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.