Monday, November 9, 2015

I awoke today

I awoke today and abandoned writing. I knew in my waking state that I had no talent and no hope. I groaned and rose to meet another day. I drank my first coffee and ate a bagel.  I knew I was a writer now and would push my way through the irrelevancies and annoyances and defeats that are life. I floated now, buoyed only by the need to write and the tantalizing small respites of daily life.

Friday, November 6, 2015


I lie listening to rain on a roof at the end. Parts of my body ache and hurt. The sound of rain soothes and matches my heart. Life, as the large multitude of those wiser than I have noted, is a funny business. I am an untenable character in this, condemned to see holistically in a place where others do not. I see those walking through this forest of dark and light in all their wonderful complexity while others seem to see only narrow paths. I see dips and curves and sun and rain and warmth and cold that chills the soul. I wonder at this curse visited on me to see the whole.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Round Pegs and Square Holes


I am a misfit. There, I said it. I cannot recall a time in my life where I felt easy in this or any place. I observed, quietly. Slowly I learned to build a cone of invisibility about my heart and soul.  I wrote poetry when young. I stopped then began all over when old.  This review of English World War 1 poets  resonates - as it stresses that the misfitery of the poet's heart transcends mere circumstance.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Beginning (my incoherent mind)

The sun glinted on the river. The water’s surface was still, but Simon could see deep currents telling lies about its placid face. The sun felt warm, delighting the cool breeze that touched his body.  He could hear voices, calling, laughing, teasing on the other side.  A house looked out from a balcony, added precariously by a home owner, holding figures happily touching and playing with each other.

I can't decide what to do with this paragraph.  Another story, same character? Or one of the alternate versions of The Man who fell from the Sky'......Hmmmmm....... maybe that's it......hmmmmm

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Experienced authors know all about metadata. I was only vaguely aware of its use and importance. Mostly I grabbed a few keywords out of the jumbled mess that is my brain because the site or service insisted I fill in their metadata section. On Pinterest I discovered this succinct explication.
I will go back and redo my metadata now.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Thinking in Pictures

While surfing around Facebook today, reading the American Left bashing the American Right and vice versa, I came across an interesting post.  One person had said something to the effect that language is necessary for thought.  I agreed until I read a response which noted that there are cases of individuals who think in pictures.

This got me to considering my poetry.  My poems are word translations of sensations.  At this very moment I am sitting in my home office on a chair that is ramshackle using a desk that was the cheapest of the cheap in 1992. A breeze and sounds are coming in the window and cooling my back and my mind.

soft sounds floated on breezes cool
caressing his back
a thousand little fingers reached through his shirt
he shivered deliciously at such delight

This little prosy poem is an attempt to translate the sensation into words and share it with others.  But I had no 'thoughts' as I felt this sensation - only the sensation. And only poetry can translate 'thinking in sensations' for others to experience.

The Man who fell from the Sky is a long form translation of sensations using words, photos, colours... whatever I can place in the eBook. This means most of the advice blogs from successful authors on how to write or market or package a book are useless, or nearly so, to me.  I am not a good story teller but I am a good sensation translator. Sigh.  A poet I guess with the impoverished lifestyle that comes with that affliction.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Multimedia eBooks and Traditional Publishing

Traditional publishers are attempting to integrate eBooks into their overall publishing program.

 I read Mike Shatzin's blog regularly where these efforts are frequently detailed. His July 23 post was focussed on Amazon and its costs and benefits to both authors and publishers (meaning mostly the big 5, with a nod to small publishers), but a throwaway comment by him on multimedia eBooks caused me to respond. Here is his summary of multimedia eBooks:

Edward, people have been looking for the multiple-media, transmedia, etc. formula for 30 years! Voyager Expanded Books was doing this in 1990. The consumers don't buy, at least not in any numbers. "Successes" have been isolated one-offs. I have been ridiculing the idea for three decades and haven't been proven wrong yet. Someday I may be, I suppose. But in the meantime I will stick to the notion that the straight reading form is extremely hard to improve upon from a commercial perspective. It is both what people actually want AND vastly cheaper to both produce and distribute (smaller file sizes). Good luck with your experimentation, but I hope you enjoy the process because "success" is very unlikely.

My point was that the attempts at multimedia were always ill-advised.  Multimedia meant for publishers producing a standard text only book, then adding in multimedia here and there to 'enhance' the text.  

My idea is that multimedia has to be integral to the experience. I had at this point in our brief exchange a minor epiphany.  Here is what I said:

Hi Mike :
I agree with you actually. I understand that your business is advising publishers, especially in the difficult world of eBooks and the disruption caused by the digital revolution. All I am saying is that multimedia books (with the exception of college textbooks), are not really 'books' at all. I think the chances of earning money are virtually nil - that multimedia eBooks are more akin to works of art than books to be read. I can imagine a world where the sort of agent who represents a painter also handles multimedia eBooks and you find them in art shows and galleries, not bookstores, electronic or bricks and mortar. The exception of textbooks is where I do not understand what is happening, or rather not happening. I teach History and freshman sophomore textbooks are already and have been for many years print versions of multimedia - photographs, textboxes, text, footnotes, links. Columbia University Press and the American Historical Society teamed up to produce multimedia eBooks, but they were stupidly expensive to produce and to sell, which I do not understand. One of my projects is to produce such a book, using Apple's free software. There you might see me, someday.

His short reply said it all:  Complex media can make complete sense for teaching purposes. They just don't have much mass commercial appeal.  

Mike Shatzkin has been in the book business for many, many years as was his father.  His bread and butter is advising traditional publishers on means to navigate the digitization of text only mass market books.  He and  his industry are blind to anything else. Perhaps he is correct that no decent living can be made from this, but I think he is blind to the future

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Art of Fiction from The Paris Review

Some time ago I began to read articles published in The Paris Review that were posted on Facebook - when I have the money I will subscribe as I have found plenty I wish to read carefully and with some joy.  They have been running a series called The Art of Fiction.  Today I am racing through No. 18, an interview by George Plimpton (one of the journal's founders) of Ernest Hemingway.  It seems that the working style of successful writers has no common factors other than they write every day.

Here is a quote which caught my attention:

“that though there is one part of writing that is solid and you do it no harm by talking about it, the other is fragile, and if you talk about it, the structure cracks and you have nothing.”

This caught my eye. If I spend any time talking about writing technique, that is time I do not spend writing.  I have little enough space in my hectic life as it is and cannot afford to squander what  I can manage. 

Here is the link:

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Character Study 1

Red hair.  Well, as we all know, red hair is actually orange, but an orange that burns your eyes like red. Red-haired people have always been thought to be choleric - quick to anger, intemperate, dangerous to be around. Or exciting, depending on your predilections. A boy man lives up the street from me.  He has red hair. I have heard him speak. He does have a temper and foul language to match. I grew up with foul language as my Dad had a rich vocabulary of that sort, which I inherited (Damn it all to hell!  I have to grab Strunk & White to see if I should have said ‘which’ not ‘that’).  (Changed it! Not because I grabbed S & W, but because I had ‘that’ just prior and that is a writing speed bump ‘no-no’)
Where was I?  
Oh yes, Master Choleric down the street.  He is handsome, lithe and arrogant. He moves like a red panther. He does not clump along, but insinuates his way along the street and up stairs and into cars. A certain kind of girl will not be able to resist his sensuous danger.  He is a cat man, ready to purr or ready to claw, one never knows which.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Writing History

This is is just a quick post before I get on with what I must. Song time ago, I was in a meeting with a university Dean. The Dean happened to be a professor in the English Department. Somehow the issue of footnotes came up in a passing reference. I don't recall her actual words, but I do remember vividly her snort of contempt for old-fashioned footnotes when modern in-text citations were used by all scholars except historians.  This bubbled around in me for some time. To me, in-text citations are like speed bumps in reading. History in its essential and I would say, proper form, is a story, seething to be read as literature.  Oh, I know, social science with its pseudo and crypto English has infected the published work of historians but this pretence at science does not alter the underlying reality.  Historians always work with incomplete evidence and must fill the gaps with imagination. I admit this is carefully corralled imagination; one must not allow the horses to bolt, but imagination all the same. I hope therefore, that we historians never succumb to this wrong-headed fad in theHumanities  to pretend we are scientists.  Long live the story!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Character Study

Red hair.  Well, as we all know, red hair is actually orange, but an orange that burns your eyes like red. Red-haired people have always been thought to be choleric - quick to anger, intemperate, dangerous to be around. Or exciting, depending on your predilections. A boy man lives up the street from me.  He has red hair. I have heard him speak. He does have a temper and foul language to match. I grew up with foul language as my Dad had a rich vocabulary of that sort, which I inherited (Damn it all to hell!  I have to grab Strunk & White to see if I should have said ‘which’ not ‘that’).  (Changed it! Not because I grabbed S & W, but because I had ‘that’ just prior and that is a writing speed bump ‘no-no’)

Where was I?  

Oh yes, Master Choleric down the street.  He is handsome, lithe and arrogant. He moves like a red panther. He does not clump along, but insinuates his way along the street and up stairs and into cars. A certain kind of girl will not be able to resist his sensuous danger.  He is a cat man, ready to purr or ready to claw, one never knows which.

Why I don't read Steinbeck

This was posted on facebook today. I lay in bed with one eye open and read the whole thing. Snippets of letters and things by Steinbeck on writing.  There was an introduction by the magazine author but both eyes closed as I skimmed that part. But Steinbeck! I read every word. Then I wrote a brief letter to a friend and now I am writing this. (Be right back- my bagel popped in the toaster and hunger MUST be satisfied first)

Ok. I might write indistinctly as I have bagel in my mouth. I have a terrible weakness.  If I read something then go to write, I write in the style of the person I have just read. I vanish and another inhabits me and takes control. And Steinbeck was a very great writer. I wrote the letter to my friend as Steinbeck. I began this blog post as Steinbeck. But! As I write along, spewing nonsense (he was right about that), I start to take back control. 

Anyway, that's why I don't read Steinbeck.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

New Wine into old wineskins

I rather like that snippet from the Bible as I have long felt it applies to eBooks.  The eBook has to date been treated by legacy publishers as an online copy of a print book.  These publishers cannot quite figure out why their new wine is not working in their old wine skins.  Yet the possibilities are much greater than this if one uses new wineskins.

I began The Man who fell from the Sky six years ago by writing disconnected snippets - chunks or modules is the term introduced in this blog post and this one.  I intended from the outset to have a core story with links to side stories.  For example, my main character Simon earns his living writing children's books.  So I wrote some of those stories, which I intend and have intended always to be linked so a viewer of the core story could make a hyper space jump to the children's story, or to any other stories that fall off the dusty shelves of my mind. I am also writing adult side stories to be linked and also poetry. Each 'module' or 'chunk' will be available separately or as a whole.

This also applies to my temporarily put on the back burner History, Religion & Society. Way back when, I pitched the idea to a university press who had sent their Acquisitions Editor to the University of Guelph.  He liked the idea and gave me guidelines to submit a full proposal.  When I asked him about doing it as an eBook, he said, well, sometimes we take older books and produce pdfs that we put online.  I walked away from this as this book should be a multimedia, interlinked eBook - as should all History books.

Friday, March 6, 2015

A few quick thoughts on editing

I am doing final edits on a manuscript I am putting up on Smashwords.  Smashwords insists the you use .doc files (not .docx, not Pages, not WordPerfect). I had forgotten two important things about Microsoft programs, but did not experience a disaster.  One: Word files do not automatically save as you work - you have to remember to save manually.  And by 'save as your work', I mean in Pages it is always saved - there is no gap or time lapse between edits and saving - what you type or alter is saved. Secondly and not nearly as important - I forgot also that when you open a Word doc to resume work, the cursor does not appear at the last place you were working as it does in Pages.

Monday, February 16, 2015

What to do?

What do you do when you wake in the night and face the harsh truth that you cannot write?  Do you take solace in the fact that often bad writers make piles of money?  I know I can write histories with a bit of a flourish and I know too that one in ten of my poems are not horrid. So my attempt at fiction is filled with holes I will soldier on and someday finish but for now I think I will put it aside until I can hold my nose long enough to end it. Who knows I might join the ranks of bad writers who make a fortune!

In the light of morning I continued thinking about this.  I expect that the final product of this foray into standard fiction will be ok.  And, this morning, I reminded myself that this was an experiment. I didn't think I could write straight fiction - plot, characters, etc. I can, but not well. I chose to write an erotic romance as a female friend once commented on a snippet of erotica I had written and told me I should write for women.  Well, each draft of this experiment has been met with a list of problems - which I fix, then comes the next list.  This is usual of course in writing as writing is rewriting.  But I now realize that straight fiction is not for me.  I had difficulty coming up with a 'beginning-middle-end plot; I have had my greatest difficulty in constructing lifelike characters. The writing itself was fun - I am very good, if not excellent at a turn of the phrase, of making people feel physicality through writing.  I suppose that is why I am better at poetry and that form I prefer, the prose/poem, in multimedia.  And of course, histories supply me with the plot and the characters ready made!

So, I will do the final draft but stop the changes there, and get it up on Smashwords or the iBook Store in the next week or so. And that will be that for straight fiction for me.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Writing death

Often in the morning as I slowly wake I contemplate I meditate on death.  How, I wonder, do you write this effectively?  I was suicidal once but now I am in my 60s death will come soon enough without my urging it on.  I can relax and wait the coming of my final lover. Imagining death, however, is like watching a good movie or listening to great music without being in the movie or making the music yourself. So I lay here this morning writing a little story of death and death came to life in two ways: one in this blog post and the second in this poem.

Cold beauty
In my mouth tantalizing hard cold steel
I hold you there with trembling eager hands
Not daring to pull your delicious curving trigger
But longing for that tender release 
I run my tongue along and taste the closeness and bitter tang
That I hold so dear in my hands

Saturday, January 31, 2015

the new media

Well the new media is not so new, of course.  But this blog post by Mike Shatzkin, along with this CBC News article and my discovery of Daniela Andrade and the whole indie/online music scene got me thinking about the rumbling, rolling ongoing earthquake in the creative world.

Firstly, here is Mike Shatzkin's blog post: No the Big Five are not a Cartel by Mike Shatzkin
Secondly, the CBC article:   Indie Music labels and streaming music
Thirdly:  Daniela Andrade:  Daniela Andrade on YouTube

Mike Shatzkin, for those who do not know of him, has been reading books on mobile devices since the days of the Palm Pilot, but  his working life over five decades has been and is spent in various capacities, mostly advising,  for large publishers - usually as an expert on sales and marketing though his first job was working in a book store. He argues in this blog post that the big five publishing companies are innovative and reactive to new technological realities and more importantly do have the author in mind. Probably true,  as true as it can be for a large company heavily invested in old technology (print).  Where my eyebrows went up, was where he admitted that the acquisitions editors for big publishing companies, and their various imprints had no interest in books that would only sell a few thousand. They are, he admitted, mass market book factories (my term, not his).  I suppose this is his way of explaining why so many subsequent best sellers had a very hard time finding anyone to publish their first novel. This is a very long list.  Today, self-publishing in the eBook world, or even as print books for Amazon or Lulu, means none of these potentially classic books are missed or overlooked.  But, my point is that he admits his clients, the big 5, are interested only in mega sellers.  They are thus leaving out the vast majority of authors - probably the 99%.  This tells me they have yet to figure out this new world.  and 'they' in this sentence include the big name authors as well as their publishers. Anyone today can be both author and publisher all rolled into one and the big authors and big companies do not like this.

Now why did I link to the CBC article on indie music labels being hurt by streaming? Well, again, it is a case of the big names, both musicians and labels against the new technology.  The indie labels are small enough to be flexible and find a new place in this new media - which if you read the article carefully, you find they are doing.  The big labels stick DRM onto their product and the big artists complain publicly about piracy.

The third article presents a truly indie artist - a young, talented woman who has eschewed the old way of making music and becoming known entirely.  She makes her own videos and shows them on YouTube, or puts her music freely on SoundCloud.  She gets tens of thousand and even hundreds of thousands of views and downloads, all free. She then can sell to those who wish to pay.

The point of all this goes back to a discussion I participated on in Linkedin a few years ago. In one eBook group, someone asked:  If you could tell the future and you knew you would never make a living writing, would  you still write. Of the roughly two dozen who replied, only two of us said yes, as we had to write - it was a compulsion, it was part of who we are.  The remainder, the vast majority said, no, we would find some other line of work and stop writing.

It seems to me to be there are two types of creators:  those who must create, whether that be music or writing (or I imagine any sort of art) and those who have an ability but are in it to make big money only. With this new media, there is now a rumbling and a rolling of the earth underneath the feet of the big 5 publishers, the 1% of big name authors, the big recording labels, their main artists, which hides from them  an entirely new world of creativity being presented to the public, under their noses, which sniff disdainfully.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Non-linear Writing

I have a complex life, doing a number of widely different tasks in any given day, some of which are money-making and some of which are necessary maintenance.  I won't bore you with the details, but while engaged in maintenance duties, I have taken to either listening to audio podcasts or watching video podcasts while engaged in these tasks.  One of these is a series from Open Yale on late Roman and early mediaeval history presented by Paul Freedman. I am on the lecture where he introduces Gregory of Tours to his class.  He mentions two translations: one he had  his students read where the editor and translator attempted to group and organize Gregory's writing into a logical and linear fashion. The other follows the original order. That is, it lacks the sort of order many consider to be 'orderly'.  It is non-linear.  That is, Gregory of Tours might be writing about a battle in one section, then in the very next paragraph digress to a discussion of a local saint, then in the next give a pocket travelogue of a city. I have attempted this in a limited form in  a World Religions course I teach as a part time, online instructor  (an Adjunct to Americans; a Sessional Instructor to Canadians) at the University of Guelph.  There I have the usual weeks corresponding to a typical term at my university:  twelve. But I also constructed with a brilliant Instructional Designer (alas now gone from the university) a chart using the stars in the night sky to allow students to surf the course.  That is, there is a star for Bahai, for Christianity, for Islam and so on which they can click and are whisked away to that section.  I also organized these 'stars' in cultural groups. Thus, Christianity, Islam and Judaism are located near to each other, as also Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism are close to one another, and that group is near to Shinto and so on.This is very much like surfing the net. 
 This is also the essence of my long prose/poem The Man who fell from the Sky.  Hmmmm.  I might include something similar for The Man who fell from the Sky.

Friday, January 2, 2015

William Blake

This post is not really about William Blake.  But, in a way it is.  This morning while eating breakfast I began to read some of his poems from Songs of Innocence (I have a free copy on iBooks on my iPhone). His poems worked about the same as mine - that is, I am rarely entirely satisfied with any one of my poems.  I have written hundreds over the past five years, but I would guess that maybe 10 or 20 satisfy me completely.  So, that a recognized classic poet is about the same relieved me.  But, I digress.  I have assiduously avoided reading the poetry of others since I began writing the same.  I have a weak will, and knew or believed, that if I read poetry I would copy the style of each poet as I wrote. With Blake, and other older poets, I decided to take a chance, thinking that their style would be so old and formal that I wouldn't have to worry.  My chief influences from High School days of studying poetry were Leonard Cohen and Catullus - so I avoid these!  But dreary, stilted Victorian poetry carries no such worries for me. 

I read a few, then decided to look at the Wikipedia article on Blake to get an idea of the man.  I found him to be someone who burst the boundaries of convention in his time - the late 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a romantic - which I admire.  He was not a producer of standard dreary, stilted Victorian poetry. 

But, and this is the point of my post here, I realized from learning about his character that I had gone off track with my long prose-poem The Man who fell from the Sky. Yesterday, I published part of it here on this blog, after having rewritten sections and added other parts over the past week or so.  I have lost my way in it.  This work was to be a work of pure inspiration, avoiding - no not avoiding as the word 'avoid' implies deliberation.  The Man who fell from the Sky is to be a work where the voices shouting in my head pop onto the screen without any attention paid to conventions of writing, either prose or poetry.  Instead, over the past week, I have tried to shape it into a narrative, with only a few nods towards the madness I want to see there.  I am writing now a side story, as an experiment - a strictly text based, narrative bit of erotic romance.  An experiment because I didn't think I could write a strict beginning, middle, end narrative tale. I am enjoying the experiment.  But I find it has infected Sky Man.

So back to the drawing board for The Man who fell from the Sky. If someone like William Blake can spend his adult life in near penury because he refused to follow the conventions of his time in  his art, then surely a minor figure such as myself can also in this age.