Wednesday, March 28, 2007


I'm currently rewriting one of my more recent finished manuscripts, Young Nostradamus. This one's about a teenager who discovers he's a clone of Nostradamus, created by the US government to help them predict terrorist attacks. I thought it was pretty darned good, but when I sent it to Flux, they rejected it. Too much like the last book, they told me. Plus, do I always have to write about the kid who gets picked on by school bullies?

I do that a lot, I've noticed. I like writing about the picked-on people who become heroes. You could say it's a theme of mine. However, Flux didn't want another one of those stories, and felt it didn't suit the character or the story, anyway. I looked back over the book, and discovered they are right. Some things you just don't see unless someone else points it out to you.

Flux is willing to take another look, provided I make a few changes. My agent has already sent them the first three rewritten chapters, and I'm hard at work revising the rest of it.

Writing is a continuing learning experience, and I'm very lucky to be working with people who are willing to give me the feedback I need to hear.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I figured it's a good time to discuss my next book, Epoch, due this summer from Flux (an imprint of Llewellyn, who did my first novel, Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters). The website is up, and you can find it at Sorry, I don't know how to do links in posts yet. There's not much on the site yet - some art, and a countdown to publication - but I'll be adding some more stuff to it soon.

Epoch is a YA fantasy comedy about the end of the world. A 14-year-old boy named Vincent has a run-in with some fantasy creatures, and they tell him the world is about to be invaded by demons, who will wipe out the current dominant species to make way for the next species' epoch. Usually, large portals appear worldwide to allow the soon-to-be-extinct species to leave the planet, but this time around the portals are all hidden. Vincent must team with pixies, elves, a troll, a really hot new-age girl, his best friend, his brother and even the school bully in order to find those portals and get everyone through before the epoch comes to an end.

I love end-of-the-world stuff. My adult sci-fi novel, Section K, is also about an end-times plot. Epoch is different, however, in that the world will most definitely end. I even make a point of saying that in the book's introduction - Vincent and his friends will not prevent the end, but maybe they can escape it. I first got the idea reading the booklet for the Monty Python and the Holy Grail computer game. In the troubleshooting section, the authors posed the question "What if the computer is covered in insects?" to which the answer was "It is the dawning of the next great Age of Planet Earth. There is nothing you can do. Our epoch has come to an end." At least, it was words to that effect. I definitely remember the phrase, our epoch has come to an end, though. It stuck with me, and I just liked the word, epoch. And to write a book whose idea was sparked by Monty Python? Nothing like being inspired by the best.

Please check out the site (often, as I'll be updating it and adding more stuff just as soon as I learn how). The book launches on July 7, 2007.

Friday, March 23, 2007

First Drafts

I've just finished the first draft of a new novel, tentatively titled The Right Hand of Evil. It's all typed up and saved on my ibook, and I am now in the limbo that exists for me between projects. I am happy to have another one in the can, but at the same time I miss it. Especially near the end of a book, I really get into it and love being in that particular story. Now, I have to start from scratch. And, I have to decide what that next project is going to be.

At the same time, I am excited. I can start any story I want to! I have complete freedom! It's a nice feeling, but I am happiest when I am deep in the middle of a book. The solution? Pick a project and get to work!

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Security Device Enclosed

This is one of the short stories I submitted for Ad Astra's Sci/Fi Idol contest. Entries had to be 500 words or less, so here's one of the ones I came up with. The idea came from looking at the sticker on the side of every DVD package, and wondering what the Security Device might be.

Security Device Enclosed

By: Timothy Carter

Joey snickered when he saw the warning label on his stolen DVDs: Security Device Enclosed. Woo, scary! What would it be, a note telling him he’d been naughty?
Joey sat down on his couch, picked up his switchblade and cut into the DVD’s plastic wrap. Suddenly, a scrawny teenage boy in a pink V-Mall uniform appeared out of nowhere before him.
“You are in possession of stolen electronic goods,” said the teen, whose nametag identified him as Linus. “Please return them to V-Mall immediately.”
“Where’d you come from?” Joey wanted to know.
“I’m the security device,” Linus said. “They digitized and hid me inside the plastic seal. It’s my job to stay with this unit until the time of purchase, or when the seal is broken by a thief like yourself.”
“That’s kinda freaky,” Joey said. “You get hazard pay for that?”
“I’m a V-Mall employee,” Linus said. “So no.”
“That sucks,” Joey said. “But it’s not my problem. Get lost, kid.”
“I won’t leave without the merchandise,” Linus said, extending an expectant hand. “Please hand them over immediately.”
“And what if I don’t?” Joey said.
“I will take it,” Linus said.
“Hah!” said Joey, planting his foot on Linus’ chest and then shoving him across the room.
“Ow,” Linus said as he rebounded off the wall and landed in a pile of DVDs. “That’s it! You are in for it now, sir.”
“What’re you gonna do?” Joey said. “Ask me nicely again?”
“I am armed,” Linus said, and he produced a small box cutter. Joey laughed, then brandished his switchblade.
“Mine’s bigger’n yours,” Joey said. “Your move, geek.”
Linus smiled. Then he snatched up five DVDs.
Five brand new, stolen DVDs.
“Put those down!” Joey said as realization set in. He was too late; Linus cut through the plastic wraps, and then there were five more pimply teens in pink uniforms in the apartment.
And Linus had another fistful of DVDs in his hands.
“Oh, crap,” Joey cried as the teens charged, box-cutters slashing.

Two hours later, Joey found himself before V-Mall’s head of security. The uniformed teens stood around Joey, looking smug.
“For your crimes,” the security chief said, “you will have to work off the cost of your stolen goods.”
“I gotta work for V-Mall?” said Joey, his face and clothing sporting hundreds of tiny cuts.
“It’s worse than that,” said Linus. “You have to become one of us.”
The security chief pointed a gun-like device at Joey and fired.
“Nooooo!!!” Joey screamed as his entire body was reduced to ones and zeroes.
The next thing he knew he was trapped behind a layer of plastic. Three words were emblazoned on the wrap before him. They read, “Security Device Enclosed.”

Time To Write

As of this Tuesday coming up, I will have been unemployed for a full three weeks. This situation has obvious disadvantages, namely a lack of income. The benefit, however, is that I have all the time I want to write.

Some of that time I've used badly. I spent the first off-week playing Destroy All Humans! 2 on my Playstation. Since then I've managed to discipline myself a bit more, and I've done some good work on my various projects. I quickly edited a final draft of Epoch for Llewellyn, and completed the first draft for my next book, The Right Hand Of Evil. However, I still find I waste far too much time when my days are completely free. When I have a job, I have structure, and I work my writing time in around the job. Usually, I'll get to the job site at least a half-hour early, grab a cup of tea and write. Then I'll use my lunch break to write some more.

On my last job, I found myself getting so depressed that I couldn't get more than a few sentences onto the page. In that instance, so getting canned was a real blessing. Now my writing output has gone back to the level it was at when I had a good job, but I know I could do better. I have all this time, but I'm really starting to understand something about my writing habits and abilities now - I write in spurts, but not long stretches. I can happily write for half an hour, or an hour if I'm really into it, but any longer and my writing hand gets tired and I feel the nagging need to move on to something else.

I delude myself that I could write a book in a month if I really wanted to. I tell myself that, if I got a work-for-hire contract, I'd be motivated to do what it takes to meet the deadline. Now I'm not so sure. I was really disappointed when I learned I would not be the one to write the official novelization for the upcoming Transformers movie, but could I really have pulled it off? No. Not at my current output level. I'm simply not ready.

Now, though, I know what my limitations are. And I know what I have to work on to get better. This time off has been an eye-opener for me, and I intend to learn every lesson from it that I can.

And when the Transformers sequel goes into production, I'll be ready.

- Timothy Carter

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Phyllis Gotlieb Stole My Spot!

This one's coming in a little late. I really did mean to do it Sunday night after the convention, or at least by Monday. However, two things happened: one, I got fired the week before; and two, I bought Destroy All Humans! 2 and became helplessly addicted. And no, the two are not related - Playstations weren't allowed at work. Basically, I ended up with a lot of free time, and I decided to fill all that time with my newly purchased game. Sometimes people say they admire my discipline as a writer. I hope those people never, ever find out about last week.

It wasn't all wasted time, though. I did manage to finish off my next novel, tentatively titled The Right Hand Of Evil. I'm going to put it away for a couple of months, then get cracking on a rewrite. It's got great potential for controversy, and could launch my career into the stratosphere! But more on that later.

Right now, I want to report on Ad Astra. Let's start with Friday night, when I didn't make it into Sci Fi idol. That was a shame. I'd submitted three stories to it, but no such luck. I enjoyed the event; some stories were quite good, and one was really funny! Basically, it was a personal ad from an oppressive alien race seeking a submissive race to enslave. I believe the author's first name was Madeline. It definitely began with an 'M'.

On Saturday, my editor and good friend Monica Bentz met me at Broadview station with a box of books and a backpack filled with book-selling gear (including my previous two chapbooks, Product Of A Deranged Bottom and The Man-Eating Chipmunks of Brockville). I also had a box of books on hand - 40 copies of Attack of the Intergalactic Soul Hunters. We caught the bus up to the hotel, then got to work setting up our table. I put up my cardboard posters for Soul Hunters and Epoch, and spread out the flyers Violet had made for me the week before. Monica unloaded the buttons, and they were really cool. Very happy with them. And they were a big hit, too. We set up the books, bought hugely overpriced coffee and tea, and settled in to sell.

Our table wasn't in the best spot - far to the back of the room, facing away from everyone - but we were surrounded by good people. To our right was novelist Ann O'Bannon, selling her novel Stardust. To our left was a very nice family selling their collection of used Sci Fi books. Monica and I made the best of it.

In no time, I was off to my first panel. The Afterlife As A Fantasy Setting, moderated by a favourite author of mine, James Alan Gardner (Expendable, Commitment Hour). He happily signed a copy of Vigilant for Violet and me, and the panel got underway. It was well attended - I'd say 40 people - and I felt I added a good deal to the discussion. I traded a copy of Section K for fellow panellist Ian O'Neill's Afterlife, and gave out many buttons. I came back feeling very good.

The afternoon went well, but was fairly slow. The general consensus was that it wasn't nearly well-attended as previous years, which was a bit of bad luck for us. Nevertheless, Monica and I sold a few Section K's and plugged the launch, and ate overpriced convention hot dogs.

In my last post, I mentioned that my second panel, Geopolitics as Entertainment, had me concerned. I wasn't sure if I was knowledgeable enough to contribute to the discussion. And I was right! I basically sat there feeling lost while staring at the other three as they talked way, way over my head. It wasn't wasted, though - a man named Ryan Oakley approached me afterward and offered to review Section K for his blog. You can find that review here:

Sunday was busy. I had an hour with the table, then I had my third panel, Real Issues, Imaginary Worlds. My success there was somewhere between Afterlife and Geopolitics - I added a little, but not a whole lot. I had a good bunch of panelists, one of whom bought a copy of Soul Hunters. I wanted to stay and chat, but I was late for my reading. Violet (who'd come to see me on the panel) and I raced off to find the reading room, and here we come to the title of this post.

Phyllis Gotlieb stole my spot! She's a fantasy writer, and had been scheduled to go on after me. Either she got the time wrong, or she arrived early and saw I wasn't there yet, I don't know. Either way, she took my reading time, which could have meant disaster for my schedule. You see, my reading was to be half an hour, after which I'd have had half an hour to help Monica set up for Section K's launch in Reflections, one of the hotel's lounge areas. Now I had to read after Phyllis, and cut mine short in order to get back in time to help Monica. Although, as it turned out, I had nothing to worry about. I read a scene from Section K, thanked my audience of about seven people and hurried back to the table. Monica, Violet and I packed up the table and carted the books over to Reflections, where an author event was winding down. We waited for them to finish. And waited. And waited. They were signing autographs, and the line was long. To be fair they did notice us, and apologized when they left. We quickly set up the new table, and I prepared for my first ever book launch.

There were five people in the audience. That's it. No more, no less. Luckily Violet joined them, because she was the one who got the questions rolling. I put my best foot forward, and tried not to let my disappointment show. I did another reading from Section K, then I did one from Soul Hunters, then I answered three or four of Violet's questions before the audience got into the groove and asked a few more. My friend from the table next to me, the one with the used sci fi book collection, was one of the five that came. Thank you very much, sir.

Though poorly attended, the launch went well and we sold some more books by the end. We returned to our table and managed to sell a couple more before the convention ended, bringing our grand total to 16 Section K's and 4 Soul Hunters sold. Not great numbers, but not bad considering the low turnout for the convention.

And no, I do not hold a grudge against Phyllis Gotlieb. I just wanted a dynamic title for this post. Section K is out there now, and I am happy.

Now if I could only get another job...

- Timothy Carter

Friday, March 2, 2007

More Ad Astra News

I have more news on this weekend's events, specifically my part in them. I will be on three panels, and the book launch for Section K is on Sunday at 1:00 PM. Time to get ready. Time to put my game-face on. Time to figure out what the heck I'm going to say!

Here's the breakdown on my three panels. The first is The Afterlife As A Fantasy Setting, Saturday at 11:00 AM. This one won't be a big problem for me, as I've used the afterlife in a number of stories and even one novel-in-development. As an added bonus, the panel will be moderated by James Allan Gardner, author of Expendable and Commitment Hour. I did a panel with him last year, so I know what I'm in for. Good guy, he is. And a good writer, too.

The second panel is Geopolitics as Entertainment, same day at 5:00 PM. It'll be a "discussion of how politics and science influence the stories of their time", to quote from the program guide. That one will be a bit more tricky. What do I know about geopolitics? About as much as I know about science. I can, however, discuss how current politics have influenced my latest projects, which I suppose is the point. Okay, I might be all right there. I just worry I might appear a tad on the ignorant side.

The third panel is Real Issues, Imaginary Worlds, Sunday at 11:00 AM. "In today’s society issue based stories can seem forced or preachy, but SF and fantasy is often used as a medium to discuss real world issues." This one also has me concerned. I've only ever done one 'issue' story, Before Ten, where I attempted to put a societal issue into a science fiction setting. Other than that, I really have nothing to add to this discussion. I'll have to do a good deal of thinking before I throw myself into this one.

It will be quite a busy three hours. Immediately after the panel I'll be doing a reading from Section K, and straight after that it's booklaunch time! I'll update this blog once all the festivities have passed.

- Timothy Carter