Wednesday, February 03, 2016

How Tinnitus has made me a better writer

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 Tinnitus is a perception of noise or a ringing in the ears that affects about 1 in 5 individuals. It has a variety of causes, middle age and genetic hearing loss being somewhere on that list. I am affected by it because of either too much time in tractors when I was younger or too much heavy metal (say it isn't so). At times, sometimes for weeks on end, I hear a high-pitched ringing. It's like when you're trying to tune your radio but you just get feedback. Oh, and that sound I hear? It's not real. I mean the sound seems real, but no one else can hear it. No one. I've asked.

 I've decided that this condition has made me a better writer. I now have a much deeper understanding of those Joan of Arc-like characters who hear voices. I empathize with what it would be like to be a twitchy conspiracy theorist who can "hear" the wireless waves of the government in the air. Or, of course, I totally get what drives axe murderers to, well--you axed for it--to go out swinging.

 But, of course, this constant ringing hasn't affected my own personality. After all here's proof:
 All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy. All work and no play makes Art a dull boy.  


 Sincerely, Art

 P.S. my next post will be titled How My Cold Has Made Me A Better Fantasy Writer. After all, if you've never had a cold, you could never write about those snotty-nosed trolls or really get to the deeper matter of their congested mindset.  

 Photo credit: ucumari photography via VisualHunt.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Thursday, January 28, 2016

DUST has been released as an audiobook

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 As of right now, DUST is available as an audiobook. And the narrator is me, myself and I. Yes, all three of us. It was quite the adventure to head into the studio and lay down these "tracks" or should I say words? And it was also a curious experience to return to a novel so many years after it was first released (DUST came out in 2001 and due to an incredible series of lucky events won the Governor General's Award and hit the bestseller list). Reading the book aloud was like travelling back in time but not getting any younger (sadly). Anyway, I'm really pleased with how the audiobook turned out. I do have an official page for the book at Dust: the audiobook.

 You are also welcome, of course, to visit these fine retailers. And to hit the share buttons below to let people know about this new version of the book.

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 I should probably mention that the book is about a rainmaker who comes to a small town promising rain but the children begin to disappear. So, umm, it's a little bit creepy. Just a little bit.

"Read the riveting first chapter of Dust and you're already past the point of no return. Arthur Slade writes with the art and grace of a hypnotist, and you won't be able to put this book down. It's sensational!" -- Kenneth Oppel NY Times Best Selling Author of “Airborn”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's OK to hate your novel

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 "You must really love your book." Sometimes this comment is tossed toward we writers. And it's true, you don't fall in love with an idea, a set of characters, spend a year or several years writing about them and not have some kind of joyous affection for the book you've created. In fact we authors have been known to jump up and down on Oprah's couch and shout out our love for one of our own works (actually, that might have been a dream I had). Classrooms of young readers have asked me, "Which is your favourite book that you've written?" I answer, "DUST, because it made the most money for me." That gets a laugh. Then I explain how the initial idea for that book arrived in a flash and the process of turning that idea into a novel was relatively natural because THINGS FELL INTO PLACE ONE AFTER ANOTHER WITHOUT TOO MUCH FUSS and I was completely happy with how the book turned out and how it was received by the reading public.

But the dark secret is that we authors can grow to hate our novels. We loathe them. Who let this dreck into my house? Who put these boneless, wishy washy characters on my page? Is this a plot I see before me or Swiss Cheese? You may think I'm joking, but there have been times when I have felt an "all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" rage rise up in my soul over the inability of one of my books to twist itself into a shape that is readable. Let me use JOLTED as an example. I wrote this book following a novel of mine called MEGIDDO'S SHADOW, which was a World War One story. After spending nearly three years writing about and researching that war, I wanted to create something funny. After all, I can sometimes be a funny guy. So I looked in my tickle trunk of ideas and found one that had been waiting to be created. It was this: lightning is attracted to a boy and his family due to some genetic oddity and he has to learn to survive and by the way his family is all dead because, over time, they've been hit by lightning and make sure there's a pig in the story. OK, that doesn't sound really funny, more of a quirky story. But it was a big step up from the trenches of World War One. And I was pretty certain it would fall into place rather handily.

I was wrong.

The first draft had the boy, Newton, in Grade Twelve and, being a chef, he was schooled in Moose Jaw but travelled all across Europe with his girlfriend looking for truffles and along the way picked up a sentient truffle pig. The book was angsty with a bit of grit, funny, dealt with older teen issues and did I mention it was funny? My first editorial note from my editor had a full page of compliments then this howitzer hiding on page two: "If you want your book to be a funny book it has to be really funny." What? I thought it was really funny! So, I went onto draft two, and I made it hilarious. I tell you it was hilarious.

The next edit letter had one word that still burns in my mind: disjointed. Oh and there was another sentence about how the humour was perhaps not quite working on a gut-busting level. What? But I'm funny. I'm really, really funny. What's wrong with this stupid word processing program that it's taking all the funny out of my funny? Let's skip drafts two through five. In draft six I realized my character did not have to go to Europe. That was a quarter of the novel that I tossed out like a dead goldfish. Kerflush, it's gone. Funny, eh?

In draft seven it dawned on me that my characters were too old. Grade Twelve! That's ancient. The reader needed to know how this Newton guy actually survived the first year of high school, not the last, and the teenage angst was clouding up the story like a swarm of acne and finally having the characters younger would make the story a little more innocent and I could boil it down to more essential elements. Oh, and I made the funny more that type of humour that comes out of a dark comedy. And then I did two more drafts. Let's drive over them in our mental Chevy truck and speed right past and the copy edits and line edits and edit edits. By the time I was done the book I HATED it. With a vengeance. I had no idea whether or not it was working. And, frankly, I just didn't care. I wanted it out of my house. Out of my head. Never to be seen again. Send it to whatever circle of Hades it belonged in. I no longer had faith in it and in my writing and I needed a break from the Muse's merry go round.

So my publisher sent it out into the world.

 It has become my second most popular novel. When I read portions of it to students, they laugh. They ask me to keep reading even though I warn them that the next chapter is so gross it will make them vomit and people with hazmat suits will have to come and clean up after them. The fans of the novel are hooked on it. So it's OK to hate your novel. Give in to the dark side. And remember that sometimes we authors really have no idea whether an idea is working or not, whether what we've written is good or bad. Sometimes we are just too close to it. When it gets to that stage just kick it out of the house.

  Art

 P.S. I actually quite like JOLTED now. It took me about five years to get to that stage. Perhaps that's another lesson I've learned: forgive your books for their trespasses.

Monday, January 18, 2016

My Writing/Life Schedule

For those who are interested in these sorts of details here is my writing schedule from Monday to Friday. Saturday I usually am done by noon. Sundays are for reading. Unless, of course, there is a deadline. A deadline changes everything! Or if Iron Maiden is in town. Screen Shot 2016-01-18 at 1.01.18 PM Art

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Exercising at Work (and other tortures)

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 I am known as a treadhead. By that I mean I use a treadmill desk while I'm writing away on my various projects (you can read about it here). Since 2009 I have walked just over 9604.2 kilometres (or 5967.7732 miles). The treadmill desk has made me healthier, able to concentrate better on my creative work and leaner...though sadly I'm still a bit of a bore at parties (unless you ask me about the joy of treadmill desking). You can't have everything. And not everyone wants to dive right into the treadmill desk world. So I'm putting down a few other options you can use to torture yourself...I mean exercise at work.

Many people have heard that sitting is the new Satan. It will destroy your life and suck out your soul. Here's an infographic that shows exactly how that works:17t48tzmose95jpg See! Scary! So, to combat evil, I propose a few ways to avoid the Satanic Sitting Syndrome.
      1. Try a gyroball, a hoverboardwhachamacallit, or a pedaldesker. Okay I may have made up some of those names. But this is what they look like:1448484346803This is the Fluidstance Level. You stand on it in front of your stand up desk and, in attempting to balance, burn more calories. I've never tried it. But imagine how jealous people will be when they see you standing on it. They'll think you've come right out of Back to The Future. Visit their website here: http://www.fluidstance.com  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can sit on an exercise ball at your desk. It's like the opposite of what the great god Atlas was doing. Though you will still be sitting, the muscles you move to stay in place will burn calories. Plus if you get a clear ball people will think you can levitate.
      2. DeskCycle600PPThis little pedalled creature lives under your desk and gets you to move your legs whilst you're creating your opus (or playing Candy Crush). I found it at http://www.deskcycle.com
      3. 1. Stand up: Ah, sounds simple doesn't it? But the difficulty is remembering to do it. Set a timer and go for a walk whenever it rings. Or do a set of lunges and squats (who doesn't like squats?). Pace around (or at least stand) whenever you're on the phone. Take the stairs. Park further away from work. Oh, and that four-legged thing in your house with a collar? It's a dog. Take it for a walk. And feed it, too.
      4. Get a stand up desk: You're a stand up guy, right? Or a stand up woman? Why not get one of those fancy dancy stand up desks? If it's good enough for Leonardo Da Vinci and Sir Winston Churchill, it's good enough for anyone. Even Dickens used one. And he was no slouch metaphorically speaking.
      5. Pick up a pedometer. I'm a Fitbit type o' person. It keeps track of steps. One of the best aspects of Fitbit is that you can keep track of friends and have competitions. Yes, geeky Fitbit competitions to see who can walk the greatest distance in a  day. I told you I was a bit of a bore at parties.

There you go. Just a few ideas about getting fit and torturing yourself at your desk and defeating evil. I, of course, stand...err...walk confidently behind the idea of a treadmill desk. But not everyone wants to dive into that odd and strange tread head world.

  Art

 Photo credit for the red ball thingy: ex_magician via Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Sending my book out into the world...

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My book has grown up and left home. Yesterday, I sent the "first pass" pages of Flickers back to my publisher. This is the last time I will see the book before it's published (April 26th, 2o16 fyi). And yes, it's like sending your kid off to college. I won't be around to remind him to comb his hair or eat all of his green beans. Or to point out that he has a dangling modifier on his chin. It's too late to adjust his character. Or remind him to be a bit more dramatic and not so wordy. Yes, I'll get his Aunt Copy Editor to check in on him. But otherwise, he's going out into the world. He's become his own man. Oh, the people he'll meet. Some might toss him aside. Others ignore him. But all I can hope is that he finds at least one good home to stay in. Or two. Well, actually, now that I think of it ten thousand or a hundred thousand homes would be okay, too. Anyway, the next time I see him he'll be all grown up. I hope I recognize him.

 And I do hope he doesn't try to move back in again...

  Art