A project reaches completion

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This Friday (are you reading this, Ella and Jenny?) I’m going to fire off the completed manuscript for TIM REAPER to my literary agent and her assistant in London. I’m really proud of this project because I’ve had a crazy busy year with selling a house, looking at more than thirty houses, moving, stress, more stress, busy as heck at my day job and still more stress. I’ve had a ton of distractions, but it’s done  … I’m just waiting to hear back from my beta readers for any nits in the manuscript, then a quick fix and then I’ll happily email the story and get started on the next one.

TIM REAPER is a spin-off from my novel FUNERAL PALLOR. He’s a Mike Hammer-like character who is suddenly thrown into an end-of-the-world conspiracy with heavenly ramifications. There’s a hooker with a heart of gold, a hard-nosed homicide detective who has been thrown outside of her investigative comfort zone thanks to the nature of a series of murders. There’s the Vatican, having hired Reaper to stop something with apocalyptic connotations, there’s angels, demons, a hit man who may or may not be a living shadow and who has been trying to kill Tim Reaper, but Reaper is a hard guy to kill given that he isn’t exactly human. It’s a fun little romp through the streets of Halifax and the back country of rural Nova Scotia, again, I’m using a locale I’m familiar with as I lived there for a decade.

And who is TIM REAPER? Just a death spirit in human form who got kicked out of his order for starting the Spanish Flu pandemic and killing five percent of humanity back in 1918. He’s a massive, massive prick because he’s fairly amoral. He has a thing for kittens (though they have a unique reaction whenever he comes near) he likes prostitutes because women (read relationships) piss him off, freak him out or both. He smokes like a chimney, drives a Ford F-150 and he’s armed to the teeth. In short, he’s probably the most fun I’ve had with a character and I attribute this in large part to his severe lack of scruples not to mention his humanity deficit. (Both are often at odds with a built-in sense of right and wrong.) He does try to do the right thing, though often his efforts blow up in his face. He’s part mercenary, part gumshoe and one hundred percent alpha-male. He’ll work for pretty much anyone as long as they pay him and as the story evolves, he begins to discover his humanity. (There’s even some romance thrown in there!)

Will it sell? Beats me. My agent and her team will once again put me through a detailed revision process before they try to get publishers interested, but I’m pleased to say that I think it’s the best thing I’ve written so far. (I will probably say that with every completed work – writing is, after all, a craft.) My birthday is this Friday, so I am going to give myself a nice little bday present by firing the story off to my agent and then digging into my next project, THE NORTH. (I’ve got about 40K words done already, but I haven’t put any serious thought into it for more than a year. I’m going to look at my outline and see what’s feasible and what isn’t. In the meantime, I’ll look forward to doing revisions with my agent and her team and keep my fingers crossed that we can produce something a publisher will love.

It’s a windy morning. I’m off on Thursday and Friday, and this weekend is Thanksgiving weekend here in Canada. I get a bday, a wee holiday and turkey and mashed potatoes to crown everything off! Not a bad end for a project I’ve spent more than a year working on. I hope TIM REAPER finds its way to readers very soon.

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Terra Nova Review – Beware of Petulant Teenage Sons

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Fall TV season always brings a smile to my face because every once in a while, there’s a real gem of a show that captures my imagination with a solid combination of good acting, strong writing and believable plots.

Terra Nova’s premiere aired last night on FOX and the network has high hopes for this show. There’s been a trend on US network television over the past few years that I highly approve of: more science fiction and fantasy.  There have been some winners (Fringe) and some shows that started out as winners and then quickly attained a high degree of suckage (Heroes) and then there are shows that just plain sucked outright (reboot of “V”).

I really wanted to like this show. It has Spielberg’s name attached to it, so it had to be good, right? Wrong. There is so much wrong with this show, I don’t even know where to begin, but here goes:

The show starts out in the year 2149. Earth is wrecked: overpopulation, wholesale environmental collapse, all the nightmare scenarios you can think of currently being presented by Al Gore and his ilk. Aha!  Scientists discovered a rift in space-time that allows people to travel 85 million years back in time to the Jurassic period, but it’s an Earth of an alternate reality, offering a chance to save humanity. The Shannon family (father Jim, his wife Elisabeth, and their three children Josh, Maddy and Zoe) join the tenth pilgramage of settlers to Terra Nova, the first human colony on the other side of the temporal doorway. (This after Jim (a cop) spends a couple of years behind bars for punching out a cop after authorities search their home amid suspicion of an unauthorized birth of a third child. Somehow Jim managed to break out of prison and into the super defended big time high tech gateway to the past complex with the aforementioned third child hidden in a backpack, but hey, anything can happen in the future, right?)

So they make it to the colony intact. Jim is called to the carpet by the Commander Nathaniel Taylor (played by Stephen Lang who last I watched in the god-awful Ted Turner produced civil war drama Gods and Generals) he’s questioned and is assigned to become a gardener, of all things. Let’s see, oh, Jim has a son who apparently hates his father for having gone to jail, so insert petulant stereotypical teenage male here, and the son hooks up with some other teens (on his first day in prehistoric Earth) to go OTG (outside the gate) and spend the afternoon, you guessed it, drinking. Hijinks ensue.

Jim gets a job working for Taylor as a cop after Jim thwarts an assassination attempt  on Taylor by a “Sixer” – a person from a rival colony of humans that broke off from the sixth pilgrimage. (Sixers have a nefarious plot to do … something. We don’t know who the leader of the Sixers might be, but Taylor’s son went missing a few years back and I suspect he’s the leader of the Sixers.)

So anyway, back to the drinking teens. They decide its time to head back to the safety of the colony but someone has taken their power packs from their hummer of the future. Who was it? Well, Sixers of course. (They were then promptly dispatched by some poorly CGI’d Velociraptor wanna-be dinos save for one who is bleeding to death in the back of the Sixer hummer of the future.) The teens head over to the Sixer hummer, find the bleeding guy and are attacked by the aforementioned CGI’d Velociraptor wanna-be dinos. Taylor sees the teens on a security camera recording from earlier in the day when they went OTG, a search party is dispatched. One of the teens has a meltdown and flees from the hummer only to be nearly eaten by the dinos. She is saved by Taylor’s team (which includes Jim and Jim’s wife who is a doctor.) The team eventually finds the irresponsible teens and rescues them. (This after the one teen who is too skinny for meat eating dinosaurs to eat is actually dragged out of the hummer thingy by a Velociraptor wannabe. Oh, did I mention the hungry dinosaur instead of eviscerating the teen only chews on the tee’s ankle. The teen is able to walk on said mauled ankle/leg moments later. Weird, that.)

Oh.

Dear.

God.

This show has so much wrong with it (including mysterious symbols scratched into some rocks that look like mathematical equations) that I have to wonder if the show was aired purposefully to piss off even moderately intelligent people. The worst part is this: it’s a great premise that could have been spectacular. Instead, the writers and producers introduced utterly predictable stereotypical characters and hey, when you go back in time because you’re admitting that humanity has screwed the pooch with its wars, guns, pollution, etc, then it makes sense to have humanity carry on with those same behaviors that so screwed them 85 million years in the future!

Seriously, they could have made this show fantastic by simply showing how colonists survive! I mean, there are giant freaking dinosaurs everywhere, right? Just plain surviving would have been enough, but no. No, we have to water down the show with the same old boring crap that drives a geek like me nuts.

So, there you have it. I officially hate Terra Nova. Mostly because it’s the same old suburban crap only 85 million years in the past. It’s Land of the Lost meets Lost meets dysfunctional family of the future gone time traveling. It was a time-traveling let-down of epic proportions.

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What will it take to get young people reading ebooks?

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It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. We already know that a growing number of young people aren’t reading, but at the same time we’ve seen remarkable publishing success in a few notable book franchises that are aimed at middle grade and young adult readers. As 2011 has progressed, we’ve seen an explosion in eBook sales, Amazon’s Kindle is selling faster than they can build them and there’s the usual refrain about the death of so-called “traditional” publishing. So let’s think about what would happen were electronic devices to finally replace print as the medium of choice for reading. In other words: who’s your market, baby?

It’s pretty clear that a growing number of adults are buying the Kindle or similar devices, but e-readers haven’t yet reached anywhere near critical mass among young people. Partly because they don’t have over a hundred bucks to shell out for one, but also because there are competing electronic devices that kids are using on a daily basis – smartphones, iPads and laptops. Personally, I would never read a book on an iPad because the lit screen would drive me nuts and give me a grinding headache, but is that device the one that would tap into the huge market for young adult readers?

Or … is an A-list author like Stephanie Meyer going to put out her next epic tome exclusively on an electronic device? You see, this one is more plausible in my view because there might be more money to be made that way. Her agent could strike an exclusive deal with Amazon, for example, to publish exclusively via Kindle and the fact that her brand is well-established might drive parents to buy e-readers for their kids. Alternatively perhaps even a “themed” Kindle with a groovy cover/case that is branded to look like the books – the mind truly boggles.

My bet is on Amazon signing up established brands in Young Adult and marketing exclusively to teens in a cool looking book/Kindle package. The author will make more money because of the amended royalty formula for ebooks and parents will be rushing to Amazon’s website to buy their little darlings the latest themed gadgetry.

Or not. I’m just speculating here, but it seems to me this is a very real scenario, and one we might see withing the next couple of years. Whether this would drive the yet to be tapped-into kids ebook market remains to be seen, but one thing is for certain – if it’s an untapped market, someone will figure out a way to access it.

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Automatic weapons, zombies and YA fiction

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You gotta love WikiPedia because there’s a definition for everything. Today I’m blogging about dystopian books and if you go with the WikiPedia definition, I have to wonder if my next project is going to fit in there accordingly.

A dystopia (from Greek: δυσ-, “bad, ill”, and Greek: τόπος, “place, landscape”; alternatively cacotopia,[1] or anti-utopia) is the idea of a society in a repressive and controlled state, often under the guise of being utopian, as characterized in books like Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four. Dystopian societies feature different kinds of repressive social control systems, various forms of active and passive coercion. Ideas and works about dystopian societies often explore the concept of humans abusing technology and humans individually and collectively coping, or not being able to properly cope with technology that has progressed far more rapidly than humanity’s spiritual evolution. Dystopian societies are often imagined as police states, with unlimited power over the citizens.

I’m writing THE NORTH  – my take on a post-apocalyptic nightmare world where a group of teens in the army reserves are heading north to the southwest shore of Hudson Bay. Oh … and there are zombies. Lots of them, actually. It’s why they’re leaving the city and going hatches down in two armored personnel carriers appropriately dubbed “Ark One” and “Ark Two”.

I’ve already written one YA novel that my literary agent has sent off to various publishers, but I’m still a relative newby when it comes to writing for young people in middle or high school. I’m struggling with the fact that we have three elements in this book, namely:

  1. A dozen teen army reservists
  2. Zombies
  3. Guns

There’s probably going to be sex in there somewhere too, I’m just trying to get my head around how to write it in a way that doesn’t cause a prospective editor to cringe or worse, impart their own values on my attempt to write something tasteful and, well, accurate. But back to the guns.

Because it’s a teen militia that is armed to the teeth and they have to travel thousands of miles across zombie infested western and northern Canada, it stands to reason there’s going to be some shooting going on. And really, when it comes to zombies and guns, you just know it’s going to be violent and bloody and not everyone is going to make it. Euthanasia comes to mind as well, because my characters are going to have to make some very difficult choices if they are to survive.

Okay, so the book is going to be controversial. Whatever.

I know there’s a ton of dystopian stuff in bookstores right now on the heels of The Hunger Games. I don’t think my project is dystopian when you get right down to it – more post apocalyptic. The binding force for my characters is summed up in one word: survival. But how does one survive or how can one conceive of survival when the world as you knew it has burned to a cinder and there’s a plague of walking dead that will literally consume your flesh? Moreover, I’m not writing something to cash in on the dystopian trend – what I aim to write is, if I can be so bold, The Great Canadian Zombie Novel. I don’t think there has been one yet – I could be wrong.

Maybe it’s horror, I don’t know. It’s hard to classify something in a publishing world that loves a good label.  To that end, I’ve decided I’m going to just let loose and write the best, most accurate sounding book I can write. I’m a former soldier, I know a few things or two about automatic weapons and small unit tactics. I know a hell of a lot about winter warfare as well, having spent a good portion of my younger years trudging through the back forty in northern Alberta amid snow, bitter cold and seemingly eternal darkness.

So … off I go on this journey into Canada’s north. I’m about 40,000 words into the project right now, having written in drips and drabs for the better part of the last year. (I was devoting most of my spare time to TIM REAPER which should be in my agent’s hands by the end of the month.) What will the end product look like? I’m not sure … can you have a happy ending at the end of the world? I guess we’re about to see.

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My Doctor Who predictions for the rest of series six

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I think that Matt Smith has done a hell of a job taking on the role of The Doctor after the truly EPIC performance by David Tennant during his tenure – big shoes to fill. This series has been interesting, though in my opinion, not quite as entertaining as Matt Smith’s first series … or maybe not quite as frantic, I haven’t quite figured out which. I do enjoy River Song a great deal and I think she’s a great addition … but … I don’t like how Rory’s character hasn’t been allowed to expand in any significant way because he really is a strong character and an integral part of The Doctor’s relationship with Amy – he’s sort of … like luggage, you know? He’s just a tag along and … like … he waited two thousand years for Amy! TWO THOUSAND YEARS!!! DO SOMETHING WITH THE GUY! (I did like how he punched out Hitler, though.)

One big problem with this series so far: um … Amelia Pond has had her baby taken from her and she’s totally cool and not traumatized by this. Really? I mean … really?????? And inserting Mel (who morphs into River Song) The friend Amy and Rory raised???? Seriously??

So, my predictions for the balance of the series:

1) I’m going to assume that Steven Moffat knows that Rory is underutilized and therefore, he’s going to have Rory do something utterly spectacular and heroic in the series finale.

2) Amy is going to retire from traveling through time and space by having a falling out with The Doctor.

3) River Song’s timeline is going to be amended and The Doctor will not be shot because ….

4) I think that River Song is going to have to die before she has a chance to shoot The Doctor.

5) Matt Smith is going to wear a fez on the series finale

6) The Silence will be silenced

7) The remainder of this series will be Dalek-free

8) The Doctor is going to be forever changed by having to amend River Song’s timeline thereby leading to her death before she sacrifices herself in the library with David Tennant’s doctor

9) Fish fingers and custard will not make another appearance this series

10) The Doctor is going to become very dark and brooding and vengeful after he comes to terms with losing River Song.

I could be wrong, of course … and I probably am. But hey, I’m a Doctor Who fanboy and even a mediocre episode of the show is a thousand times better than most stuff on TV these days.

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