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About three weeks ago I received an invitation via Twitter to submit a short story for the Beyond Time competition at Inkitt. Digging around in the partial projects folders I found a piece from the Paul Calvin / Cerberus cycle of stories about a character invented for ‘A falling of Angels’. The title is ‘Oggie’, just over five thousand words on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, mean streets, kidnap, murder, and a little shot at redemption. It’s as close as I get to happy endings.
Buffing up the narrative and fleshing out the characters a little, I finished the story and fielded it off to my younger Stepdaughter for a test read. Jo likes reading, and sent me back a couple of pages of notes and suggestions, 90% of which I acted on. She’s a trained lawyer and reads voraciously when the mood hits. I also trust and prize her judgement like diamonds.
The end result gets submitted later today. I don’t submit many stories, preferring to publish online or via Lulu.com. No idea whether anyone else will like it, but here goes nothing.
Now I’m a fully sworn in Canadian and don’t have to worry about renewing residency, I can get back to overcoming the distribution issues I’ve been nagging at for the last few years. I’ve also been talking to my brother in law over the weekend who is one of the prime movers of the ‘Inanimate Alice’ educational project, about the benefits of games and interactivity. While Ian and I don’t agree about everything, our discussions sparked off a few thoughts.
I’m coming to the conclusion that a well made interactive computer game is an excellent aid to teaching. Particularly in terms of conflict resolution. And yes, this is one of those “There’s a story thread in this…” moments, where children (and grown ups) use interactive games as a means of working out real world frustrations, and at the same time hone their decision making processes using an Artificial Intelligence type game engine. Navigate everyday moral conundrums. Demonstrate causality and methods of obtaining positive outcomes from potentially negative circumstances without getting all preachy. Tricky, but do-able with the right resource. Computer games as a stepping stone to world peace? There’s a Nobel Peace Prize in this for someone.
Now, how might it all go completely pear shaped? There’s the rub.
Amazon used to do a little ap you could paste the HTML from into a blog sidebar or widget. Having updated my profile on five marketing web sites today, I went looking for the HTML on Amazon without much success. In the end I was forced to create my own profile link to Amazon using WordPress’ handy ‘Image’ widget, which allows a site owner to add a small image weblink from their site to just about anywhere on the web. I was originally tempted to use an adaptation of Amazon’s logo, but then had visions of copyright lawyer emails, closed accounts etc and chose discretion.
It’s the little icon on the right hand sidebar with the moon and a meteor shower. Which I think looks rather cute.
There’s one below it for my Lulu.com Author spotlight, which I think gives a more noirish feel.
The biggest source of headaches is trying to untangle the web of HTML and ensure anyone who is interested finds what they’re looking for. Preferably in three clicks or less. I’ve also tried to tidy up the site a little as far as sidebars are concerned. Simply for the convenience of any visitor.
On the distribution front there’s been one minor glitch with ‘A Falling of Angels’. All fixed now, but there was a little bit of hidden code in the manuscript file that iBookstore didn’t like. One line. This means revision and a further two week delay until the eBook gets listed on the main online outlets, but that doesn’t matter so much. I think I’m getting the hang of everything now, and will have proper links to and from all the major players by the end of this week.
After that Angie and I are off to Vancouver for swearing in, so will be incommunicado. Forty eight hours after we get back from the fleshpots we have family coming to visit for three days, so I’ll be busy ministering to their needs and trying to stay sober. Somewhere between now and the festive season I may even do a little proper writing.
Another day, another hoop jumped. We’ve been accepted for Canadian citizenship. Swearing in ceremony is for December 1st 2014, Vancouver. Angie and I have decided to make a weekend of it as we haven’t had a break that wasn’t work or family business related in almost a year. Christmas shopping, Citizenship, a little wine and personal abuse. I’m still shaking a little.
We had our interview on the 6th, which apart from the usual interminable waiting, went well. I think both of us were humming like tuning forks on the quiet. I was suffering from a bad case of “What have we forgotten?” on the drive up to Nanaimo, trying desperately not to go rifling through our documentation package every five minutes. We’d got our whole lives in there. Passports, old passports, Permanent Residency cards, copies of IMM1000 forms from November 2010. Copies of just about everything we could think of; certificates, travel receipts, a neatly printed out schedule of all absences from Canada over the past seven years, receipts for all travel, car hire, hotel bills the lot. Memberships, qualifications, the kitchen sink. We were ready for just about everything.
When Angie and I arrived at Nanaimo, we found our way to the right room in the Vancouver Island Conference Centre, even though it wasn’t exactly as specified on our letter of notification. Joining a crowd of about eighty people, we sat down in a large room, about a hundred feet by sixty unless I’ve lost my eye for distance, with the oddity of power outletsalmost twenty feet above us in the alcoved ceiling. Four officers sat at brown folder loaded desks interviewing everyone in turn. Only one had a computer of any kind. Which I found a little odd in this day and age.
The time rolled past. Names were called, interviews done, documents inspected and boxes ticked in a surprisingly church-like atmosphere. Everyone talked very softly, so no one would miss their turn at being called. No voice was raised in frustration, exuberance or disappointment. Even the one young man we heard turned down over his refugee status barely spoke over a whisper. I found it curiously eerie.
After over an hours nervous wait our turn came and our young (Nice lad, mid-late 20’s, bespectacled Asiatic with a brown dyed buzz cut you could almost have balanced a plate on) interviewing officer checked our UK passports PR cards and Drivers Licenses. He asked me whether or not we’d been in trouble with the Police or Immigration, to which I answered “No, no, no.” in a mildly distracted manner, slightly surprised by the question. He worked for the Immigration department didn’t he? Surely he knew we were squeaky clean. He said that I didn’t sound convinced, but Angie confirmed we hadn’t had any problems, and that was the one tense moment over and done with. He asked us about our absences from Canada, then almost in a teasing manner asked about proof of the journeys. “Which ones?” Asked Angie.
“The first two?” He asked. At which my darling wife proceeded to extract the relevant stapled receipts, passes and booking forms out of a huge buff envelope. A wedge of papers two inches and more thick. I caught a flash of alarm in his eyes as if we’d called his bluff, but in the end it came out all smiles and handshakes. The right boxes were ticked, and we were offered the choice of Vancouver or Nanaimo for our citizenship ceremony. “What about Victoria?” I asked. Our interviewing officer did a little double take as he realised our new Victoria address was on the form, but we happily agreed to Vancouver on the 1st of December. Considering the course we’ve sailed, a ferry journey and long weekend are no real inconvenience.
With a final handshake we were on our way to pick up our house guest for the weekend. My knees almost giving way beneath me as Angie disappeared for her third rest room break in two hours. My sense of relief was that intense. We’d done it. From a wedding day promise in 2002 to here. I’m still not sure I really believe it myself.
Now it seems as though a leaden weight has lifted. I see a new happy light in my wife’s eyes. Citizenship has been a long road that’s almost broken both of us. But champagne has been drunk, a new confidence has arisen, and now we feel more secure in ourselves. Or we will do when we get our citizenship cards. We’re still a little on edge, but not so much. Smiling is much easier. 2014 has been a hard year emotionally.
‘A Falling of Angels’ should be ready for distribution by next Friday, and all the links will be on this web site, Authors Den and GoodReads by then. For now the only book I have to deal with is booking a Vancouver hotel.
This is always the most teeth-grindingly, nerve fraying end of writing. Publication. The eBook version begins processing today, and I’ve spent two days eyestrain formatting and triple checking a pocket paperback version of ‘A Falling of Angels’, the second in the Paul Calvin series. I found one typo and changed a grand total of eight sentences, very minor changes at that. Mainly tense and syntax. Alterations of meaning that only really matter in my mind. So this afternoon, sometime around 4pm Pacific Standard time 4th November 2014, I’m going to press. I think. A day earlier than schedule, but that all depends on your time zone, as it will already be the 5th of November in Australia.
After that I’m going to do some more reading for my citizenship interview on Thursday in Nanaimo. Angie and I don’t have to do the tests because we’re both over 54, but we’re studying for them nonetheless. Just in case someone changes their mind at the last minute. We’ve both worked long and hard for Canadian Residency and Citizenship; gone without, left comfortable social structures behind, spent a lot of emotion and money, but now we’re going to see if all our expenditure and effort has been worth the time. In that way it’s rather like writing a novel. Huge amounts of time spent working, writing, re-reading, studying and crowbarring information into recalcitrant neurons, all in the hope that someone else will like it enough to accept your work, and by the same token, you.
Seen from that viewpoint, immigration and novel writing both look like massive exercises in self validation. Like gambling. Win, it’s all smiles and massive whooshes of happy relief. Time for Champagne and celebration. Lose, and you simply have to pick yourself off the floor ready to try again. My paranoia has been on overdrive, trying to think of ways things might go wrong and then making sure they don’t. For a given value of certainty. I have so many contingency plans it is hard to remember them all.
It all comes down to the wire on Thursday. I’m so tense it’s hard to sleep properly.
For the first time in ages I’m going fishing. Rods and lines are ready. Licences purchased. My Brother in law is coming down for the weekend, and we’re going to do the guy thing down at Ogden Point breakwater if there’s room at the end. The intention is to cast our lures into the water, talk, drink coffee, set the world to rights. Pick our wives up later for supper at Bubby’s on Cook Street this evening. Nothing heavy duty. There’s a nice little cafe at the landward end of the breakwater, should we tire of casting.
From the sound of it we both need a time out. Ian has had his head down in his educational software project, me in writing. Our respective spouses need quality sister time. Work and family duty has been pretty relentless of late. Too much really. Too much sadness. Time for a little Zen fishing.
I’m quite looking forward to the ritual of wind, line and water. Because sometimes an hour or two casting your cares into the sea is all you need to recharge the creative batteries. It clears the mind, helps tie up loose ends and unravels the kinks in the soul whether the fish bite or not.
As for catching anything worth taking home or losing bait, c’est la vie.
It’s been a rough few months since March. A lot of profoundly distressing things have happened, including getting cleaning fluid on both hands which caused the skin on my fingers to break up. This halted typing for over three weeks with predictable consequences. For six weeks thereafter it was one wretched thing after another, meaning I didn’t write a word. Therefore all my good intentions lie shattered at my feet. Transatlantic travel and jet lag are not good for study or the creative writing process. Neither is multiple bereavement. Nor is being handed post mortem revelations about close family. None of which I intend to share on a public forum. Although I think I will miss my dog Amos most of all.
Today the clouds lift. Since we returned from the UK I’ve been working on the Kindle edition of “Head of the Beast”, cleaning up text errors and minor glitches in punctuation, even rewriting certain passages. Forcing myself to re read and rewrite until I thought my eyes were going to bleed. The story remains the same, but it reads much better. There’s also new cover art, which is one of the low resolution examples below. A volume of short fiction is forthcoming, which is a work in progress. Maybe in late November, maybe not. Recently the sound of self imposed deadlines whooshing overhead has been deafening. There’s a number of back catalogue stories I intend to include, including some published over ten years ago. Rewritten, extended and improved. No title as yet, but I have a number of possibles.
Artwork and poll for Kindle edition of the Paul Calvin supernatural sci-fi title ‘Head of the Beast’ below.