Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Work Has Begun

on the next novel. It's still early days, but over the past hundred hours or so a whole lot has come together for me in terms of plot and characters. Considering that I didn't even have an idea for the book at the end of last week, that's not bad progress at all.

For the record: I initially got on track on Sunday morning, May 27, 2012. And ever since then, it's been dominating my thoughts despite all kinds of distractions (as our basement continues to be renovated following the flood last November). I've even written a couple of pages, although I have no confidence they'll survive for long.

Most surprisingly of all, I already have a half-decent title in mind and therefore won't have to privately refer to it as "3rd Novel" for the next while!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Some Very Special Feedback

This morning I got the following from a female friend who isn't much of a reader and who I therefore hadn't really expected would ever get around to reading No Brother of Mine:

"The world has come to an end ... I have finished your book and REALLY enjoyed it!!!! Seriously, Matt, you did a great job and I can't wait to read your next. Very unusual for a techie kind of person to do so well as a novelist. Give yourself a huge pat on the back . You deserve it."

High praise indeed!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Early Feedback On No Brother Of Mine

Here's a sampling of comments I've gotten on No Brother of Mine, from some folks who've finished it and others who are partway through reading it (edited in places to remove spoilers, not to change the tone of the remarks):

"Up to chapter 6 ... great read! Congrats!"

"I think you did a great job. I meant it when I said you raised the bar. Game Over was good, No Brother of Mine was better. [:)] I look forward to the next one."

"I am super enjoying it!! Can't wait to see where it's heading! I can already tell, it's going to be a hard book to put down! Awesome!"


"Just finished the book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Well done!!"

I am LOVING No Brother Of Mine!!!!"

I've yet to hear of anyone not enjoying it, but maybe anyone in that boat simply wouldn't tell me. Ah well, the fact that I'm getting lots of positive reactions is good enough for me!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Make Good Art

I love Neil Gaiman's commencement speech at the University of the Arts, not least of which because of his advice to those embarking on freelance careers:
  1. Do good work
  2. Be pleasant to deal with
  3. Deliver your work on time
And then he followed that up with the revelation that you really only have to do any two of the three in order to succeed.

It's a great 20-minute speech that I encourage everyone to listen to.

The Difference 24 Hours Can Make

How the pool looked on Monday of this week...

and how it looked the next day...

I'm hoping to go for the first swim of the year tomorrow. Should be hot enough by then!

The Avengers: Even Better The Second Time

Last night Vicki and I took advantage of "cheap Tuesdays" to go see The Avengers again. We wanted to watch it in 2D, which I think was a great decision as we both agreed it was much more enjoyable that way. It's kind of ironic that we spent about 1/3 as much for the 2nd viewing but liked it even more than the 1st one!

I should mention, for posterity, that the theatre was packed! Given that it's now in its 3rd week of release, I had expected the crowds to be considerably reduced. Instead, the ushers were getting people to fill up every empty seat by the time the previews started. The fact that it was Tuesday no doubt had something to do with the turnout, but still!

Anyway, I was able to follow different aspects of the film this time, knowing the storyline going in. I really loved how writer/director Joss Whedon provided so many of the tussles and team-ups that Marvel/Disney fans would expect:
  • Hulk vs Thor
  • Thor vs Iron Man
  • Black Widow vs Hawkeye
  • Captain America vs Thor (very briefly)
  • Thor actually teaming up with Hulk
  • Captain America and Iron Man side-by-side
  • and of course Hulk vs Loki!
I was struck last night by just how perfect a super-team movie The Avengers is. That's always been considered a very tricky proposition to pull off, and yet Whedon made it look easy. Here's hoping he signs up for the sequel!

If you haven't see The Avengers yet, what are you waiting for?

Monday, May 21, 2012

Our First One-Word Review Of No Brother Of Mine

My sister-in-law Meena, who is by no means an easy woman to impress, just texted me to tell me she'd just finished No Brother of Mine. She'd read it in essentially one sitting this morning (with only a bathroom break in the middle).

Her assessment, after that marathon session with my second novel?


That's even more succinct than Julie's "It's a really good book" comment after finishing the first draft back in February.

I'll be posting a few more bits of feedback that I've received presently. In the meantime, feel free to pass me your thoughts on the book if you haven't already.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sure Wish We'd Opened The Pool Last Weekend

With the temperature expected to top 30 C today, it kind of sucks that we couldn't open our pool until two days ago (meaning that it's still green, slimy and completely unswimmable at the moment). We had roofers coming last week and decided to keep the winter cover on the pool for that, rather than risk getting nails and bits of grit raining down into it while that was going on. That seemed like the right decision at the time, but with middle-of-the-summer weather arriving this long weekend, now I'm not so sure.

Oh well, hopefully we'll be swimming within a few days, assuming it doesn't turn back into winter by then!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Book Club Built For Two

Tammy and I decided tonight, via Instant Messenger, that we're going to form our own mini book club - just the two of us! I'm not sure whether two people can really constitute a "club", but to hell with that concern: we're just gonna do it.

Our first, unofficial book was Man Booker Prize-winner The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes, which we spent an hour or so discussing this evening. Tammy found it via some targeted Internet searching, and then promptly ordered me a copy through Amazon without even telling me it was coming! We both really enjoyed it, for some of the same reasons and some different ones. It's the kind of story that leaves you with lots of questions that you actually want to think and talk about some more after you finish it.

I've never been a book club member before, and maybe I'm still not (technically)... but regardless, this sounds like a lot of fun to me!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Publishing Really Works

I had never heard of Yog's Law (of publishing) before, but now I have:

Money flows towards the writer.

I like it!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Why I Won't Be Buying (Or Reading) Before Watchmen

I've been thinking about this ever since word began leaking out last year that DC Comics might be doing some sort of Watchmen-related sequel/prequel series. Then, early this year, it was confirmed: there would be a group of miniseries collectively called Before Watchmen, with some big name talent attached to them, including J Michael Straczynski and Darwyn Cooke (two creators I normally go out of my way to read).

But as time has gone by, and the launch of Before Watchmen has loomed closer and closer, I've realized that I have no intention of buying or even reading these series. Part of the reason is that Alan Moore, the genius behind Watchmen, specifically asked that this not happen. Because of the contract he and artist Dave Gibbons signed back when Watchmen existed only in their two noggins, Moore can't actually stop Before Watchmen from happening. Still, considering the millions that DC has made off that property and its countless reprints over the past 25+ years, you'd think his wishes would be honoured. But of course you'd be wrong.

The other reason I'm taking a stance here is that I think Watchmen is complete as it is. Moore and Gibbons put everything into it, and the 12 issues (typically read in one collected form nowadays) constitute the entire length and breadth of it. There's no need to go back and fill in backstories for the characters, unless you're simply looking to cash in on them with no eye toward artistic expression or purity. Which is exactly what Before Watchmen is, and it's a very sad statement on the world of comics today that it's happening at all.

Anyway, I'll be sitting out this particular comic book 'event.' I'm sure most, if not all of the series will still be best-sellers this summer, but those sales figure won't include any of my money. It just doesn't seem appropriate to me to reward such crass treatment of the 'Citizen Kane' of comic series like this.

For more on Before Watchmen and the controversy surrounding it, you can also see this article.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Huge News In The Music World

Hard to believe but true! This case and the law at the root of it could actually end up transforming the commercial music landscape beyond recognition.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Chip Kidd On Book Cover Design

Thanks to the ever-reliable AgileBoy, I got directed to this TED talk by Chip Kidd, on how to design effective book covers.

Of course, after watching it, I couldn't help but wonder what Kidd would think of this:

I like to think he'd approve. Nice job, Mr. Carl Pettypiece!

What A Party!

Yesterday was the Book Signing Party for No Brother of Mine, and boy, was it a party!

I wish I'd thought to take some photos once people really started arriving, but in all honesty I was much too busy by then anyway. However, here's a shot from the setting-up period before the party started, showing Vicki and our friend - and hostess with the mostess - Susan with the surprise decoration that she'd brought:

Yes, that's a small, light blue pair of running shoes on that floral display, with one of them missing its lace! How brilliant and considerate was that of Susan to construct, echoing the cover image for No Brother of Mine? Vicki and I were both blown away!

And here's my sister-in-law Meena and I with her incredible contribution to the event: a collage of "Favourite Foods of Famous Authors"!

How Meena ever thinks of things like this (let alone making them), I'll never know! Her grandchildren routinely benefit from her creativity at Christmas time, but I was lucky enough to be the object of her affection this time, somehow making it onto her list of famous authors (my fave foods include Dr Pepper, hot dogs, ketchup and spaghetti). What a thrill!

As for the party itself, we had 33 guests show up, ranging in age from 1 year old to... well, I won't embarrass anyone specific, so let's just say "late 50s/early 60s". Susan took care of all manner of food and drink, freeing Vicki and I up to socialize.

Over 20 copies of No Brother of Mine found new homes before we were done, along with a couple of Game Over editions. I got to talk to a couple people about GO, but really had to bite my tongue about NBoM since no one there but Vicki, my brother Rich and I had read it yet! Oh, the irony of it all!

I was thoroughly distracted once the crowd started to build, and felt bad that I didn't get to catch up with as many folks as I'd have liked to. I spent most of the three hours having very short conversations with whoever could manage to claim the chair beside me before having to give way to the next person waiting, book in hand. And I certainly had little or no ability to follow whatever else was going on around me.

Several people who I hadn't expected to make it showed up and surprised me, and a couple who I'd really hoped would come, didn't. In other words, it was about what you'd expect. I was definitely exhausted by the time it was over, and Vicki and Susan were kind enough to leave me out of the cleaning up portion of the day. I haven't heard from many of the party-goers yet to know how they felt it went, but it was clearly a success from my point-of-view. So much so, in fact, that maybe I'll do one of these shindigs for the next book, too! Of course, that assumes there is a next book! At this point, all I'm missing for that to happen is a story idea, and some characters, and a few themes, and...

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The Avengers: Well Worth The Wait

Last night, Vicki and I went out into the world to see The Avengers on the big screen. We'd spent the extra money to get VIP reserved seating, which is about the only way I'd ever try to see a blockbuster on Opening Night these days.

Funny story on the way into the theatre: we decided to get our food in the VIP lounge, rather than at the regular concession stands or at our seats (which you can do in the VIP theatre). There were about 4 or 5 people ahead of us when we lined up, and we had about 20 minutes before the start-time. No problem! At least, no problem until the couple ahead of us tried to buy their popcorn, drinks and candy using their Scene card points (or something like that), at which point the process ground to a complete halt. Despite there being three servers behind the counter at one point, they wouldn't open a second cash, and so we all stood there. And stood there. And after about 15 minutes of waiting, Vicki and I finally gave up and headed inside to get our seats.

We discussed the possibility of ordering our junkfood at our seats, but decided that we didn't really want to reward that poor service model by giving them even more of our money for their highly-overpriced fare after the long a wait. So we didn't.

They started the Coming Attractions right on time, and I was excited to see the trailers for The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises on the big screen. I think they showed one more trailer after that, and then the lights came back on, followed by an usher explaining that there was going to be a short delay because people were still coming into the theatre at that point. We looked at each other and knew: it was the long line behind us at the concession stand outside that were just now getting their orders filled!

Anyway, eventually The Avengers began and my long wait was finally over! We both once again didn't enjoy the 3D aspect of the presentation, but other than that it was fabulous!

Our plan is to go see it again, in 2D this time, once the crowds die down in a few weeks. There were so many great lines of dialogue, some of them lost because the crowd was still laughing at the preceding joke, making it fun to see again, I'm sure. Three of my favourite parts both involve the Hulk, who probably has the least screen time of any of the 6 team members (on account of being Mark "Bruce Banner" Ruffalo for most of the film). The first comes when Captain America is commanding the Avengers on what to do as they try to defend against a maurading horde, and he gives very detailed instructions to everyone else before ending with, "And Hulk.... SMASH!" That was extremely well-received by the audience! Another one involved Loki, which I won't spoil, and the final one came between Hulk and Thor which I definitely won't give away. Those 3 scenes alone made Greenskin's inclusion in the movie worthwhile!

I wouldn't put The Avengers quite on the same level of The Dark Knight as far as cinematic quality is concerned, but in terms of pure comic book geekasm, it's an incredible thrill! I'm so happy it didn't disappoint, and I can't wait to see it again and then own it on Blu-Ray in a few months.

The blockbuster movie season of 2012 is off to a great start, and there's only 5 weeks to go before Prometheus gets here.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Guess The Turnout

Susan, our gracious hostess for this Sunday's launch party for No Brother of Mine, asked me in an e-mail this week to estimate how many people will show up. I gave her the most honest answer I could think of: somewhere between 10 and 100. That's about as much as I could narrow it down, given that I decided not to ask for RSVP's from people as that scares some off. I'm also faced with not knowing whether people will come solo or bring family members, which obviously affects the numbers. Susan, of course, has to plan the food for the afternoon, so my response probably didn't help a whole lot.

When I told my brother about this development this afternoon, he predicted 57 people (hitting pretty close to the midpoint of my range, I notice). Vicki says 35 or so. I'm hoping for more than my low-end figure (10). Does anyone else care to hazard a guess between now and Sunday @ 2:00? If so, leave it as a comment here.

Regardless, I'm getting more and more excited at the prospect of getting NBoM into some new hands. Hopefully we'll see you on Sunday afternoon and yours can be some of the hands I'm referring to!

The Chutzpah Doctrine

If you want to know what sort of news items drive me crazy, here's one:

A few weeks ago, Republican candidate for president Mitt Romney declared that the Obama administration was engaging in a "war on women" (in response to earlier Democratic claims that Republican fighting against birth control funding within health coverage was just that). He justified this claim with the statistic that 92% of the job losses since Obama took office were felt by female workers.

This extremely misleading figure reflects the fact that the majority of the recession's job losses happened under Bush's watch and dramatically impacted male-dominated industries like construction. By the time Obama took over, that wave of layoffs had passed and a second wave had begun to affect government positions, including office jobs and schools - both of which are more likely to have women in them than men. These cutbacks were then greatly exacerbated by austerity measures that Republicans like Romney insisted were needed (paradoxically along with tax breaks for the wealthy) under the guise of reducing the deficit. In other words, Romney's party pushed vehemently to cut the very jobs that he was now blaming Obama for losing!

Which, as Paul Krugman pointed out in a column about this, is an amazing example of chutzpah. That Jewish term is often described as being when a man kills his mother and father and then throws himself on the mercy of the courts on the grounds of being an orphan! Romney, and the Republican party in the U.S. in general, are currently masters of chutzpah, it seems. And yet few people seem to be calling them on it!