Maps for My Novel, Inca (Minor Spoilers)

January 29, 2013

Hello again everyone,

I’ve had a few readers tell me they have some trouble following where my protagonist is in any given chapter. It’s a fair critique. One of my goals with this book was to have the narrator visit all four corners of the known world over the course of his life, and that can get confusing in fairly short order. I wouldn’t expect most people to have a firm grasp of South American geography, let alone pre-Columbian geography before the Spanish renamed everything. Here is the map included in my book:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

But that doesn’t really make it easy to figure out where things really happened, does it? There are half a dozen landmarks, cities, regions, and tribes to use as way points, but I still left it up to the reader to constantly flip back to the map for reference. That must be especially irritating in the e-book version. Accepting this, I started playing around with the map, trying to track down where Haylli went from chapter to chapter. For my own ease I didn’t line things up exactly with the Royal Road network or the available mountain passes –preferring instead to approximate– but even if I had the overlapping journeys would only have muddied the waters. This is what I came up with:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

That’s kind of a mess, isn’t it? A problem with drawing lines on a map of an empire 3,000 miles long and up to 500 miles wide based on a 70-plus-year narrative is that there’s a lot of repetition. A simple coloured spaghetti chart isn’t much help to the reader interested in matching up the story to the geography. It occurred to me a chapter by chapter breakdown is the only way to really bring clarity to the situation. I did my best to avoid spoilers, but there are some broad plot points that just can’t be avoided. With that said, here’s the prologue and the first two chapters:

(Click to enlarge.)

(Click to enlarge.)

If this is an approach that will help you enjoy the book, I’m happy to show you the rest. Just click through the jump for the rest of the breakdown.

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Both of My Novels Are Now Available as Trade Paperbacks

December 30, 2012

BookCovers

Happy Holidays Everyone!

My office was closed this week, so to keep myself busy I set myself a goal: I’ve finally figured out how to get my e-published novels available as print-on-demand trade paperbacks. A copy of Inca and Zulu are in the mail to me as we speak. In the next week or so they’ll be available for sale through the various Amazon websites, but in the meantime they’re already available via CreateSpace directly:

Inca by Geoff Micks

Zulu by Geoff Micks

For any authors out there with e-books, I cannot say enough good things about the CreateSpace process. Formatting for print was a little time-consuming, of course, but if you have any kind of a graphic design background it is also relatively simple and totally free! That’s a far cry from the not-so-distant past.

Once upon a time, physical copies of self-published books were only available via vanity press: You bought a few hundred or thousand copies up front from a publisher, and it was up to you to sell them. There was a stigma to vanity presses, and the costs were prohibitive. Today, the stigma has been replaced with a spirit of entrepreneurialism, and making your books available costs nothing at all. When someone orders a book, CreateSpace prints off one copy and mails it to the reader. They deduct their costs from the price, and send me the rest as a royalty payment at regular intervals.

It’s a brave new world, and for the first time in a long time I feel lucky to live in an age where traditional publishing is gun shy of long works of historical fiction from new authors. This is better –so much better! I have total control over my novels in perpetuity, and I have the freedom to write what I like, format it as  I please, and publish on my own timeline. I even have the option of making the book available to bookstores and libraries, although that’s something I want to research further before taking that step.

This has been and will continue to be a journey, but I’m very happy with how far I’ve already come and the road still stretching out before me. I’d like to thank everyone who helped me set this course. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from a man who finds himself grinning ear to ear lately.

Cheers!


My Favourite 12 Tweets of 2012

December 29, 2012

twitterHello again, everyone!

It’s been another great year, and I continue to enjoy Twitter –my account is @faceintheblue– beyond my wildest expectations: I’ve live tweeted political debates and playing tourist in foreign cities; I’ve complained about the weather and my distaste for shoe shopping; I’ve championed things I like and rubbished things I don’t; I’ve made new internet friends, and entertained some of the people I know in real life; most of all, I’ve killed time waiting for a bus, and I’ve had a lot of fun doing it.

A few years ago I started a tradition as New Year rolled around. I blogged my favourite 10 tweets of 2010 and my favourite 11 tweets of 2011. Now another year has come and gone, and my foray into micro-blogging continues to distract and amuse me in odd moments that I would otherwise have wasted while waiting for something to happen. As I did last year and the year before, I’ve put together my top twelve tweets of 2012. Here they are!

January 27th

Who decided to give the CP24 traffic cam guy the ability to draw arrows on the feed? “No kidding? The cars go that way? Top-notch analysis!”

February 6th

What happened to you, Monday? You used to be cool. (Don’t ask me to cite examples right now. That’s such a Monday thing to do.)

March 7th

Just watched a baby snatch a set of jingling keys out of her mother’s hand and hurl them the length of a city bus while Mom wailed, “Nyet!”

March 31st

“Sara Three Cats: That’s a great name for a pool shark,” I said to Sara Three Cats as she proceeded to hustle me.

April 18th

Sorry, I never do this, but my April morning is cold: Please send it back to the kitchen, and I’d like to speak to your manager. #Toronto

July 17th

I’m not an incompetent hyperbolic scientist, but I play one on Twitter: If my calculations are correct it’s a billion degrees out today!

July 21st

Random Thought: If plants had ‘the sex talk’ it would literally be about the birds and the bees. Practice safe pollination, saplings…

September 14th

I just saw a squirrel panic at my approach & try to bury a nut into interlocking brick. Conclusion? Winter is coming & squirrels’re idiots.

September 19th

Cooking a premade frozen pizza that promises, “No unpronounceable ingredients!” I am not reassured: I can pronounce lots of awful things…

October 11th

The new guy at work just asked if I stayed late last night. I did. He laughed and said, “Classic Geoff!” Not sure how I feel about that.

November 23rd

Walking through a mall, my buddy mocking all the Black Friday shoppers. Mid-sentence he stops, and now we’re shopping for luggage.

December 1st

I’m sitting next to Typhoid Mary –patient zero of an Irish Wedding that saw dozens fall ill– but she coughs into her elbow, so we’re cool.

- – -

My criteria for the top tweets has evolved this year: They need to be self-contained and stand-alone, flippant, and ideally people enjoyed them on my Facebook newsfeed as well. There were half a dozen more that could have made the cut if only this were 2018. Ah, well. You can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you just mind find you get what you need. I look forward to continuing with it in 2013. All the best to you and yours in the New Year!


Gloucester Cathedral Choir – In the Bleak Midwinter

December 1, 2012

Many years ago I lived in England in the Forest of Dean on the Welsh border for six months. I visited the Gloucester Cathedral many times and befriended a couple of students of the Cathedral school. I don’t believe either of them are members of this choir, but I don’t think it beyond the realm of possibility that they were witness to this beautiful performance by the local choir:

Here are the lyrics:

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone; snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow, in the bleak midwinter, long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold him, nor earth sustain; heaven and earth shall flee away when he comes to reign. In the bleak midwinter a stable place sufficed the Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ.

Angels and archangels may have gathered there, Cherubim and seraphim thronged the air; but his mother only, in her maiden bliss, worshiped the beloved with a kiss.

What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can I give him: give my heart.

- – -

Merry Christmas to you and yours.


An Essay on Writing by Way of The Time Traveler’s Wife

November 25, 2012

I have just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. Some months ago I co-founded a rather studious book club, and this one has been nominated a number of times without ever being selected for group discussion. I had a vague understanding of the premise, and it sounded appealing. I decided to pick up a copy and see what all the fuss was about.

My goodness, there is a lot to fuss about.

Just to emphasize my emphasis, I bought the book less than twenty-four hours ago. Fifty pages in I knew whatever else I planned to do with those twenty-four hours was going to have to be put on the back burner. I needed to see this thing through as quickly as possible.

The book was published in 2003 to rave reviews and was made into a movie I’m told I shouldn’t watch in 2009, so I imagine many of you reading this already know what it’s all about. For everyone else, the novel is about a man named Henry DeTamble with a rare genetic disorder that causes him under certain stimuli to become unstuck in time, flashing forwards or more usually backwards through a span of roughly a century to any number of places throughout the United States’ Midwest. He cannot control where or when he appears, naked and disoriented, but the journeys are guided in some way by his subconscious. More often than not he appears in the vicinity of people and places who have great importance in his life: His mother who dies in a car wreck; himself at a younger age; the Art Institute of Chicago, but most often –or at least it features most prominently in the novel– in the meadow behind the house where his future wife lives.

Clare Abshire first meets Henry at six years old, and over the next twelve years their friendship evolves from an almost imaginary friend through to a guardian angel, and then eventually and inevitably into a crush that moves through her teenage lust into something adult and mature. On her eighteenth birthday he tells her they will not see one another again for two years and two months, and the Henry she meets at that point will be the Henry in the here and now –a Henry only eight years older than her who lives in Chicago– and he begs her to have mercy on him. He isn’t the man Clare knows yet, but he will become that person with her help.

Clare does meet the contemporary Henry after beginning university in Chicago, and their life together begins in both an ordinary and extraordinary way. Throughout their lives together it is understood that at any point he might disappear almost without warning, leaving a puddle of clothes behind. Sometimes he’s gone minutes, and sometimes hours, and sometimes days. When he reappears, he often bears the scars of his misadventures. She likens the waiting to women of previous centuries who married men who went to sea and spent long periods waiting and worrying and watching the horizon for a distant sail.

More than that I will not say. Read the book. You will not regret it.

Now I entitled this blog post, “An Essay on Writing by Way of the Time Traveler’s Wife,” and I do want to talk about writing in some depth. Many of you know that I’ve written a couple of novels myself, and when I read a book now, I read it as an author admiring another author’s craft. There is a bit of armchair quarterbacking involved, of course, but there is also a deep appreciation for the process and the art. I once had a trumpet player tell me I couldn’t be a real Beatles fan because I wasn’t a musician. I find that a laughable claim, but I will admit in the same way musicians can enjoy music with a fuller understanding of the mechanics involved, so too do writers appreciate books in a different way than other readers. We ponder motive, pacing, plotting, character arcs, prose, perspective. We wonder why something was done this way and not another. We peer between the lines to look at the author on the other side and ask, ‘What are you really trying to say?’

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Chasing Atlantis: Something You Should All Know About

November 23, 2012

Hello again, everyone,

I’m going to start with an apology: Once upon a time I resolved to write on this blog regularly, making a point to have at least one entry a month, come what may. That was a pretty easy thing to commit to when I had a couple hundred readers a day –many of them personal acquaintances– but my most recent post from three months ago now has had 168,597 readers to date, and I found myself paralyzed by a feeling of inadequacy. I’ve been retweeted and reblogged and followed on Facebook to the point where I know what I write next will be read by a thousand people expecting at least a few minutes of entertainment and possibly something worth thinking upon deeply and making their own. I’ve found myself gun shy: What can I possibly say next to all of those people who are going to read this blog one more time? What would hold your attention and give you value for your visit?

And then I remembered what my friend Matt Cimone has been up to lately.

As a rule, I don’t mention my friends by name on this blog. I do so now after careful deliberation. Let me back up for a moment and give some context to what I hope is going to be a worthwhile read: I have had the great good fortune to know a man for the last twelve years who I believe will one day make a positive mark on the collective human experience. I look forward to the day when I can say with pride I knew him in his youth. After my late grandfather, I strongly suspect Matt Cimone is the finest man I’ve ever known. When I find myself confronted with an ethical or moral dilemma, I ask myself, “What would Matt Cimone do?” I rarely follow that course, but it’s an interesting question to pose for the sake of finding one’s bearings.

I could give any number of examples of why I’m fortunate to know this man, but for the sake of brevity I’ll say he was a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in his mid-20s; he’s founded his own charitable organization that uses the micro-credit model to empower entrepreneurs in third world countries, and he’s dedicated his life to being the change he wants to see in the world, a humanitarian who speaks openly and often about how we can all contribute in our own small way to a better future.

A year and a half ago, Matt Cimone asked me to go on a road trip with him to see the very last space shuttle launch. With deep reluctance I had to decline: I’d just quit my job, and I had to commit all my efforts to finding my next step. I watched Matt pile into a car with several friends and drive to Florida to join a million spectators as Atlantis hurled itself towards the heavens. In his usual above and beyond approach, he decided to create a short documentary about his experience on a hand-held digital camcorder. But that initial vision has since grown.

“There are a hundred films about the shuttle technology, but we are more interested in the people inspired by human space flight; those like us who always stood in wonder of the night sky.” Matt told me. “It began as a simple video about our trip. I thought we could put it online. Thankfully one of the five who came with us was my friend Paul Muzzin, founder of Riptide Studios. Paul is a filmmaker, and his expertise breathed new life into the film.”

“I’ve known Matt for almost 2 decades and I saw his passion for this trip,” Paul said. “His story is compelling, and I believe will resonate with an audience. While something shot on a handicamDigital SLR and put on YouTube would have still been from the heart, I believe that with some work this documentary could have a place in festivals and theatrical exhibition. I have also been a fan of the space program and always wanted to see a launch myself. In a sense, between directing this film and seeing the shuttle, I was fulfilling two dreams.”

Space exploration has always fascinated Matt, and witnessing the last shuttle launch was a catalyst for him. Human spaceflight brings out the dreams and aspirations of people from every walk of life, and so both he and Paul started interviewing people: Witnesses of the last launch, NASA spokespeople, fans of science fiction –both Matt and Paul are huge Trekkies, and Wil Wheaton even agreed to do an interview—even the astronauts themselves. The duo asked them what they thought, what they dreamed about.

Matt calls the story Chasing Atlantis, and from the humble beginnings of a road trip video of five friends to see the shuttle launch, it is evolving into a professionally shot, edited, and scored feature-length documentary about space exploration, ambition, and the freedom to imagine a future where the best that we hope we can be is given voice.

“Initially I only dared to think we’d make it this far.” Matt said. “When we combined the initial concept with what Paul envisioned we could accomplish with his production company behind us, doors started to open. We asked if we could conduct interviews, and people said yes. Suddenly we were doing something bigger and better. I would have never thought I’d be sitting across from future ISS commander Chris Hadfield or cast members from Star Trek when we first started planning all of this…well…I hoped, but I thought it would be a long shot.”

The common thread through all those interviewed is that the end of the shuttle program is just the turning of a page in the story of human ambition, of human discovery, of human aspiration and that regardless of if your dream is to go to space, or make a film, we all must chase the “Atlantis” in our own lives.

Here’s the current trailer:

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In a Mass Knife Fight to the Death Between Every American President, Who Would Win and Why?

August 22, 2012

Hello everyone!

One of my most-visited sites on the web is Reddit.com, and one of my favourite subreddits is HistoricalWhatIf, an online community that debates historical hypotheticals. Earlier today someone asked the question, In a mass knife fight to the death between every American President, who would win and why? Someone beat me to the obvious answer that a final showdown would see Andrew Jackson, Abraham Lincoln, and Teddy Roosevelt doing a dagger-wielding version of a Mexican standoff, so I took it too far and walked through how I thought every president would turn out. An hour later the result greatly exceeded the maximum 10,000 character limit for a post, so I’ve decided to blog about it instead.

To begin, here were the original conditions of the hypothetical, as suggested by the redditor Xineph:

  • Every president is in the best physical and mental condition they were ever in throughout the course of their presidency. Fatal maladies have been cured, but any lifelong conditions or chronic illnesses (e.g. FDR’s polio) remain.
  • The presidents are fighting in an ovular arena 287 feet long and 180 feet wide (the dimensions of the [1] Roman Colosseum). The floor is concrete. Assume that weather is not a factor.
  • Each president has been given one standard-issue [2] Gerber LHR Combat Knife , the knife [3] presented to each graduate of the United States Army Special Forces Qualification Course. Assume the presidents have no training outside any combat experiences they may have had in their own lives.
  • There is no penalty for avoiding combat for an extended period of time. Hiding and/or playing dead could be valid strategies, but there can be only one winner. The melee will go on as long as it needs to.
  • FDR has been outfitted with a [4] Bound Plus H-Frame Power Wheelchair, and can travel at a maximum speed of around 11.5 MPH. The wheelchair has been customized so that he is holding his knife with his dominant hand. This is to compensate for his almost certain and immediate defeat in the face of an overwhelming disadvantage.
  • Each president will be deposited in the arena regardless of their own will to fight, however, personal ethics, leadership ability, tactical expertise etc., should all be taken into account. Alliances are allowed.

With the scenario set, here’s my take on it:

1) George Washington – Commanding presence, strong physique, military training, viewed as a hero by everyone asked to shank him: He makes Top 10 without question. Of the guaranteed top three (I’m going to call them the Holy Trinity for the purposes of this rambling rundown), my money is on Jackson being the one who murders him; he wouldn’t blink, either. They were closer in age, and the hero myth wouldn’t be quite as firmly set. Besides, I’m pretty sure Jackson didn’t blink when he sneezed…

2) John Adams is going out early. Nothing against the man, but portly well-spoken lawyers bring lampoons to a knife fight. It doesn’t end well.

3) Thomas Jefferson. I’d like to say he’d make a good show of it, but he was a bit of dandy… Middle of the pack, but his dying words would be incredibly quotable.

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