Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Margaret Atwood for Canadian Prime Minister

Screen Shot 2015-08-22 at 4.47.39 PM 
  The Short Story I try to find a better choice for Prime Minister of Canada and come up with one conclusion. 
  The Whole Story: I'm saddened by the fact that we only have three choices for Prime Minister in this Canadian election and they're all male (I do realize I'm leaving out Elizabeth May but the Green wave is more of a conscientious trickle right now). I've thought long and hard about what we can do to get more and better choices. There's a team at work in the bunker trying to defrost Diefenbaker, but he may not be ready in time for October 19th, 2015. So my vote is with Margaret Atwood for Prime Minister of Canada. She's the woman to get the job done right. Here's how she would handle the important issues:

  The Economy: Not a problem for PM Atwood. She's part poet. And poets are profusely proficient at pinching pennies. So our 1.83 Trillion dollar economy would be more than enough for room and board for every Canadian (and in their free time they could write poems). In fact our economy, being poetry based, would grow from both the heart and the head outwards.

  Foreign Policy: Are you worried about Putin messing with Ukraine? Just tell PM Atwood that Putin changed the last line in The Handmaid's Tale to "and it all ended happily ever after." Her icy glare would drive him straight back to the Kremlin. In fact she can reshape borders with that glare. Presidents fear it! Prime ministers and dictators put on sunglasses to avoid it. So all of our foreign problems would be solved with just one raising of her angry eyebrow (you may be curious about the icy glare. All authors have a patented icy glare. They develop it from attending galas where people say such things as, "Oh, you're a writer--what do you do for a real job?"). You do not want to ever push her to defcan 1.*

  The Hair: Face it. This is an election about hair. She outclasses all three leaders in this important department. They fear her hair.

  Healthcare: Not a problem for PM Atwood. She's a senior citizen. Seniors know healthcare. Just go to your local drug store or doctor's office and ask one. Then go and buy some Q-tips because you'll have had an earful.

  Terrorism: Prime Minister Atwood would not be afraid of the terrorist threat that surrounds us so ubiquitously. According to a quick calculation on Goodreads she has personally caused three apocalypses, mercilessly offed 872 characters (not bad, but not George RR Martin numbers) and destroyed twelve marriages. What? That was all fiction! Just imagine if she could rewrite real life from the PMO's office.

  The Arts & the CBC & Other Leftist Troughs: She would cut the arts. After all, with our presumptiously profuse and poetic economy pumping to perfection everyone will be buying books and watching Canadian movies and singing Canadian songs left, right and centre. Hockey players will recite poetry instead of fighting. Peter Mansbridge will don a beret and do the news "beatnik" style. And Mike Duffy will do dramatic recitations of a play called MacDuff: Everyone Look At Me and My Bank Account.

  The Military: PM Atwood would become our military.

 So there you have it. Margaret Atwood is the best choice for Prime Minister of Canada. It's time to write a real change!  Everyone grab their pens and vote! #Atwood4PM

 *Defcan 1 is not a band that plays music on CBC. It's a state of military readiness in Canada. It means hockey stick in hand and ready to perform a full out body check. Defcon 1 (in case you're wondering) is the defense readiness condition (DEFCON) of the American military.  It means nuclear war imminent. Or in layman's terms: fire all your guns and jump in your bunker. Make sure you have some good reading material while you're there.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

See My Editor Tear My Work to Shreds

The Short version:
An author tries not to cry as he reads the "suggested" changes from his editor on the first page of his manuscript.

The Details
This is a page from my soon to be released book, Flickers. It's a novel set in Hollywood during the silent movie era. I've lost track of how many drafts I've done of this book. Let's just put it at more than ten and fewer than two hundred. And yet, there are still mistakes made. Places that can be cleaned up. Prose that can be un-purpled. And that's why we have editors (this post goes hand in hand with my "My Editor Says These Two Words I Use Make Kitties Cry" post).

The Edits
Just click on the image to make it bigger. Click a second time and it will grow even bigger. Click a third time and you'll be able to see the tear stains on the page.
Gratingly yours,

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Shaun the Sheep is Brilliant

 Brilliant! Any movie that can entertain my six-year-old (and me) for an hour and a half is perfect. On top of that, there's no intelligible dialogue--the humans mumble, the sheeps (sic) bleat, the dogs bark. The whole story is implied by facial expressions, set-up, and excellent visual story telling. As someone who has been watching silent films as research for my latest novel, this is in many ways an ode to that style of film making. The only words you'll hear are in the excellent soundtrack. So...two hooves up for this one.

 Claymation = awesomeness.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Five Reasons to go on a Writing Retreat

St. Peters St. Peter's Abbey, Muenster SK

The short of it: A cookie stuffed author explains why going on a writing retreat is so very helpful to writing.

 The long of it: Recently, I went on a four-day retreat to St. Peter's Abbey. There were eight other writers participating in this escape from the world (or should I say escape into other worlds?). The abbey is in the middle of the prairie in Saskatchewan (which is in the middlish part of Canada). And there are cookies. Did I mention the cookies? It may seem odd that a full-time writer needs to get away, but sometimes it's necessary. Here are the five reasons why it's important to go on a retreat.

1. Clear Your Cluttered Mind The human brain collects tweets, Facebook posts, and Hollywood star "facts"  like lint. Sometimes you need to shake all of that lint off. Going to a different place allows you to concentrate on That Which Should Be Really Important Right Now: your writing.

2. To Have Someone Else Look After You Napoleon used to say, "an army marches on its stomach." But the truth is writers also write on their stomachs. In other words: we need to eat in order to write. And a retreat centre is there to feed your body. For example: at St. Peter's Abbey the meals are served at 8AM, 12PM & 5:30 PM. You walk down to the dining room, fill your plate, eat & return to your room to write or read more. My only worry was whether or not I might trip on the stairs in my hurry to get to the dining room. Of course, I highly recommend having scintillating talk with your fellow attendees during meal time. It's like dessert for the brain.

3. Get Away From Everything & Everyone Children are lovely. They make noise. Wives and husbands are lovely. They make lists. Lists get in the way of writing. By the time you've cut the lawn and cleaned the bunions you may not have energy to write. At a retreat no one asks you to cut the lawn (unless you're at a lawnmower's retreat). Your brain and your time become your own.

4. Get Something Done The great gift of a retreat is that there are giant big blocks of time to devote to your writing. Time to think slowly. Time to dive right into that project with your brain firing on all six cylinders. One of the advantages of being with a group of writers is it felt as if I had joined a hive of creativity. A quiet one, since there wasn't any noise in the halls other than the occasional tick tick tap of computer keyboards. But I knew they were working. So I wanted to do the same.

5. Get Something Done Did I mention this twice? Yes, it's that important. And getting something "done" doesn't necessarily mean writing 20,000 words in three days. It's more about getting all those proverbial ducks in a row so that when real life comes knocking you are ready to concentrate. I went with two goals in mind: an outline for a project and a head start on a rewrite of a fantasy novel. That uninterrupted time meant that I could figure out that the outline was going nowhere, so I just dove into starting the novel and then took the time to think clearly about my goals for the fantasy novel. The energy I gained from the retreat is carrying me deeper into these projects now that I'm back in real life.

 Oh, and did I mention the cookies?  


Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Canadian Election Explained Using The Lord of the Rings

The Short Story:
An author attempts to explain the upcoming Canadian election using The Lord of the Rings references. Apologies to JRR Tolkien.
The Medium Story:
Liberals = Elves
NDP = Dwarves
Conservatives = I'll let you find out

The Full Story
Canada is a democracy. This may come as a surprise to people outside the country who assumed we were still a monarchy. We just let the queen visit sometimes and ooh and aaw when her progeny have progeny and put them in fancy clothes. But we are a very complicated democracy and the prime minister is head of government for Canada. There are 338 seats across the country and three major parties vying for those seats and the Canadians use a 'first past the post' system which means...oh, what am I saying? Boooring! The winner will be whoever gets the One Ring of Power. Simple as that.

A Story Told from the Liberal Point of View
Liberals are a middle-of-the-road, today-I-lean-left-tomorrow-I-lean-right, type of party. Or as they like to say: we're a big tent party (don't confuse that with a big party in a tent). This "big tent" means they enjoy camping. And who doesn't enjoy camping more than Elves? Yes, the Liberals are the pointy-eared Elves of the Canadian electoral world. They enjoyed a golden age of rule over the kingdom. Then the great sponsorship darkness came and they had to retreat into the backwoods of Middle Earth and hide from the electorate. The leader of the Liberals is Justin Trudeau, or, as the party likes to call him, Legolas Trudeau Longhair. See my bow? My arrow? Watch me slay Orcish policies and wink at the same time. The Liberals are locked in a good-versus-evil struggle with Stephen "Sauron" Harper. Alas, when the Liberal Elves were busy patting themselves on the back for being such great rulers sneaky Sauron Harper forged his One Ring of ultimate partisan power and stole the throne. The Liberal Elves are going to destroy that ring and get the power back--Elves are the rightful rulers of Middle Class Canadian Earth. But who keeps shouting in the background? Tom Mulcair, the leader of the NDP. It's obvious who he is: Boromir. The man with a great beard who wants to grab the ring for himself. No way, Boromir, you can't have it. That ring is ours! In fact, the parliament is ours forever or my name isn't Legolas Trudeau Longhair. Long live the Elves!

A Story Told From The NDP Point of View
The NDP (or New Democratic Party) finds its roots in the Canadian socialist movement of the deep dark past (it's described on page 1254 of the Silmarillion). If you're American just insert the word communist every time you see socialist and it'll all make sense. The NDP are a left-leaning party that lately has been swerving their ideological wagon to the middle of the road. They draw support from all types of workers: the farmers, the hewers of wood and the miners of metals--so obviously they are the Dwarves of this story. And Dwarves hate Elves. For over a thousand years the Dwarves have been crouching in their mines, watching those cute little Elves rule. Then came Sauron Harper with his One Ring of Power scattering the Elves. Oh, how the Dwarves laughed until they realized the Dark Conservative Lord was worse than Elves. So the New Dwarves Party grew their playoff beards and climbed to the great mount of Opposition Party Status. Their leader is Tom Mulcair and, unsurprisingly, he has a beard. What's his dwarf name, you ask? Oin? Gloin? No, no, no, it's Gimli! He was given The Great Axe Of Chopping Conservative Ideology by Tommy "beardless but still a dwarf" Douglas. Gimli Mulcair is also good with a hammer, using it to build a wall around Quebec. He'd even forge a coalition with his mighty hammer if the people would let him.  The Dwarves have made their own union-approved Seven Rings of Power. And they will use them to get the One Ring. But that silly Legolas Trudeau Longhair is in the way.  Stand back Elves! It's time for Dwarven rule!

A Story Told from the Conservative Point of View
Long ago there was a party called the Conservatives, a middle-of-the-road, right-leaning party. Then they became the Unionist party and after that named themselves the Liberal-Conservatives and finally settled on the Progressive Conservatives who would lean right and punch with the left. Then came the Reform Party and the Alliance and...ah, this is so confusing. They're the Conservatives again. Simple, right? And they are Hobbits. I know. I know. You can't see it at all. Short? Hairy feet? Cute? But think about it. Hobbits are rural. Conservatives sprang from rural ridings. Hobbits are about bread and butter and beer issues. Pierre "Proudfoot" Poilievre is their spokesperson. And it's obvious that Peter Mackay is Sam Gamgee and Stephen Harper is Frodo. And--
Wait. This isn't working.
The Conservatives are in power. And the only group who had power at the start of The Lord of the Rings is the Dark Lord and his forces. I know, I know: it's a cliché to paint the Conservatives as the Orcs and Goblins of this story. Here is the real truth: Stephen Sauron Harper is a great, kind and strong leader--he even has the cowboy hat to prove it.  And this Sauron is really sore on taxes (get it?).The CBC and other liberal media gave you that whole "the Elves and Dwarves and Free Men band together to defeat the Dark Lord" story. Blah. Blah. Blah. It was total communist propaganda. Friends, let's be perfectly clear. The Elves were running the government for thousands of years and giving money to their cronies. The Dwarves and their unions conspired so that all you good citizens of Middle Earth were paying far too many taxes. And the governmental system was bloated with Hobbits. Bloated Hobbits, I tell you! So Stephen Sauron Harper forged the One Ring of Power with elements of metal given to him by Mulroney and Manning. He took that one ring and brought the country a new vision, the vision of a Conservative Middle Earth where taxes were low and no one had to ever, ever, ever, ever fill out that long form census again. Down with the gold spending Elves! Boot out the union-loving Dwarves! Sauron Harper will cut the taxes on your flaxes (the motto is working great in the Shire). That's the real story. It's better than news, because it's truthful.

The End
Just like the novel, this political story is a nail-biter right to the finish. Will the Liberal Elves rise out of the forest and claim their long lost throne? Will the New Dwarves Party succeed despite the fact that Canadians don't always trust people with facial hair? Or will Sauron Harper don his blue sweater of softness and unleash his Sword of Ten Thousand Tax Cuts. How will it all end? Well, as was mentioned before, Canada has a 338 ridings and a "first-past-the-post" system and with an estimated 25 million votes it all comes down to election day when ... oh what am I saying? Whoever gets the One Ring will win. Or to put it more poetically:

One election to rule them all, One election to find them, One election to bring them all, and in a representative democracy bind them.
Other Characters:
Elizabeth May is Galadriel. She's an elf, there in the background. Reminding us we should probably save the environment.
Gilles Duceppe is Wormtongue. Well, according to everyone in Western Canada. To the Bloc Quebecois he is Frodo. And it's a long, long way to Mount Doom.
David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, is Gandalf. Just add a long white beard and it'll totally make sense.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Giveaway on Goodreads!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Modo by Arthur Slade


by Arthur Slade

Giveaway ends July 31, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Thursday, June 18, 2015

My Editor Says That These Two Words I Use Make Kitties Cry

The short of it:

My editor finds an innovative way to point out my repetitious writing habits.

How it began:

I handed in draft number umpteen (that's an understatement) of my 1920's horror novel, Flickers. A short time later (geologically speaking) I received the edited version all marked up in Microsoft Word. All was well and I even laughed when I came across this:

So I dutifully changed it to this:

Then a few pages later this appeared:

Another uproarious laugh exploded from my lips. Exploded, I tell you! This is the kind of back and forth authors love with their editors. And on the next page I found this:

Aha! Game on, I thought. Game on! So for fun, I changed it to this:

And the next one I changed to this:

But something horrible happened. The kitties kept coming. A calvacade of crying kitties. 

A cry of pain strangled itself in my throat. The horror! The horror!
There was only one logical response:

**No editors were hurt in this process. 17 kittens in total cried. Only one author was slightly damaged.

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