Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Hotel Coffee

Please note the date stamp on this entry, because I want to assure you—I did not mistakenly create it while trying to schedule the posting.

Hello again from Calgary. You all remember Calgary—WFC 2008 and my first panel. Well, the Calgary airport and I are becoming quite well acquainted this year. For my American friends, let me explain what the weather has been like in my homeland this year. It's the first time since 1971 that Canada has had an across the country white Christmas.

The snow in Vegas? Nothing at all compared to here. The BC coast and Vancouver Island—which don't get snow—are about to break records for the most snow in a single month. Again, for my American friends, it doesn't snow on the BC Coast or Vancouver Island. It rains. Pathetically—like Seattle. Victoria has the most snow in Canada at the moment. Vancouver is a city of like 3 million in its metro area that owns 3 snowplows. Understandably, it's been a wee bit difficulty to get around the province, because our biggest airport has all but shut down several times. On the plus side, they say it's going to help them prepare for the 2010 Olympic traffic.

While I'd like to sound clever and say I booked my flight path connection through Calgary because I wanted to get on a plane, I scheduled my ticket in November and was really only thinking that Vancouver is normally a nightmare to transfer through during the holidays and customs agents in Calgary are much more pleasant.

Um... yes. So guess who didn't make her connection in Calgary because the plane couldn't land in Kamloops? While you're at it, guess who should have known that because the plane last year from Kamloops to Calgary was delayed an hour leaving Calgary?

The great news is: I definitely missed my connection because the plane then sat on the tarmac in Calgary for 15 minutes waiting to get close enough to let us off, so Air Canada gave me a hotel voucher. Had we not, and I'd just failed to clear customs and run the length of the airport in 15 minutes, they wouldn't have been able to do anything. They're not offering vouchers for those put out because of weather delays and cancellations.

This why I was up at 4 AM, because I have a flight at 8 AM, so I have to be in a cab with another passenger at 5:30 AM. I realize that to most of us, these all sound like made up times. Actually, I was up at 4 AM because people were unhappily speaking in the hallway at 3:48 AM. But it's ok, they were doing me a favor. They knew I should blog about this experience and that the wake up call wasn't going to come until 5:05 AM, so I'm grateful they got me up.

As clear indication I am not meant to function at this time of "morning," let me share a little tale of how the hotel coffee machine nearly defeated me. Now, my time at Starbucks has made me familiar with these "drip machines" that people who drink a lot of coffee are so fond of having. I know coffee needs grounds, a filter, water and a machine. I'm usually clever enough to work out where to put the first three ingredients in the machine to make it happily create that magical elixir.

At 4:12 AM, I am searching the cupboards in the little kitchenette for the filters. It had not occurred to me, who has seen those little foil prepacks in nearly every hotel room in North America she's been in, that I just need to open one and put it in the basket of the machine. I conclude this only after not finding any filters.

Something else that concern me? What is this "whitener?" I find in the little packages. Is it like this "creamer" my parents are so fond of that contains no true dairy content and is thus either suffering an identity crisis or just plain lying to them? The ingredients tell me this "whitener" is mostly sugar, so I assume I can ingest it and it's not been mistakenly placed in a cup instead of Japanese skin care product. Although, I'm still a little worried, because I am rather white enough already, thank you very much.

For some reason in addition to these three packs of whitener (why are there three?!) I have also put two packs of sugar, because let's be honest—even at 4:30 in the morning, I don't want to taste Nabob coffee.

Oh yes, expert traveler me.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

Whatever holiday you celebrate around this time of year, may it be festive. May you also find time to pause and be grateful for the wonderful things in your life—be it something as simple as a day off work or your family gathered around the table to accomplishing your list of goals for this year or creating more for the next.

A gift for you:

Fictional Separation Anxiety

Books don’t have a shelf life
not the great ones.
They tap into a timeless truth,
the human condition,
always relevant.

Please write one of those books.
Not one that attempts to cash in
on a trend,
a fickle market,
an agent’s subjective taste.

A book that needs to be written
reflects its author’s love
in the minds of its readers.

It creates a connection
between people who are
and people who never will be.

We miss them after the last page,
our friends from lands so foreign
only words can take us to them.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Traditions

Ok, I admit it. I sort of failed to observe the Solstice other than to go "hey, it's the Solstice... and I'm just going to lay down for what remains of the daylight hours now. Ok. Zzzzzzz." Mostly because I was observing my personal holiday tradition of catching a cold the week before Christmas. Good news, it's a minor one—and despite the annoying tickle in my throat and general lethargy, I'm good. Enough to make it through my shift today.

SHARDS cleared 40K over the past week. It was Renee Sweet's birthday yesterday, which she celebrated by sending her CPs a manuscript to read. Thanks, Renee! (She has puppy pictures, go look.)

But I have a Solstice present for all of you. Delicious chocolate-dipped gingersnaps... completely fat free and made with love!


Friday, December 19, 2008

Less than a week to Christmas, and Rachel Vincent's asking on her blog about decorating. Rather than reply in the comments... I will show you, Rachel.

Behold:






In other news, Steve continues to prove a worthwhile addition to the house. Totally. Sexy. Foam.

Since I know these ones have been received, here are three of the surprise bookmarks. (I've got another four waiting in the wings.)


(Faythe-inspired for Rachel Vincent.)


(Prometheus inspired for KT Coope.)


(Ethanael-inspired for Renee Sweet.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Art YOU Are open mic

The inaugural The Art YOU Are open mic night went very well. I think there was 20–25 people there, and a few others that trickled through because the gallery remained open during the event. Some great poetry was shared, two people showed off their vocal skills, and we were all treated a black light show as one of the artists had accidentally discovered that her work glowed in the dark.

I read the first scene of The Tarot Cafe Novel: The Wild Hunt—and I'm very grateful to everyone for their attention and support. Couldn't have asked for a nicer place to warm-up to public readings.

Things I learned:

1) Water on hand.

2) Next time, try to look up from the page.

The next open mic night will be sometime in January, and all creative types in the area are welcome to attend. Even if you don't want to participate, we appreciate the support. Please help Christina and Megan create an artist community. Don't forget we have a facebook group now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

First Review for The Tarot Cafe Novel

As I contemplate my answers for the interviews I'm doing for The Tarot Cafe Novel: The Wild Hunt, I paused to seek out a link to one of the interviewer's previous reviews—Katie Trattner has reviewed the comic series—and I find that there's already a review floating around the net for the novel.

Now, this—aside from the people I've been in contact with to do reviews/interviews/events—will likely be the only one I'm going to read. While I value the feedback, if you really want to tell me, you can do the legwork to find me. I'm halfway through the rough draft for SHARDS, so I've got my head buried in the Nevada Desert sand again.

Well, that and I need to actually reread the novel when I get my author copies, because I'm a little fuzzy on the details. I seem to recall spending most of the revisions thinking "that is sooo over the top. I bet they ask me to tone it down. Wait, they didn't. Wow."

Thank you to the Otaku Bookshelf and you may read Katherine Dacey and Ken Haley's review here. It states: "I’m pleased to report that her adaptation is entertaining and true to the spirit of Sang-Sun Park’s manhwa, yet accessible to readers unfamiliar with the original series."

It also says: "The Tarot CafĂ© is one of the best “novelizations” of a manga to be published in the US. Rooney pulls off the difficult trick of writing for fans and newcomers alike, demonstrating her knowledge of the original story while expanding its universe to include new characters. Her work functions both as an effective companion to the manhwa and a stand-alone YA novel, and should be a hit with teens who love supernatural soap operas."

Wow. That's almost as good as the header having Mokona in goggles! I love Tsubasa Resevoir Chronicle and goggles. Or I love TRC because of the goggles... Did I mention the sand in my teeth?

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

As of late, Canada's forgotten it's not officially winter until the 21st and has become ridiculously cold. As in the limb-numbing, lung-stabbing, breath-stealing, snow-covered kind of cold I associate with the dead of January—or Edmonton on New Year's Eve.

Oh, I exaggerate. The current temperature would be consider balmy by Edmontonians. (God love them, they're a hardy lot.)

From the Christmas party, I bring you pointers:

1) No, you don't know the words to Genie in a Bottle. Even if you do, don't try to sing it. The beat changes will throw you.

2) It's not a real party until someone butchers Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

3) The reason the aforementioned song gets butchered is we all forget about those two lines in the chorus that are off the high end of most people's vocal ranges.

4) Never let on that you're frightened by something, because I'll remember it so I can use that to defeat you if you turn Anti-Spiral on us.

Tomorrow night is The Art We Are's The Art YOU Are night, aka open mic at the Gallery. I'll be participating by reading the beginning scene of The Tarot Cafe Novel, which requires no exposure to the comic for enjoyment.

The artistic quota of the week has been met by doing FRAGILE ETERNITY graphics for wickedlovely.com. This has resulted in butterflies on the brain. Here, have a wee preview:





Ohh, and there cookies that will need baking this weekend. Yum yum.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Seven things on a Thursday

Blog cleaning is not the same as house cleaning because no actual cleaning happens. It's more a metaphorical clearing of space as various items that should be addressed or mentioned are sent on their way.

Wow, I realize the blog disappeared for a while. Weekly updates aren't really good enough, are they?

1) I have made several wonderful bookmarks, but I don't want to spoil anyone's holiday surprise, so I'll wait until I know they've been received to post the images. Any of you Californians interested in the beaded holiday ornaments? I can endeavor to bring a few with me.

2) There's a holiday party for work on Saturday. I know, it's fascinating. We're going to play this game where you steal presents. It sounds exciting and vaguely kaitou-ish. I will probably take a bookmark or a bracelet. Cookie swap is the following weekend, so it's time to bake those cinnamon-snaps.

3) The Art We Are has an open mic night called The Art YOU Are on December 17th at 7 pm—$3 at the door. Swing by #201 322 Victoria Street and let Christina know you're coming.

4) I am obsessively listening to the Gurren Lagann opening theme and happily ever after.

5) SHARDS draft will surpass 40,000 words this week.

6) I bought an espresso machine to help me develop my skillz at home. It's semi-automatic, which really means I have to grind the beans myself and switch out the portafilter each time. I, however, mastered the steam wand's lesser pressure and am getting sexy foam. The machine's name is Steve. Feel free to leave "lulz" in the comments if you understand why.




7) I have made a startling discovery—my dog is Batman. Behold the ever-vigilant Dog Knight!




Wednesday, December 10, 2008

We have a cover!



Isn't it beautiful? (No, I'm not certain either why Pamela's hair is red—unless she's filling in the necessary redheaded character in everything I write.)

Amazon.com tells me that a paperback version of The Tarot Cafe Novel volume 1: The Wild Hunt will be released on January 6th, 2009. It appears Canadian release date is going to be January 20th, 2009 (according to Amazon.ca.)

So pre-order here (US) and here (Canada.)

There are a few online events planned to celebrate the release—including something special in the works with The Book Smugglers for the week of the 13th and a giveaway that agency sister Rachel Vincent and I have organized for the week of the 19th. I've also been in contact with a buyer from McNally Robinson since World Fantasy, but I don't have the full details yet.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Coming up for Air

Oh, December. Christmas shopping to do. Jewelry to make. Packages and cards to worry about getting mailed in time. Holiday parties to attend. Vacations preparations to complete.

And in all this... SHARDS found its footing in one of those glorious aha! moments late on the weekend. While I surpassed 30,000 words on December 1st, there's little time to pause and celebrate as I have another 30,000 to write this month.

25,000 words is where all the interweaving of all the threads starts to become apparent—30,000–40,000 is where the story starts to write itself. The momentum is there, and around 50,000 words the plots screaming down toward the resolution, so it's all I can do to keep up.

More importantly, where I am now the book is going forward. Becoming its own story and not just a continuation of events from the first book. It's digging deeper, it's telling me more about the world and the characters, which allows the Great Mystery to play a more significant role in the series arc. There needs to be a difference between who Runa and Valen are in book one and who they are in book six. Knowing that allows me to better create the plot obstacles that will force them to grown and learn so they can reach that potential.

There isn't a difference in adult versus young adult, per say, with my projects. It's a difference in what each series is about and wants to accomplish. The YA has a much faster pace, a grander scale, and there's a lot of flash and shine to it. The adult book has a quieter approach, more intimate and there's a conscious dedication to the beauty of the words that create that intimacy.

I choose words differently for the books, because they need to speak in a way that uses my voice for their purpose. Manuscripts are like people, they have individual reasons and desires that motivate them. It doesn't mean they aren't united in greater ideals—just that they're able to contribute in their way to the support of those ideals.

Friday, November 28, 2008

It is snowing both in earnest and Kamloops today.

This week has been... I'm not going to go there. Instead, I'll say that my Wednesday became a Thursday and I managed a little over 2000 words. To meet my goal of 1000/day for November, I will have to write about 6500 in the next three days. It's entirely doable, it just made going to work a little difficult today.

Then I remembered why today is important:



Now, I feel a little bit better about the shift I've got to put in this afternoon. Regardless of what you think of Starbucks or the efforts of (RED), from a purely design standpoint that advert is a brilliant and clever bit of typographical magic.

Indulge in your love of the Peppermint Mocha Twist, people, because it just got easier to make excuses for why you can get one.

Remember Monday is World AIDS day and your tips help buy people Holiday gifts.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I have been a naughty writer. No biscuits for me. No, no.

For a good three weeks I was making excellent progress on SHARDS. I made it about 18, 500 words in—and BELOVED came calling. Softly, at first, but then more insistent with each passing day. Offering ideas, and when that didn't work, it started to play dirty.

So I gave it 5XX words. Nice words. Good words. After that, I told it to go play outside while I attended to SHARDS.

I'll be honest: writing-wise last week sucked. Less than 2000 words over seven days. Pathetic.

I had such hope for this week. Shiny and new and quiet. Two perfect days in a row mid-week with no shifts to set a goal of 2500 daily words. Two days of cocooned writing that I would gladly emerge from on Friday ready to face the coffee crowd.

My beautiful two days is now a Wednesday. One of those peculiar transition days—not the beginning of the week nor the end. Just that odd middle part. A magical day, perhaps, but a 5000 word day?

Maybe. It is still Monday, after all, and they are relatively hopeful days.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Shiny Baubles for 11/21/08

I have many, many Christmas ornaments finished. They are all, however, headed to Christmas at the Square at St Andrew's on the Square here in Kamloops. (It's one of my favorite buildings downtown—I did part of a photo shoot for my DAAD final project there. I also love the Brownstone Restaurant building and the Youth Hostel.)

I had some bookmarks finished as well, but they've already sold, so the only offerings this week are three bracelets:



Big Bauble Bracelet: Hot (sexy) magenta jewel-tone faceted beads, faux smoky quartz beads, and a zebra cord bead from Japan. Finished with a square toggle clasp and a detailed butterfly.




Shining Star bracelet: gold, blue, and green glass beads accented with yellow glass stars and a large blue and gold folded glass star from Japan. Finished with a star toggle clasp.




True Love bracelet: pinks and clear glass beads accented with larger glass beads and a polished square rose quartz. Finished with a shot-through-the-heart toggle clasp and the kanji for love.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Samples and entry fees

Samples deal with "giving" product away on the basis of future reimbursement for continued relations with whomever you've given the sample to. A lot of businesses give out samples. If you blog, and you're doing it as a business tool, you're giving out a sample.

I provided a sample to Jenna, my would-be editor at TOKYOPOP, when we discussed me coming on board to do The Tarot Cafe Novel. The blog wasn't enough, because it didn't establish how I handled fictional narratives. If you've looked at the writing samples, you'll notice all but one(?) of them are scenes or flash fiction. So I showed Jenna "The Rainy Season," with the understanding that if that wasn't long enough I'd be happy to do a sample outline and chapter for The Tarot Cafe.

It was the opening chapter and a sample outline for an adaptation of "The Fairy" vingette from the first or second volume of the comic. The story that retells Cinderalla from the Fairy Godmother's POV.

I felt it was acceptable to do that, because it was like going to a job interview. I was in the process of being hired, and the samples I did were specific to that company and the task I was being interviewed for. It wasn't a pishing email or a post on a forum or a Craigslist attempt to get the work done for free.

The thing about samples—most business aren't giving away all that they have. Most samplers are the first chapter. Not an ongoing deluge of progressive scenes through the narrative posted weekly. As a reader, I want to see the first scene or chapter to get a taste of how you write. I've seen as much as the first 20% of the novel available online—if you're still reading 20% in, you're going to go buy the book.

Entry fees, however, strikes me as paying someone to acknowledge your product. When it comes to finances and work, I feel whoever is doing the job should be getting the money. Sounds idealistic, but it's complicated world and sometimes simple concepts are what get me through.

For example, why would I pay an agent fee? Many new writers ask this. They wonder why they should pay someone else for the work they've done. Simple: you pay your agent for all the work you won't have to or can't do. An agent also gets paid because it's her business. However, she doesn't get paid until your manuscript sells. Like you, she does a great deal of work before she ever sees a cheque.

Even your CPs get paid—in time, attention, gratitude and the first read of that bestseller's manuscript.

However, you don't pay an editor or a copy-editor. Their publishing company pays them. They aren't your employees, they're co-workers—you're all working on the project of getting that manuscript published for the publisher.

Why I don't agree with vanity press or POD is that a publisher pays me for my work. Not the other way around. There have been success stories from POD and vanity—the most recent is Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader, but she was later picked up by William Morrow and published in the traditional manner. Same with Christopher Paolini. Which isn't to say that POD and vanity are doomed paths, just that the current industry still functions based on traditional hardcopy distribution and it's the major houses that have the access.

That's not to say there aren't many valid reasons when or situations where entry fees are acceptible: to support the people holding the contest, to narrow the field, to gain access to a professional arena.

One might ask why I feel it's acceptable to pay an entry fee to attend World Fantasy, but not to submit a story for publishing consideration. Simple, World Fantasy is a professional author event. I'm guaranteed they'll let me in the door, because I've registered. When I pay a contest entry fee to submit a story, I'm not guaranteed that story will be published. I'm paying for the honor of the story being read.

Why I bring this is up is my humble blog somehow—occasionally—gets attention. TOKYOPOP, blogosphere invitations, delightful spambots, links to travel agencies, etc. Well, this morning I got an email about something called the Chapeau Blog Awards—nicely designed site, by-the-by.

If a reader invited me—thank you, it gave me a little feeling of validation. It doesn't however excuse that I spent this morning blogging instead of working on my draft.

Chapeau's "exclusive blog award competition" requires an entry fee. Thus, it's humorous and accurate to define "exclusive" in this instance as "those who pay $195 to $250 for the privilege of consideration."

I'm 80% certain the fee could be written off as "promotion."

However, in all seriousness: Chapeau has no category for "publishing," "fiction," or even "memoir." Bogs function on the written word, and this contest seeking to reward "brilliant blogs" doesn't have a writing-specific award.

So I should pay $195 to list myself an entertainer or hobbyist? Nah, think I'll say my money and go register for World Con. If I do before December 31st, I can spend that extra $5 on a peppermint mocha twist.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Lately it's been beads over words

It's not Christmas season, but the whole Holiday rollout at work this past week has chronologically thrown me. Once again, I'm reminded, time is largely just a human construct. Undeniably it passes, but the actual "when" of seasons is rather subjective.

That being said, things are picking up for the Christmas shopping season. I donated a necklace and bracelet set to a local bonspiel's silent auction. (If you know what sport that involves, you're probably Canadian or Scottish.)



Fire-finished beads, pink cathedral beads, black and gold glass beads, and gold metal clasps. The bracelet features a folded glass beads and the necklace features a polished, faceted citrine pendant.




Bookmarks continue. A few people will be getting special Christmas surprises. ;)

Speaking of Christmas, for the season: Handmade holiday ornaments. Versitile and festive, these colorful creations can be hung on your tree, mantle, or attached to gifts/cards. Selling for $5 each ($7 including shipping) or 3 for $14 ($18 including shipping.)


Starlight variation.



Sleigh Ride variation.

If you're in Kamloops next weekend, Nov 21–22, please visit Christmas at the Square. The Art We Are will have a table, where the ornaments as well as many other beautiful local artisan's creations will be available. I'll even be working the table for a couple hours Friday afternoon, so say hello.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Two recent pieces that hadn't been uploaded



Vintage Glam: Glass bead, reclaimed plastic gold beads, faux smoky quatz beads, and gold-colored mesh "pearls" with antique-finish gold clasp.

This was a donation to The Art We Are gallery's charity auction for the Kamloops Clubhouse.



Blue and Gold wing bookmark: Gold-colored wing charm from Japan, blue/white glass beads, blue/gold cathedral beads, blue/white fire-finished glass beads, blue and gold glass beads.


World Fantasy Conference 2008 wrap-up

Since The Tarot Cafe Novel will be on shelves in two months, it seems appropriate to pop on blogger and mention a little bit about World Fantasy 2008.

It was a great conference, so much thanks to Randy McCharles and the other WFC Calgary committee members and volunteers. Also thanks to the Hyatt for hosting.

Panels were spread out from 10 am to 10 pm, with breaks for dinner. I would say the top five panels were:

1) Argh! My Alien is an Elf! with Robert J Sawyer, Joe Haldeman, Stephen Stirling and Walter Jon Williams (moderator.)

2) Resurgence of YA Literature with Garth Nix, Linda DeMeulemeester, Kathryn Sullivan, Anne Hoppe, and Sharyn November (moderator.)

3) Defining the Next Paranormal Detective with AB Goelman, Gayleen Froese, Justin Gustainis, Jay Caselberg, Laura Anne Gilman and Devon Monk (moderator.)

4) Evolution of the Vampire Slayer with Suzy Charnas, Nancy Kilpatrick, Jason Nahrung and Alice Henderson (moderator.) (Although I think it was Nancy Kilpatrick who missed this one.)

5) Tie-ins with Robert Shearman, Mark Morris, me and Doselle Young (moderator.) (Patrick Weekes did not attend.)

Most fun events? The autograph session Friday night, being on a panel Saturday night, and the banquet on Sunday afternoon. No, I didn't choose those because they're what I happen to have photos from.

Saw old friends, made new ones—hello Devon, Dianna, Rob, Brittany, Mark and Doselle—and was told by Paul Cornell someone to not mention next time I'm on a panel that I'm nervous, because the audience couldn't tell. I, of course, have no idea who this kind gentleman was—rather embarrassing as he knew who I was.

The panel was brilliant, despite my nerves that I didn't shake off until about halfway through. Three people in the audience even knew what The Tarot Cafe was. Being at a "serious professional writer" conference and knowing that there are Tarot Cafe readers there? Wow, I didn't just feel like a real author—I felt like the effort Jenna and I put into making the novel a quality story is going to pay off.

Patrick Weekes didn't show up, which caused two of the people in the audience to leave. If by some chance he's reading this: you were wanted.

Doselle Young was a fantastic moderator and made being on the panel so much fun. He kind of shook things up and asked unconventional questions, which gave us all an opportunity to be entertaining as well as informative. I hope encouraging and possibly inspiring, too, but I'd settle for "kept audience awake." 8:00 pm up against a panel on Vampire Elves* is not an easy task.

Plus, we had Rob and Mark to keep things professional and informative. Very cool gents, so I shall let you know that Rob Shearman's TINY DEATHS won the World Fantasy Award for best collection. Mark Morris has a Doctor Who tie-in novel in which the Doctor and Donna meet Gandhi, a Hellboy tie-in that came out recently, and he'll have a TORCHWOOD tie-in entitled BAY OF THE DEAD coming out next year. It sounds zombietastic, so make sure you check it out.

Once again, however, what WFC reminded me is that conferences are really social experiences and the moments I enjoy the most aren't the panels, but the informal discussions and visits that occur in the hallways, bar, lobby, elevators, etc in between panels. If you find yourself at WFC 2009 in San Jose, make sure you take advantage to speak to people. It's not a matter of networking, it's understanding that we're all gathered in a hotel with a common interest, so why not socialize?

Also, as I'm uncertain I will be in San Jose, can someone else take it upon themselves to tell authors you happen to be in the elevator with that you enjoyed their novels and/or panels? People appreciate it.




Christina Rundle and I with Marjorie M Liu at the Friday night autograph reception. Marjorie is totally cool and I'm so grateful she took the time to pose and chat with us.



We are serious professional badass urban fantasy/dark fantasy writers. (You can tell by our costumes.)




The tie-in panel. From left to right: Rob Shearman, Doselle Young, Mark Morris and myself. Rob is answering a question in a serious, professional manner that has all of us and the audience rapt with attention. It probably has something to do with Doctor Who.




The Awards Banquet on Sunday afternoon. Christina and I pose with Brian Hades of Edge Publishing. We were fortunate to sit at the Edge Table for the banquet.

*It was actually a panel about genre combinations one should not do. I'm told by Danica that "vampire robots" was the no-no, which of course gave me an idea for a really great vampire robot story.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Starbucks + Product (RED)

So, I should probably disclose that I work for Starbucks. (Which you would know from reading my profile.) I was hired about three weeks ago, and I work up at the location in my hometown's Chapters.

Today, I attended the holiday rally, in which I learned a lot secret Starbucks things and started planning what you're all getting for Christmas presents.

However, probably the most exciting bit of news is something that I can share because it's already been announced online:

"Starting on November 27, 2008 and continuing through January 2, 2009, Starbucks will contribute five cents from the sale of any (STARBUCKS)RED EXCLUSIVE beverage at all company-owned and licensed stores in the United States and Canada to the Global Fund to invest in AIDS programs in Africa." — joinred.com

What does this mean? Well, anytime during the holiday season that you purchase any size of Peppermint Mocha Twist, Gingersnap Latte or Espresso Truffle, you're helping to provide medication, training and education to the people of Africa who are suffering from AIDS.

Let me break it down for you:

• Every FOUR drinks sold buys an individual's daily dose of AIDS medication.

• Every SEVEN drinks sold buys an injection that prevents the spread of the HIV virus from pregnant mother to her child.

So tell people—and remember to tip your barista.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

It has been a week of firsts...

A lot has happened since my last entry—America delighted and inspired the world by choosing a candidate who ran on a platform of hope, instead of another four years of a party that has remained in power through fear-mongering. (I decline to comment on the results of California's Prop 8 until I can find an official announcement including the absentee vote count.)

The fact that Barrack Obama is also the first African-American president... well, that's significant, too, but in making it about race, don't we diminish—however slightly—this proclamation that race no longer matters?

Since I'm, like, chuffed about results, I'm not even getting that worried feeling about everyone referring to him as the first "global president."

The media called the election before polls even closed on the West Coast and in Alaska. I half-wondered if I'd wake up on November 5th to find a report that we'd all made a mistake, so please welcome President McCain and his Toclafane friends. (C'mon, you wanted to see McCain regenerate into John Simm as much as I did.)

This is my transition, if you didn't notice, into what else happened while I was gone. Namely, David Tennant announced that he won't be carrying on as the Doctor in the 2010 series. I'm, of course, gutted about this. The whole prospect of a Steven Moffat-steered, Tennant-driven series was how I was planning to sustain myself during the year of specials.

With respect, I understand why Tennant is leaving. It is what Buffy did: Left us on a high note begging for more instead of losing us to inane plot twists and repetitive stories. As a writer who wants to do a series, I see the appeal of going on and on, but I know that a character has only so much in him. Those memorable ones remain with us long after the series has ended, because it didn't drag out and immunize us to their charms.

I want anything I do to end on a high note, too, and not succumb to the "how about three more books, here is a dollar sign with a lot of zeroes after it." (Yes, this might be a bit cart then horse, but it's all hypotheticals right now.) In that way, I can only respect Tennant's decision more.

Yes, I'm aware the series isn't ending and the Doctor isn't dying, but the Tenth Doctor—my Doctor—is. I don't like it, but that's the fannish part of me. The creative part gets it.

Oh, and it snowed today for the first time this year. Powdered surgar, dissolving mostly as it coats the still-warm earth. Actually, snowing still. We're starting to lose the still-green grass beneath white, although I can see various blades slicing upwards.

First snow and snow on Christmas really do fall into a completely different category. We don't think of the boots and ski pants and wind-burnt cheeks that winter brings, but just fill with this child-like sense of wonder of "ooooh, snow!" At least, I find myself doing so today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Surrey International Writer's Conference

Before I bounce off to Calgary, I thought it might be worth mentioning a little bit about the Surrey International Writer's Conference. I attended it last weekend—on Saturday, primarily to see Vicki Pettersson's presentation.

I've been to a few conferences and festivals, and I know a good panel when I leave it feeling inspired and hungry to get back to the words. Vicki's presentation left me ravenous. If you ever have an opportunity to attend it—I'm not certain whether she's going to Surrey again next year—you have to. It is, perhaps, the single most important thing you can do for your writing.

Which I state with full disclosure that I am incredibly biased and think Vicki's one of the most brilliant newish writers publishing in genre today.

It was also great to meet up with Susan Adrian, who's a sweetheart. Thanks, Susan, for being so kind and welcoming.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Tarot Cafe Novel release news & panel announcement for World Fantasy

Mark your calendars! According to Jenna, THE TAROT CAFE NOVEL: VOL 1 will release on January 13, 2009. I've been told some stores may have the book on the shelves before then, just because of how distribution works, but I can't begin to tell you where and which stores that may be. Also, Amazon.ca is saying January 20th not the 13th.

The book became available through Previews catalogue in September. My request is that you please order the book through your local comic book store. If you must, go to Borders, Amazon, B&N, or Chapters—but please try to support the independents first.

Second—I'm super excited to announce that I will be on a panel at the World Fantasy Conference in Calgary, AB next weekend.

Saturday, Nov 1 at 8:00 Pm Tie-Ins:
"How do you make good fiction out of a strictly limited process
with a plethora of rules? Be it film to book or console to page,
how much of the story can be your own invention and how
much does the universe bible rule your prose?"

Panelists: Patrick Weekes, Robert Shearman, Mark
Morris
, Chandra Rooney, Doselle Young (m)

I realize this is up against the LOTR tribute, but Tolkien will never know you weren't there. ;)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Transitioning

Wow, since I've returned from Japan—and, all right, for the past couple months—it's like I've needed an angel to come and pull my blog back into the world of the living. (Like they did for Dean Winchester. Mmm Dean....)

So what's been going on? I wish I knew. Suspecting that the cause is too much time spent reading the f-list on livejournal. Wishing the cause was an incredibly productive past couple of months. Blaming, mostly, Mercury retrograde. I have a friend who will back me up on this—my chart proves Mercury retrograde is extra harsh on me due to a Virgo sun and a Gemini moon.

But those are all excuses, and I'd bet the true culprit is a transition period. Like so much of my life, I've spent the past few months with everything up in the air. Plans being made, only to be changed. It's all been very fluid, water parting around rocks, finding an alternate route.

I started a new job this week. Today will be my 3rd training shift, and I've got another on Monday. It's all very detail-orientated and I'm having a lot of information thrown at me. The team that I work with are welcoming, helpful, and incredibly friendly. Yet, new things bring change and change is disruptive to pattens and habits and discipline over the past month and a half hasn't been my strongest trait.

Eventually this new change will help to establish a new pattern—bring structure to my days. It's just the transition has to play itself out.

Revising FRAGMENTS was good for me, but it has brought to my attention that what I've got for SHARDS doesn't work as well as it should. Also, I feel daunted by something that shouldn't be daunting. Due to whatever, I lost track of telling the story a sentence at a time and trusting that in the end those are going to be good sentences—always capable of becoming better sentences later.

I'll be in Surrey for the Surrey International Writers' Conference this weekend (registered for Saturday.) All I can say for sure is that you'll find me at Vicki Pettersson's panel Get Over Yourself—and Get Writing. If you're there, too, say hello.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Kyoto Day 9 or Gunma Day 1, take your pick

Thursday, September 25th 2008

Breakfast in Kyoto with Alice was at a place called "Speakeasy." Yes, as in the establishments that covertly served alcohol during the American prohibition. Guess what kind of cuisine it serves? Right, American. As in a real, American-style breakfast of French toast paired with organic coffee.

Speakeasy's a lovely little--and I mean little--place, if you're wandering the streets off Shijou and in the mood for some familiar-looking food.

After a taxi took me to the eki, and I learned that some taxis in Kyoto do allow you to pay your fare via a credit card. Wow. It still remains difficult for foreigners in Japan to get Japanese credit cards, but most places in bigger cities are more than happy to swipe your plastic when you pay for goods.

No pictures from today, as most of it was spent on the shinkansen. One from Kyoto to Tokyo, and another from Tokyo to Omiya--where I was to meet my dear friend, Yukiko. See, Yukiko has moved up through the ranks of the company I once worked for and now is a trainer. Omiya is where KPC's Saitama prefecture office is, and I was stationed in the nearby Kumagaya for five months in 2002. (The other three being spent in Niihama, Ehime which is on the smallest island of Shikoku.)

Saitama, and even more so Gunma, are the heart of my Japan. It's not so much the location, of course, as it is the people who live there. They keep that heart beating. I don't just mean the people I know. Gunma residents are cool. They're relaxed and friendly. I had really great time in Kyoto, but there's something odd about Kansai. It's not normal to be disappointed when you realize someone is a foreigner because you were hoping they were a demon of some kind. Truth be told, Kansai people are just more vocal about things. There's always a possibility that someone will take advantage of the language barrier and say the most amazing things because they think you can't understand, but it's less likely to happen in a place like Gunma. For the reason that no one goes on vacation to Gunma (except for me.) So a foreigner is there, that foreigner probaby speaks Japanese.

Anyway to make up for the lack of pictures, here is a poem:

Japan is a train
slicing through the fields; onwards
to the next city.

Also, I have come to appreciate mobile phones. Not having one in Japan didn't bother me except for two incidents. The first occurred this day, when I tried to meet Yukiko at The Loft in Omiya. You would think we wouldn't have much trouble finding each other, but you'd be surprised how difficult it can be for two foreign-ish looking people to find each other in a store.

From Omiya (Saitama,) we rode the local train to Takasaki (Gunma.) That's where the nostalgia is in full force, as the Takasaki line was my main line of transport while I lived in Japan. The Omiya station has changed a lot, as has the Takasaki station, but enough remains the same to be jarring. It's like the ghost of my former life is haunting. I keep turning and expecting to see someone I know.

On the train, I told Yukiko about signing with Miriam. Finishing the TOKYOPOP contract and going out on submission with the adult manuscript. Yukiko, of course, says what any good neesan who's not really your neesan would say... that she's proud of me and she wants to read the books.

A bike ride through the darkness, that equalizing shade of night in the Japanese countryside that makes everything familiar in obscurity. Companions are once again the comforting weight of a sky full of stars and the whirl of the kinetic bicycle light measuring out distance.

We eat in a place that has no English menus. As children run the tiny length of the restaurant, the adults drink. Blue smoke drifts around the ceiling.

It's like I never left. It's like I've come home by understanding "home" is not a geographical location.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Paper and clock

Today marks a year since I signed my contract of representation with my agent, Miriam Kriss. Or, as a website tells me, the anniversary in which it is traditional to give a paper gift or modern to give a clock. Perhaps this means a story about time travel is de mode, but she'd likely appreciate my completed revisions more. (Although I did send a note predicting that those would be finished on Monday, which is In The Future... oooh...)

Miriam is the coolest agent in the world for a number of reasons, but here are the top five:

1) She loves what I write.
2) She gets what I write, which is arguably the cause of #1.
3) She knows how to make what I've written better.
4) She's honest with me.
5) She loves Neil Gaiman.

Number five, by the way, isn't something I've added because I could only think of four reasons. I do give extra points for an appreciation of Neil Gaiman. There are many authors I call "favorites," but no other has had quite the same impact on my writing.

Over the past year, Miriam has negotiated a contract for me that I completed in June, we've revised and gone on submission with an adult manuscript, and now we're in the process of revising a young adult manuscript. I still get giddy when she calls to discuss what she thought of something.

There's a misconception that having an agent reduces the amount of work you do, but I've become more productive. There's a belief that getting an agent makes everything instant and easy. It doesn't, but it's certainly better to know that you have someone in your corner.

Eagerly, I greet what this next year brings us.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Kyoto Day 8: Forget Your Map, Find a Graveyard....

First of all, I have found my large pile of informational tourist pamphlets and brochures Kyoto gifted to me in generous way, and I have a correction to make. The tea ceremony place in Uji is not called the Uji Tea Ceremony Research Place. It's called Taiho-An: Uji City Municipal Tea Ceremony House. Research is, perhaps, not part of they do there.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

The plan for today was to explore the Gion Shrine—also known as the Yasaka Shrine. No matter what you'd like to call it, this colorful and large shrine at the end of Shijou is a well-known tourist spot among the Japanese. The shrine was originally built in 656 AD, and its main god is Susanoo-no-Mikoto, the god of storms and brother of Amaterasu, the sun goddess.


The main entrance to Yasaka Shrine.

There are also shrines to other gods there, including a small Inari Shrine.


In Kyoto proper, lanterns are a popular display item for larger donotions.


The fox guardians of this shrine are actually caged. (I'm not sure who the cage is meant to protect.)


While Yasaka Shrine is lovely, it's hardly an all-day event, so I moved onwards to Maruyama Park which sort of links this shrine with other temples in the area. Maruyama is famous in Kyoto for cherry blossom viewing, and likely popular again for Autumn leaves. Although the leaves are still unchanged in late September, the park is still lovely and a nice peaceful break from the crowds of Gion and Shijou.


A fountain in Maruyama Park.




Alice had mentioned there was a large temple located through Maruyama Park—Chion-in, which is known for having appeared in the movie The Last Samurai. While I'd left my guidebook and English maps at the apartment, there were signs around Maruyama Park that indicated something was in both directions. Both, also, looked like temples.

The first "temple," which I found pleased with myself for finding...well, it turned out not to be a temple. It was the Higashi Otani Mausoleum—a conclusion I should have reached when I saw the flowers being sold and lack of tourists on the grounds. Not when I finally saw the graves.


Higashi Otani Mausoleum entrance gate.


After walking purposefully out of the graveyard, lest someone realize I was lost and try to offer directions, I wound back down the hill and followed a road through Maruyama Park to another area that seemed popular with the taxi drivers. Add that fact to the massive gate I could see behind the taxis, and this location seemed a safer bet as a more acceptable tourist spot.



Chion-in temple is at the top of an impressive flight of stop steps. They're unusually tall stairs for Japan, but the grounds that wait for you are beautiful and spacious.




As I've mentioned before, even when you get lost in Kyoto, you can't really get truly and maddeningly lost because the city has been built on a something of a grid. It creates a safety in wandering that I've found unique to Kyoto—that is, the safety of being able to reason what approximate direction you need to go to get anywhere you see on a map. Plus, in an effort to cater to its tourists, Kyoto features maps in some locations.




The thing that gets to me about Kyoto is the feeling that as much as it professes itself to be an International Tourist City, it's not adequately prepared. The effort and intention is there, but it's been undermined by the lingering xenophobia so deeply entrenched in Japan.

You see the war going on—the effort being made by those who welcome and cater to the foreign tourist, yet in the same day you might experience other people behaving as if they'd never seen a foreign tourist in their lives. The latter is what makes Japan an important experience for those of us who do not live as visible minorities in our daily lives.

Also, if you don't travel to foreign countries, you will never find things like "Kyoto Green Tea Collon" snacks:




Foreign travel brings a sense of adventure to simple things. They become imbued with the mystery of the exotic. Going to a grocery store becomes a new experience, as you're no longer just looking—you're seeing again.

If you aspire to write, even if you're not going to write genre, you need to travel. You need to breathe in as many places as you can, and learn not what makes people different, but what makes them the same.


People walking along the banks of the Kamogawa or Kamo River, taken from Shijou street.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I've finished the first pass of revisions—which means I believe I've accomplished what's been asked of the manuscript by my agent. Next, it sits for a few days while I read The Graveyard Book, then I'll read through the manuscript again to ensure it flows and hasn't created new issues while resolving the previous ones.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Today I...

• Looked at maps of the projected effects of rising sea levels and found they did not alarm me nearly as much as they should have.

• Looked at a map of the San Andreas Fault line to guess what part of California would drop off into the ocean after that Great Quake happens.

• Researched nicknames for Seattle, WA.

• Redrew the map of North America.

• Contemplated easy, effective, but not stupid names for a plague.

This means, of course, the revision notes for FRAGMENTS arrived last night. The writing workload of these particular revisions isn't massive, we're a paragraph here, a few more lines of dialogue there. What creates the workload is the background thinking that goes into those few new paragraphs and phrasing of those new dialogue exchanges.

It's a lot of detail work, which is usually my favorite kind of revising, but Mercury Retrograde has been playing tricks on this wee poor virgo. Normally, I don't put much thought into Mercury Retrograde, but... my agent is having issues with her email server and attachments, I experienced the bullet trains losing the plot in Japan, and a package sent to Rachel Vincent from Kyoto arrived in my mailbox yesterday. (I sent the package—there is somewhat of a logical explaination for what happened.)

I'm going to quietly go work on my revisions, enjoy the long weekend—it's Thanksgiving here in Canada—and try to decide who I'm voting for on Tuesday in the federal election.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The jet lag kicked my ass

So I can explain what happened to the travel blog.

First, I was traveling.

Second, I was traveling without my tablet and thus was having to do the photo work with a trackpad. There are few things less useful than a trackpad for photo work. (Two of them include a trackball and a Mac mouse.)

Third, the jet lag kicked my ass. After surviving a 32 hour day Oct 1st, I was relatively useless for the next four days. In fact, I still woke up this morning at an unholy hour—you know, like when only Vicki Pettersson is awake.

The good thing is that I've managed to edit through all but the last set of photos, so I should have selections for posting regarding the rest of the trip this week. Assuming that I don't succumb to the desire to write another 3000 words per day for the remainder of the week, in which case, you may never know what happened during the second half of my trip.

Sorry. Priorities—as I'm losing another week at the end of the month to World Fantasy in Calgary.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kyoto Day 7: Cooking and Wandering

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2008

As today was the Autumnal Equinox, it was a Japanese national holiday. Officially unofficially to celebrate ohigan. On both equinoxes, the Japanese care for their ancestral grave sites in accordance with Buddhist traditions. Officially the Japanese government can't recognize one religion over the others, so ohigan isn't the "legal" reason for the holiday. (Or so Mr. Hirooka explained to us on his tour.)

In other words, it was extremely busy on the buses and streets because of the holiday. Alice and I had reservations to attend a mini-lesson at the Uzuki Cookery. Held in her home, Emiko—not to be confused with the Emiko we'd been out with on Sunday night—teaches Japanese cooking classes in English.

Emiko's English is very good and she's a competent cook able to explain ingredients and procedures. Sometimes she refers to English-language books explaining Japanese food or spices to help expand. Normally classes involve four dishes to create a complete meal and take three hours, but we had a mini-lesson which only involved two basic dishes.

Kyoto-style Japanese food involves subtle flavors with particular accents. It's not a lot of strong spices or sauces like Tokyo-style food. These subtle flavors create refreshing, crisp dishes. We had a lot of fun! So if you're in Kyoto and interested in cooking, I'd recommend you contact her to arrange for a class. She's also got a blog.


Aemono salad: made of spinach, grilled mushrooms and Japanese sesame dressing.


Goma-ae salad: cooked spinach with sesame dressing.


Ohitashi salad: cucumbers with sesame paste dressing and a ginger garnish.


Dashimaki-tamago: an omlete-like roll.


The meal of three salads and dashi-maki tamago with rice.

After the cooking lesson, Alice had to go to work. I decided to visit the Kyoto International Manga Museum, as it was only a stop away from Shijou on the subway. The museum is interesting, but not as large or comprehensive as I would have liked. There's an exhibit about the origins of manga. Anime, after all, largely owes its origins to Disney and the American occupation of Japan after WWII. Manga, however, existed long before anime. Comics began in Japan during the late 1800s as political satire and evolved into narratives much the same way that American comics did. There was also an exhibit of the Japanese and Korean entries into an Asian comic contest with the prompt of "Toast."

If you're able to read and comprehend Japanese, there's a massive archive of manga in the museum that works like a library. You're welcome to pick a book off the shelve and read it, you just can't remove it from the museum. While it makes for a nice break from the temples, the museum is very small and can be gone through quickly.

I was left with the better part of the afternoon to find something to do, so I walked through Nishiki Market again then made my way to the Starbucks. With an orange-mango frapaccino in hand, I sat outside and proceeded to write my postcards. Unfortunately, Japan is a smoker's paradise and outside Starbucks smells a bit like the inside of ventilated bar. A woman sat at my table and lit up, but I didn't have the heart to ask her to move because it was the first time all day that someone Japanese had given me the impression I was approachable. I'd had an incident of culture shock the night before, so feeling approachable was more important than avoiding the smell of cigarettes.


Ake: Notice the blog is now running a week behind?
Ken: Yes, like it's in its own special time zone.
Ake: Could be why it took so long to find this artist's rendering of you.
Ken: A what now?
Ake: Helen Ewart drew it for Chandra's birthday. Here have a look.
Ken: I appear to be at the Fushimi Inari Taisha.
Ake: And?
Ken: I'd never willingly go to Fushimi. Maybe it's a picture of you?
Ake: I don't have girl hair.
Ken: I don't have girl hair.
Ake: Yeah. You totally have girl hair.
Ken: Is this leading to a suggestion that you start calling me Fox Girl?
Ake: I'm sure there are those who already do.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Kyoto Day 6.2: Uji

Monday, September 22, 2008

Uji is famous for green tea and being the town of The Tale of Genji/Genji Monogatori. Considered to be the world's first novel, The Tale of Genji was written by Murasaki Shikibu in 1008 AD. This year marks the celebration of a 1000 years of Genji, so Uji has many special events planned.

We went to Uji for three reasons:

1) Since I did a drawing class project on Murasaki Shikibu, I've been interested in her life. Still haven't read The Tale of Genji, but I'm going to make it a goal once I return to Canada.

2) Uji is Kamloops' sister city.

3) There's an opportunity to do an economical tea ceremony that doesn't require complication reservations like the teahouses in Kyoto.

When you enter Uji, a gate welcomes you with an image of Genji and his famous Uji lady. (See how I cleverly avoid pointing out that I don't know what her name actually is.)



After Kyoto, most Japanese cities seem more difficult to navigate. Kyoto was built on a grid—a trait only shared with Sapporo. All other Japanese cities twist and turn. Even with a map and simple-sounding directions to the Uji City Tea Research Center, we managed to get lost. A short trip through the very residential area later, we found Byoudoin Temple—a world heritage site. We planned to go there later, as the tea ceremony place closed first. (It may or may not actually be called Uji City Tea Research Center. I seem to think it is, but I could totally be making that up.)


Along the Shirokawa or Shiro River on the way to tea ceremony.


A boat to take a cruise on the Shirokawa.

Tea ceremony is an interesting experience—well, to be fair everything is an "interesting" experience when you don't understand a great deal of Japanese. I'm not sure I really sure it's something I'd feel the need to do again, as tea to me is instinctively linked to causal conversation. And cake. We had silence and hagi/clover-flavored mochi cake instead.


The tea ceremony garden and tea house.


This gong is rung to indicate customers have arrived.

After the tea ceremony we went to Byoudoin, which is on the ten yen coin. At some point we got in the middle of a tour group of elderly Japanese travelers. (I swear I heard one of them call me Inari-chan. They must have grankids who watch Wagaya no Oinari-sama or the Japanese hive-mind is at work again.)


One side of Byoudoin Temple...


...and around the other.

Perhaps what I liked most about Uji was eating green tea ice cream along the bank of the Shirokawa. Sitting there with the river on either side of me and the mountains rising to my back, it felt like Kamloops.


The walking sign indicates a good place to view autumn leaves.


Benches to sit and enjoy the sights.