description of place and time, but also to things such as atmosphere. Style is also straightforward, but can include everything from wildly inventive styles to lean, spare styles.


Literary Fiction


Science Fiction

Cavan blogged at 11:33 AM | 1 comments

Monday, February 06, 2006 - Finally!

I've been manually updating my blog for almost two months now - my last post that worked properly was way back on December 6 (also the last time my RSS feed was updated), so imagine my relief when I read this on Blogger's status board:

There is one residual issue related to the outage: some legacy users have domain associations between Blog*Spot and external domains. These associations are not functional at this time.

Blogger's going out for some downtime in a little less than half an hour from now and will be gone for roughly an hour. After this, supposedly, I'll no longer have to deal with all the crap I've been putting up with for the last two months. See you on the other side.

Cavan blogged at 9:32 PM | 3 comments

Sunday, February 05, 2006 - Toys and Teaching

For the last year or so I've really been wanting a digital camera - not even necessarily a nice one, but just something I can play around with. I've finally made the plunge and bought one relatively cheap ($48.75 incl. shipping) on eBay. It's a 3.2 megapixel Polaroid that should be enough to let me shoot random pictures whenever I have the urge (so expect to see a lot of pics on this blog in the future). Plus, it looks kinda snazzy. I've seen some varying reviews of the camera's photo quality (ranging from awful to fantastic), but even if it doesn't take great pictures I won't be too concerned since I don't plan to print photos anyway. Of course, if it sucks too much to be useful, I can just resell it on eBay.

Another thing I did today, instead of reading more pressing things, was to read through Kate Wilhelm's Storyteller: Writing Lessons and More from 27 Years of the Clarion Writers' Workshop. If you have an interest in Clarion at all, it's a fascinating read - Wilhelm and her husband Damon Knight were instructers during each of the first twenty-seven years of Clarion East. Additionally, it has some of the best writing advice for amateur writers that I've ever read. Reading the submissions that I do for Apodis, Wilhelm covers the bases on pretty much all the problems that lead to my rejection of a story. So, if you're an aspiring writer, I'd recommend this as a must read, and not only for SF&F writers; most of the things discussed here are general writing tips that can be applied to any genre. The ebook is only $9.95 US - well worth the money, so get a copy for yourself.

Cavan blogged at 10:07 PM | 1 comments

Friday, February 03, 2006 - Writing Update

I completed my flash fiction piece, which I ended up calling "The Last Ad", and sent it off to Abyss & Apex. That means I'm back to working on Archive and my as-yet-untitled short story which might not make it off the ground - but at least I have a general plot outline for it now.

From the editor's desk: Another thing not to do when submitting a story to a market. Do not brag about your story. Do not tell me how great this part of it is or how well-developed this other part is. I mean, it's great that you think so - you should, you're the author, and if you don't think your story is great, you probably shouldn't be submitting it anywhere in the first place. That said, bragging in your cover letter only leads me to believe that you're conceited, and I don't like associating with conceited people. As a result, all of you've done is given me one reason to reject your story, before I've even started reading, and, therefore, your story is just going to have to be that much better for me to accept it.

Unrelated tangent: I mention this news item about Lee Tamahori, because he's set to direct a film called Next, which is based on one of my favourite Philip K. Dick shorts, "The Golden Man". And, by the sounds of it, PKD is going to have another of his stories wrecked by Hollywood - but what would you expect from a man who brought a Bond film so blatantly awful that I wanted to gouge my eyes out and followed it up with the horrible XXX sequel? Anyhow, here's hoping that his penchant for dressing up like a woman and prostituting himself gets him kicked off Next.

Cavan blogged at 8:23 PM | 1 comments

Thursday, February 02, 2006 - Clarion

So, I sent in an application for this year's Clarion Workshop yesterday. Even if I did get in, I'm not sure I'd be able to attend thanks to financial considerations, but it would still be cool to be admitted anyway. Attending Clarion is one of my big life goals, so keep your fingers crossed for me (or, if you have a spare $3000 kicking around, feel free to send it my way).

Here's the teaching lineup for 2006:

Samuel Delany: He's won two Hugos, four Nebulas and been inducted into the SF Hall of Fame. In a 1998 Locus Reader's Poll, his novel Dhalgren was ranked #35 on a list of best science fiction novels published prior to 1990. In a 1999 Locus Reader's Poll, he was ranked #39 on a list of the all-time best writers of short fiction in SF. He's published thirty novels.
Joe Haldeman: He's won five Hugos, 4 Nebulas, the World Fantasy Award, a Campbell, a Tiptree and four Locus Awards. In 1976 his novel The Forever War won the Hugo, Nebula and Locus. It's ranked #12 on the 1998 Locus Poll of best SF novels. In 1995 his short story "None So Blind" won a Hugo and Locus, and was nominated for a Nebula. 1997's sequel to The Forever War, Forever Peace, won the Hugo, Nebula and Campbell Awards.
Gardner Dozois: Dozois, who edited Asimov's Science Fiction magazine for almost twenty years, is probably the most revered editor in the business, having amassed fifteen Hugos, two Nebulas, and 31 Locus Awards. He now edits the annual Year's Best Science Fiction series.
Nancy Kress: She's won a Hugo, three Nebulas, a Campbell and a Sturgeon Award. Her novella "Beggars in Spain" won a Hugo and a Nebula and was runner-up for the Locus Award. Two years later, the novel based on that story was nominated for the Hugo, Nebula, Campbell and placed third in the Locus Awards. In Locus' 1999 short-fiction poll, she was ranked #38.
Kelly Link: Winner of the Hugo, Nebula, World Fantasy, Stoker, Tiptree and Locus Awards, she also manages the well-respected Small Beer Press. She is also one of the editors of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror series.
Holly Black: The bestselling author of the fantasy YA series The Spiderwick Chronicles, Black's 2002 novel, Tithe: A Modern Faerie Tale, was selected as one of the ALA's Best YA Books.

Personally, I'm most stoked about the idea of being able to sit down one-on-one with a guy like Dozois (well, anyone really, but especially Dozois) and have his opinion on my writing. That would rock the casbah.

Cavan blogged at 8:59 AM | 1 comments

Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - Print-On-Demand Science Fiction

I actually keep track of this for Apodis, just to see what the market looks like, but I thought I'd share it for interest's sake. This is simply a list of how many science fiction titles POD houses published in 2005. In brackets are the number of SF titles released in 2004, for the sake of comparison. Only books that have distribution are included in the tally (ie. Lulu books that didn't get an ISBN aren't here).

1. iUniverse - 308 (335)
2. PublishAmerica - 191 (200)
3. AuthorHouse - 94 (223)
4. Lulu - 71 (30)
5. Xlibris - 53 (72)
6. Booksurge - 42 (17)
7. Booklocker - 18 (7)
8. Virtual Bookworm - 11 (9)
9. Outskirts Press - 11 (1)
10. Infinity Publishing - 8 (10)
11. Trafford - 7 (19)
12. Pleasant Word - 6 (0)
13. Aventine Press - 4 (3)
14. Authors Online - 3 (2)
T15. PageFree - 2 (2)
T15. Llumina - 2 (7)
T15. Xulon - 2 (3)
T15. Cork Hill Press - 2 (1)
T19. Writer's Collective - 1 (2)
T19. Heliographica - 1 (1)
T19. Apodis Publishing - 1 (0)
T19. Wheatmark - 1 (0)
23. Protea - 0 (1)

With any luck I'll be able to move up in the rankings for 2006, since Apodis only publishes SF, and what kind of writer wouldn't want a publisher that specializes in their genre?

Cavan blogged at 7:23 PM | 0 comments


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