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

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Favourite Malta Moments

Here are my favourite moments, in order of “off the top of my head”:

* Julie’s day planning—she’s a fantastic tour guide.
* San Blas on the first morning—glowing red sand and good snorkeling
* The Blue Lagoon with Gwen—driving the boat and swimming in such a gorgeous place
* Seeing an eel at Blue Lagoon
* Hanging out with Darren and Julie—should be #1 really
* Thanksgiving Dinner in Malta—a gas stove, no measuring cups and 10 mouths to feed
* Driving on the left for the first time
* Learning that Darren has a soft spot for cats and tick removal
* Visiting Dwejra on the last day
* Pumpkin soup and ravioli at Tatita’s—even though they schooled us on the wine
* Walking around Gharb
* Doing the Stations of the Cross with Julie and James and Gwen
* Ta’Pinu
* Mass at St. George’s in Victoria
* Pea pastizzis
* Meeting Alex Grech at Cafe Cordina—he’s an interesting guy
* St. John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta
* The Caravaggio exhibit
* Doubt, even with its horrendous acting, it was worth seeing for the amazing woman who played the mother
* Picnic at Peter’s Pool—great landscape
* Hypogeum and getting last minute tickets
* Watching Rugby finals with James at The Pub where Oliver Reed died
* Going to the Bourne Ultimatum with Julie
* Lemon-coconut dahl in Mdina
* Martin and Monica and the Freespirit Spa, finding Dermalogica moisturizer
* The leather boots I bought in Gatwick

Here are 10 random photos of my favourite moments. Refresh the page to see more.

So Misguided's Favourite Malta Moments photoset So Misguided’s Favourite Malta Moments photoset

Last Two Weeks in Malta

James and I are back at home now but I wanted to share some more photos of our trip in Malta and fill you in on what we’ve been up to the last two weeks.

We left Darren and Julie’s Gozo farmhouse and took the ferry to Malta for a road trip.

Thursday, October 11

Rotunda at Xewkija RotundaThere is all sorts of fantastic architecture on Gozo and Malta. It seems like there was a bulk sale on domes at some point, but regardless they are spectacular. The most spectacular being the Rotunda in Xewkija, which we passed on our way to the ferry.

The Rotunda is the Parish Church of St John the Baptist and was built between 1951 and 1971. The 75 metre dome is higher than St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and the nave can seat 4000 people. It was pretty quite the afternoon we were there, but beautiful sunlight was coming in through the windows.

The rest of our trip to Valletta was fairly uneventful. James drove and I navigated. Again, it’s all left driving, which means the window washers were going every time we tried to signal a turn. Pretty funny. We did get lost a couple of times, but you can drive the full length of the island in a hour so getting lost doesn’t actually waste a lot of time.

I found that although there are road signs, they are not to be trusted. You best bet driving in Malta is to have a general sense of the direction you’d like to go and just carry on in that direction regardless of the signs.

Blue Room Chinese RestaurantOur first night in Valletta we had dinner at a Chinese food restaurant called the Blue Room. It was pretty exciting to eat out somewhere and not see the staples of pasta and pizza.

Friday, October 12

Today was our morning to visit St. John’s Co-Cathedral but the cruise ships were in town and the place was a zoo. We decided to go to the archeology museum instead and it was a wise choice. There was a Caravaggio exhibit on and the paintings were absolute masterpieces. Caravaggio was on Malta for a number of years so some of the paintings on display were painted in Malta. We watched a short video and then wandered around the gallery.

His paintings are phenomenal—like looking at a photograph.

Caravaggio, St. Jerome

After that we had a quick tour around the Fine Arts museum then were off to meet Darren and his friend Alex Grech at Cafe Cordina at 3 pm. Alex is an interesting guy, and perhaps will be the one to start Barcamp Malta—conversations are in the works.

That night we say the play Doubt, which was an ok way to spend the evening.

Saturday, October 13

For a 13th, this was our lucky day. I was interested in visiting the Hypogeum, which is an underground temple over 5,000 years old. Tickets must be bought months in advance but there is a noon tour for last minute guests. The only way to get tickets is to go for 8 am the day before and cross your fingers.

The Hypogeum is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is protected by all sorts of rules. One being that only 70 people can visit per day.

Well it was our lucky day. As I was waiting to hear whether we’d be able to get tickets for Sunday, a tour guide came in and she had two extra tickets she was trying to refund. I bought the tickets from her and James and I were able to go on the 2 pm tour that afternoon.

We went back to Valletta and toured St. John’s Co-Cathedral, which I think is one of my favourite Maltese sites, then went on the tour of the Hypogeum, which was very cool. They carved the temple out of the limestone.

St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta

St. John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta

That evening was the semi-final for the Rugby World Cup—England vs. France. James spent a couple of hours trying to find a bar that was showing the game. Rugby is not really a well-observed sport in Malta. In the end, lucky 13, we found The Pub, an English pub in Valletta that was showing the game. The bartender was even wearing his English jersey. It was an excellent time.

Lightning Storm in Valletta

The weather took a turn though and we had a loud thunderstorm. It sounded like the Germans were bombing the place again.

Sunday, October 14

Peter's Pool near Marsaxlokk Marsaxlokk

Today we were off to Marsaxlokk, a well-known fishing village. Being Sunday it was also the weekly fish market. We stopped first at Peter’s Pool for a picnic lunch. We were hoping to go swimming but the winds were unruly.

Marsaxlokk has a number of little wooden fishing boats in the bay, and it’s definitely a picturesque little place.

We had dinner at Matthew’s Pub. I had a creamy chicken and mushroom dish, very yummy.


Monday, October 15

A day for toodling. The weather hadn’t improved much but we did find the Blue Grotto, which is stunning, and a Wied-il close by—nice little inlets that are great for swimming.

Wied iz-Zurrieq, near Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto

We had a nice bob around in the water then headed for Mdina and the Point de Vue Guesthouse.


Mdina is a fortified city. Medina is Arabic for “walled city”. Historically it was the favoured residence of the Maltese aristocracy. There are a lot of interested door knockers here. I took a photo of every one we came across.

Mdina is where we ate one of our favourite meals. Il Gattopardo, Italian for “the leopard”, is a charming cafe. I had a great hot chocolate, which was needed since it was howling winds outside. The meals are Greek inspired and James and I had a prosciutto salad with rocket, tomato, olives and parma ham, and lemon-coconut dahl with pita. The dahl was spectacular.


We had another nice meal at the Point de Vue Guesthouse that evening.

Meanest Cat in the World--note the missing ear

Door Knocker

St. Paul's Cathedral

St. Paul's Cathedral


St. Paul's Cathedral

Tuesday, October 16

Golden BayToday was our day to spend money. We drove up to Mosta to see the dome there. Had some lunch. Then carried on to Golden Bay and the 5-star Radisson hotel. The beach at Golden Bay is golden and lovely. We had a short swim because the weather was crappy. And with just enough sunlight I managed to read a few pages on the beach, pretending that it was a lovely summer afternoon.

The bed at the Radisson was worth the $300 CDN we spent. It was big and fluffy and everything that beds in Maltese budget hotels are not.

Wednesday, October 17

Winds gusting to 60-70 km per hour pushed us to the ferry and back to Gozo. I’m really happy that we decided to return to Gozo before flying home because Darren and Julie’s farmhouse was so quiet and welcoming I could have cried. It was wonderful to be back on sleepy Gozo and driving routes that we knew well.

Our road trip was fun, but I think some of the best sites are on Gozo, not the more touristy and busy Malta.

The winds had knocked out the electricity so we spent most of the evening trying to get the lights back on. We made dinner on the gas stove by the luminescence of Julie’s bicycle light.

Thursday, October 18

Stations of the Cross at Ta'Pinu

Ta'Pinu, Gozo

Ta'Pinu, Gozo

It was a full house at Darren and Julie’s. Julie returned from Rome the night before with two new house guests in tow—Allan and Jen. We caught up with Julie and basically hung around relaxing.

I took Allan and Jen up to Ta’Pinu and the stations of the cross at sunset. Then we settled in for dinner and early sleeping.

Friday, October 19

Another stormy day on Gozo. James and I decided to race out to San Blas in the morning for a swim at our favourite spot. The light was really interesting and made the sand glow. There was a dark line along the horizon that steadily got closer and closer. At the last possible minute we decided to flee back uphill to the car. It’s a fun little goat path that you have to take down to San Blas so the idea of mounting it in the rain was not pleasant.

Second trip to San Blast, Stormy Weather

We made it back to the car and back to Gharb just in time to grab Julie and speed off to Freespirit Spa for our weekly massage and facial.

Martin and MonicaMartin gave me one of my top three massages of all time. In fact he’s sitting in spot 1 and 2. Afterwards Monica gave me a facial. I’ve never had one before so it was a new experience. I’m definitely interested in trying that again.

Darren returned from Toronto today and we had a great dinner with everyone at Salvina, the local luxury dining establishment. I had the duck and it was excellent.

Saturday, October 20

This was a lazy day and our last on Gozo. I wandered around Gharb for a while, packed and then went with Julie and her friends to Dwejra. I’d gone before with Darren but we didn’t actually get to the Azure Window and the Blue Hole, which are supposed to be stunning. I’m really glad I decided to go—it was a last minute decision and definitely worth the experience. We walked around the shore with breaking waves around us. Stunning.

Phone Booth and Police Station in Gharb

Mr Frenc of Gharb


Blue Hole and Azure Window

Late afternoon James and I made our way to the ferry, which was backed up with tourists so we had to wait one sailing.

The bus to Valletta was long and sort of boring, there was some good people watching.

The highlight, of course, was getting back to Valletta and The Pub, where we watch the final in the Rugby World Cup. South Africa was our favourite to win, but we didn’t want to get kicked out of the only pub showing the game so we verbally cheered for England.

One good sleep in Hotel Castille then we were off to Luqa airport at 6:30 am.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Dumbledore Is Gay

No photos were allowed. I haven’t had a chance to proofread this, sorry, but I wanted to post before my brain flaked out—ran out of time on that ...

October 23 I was in Toronto at the Winter Garden Theatre for JK Rowling’s only Canadian stop on her Open Book Tour. The Winter Garden Theatre is a magical place worthy of a Harry Potter setting. The balcony is adorn with tree branches and little glass lanterns hang from the ceiling. The boxes are decorated like a garden trellis and there’s a golden moon hanging over the corner of the stage.

There was a single, high-backed chair in the middle of the stage where JK Rowling sat.

She read for about 20 minutes—the part where Ron returns. I loved her reading and could have happily sat there all day listening to her. Rowling has definitely become a very confident reader. Her voice sounds strong and she does slight accents for each of the characters. It was fantastic.

Neil, her husband, was in the audience.

After Rowling read, she answered 12 questions from the audience. The 12 questioners were people who had won the Raincoast contest. I don’t remember her answers word for word, but here’s what I recall.

1. How did she come up with the idea for Quidditch?
JK Rowling laughed and said that she came up with the idea after a row with an ex-boyfriend. She came up with the idea of bludgers in particular.

She later said that Quidditch was definitely invented by a woman. Women are multi-taskers and Quidditch is a multi-task game. There’s more than one ball, it’s not like male games where there’s just one ball.

Rowling told a little story about the poor guy from Warner Brothers who had to figure out how to film Quidditch. He told her it doesn’t make sense.

2. Does Albus Porter ever see the portraits of his namesakes?
JK Rowling said that yes, as soon as he was in trouble, Albus would have been in the headmaster’s office and would have an opportunity to see the portraits of both Albus and Severus.

Quite the name, Albus Severus.

3. Asked by a boy who won the contest on the first day: Which part was the most difficult to write?
Character: Dobby

Jo quipped that Graham Green said “all authors must have a chip of ice in their heart”. She’s referring to writing Dobby’s death, which was so sad.

Rowling also said that the chapter where Harry marches to what he believes is his death was the hardest to write. She cried and cried. Um, I don’t think she was the only one. That was the worst thing to read ever. I was sobbing and had to take a break because I truly believed that was the end of Harry.

4. If you could be and animagus what would you be?
Rowling said that that is the fun thing about doing all the work to be an animagus—you don’t know what you’ll end up as. James was a stag but Peter was a rat—that should have tipped off his friends, no?

She said that if she could choose it would be an otter because she loves them, and that’s what she chose for Hermione. But she suspects that she’d be a big dog.

5. A librarian asked what books would be good for boy readers
Rowling said that although the Harry Potter series inspired boys to read that wasn’t her intention specifically. She was writing what she wanted to write.

She did tell a story about Bloomsbury asking her to be JK Rowling instead of Joanne because they felt the books would appeal to boys more if her name was ambiguous. Jo said they could have asked her to take the name Snotgrass and she would have because she was just so happy to have someone wanting to publish her work. When they asked her to use her initials though there was a slight problem, she did not have a middle name. She had to choose a middle name so she decided on Kathleen, after her favourite grandparent.

6. What magical object is her favourite?
Dumbledore’s pensive, and I have to agree. I’d love to own one.

Rowlling said it’s a fantastic way to go back into the past.

7. I can’t recall this question exactly but it was something about the encyclopedia.
Rowling said, yes the encyclopedia is coming but not for a while. She wants to do another book for charity. And she’d like a little break after Harry.

She did answer that George was going to be ok after the loss of Fred and that although Ron initially goes to the aurors office, he’s likely to go to help George in the shop.

8. Any advice for a budding celebrity?
A strange question to be sure. Who knows they are going to be a celebrity, let alone a budding celebrity? Anyway, Rowling said she never dreamt of being a celebrity. She said that we shouldn’t be seduced by celebrity and fame, unless that’s exactly what you’re after, but it’s about choice. She also joked that Paris is not returning her calls. Someone in the audience shouted out that she should.

It was a strange answer to a strange question but the basic sentiment was that Rowling is quite pleased with her money and celebrity but she choses to live a rather quite life and wants to avoid the pitfalls of celebrity.

9. How do you want to be remember 100 years from now?
Rowling said she was love to think that we’ll still be reading Harry Potter 100 years from now and that it would be great if we grow up and decide to read Harry to our kids.

10. Any regrets?
Plot and character-wise no. Chamber of Secrets and Order of the Phoenix were difficult to write because she had to be diffuse, but no regrets. There are times where she overused words and that makes her mad but really no regrets.

11. Is Malfoy in debted to Harry because Harry saved him from Crabbe’s fire?
Rowling said that no, Malfoy is not magically in Harry’s debt. Harry saving Malfoy is just an embarrassing mutual connection, which we get a peak at in the epilogue. Malfoy will resent Harry forever, in the same way that Snape and James resent each other.

12. If Harry Potter didn’t take off, what would she be doing?
“Weeping softly in a dark room.”

Rowling said that if the book was never published then she’d likely be teaching and writing. If it was published but didn’t become a success she would have still been delighted.

After the questions, we were called up row by row to have our books signed.

When it was my turn I told JK Rowling “thank you for coming to Canada”. I also said she was wearing a great pair of boots. “Prada!”

She was looking mighty sexy for a kids author. Rowling was wearing a brown shirt dress with brown Prada boots. She looked lovely. She signed my book. I skipped off the stage.

It was a great event and I am thrilled to pieces that I was able to go.

Book Review: The Maltese Goddess by Lyn Hamilton

I was looking for a Dan Brown-esque novel to read while in Malta—you know, a light read on goddess worship—and I found this in a bookstore in Valletta, The Maltese Goddess by Lyn Hamilton.

I was looking for a goddess worship book so that I could remind myself of some minor historical points that were alluding me, and so that I could think more about goddess worship on Malta, which seems to have been a big deal. Malta is home to the oldest freestanding structures in the world. The temples of Malta are over 5,000 years old, much older than the pyramids and Stonehenge. And the big find has been thousands of female statues.

The Maltese Goddess was an ok read. It’s labeled an archaeological mystery but really it’s a mystery set on an archaeological site—at one of the temples. The book is set initially in Toronto, where the heroine has an antique shop. Martin Galea comes in, “Mr. I’m So Wealthy I Can Fly You to My Home in Malta to Decorate.” That’s all cool and dandy until Mr. Galea turns up in Malta dead as dead is and stuffed into a dresser.

As I say, it’s light on the goddess worship but was a fun find nonetheless.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Tyee Fellowship Applications

Are you a journalist or freelance writer in need of a fellowship?
The Tyee is offering fellowships to journalists and freelance writers, at a value of $5000.

The deadline for submissions is December 15, 2007. 
Four Fellows will be selected at the end of January, and the Fellowship series will run throughout 2008. 

For more information
Please read “New Round of Tyee Fellowships: Journalists invited to apply for $5000 grants.”

Here is the criteria for submissions:

And if you don’t need the cash and have cash to spare, why not make a donation:
The Tyee will be launching an online fundraising drive mid-November, but if you want to get a jump on making a tax-deductible donation to the charitable funds that support the fellowship program:

If you missed any of this year’s Fellows, here’s where to find their articles:

No Fares!: Time for a free ride on public transit by Dave Olsen

Reconciling with First Nations: How the ‘New Relationship’ is faring in the Fraser Valley by Sandra Shields

Rough Weather Ahead: How global warming will hit BC by Chris Wood

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Attend Writing.Wise

Writing.wise, according to the press materials I received, is a rip roaring, rip snorting, profane, world shaking, rabble rousing event for writers in Vancouver.

The event is being presented by the Society for Technical Communication Canada West Coast Chapter, Masters of Digital Media at Great Northern Way Campus, Vancouver Comicon, The Shebeen Club, Simon Fraser University Writing & Publishing Program, and FrogHeart Communications. And it will be held Tuesday, November 13, 2007.

What’s it all about?

Meet a diverse panel of writers and engage in a lively discussion about stories and narrative in games, comic books, new media, books (fiction and non fiction), and song.

Who is on the panel?

  • Kaare Andrews is a writer and artist who has worked on comic books such as the Incredible Hulk, Ultimate X-Men, Amazing Spider-Man, Gen13 and the Matrix. He won “Outstanding Comic Book Artist” at the Joe Shuster Awards in 2005. And, as a filmmaker, he’s directed a number of award-winning short films.
  • Mira Sundara Rajan, is a musician, author of “Copyright and Creative Freedom,” and the Canada Research Chair in Intellectual Property Law at the University of British Columbia. She has consulted on copyright matters in the United States, United Kingdom, India, European Union, and Russia.
  • Sue Thomas, a UK expert in new media, is the author of the book “Hello World travels in virtuality” and others. She is the program leader for the Online MA in Creative Writing and New Media (at De Montfort University). Her students collaborated with Penguin Books on ‘A Million Penguins’. She’ll explain how that blockbusting experimental wikinovel produced some surprising results.
  • Shari Ulrich recently released her latest solo album. A member of the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame, a Juno award winner, and a fixture on the Vancouver music scene, Ulrich has performed with Pied Pumkin, Ulrich Henderson Forbes, and Valdy & the Hometown Band. When she’s in town, Ulrich teaches songwriting locally.
  • Ian Verchere is known as the developer of over 30 game titles including two million-selling titles for Electronic Arts, SSX Tricky and NBA Street V2. He’s also a founder of Radical Entertainment; an author, “V0N 1B0; General Delivery, Whistler, BC; a creative consultant for Roald Dahl’s literary estate, and a scriptwriter (with Douglas Coupland) who’s sold his work to Disney.

• kc dyer is the author of four contemporary and historical young adult novels which have been published in Canada, the US, the UK, and Thailand. The conference and the writing contest coordinator for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, dyer is a skilled, capable moderator with experience in and opinions on all aspects of the writing scene.

The Deets
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Radha Yoga and Eatery (728 Main St., yoga on the edge and above the Brickhouse Bar)
Door opens at 6:30 pm, and the event starts at 7 pm.
Tickets are $15/$20 and you can register here.

For the latest updates about the event, you can check out the writing.wise blog at: http://writingwise.vox.com


Monday, October 22, 2007

Grab Your Dress Robes—I’m Off to See JK Rowling in Toronto

James and I landed in Vancouver last night at 10:30 pm and I’ve slept, unpacked, repacked, done the web check-in and I am now off to Toronto to meet JK Rowling tomorrow.

Aside from feeling jetlagged and dreading getting on yet another airplane, I am dead excited.

My ticket was in my pile of mail when I got home. There is a line drawing of a golden snitch on my instruction sheet!

I’ll be in the Winter Garden Theatre tomorrow listening to Ms. JK Rowling!

There are some reports on her US tour with very interesting tidbits of info about Dumbledore, Christianity and Neville.

I don’t have time to give you the scoop on what Rowling has revealed in the US so far, but check out The Leaky Cauldron news feed.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Book Review: De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage

A couple of years ago I was in Calgary at the Writers Festival, and I had the good fortune of meeting Rawi Hage in the Author’s Lounge.

I was inspired to hear his talk on a panel about “writers writing from away”. Since then I’ve wanted to read De Niro’s Game, but for some reason it’s taken me until now to do so.

De Niro’s Game is set in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war in the 1970s and 80s. De Niro is actually George, who is friends with Bassam, our narrator.

George and Bassam are just kids when the war breaks out. They hunt around for bullet casings, which they trade with neighbourhood kids. George and Bassam grow up to be thugs, the kind of thugs that develop because of civil war. George, I think goes a bit further than Bassam, joining the militia, doing cocaine, experimenting with—who knows what. Bassam is more silent. Perhaps he is just as bad but since he’s the narrator we don’t know about it.

De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage is the story of George and Bassam and their escapes from the war. For Bassam, it means being smuggled out of the country to France. His escape and time in Paris forms the last third of the book, which I felt was the strongest writing in the novel.

A talented author, Rawi Hage is dynamite at conveying the complexities of his narrator’s character and the betrayals of war. The earlier part of the novel though was riddled with adjectives, annoyingly so:

Ten thousand bombs had landed on Beirut, that crowded city, and I was lying on a blue sofa covered with white sheets to protect it from dust and dirty feet.

Either the adjectives decreased throughout the story or my patience with them increased. Regardless, I did enjoy this tale of one man’s struggle with identity, war, friendships, betrayals and growing up.

Have you read it?
De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

First Week in Malta

Here’s a quick summary of what we’ve been up to in Gozo.

Wednesday, October 3

Rangers, the localWe arrived in Malta from an Air Malta flight—the slowest check-in staff ever at the Gatwick airport. The flight was about 3 hours. Then Julie had hired a driver for us, who picked us up at the airport and drove us to the ferry terminal. His name was George.

We passed by Takai, which is where Bob Sherrett landed during the war. During WWII, Malta took “quite a pasting”, they were bombed 154 consecutive days and nights, compared to the London Blitz, which was 54 days of bombing. The entire population of Malta received the George Cross, Britain’s highest award for civilian bravery.

The ferry ride was about 25 minutes and Darren, Julie and their friend Gwendolyn met us on the Gozo side. Gwen drove in Japan for 6 months so she was our fearless left-side driver.

It was about 9 or 10 at night so after a quick refresher we made our way to Rangers, which is the local pub and supporter of the Gharb Rangers football team. I had a Mexicana personal pizza, some wine and a great time.

Thursday, Oct 4

On the way to San Blas BayFirst day on Malta. Thankfully Gwendolyn had been around Gozo for a couple of days and Julie is a perfect travel guide. We were whisked off to San Blas Bay for an early morning of snorkeling. You want to get there early and leave before the tourists arrive. Damn tourists.

San Blas beachSan Blas is gorgeous. You park on the top of a cliff and wind your way down the road to the ocean. It was a bit steep but definitely worth it. The sand is a great saffron colour. The snorkeling was good. We saw coral and jelly fish, white bream (little silver fish with a black spot on their tail), two-band bream (silver fish with black stripes), ornate wrasse (funky coloured fish), little black guys with a split tail fin and other scrubby fish. It was really a great swim.

Then we climbed back up the hill to the jeep. Returned home to Gharb, jumped into the icy back garden pool then had a rest.

Later we went into Victoria and had a coffee at Belusa Cafe, bought some sweeties (honey circle, almond cookies) and returned home. For dinner, Gwendolyn made an orzo salad that was delicious and we had some chicken sausages.

October 5

Blue Lagoon

Blue Lagoon

Swimming at Blue LagoonGwendolyn, James and I got up early so we could meet a fellow in Mgarr Harbour at 8:15 am. He was to take us across to Comino. We had no gas and had to figure out how the road side gas pump worked. It was quite the process, especially since we were in a hurry.

We made it to Mgarr with minutes to spare. Joseph met us, he runs the boat trip. His boat is Francesca 1 and his other boat is used to pick up garbage from tourists in Blue Lagoon, which is where we were going.

Seconds into the trip, Joseph said to me, “here you drive”. Ok, Gwen does left. I do boats.

Blue Lagoon is an incredibly blue bay off Comino. The swimming is excellent. We saw even more fish than in San Blas, more jelly fish too though. I think this swim has been my favourite of the trip so far. We swam across the bay to a little cave and pond. Jumped from the rocks. I saw an eel. It was a bit creepy but also very cool. It was slithering between some rocks. James later hunted him out.

The boat trip also included a quick trip to some of the caves on Comino. There is one cave that if you go in a small boat to the very back, you’ll find a small beach. From that beach you can climb right up to the fort buit by the Knights of St. John.

Wooden boatWe walked up to the Comino Hotel, had a coffee, then wandered back to the bay. In that short time, it went from secluded paradise to cheesy tourist trap. There were people and umbrellas everywhere. There was also an ice cream truck so we had a Magnum ice cream. Mine was called a Temptation and it came in a gold foil box. Very yummy.

Later in the day we stopped in Victoria, then went on to Xlendi for an evening swim. Xlendi is a touristy spot, but nice in the evening. We had a good swim. Gwendolyn dove off the rocks. I filmed it. Then we had dinner at Churchill’s Restaurant. I had pasta and James had the Lampuki, a dolphin fish. It comes with head and tail. Yummy.

October 6

Wied il-GhasriFirst stop of the day: Wied il-Ghasri. A little inlet where you climb down the rocks, make your way into the water and paddle about. There was great snorkeling here too. The water was fresh. This is the day Gwen—with a great fear of jelly fish—got stung. It was quite the welt.

Salt Flats on the way to Wied il-Ghasri

We stopped at the salt flats on our way there.

Later we went silver shopping in Victoria. The best spot is near the Citadel. There are two families on Gozo who make silver filigree. There is a knight done all in silver that I took a photo of. He’s about a foot tall and very detailed. I bought a little ring and some earrings as my Maltese souvenir.

Buying Silver

That night we had 10 people total for Thanksgiving Dinner. James made a turkey, Gwen made gravy, I made peach crisp, Julie made sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes and Darren made the table settings and floor lighting—required so no one fell in the pool.

Catherine, Martin and Colin from Canada came. Michael and Paul from Britain were in attendance. And our household crew. It was a grand time.

Sunday, October 7

Road to Ta'CencToday we dropped off Julie and Gwen at the ferry terminal. They were on their way to Rome to cooking school. James and I had originally planned to go to Rome, but we decided to travel around Malta longer instead. We’ve spent most of our time on Gozo.

Ta'Cenc CliffsJames and I trekked over to the Ta’Cenc cliffs—difficult to find, I think Julie has tried twice. James and I were fortunate to find them. The view is spectacular. We had a light lunch at the hotel, wandered down the road in search of the dolmen, a flat rock supported by 3 stones, then went in search of the cliffs. There was some overland adventuring to be had.

This was my first day driving on the left. God help us. But I did just fine.

Monday, October 8

Lane to Basilica of St. GeorgeAnother full day of driving. James, Darren and I visited the tombs at Santa Lucija and Kercem—basically a rock mound with a hole in the ground. Then it was back to Victoria where we swapped the jeep for a little red Kia. It’s a tin box on wheels. Not that the jeep was any better but it did feel rather indestructible.

In Victoria I went into St. George’s Basilica. It was beautiful and ornate inside so I stayed for the mass just so I’d get a good chance to look around. In the right side is a separate chamber with a statue of Jesus. Just before that is a statue of St. George standing on a slayed dragon. There gold mosaic tiles all around and it’s really something.

Tuesday, October 9

Yahoo, spa day. Darren made us appointments for a massage with Martin at Freespirit Spa, which is run by Martin (British) and Monica (Gozian). They met in Australia and then started their business here. It’s an oasis in the dry, sandy, limestone land of Gozo. It smelled wonderful. I had a massage with Martin, whose going to pull together an aromatherapy roll for me next time. Then I hung out and talked about make-up with Monica. I discovered Dermatologica, which is all natural products, no chemicals. So I bought a cleanse, toner, moisturizer and sun screen. Pretty expensive in Maltese lira ($1 CDN is equal to $3 MTL) but it’s worth the smooth feeling on my skin, especially the sun screen. I think our Ombrell was doing a number on my face. That and the mosquito bites. I have about 20 of them, mostly on my face, which is the only thing exposed at night. They’ve even bitten both eyelids.

Ggantija Temples, designed like clover leaf

Ggantija TemplesIn the afternoon James and I went to the Ggantija Temples, which are the largest of the megalithic temples found on Malta. The walls are 6-7 metres high and the two temples together are over 40 metres. As far as mounds of rocks go, these are fairly interesting. There were erected over 5000 years ago. Structurally it looks like a clover leaf from above. There are circular chambers.

Ramla BayAfter that we went to Ramla Bay, known for reddish sand, had a swim in the large waves, shared a cherry ice cream cone and made our way back to home.

Wednesday, October 10
Fungus Rock, known for medicinal purposesThis morning Darren, James and I went to Dwejra Bay. It was James’s turn to drive.

Dwejra Bay is also spectacular. There is the Azure Window, which is an arch in the limestone cliffs, and the Blue Hole, which is a chimney hole down into the ocean, it’s a favourite spot for divers.

We swam in front of Fungus Rock, which was heralded for its medicinal properties centuries ago. And later tonight we’ll venture back to swim through the Azure Window.

His and Hers

Oct 11
We’re off to Valletta today. Malta here we come.


Sunday, October 07, 2007

Book Review: Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls

Australian author Danielle Wood has created a series of interconnected anecdotes about the lives of women: naughty ones and nice ones. Rosie Little is our connecting character, sometimes a character in the story, sometimes just a narrator.

Wood certainly has an eye for detail and an ear for dialogue. The moments portrayed are pitch perfect. There is a story about a bride in full wedding dress, stuck in an airport during the wee hours of the morning when nothing is open, which cracked me up. There is a story about a nurse for chronic-care patients who is secretly buying baby clothes and storing them in a suitcase under her bed, which made me very sad. Each story struck a chord. And the opening story about fellacio is damn funny.

The packaging of the book is definitely worth mentioning. This is a sturdy little hardcover book. It is super attractive.

Rosie Little’s Cautionary Tales for Girls on Random.ca

Thursday, October 04, 2007

First Day in Malta

James and I left Vancouver at 6:10 pm on October 1. We spent the next night outside of Gatwick at Gable End Guest House, which is run by Mary and Joseph, who are quite lovely. We wandered around the village, had dinner at the Six Bells Pub and then retired for the evening after a couple of pints. On October 3 we made our way back to the airport and on to the Air Malta flight to Malta to visit Darren and Julie.

Julie kindly organized a driver to take us from the airport to the ferry terminal and then they met us on the other side, which is Gozo.

Malta comprises three islands: Malta, Gozo and Comino. Darren and Julie live on Gozo, which has about 30,000 people. The big island of Malta is 400,000.

Today was our first full day here and it’s been marvellous. We got up early and left the house around 8:30 am so that we could make our way to San Blas Bay, which is a great swimming hole.

Gwendolyn, who is visiting Darren and Julie, was our driver. She is a demon at the wheel—a safe, confidence-inspiring demon. She drove for 6 months in Japan, which means she can drive left, stick shift and curse in English and Japanese.

San Blas is accessible by foot along a very steep cliff. We navigated our way down hill, had a lovely swim and then trudged back uphill. We had a short stop in Victoria (or Rabat in Malti), where we bought almond cookies, had a coffee, and collected some fruit for our meal.

I did spend most of the afternoon working at the computer, but it was damn hot out so it was nice to tap about inside.

Here’s a random selection of photos.

So Misguided's Malta 2007 photoset So Misguided’s Malta 2007 photoset

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Book Review: Turpentine by Spring Warren

Turpentine by Spring Warren is a Western set in the 1870s. Edward Turrentine Bayard III (“Turpentine”) is our tragic hero. He’s a coward and thinks himself otherwise. He’s misguided and thinks himself enlightened with manners and fortune. This is a cyclical story. Turpentine’s fortunes rise and fall depending upon his decisions, and unfortunately for Turp, he can be a bit of a twerp.

Although Turpentine is tragic, the novel is not. Spring Warren is a fine storyteller and she paints a Wild West worth visiting.

The story is this: Turpentine is sent on a train west by his doctor. He is to attend a sanatorium and improve the health of his lungs. He ends up in the Wild West skinning buffalo and courting girls. Turpentine, being of better means earlier in life, is an artist. His sketches catch the attention of a Peabody Museum scholar who is studying fossils. Turpentine is invited to the Peabody as an assistant. It seems his life is about to change, and yet this is just one of the many ups soon to be followed by a down.

In some ways Turpentine reminded me of The Englishman’s Boy by Guy Vanderhaeghe. This is a literary Western with a lot going on if you choose to read it that way.

Two pistols up.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Book Preview: The Good Lie by Don Bailey

A couple of weeks ago I received a lovely email from Don Bailey, who is publishing his third novel, The Good Lie, with Turnstone Press, the same company that published James’ book Up in Ontario.

Don asked if I’d mention his book. I normally don’t feature a book until I’ve had a chance to read it, but there are certain books that come to my attention that I do want to share. In this case, Don Bailey. Why? Because Don Bailey sent me a nice note complementing SoMisguided and its support of Canadian publishing, because his book is edited by Wayne Tefs, who is another author I love (check out his novel Red Rock) and who played hockey with James in Winnipeg and also who edited Up in Ontario, and because Don has created a website for The Good Lie that tells some stories about the story of The Good Lie, and I enjoyed reading the behind-the-scene stories.

All good things, I think.

So I’m going to check out the novel, and if you have a chance to before me, let me know what you think.

Also I heard that Turnstone Press published Todd Babiak’s first novel, which is another reason to support Canadian publishing.

So I’m sorry if I’m light on witty commentary, I’m trying to blast out the door to Malta, but I did not want to leave without mentioning The Good Lie.

Better Books: Interview with Sabine Milz

Earlier this month I had a chance to speak with Sabine Milz. Sabine is a Postdoctoral Fellow, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and affiliated with the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She is currently doing research on the current state of the book industries of the prairie provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba. As part of this research project, she’s conducting interviews with people at the front lines of the publishing industry.

With permission from Sabine, here’s our interview:

Sabine Milz (S.M.): As an expert in online marketing and communities and a blogger on the publishing industry in Canada, how would you describe the relations between the former (online marketing and community-building tools) and the latter (Canadian publishers, distributors, writers, booksellers)? One of my interviewees noted that she thinks the publishing industry in Canada, and in North America more generally, has been very slow to figure out how the Internet is going to change people’s habits, both in terms of reading and buying.

Monique Trottier (M.T.): I agree with your other interviewee. The Canadian publishing industry has been rather slow to adopt online marketing strategies. I launched the Raincoast blog in Oct 2005 and the podcast series in November 2005. At the time, Raincoast was the first Canadian publisher to start podcasting. There were very few publishers internationally who were also on board, Penguin UK being by far the most advanced—and the program style that we used as a base for the Raincoast program.

In the last 2 years there have been federal and provincial grants made available to publishers who wish to experiment with digital means. In some cases this has meant online marketing programs and in other cases it’s meant the digitization of their backlist and the search for ways to sell digital copies.

There is definitely an explosion going on in the publishing industry. It’s like everyone has woken up and finally believes that the internet revolution is here.

That relationship between the publishing industry and their adoption of web 2.0 and online tools can be best described as cautious.

What is also of interest is the lack of experimentation at the book retail level. The late 1990s was a period of rapid growth for Amazon.com and the online retail sector in general. In North America, several bookstores launched ecommerce sites:

1996: Librarie Renaud-Bray
1997: Barnes and Noble
1998: Chapters Online, now Chapters.Indigo.ca, and later Follett Higher Education Group
1999: Archambault

In many ways the only retailer that moved forward in adopting web 2.0 strategies is Amazon. Chapters/Indigo is now playing catch up. McNally Robinson has attempted to move in this direction, although there are a lot of things I hate about their new website. Sadly, the publishers are now taking over marketing online, but the online sales support is not there on the retail side.

S.M.: In the overview of your BPAA [Book Publishers Association of Alberta] Conference talk, it says, “Online marketing is more than electronic press releases and creating a website. It’s about engagement and conversation.” With the signal to noise ration very high on the Internet and the existence of an overwhelming multitude of blogs and zines dedicated to literature, how can publishers and writers still create this engagement and conversation?

M.T.: Signal to noise is really high. In order to succeed publishers need to focus on campaigns that are engaging and relevant to their target audience. I argue that online marketing is not about one-off promotions or press releases but rather need to be part of a comprehensive business strategy. An electronic press release is only good if it drives people to a webpage specific to that press release. That webpage has to then continue the conversational thread of the press release. There need to be calls to action that are clear, a memorable marketing message that is also “branded” or used in print materials at the store level, in magazine and newspaper ads, etc. The web is another sales channel, but it does not act independent of publishers’ other marketing activities.

In order to stand out, publishers’ online marketing campaigns need to be about finding their target audience or their online community and participating in that community according to the rules of that community. They have to use a conversation voice, not a spammy marketing voice. They need to participate in the community, they can’t come and go only when they have a marketing message.

It’s about investing time in their online community, the same way that publishers sponsor literary events or do community out reach in person.

S.M.: What can a personal blog or participating in blogs do for a publisher/writer?

M.T.: It can increase awareness of the publisher or writer. Blogs are networked communities. They represent a return to “marketplace”. Marketplaces used to be physical places where people gathered. It was a social square, a marketplace, it was about shared voices, shared news and gossip, shared interests. At some point it became “marketing”. A thing that happens to people. You are marketed to. It’s against your will, it’s about consumption. It’s one-way communication—a company tells the masses what to buy or think about a product or service. The online revolution is a return to marketplace. On the web, people gather in networked communities to talk about shared interests, to share news. It’s voluntary. It’s a conversation. We are creating our own ads, reviews, videos. We have publishing tools. We are loudly voicing our opinions. And we are saying to companies, “you can be a part of this conversation or not, but if you choose not, the conversation is going to go on with out you.” [This is David Weinberger, http://cluetrain.com ]

S.M.: Is online marketing about targeting special interest groups/readers rather than general audiences/readers?

M.T.: Chris Anderson talks about this in The Long Tail. Yes, we are moving away from targeting mass audiences and putting our focus on bestsellers. Although we are going to use a mass media tool (the internet) to connect to targeted groups, to sell niche titles.

S.M.: Several of the people I have interviewed so far predict that the future of traditional literary publishing will lie in the publication of affordable print book artifacts, of beautiful print books designed as artifacts. What is your sense of the future of traditional publishing?

M.T.: The form of the product is going to be dictated by the desired use. For example, I have a PDA and I like to hike. I don’t want to take a guide book with me. Paper is heavy. I want to load everything into my PDA, which also has a GPS.

I am an editor. I will never buy a physical copy of The Chicago Manual of Style because the online version has everything and it is searchable. I don’t read Chicago, I use the index of the physical book and then look up a particular section. The online version mimics my behaviour. I need to search and browse. This experience is much better online.

I am a fiction lover. I want to read in bed, curled in awkward positions. I do not want to hold an ebook reader, PDA or laptop. In the bath, I definitely do not want an electronic device.

But I sometimes need to read a novel for a class. It’s not a book I would seek out or care to own otherwise. I want a digital copy that I can read on a screen and make notes about.

Publishers have to stop focusing on the format and start focusing on how to provide all formats, how to meet their audiences’ needs, and how to build into their contracts with authors the ability to provide these various formats.

It used to be that publishing a hard cover was a luxury. It was something special to be published in hard cover. It make become that publishing a physical book is a luxury. That all books are published electronically and that we publish a physical book when the market demands it.

S.M.: What are the key transmutations or changes the book—and especially the poetry and fiction book—as object has gone through as a result of new technological developments? Who, do you think, is at the front lines of this process of transmutation or change?

M.T.: Technology has changed every aspect of the publishing industry. We’ve gone in 20 years from printing plates to digital printing, from handselling and paper forms to exchanging bibliographic data in the supply chain using isbns and standard data formats. We have FedEx tracking numbers, standardized subject codes, credit cards, databases.

I’m not really sure what you’re asking here, but, taking stab, the entire process for creating the physical product has changed, and all of those changes are what has prepared us for the digital distribution of content.

S.M.: I want to put forth for your feedback another idea regarding the future of traditional publishing: Considering the way technological developments have changed the recreational habits of people, could publishers gain from redefining themselves in non-books-related terms, that is, as cultural producers who take an intellectual creation and turn it into a cultural artifact (which may not necessarily take a traditional book form but, for instance, a podcast or an e-book with multimedia links or a video), which is then distributed to its logical public? Do publishers of the future need to define themselves not by the cultural product – i.e., as book publishers – but by the process of delivering intellectual creation to an audience?

M.T.: I don’t believe in the death of the book. I think when and if it happens, it will happen because we have run out of trees and the means to make paper. Think about the history of the technology we call paper. It’s a rather useful piece of technology. Book publishers can define and redefine themselves until they are silly. What does it matter, who does it matter to? We understand the role of the publisher is to act as a filter, a gatekeeper. The publisher is a subject-matter expert. One who understands publishable works, quality writing, writing that should be made available to the public. That role is still a valuable role. In that signal to noise ratio, which we talked about, this is a fantastic role to play. The discerning voice of the publisher, one who makes works available to other. In this mode, anyone can act as publisher. I can self-publish. My role is still the same. To take some thing that I see as having value and making it available to others who will perceive its value and be willing to acquire it—in whatever form makes sense for their intended use.

Publisher has a different connotation than Content Producer.

S.M.: This questions has been inspired by my hearing and discussing a definition Karl Siegler gave to an interviewee. Siegler said that a publisher is someone “who takes an intellectual property, turns it into a cultural artifact, which is then distributed to a logical public.” I think that this may tie in with your above statement that “Publishers have to stop focusing on the format and start focusing on how to provide all formats, how to meet their audiences’ needs,” in the sense that it is about the “delivery platform” (term the interviewee used) as multiple platform. Publishing then seems to become more of a multimedia activity, an activity that breaks down traditional media separation in its attempt to meet the needs of diverse audiences.

M.T.: Yes, I agree with Karl.

S.M.: Do you see a danger in publishers/writers/artists using web space aggregated, organized, and dominated by an oligopoly of 21st century information-technology giants: iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, eBay, Yahoo, Google, MySpace? Using and thus supporting these oligopolic structures, doesn’t literary activity and artistic activity more generally contribute towards the centralization and potential regulation of knowledge distribution and artistic activity?

M.T.: No, I do not see a danger.

These oligopolic structures do not exist without us. The sites you list above represent our shift in attitude towards the web. We are always connected, always on. Those sites only succeed because of the network of people participating in those communities.

If you want to view the global community (the world wide web) as an evil empire than your other choice is obscurity.

Not a danger, but yes, it means we need to rethink things like copyright, control, ownership, distribution and commerce.

End of Interview


So comments? Follow up? Where are the publishers in the crowd? How do you see your role changing?