Sunday, August 20, 2017

FInal Draft DONE!

The word of the week is veritable.

Aug 14 – Great Choice!

My 'new' used Samsung S5 is proving a capable phone indeed!

Now that I've acquired( cheaply )all of the extra little bits needed to make it fully-functional( in my eyes, at least )it's going to serve me well for some time to come. I love that it has a removable battery( I bought a new one for $7.50 CAN! )as well as built-in heartrate and barometric sensors, both of which I use on a daily basis.

In addition to the new battery, I've picked up a protective case( from Ringke, they're superb for the price! )as well as a longer( braided )charger cable, since the original one that came with the phone was worn out by the previous user. I've also added the usual tempered glass screen protector for obvious reasons... and all of this for a total of about $40 CAN, which is simply excellent value for ensuring the phone lives a good while.

As a bonus, the S5 is rated as IP67, meaning it is essentially impervious to dust, and can survive up to 30 minutes immersed in 1m of water. No previous phone I've had could do that without adding an expensive case, like ones from Otterox.

The phone's snappy, even with all my apps and music added, so by this point( after 3 weeks )I'm really happy, and will be set for at least another year, if not longer.

Aug 15 – Cnut The Space Viking

A few months ago, a friend of mine posted this back-cover blurb:

I found out last week from one of our writing group members that this published book was likely done under contract, so the author HAD to come up with something... and boy, did she ever! Called The Angel Wore Fangs, it's so over the top that it goes from bad to worse and out the other side into pure camp, I have no desire to ever read it( you can find a hilarious summary of it here )but:

It serves to remind me that any story can get published.

I will work hard to make sure that mine is far, far better than Cnut's tales... holy. I had to wash my eyeballs after reading only half the summary above.

But: the author got paid, and it was probably a hoot to write, too.

Aug 16 – Holy Dioramas!

I now have a reason to visit Langley BC...

This is the largest toy store in Western Canada, and it shows, the place is MASSIVE! Even better, the owners are consistently adding giant, highly-detailed displays regularly to the store, such that it's a g33k-mecca of a sorts! Have a look at the tour video below, it's truly incredible:

Aug 17 – Getting an Agent?

Everyone knows actor Nicholas Cage, right?

They also know that he's had some... interesting career choices, moreso than even Cuba Gooding Jr. If you're watching a Nicholas Cage film made anytime in the last 10-15 years, chances are it's not the greatest artistic achievement in film.

So what's it like being Nick's agent? This should give you a clue( NSFW language ):


At 11:01pm PST tonight, I finished the edit of my fourth( and final )draft of my first novel - YAYYYYYYYYYY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It wasn't easy.

It took about 2 weeks longer than I thought it would, as I was aiming for July 31st. This happened for multiple reasons, including expected health issues( core muscle pain )that kept me from sitting / standing for more than 30 minutes at a time before something started to hurt. As well, as the edits added up, new tweaks and ideas cropped up, so that I had to spend even more time going back to make the supporting changes throughout the entire novel, adding to the time taken...

But I persevered and edited my heart out.

The key to finishing?

Staying in the Flow: editing every day, morning and/or night, no matter what / how I felt. This kept me THINKING about the story, every day, and so my subconscious mind was always working on it, wherever I was and whatever I was doing.

So now that it's done, what's the plan?

I'm giving about 6 people copies of the draft to read through, spot any major / minor errors( which I can quickly correct )and then it's going in front of an editor!

My AMAZING INCREDIBLE WONDERFUL LOVING girlfriend offered, as a birthday gift this year, to PAY for an Editorial Consultation, where an accredited editor( from a local publishing company that I know, have investigated and trust )will go through the whol manuscript in about a week. They'll look at the  structural, stylistic and grammatical aspects of the novel for any corrections needed, but won't do copy editing( line-by-line )as it's just an evaluation to see how ready the book is to send out.

Then when the editor's done, that's what I'll do!

I'll be sending out a raft of Query letters to Agents and Publishers, to see who bites first. It's just another step in the process, but if I get someone interested in the next 4-6 months( I hope! )then my book could be on shelves within 2 years or so.

By which point I aim to have the first drafts of BOTH the second and third novels written. An author's work is never done, but I'm pouring all of my skill and experience into this, along with the feedback I've been receiving.

Wish me luck!

Aug 19 – Off to the USA!

It was a busy morning today, heading out to the States.

As the first day of my vacation, I'm looking forward to doing some serious relaxing, considering my vacation week last month was spent entirely working on my novel, as noted in previous blog entries.

For this week's vacation, I'm not going to touch the draft at all, save to print out some copies. But I won't do that until I get back home around the 25th!

My parents were kind enough to drop my lady and I off at the Sidney Ferry Terminal to take the 12pm crossing, though there was some confusion( on my part! )about the departure times, but the small stress-out turned out just fine.

The crossing itself was the best I've had yet: smooth seas and Gravol for me meant no issue whatsoever with seasickness, though I was feeling tired from only getting 4.5 hours of sleep last night( bed 12am, up at 4am with abdominal aches from sitting too many times to edit last night ) - darn these noodly core muscles! Toughen up already!

My girlfriend's mother picked us up and we drove less than an hour to her home in Sedro-Wooley, arriving after 3pm under perfect blue skies. The Skagit Valley is a delightful place to visit, with wooded hills, green pastures and a quiet rural lifestyle I really enjoy.

We spent the rest of the evening relaxing and catching up with her parents, as well as her brother and sister-in law with their young child. It was magical just spending the time in the perfect weather out on their back porch, watching the skies darken and talking about all sorts of interesting topics until the stars came out. Bedtime was early and a relief, as I was dog-tired and I slept well indeed!

Aug 20 – McMenamin's!

Early to rise...

We were up around 5am to head out early, hitting the road after 6am to try and get the jump on the estimated million-plus people heading south to be in the path of the eclipse totality in Oregon, clogging roads and otherwise crowding places up.

We needn't have worried.

We made it past Seattle WA easily, with only one small stretch of delay( a mere 20 minutes )near Olympia WA as we turned south. The wide freeways were clear, with only normal traffic volumes all the way down to Troutdale, OR where we had a reservation at McMenamin'sResort.

What a place!

A former county 'poor farm' built in 1911, it's now a unique destination resort, where you can easily spend a few days on-side enjoying the many offerings such as pubs, patios, bars, a spa, golf and more. I'll write up more about it next week, but for now have a look at this charming place I'm staying at for 2 nights:

All for now... I'm tuckered out from working for 2 months solid on my novel's draft,  and need a rest. The right side of my neck has developed an ouchie( stiff! )so that's a additional how-do-you-do that's been interesting some days. Good thing I'm on vacation all of next week!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Future of Film, Feels and Fragility

The word of the week is incorrigible.

Aug 7 – Shadow Peace

While bullies are as stupid as ever, they're now a major threat to life on earth.

Strumpet to the south is shaking his nuclear willy at North Korea in again so childish that it's stunning to see in this day and age. Such insanely irresponsible behavior of the POTUS, gambling with the possibility of WWIII, cannot be overstated.

Even so, his supporters refuse to refute his crazy behavior, perhaps because we haven't had a world-wide war in over half a century to remind them of the terrible cost.

If I had anything to say, I directed him to watch this video, which illustrates with simple graphics the terrible cost that World War III would have our planet.

Aug 8 – Dang it, tech...

This is the week of technical difficulties, at least for my main desktop.

Thankfully, I've been editing my novel on my laptop, so it hasn't been too bad. All the same, this is what happened in the space of 48 hours:

- Chrome decided to slow down to glacial speeds with the latest update, which I hope will be fixed with the next update and soon!

- My headset microphone decided to disappear after the latest driver update, which is never good sign. I'll probably roll things back when I get around to it, and for now I'm using my Blue Microphones Snowball, which seems to be doing even better job. So perhaps it's an improvement?

- The replacement battery on my old OnePlus One seems to be holding its own; though the charge doesn't last all day, the phone doesn't overheat nearly as badly now. Yay!

- My ‘new’ Galaxy S5 phone is working great, except for the battery it came with. The OEM replacement I ordered for $7.50 CAN arrived today... with a dent in it. Dang! At least the vendor seems to care, since they're sending me a free replacement, but for now I'm keeping an eye on it since lithium batteries tend to catch fire when exposed to oxygen...

- My backup Acer NAS( network attached storage ) device hasn't worked for a month now, ever since I tried to replace the cranky old boot d with a newer and much larger one. At that the projects all get to this fall, with some added priority since I really should have my systems backed up more than once every few months.

 On the bright side, computers can do THIS:


I reached the halfway point in my draft's line-by-line edit tonight!

It's been a heavy slog sometimes for the last 10 days, but I've enjoyed every minute of it.  poking and prodding words into proper paragraphs, shaving sentences down and whacking words into place. It's a full edit, going through the book from Chapter 1 to Chapter 40, all 145,000 words - a big job, but absolutely critical to make the leap from a third to a fourth( and final )draft.

I've been averaging two full chapters edited a day, which has been a stellar pace that's only picked up as I near the end of the edit... I can feel the energy of the book permeating my muse!

NOT me this month, thank goodness!

Immersing myself in the novel like this has been incredible. I'm deep in the story, every day, which is where an author should be when they're feeling 'the Flow.' Waking, I get to writing. Working the day job, while thinking about writing. Coming home, doing all the fiddly tasks of a day to get them out of the way... then writing some more until my eyes droop and I'm ready to fall into bed for the night.

There's not much else to say, except by the end of the month, the finished draft will be in the hands of a select few readers for feedback. Then it's off to find an agent, or even a publisher directly!

Aug 10 – Blue Screen Blues

Do you remember Sky Captain and the World Of Tomorrow?

It's okay if you don't, but I'd highly recommend grabbing a copy of the movie to watch if you haven't seen it. Sky Captain a film far ahead of its time, to which almost every modern f that uses CGI today, like Valerian, owe a huge debt:

Back in the 1990's, two brothers( Kevin and Kerry Conron )had an amazing idea: they wanted to create an entire film on blue screen and add all the scenery and effects elements afterwards, eliminating the need for costly sets or locations. Any scene could be built inside the computer and the actors dropped in. Commonplace now, revolutionary then. And they did it in 2004, when the Sky Captain was released, with an old-school adventure serial aesthetic that I love!

The likes of George Lucas flew them to his place for a long weekend, with famous directors like James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis and Brad Bird, Caleb Deschanel, and Robert Rodriguez, to name a few. The longer article here has some great detail on their story.

Unfortunately, the film flopped, mainly because it's budget became so inflated with the cost of the stars and the CGI effects, not to mention Hollywood accounting. I own it and love it, and I'm saddened that its creators were forgotten by Hollywood and not given the chance to do more with their talents.

What's even more incredible however, is the link to Edgar Rice Burrough's John Carter Of Mars! The Conrons created a demo reel of the movie and pitched it to Paramount a few years later, with the possibility of it becoming a TV series. Sadly, the new head of the studio declined to pick it up, and all we have now is this incredible presentation reel:

Aug 11 – You Don't Know How It Feels...

Who doesn't love Tom Petty?

I've loved the sound of his American Rock since discovering him as a member of The Traveling Wilburys in the 1990's, and I suspect I already knew some of his songs before that.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have been a mainstay of my music listening scene for 25 years now, and I don't see that changing anytime soon. What I haven't really thought about before though, is why I like their sound so much.

A recent New Yorker article summed it up for me in two words: Proud Pain.

It really does encapsulate what Tom Petty's sound is all about, but every song is a unique journey, a ballad about the experience of being good. Out of all the, my favorite is Running Down A Dream, which speaks to me about so many things: existence, the interpretation of reality, looking to the future... all of those and more. I present it to you here, and hope you'll enjoy the video's animation as well as the lyrics as much as I have all these years:

Aug 12 – Costly Collecting

It's a good thing I don't collect Lego... or I wouldn't have any spare money.

Because, just announced this week is this glorious retro 80's set: 

In order to even get considered as an official set by Lego, at least 10,000 people have to endorse a proposed project on From there, Lego will decide if there's enough appeal to produce a run of a set, and so it's pretty exciting to see such a creative design for Voltron has made it into production.

Too bad I won't be able to afford the likely $200-$250USD price tag when it comes out in 2018. No sense in looking on eBay either, as almost every major collectible Lego set rises in price over the years, making them decent investments... as long as you don't open the box to assemble them, that is.

Also, for sheer cool factor, how about a beatdown between Optimus prime in Iron Man, done with high-end CGI, solid voice acting and just plain fun fightin' moves? I've even adjusted the start time to skip all the silly live-chatter intro. You're welcome:

Aug 13 – Fragility

A good friend of mine lost their mother today, a week after an accident on a bicycle. It's a damned tragedy, and something that again brings home the fragility of life.

I'm not getting any younger, and while I don't want to make this about myself, you have to wonder about your own mortality when people in your life are affected by the loss of their loved ones. The only have each other in this life, and as the years pass, there are fewer lights to hold back the darkness.

I come from an Italian background, meaning that I grew up with dozens of family members around all the time. As I grew older, we saw my relatives less and less, to where we went from seeing them a few times a month to a few times a year. Weddings and funerals were regular occurrences when I was younger, up until my teens, and then we started seeing less of everyone as we all got busy with our lives - especially when people started moving further away from each other.

It's sobering how little we think about losing our life until they're gone. Of all the things that we could and probably should have said, of the assumptions we made and the times that we could have spent learning more about them. I know in the case of my own grandfather, that I'd love to know more about the rich life he led during his life in Poland before WWII, and the effect that it had on his life. He's extremely intelligent and skilled man, but he's in his 90's now and far away, his mind stuck more in the past than in the present and I feel that he represents much of what people don't think about: we let the important parts of out lives slip away while we're busy doing other things.

Take the time soon to think about your life and the people in it, and what you can do today to ensure that the full measure of their richness is present sooner rather than later.

The last few weeks of writing seem to have really rubbed off on my blog, as I managed to bring it out in about an hour tonight - probably the fastest I've ever written an entry! I'm feeling pretty decent this week, with only a few stomach twinges and a still-stiff neck to distract me here and there of a day.

NOTE: next Sunday, August 20th, I'll be in the USA visiting my girlfriend's parents, so my entry may be delayed as I figure out how to post it. I'm considering bringing my laptop, but given the extremely invasive border searches of late, I don't want to have it randomly confiscated for no good reason. Not that there's anything on it that's incriminating, but I need it in order to continue working efficiently on my novel, among other things. While I'm sure I'll figure something out, don't be surprised if the next week's blog entry is rather brief.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Heat, Head-Pain and Healthiness

The word of the week is tangible.

July 31 – Head-hurty?

I unintentionally pained my head while writing these last few weeks...

It's been interesting trying to get a workable writing set up here at home. I don't have an office space that I can use with a desk and chair, and writing on the love seat in the front living room has become uncomfortable for long periods because I don't quite fit: my legs are about 6 inches too long. I'm certainly not going to sit with my legs propped up like I did before either, as that caused many other issues.

What I HAVE been doing to write for the last few weeks is sitting upright on my bed, with my back propped up against a wall kilos and my laptop across my legs. This was comfortable and seem to work well for sound isolation, as I was able to close myself off in my bedroom along with my Zik headphones to get some editing done.

What I didn't realize is that I was also stretching the tendons along my neck and back, and today I really felt the results. The top of my head became painful and sensitive, to the point where it felt like someone was pressing down on top of my head continuously unless I lay down flat. While it wasn't so bad yesterday morning, it was painful to sleep and today I had to use ice packs every hour just to be comfortable while at work; frustrating.

After looking into the matter online tonight, and discovering that my bed 'workspace' was likely to cause, I decided to change my setup to this:

It's awkward but cheap, and it's working for now. 20 chapters to go!

While it's not ideal, I can still stand for an hour or so at a time, and take short breaks even then to sit down or do other things to give my muscles some relief. My head was already feeling better by the end of the evening tonight, so it looks like I was right about my posture on the bed affecting my neck and head.

One way or another, I'm going to finish this edit in the next few weeks!

Aug 1 – Have Time, Will Book?

You know what I really miss? Reading.

With everything I've got on my plate currently, not to mention all the things that have been going on in my life this year, a few things had to go and one of those was the time for reading regularly each week.

It wasn't a conscious decision at first, but it's been one rather that crept up on me. I used to read every night before bed, sometimes for hours until well after midnight before turning out the light. But in the last five years, this has gone by the wayside as I've become more sensitive to brighter lights at night, to where anything like a regular reading light is painful to me after 9 PM: I can't do it any more. Besides, the light would just keep me up later, as I'm usually asleep well before 11:30pm most nights and waking up around 6am: meh.

Since this was the only time I had to spare, my reading habit fell by the wayside. However, the birthday gift of my new Kindle Paperwhite with a soft backlight a few weeks ago has meant that I've been able to read every night before bed, though my selection is limited to only the ebooks I have. There's close to a hundred books on my shelves that I haven't read yet, and it bothers me that I probably won't get to them until 2018, given that I still have to get my business off the ground as well and complete the second half of my second novel... darn it.

Still, being able to read at night again is a significant improvement, and I'm complementing it with bringing my girlfriends old Kindle with my everywhere I go, so I can sneak in a few chapters here and there. I'm justifying this by loading her Kindle with books about writing, with all sorts of advice about the craft as well as the business side of things. This is all to make the most efficient use of my time, especially when I'm on the bus or otherwise waiting for something.

Unfortunately, it appears I'm too late to use the Shelfie service, which shut down suddenly in early 2017 after three years of operation in Vancouver, BC. The service was an excellent one for bibliophiles: you took a picture of your bookshelf, and their technology matched up your physical book copies with e-books available from their catalog of over 2100 publishers, most of which were free!

Sadly, I suspect their business model wasn't able to sustain them. The world of book publishing isn't one of deep pockets, and so for now I'll have to just read the books I can carry with me and forgo the rest until I can spend more time with them, close and personal.

Aug 2 – Kiki's Delivery Service

Tonight was anime Wednesday!

Once a month this year, the Cineplex theater over at Tillicum has been showing animated films by Hayao Miyazaki! It's extremely rare to see any sort of Anime film in the theater, and doubly so for anything by Studio Ghibili, Miyazaki's famous company.

Tonight's feature was Kiki's Delivery Service, among the best anime films made to date and a true delight to watch. My girlfriend and I traveled under the smoke-filled skies, arriving eagerly at the theater to get excellent seats in the middle rows. The theater was mostly full, attesting to the excellence of the film being shown and was even introduced by a local radio host whose specialty is critiquing films.

The particular copy we saw was digitally remastered, with incredibly immersive sound and subtitles, so that the original audio was preserved. While I already own a Blu-ray copy of the movie, it was a wonderful experience to watch on the big screen, since the details were so luscious and a delight to the eye.

The film series continues over the next two months, with Castle In The Sky, Princess Monanoke and Howl's Moving Castle all playing bigger-than life in the theaters. Of the three, I think that Princess Monanoke would be the one I want to see the most, as I think it's the most beautiful Miyazaki film and one very open to interpretation by the audience.

Can we have more films like these on the big screen, please?

Aug 3 – Heat and Smoke

It's a little smokey around here this week.

Smoke from the massive wildfires afflicting the interior of the province of BC has been drifting westward, and it's reached Vancouver Island this week, as you can see( and I'm glad that I have a HEPA air filter running in my apartment ):

BC needs to butt out, big time this summer...

Victoria is the red dot, and we've been under air quality warnings for the last few days. There's a hint of smoke in the air, but nothing grossly excessive, which I believe we have the ocean breezes here to thank for. It's much better here than in places like Kelowna and Princeton BC though, as they're wildfires this size:

While the particulate levels haven't been excessive( 5 on a scale of 10, with 10 being considered harmful to human health with long exposure )it has turned the sky a light orange color and shifted the sun's brightness levels in the morning and evening. The picture below is my favorite of nearly two dozen, and reminds me of when I was driving in the USA in 2015 with my girlfriend in the same phenomenon was happening, turning the sunsets a brilliant orange through the hazy air:

Photo by Kyle Slavin on Instagram

Aug 4 – Winner, Again!

I won something: a book!

My friend Bob, who runs the amazing book review website Beauty In Ruins, ran a contest this week for the latest copy of Stephen King's The Dark Tower, part of the Gunslinger series and also being released this week as movie, starring Idris Elba.

Go me! 

I'll confess that I've not read any of the gunslinger series, which for a while was rather a rare duck on bookshelves for years until the initial stories were released as a full novel in 1988. I've read glowing reviews of the series, many of which laud it as King's best work and I'm eager to find the time to truly appreciate it when I can in the near future. In the meantime, go check out Bob's blog: he's a busy guy who really knows how to do great reviews, with an affinity for horror and fantasy:

How ironic that I mention I don't have time to read, and I win a free book... ha!

Aug 5 – BIG BOOM is not Better!

Today was a war-film day.

After a much-needed massage( my neck was a taut mess! )my girlfriend picked me up and we went to go see Christopher Nolan's latest film, Dunkirk, in IMAX.

It was gorgeous, with sweeping vistas and a well-considered color palette layered atop multiple story threads that tied together the plot of the less-than-two-hour film. There was a lack of gore and violence for violence sake, which I appreciated as the tale of Dunkirk is one of bloody victory snatched from the jaws of defeat, not attrition through aggression. I will say that the film had some excellent moments, enough so that I was willing to forgive the artistic license of visual cleanliness, The real Dunkirk was a mess, a shambles of wrecked vehicles, abandoned gear and sunken ships, all strewn about with thousands of dead soldiers who didn't make it home:

My positive impression of the film was colored by the insane audio being pumped out of the IMAX system - IT WAS TOO LOUD BY FAR! Even with earplugs, too many times the bass was blasting so badly that it shook my seat... and the theatre wasn't a 'D-Box' equipped one, either! Such unnecessary decibels detracted from the experience for me instead of enhancing.

While it was nice sitting in the air-conditioned theater, we didn't really need to cool off as the temperatures today were significantly less sweltering. It was especially noticeable at night: all this week since Tuesday, I needed to run a fan in my room to keep myself cool enough to sleep, but I didn't need to tonight. Temperatures dropped to about 14°C overnight, compared to the mid-20s since the end of July: much cooler and it wasn't for the still-poor air quality, I would've left my window open.

All things considered, I'm glad that I'm living in a basement apartment this week. The only direct sunlight hitting the place is in the late afternoon, so temperatures are usually moderate unless it's extremely humid( and I have a dehumidifier I can use in that case )so it's rarely uncomfortable to be at home on even the hottest days.

Which in Victoria, since we're right next the ocean, isn't really saying much!

Aug 6 – Health and How Far?

Here's a double update for you two-day:

Health-wise, I'm feeling significantly better. For most of this week, I was able to sit upright to work with minimal or no discomfort, not needing any of the regular chair adjustments / extra padding to position myself 'just right' hour to hour - yes! I fully credit the five deep-tissue massage sessions I've had with getting me back on track: they've released the massive pent-up tension I'd been keeping in my abdominal area. This has had the added benefit of normalizing my digestion again, to where I can eat full meals without any issue, though I am taking small doses of digestive aids with each one due to my lack of a gallbladder, which helps. I've even started getting hungry again, right when I should thanks to my extremely regular mealtimes - also a great sign of normalcy!

Novel-wise, the editing is going very well! I've been at it full-tilt for the last three weeks, managing anywhere from half to a full chapter a day and I'm expecting to get the halfway mark by the end of the day tomorrow! This is really exciting, as I'm seeing the book in my head what I want it to be on the page in front of, sentence by sentence. As well, I've incorporated dozens of additional notes culled from e-mails I sent to myself over the last two years and already the story reads far more smoothly than it did before with all the little details supporting it strongly.

Since it's a long weekend( and a three-day work week for me coming up! )I'm spending as much time of the day as possible editing, which is as it should be. Getting my mind inside the story and pulling the ladder in after me is the only way to keep the narrative flowing inside my head; all else is secondary right now.

All for this week: next week, much of the same, but with additional style!

One thing I forgot to mention is that my weight seems to have stabilized in the last two weeks. I'm now up to 152 pounds and holding, which I think is a decent weight for someone who's not regularly working out. Later in the year I'm looking to start some serious training, in addition to the light flexibility stretches that I've been doing for the last month to get my body used to moving around more often. Now that I've had excellent success with massage therapy, I want to keep my body limber and start in on the next level of fitness.