Author: ilanderz (page 1 of 16)

A Time and a Place Reviewed on Goodreads

The first ever Reader Review of my debut novel A Time and a Place showed up on Goodreads today. Cool!

Here’s the text of it:

So. I must confess that I am fairly conflicted about Joe Mahoney’s ‘A Time and a Place’. On the one hand Mahoney relates a pretty rollicking Fantasy-Science Fiction adventure story with a lively, imaginative degree of world building while on the other he saddles that world with one of the least likeable protagonists I’ve read around in some time. Barnabus J. Wildebear is a strange character, at times willfully ignorant of the world around him, ill suited to the task at hand, yet still trying to act as if his opinions about almost any of the circumstances he is caught up in are remotely valid. His great redeeming character attribute is his phlegmatic nature, able to cope with how weird things are around him with a virtual shrug of his shoulders.

Mahoney clearly has a peculiar sense of humour and with that being expressed in unusual places it is no mean feat that he manages the razors edge of his narrative between the chasm of outright parody on the one hand and a descent into old fashioned pulp fiction on the other. There is a veritable smorgasbord of funky ideas at play in the novel and passages of sneaky thoughtfulness cheek by jowl with subversive goofiness. With wry, tongue in cheek similes and metaphors at his disposal, Mahoney seems to be both winking at the tropes of the genres he is engaged in while encouraging us as readers to give them another look with a fresh set of eyes.

Granted, while Wildebear really bugged the hell out of me as a character Mahoney also deserves credit for taking a passel of relatively archetypical supporting characters and either spinning them off in unexpected ways or giving them much more nuance and depth than expected. Definitely a good read bursting with genre inventiveness and exuberance and (for me) a protagonist who really needed a good smack upside the head!

A Time and a Place, published by Five Rivers Publishing, is currently in Pre-Release, meaning that it’s available directly from the publisher. It’s possible to pre-order it from all major booksellers online such as Kobo, Amazon, Chapters, Barnes & Noble, and so on, in both trade paperback and electronic editions. It will go into wide release October. The official book launch will take place Oct 26th at the Merril Collection in the Toronto Pubic Library.

The Necronian

While I was writing A Time and a Place, my daughter Keira made me one of the characters. This guy’s one of the nefarious Necronians.

Somewhere along the way, it lost a tentacle, but it’s got seven others, so it’ll probably be okay.

 

Saturday Night Scribes

A little film I made about a writing group I have been privileged to be a part of for a long time, the Saturday Night Scribes.

As well as a tribute to my writing group, this was an experiment to see what I could accomplish with a minimal investment of equipment (reflected most obviously, perhaps, in some of the audio quality). I used a cheap Boya M1 Lavalier mic ($20), along with a Shure SM58 which I already owned ($110), my smartphone camera (Samsung Galaxy S7), the cheapest pair of lights I could find ($180 at Henry’s), and relatively inexpensive filmmaking software (Filmora, $70).

If I continue this sort of thing, I’ll purchase better audio equipment (such as an H2N audio recorder and a shotgun mic) and better film-making software (the Wondershare Filmora software crashed on me with a couple of edits left to make… I thought I’d lost everything. Had to reinstall it twice to get it to launch the project again.)

The original idea was to create videos to help promote my upcoming book A Time and a Place. Maybe a silly idea considering the investment of time (the film took me an evening to shoot and about a day and a half to edit, though presumably I’d get faster with practice, especially with better software that doesn’t crash on me.)

But it was a lot of fun and I look forward to doing more of this sort of thing.

A Creative Process

I wrote the first words of the novel that eventually became A Time and a Place in July 1988. I made the final correction to the manuscript about a week ago, in April 2017. So technically it took me almost twenty-nine years to finish the novel.

I hasten to add, I haven’t been working on it all that time.

I wrote a few pages by hand in 1988, then put it aside until 1993, when I found those pages, decided they possessed a certain merit, and promptly wrote the first three chapters.

Then I made the classic beginner’s mistake of trying to get those first three chapters exactly right, revising them endlessly, never really making any progress, frequently distracted by other projects.

Finally, during a labour disruption where I work, I found myself with extra time to write. So did I work on my novel? Heck no! I started a blog about the labour disruption. I posted daily, revising minimally, and by the time the labour disruption was over two months later, I discovered that I had written over one hundred pages of reasonably respectable material.

I realized that if I tackled the novel the same way, I could have the whole thing written in six months. So I did exactly that, refusing to revise even a single word until the first draft was complete. A mere three months later I had the entire first draft written, close to one hundred thousand words.

And then spent the next several years perfecting it.

Which was fine. I wasn’t in a rush. I’d written the story out to the end, so I knew where it was going, more or less. It was just a question of making the journey there as smooth and compelling as possible. The final draft bears little resemblance to that first draft, which was a map without any roads. It showed me where I needed to go and some of the forests, rivers, and mountains in the way, but I still had to hack, swim, and climb my way to get there.

The initial idea was simple: a young man messes with powerful forces beyond his control, frightening those closest to him. I originally envisioned it as a short story. When I discovered those first few pages five years after having written them, it wasn’t the idea that I found compelling, it was the tone—a certain tongue-in-cheek quality. Both the idea and the tone have matured considerably since then, but they’re still discernible in the finished product.

One of the reasons it took so long is that I didn’t have a whole lot of time to write. I had a day job and an active family life. Mostly I wrote on the Go Train commuting to work, but I trained myself to be able to write whenever and where-ever I could: art galleries, cafés, swimming pools, doctor’s offices, wherever I could steal a little time with my laptop.

Where most of A Time and a Place was written

While others sat on the Go Train completing their crosswords and Sudokos, I was consumed with my own gigantic puzzle, using pieces (sentences, paragraphs, chapters) that I’d fabricated myself out of words. Gradually the puzzle grew more complex, the plot and characters more compelling, to me at least. At night I would lie in bed mulling over this or that thorny knot that I’d inadvertently written into the story, trying to figure out how to untangle it. Then I would fall asleep and allow my subconscious to do the heavy lifting. Sometimes the answer would present itself the next day. More often than not it required a whole lot more contemplation and revision.

I was constrained by rules I’d imposed upon myself, some borrowed from writers like Elmore Leonard (Get Shorty), others from editors like Thomas McCormack (The Fiction Editor), and yet others from well-thumbed copies of Writer’s Digest. Never use a word other than said to carry dialog. Never use an adverb to modify the word said. The birds flew, not the birds were flying. Err on the side of conflict. Show don’t tell except when doing so would take all day. Avoid clichés. They’re not for everyone, these rules; not even me, necessarily. They were just guidelines for this particular novel. And I didn’t always follow them.

I drew inspiration from the works of others, most consciously from writers like Edmund Hamilton, Dr. Paul Linebarger (a.k.a. Cordwainer Smith), Roger Zelazny, and H.P. Lovecraft. There’s some Stephen R. Donaldson and William Browning Spencer in there, too. Friends helped. Over the years, I’ve read much of A Time and a Place aloud to members of the Saturday Night Scribes, an informal writing group I’ve been privileged to be a part of for many years. Without their enthusiasm for A Time and a Place, I would not have finished it. Friends and family have read bits and pieces of various drafts, sometimes yielding useful feedback, but mostly it was their encouragement that I cherished.

Roger Zelazny, a favourite author. Go read Lord of Light. Now.

When I finished writing A Time and a Place, or, more accurately, when I thought that it was done, that there wasn’t a single change left to make—that it was, in other words, perfect and unassailable—two skilled and caring editors dissected it with surgical precision. Arleane Ralph and Dr. Robert Runtè astonished me with their discoveries. Flaws blindingly obvious when they pointed them out: logical inconsistencies, grammatical errors, confusing passages, or worse, boring passages, and other ghastly errors too numerous to mention.

This feedback did not bother me at all. I welcomed it, as it was all about making the novel better. I challenged some of the suggestions, but implemented most of them, ultimately rewriting two and a half chapters.

So you can see, A Time and a Place was not exactly dashed off. It was about as easy as threading a wrought iron chain in one ear and out the other. Still, writing it was usually my favourite part of any day. Probably it took me so long to finish because I loved writing it so much. Had I not finally received a deadline, I’d be tweaking it still.

Whether all that time and effort has resulted in a novel worth reading remains to be seen.

Book Launch of a Time and a Place October 26th 2017

I’m thrilled to report that A Time and a Place will be officially launched Thursday, October 26th at 7pm in the Merril Collection reading room (3rd floor at 239 College Street) in the Lillian Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library.

I’m equally pleased that Bakka-Phoenix Books, Canada’s oldest Fantasy and Science Fiction bookstore, has agreed to sell copies of my book at the event.

It’s a ways off yet, but it sure would be great to see you there!

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