Friday, April 11, 2014

Just No Time?


I've written previously (and recently) about a seeming trend towards shorter form reading material.   This post on The Passive Voice discusses what the writer considers an alarming trend towards shorter attention spans and a decline in human ability to focus on text for a longer period of time.   We've all become skimmers and scanners.   I have a theory that, for some, this behaviour originates in college and university when, dare I say, misguided professors and instructors inundate students with vast amounts of required reading.   It wasn't always useful, in my experience.  Multiple that by four or five courses and the student would need to give up sleep to comply and still stay current with actual assignments and essay papers that need to be handed in, midterms exams and finals.

My advice to a family member, borne of my experience long ago, was to read the first and last paragraph and the abstract or summary, if any.   There's a point that the professor wants you to grasp; tease it out from the excess.  

Perhaps online readers are employing the same tactics to try to get through all the potentially fascinating and informative websites and blogs.   We've got to be quick about it.   If you've watched some older movies you'll notice the difference from current offerings.  Previously, the director was content to let us spend three minutes of screen time watching a character cook his breakfast or shave and comb his hair just so we could get a 'feel' for the character.   Today, entire galaxies would be wiped out during the same period of time.  But that's an idea.   Perhaps time travel could be used to give us more of what we need.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014



From a Writers' Group Prompt:

I was a city child, used to city swimming pools with watchful lifeguards.   There was no running, no pushing and no jumping off the sides.   Disobedience could mean instant expulsion from the pool but as a rule abiding ten year old I never tested them.

Now here I was at  summer camp where the main feature attraction was the rope swing that extended from the side of the water's edge and the adjacent enormous oak tree to the centre of the enlarged bend in the river.   I was an observer of my braver campmates who joyfully careened down the slope, grasped the large knot in the rope in passing and swung out to the middle of the meandering river in a graceful arc, dropping into the river with a gleeful splash.

Oh, I'd tried it on one of the first days of camp but found that once my hands encircled the knot, they were reluctant to release it.   In shame and humiliation I had traced ever smaller swings, back and forth, until a cabin mate, with a look of disgust, grabbed the rope on what was probably my sixth pass and hissed, "You  have to let it go, you ninny!"

                                                                    * * *

I've shared my writings from prompts before.    At my Writing Group, the facilitator gives a prompt in the form of a phrase (such as 'LET IT GO'), a picture or photograph or an object.   We then write for about 10 minutes and then share . . . or not.  What is interesting is how many different aspects and angles one prompt can produce.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dystopia getting close to reality?


I was taken aback to hear a discussion on a radio program about government plans to place all identification related to government services on a single card.  For example, your medical card, your government vehicle insurance, your driver's license, your birth certificate, your social insurance card . . . I probably missed some as I was in the car at the time.

Callers to the program discussed the issues of privacy and security as the primary concerns.  What if someone  stole the card or if you carelessly lost or misplaced it.  Your personal information, your most intimate details, would be out there for anyone to read and exploit.   The main advantage would be convenience, which we are all very attached to.   Then I heard the guest speaker mention the possibility of  an implanted micro-chip.   WHAT??!!   Has the government been reading A New Premise?    If you've read my dystopic novel (or even read the blurb on-line)  you'll know that the plot involves terrorist attacks on the money supply leading most citizens to have a microchip implanted with their financial . . . and other . . . information encrypted. 

Oh, oh!  Maybe a tattooed barcode would work better.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cluttering up the world


This post by author Russell Blake on The Passive Voice describes books as another retail product which require considerable if not massive amounts of promotion and advertising to sell copies.   Blake goes as far as to state that "constant promotion"  is required.  That may be so, in fact, it probably is but  there is likely a breakthrough point at which time word of mouth and the desire to have what many/most others have takes over.   Interestingly, Blake doesn't consider quality as the main factor and opines that  it is not sufficient to write the best book you can.   It is still important and necessary, however.

I'm sure he's correct;  Russell Blake is known in the indie book world as a prolific seller.   My concern and objection is with the amount of promotion and advertising that already engulfs our world.   I can still recall when hockey boards were bare and devoid of advertising.   There was a time when dentists, doctors and lawyers relied on their reputation, not newspaper ads.  Once corporate sponsorship wasn't considered essential for every worthy cause and event from neighbourhood to national.  I've written in an earlier post about taking a media fast;   you could try an advertising fast but you'd have to wear blinders and earplugs.   I've noticed that television programs have started placing advertising logos and brief messages in the bottom quarter of the screen, randomly inserted during the show.   I suppose they know that too many of us PVR and then fast forward through  the commercials.

Many people use social media and sites like Tripadvisor to get real opinions from individuals who have no financial stake in the outcome.    But then I've read of writers and publishers who have either purchased reviews or entered into an elaborate arrangement that involves trading reviews.   Favourable, of course.    But is it possible for everyone to be satisfied with the same thing?   

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Wednesday, March 26, 2014



From a Writing Group prompt:

She took some deep breaths and tried to push down the familiar feeling of panic--the fear of missing out.   It was almost time and Kira just knew she would miss out . . . again.   It wasn't for lack of desire but somehow she just knew that her old nemesis, distraction, would come between her and the prize.  She tried, oh she tried, to stay focussed; to attend to the small signals that would alert her that the time was at hand.   But somehow, all too often, events conspired to distract her to something that would, in the end, prove meaningless.

Today, she vowed, she would remain steadfast.   Today she would succeed.  But just then, the doorbell rang and Kira jumped up and ran downstairs to the front door.   She just had to give full voice to her consternation and excitement.  Only the paperboy!   And too late she heard the familiar refrain:   "Here's a biscuit for you, Blue.   I guess Kira doesn't want one."

Note:   FOMO is an recent acronym for Fear Of Missing Out

 Note 2:   No dog ever missed a biscuit in the telling of this tale!

Friday, March 21, 2014


Writing books can sharpen your powers of observation in other media.   On a recent television
program the story involved an unknown person sabotaging and undermining a project.   But who?  It could not be one of the 'regulars' as that would have meant the demise of the character on the show as the acts were too extreme for that to happen and the show's premise continue.  Sometimes the perpetrator just has to be the character who otherwise seems unnecessary.  Almost too obvious.

 I don't think that happens as often in books as there is no cost other than the author's time, involved in introducing and 'maintaining' multiple characters. There can be difficulty for the reader if too many characters are brought into the story but it may be that the author wants to muddy the trail and introduce red herrings to cite a couple of idioms.   The reader must spot the right tree in the forest.  A glossary of characters isn't used very much anymore;  I recall the last one I saw which was in a book with over thirty characters.   Let's just say I referred to it often.

When the perpetrator of a crime is revealed in the last chapter, the reader immediately congratulates himself for having figured that out or feels annoyed at having erred.   Then the next action is to page back through the book, and  memory, to see if the clues were there had one only been sufficiently attentive.    If the hints were sparse or even missing, there can be a definite sense of being misled and tricked as if the game wasn't fairly played.