Friday, December 28, 2012

iBooks Author

Yesterday I began teaching myself the iBooks Author program using the simple expedient of using it. Two books were transferred over - one a short book of poetry called The River, and the other my ongoing multimedia something or other called 'The Man who fell from the Sky".

I previewed The River and liked what i saw very much indeed.

The program was engineered by Apple to provide a multimedia platform to write textbooks mainly to be read on the iPad - a smart business move probably, but also consonant with Apple's goals to make software that works easily and produces good, professional content. So far so good, despite my unorthodox goals for this program!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Magazines & eBooks

Digital Book World recently published a piece on magazines both competing with and collaborating with legacy publishers in the production of Ebooks. To me, this seems a natural fit. In the day of black type on white paper, magazines offered colour and design to print. So I am not surprised they would move into eBooks - especially multimedia. I wonder if traditional publishers can keep up?

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Another morning

Well, another morning after a night I didn't sleep much. I am in the middle of grading final exams. I am grateful for the work and the lack of financial stress! But.... I think I may never write again. I am simply too tired.

I've read all the stories of writers who get up pre-dawn so they can work before their daily duties begin. All I can feel are the swirling clouds of weariness. Were they just tales? No matter, no doubt I will write again at some point.

Oh, good morning!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Academic writing

When I began writing seriously at the end of the 1990s, I was face with a choice.  In 1999, just before Christmas I defended my PhD dissertation and obtained my academic union card.  At that time I was also working on a popular history for a group of Professional Engineers.  They had been floundering trying to produce a millennium history of engineering achievements in the Hamilton/Burlington area - the western end of Lake Ontario.  Through someone I knew, whose husband was on their committee, I managed to get hired to write it for them.  Meantime, I was also writing an article for a major academic journal, histoire sociale/Social History.  The popular book:  By Design:  The Role of the Engineer in the History of the Hamilton/Burlington Area. 

The academic article: Edward Smith.  "Working Class Anglicans:  Religion and Identity in Victorian and Edwardian Hamilton, Ontario." Histoire sociale/Social History vol. XXXVI (no. 71) Mai-May 2003, 123-144.

I had two roads to follow - popular writing, or academic writing.  The purpose of academic writing is to get you tenure, or to increase your place on the pay grid if you are already tenured, and to make a name amongst academics.  Oh, yes, and also to increase our understanding of human nature....
The purpose of writing popular histories is to inform others of the roots of human society - to expand understanding of ourselves to ourselves, and to entertain.

Well, I chose popular writing - on the one hand I was patted on the head for the academic article, but it had no impact on any chance of getting full time work in acadaemia as there are sooo many History PhDs floating around out there.... on the other, the engineers were pleased with the book and paid me $40,000.

I am working on an academic opus - but only because the topic interests me greatly and I want to produce a book length essay exploring the relationship between religion and society - primarily at the level of ordinary people.  Most of my writing is reserved for poetry and my multimedia novel project.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Moods and a silly poem tacked onto the end

On the Live Journal social media site (where I rarely post anymore), they used to have a list of emoticons - moods - you could attach to each post, I guess if your writing was so ineffective that a reader could not pick up on it from the words themselves.

This got me to thinking about the impact of one's mood at any particular time you set out to write.  At this specific moment, it is sunny and mild outside - as has most of November thus far this year.  Sunny and cool days in Fall always get my word conduit operating at maximum efficiency.  For example, these very words - I opened the blog editor and stared at the screen for about 5 seconds then wrote 'Moods' in the subject box and started to write these words.  Prior to that I had no idea what I would write, only that the conduit was clear and clean and ready for that crazed part of my brain that allows this, whatever it is, to happen.

Let's try a poem out of nowhere before closing  [a rhetorical question]:

Rhetoric to the Rhetoritician
is like magic to the Magician
like politics to the politician
oh if I liked it I would go fishin'
because I don't like any of these ishins
words in my head are my only condition


Friday, November 16, 2012

Libraries and eBooks

I have been following the debate [battle?] between public libraries and publishers over eBooks for a year or two now.  The latest blast was posted on the Digital Book World [DBW] site.  I received an email post on it this morning.  The American Library Association reported statistics that library borrowers buy on average 3.2 books.  The need for constantly hammering publishers with these numbers is real.  Some of the big legacy publishers will not allow their eBooks into libraries, others limit the number of times a patron may borrow a book, all allow only one eBook to be lent at a time.

Mike Shatzkin in this blog post details the arguments on both sides neatly.  To summarize - libraries point out that making eBooks free for borrowing stimulates sales of eBooks - that is, people use libraries to discover books, then when they find an author they like, they tend [well, maybe 'tend' is too weak, given the 3.2-1 ratio of library reader to book buyer], they buy.

Publishers on the other hand, fear that making all books available free as eBooks through libraries will foster a habit and an expectation that books should be free.

It is the wild west out there now.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Police Officers

I went to a dinner last night with a curious little club formed 25 years ago by a friend, a now-retired police Constable.  I am  now a member of this dinner club - I sat at a table with 10 men - one a younger, still working officer, the others all retired, some for quite some time.  The gentleman who sat next to me now writes historical fiction eBooks.  So we chatted about publishing and marketing and editing for the eBook market.  He uses American publishers who publish only eBooks - but the rest of their work is, as far as I can tell, identical to legacy publishing - editing, copy editing, marketing.

Bill Hewitt's site author

Mostly, however, I listened to shop talk - tales of people injured or dying in accidents and how officers deal with that emotionally, of arrests made, of amusing incidents, of family, ordinary chat about houses and cars and gardens and restaurants.   All of which would make an interesting book, I think..... but too much on my plate at the moment.

There is something I have noticed about police officers that I have also seen in the faces of war veterans. There is a ...... hmmmmm..... how to describe this..... a tightness about the mouth that you see in people who have seen horrible things and have had to be violent in a cause.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


How much should a writer reveal?  Is good writing merely a writer streaking the world?  The old adage  says 'write what you know' - but what happens when you really do not know yourself?  Well, that, I guess, is another topic entirely.  If you do write what you know, you write characters that are composites of people you have known, including yourself.  One of the great guessing games played by readers and critics [sometimes the same people!] is to uncover the real life origins of fictional characters.  Even in writing non-fiction - history, as I do - analysis of an historical character will be predicated on my knowledge of people, garnered from those I know.

All this was prompted by one of my interminable re-jiggings of me  - I tend to take to heart the critiques of me offered by friends and family and this causes me to retreat and process and rebuild.  It is as though I write 'me' in the same way I write character in a novel or a poem, or describe a person in historical context.  I doubt I ever really change in essence though - I merely engage in a redecoration of the outer 'me'.  More to the point here then, when I add or subtract traits from a fictional character, is there an essence, an unchanging foundation for that character that does not change?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


He touched the sadness with his tongue
feeling all about it
with the sort of love
one applies to holes in teeth
and various sores
recoiling at the darts of pain
unable to stop
feeling again

iCloud update

Since the Summer... iCloud seems to have been repaired...... I announce this with great relief, especially as the Java resets on the MacOS seem to have blown my other and previously preferred cloud service out of the sky - that is, I can no long upload anything to Box.. the files I uploaded in the past are still there... and I can still download them... but uploads.... nope.  The warming told me to reinstall Java.. and took me to the site.. I did everything as usual.. but no effect.

So... goodbye old friend Box and hello again to my lover who left me, iCloud.....


In a few minutes I will walk my two big goofs - a chocolate lab named Henry and his son, a black named Roscoe.  While walking them I will not be able to prevent my mind from spinning stories.  All my life - well, that part of it I can recall! - my mind has spun off stories.  They rattle around in my head, one after the other, the vast majority discarded.  There is no way I could type fast enough to develop them all.  They come when walking the dogs.  They come when waking up.  They come when falling asleep.  They come while shopping for groceries.  They come while driving the car.  They come while talking with others.  I used to engage in vain attempts to quell them - seeing this as a waste of time better spent.... working in an accounting office, or making love, or being sad, or angry, or happy ... or doing something.

Last night I was reminded of this by a friend when I said that I was trying not to do this - as though I had a choice in the matter!  She reminded me it is what I do.. who I am.

So..... stories.... lets go!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Hard Decisions.

I have been looking at my options among all the work I have been attempting over the past three years. Right at this moment in time I have a heavy teaching load - three courses this term and four possible next, followed by a possible two in the Summer - with only two weeks between each, which is spent preparing for the next term.  On top of this, I am principle caregiver for my invalid wife - work that takes up probably about 80% of my waking time.  For example, in writing this one paragraph, I had to stop three times.  I have not been able to find any time to write - even simple poems take up more time than I can find now.

So, I have had to make a hard decision.  I will have to shelve my writing - the multimedia novel, arranging poems into the Book of Dreams site, getting Apple a Day ready as an eBook.   I will try to work on the Religions of the World eTextbook, and do some reading for my academic opus, Religion and Society in the Atlantic world - these last only because the lecture notes I write for my courses will find their way into these books anyway.  I have already 'hidden' my Experimental Writing Facebook page as it is embarrassing to have a page announcing cutting edge work where nothing ever appears.

This blog?  Well, I think I will try to keep it open, at least for a while.  If I find huge gaps between posts I will likely shelve it too.

Hard decisions.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

the travails of ted

I am spinning my wheels.  I look at the list of projects I have posted ..... a multimedia novel, a book of poetry, a iBook religions of the world text, a family history for a friend,  a still born book I wish to revive online, a multimedia book length essay, and teaching at two universities......

What am I actually getting done?  Basically the teaching and a bit of poetry... nothing else.

I must focus.

So.... teaching as it pays the bills here and now..... and the iBooks text as it promises to pay when done....and I must write the occasional poem to stay sane [well, my version thereof].... the rest will have to wait.

Monday, October 8, 2012

in a parking lot

What else does a writer do while waiting in a parking lot for someone? At least I think I am waiting for someone - maybe I am living a 21st century 'Waiting for Godot'. - solitary because individualism has reached its zenith (or nadir, depending whether you are a half full or half empty type) in this millennium. (sorry for the speed bump in the middle of that previous sentence - a nasty habit I cannot break!).

Anyway, back to Facebook now!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Nobody made me want to be a Writer

I just happened on a blog post by Neil Gaiman.  I do not actually know who he is - except that others interested in the fantasy genre seem to assume everyone will know him.  Well, I suppose it is because I read only for work now.  Writing is my pleasure, my outlet, my need.

Anyway I started to read through a speech this Neil Gaiman fellow gave to the Mythopaeic society a few years ago and had just posted to his blog.  He begins by describing how he encountered the Narnia books.  Then he writes:

C.S. Lewis was the first Person to make me want to be a writer.

I stopped there and had to come in here to write my reaction to that statement:

Nobody made me want to be a writer.

I can remember quite clearly the first thing I wrote - an essay actually - and I wrote it because I had to, not because I had read some other writer's work that inspired me.  I don't mean it was a school assignment; I do mean the thoughts that found their way onto a yellow lined pad of paper in pencil, just had to come out of my head. I wrote many essays in those years - the first being when I was 13.  I also wrote poetry, and tried a few [very bad] novels.  I wrote one absurdist play that my High School English teacher thought superb.

But I wrote because of an inner compulsion to write - it was a need.

It is a need.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Indie or not

The Indie book list blog decided the other day to stop posting. It was a long explanation to which I will post a link after I get to my laptop. But the gist of it was that the word 'indie' presupposes 'crap' in most people's minds. I believe the word was borrowed from Indie films - which have the reputation of being experimental, pushing the boundaries of art and so on.

Ok!  On my laptop now.....

So the use of the word 'indie' to label independent, self-published books was [is?] an attempt to catch some of this cachet of beyond the boundaries experimentation - of brave individuals with good ideas and good products but not the big bucks to package and promote their work.  The indie list site seemed to be a place where this could be put into effect.

Apparently not - according to the last post of the blogger there, they were inundated with crap - more books listed than ever purchased.  Rather than becoming a Sundance cyber festival for independent authors, it became a dumping ground for bad books.

Read it here and decide:

As for myself, perhaps the blogger had a good idea, but it needed honing itself - rejecting books that were badly written or badly edited but allowing those that were, if perhaps a bit rough, a chance to shine.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

More from John Ruskin

More prose from John Ruskin. This is from Volume II of The Stones of Venice, where he leaves discussion of the science of architecture behind to paint a word picture of the city. I allowed the sensations to take over and ignored his word brush stroke technique:

Well might it seem that such a city had owed her existence rather to the rod of the enchanter, than the fear of the fugitive; that the 
waters which encircled her had been chosen for the mirror of her state, rather than the shelter of her nakedness; and that all which in nature was wild or merciless,—Time and Decay, as well as the waves and tempests,—had been won to adorn her instead of to destroy, and might still spare, for ages to come, that beauty which seemed to have fixed for its throne the sands of the hour-glass as well as of the sea.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

John Ruskin and the language of the heart

Persentio ergo sum is my personal motto and descriptor.  When I write I do only rarely use logic in constructing mental images for others to experience.  Rather I write feelings and emotions.  This is why my prose often blends into poetry and sometimes my poetry in prose.   John Ruskin's style leads me to believe he wrote in this way too. The excerpt below is from Volume II of The Stones of Venice, where he leaves discussion of the science of architecture behind to paint a word picture of the city. I allowed the sensations to take over and ignored his word brush stroke technique:

Well might it seem that such a city had owed her existence rather to the rod of the enchanter, than the fear of the fugitive; that the 
waters which encircled her had been chosen for the mirror of her state, rather than the shelter of her nakedness; and that all which in nature was wild or merciless,—Time and Decay, as well as the waves and tempests,—had been won to adorn her instead of to destroy, and might still spare, for ages to come, that beauty which seemed to have fixed for its throne the sands of the hour-glass as well as of the sea.

Monday, September 3, 2012


Finding time to write in any of the ways I practise this art is difficult for me.  A long time ago and in a galaxy far away I made a list of ongoing projects.  I am glancing at it now - in print format - and realize that some of those have dropped off.

So here is the updated list [and I will produce it is order of priority]

  1. teaching [three teaching contracts this term - which starts Wednesday] 
    1. Religion & Society in the Modern World - online at the University of Guelph  124 students, 2 Teaching Assistants
    2. Religion & Society in the Modern World - online at the University of Guelph/Humber  89 students no teaching assistants
    3. Judaism, Christianity, Islam at the University of Guelph/Humber  56 students no Teaching Assistants
  2. Religions of the World for Northern Blue Publishing - preparing section on Islam to test iBookauthor app - aimed now at the iBookstore
  3. The Man who fell from the Sky - multimedia eBook fiction/fantasy
  4. Book of Dreams - poetry multimedia eBook and also website format
  5. Religion and Society in the Atlantic World since 1500 - multimedia eBook - History
  6. family history project for a friend - already paid me in a bottle of Welsh single malt whisky - Penderyn  VERY NICE!
  7. revisions to Apple a Day - a project cancelled by James Lorimer Publishers right at the point of setting the text and photos!

Question is...... how do I fit all this in... other than setting a list of priorities.  Teaching will take most of my time as that is immediate both in terms of weekly deadlines and bi-weekly pay.  Religions of the World will get next as that promises to be realised in a concrete fashion by year's end.  The others, I have reverted to my rule of at least one sentence a day....

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Muscle in my Head

I decided to write this post because I haven't been doing what I decided to write about here:  the necessity to write everyday - even if only one sentence.  I was going to hedge my instruction to myself by saying that reading over previously produced bits would qualify, but no, that is a cheat.

Writing is a product of that muscle in my head - of ideas and of imagination.  Like any other muscle, you must exercise it on a regular basis.  You must also let this muscle feed on the senses that bring sustenance, that allow it to be supple and vigorous.

So, once again, I pick myself up, dust myself off and return to the fray.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Leonard Cohen, Mordechai Richler, Margaret Atwood: Random Thoughts

While exercising this morning I was listening to Leonard Cohen's recent album Old Ideas.

This started me thinking about the role of social environment in creativity.  Two of Canada's greatest writers, Leonard Cohen and Mordechai Richler both came out of the MontrĂ©al Jewish community.  Was their talent nurtured by this?  Would they have been great writers if they had grown up in, oh say, Windsor, Ontario?  Or in farm country?  In Canada, Margaret Atwood is usually lauded as Canada's leading literary luminary [sorry for the lapse into alliteration!  It is a disease!  I can't help myself!].  For myself, when I read her books [and a book of poetry of hers way back when] I feel like I am in a university lecture hall being told what to think by a left-leaning professor.  Mordechai Richler and Leonard Cohen make other universes real in my mind... the wall between writer and words and the reader dissolves and you enter an alternate universe.


[post scriptum:   when I googled Leonard Cohen to link to a brief biography of him, only commercial sites or wikipedia came up... so I lined to wikipedia.. then when I search The Canadian Encyclopedia I did indeed find an entry for him, but decided the stay with Wikipedia, not sure why Google didn't put the better source on the first page of search results]

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I have been meditating on the condition of aloneness.  Not loneliness... but aloneness. Solitude..being alone in your spirit if not physically... a human atom.. interacting with other atoms, but separate.

How does one write this?  Stories - whether they be fictional, semi-fiction, or the Histories I often write,  are based on human community and human contact with other humans.... this drives both fiction and non-fiction.  My central character, Simon, in my novel The Man who fell from the Sky... is in a state of aloneness.  Much of what I have written so far has him with friends, girlfriends, a wife or two.... love, hate... boredom.... human contact.  But he is alone. I don't mean in the philosophical sense that we are all alone - we are born alone and die alone and all that... I mean a kind of solitariness of spirit... where you move through life sealed at some intrinsic level against deep contact with others.

Sometimes this is a result of an 'alone' soul.. sometimes it is forced on one through circumstance.  At this point, I have not learned yet which of these two Simon is.. but I would place bets his aloneness has been forced on him by circumstance, not by his own character.  Unless, of course, his character drives others away.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Martian Sands

I am writing this blog post just to advertise a friend's project and his kick off to kickstarter funding for his innovative book.

Martian Sands

and where you can contribute to the kickstarter fund:

Martian Sands: Life at the dawn of the 22nd Century

Martian Sands Kickstarter fund

Expanded this site

I decided to add a page to this blog where I will show excerpts from books I am writing.  When the mood strikes me I will change them.  Currently the Excerpts page shows the first three pages of my multimedia novel project The Man who fell from the Sky.  I am writing and orchestrating this project - but have help from an artist friend, a photographer friend and a video editor daughter.  I still need a musician who will work for less than nothing.

I also added a page linking to my poetry site - which will also become a multimedia eBook.

Monday, July 16, 2012

William Blake

I've not dared read poetry since I began again - afraid that I would write in the style of the superior rather than my own. but a while ago I decided to try Blake. His style and the form of English then distance him enough that I felt and feel safe. I read some in the collection and then skimmed - I can only find a passing and academic interest in so many poems about children or religious celebrations or sentimental views of nature.

Then, of course, my skimming skidded
to a stop on Tyger, Tyger's undistilled genius. I saw there too that phrase beloved by Northrop Frye: Fearful Symmetry.

This has set me to wondering about scholars spending their lives thinking and writing about someone else's creativity. I know that the better historians can integrate poetic genius into their analyses - but History at its best is literature, not science. I would hope if I ever tried Frye's great study of Blake, Fearful Symmetry, that I would find a work not only of intense scholarship, but of creativity and beauty.


Last night I received a lesson in humility. i am too embarrassed to go into details but shall never look at anything I do or say with satisfaction again. I lay in bed this morning wondering if I would write poetry or work on my novel or not. Then I came across today's blog post by Orna Ross. Her advice is simple: Get down to work.

When in Doubt, Work

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Tonight I realized that my need to write as I feel, rather than plotting out poems or stories to serve a market or to please others ..... can hurt others.  So I am trying to decide what to do... yet another blog, this time with only my black poems?  Shall I bother continuing on the experimental prose/poem/novel or scrap it?  Well..... probably I could not bring myself to scrap it.... but I think I will keep it  dark and out of sight for a very long time now.  The poems.... i'm not sure what I will do here.   I can only write poems that spring from how I feel at any particular moment ..... and there will be more black poems.... and the way things are going right now, probably many more.

Just don't know what to do....

The Analytical Mind and the Poetic Soul

A while ago  I was reading through a listserv where members have been debating and discussing reading the Old Testament. I usually lurk on that list, only once in a while jumping in - mostly because I am not well-versed in the Bible. The post I read this morning which caught my eye talked about how everyone since the Enlightenment reads the Bible analytically. I responded in this fashion, (in one of my rare appearances on this particular list). I post my response here, because it gets to the heart of how and why I write (whether that be fiction, or fact), and how and why I function as an academic historian:

Actually it is possible to pray the Bible rather than analyse it. I was trying to find a way to say this without setting up 'having a simple faith' as the only reverse to this particular obverse. I would guess, anyone who is mostly 'right-brained' - that is to say, poets, artists, musicians, writers of fiction (or perhaps writers in general), and so on, are perfectly capable of reading the Bible without being analytical. Your are correct to a point - that the cultural training which predisposes everyone since the Enlightenment to analyse, analyse, analyse kicks in automatically now and then - but wrong to suppose that this is the default position for everyone. It is not, for me. Yes I will read the Bible - or read the posts here on the Bible and stop and say, 'hey, wait a minute, that doesn't make sense!' - but mostly I read the Bible as poetry - as flashes of colour and light shooting across my mind - as images which together make one grand image. I cannot comprehend the grand image - in that I cannot see it all - anymore than by looking at the sky at night you can see it all in one gaze - you have to move your head about and see bits and pieces - but you get a sense of the whole, of the beauty intrinsic to the whole contained in the bits and pieces you can see.

I have, all my life, wondered at my abilities, but mostly lack of ability to function well in this analytical, left-brained world. Not until three years ago, when I was at the tender age of 58 did I finally become reconciled with, comfortable with, the reality that I do not easily see analytically - but my internal default is to see as a poet sees - to see either beauty or ugliness (sometimes they are the same - that is, there is a strange beauty in ugliness) --

I came up with a personal credo statement to express my (and that of others like me) difference. You might say a good motto for the analytical age comes from Descartes: 'cogito, ergo sum' (I think, therefore I am).

I found a neat, expressive Latin verb which produced my credo: 'persentio, ergo sum' (I feel deeply, therefore I am). This is how I read the Bible. I find the analysis here fascinating and awe inspiring in the work and learning and intelligence which goes into it - but I feel like an anthropologist engaging in participant-observation of a new tribe .....or to be more accurate, I am a former, not terribly successful, member of that tribe who has been away and has returned to realise suddenly how I was different all these years from my old tribe.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Chair

He rose from the bed. He walked on bare feet over to the chair and sat. She breathed quietly, unmoved, still, beauty banked and slumbering. He thought nothing. A little yellow light on the desktop computer breathed too, in and out, sleeping. He could hear the silence, a whispering cacophony that never ceased. He stood. The floor outside the room was cold, but he wanted a Scotch. He fumbled for a glass in the disheveled bar, taking a swig from the bottle at the same time. He found a paper cup, decorated with Santa scenes. "Well, he was a jolly old elf". Simon poured carelessly, five fingers, nearly topping the cup. He sipped a bit out to keep from sloshing the drink, then padded back into the room and the chair. She slept still. He could not.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

The Writer's Life

I decided to take a break between working on projects to think about the writer's life. Some writers spend their days working with others under the stress and tension of immediate deadlines and find their creative juices there. I am too slow a worker and prefer the solitary life. My home office used to look out onto my back yard - a weed-filled garden, victim of my ineffectual efforts (though not so ineffectual if you happen to be a weed!). It is curious though how much the garden reflects moods. If I am depressed, even the sunniest, greenest day looks dark and dead. If happy, the wettest, gloomiest day looks soft and green. I mentioned deadlines. Of course I do have deadlines - except for my novel - but I work best and most furiously when deadlines approach --- as now! I am way past my personal deadline and even farther past any reasonable expectation from my publisher for The Religions of the World project. So today, finally I get back at it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Apple and Textbooks

As I am in the early stages of researching and writing an academic, university level textbook [which I hope will have some interest among general readers too] on the complex relationship between religion and society in the Atlantic world - and as I intended from the outset to publish this as a multimedia eBook - Apple's iBook Author is an unmitigated good for me.....but here is an early review focussed on its impact on the publishing world....

The Bookseller

Monday, May 21, 2012

Inspiration Part 2

I cannot remember where I read this: " inspiration is for amateurs, I just get to work." I agreed with this at first as I was teetering on the edge of the Black Pit - and I had not been there for a while. But now that I have drawn back after being doused with a pail of metaphorical cold water by a friend, I wonder if professional artists dispense with inspiration. I cannot imagine the good ones do - or at least I hope they don't. Maybe that is why there is so much forgettable art, including writing, around these days.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


She shimmered in the night
Sending sparks into flight
Her eyes were dark seeing deep
Her hands fashioned limpid mystique
She turned and vanished
Leaving scented petals
O so fair that floated gently
In the air

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Tech Troubles - Avoid iCloud!

Apple's iCloud service sounds great and for me it was until March 25, 2012. I had difficulty setting it up initially as I discovered that my Apple ID I set up for iTunes a long time ago would not work with Apple's iWork suite because I had that linked with MobileMe - for which Apple had given me a separate account. But I managed to get it working nicely (despite the annoyance of calendars not syncing).

Last night I reworked a poem. When I woke up this morning I picked up my iPod to work on it before an idea vanished. The poem was not there! I wasted a goodly chunk of the morning trying to get my three IOS devices to sync with my macBook - no luck - some of them said files were 'updating' ( and still are as I write this at 2:17 p.m.).

So it seems Apple is having server problems? Who knows? Who cares?

I don't have the time or patience to bother. So what I will do from now on is send new versions of docs, or new docs as email attachments to myself, then upload to Box and use Box in place of iCloud.

Even should Apple get their crappy cloud system back up I no longer trust it. By using emails and Box my files will be backed up on the device, my MacBook and on Box.

March 25, 2012 UPDATE

By fiddling and a bit of intuition, I have managed to get iCloud to work again - but only by turning off iCloud for Pages and Keynote on my iPhone - it now works for the iPod, iPad and my MacBook Pro - which is annoying, but at the least I needed it to work on my iPad and MacBook where I do most of my writing. I still don't trust it, of course - so after each document revision on my iPad, I email to myself, then open the attachment on my iPad which causes a menu to pop us asking me where I want the doc - and one of the choices is Box... so I choose that and it then asks which folder in box I want the doc.  Then if I need to do revisions, I can move them easily from Box to Pages.  Annoying but iCloud needs fixing!  I don't know if the problem was caused by my iPhone, or whether iCloud was just down for a week and my turning the cloud off on my phone and iCloud coming back online was just coincidence.  Doesn't really matter which as I cannot trust the service anymore.

May 16, 2012 Update

Reading through MacForums I found many others with the same problems - especially with the calendars. In the Apple official help forums I found a 'sort of' work around - you can send individual documents to iTunes to back up there, and retrieve them from there.... so this can operate as a kind of secondary backup to I don't know how many files and what size you can store on iTunes... and they won't be organized in any fashion that makes them easy to find....As for iCloud, I kept trying as above - but for about 20% of my docs it still does not I will make sure everything is on Box and then turn it off on my iPod and iPad and ignore it on my MacBook. I wonder if anyone at Apple knows or cares? I grit my teeth whenever I see their ads! To paraphrase an old ad campaign of their's "It just does not work"

Monday, May 14, 2012

Experimental Writing

Recently I created a new Facebook page I call Experimental Writing. On it I am displaying some of my attempts to write in non-linear, multimedia style, from the ground up - not enhanced writing which I see as someone writing a standard, straight text piece, then enhancing it with music or videos or photos or fonts. Rather, the multimedia aspects are intrinsic to the work in progress. Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert! Tangent Alert! [all alerts should come in threes - that mystical number] Work-in=progress because one thing cyberspace removes is the necessity to have anything 'finished' some work can be left as is... for minutes, or hours or days or years - but is always there to be revised, expanded, shrunk or deleted or redone wholly. Ok! Back to my main thought..... So far I have posted only poetry - and also have added a new poem to my Book of Dreams web site Book of Dreams It is this latter that prompted me to write this blog post - I experimented with adding music to one poem in there already, but I am not satisfied with the outcome. To add a music file, iWeb allows you to drag from iTunes - but it wants a picture to go with it... so I picked one and did that - and the file sits there incongruous to the rest of the poem. So... with the new poem, I will add sound... but instead of dragging a photo to the music files place holder, I will use a jpg version of the poem as the place holder and see how that works... so a participant reader/viewer/listener will utilize both at the same time.... Tomorrow though... I am tired and it is late for an old guy

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Slogans and Thinking

I am going slightly off topic for the general thread of my blog today... but feel impelled to set these inchoate ideas into print. And perhaps it is not actually far off my blog's theme - as I am in the early stages of writing a multimedia academic eBook investigating the relationship between religion and society in the Atlantic world - which will in its early stages take me into fields afar - everywhere from the British Isles and North America to the rest of the Americas, France, Spain and Italy.

In the final exam for one course, I set a common 'think-piece' question for all to answer that requires the student to 'cogitate' on the necessity (or not!) of religion as a component of society - drawing on a quote from the political philosopher George Grant “…unassisted reason is able to know that without religious beliefs and actions no society whatever can last”. I have just finished giving full marks to a student whose answer to this question was badly structured, somewhat incoherent, and not too grammatically elegant (to put it mildly) ..... but...... he was thinking!!!! You could almost smell the black smoke coming out his ears, and almost hear the grinding noises as his brain clunked into life. But the purpose of this question is to do just this - the primary goal of any teacher in the Humanities - to counter the all-embracing modern culture of the slogan. We are today in the West, a people content to shout slogans at one another - and he who shouts loudest and longest wins the game. Here I saw a student who, with difficulty, did in fact, weigh the different sides to this question in his mind. He thought!


Wisdom from John Ruskin

you have been so created as to enjoy what is fitting for you, and a willingness to be pleased, as it was intended you should be. It is the child’s spirit, which we are then most happy when we most recover; only wiser than children in that we are ready to think it subject of thankfulness that we can still be pleased with a fair color or a dancing light. And, above all, do not try to make all these pleasures reasonable, nor to connect the delight which you take in ornament with that which you take in construction or usefulness. They have no connection; and every effort that you make to reason from one to the other will blunt your sense of beauty, or confuse it with sensations altogether inferior to it. You were made for enjoyment, and the world was filled with things which you will enjoy, unless you are too proud to be pleased by them, or too grasping to care for what you cannot turn to other account than mere delight. Remember that the most beautiful things in the world are the most useless; peacocks and lilies for instance; at least I suppose this quill I hold in my hand writes better than a peacock’s would, and the peasants of Vevay, whose fields in spring time are as white with lilies as the Dent du Midi is with its snow, told me the hay was none the better for them.

Monday, May 7, 2012

What is an eBook?

I don't think eBooks have been defined yet. It is still the wild west in this new form of writing, comparable to the first years of print technology. I would argue that an eBook is any work presented online for someone to read. To be even more open about my position on this, I hope that eBooks are never defined closely - I would hate to see a return to the days where a single group - publishers - function as gatekeepers, deciding whose work is available to readers and whose is not. As it stands now, writers and readers have seized the day from publishers. I can put something on Scribd, a blog,, a website, amazon, the iBookstore, kindle, kobo, the nook, even an app... I've probably forgotten something ....

In some you will be paid, in others not - sometimes you offer a work free on one format, and this generates sales in another...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Ethnographic Notebook

Ethnographic Field Notes [grandchildren]:

Grand-daughter: immersed in A: Bruno Mars videos. B: curious device? construct? - appears to be paper bound in sheets with ink markings on each page - I believe it is a ancient form of reading known as a 'book'

Grand-son: stumbles about house battling Angry Birds on iPod touch, surfaces occasionally to ask for cake [for breakfast]
Sub note: The 'ink markings' in the 'book' are writing! Apparently with these artifacts the orientation must be on a particular and individual plane! One cannot simply 'open' the leafs of paper and read.... the entire device must be in one orientation! Curious! I wonder at that - was this a result of a lack of technological sophistication? Or was it a part of a religion-cultural mentality?
religio-cultural - note to autocorrect bureau: please input social science jargon! Which makes me wonder too how producers of these 'book' devices corrected text? Was it an automated process? Some think this was done by people! [Jones & Martin, 2311]. They did some archival research and found cryptic references to 'editors' and 'copy editors' - and some sense that these were not software, but actual persons. Maybe. I would have to see more evidence before deciding.

Saturday, May 5, 2012


house with yellow doors
did you put mustard
on your people
when you swallowed them

Friday, May 4, 2012

Inspiration and the Writer

Another 'on the run' post, I am afraid.....

I was just googling around the artwork of Frida Kahlo after seeing a post on Facebook where she was quoted as saying:  "I paint my own reality. The only thing I know is that I paint because I need to, and I paint whatever passes through my head without any other consideration."

This got me thinking about 'training' - as she was self-taught.  I write - and was trained, in a sense, in elementary school where I learned to write and to read - and by my father and mother who created a household of readers, and in my father's case, an occasional writer.  I began writing at the age of 13 with an essay on the relationship between religion and society - and wrote many essays over the next few years while in High School.  In Latin class in my second last year of High School I discovered the real poetry of Catullus [not the expurgated variety used in class] and at the same time Leonard Cohen and Margaret Atwood [then known as a poet].  I much preferred Cohen to Atwood - I like the raw emotion and sexuality of his poetry versus the word pictures of Atwood - and continue to prefer raw exploding poetry to the descriptive.  I wrote my first and only play - actually a long free verse poem, now that I think of it - for a last year of High School English lit class [High School in Ontario in those days was five years] - and received a super high grade on it.... 

What was my inspiration then?  It was the love of words connected to emotions to make things soar and dive and perform the way words in straight lines never do...... My poems then and my attempts at prose, were surreal and divorced from this world.

What is my inspiration now?  Beatrice. Beatrice is of course, gone.... and was perhaps never here... except where it matters...... Can I still write without Beatrice, is the question? I have tried circumspect, controlled poetry - not bad, but not full and deep. As for the novel... who knows? But I must as I must. Ahhh... Beatrice... if you are interested do some reading on Dante and his Beatrice, or Petrarch and his Laura....

Writing the old way

For some reason I can no longer fathom, I entered into a hot discussion on the Writers' group on Linkedin - not my usual eBooks group, but one for writers.  The moderator was lashing out at self published books, and praising old line publishing.  A side debate over commas was also ongoing.  I stupidly mentioned it all seemed so, well, out of step with what was actually happening in writing - that self publishing no longer had a stigma since the advent of eBooks.  This set off a firestorm of protest.  I am still shaking my head, thinking perhaps I had stepped through a black hole and had been transported bace to 1951 or even 1971.  People there actually believe that old style print book publishing will continue on as though nothing has changed..... I guess in the way that music stores didn't bother with iTunes, or typewriter manufacturers worry about word processors...... It was instructive, this visit to the past....

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The essence of art

Geary Jones
I just stumbled across this artist who sculpts [?] tapestries... and who writes poems too... but here I will post only this quote from him: "Art is not a choice for me. It isn't just something I do. Without it I don't think I could breathe."

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

eBook readers

I was just reading a DBW article on the new partnership between Microsoft and Barnes & Noble. This does not affect me directly as the Nook reader is not available in Canada.

What it does remind me is the fractured and inappropriately so eReader market. No one will own all the eReaders so it is necessary to remove DRM from eBooks to make them device agnostic. Competition should properly be only on the level of the books themselves, not as it is presently. If one prefers a certain eReader over others, that seems a sensible level of competition - but the eBooks themselves should not be restricted to a single device.

Writers will overcome this to some extent by preparing their work in several formats - I've heard good things about Smashwords in that regard.

But, for now it is still the Wild West in cyberspace for writers and readers and the Marshall has yet to ride into town....or perhaps a better metaphor would be Prince John has yet to be humbled by the barons at Runnymede.

Monday, April 30, 2012

another non-linear writer

Another non-linear writer! On one of my linkedin groups - Digital Bookworld - I have met another writer attempting to write in a non-linear fashion!  She posted last July in response to reading my Square and Round blog posting that she has an idea to write 'moments' rather than 'events'.

Exactly!  I used the ugly word 'snippets' for how I write, but perhaps I will steal her word 'moments' - As what exists at present are hundreds of these little moments I have written [well, one is nearly 10,000 words long, but most are maybe 2-300 words each] - circling in a gravitational field generated by each but pulling each towards a centre of this swirling circle of thought, images, sounds, poetry - rather than following one another in a line with beginning and end.  I was wondering the other day how and where it would end, but realise now that is the wrong question - as it has no beginning nor end but is a three dimensional sphere forming and reforming constantly, but connected at many points - it is.
After writing this some months ago, I made a further change - that my New Writing would join and meld my poetry and prose.... and I have just changed the working title!!!: The Man who del from the Sky Dreaming

Square and Round

square and round I was idly surfing around my English translation of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil on one of my reader apps on my iPod [happened to be Stanza] - when I came across an interesting snippet - and I think the translation is accurate as English and German do translate reasonably well both ways - here it is parsed:

The Germans ... made things square - they invented printing  [from the Preface, page 16/272 of my Stanza edition - probably initially from the Gutenberg project.]

Well, the web..... and now the coming of multimedia eBooks has begun to make things round again.

I do not know exactly what Nietzsche meant here [but who really knows what Nietzsche meant anywhere!], but what I take from it is the same thing I harp on a lot - that printing introduced the habit and the domination of linear thinking over all other forms.  The other half of that thought is the new technologies for reading - which allow the incorporation of links, videos, music, photographs, drawings, a multitude of fonts and colours and sounds not so musical, and podcasts [don't forget podcasts Ted!] - and which disrupt and perhaps shatter linear thought.

I have been reading over the past year since this topic began to interest me, Chicken Little, the Sky is Falling  articles on this very thing - much hand-wringing over how the web and all the new mobile devices, etc. etc. are warping our children's abilities to think [defined as think in a linear fashion] - that is, what I call three dimensional reading and writing is replacing two dimensional.  To put it crudely:  tough shit.  Or to put it more elegantly, and historically [my being an historian], Canute learned one cannot stop the tide coming and going out.  That is, for me this particular paradigm shift is welcomed with what I can say without exaggeration is joy.  A world of three dimensional, non-linear reading, writing and most importantly thinking, is a world many degrees richer and more exciting and fascinating and....... true  [what a word!] than the world of linear thought that has encased humanity in a prison for 500 years now.

a bit more madness

Thoughts generated by the article below There!  A blog title that says plainly what I am about to post! In the article below, the author [Steve Jobs's biographer] told a parable which has decided my course of action here.  Jobs, in the early days of developing the original Macintosh computer, went to the engineer responsible for programming the boot up - and complained it was too slow and he wanted 10 seconds shaved off - the engineer began to explain why this was not technically possible - but Jobs refused to accept this & asked - if lives depended on your reducing the boot time by 10 seconds, do you think you could do it?  The engineer replied yes.  A short time later, that engineer had reduced the boot up time by 28 seconds.  Reality Distortion Field.

I skimmed the article as usual - but I got from it some pointers that might apply to my work as writer.

Firstly:  focus
Secondly:  Reality Distortion Field - the impossible is possible

I am no Steve Jobs - in fact, my character is very different than his apparently was - I am introverted, mild and meek and dislike shouting and contention and my default position is others are always right and I am always wrong - and am unfocussed - my mind shoots off in all directions. This is both a strength and weakness for the sort of writing I do.  So I decided to impose a shell of focus over my holistically constant internal brain storm.

I have too many writing projects on the go right now.  There is a list of nine posted on a peg board over my desk right now - that I almost never look at.  So, while engaged in daily chores, I thought - contemplated - meditated and boiled them down to two broad focuses:

1.  my experimental writing - the multimedia novel/poetry - they blend together and I cannot bear to abandon either - so I will combine them into a single maelstrom

2. my textbooks -[for lack of a better word] - I have two on the go right now which are related but not enough to do as one - so until the end of May I will focus on the one:  The Religions of the World book for Northern Blue Publishing. This blends into the second point above, The Reality Distortion Field, as I have ordered myself to have it ready on iBooks Author by May 31.  Then... I will focus on my Religion & Society in the Atlantic World book - also for iBooks Author - no deadlines there yet as it will require international travel for research and that is something which will require a major test for the Reality Distortion Field

These two focuses must be engaged within The Reality Distortion Field  because I have certain personal duties of care which take up presently about 75% of my waking day and  my 'day job' as instructor - so, I have perhaps two hours a day to devote to the above....

From an article about Steve Jobs
Even as Apple became corporate, Jobs asserted his rebel and counterculture streak in its ads, as if to proclaim that he was still a hacker and a hippie at heart. The famous “1984” ad showed a renegade woman outrunning the thought police to sling a sledgehammer at the screen of an Orwellian Big Brother. And when he returned to Apple, Jobs helped write the text for the “Think Different” ads: “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes…” If there was any doubt that, consciously or not, he was describing himself, he dispelled it with the last lines: “While some see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”

Even when he was dying, Jobs set his sights on disrupting more industries. He had a vision for turning textbooks into artistic creations that anyone with a Mac could fashion and craft—something that Apple announced in January 2012.

By: Walter Isaacson, the CEO of the Aspen Institute, is the author of Steve Jobs and of biographies of Henry Kissinger, Benjamin Franklin, and Albert Einstein.

a blog by a madman who thinks he can write

I intend to use this space for random thoughts about writing multimedia, non-linear works - I hesitate to say 'book' as all my writing from this point will be in the eBook format and multimedia. I have photos and videos... and have been playing with Garage band on my iPad to see if I can figure out how to integrate music - or at least appropriate noises - into my writing. At this moment in time I have four projects on the go.... a multimedia experimental fiction work..... a few academic study of religion and society..... and a World Religions text book.... I hope to become skilled using iBooks author as it promises to remove technical barriers to multimedia projects which are primarily text.... For the next little while I will post some thoughts on New Writing that I wrote over the past three years.... elsewhere in a part of cyberspace now vanished... So here goes!