First Attempts at Writing

At only 3 years and 5 days old, my daughter attempted to write her name for the first time. I didn’t help her other than asking her to copy me.

First try (Tommy is her nickname):


Second try:


Now her real name (Tomoe):


And finally, her name in Japanese (ともえ):


Not bad at all!

Three Year Blog Anniversary

I missed this blog’s three year anniversary.  It happened three days ago, January 28th.  In fact, I started this blog three days after my daughter was born.  Check out my first post.

So, let’s take a look at some numbers and see how things are different three years later.

This month has 3,674 views so far.  In my first year, the blog had 2,531 views.  One month has more than an entire year!  In fact, this month has nearly 20% of last year’s total views.

This month has 629 comments so far.  My first year had 278 comments.  Another big difference.

The first year had 105 posts.  This month has 71 so far (72 including this one).

Over the three years, I have done 58 reviews, 17 of which were independently published.  26 were science fiction, 25 were fantasy, while 7 were in other genres.

There have been a total of 795 posts including this one.  72 this month means that I’ve done nearly 10% of my posts in this month alone.

So, happy anniversary, blog! Let’s see those number get much bigger.

Some Extremely Lesser-Known Things About Me

I remember a while back, I posted some things about myself.  Well, here’s some more, but maybe not very well-known things about me.

  • I like plastic models.  I’m not interested in wars happening, but I find them fascinating to read about, and therefore, I enjoy military jets and ships.  Not many people know this.  Well, now you do.
  • I had a Superman cape when I was little.  I loved the first Superman movie so much, I used to wear it and zoom around the room pretending to fly.
  • E.T. scared me.  Really, really scared me.
  • I hated broccoli.  But now I like it.  Why?  It’s the way it’s cooked.  I discovered that the common way to cook it in England and Canada is to boil the hell out of it.  Tastes like garbage to me.  Lightly cooked is delicious.  I never discovered that until I came to Japan.
  • I have met and spoken to Vladimir Tretiak, James Doohan, Marina Sirtis, Michael Dorn, and Musashimaru.
  • I actually enjoy the feeling of an earthquake.
  • I also enjoy typhoons and thunderstorms.
  • I have eaten shark, jellyfish, horse, octopus, and squid.  I liked the shark, and the horse was decent, but I didn’t like any of the other stuff.  Oh yeah, the horse meat was raw.
  • Shrimp with the head on freaks me out.  I won’t touch it.
  • I’ve been electrocuted by a hand dryer in a public washroom.  I was okay, but my finger was numb for several hours.

And there you go.  Anything interesting about you?

Authors Answer 13 – Give These Authors Some Love

Authors have to start somewhere.  They start off as unknowns, struggling to find a foothold in the industry.  They may get lucky and have a great marketing team and publisher, resulting in a bestseller.  But most struggle to make enough to pay the bills.  There are a lot of lesser-known authors out there that are actually quite good.  They just need more exposure.  Although the guy in the picture below is not unknown, you usually don’t see him this young.

Not unknown!

Question 13: Can you recommend an author you enjoy that is not well-known? Why did you choose them?

Elizabeth Rhodes

Earlier in the year I read Lost Everything by Brian Francis Slattery.  It caught my eye because the setting (post apocalyptic, in a region of the US ruined by war and natural disasters) and protagonist (grieving father with a shady past) felt very similar to what I’d created in Jasper.  The story itself is, of course, different and beautifully written.  I’d describe the writing style as almost dreamlike.  So if I were to recommend an author, it’d be this one.

Linda G. Hill

I came across Sharon Shinn at a used book sale and decided to pick up one of her books because it was about angels. I fell in love with her style immediately, and the richness of her worlds and depth of her characters are very compelling. She may be fairly well known, but it’s quite difficult to find her in the store… she’s widely available online though.

Caren Rich

Ohhhhh. I am currently reading two ladies, both Southern mysteries and both are very funny.  One I think is better known than the second.

Susan M. Boyer writes the Liz Talbot MysteriesLowcountry Boil was the first and Lowcountry Bombshell is the second.  Please write a third!  These books are smart and funny.  They have just enough local color to make me want to visit South Carolina and drink Cheerwine on the beach.

Jana DeLeon writes the Miss Fortune Mystery Series.  There are 5 books in the series, I’ve read 3.  I found the first one, Louisiana Longshot,  for free on my kindle and quickly bought the next two.  They are hysterical.  The series is set in a fictional swamp town in Louisiana.  The main character finds herself in crazy situations with a pair of geriatric busy bodies…with military training.  The books are filled with Southern sass.  Love them.

Jean Davis

Douglas Hulick‘s Among Thieves was my favorite novel discovery of the past year. I happened upon it in a bookstore while I was there on a job. I’m a sucker for a man with a sword who seems to be up to no good on the cover. The writing is excellent and the main character utterly enjoyable. I devoured it in a single day. His second book was out in May, but I haven’t had the time to sit down and properly enjoy a book since reading the first one so I’m saving it until I do.

S. R. Carrillo

Hands down, Michelle Browne is one author that needs more love and deserves every ounce of it that she has. She is an amazing writer with insane ideas and also she’s a grade A editor. She also has her ear to the ground on a lot of what goes on in the world, and she’s smart and knowledgeable (making a distinction between the two). She writers horror, dystopian, sci-fi and a little of everything between. More about her at her blog.

D. T. Nova

Excluding the really famous ones, I’m not even always aware of how known an author is. Several times I’ve started reading books by an author I didn’t know much about only to find that they were more famous than I’d realized before I started reading them.

I guess I’m pretty sure that Beth Revis isn’t all that well-known in the grand scheme of things, and she’s an easy recommendation to explain because she does fill a specific niche, being the only modern author of young adult space science fiction that I can think of.

Amy Morris-Jones

An underappreciated author whose work I really appreciate is Jason Skipper. His book Hustle is a beautiful exploration of three generations of men who are each flawed yet somehow are unforgettable.

Tracey Lynn Tobin

Honestly, most of the authors that I read are the well-known ones, because I don’t have a lot of spare time to go mucking around searching for gems in the rough. But one author that I would recommend from my childhood who is probably not very well-known anymore is Monica Hughes. She wrote one of my favorite novels of all time, Invitation to the Game, which I purchased at a book fair when I was in elementary school and have read at least twenty times since. It still holds a special place on my bookshelf, and as of late I’ve been itching to read it again. Mrs Hughes created a chillingly plausible dystopian future for the book, and the entire idea of The Game still gives me little shivers to this day. An excellently-written book, for sure, and she has several other excellent ones as well, so go check her out!

Paul B. Spence

I’m not sure what qualifies as “not well known.” So many people damn Heinlein without actually reading any of his books. Others know of a few popular books but not the really good ones by some authors. Less-known authors that I’d recommend:  Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Jane Lindskold, Paul Cook, C. S. Friedman, Janet Kagan, Doris Lessing, R. M. Meluch, Daniel Keys Moran, to name a few.

H. Anthe Davis

Hmm.  Joe Hill is becoming famous now, what with Horns being made into a movie, but he does really fantastic short stories — better than his novels.  Heather Gladney only wrote two books back in the late eighties, but I love them so much and wish she’d finished the trilogy!  Argh!  And Max Gladstone just recently broke into the fantasy scene with his Craft Sequence novels, in which gods operate like corporations and magic is a matter of law…  Really interesting ideas, vivid visuals and clever plotting, all of which I could only wish to emulate.  Oh, also Mark Z. Danielewski, who wrote House of Leaves — he’s good at weird, twisty, dense and vaguely haunted stories presented in very non-standardly formatted text.

Jay Dee Archer

I think I have a lot of authors to add to my to read list from the answers above.  My recommended lesser-known authors would include a few that I’ve discovered in the past couple years.  One is Michael R. Hicks with his In Her Name series of science fiction novels.  He does military science fiction with some great characterisations.  I also have to mention Tony Bertauski, who wrote one of my top five books last year, The Annihilation of Foreverland. Some good young adult science fiction.

How about you?

I’m sure everyone who reads has some lesser-known favourites.  Which authors do you think deserve more attention? Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Flash Fiction #12 – Observing People: Train Edition

This is the first in a series of posts in which I will narrate an actual person’s behaviour.

He rocked back and forth as the train rolled down the tracks in Yokohama. His hand wrapped around a hand strap, he swung like a pendulum bumping into person after person. He drew the occasional look from one of his victims, but no one spoke up.

He had had too many beers. His boss took him and his coworkers out for drinks, and he couldn’t refuse. Such is the life of a Japanese businessman.

The train stopped at Kikuna Station. A seat opened up and he took the opportunity to sit down. Because of his drunken state, he fell asleep.

He woke up with a start. The train conductor shook his shoulder. He glanced around in confusion. Motomachi-Chukagai Station. He missed his stop. Oh well, he thought. I can always take this train back to Yokohama.

Forty minutes later, he woke up. Shibuya Station. Shit. Another yo-yo trip on the Toyoko Line.

Of course, a lot of this is fictional.

Even a Writer Needs to Learn Vocabulary

I was recently introduced to a vocabulary building website,  It tests your vocabulary and introduces new words to you, which you then have to try to correctly answer questions about.  It’s a kind of learning tool that uses spaced repetition to help you recall what you’ve studied, and it regularly goes back to learned words and retests you.

Why would I, a person with a good vocabulary and just happens to be an English teacher, work on my vocabulary?  Well, it’s not a bad idea to improve myself.  I frequently come across words I haven’t seen before in novels, and it makes me think about my own writing. I want to keep my vocabulary up.

What are some other ways to acquire new words for use in writing?  What do you do?

Is There a Trend Toward Dark, Gritty Fantasy?

Tolkien, Brooks, and even Jordan, all write or wrote heroic fantasy that features a naive and innocent protagonist who becomes a great hero and defeats a dark evil lord.  That’s pretty standard heroic fantasy.  But I look at some of the more modern fantasy series, and I see a move toward a darker and grittier tone.

A Game of ThronesGeorge R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire is probably the best example of this.  It began in the 1990s with A Game of Thrones and has yet to be finished.  He takes a long time to write.  Well, this series has nothing of the heroic fantasy series, except maybe dragons.  There seems to be no innocence.  Everyone has a dark side. There’s a lot of violence, sex, and an incredible amount of very graphic death.  Martin kills so many characters, no one is safe.  Major characters die! Even the good people aren’t entirely good. And the antagonists seem to have some humanity.

gardensofthemoonAnother series is The Malazan Book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson.  In the first novel, Gardens of the Moon, also written in the 1990s, we get another vast cast of characters that has the reader briefly confused.  They are also all varying shades of grey, though there is a bit of an evil in this one.  Any innocence is shattered completely, as this is a brutally violent series with many deaths.  And this world has non-human races that are completely unique.  It’s an original world that doesn’t seem to borrow from the old heroic fantasy.  What I liked is that you never really knew who was good and who was bad.  Like in war, it’s a lot of people on both sides just following orders.

wizardsfirstruleI’m including Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth in this for one reason only, the evil antagonist is unlike any I’ve seen in heroic fantasy.  Don’t get me wrong, this is actually quite typical heroic fantasy, and our bad guy is truly evil, but this crosses a line that you rarely ever see crossed in heroic fantasy.  Let’s just say that the rapes are rather disgusting.  While the heroes are on a typical heroic quest, the villain is doing unspeakable things that felt so out of place.

What do you think?  Is there a trend toward the dark and gritty in fantasy?

The Great White Spot of Ceres

Dawn is approaching Ceres.  In just over a month, on March 6th, Dawn will enter orbit around the largest asteroid and one of the so-called dwarf planets.  It’s 952 km in diameter, which is pretty big for an object that isn’t quite a planet.  It’s relatively spherical, as well.

There are many mysteries that will be addressed as Dawn orbits Ceres, including whether it may have a possible liquid water ocean lurking beneath its icy crust, and if it’s venting water vapour into a possible tenuous atmosphere.  But the big thing that many people are wondering is what’s that bright spot?

PIA19168-Ceres-DawnSpacecraft-20150113-AnimationThe above animation was captured by Dawn on January 13th, 2015, and this is the best view we had of Ceres up to that date.  There are evidently impact craters.  The bright spot is easily visible in the images.  But what is it?  Is it fresh ice from a liquid ocean below?  Or is it a recent impact crater?  Either one is possible, but my guess is that it’s a fresh crater.  What’s wonderful is that we’ll know very soon.

jan25-dawn-ceresAnd looking at the most recent image from January 25th, we get an even clearer view.

What do you think that bright spot is?

Newsletter Is Coming Soon

I’ve signed up with MailChimp and will be trying to figure out how to set up a mailing list. It doesn’t seem very intuitive at first glance, but I haven’t explored it much yet.

I’m still deciding on the content for the newsletter, and I’m thinking weekly or biweekly will be best.

This is a little survey for you. If you’re interested in the newsletter, what content would you like to see? Please leave your answers in the comments.

Write Better by Reading

This is not a revelation, as this is a very well-known fact.  If you write, you most likely read.  And while reading, you are subconsciously taking in new techniques and vocabulary.  I think this is extremely important.

I’m currently reading Deadhouse Gates by Steven Erikson, and I’ve noticed how his writing draws me in to the world so easily.  I feel like I’m there.  Without concentrating on how he writes, I just let the voice continue in my mind while I started narrating a scene of my own.  I tried using the same style of narration, particularly the action and the descriptions of facial expressions, and found I came out with a more authentic and captivating scene.   It worked.

I wasn’t stuck in the Malazan world when thinking of my own story, but the same general richness transferred over to my own thoughts.

How much do you think reading helps your writing?