And the Novel’s Title Is… Social Grooming for Higher Primates

Social Grooming for Higher PrimatesHey! How are you? How is life?

Seems fitting that the last post I wrote was on “Wordless” Wednesday three and a half years ago. So many times I’ve thought of coming back to this blog. Especially in the last year or so.

Why? Well, because I’ve actually been working on the novel.

And now, I’m actually finished.

To be precise, I’m finished a reading copy and I’m in the process of finding beta readers to give me their impressions. The title is: Social Grooming for Higher Primates. Beyond that, not much is public about it.

The response for beta readers has been tremendous — so good that I’ve now marked it as “oversubscribed” and stopped taking beta reader requests. However, I still want to give readers from this blog who might still be interested after all this time to sign up. Just Contact Me at the new site, and I’ll slide you in.

Which brings me to… the new site! I’ve launched a new author website and blog at — the first blog post is here. I’m am not even going to pretend to be ambitious with this blog — I’ll get to it when I get to it (yeah, like I have to tell you guys). Besides, I think the Golden Age of the blog has passed, no? They’re handy, but the moment Google pulled their reader and there was no longer an easy way to keep yourself updated, it went downhill. It did for me, anyway. Twitter and Facebook seem to be the place to be these days.

I want to take the opportunity to personally thank all of you who are still hanging on after all these years. This blog was first and foremost a way to keep me accountable and keep me writing. What I learned over the years was that I really do love novel writing, and I’d like to keep up with it for years to come. When I started, the kids were smaller and needed more attention — it was difficult to work on the novel after writing all day AND keep up with kids’ activities. At some point, I simply said that I’ll have plenty of time to write when the kids are grown up. Now, we are getting to that point.

One day I’m going to read through these blog posts and remember the struggles I went through. But today, I’m just going to celebrate the new novel. Hope you come along with me to do the same…!

Thanks to you all for being along for the ride. Your support from the very beginning helped get me to where I am today.



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Wordless Wednesdays – Giller Long List

Scotiabank Giller Prize 2014 Long List

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Giller Long List Announced

Giller Prize 2014This just in – the Giller Prize has doubled to $100,000! Not a bad haul for a Canadian writer.

Ah, the Giller. Perhaps not the most prestigious literary award in Canada – the Governor General’s award will likely always be that – but I think the Giller my favourite. The award show actually does make for compelling TV (if you are at all interested in reading, of course).

But it’s also freer. I think the GG is about fretting over exactly who is the all-time best writer in Canada (at that moment), worrying about whether or not so-and-so has been recognized yet, and, in short, getting it right.

The Giller on the other hand is more about celebrating new Canadian literature. You’re much more likely to get first-time writers vying for the top spot because they have a good book, not because they’ve been around for long enough. And even then, it may not go to the absolute “best book” because reading is, of course, a subjective thing. So you get a lot of, “Well, I would have picked this one” but at the same time you’re less likely to argue that whoever does win didn’t deserve it.

I also like the process. You get the long list today. You get the short list in a couple of weeks. Then the winner a month later. It builds up, gives you time to get familiar with at least some of the books. Most of all – and this is so important in Canada – it puts the spotlight on a number of good writers who may not have had the concentrated exposure otherwise. That’s the real importance of any Canadian award of course, promoting Canadian writers at home and abroad.

This year has special significance for me – I actually read one of the long-list books before they list was announced, which has never happened before, I don’t think. Waiting for the Man by Arjun Basu was a good read – and spooky too. Not as in horror, but as in his ideas and even the story is so much like my own WIP. Even the title echoes a title of a former WIP of mine from decades ago.

In any case, check out the long list here:

And if you’ve never watched the Giller award ceremony, here’s a snippet from last year:

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Wordless Wednesdays – Literary Map of London–gJ5cpthyEx

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Books have weight. Boy, does that ever come into sharp focus when you have to move a few thousand of them…

It’s been a while since I’ve read a manifesto from the latest fanboy burning their books in favour of a new Kindle or Kobo, and ceremoniously (or unceremoniously) sledgehammering their bookshelves down off their walls. We’ve seemed to hit some sort of equilibrium, or perhaps an uneasy truce. In any case, it doesn’t seem that the Kindle is going to strike the coup de grace against books anytime soon.

I’ve always been skeptical of the ebook revolution. 10,000 books in the palm of your hand is hard to resist, I’ll give you that. Until you actually get it in your palm. I’ve never much liked electronic readers. I’ve borrowed my son’s Kobo a few times to try it out, and I’ve got both the Kobo and the Kindle apps on my iPad. I do like the portability, and if this was back in my heavy travelling days, I’d be drawn to the fact that I wouldn’t have to carry 8-10 books in my backpack, stocked up like a literary camel between far-flung English bookshop oases. On the other hand, I’ve never worried about someone sitting on my paperback if I put it down to do up my sons’ skates…

For me, the delivery system (that is to say, a book versus an electronic device) affects the reading, which in turn affects the enjoyment. I don’t get as immersed in ebooks for some reason. Perhaps part of that is the fact that I have it balanced in my left hand with my right hand hovering and swiping every few seconds like a trapped hummingbird bouncing off glass. It’s not what you’d call… relaxing.

Recently, I’ve been moving literally a lifetime of books – thousands of books of all descriptions. Contemporary novels, spy classics, firsthand accounts from WWI and WWII, coffee table books, encyclopedias, history books, science books, art books, biographies, text books from the 50s and 60s, Far Side comics. Some are fairly valuable. Some are falling apart and have no value at all. At least not monetary. Every book was loved though, to some extent, either on its own merits or as part of a collection.

Moving all these books on a Kobo would be much easier, for sure. But where would the emotional connection be? Where would be the tactile, the smell of the pages, the muffled clap when you close it? All of these things would be gone.

Books and reading are different. Lovers of reading, perhaps, can happily while away the hours with a Kobo in hand. But for lovers of books, the sensation and experience is much different. I know that puts me at risk of sounding like a Luddite, but I’m not saying that ebooks are evil. Far from it. They have their place. I remember wasting hours in university scanning back to all the books I skimmed as research for an essay, trying to find that one passage that, at the time, I didn’t realize was perfect. Now, I would just enter a few keywords and boom, within seconds I’d be able to locate it.

eBooks may have their place, but not in my heart. Writing is (usually) about emotions, and books I think are perfect containers for writing because it helps that emotional connection in a way that bits and bytes will never achieve. It kills me to part with the ones I have to part with, and yet it kills me to store the ones I just can’t let go. Flipping through, sorting, boxing — every single book tears free another fresh emotion.

Lo verily, I will never feel that way about an ebook.

My life and work would not be possible without computers, without the Digital Age. It’s not an all-or-nothing proposition, though. Cars are great, but they don’t have to deny you the simple pleasure of walking through the woods. You can appreciate the ease of use of digital tools (or even read a blog), and at the end of the day, still sink back and enjoy the wonderful corporeal feeling of a good book opening in your hand.

I have a feeling more than a few of you know exactly what I mean.

[Addendum to Original Post]

I should have mentioned that although I already had the idea for this post, it was certainly coloured by Tom Chandler’s recent experience with a book (and the death thereof). eBooks will never die — until the electricity goes out.


PS – I stumbled upon this quite serendipitously during the writing of this post. Made me laugh.

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Ooh, echo-ey.


Anyone still here?


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Happy Medium

Well, a lot has happened since we last talked. To get to the elephant in the room – yes, the novel is still alive, though it is mostly asleep. I poke at it every once in a while to make sure it’s still breathing. More on that another time.

First, I want to tell you about a revelation I had. Last Monday, I went to a Master Class by Robert J. Sawyer, part of the International Festival of Authors (IFOA) at Lakehead University. It was a small, intimate class of perhaps 30-40 people, and in it Sawyer talked about theme and science fiction – or really, how science fiction does such a good job of handling theme. I’m not sure it was his intent, but after attending I’m convinced it is one of the best genres for doing so. Science fiction, he argues, takes thematic metaphors and allusions, and turns them into literal constructs. Like in Planet of the Apes, where the very real species divides between gorillas, orangutans, chimpanzees (and humans) is meant to be an allegory for race relations in the United States during the 1960s. Very thought-provoking, and made me think about how I’m constructing my own (not science fiction) novel.

Anyway, during the Q&A I asked Sawyer about social media – a question I’ve been asking writers lately when I’m at these types of events. Specifically, I saw a show years ago where he stated something to the effect that for every minute he is writing a blog, he is not writing a book. This was of course at the beginning of the “revolution” of writers “engaging” with their readers, and you could tell there was a certain amount of frustration in his voice about the whole thing.

I asked him if he still felt the same way, now that engaging readers is almost expected of authors. He said yes, but clarified (and I’m heavily paraphrasing and internalizing here) that he likes blogging and social media, but it takes time away from his work. He has a finite writing limit – he mentioned four hours per day, but I’m not sure he was just throwing out a number – and blogging takes away from that finite number. After four hours, the well is dry and you have to wait until the next day.

So of course, for a guy that writes for a living during the day (usually more than four hours), I took this to mean that I shouldn’t be writing a novel at all. Or I should find another job – not an appealing thought though. What am I going to do, sell TVs? I think not.

Here’s the revelation – it’s okay to feel overwhelmed with writing a novel. It’s okay to put it aside and say, “Today will not see my best writing, after everything else I’ve written.” Won’t get the novel written any faster, but should alleviate some of the guilt…

Okay, now I’m taking away from work writing AND the novel. Back to work.


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The Edits

As I mentioned in my last post, I’m currently editing what I have so far, and locking it away in a separate file marked “Your Eyes Only” — which will mean anyone’s eyes but mine. It is time to get some feedback. I’m realizing that I’m a little rudderless right now, and the reason I’m rudderless is because I’m not sure I’m going in the right direction, and that I won’t know if I’m going in the right direction until I get a 10,000-foot view of the thing, but I can’t do that myself because I’m stuck on this boat, right here in the action (i.e. “too close to the work” to use the technical term) so I need someone else’s — or several other people’s — perspective.

So yes, I am going to send it out. Problem is, the last section of the book isn’t even written in first draft yet. That’s because I’m not quite sure how to resolve the conflict. I’ve already written the last 10 paragraphs or so — I know what to say after the resolution — but my plot ideas seem to be mostly falling apart.

In any case, it might be fine if people read the (essentially polished) first half of the book — I think getting some input will help the process of nailing the ending down.

More updates to come shortly.


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Final Stretch

When are you ever done polishing?

It’s an age-old question for writers, and one to which I know the answer in my day job. I can’t really describe it — I just know it’s done, much like you know when an episode of The Simpsons is done, or a piece of toast.

But this novel thing — it’s different. I started polishing the first two scenes — again. I like it, yet I’m obsessed with getting it absolutely right. Maybe it’s a confidence thing, and once I have a few of these under my belt, I’ll naturally know when it’s done too. But until then, I think I need some feedback. No, scratch that. I’m ready for feedback.

So I started a new file today:

Novel Draft2l Final 130414.doc

I polished the first two scenes, then cut and paste them into this document. Which I won’t read again until someone else does.

Total words: 6,952. I’ve restarted the counter on the right to reflect this. Looks pathetically short after all this time. But how do you measure the progress of a novel? Word count? Time spent? Day required to generate that time spent?

In the end, I think there is a start date and an end date. Everything in between is Schrodinger’s Cat scratching to get out. (Or not scratching to get out. Depending.)

Either way, I’m officially calling this day the first day of the Final Stretch. The question I’m pondering now is, do I let people read it before I have the whole novel copy and pasted into that file?


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Day 1,000,000 – April Update

Has it come to this? Monthly updates? lol.

I started from the beginning again recently. Put another hour and a half in this morning. Crafting. Trimming. Polishing. I like this book. I like the intricacies (I think I’m) weaving into the story. There is a lot more give and take between the two main characters than I thought there was at first, a lot of subtle undertones. Is it enough? I’m not sure about that… Others will tell me, I hope. That’s one thing that I’m still working on — unlike my day job writing, I’m still not 90% sure whether this is “good” or not. It’s humbling (in a good way) to have to rely upon others’ viewpoints to get me through this.

But as I say, I like it. That’s a start, I suppose.


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