Category Archives: Writing

I’m Rich, so let me Out! (In Defence of the Peel Region)

Some times, the outer world impacts a lonely writer.  And the writer must leave her desk and gives her view on the debate. The Ontario Con governement is reviewing the Regions to slash some money. (I missed two meetings, but better late than never.)

Each governance level responds to specific needs that neither individuals themselves, or lower-tier municipalities can assume.

Thirsty?

A coda to the yesterday entry... and a new solution to a old riddle?

“Hey, I took the water from a pond and filtered it myself!  Would you drink it? “

I love my City: the cultural life is vibrant, the library services are stellar, the parks fabulous. There’s been a fantastic development of public transit system, and one express bus can get me to the Toronto subway in fifty-five minutes! Nothing to argue about my City’s work: at the moment, public transportation and affordable housing are very important priorities of the City of Mississauga.

I love my region for the incredible, and accessible services: the drinkable water filtration, the wastewater treatment, the recycling and composting and garbage pick up, the police, and other services you generally can’t do for yourself.

For instance; water treatment and waste water management services incur high cost that cannot be assumed by a lone municipality.

Then, this cry arises from Mississauga, the third most populated city of Ontario :

I’m rich! Let me outta here!

In every country on Earth, you will find this claim from richer provinces or states, declaring that they “pay more than their fair share” and “why should the others benefit from our labor?

It has been the case for Québec province in 1980 and 1995, it has been the case for Alberta, for the Penjab province in India, for the Congo it was the Katanga province (for a while in the 60s). But fortunes change with time.

I read the Mississauga City Q&A PDF documents about the independance, and it is clear they don’t have a clue about the real financial upheaval they will reap. They can’t even make previsions, and count on the Provincial, or the Federal level for help!

I’m richer than they are, so why shouda pay for’em?

Which is a bit of an arrogant stance.

Mississauga’s crusade to leave the Peel region aims to save a measly 85 million “lost” to the Regional budget. I wonder where is the real percentage of the Peel Region budget this 85 million represents. The fact that nowhere on the City website I can find this number is telling.

So I had to get to the Peel Region website to find their budget. Here it is for 2018: a whopping 3.1 BILLION! 

So 85 million divided by 3.1 billion (3100 millions) makes… a meager 0,027 – 2,7% !

(Projected costs of the options for Peel region from the Deloitte report, 2019)

As Mississauga is the largest population of the region with 721 000 residents, followed by Brampton, it is only a normal fluctuation.

The dissolution of the Region of Peel would have long-term consequences, and  I can guarantee that the cost will rise high over the meager 85 millions our city is rambling about.

Here is another rambling, for the road maintenance.

Oh, but Caledon has so many more roads than we do!

2004 Water Quality Summaries - Location Map

Have you looked at a map recently?

Caledon is a greater and less densely populated territory, with more kilometers of roads per resident. Those roads do require maintenance.

The consequences of leaving the road repairs costs to a smaller city will be a dramatic hike of the taxes on the farmers and remote residents of Caledon. Some farmers, hit with this hefty tax hike, might not be able to pursue their work, and sell their lands for developers, (more urban spread, loss of food autonomy).

Not two cities are exactly the same, in population or size, or economic activities. The region can moderate the needs.

Water, water !

(Image credits: Peel region)

I studied and consider myself knowledgeable in the field of water treatment and waste water management. The treatment processing facilities entail a cost that cannot be assumed by a lone municipality. Drinking water is among the essential services no one can skimp. Waste water treatment is a staple to preserve the fresh water bodies around.

Just building, and updating those utilities carry on a great financial charge. If Mississauga, being closer of the lake, takes full charge of its facility, at what price will it sell the service to the two other cities?

(A water treatment plant tour is organized on Saturday May 11th, between 10h and 18h.)

For those reasons, I would think twice before breaking something that is in working order.

Many services

The region of Peel is quite efficient to communicate the informations on new programs. Especially in the environmental protection of green areas, and for our sustainable gardens. They maintain a constant presence in farmers markets. The environmental services are stellar and I am counting on them.

Besides the clean water, the solid waste management is improving. The Peel police is a constant presence. Emergency srvices, shelters, waste collection, recycling centers…  Below is an overview of the areas of service.

(From, Region of Peel, 2018 budget)

In case of dissolution, many  services will be disturbed, or scattered. Just building, re-building, updating those utilities carry on a great financial charge. The solid waste treatment processing facility is located in Brampton… who will have to enter a service delivery agreement with Mississauga and Caledon.

As for the environmental protection, a region can be more difficult to subvert than a small, underfunded city. I fear the smaller cities alone won’t stand a chance against well-funded promoters and their bulldozers.

Decision making should be improved by more consultations with the Region and the public.

The Region functions can be recalibrated to satisfy its composing Cities, improving adequacy and eliminating redundancies, so that no city is left in the water.

Take the Regional government review survey

The Survey: Regional government review, closes on May 21, 2019.

Share your thoughts on governance, decision-making and service delivery functions in these regions.

Most questions are over-worded. Like this one:  Be prepared to elaborate on a simple yes, or no.

Are decisions in the upper-tier municipality made in a timely and efficient manner? Please explain.

“Please explain” : seriously?  Do you think that the average citizen has the free time to explain in details this “timely and efficient manner” ?

How exactly am I supposed to convey my satisfaction with my region (upper tier municipality) services without writing a PHD thesis?

 

 

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Wonders of Vegas (2)

One hidden treasure of Las Vegas I discovered in March is a fine vegan restaurant, recommanded by my SF writer colleague Kris Rusch. Vegenation is an small, quiet space with a very convivial ambiance. !

The visitor is greeted by a profusion of green plants and quiet music.


Flowers (real ones) adorn each table, adding to the joy of eating. I ordered that specific, jar-contained meal at least three times!

Of course, the fact that the cutlery is metal and the glasses are reused Mason jars holds its charm! (Like the Panthère Verte restaurants in Montréal.)

It had been a looong time since I ate so well in a restaurant. Usually, my vegetarian choices are dim.

And do NOT start me on the plastic utensils and cups most budget-savvy places offer…

So I came back to the Vegenation not one, but four times, for a more excellent, fruit-filled breakfast. Here… everything was good! The meals were filling, generous and respectful of both animals and my budget!

And the meals were so satisfying, even the “meat” and “cheese” ingredients were 100% plant-based.

I was so happy of this discovery (and I am NOT a food/restauration reviewer) that I talked to a fine young man working there and asked a few questions.

Travis Schwantes, at the Vegenation. Travis was busy directing some redecorating of the restaurant, but he took the time to answer my questions.

Where did you grow-up, come from?

I grew up in Southern California and I lived in New Jersey for 15 years. My wife and I moved to Las Vegas 9 years ago.

What is your specific education ?  I have a bachelor in arts and Spanish literature.

Since how long does the Vegenation exist?
Since 2015.

How did you discover your vision, how did you came into the picture?

I met the owner, chef Donald Lemperle, who told me of his vision and I wanted to be a part of it. This was seven years ago. I have taken the tasks of manager since 1 year and a half.

What event did propel you towards the vegan lifestyle?

15 years ago I started at thinking about being a vegetarian. At the time  I got food poisoning from meat. At the time I was 22. Since then, I started meeting vegan people, and came to work here, and became inspired by all the people here. I started to watch documentaries, after watching a few, one day one day, my wife and I look at each other and decided let’s go vegan!

Any projects or  expansion in the foreable future?

I want to help lead this food revolution. To do that I am helping chef Donald achieve his vision of creating the first successful chain of plant-based restaurants. So that we can bring more positive changes to the communities.

Charming detail: non-binary bathrooms!

All in all, if you ever come to Las Vegas, step out of the Fremont Experience and turn your feet south. This nice little restaurant is on Carson av

To know more about this restaurant: Vegenation in Las Vegas.
WHERE? 616 e Carson ave, suite 120, Las Vegas, nv 89101

WHEN: opens everyday at 8am — closes at 8PM (Sunday-Thursday 8am) and 9 PM (Friday and Saturday)

HOW MUCH? reasonable: 8-15$ for a meal.

MY FAVORITE: the organic, fair-trade coffee… served in the pot, so it makes *four* good cups!

 

Taste new indie voices on Bookfunnel!

In a sea of millions stories available on Amazon, the indie writer (despite her-his talent) is a single drop. Discoverability becomes a challenge.

To augment our visibility, instead of bickering, we help each other to make the stories more prominent.

Indie authors helping their discoverability

The main advantage of A Short and Awesome Promotion  is that the featured free stories are shorter than novels or trilogies. So,  between October 1-31, you get to taste various writers for free!

Time-limited joint promotions help readers discover new indie authors they might like. Besides my own work, you get to find many other voices. That’s discoverability.

My book “How to Think Inside the Box” has joined the Short and Awesome Promotion on Bookfunnel! If you like first contact stories featuring an alien POV, this one is for you! Dip into this chunky 7000-word SF story.

 

 

Books are like Ice cream

I always say that books are like ice cream, there are a lot of flavors besides vanilla. So among the 100+ authors participating, you might find some enjoyable stories by an unknown author.

Well, I found my wonderful friend SF author Douglas Smith offering “Spirit Dance”. Visit also Douglas’ website, a very comprehensive resource for writers in all stages of their career. Particularly of interest is his foreign-language markets list. His book, Playing the Short Game, is a must for the short-story writer wanting to get published in magazines.

Ignite by Emerald Dodge, is the brain behind this promotion. Her series of YA novels features Jillian Johnson, young superheroine called “Battlecry”.

See in particular the story “Beginnings” by Tikiri. The opening is grabbing and heart-wrenching. The author denounces in a firm voice the exploitation of women; her novel follows a trio of rebel women endeavouring to bring some justice in this harsh modern world. “Beginnings” reaches in the past on one of the “red-heeled rebels” heroines.

As for brand new voices in SF, the Clone Crisis prequel “Alexi” by first-time author Melissa Faye is a YA dystopian SF about, yes, a society made entirely of clones: how do you manage sound family relations?

“If the world is all clones, what happens to family units? Raising your own clone feels strange, like inbreeding” Melissa says aboutthe inspiration behind her series on her author’s website.

There are about one hundred short reads offered on the Bookfunnel page, enough to sate your thirst for reading. On Bookfunnel between october 1st to Halloween!

A parting word before you dive in this promo…

The most beautiful gift you can give the authors in exchange for their free book is to share your pleasure about it.

Leave a review on Goodreads.com or on any platform (Amazon, Kobo…) featuring the author’s books.

Reviews really go a long way to help a clueless reader (like me!) decides if the ebook is worth his-her time and money. Even simple “starred” evaluation do help readers in theri choices. Don’t leave a read book site silent!

Of course, after you have taken a taste, you can also visit the websites of your newly- discovered storytellers and buy their books!

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Summary of the Short and Awesome Promotion:

WHAT: SF & fantasy short-stories and novellas

WHERE: On Bookfunnel.com

WHEN: between October 1st to 31st -Halloween eve!

HOW MUCH: Free!

WHO TO THANK: Emerald Dodge has organized this promo

HOW TO THANK an AUTHOR: Leave a ***** evaluation or a review on Goodreads.com (for a starters)!

 

 

Good Tidings for my Latest SF Novel

GroupePLusJuryLivres_IMG_0130

5 finalists : Maude Deschênes-Pradet, Marilyne Fortin, Karoline Georges, Michèle Laframboise, Mathieu Villeneuve. Behind, from the selection committee members: Billy Robinson, Guillaume Voisine, and Émilie Boulé-Roy. (Photo credits: Gilles Gagnon)

My science fiction novel La ruche (The hive), published by Les Six Brumes, is featured among the 5 finalists announced for the 2019 Horizons Imaginaires Award.

Marilyn_Cover250

(Yes, it contains a not-so-discreet homage to the iconic actress! A wonderful cover by Xin Ran Liu)

A selection committee composed of booksellers, publisher and a student has chosen the five books of science fiction/fantasy/horror. The full press release can be read on the website of the magazine Les Libraires.

The announcement was made in a nice bookshop (La librairie de Verdun) which offers a wide selection of books, and even some culinary items of high environmental quality. You can also sip a small coffee at the back.

During the school year, the five novels will be read by hordes of CEGEP students. Mathieu Lauzon-Dicso, who teaches literature at the Montréal Marianopolis College, explained how this prize was born in 2016, thanks to the passion of five students who wanted to further explore the field of Francophone imaginary litterature.

Unique in Quebec, the Prix des Horizons Imaginaire allows Cegep students to discover science fiction and fantasy written by French-speaking Canadian authors.

(Which includes Ontario, Whew!)

The winning work will be announced at the 40th Boreal Congress to be held in Sherbrooke. That gives the finalists nine beautiful months to brag!

The list of finalists and their publisher, plus the link to buy the books if you read French. Les Libraires are a network of independant bookstores.

Le Potager, de Marilyne Fortin (Québec Amérique)

Hivernages, de Maude Deschênes-Fortin (Éditions XYZ)

De synthèse, de Karoline Georges (Éditions Alto)

La Ruche, de Michèle Laframboise (Éditions Les Six Brumes)

Borealium tremens, de Mathieu Villeneuve (La Peuplade)

 

Writing Oneself in a Corner

The author writing herself in a corner

You know this famous joke about the guy who paint all the floor … to get caught in a corner, surrounded by a freshly applied layer of paint?

I do not know if you are like me, but there isn’t one story where I did not commit this blunder in writing… Even when I had a plan!

Last time, I was so hesitant that I missed a contest. It was a historical fantasy thing that worked perfectly … as long as I did not notice a 5-year gap in the dates!

A head-banging puzzle!

It was terrible conundrum, a head-banging puzzle: either I changed the date and the age of the main character, and the plot fell flat. Or I kept the factual error by arbitrarily changing the year, and it was a great story. (The story being in submission, I do not speak more about it).

I should have done more research. The mistake would have jumped in the face and it would have given another story.

I am happily preparing a series of historical mysteries following Domus Justice. (published in Fiction River 27, edited by the talented Kris Kathryn Rusch)  I realized that — I who adore the antique period – I took liberties with the plans of the Domus (house) in question. Moreover, it was not clear where were the toilets, hum!

So, in the subsequent stories, after serious re-study of the plans, I saw that I misplaced the altar of Lares, in a corner of the back garden. Heaven what to do? See this Wikipedia entry for a layout.

In this case, I decided not to change anything in my text about this site … and to pay more attention next time!

In establishing your historical setting, you have to “do your homework”! But be careful not to stretch this search time indefinitely …

 

Following the right tracks!

PointAuPointB600

I’m also wading into writing a crime novel (technically, a mystery). I found out that I sent my shy heroine twice to the same place. It allowed me to insert a beautiful sequence in the center of the novel … And to advance the investigation because she discovers a special clue.

But, what my heroine already knows when coming back to this place breaks some of the reveal progression, the tension. In addition, I have a bad tendency to multiply the oppositions when only one could do the trick. In short, have I put too much, diluting the danger?

Ah, la, la … I’m not out of the woods!

In a detective novel / polar / suspense where all the details must converge towards a strong resolution,  painting myself in a corner (whereas I made a plan, I recall it!) led to a catastrophe. I got embroiled in my tracks, adding motive over motive for my villain, to be certain that the assassin had a strong incentive to act!

I have not solved this problem yet, so I’m working on another creation while letting my creative subconscious search for a viable solution.

2018MichelePUSpogneeDansUnCoin

 

And you?

When was the last time you “wrote yourself in a corner”?

Just in Time for Groundhog Day!

2018 WhiteValentine_EbookCOVER_250

My latest opus, White Valentine, a foray into the sweet Romance realm, comes in time for Groundhog Day.

A big fantasy geek summons his courage for a blind date, only to be fooled by his GPS and locked out of his snowed in car. Being no elfin warrior, Nick plods on in the rapidly piling snow.

Delilah gazes at the snowstorm raging outside her window, not a princess either with the scar marring her face, her hopes wilting. Then she must leave her post to rescue her nice landlady from an ambitious nephew.

Will this snowfall doom their Valentine date?

A funny short-story dedicated to my author and mentor Kris Kathryn Rusch, who taught me how writing in various genres can be son fun! I met her at the recent Master Business Workshop in Oregon.

And yes, this is my first romance  short story, in the spirit of the eponymous romantic movie Groundhog Day, so close to Valentine Day!  But don’t take 12,395 days (Phil reliving Groundhog Day estimations according to movie buffs) to appreciate those who live near you! 

Order it in advance on the usual suspects (Kobo, Amazon, D2D…) or go directly to the universal link here!

Launch on… Groundhog Day.

 

 

Losing Ursula

LOST: a formidable, witty, science fiction and fantasy writer.

IF FOUND: please send her back to Portland, Oregon.

REWARD: millions of readers expecting her next stories!

UrsulaKLeGuin2007

A quick 2007 ink sketch I made in her presence, and that she approved and signed!

In person, I had the chance to met Ursula at the 30th Wiscon convention. We had approached her as a monument, a conception that her good humor shattered. I remember, after we had complained about the difficulty of getting published, that she told us “You know, it has always been difficult“.

Reading The Dispossessed, I felt like coming home. A sense of peace, rightness arose from the pages as I discovered how people lacking comfort and material possessions could live and achieve a reasonable happiness (with the small imperfections of life, because Ursula was a no non-sense writer).

Changing Planes is a beautiful collections of short-stories, a perfect introduction to paradoxal societies, like Those who walked away from Omela who turns on its head the maxim (the needs of the many prevail on the needs of an individual); here the happiness of a whole city hinges upon a price so horrible that some chose to walk away.

She transformed the landscape in SF by writing from a woman’s point of view; her heroes and heroines achieve their goals by more creative means than outright violence. And if they don’t achieve their goals, they discover that even an imperfect way of life can give them happiness as in The Dispossessed, The Lathe of Heaven, Four Ways to Forgiveness. I recommend the latter to show how a positive social evolution can come unexpectedly, getting there by side roads.

This citation, as she had to battle for her words in a mostly male literary environment.

“We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains.”

Her writing had compassion and wits, lots of wits. I still have many books from her to discover, to get a better understanding of humanity (both halves of it, and more than the halves with the Left Hand of Darkness!)

Her blog gave visitors funny anecdotes about her cat Pard, reflections, poems and more. Some recent books available at the Bookview Café.

I leave the rest of this post to her voice. Here: a link to her extraordinary discourse at the national Book Award, where she denounces the expulsion of science fiction from the island of Literature.

The Guardian article reporting Ursula’s passing
The bookview café blog article, that she contributed to found. A group of authors that publish their ebooks independantly.

Margaret Atwood, an author who sometimes disagreed with UKL about science fiction, wrote this eulogy in the Guardian.

Catch some free minutes for you!

SurmenageHivernal2017coloriseFor my writing friends and artists, exhaustion and overworking are two companions of the indie worker. I’m no exception this year, starting my own company.

For this Christmas, I wish for you to catch a few of those flying minutes for yourself and for those you love. And if you can mute those minutes into hours and days, all the better!

 

What happens to your books after you die?

FinishedReadingPile1000My reading pile will stop growing! (Extract from the Sunday artist blog entry)

More seriously, your copyright will live on for 50 years after your death in Canada, 70 years after death in the USA. If you are a writer, learn how to protect your books after you pass away. Even if you don’t think they have any value!

Did you know that the singer Prince, did not leave a will when he died?  An ordeal  for the bereaved family.

Elvis Presley left a debt-ridden property to his daughter Lisa Mary (who was only 9 at the time). Priscilla Presley did step in to save Lisa Mary from ruin.

The latter exemple comes from a small and practical book by M.L. Buchmann, who writes military romantic suspenses (yes, it is a genre). I had the pleasure of meeting him in Oregon. There are stunning occurences of what can happen when personnalities die without a will (intestate) or when the heirs mismanaged the deceased writer’s IP, or leave the management into other (greedy) hands.

Here is the podcast of his interview at Kobo Writing Life with Mark Leslie. Matt is a hyper-organized writer: even if some rules only apply to the USA, most advices are valid for Canadians. To taste his brand of fiction, visit his author page.

A worldwide map of copyright term length, from Wikipedia: in some countries, that post-mortem life of copyright can last quite long…

 

A few useful references:

The Copyright Handbook – What Every Writer Needs to Know: Nolo Press (448 p.). The latest edition just came out (fal 2017) Quite expensive even for the e-bookbut they do have some sales like the Halloween sale on their website. Price in USD. I have the e-verson of the precedent edition (I knew there was a reason for the lower pricing…) That kind of book, you don’t want to read it in one sitting.

Helen Sedwick, Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, Ten Gallon Press (<200 p.). Helen is a business lawyer with 30+ years of practicing. “Stay out of court and at your desk” is her motto. Her book’s last chapter list typical clauses in contracts, with the simpler plain English version besides. The new 2017 edition is out.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch- Business Musings: Prince, Estates, and The Future  and  Business Musings: Agents and Estates.  Those are two articles from her blog, but she has reunited some chronicles in books. Kris is a Science fiction and manygenres author about my age but with lots more published titles and experience. She has gotten real savvy on the business plan! I do recommand to follow her very rich blog.

Now, getting back to apply what I have learned…

October in Oregon

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Back from an intense Master Business workshop geared for independant SF&F and genre authors, in Lincoln City, Oregon. The class was held near the ocean, that was all except Pacific!

Michèle à la plage

None of us even thought about swimming on this smotth beach. The waves are 15-foot tall, and crashed in a loud BROOOOM! The area has to deplore one-two dead annually from the « sneaky waves ».

IMG_20171028_200037MerRochesHumans, to the scale of the waves…

A lot of subjects were discussed, but if I can find one advice now for my writer friends, it is to plan ahead for your intellectual patrimony (IP – intellectual property), not only to keep it in your hands, but to eventually transfer it to your heirs.

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A few pictures taken on the beach and in Lincoln City, Oregon.

Les vagues dans toute leur puissanceThe waves in all their power. Photo taken from the 4th story.

Comment l'hôtel épouse la falaiseAt this hotel hugging the cliff, you enter on the 9th and go down to your room. The beach is all the way down. The high tide can reach over the concrete steps.

Pour une auteure de SF, quelle aubaine que ces algues emmêlées!For a SF writer, those big algeas are a nice find!

IMG_20171027_173037bois800Detail on the driftwood.

Fleurs de plage. non identifiées.Unidentified flowers, at the salted and moist sand near the Inn at Spanish Head. Try to find the name for the Sunday artist!

L'avenue principale = l'autoroute 101Running on the 101 sidewalk : Lincoln City.

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Don’t forget the tsunami possibilities.

Les trois "soeurs" de la baie.

Siletz Bay, where the water is calm. A natural park has been settled, because seals visit this beach. Didn’t see one in my morning runs, but some author friends did.

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My dream, a bookshelf with the RIGHT proportions for pocket-sized novels! North by Northwest bookstore.

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After a good run in my LC 2016 race shirt, at the Inn…

L'entrée de l'Anchor Historical Inn
The Anchor Historical Inn entrance. The sailor seated on the canoe on the left is a mannequin.

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For the end : a pumpkin disguised in a Westfalia…
Happy Halloween!