One of the last things I do in the writing process of any new story or novel is to read my work aloud. It helps me find missing words, typos and, um, poorly worded sentences such as “He panted heavily in her rear.” I mean, technically not a typo but….
Reading my works aloud also helps me to figure out how I want to pronounce weird names and such when I read in front of live audiences as opposed to the mannequins I keep stored in my basement. With my new book, Has the World Ended Yet?, I decided to skip that with one of the stories: “We Are All Ghosts,” a sort of Lovecraftian superhero tale. It’s a bit long for readings and hard to pull sections out without over-explanation. Also, there’s a lot of strange language in it, such as “ia ia ftagn” and my own takes on Lovecraftian language: “Wgahst’nar phl’unk!” So I decided just to never read that one aloud. Pronunciation problems solved.
And then the other day I talked to the woman who will be recording the book for an audio version and she had some questions.
“On page 168, how do you pronounce….” she asked.
“Right. Urbl’phhar mypr’ttsh urbl’phhar,” I said. “Like it sounds.”
OK, I should have thought about the audio versions. Live and learn.
Anyway, we figured out an approach for pronouncing the unpronounceable. It went something like this:
“Just do your own take on it,” I said. “But make your own take sound like a fish. An angry fish – you know, deep tones, like the Deep Old Ones. Burbling and moaning. None of that high-pitched Dory fish stuff. This is the voice of a fish that has seen it all and knows everything ends in tentacles.”
So there you have it. Always read your works aloud, if for no other reason than to avoid awkward conversations about your sanity. I get enough of those at home already.
(Re the image: It’s called Into the Depths by Patrick Reilly, and it’s one of those illustrations that haunts me.)
Followers of this blog likely know by now that I’m a fan of Sebastien de Castell’s Greatcoats series, about a ragtag band of wandering magistrates trying to save a fallen land. And I’m not just a fan because of that one time de Castell bought me beach French fries! These are damned fine books – solid fantasy novels written by a literary master who’s concerned about real-life issues of honour, ethics and what makes a person good rather than just law-abiding.
Now de Castell has a new series out – the Spellslinger books. They follow the misadventures of Kellen, a young man in a society where almost everyone is a mage – except Kellen. Sounds like high school, doesn’t it? It has certainly has that YA vibe about it, but like the Greatcoats series there’s plenty of politics, interrogations of history, ethics, philosophy and Issues with a capital I here. De Castell is that rare kind of writer who tells a good tale while also exploring the things that matter in real life to all of us. I don’t want to talk about the first book in the series too much because the plot is all about the twists and surprises. I’ll just say if you like your fantasy worlds complex and your characters flawed and fallen, then you’ll want to read Spellslinger. Plus, there’s a talking, homicidal squirrel cat! (I’m personally convinced it’s a stand-in for de Castell himself, but that’s a subject for another blog post….)
I don’t know what to say about to say about the Terry Goodkind cover controversy, other than it seems in poor taste. I’ll just say again how happy I’ve been with all the covers of my books, and how great and respectful the publishers have been. I wouldn’t have any books without the covers!
It’s that time of year again in Canada: PLR! I’ve written about it before, but it bears repeating again, so here’s my original post once more.
I recently received a payment cheque from the Canada Council’s Public Lending Right program, which compensates Canadian authors for the free public access to their books in libraries across the country. I always love receiving this cheque, for a few reasons. One, I always forget it’s coming, so it’s an awesome surprise! Two, it comes after Christmas, when I need it the most. Three, it keeps me writing.
The third reason is perhaps the most important one. The stated goal of the PLR program is to pay authors for works they’ve already written and that other people get to read for free, courtesy of our great library system. But it’s more than just compensation: it’s also an investment. Those cheques that get sent out at the beginning of every year help writers across the country keep writing. The books we’re getting paid for? Those books are already done and published. The PLR money we get for them helps buy us time to write our next books. Every spring, I get a cheque in the mail that makes me think, “To the writing cave!”
So thanks, PLR and Canada Council! And thanks to all you readers who keep buying books and checking them out of libraries! Without you, I’d just be a crazy person locked in a room arguing with imaginary people.
A few years back, I wrote The Warhol Gang, which featured gun theme parks, viral shooting videos and rampaging shooter drills – among other things. At the time, I worried that maybe I was overdoing it a little, that readers would find it unbelievable. I never truly imagined a world where we’d be watching livestreams of school massacres, a world where people argue it’s their human right to own weapons of war intended for no other purpose than killing large numbers of fellow human beings quickly. We now live in a strange, broken and disintegrating reality where school children go on nationally televised livestreams to beg for their right to live and their leaders refuse them that simple request – or attack them with bizarre conspiracy theories that the children are not really children, that they are crisis actors. Imagine being told that you do not exist because someone else has fantasies that they are some sort of weekend Rambo.
It’s mainly an American problem, but it’s not contained there. Madness, fear and anxiety know no borders. I recently asked my oldest son what he had done at school that day and he told me his class had a hiding drill, where he hid in his cubby in case a gunman attacked the school. A six-year-old boy learning how to hide from a gunman because people want to own weapons of war.
I wish it were fiction.
I wish people found this unbelievable instead of acceptable.
After each mass shooting happens, I usually find myself looking for solace in art. I look for creation in the world rather than destruction. I saw this in my feeds and it spoke to me, although I wouldn’t exactly call it solace:
Now we wait for the next one.
One of my favourite events from last year was the Vancouver Writers Festival (check out the Facebook Live I did), where I appeared with Lydia Kwa and Sean Cranbury to read from my new book, Has the World Ended Yet? Great festival, fascinating writers and thoughtful audiences!
Just because the festival is over doesn’t mean it has to end, though! Alli Vail is currently reading all the books from the 2017 Vancouver Writers Festival and posting thoughts about them at Reading Writers Fest. Of course, I am partial to the entry on my book.
This is wacky and weird and I kind of loved it. The answer to the question: Has the World Ended Yet (great question, aside from being the title of the book), is yes. We probably just haven’t figured it out. The ending is just out of sight, until it’s not.
It was a busy weekend of writing in old Apocalypse HQ! I finished the rough draft of a new Cross short story, and it was a fun ride. I’ve now got around 35,000 words in Cross stories – maybe the next book will be a story collection!
I also finished the rough draft of a new stand-alone holiday story. I’ll let you know more about that when it finds a home.
In other news, Google’s Arts and Culture app thinks I look like former president Gerald Ford. Which is interesting because I just listened to the Radiolab podcast about Oliver Sipple, who saved the life of Ford in an attempted assassination only to have his life ruined by his act of heroism.
Probably a story in there somewhere….
Things changed a couple of years ago, when I turned forty-three. I was well past cool by any stretch of the imagination. My wife and I had a ridiculous spread of four children between us, ranging in age from six to sixteen. Try finding a Friday night movie everyone can agree on. So I said, “What about a game?”
And suddenly, I was back. I unboxed my archives of maps and notes, all of it carefully annotated in a fourteen-year-old’s attempt at calligraphic hand. Drawings, stories, rules, maps; it was all there, waiting. And to my surprise, everyone loved it. Even my wife. The former track star was now an elven assassin. In fairness, she played mostly out of love for everyone at the table, but she played and had a great time. We all did.
Odd fact I just realized: when I play paper-and-pen RPGs I almost always play warriors, but when I play video games like World of Warcraft I almost always play mages or other ranged classes. I don’t really have an explanation for this other than maybe I’m antisocial and like to keep people at a distance?
Reading some of the stories, etc. I mentioned in my last On the Bookshelf post reminded me of a couple of Neil Gaiman short stories that are among my favourite tales of all time. So I went back and gave them a re-read this weekend. Check them out if you haven’t read them already:
- “I, Cthulhu, or, What’s A Tentacle-Faced Thing Like Me Doing In A Sunken City Like This (Latitude 47° 9′ S, Longitude 126° 43′ W)?” – It’s pretty much what the title says it is.
- “A Study in Emerald” – If you like the creepy, supernatural Royal Family in my Cross books, you’re going to like this. It may also appeal to Sherlock Holmes fans and other troubled sorts.
This seems like a good time to point out I have a Cthulhu story in Has the World Ended Yet?, my latest book. There are also a couple of demon investigator stories featuring Molox, a demonic processing clerk, and Malachi, his impetuous imp companion. I’d kind of like to turn those stories into a book at some point, but more Cross stories are calling first.