There IS such a thing as a bad book.

If you’re a real fan of reading, you probably get really into your book. It’s not just a way to pass the time, you open the cover and dive in. If someone talks to you while you’re reading, there may be a moment or two of confusion as you emerge from the story-world and try to re-engage with reality.

r is for reading, Petra Hollander photography

r is for reading, Petra Hollander photography

Well, that’s the way it is with GOOD books. With a bad book it’s like trying to dive with a balloon tied to each wrist. Stupid phrasing, bad word choices or just irritating characters pitch you back out of the story again and again.

The last two books I’ve listened to (and I’m not going to name names) have been bad. The first had a protagonist who was weak and ineffective – this was a deliberate choice by the author, certainly – and time and again he was put into a position where he needed to show some backbone to gain ground. Each time he fails, wimping out, missing his chance, getting beaten. He mans up for the very final confrontation, of course, but by then it was way, way too late for me.

The second book read like a pale imitation of a series that’s become a guilty pleasure – the Stephanie Plum books of Janet Evanovich. This book had the same first-person style, the same age range, the hunky cop/almost boyfriend, the accidental involvement in a crime and then the luck to keep finding the clues. Oh, and the fact that the killer then targets our heroine, of course.

One for the Money – the first Stephanie Plum adventure. Emphatically NOT a bad book.

Where the series differs (aside from the one mighty Maguffin which I won’t mention because it’ll give the identity away) is that the book is dreadful. The main character tells us at length about a sad crime she sees on the news. We get the name of the victim, mentioned half a dozen times. Then she relates the same story to the almost boyfriend over dinner. Then, a little while later, he references the victim in a conversation. She can’t remember who it is. Not only that, but she monologues, internally for a couple of pages about how she can’t remember who it is. People passing me on the road must’ve wondered why I was pounding on the steering wheel and screaming “What ARE you? Some kind of stunned duckling? You were just talking about this person two minutes ago, you brainless sockpuppet!”

The character conveniently fogets a number of important facts from time to time, then other characters explain them at length. Since I’m not either a stunned duckling or a brainless sockpuppet (despite what Mrs Dim might say on the subject) I did not appreciate these reminders. There was a also a truckload of bad writing. If a character mentions that they are “weary with exhaustion”, I would suggest it is time to gently lay down the book, soak it in petrol and burn it for the good of humanity. If your central character is the target of a crazed killer, known to be in the area, someone who has taken pictures of them as they go about their daily business, it seems a bizarre choice for them to go into their office just deal with one more client, someone they don’t know, that they’ve never met before. Oh, and if that central character is (secrecy be damned, this was just too annoying) SUPPOSED TO BE PSYCHIC then having them INVITE A PERSON WHO WANTS TO KILL THEM INTO THEIR OFFICE seems really, really unlikely.

I’m sure people could go through my e-books and find errors. In fact, I guarantee it. But you know who’s standing behind those books? Just me. I wrote ‘em, I edited ‘em, I proofread ‘em and I published them. These other two books were from publishing houses and can be bought in regular bookstores. Just….don’t.

Where’s that accent from?

I always had a unique sense of style.

I always had a unique sense of style.

I don’t have an accent.

That always starts an argument over here.

“Yes you do!” people say. “You have a British accent. You sound different to us Canadians.”

And that’s true enough. But people don’t often say “Is that a British accent?”  They say “Where’s that accent from?” and when I say “The UK.”, they say “Oh yeah? London?”

Because, you know, most of the UK is covered in London. Except for the bit that is Scotland.

We went to Scotland once. It was shut.

We went to Scotland once. It was shut.

Anyway, when I say no, it’s not London, people ask where exactly it’s from. And I sigh, and say “It isn’t from anywhere. I don’t have an accent.”

I don’t have a REGIONAL accent, is what I mean. I was born Oop North, and grew up talking like this   but when I was still quite young, we moved down south, where everyone spoke very differently. With only my brother sharing my peculiar way of speaking, I quickly adapted to a more moderate accent. I say “glass” with a long “a”, like in “Darcy”, rather than “passive”. When I say “castle”, it rhymes with “parcel”, not “hassle”. I may have picked up the Hampshire accent, but it’s not really very regionally distinct, so I can’t be sure.

I lived in Portsmouth for a while. Some parts are damper than others.

I lived in Portsmouth for a while. Some parts are damper than others.

The UK is rich with regional accents, and it’s quite amazing to consider the variation over such a small area. I still don’t understand the Canadian need to pin down a specific location, when so many of the people who are asking haven’t been to the UK, and (more importantly) don’t share any of our own regional prejudices.

 

The strange satisfaction of loving my job

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn't believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I kept this in my pocket when I was a greeter at Home Depot, because people didn’t believe I was employed to stand at the door and say hello.

I have what is known as a “portfolio career”. Which is to say, I’ve never done the same job twice, or any job for a decent length of time. The most recent changes in my employment have taken place while I’ve been blogging, so you may be familiar with my regular struggle to hang onto, or find, a job that pays me to be there.

The reason I want to mention my library job again is that I have been there for a year. I’ve been there a year, and it doesn’t feel like it. The time has flown by, and I’ve managed to move from Auxiliary to a Part Time position. In my last job, I hadn’t been there for a year before the company folded. In the job before that, vertical movement was almost impossible.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

On Star Wars Day (May the Fourth) I brought in my Mandalorian Helmet for the check in desk.

We’re quick to notice when work is unpleasant. We moan about Monday rolling around again, about feeling tired, or sick, or getting a stress headache in the traffic. But we’re not so quick to notice when work is great. Hearing I’d been at the library for a year was a surprise, as was meeting the new group of Auxiliaries who had been hired because MY group had all moved up to new positions. I’m not the new guy anymore! Look how long I’ve been here, and I STILL love it!

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed...

Yes, the library even has books you never knew you needed…

So I’m looking forward to the next year at the library flying past like this one has, because everyone knows that time flies when you’re having fun.

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious...

Sometimes we need to point out the obvious…

And sometimes we support the unusual - Why shouldn't Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

And sometimes we support the unusual – Why shouldn’t Llamas and Alpacas have the chance to be Managers?

It’s not about you…

Or me.

Only a couple of days ago, I was sitting in the Driver’s Testing centre just off the Lougheed Highway. I hadn’t been there since my own driving test almost five years ago.

This time I was there because Eldest Weasel was taking her theory test, to see if she was ready for her L plates so she could start learning to drive*. As I sat there, I realised that a lot of the experiences here in Canada have become less about me and Mrs Dim – our new jobs, buying and maintaining the house, struggling with various bots of red tape and so on – and more about the Weasels. They’re doing all the important things that kids do, making and losing friends, finding their way in school, changing up to bigger schools, choosing their life’s directions, trying to balance the things they love with the things they have to do.

Laurel in the garden Oct 99

It’s nothing revolutionary, this realisation. It’s just something that has grown from the first day I left Eldest Weasel at playgroup, a tiny figure alone in a vast ocean of carpet, surrounded by distant shores of toys and an archipelago of playgroup leaders. It doesn’t mean you stop being the star of your own story and have to settle for a bit part. Doesn’t mean your job is finished. It just means that there will be times when you need to remember, it’s not about you.

She hasn't changed a bit.

She hasn’t changed a bit.

 

*She passed.

Dear Disney: An open letter about the Boba Fett movie

DSCN7100Dear Disney (or at least, the parts of Disney under the Lucasfilm banner),

I read on the internet this week that there is some trouble over the proposed Boba Fett movie. Problems with a satisfactory script, say the rumours. Well, it’s the internet isn’t it? Who can believe what they read there?

But in this case, I think I can see there would be an issue.

My friend on G+, Eoghann Irving, says the problem is that Boba Fett is an over-rated character – two dimensional and actually uninteresting. It’s certainly true that he doesn’t get to do very much in the films that actually feature him : “The Empire Strikes Back” and “Return of the Jedi”. In the first he is merely persistent, tracking Han and Leia to Cloud City and taking possession of Han’s frozen body for delivery. No action at all. He does get to fight and fly in “Return of the Jedi”, but he’s not very impressive there, using a cord-projector to try and trap Luke Skywalker, who has no trouble cutting the cord with his lightsabre, then getting knocked off the skiff and into the Sarlacc pit by Han Solo even though Han’s still blind.

Despite this lack of brilliance, Boba is beloved of fans, and even before the prequels gave us Jango Fett showing a more combat-savvy Mandalorian fighting style, there were legions of Boba wannabes building their own dented helmets and jet packs.

Mandalorian

I suspect the problem you’re having with the movie is that you want Boba to be the hero. You want him wisecracking, and fighting for good. And you want him winning some fair maiden’s hand. And taking his damn helmet off, too.*

The fundamental dichotomy here is that you have a niche character, and you want to make him appeal to a huge demographic so they will all pay lots of money to see his movie. But that’s not going to work. Boba achieved iconic status DESPITE his lack of action, and the fact he only speaks a handful of lines in the trilogy. (I would bet that kid-Boba has more lines in “Attack of the Clones” than his elder counterpart has in the two movies that feature him…) To make a good Boba Fett movie, you have to have him BE Boba Fett, not Indiana Jones in a dented helmet and jetpack.

My appeal to you, Disney (and I know it’s no more likely to succeed than my letters to Microsoft or the UK Revenue) is to let Boba do what Boba does best. Send him off on a hunt for a bounty. Stop thinking he’s a hero, and start thinking ANTI-hero. Hell, why not model him on Clint Eastwood’s Spaghetti Western character, the Man with No Name? I can see Boba playing two sides off one another in a war so that the way is clear for him to collect a whole bunch of bounties.

The point is, you’re not going to end up with a movie that you can use to sell plastic toys to seven year olds. I mean, sure, you can make the toys and sell ‘em, but the movie should not cater to kids that age. It should cater to kids like me, who are forty odd years old, and have loved Star Wars since our first visit to that galaxy far, far away. Boba’s a bounty hunter, just a working stiff trying to make his way in the galaxy. We don’t want to know more about his motivations and his back story – we want to see him in action, shake off that “Vader’s lapdog” image and be the badass we all hope he really is.

If you want a better idea of Mandalorian culture, go read Karen Traviss’ books. She took those brief hints from the movies and created a warrior race to be proud of, complete with language and traditions. You could do a lot worse than use her ideas in your movie. A lot worse.

Boba Fett: A Practical Man: Star Wars (Short Story)

Please, whatever you decide to do, don’t go with “worse”.

 

May the Force be With You.

 

 

*It’s like this : I’m a Judge Dredd fan, and I saw what Stallone did to that character. Karl Urban did a stand-up job, but seriously, Sly, what the hell? Did you even READ the source material?

And yes, I am writing a screenplay for a Boba Fett movie. Why, do you know someone who might be interested?

Fan Expo Vancouver 2014

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual...

Thor and Loki, fighting as usual…

This was our third visit to FanExpo Vancouver, but only the second year we actually got inside. We’d been planning the day for ages – tickets bought well in advance, Weasels’ costumes worked out – but the last couple of days before were a blur of activity. Somehow, this did not include me getting the adjustments to my own costume done. Next year. Maybe.

Tiny Weasel had settled on a version of Ana from Frozen who is only onscreen for a few moments during the song “Do you want to build a Snowman?” but it came out pretty well, thanks to Mrs Dim’s sewing skills and some decorating on my part.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Tiny Weasel on the right, with a borrowed Olaf, meeting an older version of Ana.

Middle Weasel had chosen the slightly more obscure computer game character Juno Eclipse. I built the hat, the gun rig, the rank badge and belt buckle, and Mrs Dim produced an awesome uniform jacket that will see plenty more use in everyday life.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel's arrival.

These two members of the 501st made a good honour guard for Middle Weasel’s arrival.

Eldest Weasel is usually quite shy and retiring, but she wanted to be a Time Lord, so Mrs Dim produced some fabulous robes, and I put together a headpiece based on the one worn by Timothy Dalton as Rassilon. She walked everywhere with an amazing poise and confidence, even though she was stopped every few feet by people wanting photographs – even at Subway!

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This TARDIS cosplayer has used latex to make Gallifreyan writing appear burned into her skin. Amazing job.

This year the venue was larger, and we arrived early on the Sunday, so things were quieter for the first hour or so. We had a good chance to wander the booths and chat to the vendors and exhibitors, and saw some of the big names arriving for their signing sessions – Tom Felton, Charisma Carpenter, Eliza Dushku, Robert Englund…. (No photos of them this year, sorry!)

Attending in costume, even if only through the Weasels, was a very different experience to last year’s plain clothes day. There’s more of a sense of cameraderie with the other cosplayers, and it’s such fun meeting with other groups and taking photos together, or swapping notes on costume choice and construction.

I’m going to end with a photo reel without comments : These pictures have been posted on my Facebook page and my G+ account, so I’m all commented out, but feel free to ask for explanations or identifications!

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10 amazing facts that are completely UNtrue

1. The word “Succubus” wasn’t added to the English language until 1975.

2. The Parthenon in Greece is built to the exact measurements of Noah’s Ark, as described in Genesis.

3. The Guillotine is actually a French corruption of the name of its Irish inventor – Gill O’Teen.

4. In the first edition of “Monopoly”, there were no green properties, and the playing pieces were a top hat, a tram car, a bucket and a fishing rod.

5. Thanks to the internet, it is now possible to order a pizza while aboard the International Space Station. And it’s bound to be free, since delivery will almost certainly take more than half an hour.

6. The Inuit have no word for “Eclectic Dimorphism”.

7. As well as the Game of Thrones saga “A Song of Fire and Ice”, George R R Martin has written 47 children’s books about Riffo, the Kung-Fu bunny.

8. Artichokes were originally cultivated because their leaves were used as felting material for the millinery trade.

9. The Leaning Tower of Pisa was actually restored to the vertical on June 13th, 1910, but after a public outcry, it had its lean returned less than a year later. Attempting to “fix” the tower is now a crime punishable by imprisonment.

10. Hoping to ensure its long-term survival, the American Constitution was first written on bits of broken Roman pottery, since those things have survived both time and volcanoes. Later it was transferred to something even more durable – a rich, old white man’s sense of entitlement.