30 April 2010

How it all began...

It was winter, 2002, and I was writing my first novel...mostly to see if I could.

The US had invaded Iraq along with the ‘coalition of the willing’. Canada wasn’t willing. Along with that, our two countries had been arguing over trade since the Clinton administration. After 9-11, Bush neglected to thank Canada for all our help and taking in the displaced air travellers. Some Liberal backbenchers referred to the president in less than glowing terms (I thin ‘idiot’ was the mildest). The press on both sides of the border were doing their best to fan the flames. In the middle of all this, the US entered Iraq with claims that they would be welcomed with open arms.

That bugged me. After all, no matter how bad your government, you don’t want someone from the other side of the world invading. I watched the army roll across the desert. I watched Hussein’s troops surrender in droves. I watched staged media events of American troops being cheered, of Saddam posters being stomped on, of the statue being torn down. It was interesting to flip between American and non-American news channels to get different fields of view. CNN appeared to show crowds of happy Iraqis. The BBC, which had a wider lens, showed the ‘crowd’ was a few dozen people. Most of the citizens of Baghdad hung back, uninvolved. Perhaps they were glad for the fall of Saddam, but they were not cheering. Days later, the counter-attacks started and continue even now. The people of Iraq may not have wanted Hussein, but they don’t want America either.

All of which tumbled about in my brain like a load of sneakers in a dryer - smacking, banging, irritating, and sort of amusing. I considered Iraq. I pondered US-Canada relations. I wondered what would happen if the US suddenly realized that we supply 60% of their oil and that Canada is a lot closer than the Middle East. The answer? Invasion. What would I do? Would I stand back and watch? Would I seize a hunting rifle and shoot back? Would I hide? Would I start making improvised explosive devices?

When the dryer’s buzzer went, I was typing away madly, already scripting the US invasion of Canada. I snatched news clippings of the day, re-worded them, and had a background of declining relations and increasing tensions. I drew characters from across the country, ready to gauge their reaction. I drafted a presidential address and a parliamentary response. I created a President and a Prime Minister from whole cloth.

But I was very careful in selecting a Governor General.

I didn’t want a fictional character. I wanted a real person, someone believable. This would add weight and substance to the fictitious plot. I agonized for days considering athletes, politicians, activists, musicians, and discarding them all as unrealistic. Who would believe Ashley Mac Isaac or Don Cherry could advance to the role of Queen’s Representative?

Then it struck me. Mary Walsh. This Hour has 22 Minutes had become a leviathan of Canadian political commentary with MPs willing to put themselves in outrageous situations just for the chance to appear. Not only was Mary a driving force behind the show, one of the actors and a contributing writer, she had more. She was developing political clout.

During the Chr├ętien reign, Mary developed the character of Marg Delahunty, an average East coaster who spouted political views from her bed and bath, lacing into whatever MP had the biggest case of foot-in-mouth disease that week. Marg became a recurring figure, cropping up whenever something serious needed to be said. In a funny way, in funny positions (I believe Mary was suffering from back problems at the time), Marg could expose what we all were thinking.

Then Xena Warrior Princess becomes a massive hit. Parliament disintegrates into squabbling over the PM's footrest. And Marg transforms. The bathrobe comes off, the former caterpillar emerges metamorphosed, and Marg Princess Warrior marches off to Ottawa. In the now famous scanty red velvet suit and armed with a plastic sword, Marg is gone to the Hill to straighten out ‘that crowd up there’.

This was exactly who I needed. Anyone who could so brazenly speak for the people could surely be elevated to the lofty post of Governor General. So that’s how I wrote it: Mary Walsh - actor, writer, comedienne, and Head of State for the Country of Canada.
Later, as publication approached, I, somewhat shamefacedly, contacted Mary requesting her permission to enthrone her, albeit in the pages of a novel. As gracious and supporting of the arts as always, she gave me the Yes B’y and off I went.

A year and a different world later, the GG was stepping down and some nerds had the bare-faced gall to start a petition to put Cap’n Kirk in charge. Just what we need, a Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces who keeps wanting to fire photon torpedoes and set Parliament on auto-destruct (not that it needs help).

I stewed. I resisted for 24 hours. I tried had to keep my mouth shut and not let the Trekkies bug me. I knew that no one takes them seriously. Then I thought about how Jedi was a recognized religion in the UK because a whole lot of similarly-minded folk wrote that on the census. Something had to be done of our next official language might be Klingon. So I did. I started a counter petition. I was half-kidding, in that I wanted to show up Shatner. I was half serious, in that I figured IF the PM would listen to the people, the people should recommend a good candidate not a crank or someone who’s claim to fame is the decibel level of their suits. As for an excellent choice, I did not have to think at all. I already had sorted this out.

See, in the intervening years between concept and print, Mary had become even more political. She openly supported a variety of causes and politicians. She appeared alongside the three opposition leaders to show her support of a coalition government. Mary wielded plastic sword and sharp tongue at the Prime Minister, delivering deathly blows of both in open criticism of his policies and practices. In a brilliant bit of political showmanship, Mary held a bonfire sweater burning mocking his attempts to look friendlier on the campaign trail. Yes, now even more than then, my choice for Governor General made complete sense. So naturally, I didn’t expect anyone to take it seriously. I posted the group, invited my friends, and expected them all to give me a pat on the head. That’s how they usually treat someone with my combined condition of creativity and lack of discipline.

Imagine my surprise when, just three days later, the CBC wanted to interview me. They were taking me seriously. Or perhaps they just needed to fill five minutes of morning airtime. And I, like the head case I am, said absolutely! I’ll do it! What else am I going to do at a quarter to eight in the morning? I’ll take a stab at being queen-maker.

Twenty-four hours, 1 interview, and 2 national news feeds later, Mary’s support is growing. I’m not the only one who thinks that, plastic sword or not, Ms. Walsh is a perfect fit for the Governor General’s seat. Mary, for her part, seems bemused by the whole thing. Like me, I expect she doesn’t really expect anything to come from my campaign. After all, she has made enemies in Ottawa as well, especially of our PM, who will be deciding who gets to move in to Rideau Hall. I’m sure she thinks this is a nice tribute but little more.

I’m just running with it. I want to see where it goes. Could the people of Canada really get together and choose their next Head of State? Can we gather so much support that the PM dare not ignore our wishes? Could Mary actually get the job? (After all, it would be her doing, not mine. All I did was point her out. She did the work.) If so, what then? If I managed to predict a Governor General, will more of my book come true? Will the US actually invade?

Probably not.

But if you do make it to Rideau Hall, Ms. Walsh, I like a GG Award for writing. Thanks.

29 April 2010

Call Centre: the Musical

Call Centre: the Musical ebook now available for free! Yes, I wrote a musical and yes, as the title indicates, it is about call centres. Check it out!

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/13928

28 April 2010

Magazines, Publishers, Agents: Submit to the Modern World!

I've been sending out lots of queries lately and I am amazed by parts of the literary community which insist on operating as if it was 1970. Some magazines will only accept correspondence by mail. Ditto publishers. Even worse, agents.

I know publishers can be slow off the mark at embracing modern technology. Plus, when it comes to the slush pile, it probably makes more sense for publishers to insist the writer pay the printing costs, so that their editors can lug around piles of books to peruse at their convenience. But with the emergence of e-books, one has to wonder if this Luddite approach doesn't hinder the process.

For magazines, there is an almost derogatory tone in their guidelines: submit full piece by mail, no simultaneous submissions, send SASE if you wish your manuscript returned, we do not critique, only those selected will be contacted, please allow 6 months for a response. The list reads like a statement on how writers cannot be trusted to operate professionally and, in any event, should be grateful to have their work even read by someone of our calibre. Oh, and don't bug us.

As for agents, mostly they have moved into a fine world of e-mail, links, and quick responses. Except for this one, which insisted that I submit by mail my full resume, writing credits, samples of my work, and the first 50 pages of my manuscript (probably about 80-100 pages total, printing costs, postage, and SASE if I would like it returned - $20-$30 cost), no 'signature required' shipping (i.e., no proof they received it), no simultaneous queries, allow 6 months for response, we will only reply to those selected. (We expect you to wait for our response before you do anything else, so sit around for half-a-year, hoping and wondering) No phone calls, no e-mail queries, and submit only 1 package at a time. Perhaps we'll deign to notice you, if not, go away.

In short, writers need to be at the beck and call of those who would make money from their work and spend unnecessarily on postage and production. After some of the submission guidelines I've read, I wouldn't be surprised to see: "Submit work on finely carved, polished pink marble, 12x12 squares, non-returnable." Someone getting the lobby floor done.

Time for a change in this business and I've seized the reigns. My new rules: If you want it mailed, you will not be hearing from me. If you want to be waited on, hire a butler, I'm busy. If you can't understand the Internet enough to make use of speedy and environmentally friendly processes like e-mail and electronic file transfers, then you probably can't market to that world either, and I have better things to do than explain mass communication to you.

In short: my work, my rules, if you don't like them, I won't bother you. You obviously are very busy, what with setting all that moveable type.

27 April 2010

Mary Walsh for Governor General of Canada

Ever since I read that William Shatner has a FB group dedicated to making him our next GG, I've been very annoyed. It's bad enough Trekkies are everywhere, but to appoint Captain Kirk to the highest post in Canada would be insane! Not to mention that the senile, egotistical, old fart would be tring to fire photon torpedos during the throne speech! To add a counter balance to this, I launched my own campaign:
Mary Walsh for Governor General of Canada !
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113050448728197&v=info

I really think Mary would be an excellent fit in this position and, by appointing her, Harper would finally demonstrate that he is fair. After all, Ms. Walsh has been hyper-critical of Harper. C'mon Stephen! Do it! You know you want to!

To join the campaign, click the title of this post or copy and paste the link.

23 April 2010

Freedom of Expression

I have a problem with the freedom of expression defense for art that offends people.

Freedom of Expression is used more and more as a way to excuse artists from any responsibility for their work, and that's a load of crap. Every ... See moreartist, every creator, considers their audience when they release something to the public. They consider who will like their art and who will not like it. By releasing it, you must take responsibility for the reactions it provokes. If you are willing to take the awards, you must also be willing to take the bricks. If I release an article which someone hates, I have a choice in how I respond. Did I intend to provoke someone? If so, I should stand up and say 'yes, I meant it! And the point I am making is..." If I didn't not intend to offend anyone, then I should open a dialogue, explain my ignorance, offer apology for the offense and learn what exactly I did wrong. Your Swedish cartoonist, along with Salman Rushdie, both set out deliberately to provoke muslims, both knew there are muslims who would threaten their lives, and both did it anyway. I have no problem with that, had they acted bravely and stood behind their work. But to try to hide behind Freedom of Expression, look all innocent, and declare that they can do as they want because they are expressing themselves is bullshit. Should artists face death sentences for their work? No. But neither should they escape all responsibility for what they have done. Freedom of Expression may give you the right to shout "Fire!" in a crowded theatre, but it doesn't excuse you from prison if your joke results in people being trampled. Nor does it protect you from being beaten with a firehose for being a dumbass.

22 April 2010

Mary Walsh for Govenor General!

Mary Walsh for Govenor General! Join the FB group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=113050448728197

Working Away

I have finally dusted off my old Google site with the intentions of turning it into a proper home page. I forgot what a pain that is. Perhaps if I knew more HTML I'd be fine. All I want is drag and drop, but I can't even make the gadgets do what I want. Oh well. All I really need is for the site to collect all the bits of me and refer people around.

21 April 2010

Sci-Fi

Check this guy out! Paul Dayton.

20 April 2010

19 April 2010

Link to my Novel

I will be adding more links as time goes on, but here is one to get you started:
Game Misconduct by Jeff Rose-Martland

Why the Edge of the World?

There has been a rumour going about that before Columbus, mariners believed that the world was flat. Of course, this is not true, but it lead me to speculate about the vikings making their way from Iceland to Greenland to Newfoundland. If they did believe in a flat earth, then surely we must be right at the edge.

Similarly, Newfoundland was the leading edge of North America to the Old World in the heights of ship travel and for most of aviation history. Alcock and Brown made their historic trans-atlantic flight from here, as did Amelia Earheart. Still today, adventurers and fools trying to cross the Atlantic in all manner of vehicles depart from here, including Steve Fossett. Newfoundland was also the edge of one world connected to the other in Ireland by trans-Atlantic cable communications. In both world wars, Newfoundland was the stepping-off point to the European theatre. The USA and Canada often treat us like Newfoundland is a far-off edge of the continent and not worth noticing. Until 911, when most of the airplanes forced to land were diverted here.

A short drive from my house lies 2 significant features. Signal Hill, the highest point in the city, looks far out over the North Atlantic. It was from here that Marconi sent his first wireless trans-Atlantic cable. The other location is Cape Spear, the most easterly point of land in North America. One thing is for sure, if Newfoundland is not the edge of the world, you can see it from here.
Jeff Rose-Martland

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18 April 2010

Empire Avenue

The hottest new thing! It's going public soon, so keep checking.

http://www.empireavenue.com

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The View

Is foggy. While flights are cancelled everywhere because of the interesting Iclelanic volcano, flights here are delayed by fog. As usual. Did you know Newfoundland holds the global record for most foggy day?