A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Patricia Storms is a fantastic illustrator

Several months ago Patricia Storms of BookLust created this amazing bookplate for me.

I love it.

And, you might come across it in Geist issue 63.

SoMisguided ad in Geist Magazine

What do you think of my little ad? Do you love the bookplate as much as I do? 

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Book Review: The Nature of Monsters by Clare Clark

Clare Clark is the author of two very fine novels, both of which deal with elements of the underground and unsavoury human behaviour. Her first novel The Great Stink is set in Victorian England, more specifically in the labyrinthine London sewer system. Hence the great stink. But Clare’s writing far from stinks, it is tight and interesting.

Yes, The Great Stink is a historical novel, but not one with a familiar setting. The Great Stink deals with a sewer engineer, William May, and the solstice his finds in cutting himself in the solitude of the sewers. That is until a murder is committed in the underground and he is implicated.

See what I mean? Underground and unsavoury.

Don’t be dismayed by the setting though, the details of the sewer structures, their repairs and the times of Victorian England are in perfect harmony with the strange and complex story of William May.

Not only do I highly recommend The Great Stink, I’m a fan of Clare’s latest novel, The Nature of Monsters.

In 1718, pregnant Eliza Tally is packed off to London. She is to work as a maid for apothecary Grayson Black, have the child or get rid of it, and do so while protecting the perception of her own virtue and the good name of the father of the child. What transpires instead is a tragic and twisted tale of scientific experimentation on mothers and unborn children. Eliza and a second maid, Mary, are psychologically tortured by the apothecary and his wife in hopes that they will bear monsters instead of healthy babies.

Eighteenth-century England is a time of deep interest in science, medicine and literature, but it is also a time of home remedies and superstitions. A pregnant woman caught in a fire can expect her child to be born with a red birthmark. If a hare runs across a pregnant woman’s path she can expect the child to be marked by the animal—perhaps it was a hare that created half-moon Mary.

Half-there or not, Mary charms Eliza, who discovers the apothecary’s goal and is driven to save Mary. It is too late for her own child.

Both novels are visceral. There is the putrid smell of the sewers in The Great Stink, the descriptions of cutting and the horrors of murder. In The Nature of Monsters it is the monsters of the novel—Grayson Black, his wife and the apothecary’s assistant, along with Eliza’s lover and her mother—who act as monsters. Betrayal and sacrifice for science are the elements of horror here.

Most horrifying to the reader are the descriptions of leeching, bleeding and opium use, which are counter to our modern-day understanding of medicine. We have 250 more years of discovery under our belt, and yet it is the many scientists of this time whose experiments inform today’s understanding of the mind and body. So it is the readers’ good fortune to have such an adept storyteller and historian weaving the tale of Eliza and Mary with the medical curiosities of the day.

I am a fan of Clare Clark. Both novels are great and I truly think readers of The Great Stink should seek out The Nature of Monsters and vice versa. My only caveat for newbies to Clare’s work is to be prepared for the world she transports you to, it is inevitably underground and unsavoury, in the best of ways.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Northern Voice 2007

I’m at the Northern Voice blogging conference today. This post will be updated throughout the day.

Random Thought #1: Next year’s tees must be red. We’re going through the rainbow spectrum: year 1 was green, year 2 was blue, year 3 (this year) is purple. See where I’m going with this? It’s got to be red next year.

Really quickly here’s what I’m up to (but I’m paying attention so you’re not going to get a lot of details right now):

Anil Dash, good keynote.
Jason Mogus and Kate Dugas on social change websites and online activism
Dave Olson, really great paper point presentation on podcasting.

Check out everyone’s photos.

Derek K. Miller is Playing Now

Dave Olsen is just getting underway Three Ps of Podcasting and he’s got Penmachine Session 2 playing.

Hi Derek, we miss you.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The Moose Is Loose

MooseCamp Schedule is up. This post will be updated throughout the day as I add session notes.

Session #1: Mashups for Non-Programmers
My first session of MooseCamp, part of Northern Voice. A great demo session on cool tools that non-programmers can use to create pretty cool websites, applications or aggregators.

The Mashup page has links to the speakers’ demos, the tools they use and examples.

Session #2: Identity and Privacy on the Web
How many logins do you have? How many email addresses? How do you manage your multiple identities? How do you manage what companies know about you?

There’s no real answer.

One example: OpenID from http://www.sxip.com

AND, Boris Mann kindly mentioned that Old Skool logins for http://www.Flickr.com are being phased out. Ack, that’s me. I don’t read the messages sent to my Flickr inbox. Bad Monique. I also don’t read the text around the login box—I’m busy logging in. Bad Monique. So, without Boris I would have been very upset on March 17 when my Flickr login no longer worked.

So I now have yet another digital identity, this one with Yahoo.

Imagine if all your logins are store loyalty cards in your wallet. I’d need a minion to carry them around for me. But unlike store loyalty cards, I can’t refuse the login. I can’t limit the relationship between myself and the company. If I want to use the service, I have to fill out all the required fields: name, email, birthday, username, password, favourite colour, mother’s maiden name, blah blah blah.

Session 3: PhotoCamp
Kris Krug and the photo geeks talked white balance, tools and techniques.

Session 4: Favourite Tools Session with Tod Maffin
I’m sold. Just check out the wiki and the links to the tools: These are my favourite tools

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

GMAC Great Canadian Writing Contest for Kids

Hey Kids! General Motors is running the Great Canadian Writing Contest .

The contest is open to kids across Canada in Grade 5 or Grade 6. You just write a short story (200 words) in English or French on the contest theme of family, and you illustrate a book cover to go along with it.

The contest runs through to April 16, 2007.

Here’s the contest details:

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Fred Astaire and My Tap Dance Sunday

Today was a day of tap dance. I have a class on Sundays that I take with the venerable Jim Hibbard. The class this morning was fantastic. Then this evening I attended a fundraiser and “thank you” dinner for the great Lynn Dally of Jazz Tap Ensemble.

Now here’s a little Fred Astaire for you to watch. I love this number.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Winding Down the Week


I had beer at lunch.

This makes for a good Friday.

I also was pointed towards Chocomap.com.

It is never too late in the day to drool over the chocolatey goodness that is a Google map indicating all sources of heavenly bites in my neighbourhood (as if I don’t know them already).

But it’s not all beer and chocolate.

I attended the SFU, Master of Publishing, Magazine Fair this afternoon.

Three magazine proposals were on tap, complete with trade-fair booths featuring business plans, schwag, bubbly and buttons. There were short presentations from the groups: Traffic, a mag for Vancouverites in transit; TBSP, a foodie mag for those of us who like messy kitchens, playing with our food and are just on this side of hip, “this is not your mother’s food & wine magazine”; and last but not least and online only mag, jibe.ca (I was paying attention but the correct name eludes me). Jibe is an entertainment filter—the best source for “have you seen that video? that article? that photo?”.

Geist magazine, Modern Dog, The Tyee were also in attendance with goodies, free mags and other promo pieces. I walked away with issue 63 of Geist, which features a fancy ad for SoMisguided.com (thank you Patricia and Siobhan).

P.S. Sio have you seen this?

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Books Are Hard

This came firing over the transom this afternoon.

Books are hard. Watch the video.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Social Signal Sends Valentine’s Day Card

I love it.

Canadians are notorious for our enjoyment of puns. Check out Social Signal’s technically sweet Valentine. I digg it.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Giles Slade on CNN ‘In The Money’

Giles Slade, author of Made to Break, was on CNN last Sunday on “In The Money”.

Here’s a transcript of the segment:


Book Review: American Gods by Neil Gaiman

The stories we tell ourselves and others is how we make sense of the world.

In searching for who said the above quote I came across, “Stories are the most important thing in the world. Without stories, we wouldn’t be human beings at all” (Philip Pullman).

I was searching for the origins of these quotes in reference to Neil Gaiman’s novel American Gods. Gaiman has written a book of stories, myths and legends that collide and at times are at war.

American Gods are the gods who have come to America in the minds of its immigrants. Odin, Easter, Ganesh, Anansi. The ancient gods are the left to their own devices, poised to disappeared as they are pushed out by America’s newest gods. The ones we make sacrifices to daily: TV, big cars, the internet, warfare in the name of liberty, the pursuit of happiness.

Both worlds become Shadow’s world. Shadow, who did time for assaulting his bank-robbing partners for cheating him of his share of the proceeds, who is hired by Wednesday to rally the old gods against the new, and Shadow, who represents our look into the shadows. Gaiman asks us to take a closer look at the things that sometimes catch the corner of our eye. The things that we hope not to be true, but deeply believe to exist.

As our protagonist, it is Shadow’s job to make sense of this world. To tell the story. To sort things out. To know under which cup the nut is, into which hand the coin drops.

I enjoyed this book.

Anansi Boys is still my favourite, maybe because I read it first. But American Gods is one of those novels that will hang in my mind like a remembered dream.

I wanted to write about the power of narrative, how it informs what we do, how we understand ourselves, our country, our beliefs. Instead of telling you my story, why don’t you read this one.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Get an Insider’s Look at Publishing Books

The fine folks at Random House have created BookLounge.ca, which I thought was fantastic from the beginning. It’s a bit of a virtual book club/library/aggregation of cool book things.

Today I received an email promoting new stuff on the site: podcasts, sneak peaks at upcoming publications, author interviews. It was an ok newsletter—clean design, easy to read. It’s a great way to remind me to check out the site. But what intrigued me to click through to the site was “Let our insiders give you a window into the publishing industry.” It’s a great set of blog posts from employees. The first is from Marion Garner, publisher of Vintage Canada, who writes about one of her titles being an Oprah pick, or “Oprahtunity” as she calls it.

Fun Stuff. Check out the site.

Finalists for Writers’ Trust Awards Announced

Finalists for the Writers’ Trust Awards were announced today. The nominees include my picks: Rawi Hage, Kenneth J. Harvey, and Noah Richler.

The Writers’ Trust Awards are one of the largest awards moneywise that fiction and non-fiction writers can receive. There are 8 awards in total and they will be presented on Wednesday, March 7, in Toronto at a gala-gala do.

Total prize money is $123,000. Bang zoom.

The press release says:
“This year’s nominated titles chronicle the richness of life in Canada and around the globe. The novels are set amidst Tokyo’s vibrant nightlife, Lebanon’s civil war, and Ireland during the calamitous Potato Famine. There are memoirs that take readers back to a 1930s Mennonite farming community, to the destabilization and eventual collapse of Yugoslavia, and to 1949, when a fearless young woman travelled on horseback from Quebec to the West Coast.”

Book lovers have the chance to win a set of this year’s nominated titles by visiting http://www.writerstrust.com. Goodness knows where on the site you go to find out how to enter. It’s a poorly designed site with a lot of images and crazy navigation.

If you want to enter, let me save you to the trouble of finding the details: To enter, email your name and address to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

More about the Awards

Peter Behrens (Brooklin, Maine) for The Law of Dreams, published by House of Anansi Press
Rawi Hage (Montreal) for DeNiro’s Game, published by House of Anansi Press ** I want Rawi to win. **
Catherine Hanrahan (Vancouver) for Lost Girls and Love Hotels, published by Viking Canada
Kenneth J. Harvey (Burnt Head, Newfoundland) for Inside, published by Random House Canada ** I want to read this book.**
Mary Lawson (Kingston-upon-Thames, United Kingdom) for The Other Side of the Bridge, published by Knopf Canada

Charlotte Gray (Ottawa) for Reluctant Genius: The Passionate Life and Inventive Mind of Alexander Graham Bell, published by HarperCollins Publishers: A Phyllis Bruce Book
Barbara Kingscote (Innisfail, Alberta) for Ride the Rising Wind: One Woman’s Journey Across Canada, published by NeWest Press
Noah Richler (Toronto) for This Is My Country, What’s Yours? A Literary Atlas of Canada, published by McClelland & Stewart **Great event at the Vancouver Writers Festival. Go Noah. **
Dragan Todorovic (Coventry, United Kingdom) for The Book of Revenge: A Blues for Yugoslavia, published by Random House Canada
Rudy Wiebe (Edmonton) for Of This Earth: A Mennonite Boyhood in the Boreal Forest, published by Knopf Canada

(The Journey Prize recognizes the best short story or excerpt from a novel-in-progress by a new and developing writer.)
Heather Birrell (Toronto) for “BriannaSusannaAlana,” published in The New Quarterly
Lee Henderson (Vancouver) for “Conjugation,” published in Border Crossings
Martin West (Calgary) for “Cretacea,” published in PRISM international

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Super News: I Got a Northern Voice Travel Bursary

I am one of six lucky recipients of a CAN $500 Northern Voice (NV) travel bursary.

Here’s the NV post, which links to me and the other 5 recipients.

Here’s my original post requesting the busary for safe travel for Northern Voice attendees. If you have booze, come see me. No, I won’t drink it or take it away. I’ll just make sure that you have a taxi card to get you home safely.