September 20, 2016

epigramHello everyone,

I believe I have mentioned several times both on this blog and via Twitter that I am active redditor. I don’t think I would be surprising anyone by saying one of the subreddits I frequent is /r/writing, which puts me in touch with other writers all over the world to talk about our craft. Yesterday someone asked, “Do you have a quote/song lyric/poem at the beginning of your book?” The general consensus seemed to be it usually does more harm than good, but I do include a couple of quotes at the start of each of my novels. I read and write historical fiction, and the little extras like epigraphs, maps, and end notes from the author are pretty common in that genre. I went on to list the quotes I used for each book and why I chose them, and within six hours I had received a message from someone who bought one of my books based on my post.

Well, that certainly got my attention!

Several times on this blog I have talked about why I wrote something or how I wrote something, so why not take that random post on reddit and expand upon it here?

Cover_ImprovedLet me begin by saying for each of my three novels to date I have made a point of sourcing two quotes that I believe reference my plot and help fit my book into a larger literary space. For Inca I went with:

“Explain your words so that I can understand them.
They are like a tangled skein.
You should put the threads in order for me.”

— Act 1, Scene I of the Quechua play Ollantay


“Tempus edax rerum.”
Time, the devourer of all things.

— Ovid

I chose them because the book’s premise is an Inca bureaucrat translating his memoirs into Spanish before his story is lost to time. The Inca had a record-keeping system of knotted string called quipus, so using a line from an old Peruvian play about putting the tangled threads in order is a direct reference to what the narrator is doing as he tells his story. For a long time I toyed with the idea of actually calling the book The Tangled Skein, but eventually I decided that would be a very poor choice from a marketing perspective. Still, I know these two quotes have resonated with my readers. A couple years back I even received an email from one man saying he planned to get, “Tempus edax rerum” tattooed on his arm.

That was not an eventuality I envisioned when I first starting writing the book!

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Why and How I Wrote Beginning

September 2, 2016

Cover - FinalHello again everyone,

Shortly after publishing Inca I wrote a blog post explaining what led me to write about that empire and its people. A year later when I published Zulu I blogged about what drew me to the story of that kingdom and its people. I suppose now that Beginning is in the process of going live across the various regional Amazon websites, the time has come to talk about why I wrote this book.

Unlike Inca and Zulu, where my interest was first sparked by looking for more information about a civilization I did not know much about, Beginning began with me being self-conscious about my work. I suspect most writers after they have written a couple of books start worrying their stuff is all of a type, and maybe not the type they would have chosen if they had to do it over again. I have written two lengthy novels about cultures that are relatively little-known to my friends and family. If I wanted to write something much shorter with a broader appeal, what would that look like?

Inca and Zulu, much as I love them, ask for a lot of a reader’s time and attention. You cannot do a deep dive into the history and culture of people who most people are unfamiliar with while worrying about word count. They are by necessity long and dense. If I was free to write something where I knew my readers would understand everything from page one, what would I write about?

I have come up with half a dozen answers to that question so far, and most of them exist as a hundred pages or so of abandoned first draft material. One of the primary hurdles about completing a novel –long or short—is that you have to be excited about the subject matter and the plot and the characters for months and probably years of research and writing before you have a finished first draft to start editing and polishing. There were a lot of false starts as I searched for something I was sure I would finish. For maybe two years I despaired of finishing a third novel for want of an idea I knew would hold my interest.

I firmly believe writers need to read widely and deeply to develop their own craft. One of the most flattering things I have seen in the reviews for Inca is when someone says they can see some of Gary Jennings’ Aztec in my own work. Zulu was very much inspired by the early few decades of Wilbur Smith’s work. So who should I take as my muse for my third novel? Who writes the shorter novels that I adore?

I cast about through a few options, but again and again I kept coming back to Kurt Vonnegut.

Let me say categorically that Beginning is not a Kurt Vonnegut-esque novel, much to my regret. I lack his brevity and his wit. I am just telling the story of how I got started, and I started with Vonnegut.

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My Third Novel is Now Published on Amazon

August 26, 2016

Cover - FinalHello everyone,

My last blog post was about a year ago now. I apologized at the time, saying I was working on another writing project that was more important to me. It is with great pleasure that I return to this blog, then, to say I have now completed my third novel, Beginning. The e-book version is available on Amazon as of this post, and I expect the trade paperback version to be available sometime next week.

I am very happy with how this novel came together. One of my proofreaders called it, “Some of your best writing, and certainly your most accessible,” which has to be the nicest way anyone can say that Inca and Zulu can be a little dense for people who do not read historical fiction on a regular basis.

I will be blogging on a regular basis for the foreseeable future to support this book, so I suppose I do not need to say everything all at once. As long as I am blogging, I also have some other ideas for content that might be fun to share on this site. We will see how those ideas develop, I am sure.

One thing I would like to encourage people to do if you are reading this blog because you enjoy my novels, please join The Novels of Geoff Micks page I set up on Facebook. I share pictures and links there that will not appear on this blog, and comments on that page board go through to my phone where I will actually engage with them, rather than the WordPress comments section that I clean out once ever six months or so.

Anyway, you can expect to hear a lot from me in the coming days and weeks. In the meantime, best regards and have a great day!


My (Belated) Favourite 13 Tweets of 2013 and 14 Tweets of 2014

May 4, 2015

twitterjailHello everyone!

So the last time I was active on this blog, it was an annual tradition of mine to pick out my favourite tweets of the previous year as my first post of the New Year. Here are the posts for 2010, 2011, and 2012, if you have the interest.

Anyway, as I mentioned in April, I am starting up this blog again after a two-year hiatus, and I suppose that means I should go through the archives of @faceintheblue to see what jumped out to me. I’m skipping over a lot of my fury and scorn and disbelief and despair over Toronto’s former mayor Rob Ford for the sake of making this post more interesting to a general audience. I have also adjusted my rules a little from previous summaries: I’m no longer trying to evenly separate my selections across the calendar year –if I had four great tweets in November, why not highlight all of them?– and I’m also adding more explanatory notes where some context will be helpful.

Anyway, here are my favourites of the last couple of years. Enjoy!

My Favourite 13 Tweets of 2013

January 1

I just asked a fellow where he was for the Year 2000 ball drop. “In prison.” I changed the subject. #NewYear

February 21

Gandhi said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” How do I become an arriving streetcar, Gandhi? It’s freezing out here! #Toronto

April 5

Okay, solid weather this morning, April. Good effort, nice hustle. Now give me ten laps and don’t you dare cool down or hit the showers!

June 13

Ah, buying beer from a corner store. Are you watching, Ontario? Did you note the lack of fire and brimstone smiting one of your citizens?

(I was in Colorado running a mining conference. On principle, I bought a six pack of local beer from a corner store, a luxury that will likely never be made available to me in my native province.)

August 2

Sometimes life’s stories don’t fit in 140 characters: Yada Yada Yada; Hide-a-key; Yada Yada Yada; I slept in a hallway last night.

September 7

The bouncer at a bar pointed out my driver’s license says I’m 170cm tall. I guess I was when I was 16? I’m over 190cm at 30. He bounced me.

November 1

Trapped in the elevator for 30 minutes with 5 coworkers and a mailman. I was THIS close to leading them in song to keep their spirits up.

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Both of My Novels Are Now Available as Trade Paperbacks

December 30, 2012


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.


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!

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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