For a scene in my current work in progress, I wanted to know what the proper term is for the skullcap worn by bishops in the Catholic Church. So I Googled archbishop skullcap, as you do.

The word is zucchetto. It comes from the Italian for … Pumpkin. (Because, apparently, the little caps—worn to keep the bishops’ heads warm—reminded people of pumpkins cut in half.)

I ended up going with “archbishop’s skullcap” in the manuscript.

Prairie​ Comics Festival

I went today to the Prairie Comics Festival. Reconnected with some writer friends (Chadwick, Sam, and Jamie), made some new connections (hi, Donovan​), and regretted not bringing along my business cards (at least three people asked about WordPress stuff).

But I picked up a bunch of local art, so at least there’s that.

  • Mini Book of Monster Girls by Autumn Crossman
  • Eggman Colouring Book #1 by Gabrielle Ng
  • How to be Human by Kathleen Bergen
  • Street Style  Samurai by Jamie Isfeld
  • Those Who Make Us with short stories by Chadwick Ginther and Corey Redekop, among others
  • Winterpeg by Matthew Dyck
  • Spacepig Hamadeus by Donovan Yaciuk
  • The Rangeroads  by Courtney Loberg

I look forward to a lot of reading. 

Story Generator

The page bills itself as The Best Story Idea Generator You’ll Ever Find, and when it dispenses gems like this:

Have your character attend a themed costume party where they can’t find the person that invited them, they know nobody else, and the people they meet are alternately hostile and friendly. What is the strange theme of the costumes, and does your character stay or run after a disaster happens?

…it’s hard to call that an exaggeration.

Header image courtesy Unsplash.

Some very bright aurora

I could see them already while I was still in the city. By the time I got to my nice, dark spot, this is what I could photograph:


They stretched from the northeast to the southwest. They were bright enough for a while that I could watch them dancing with the naked eye. The last time I remember seeing them this bright, I was a teenager in Ste. Rose, lying on the grass, looking up.

Also: a video version:

An hour of my evening well-spent, I’d say.

Review: The Collapsing Empire

Cover Art

Cross-posted on Goodreads, sans footnotes.

Every time I read a John Scalzi novel, I’m reminded what a good writer he is.* This one’s no exception. He handles the big picture and the small, personal details with equal deftness.

After I finished the epilogue, I jumped back to the prologue. With the knowledge of everything else that happens in the book, it was fun to see how this little piece of the story — largely unconnected to the events in the remainder of the novel, featuring characters we wouldn’t see again — still added to the whole.**

When I started reading the book, I wasn’t sure if it was a stand-alone novel or the launch of a new series. When I got to the end, it was pretty plainly the opening volume in a multi-volume set. (Don’t get me wrong — the novel is complete in itself, but the ending indicates there’s more to come.) Under normal circumstances, I’d have felt a twinge of irritation at this, but in this case I was relieved. I want more time with these characters, and I want to know just how they’re going to deal with an empire in collapse.

The Collapsing Empire, by John Scalzi

One final note: Peer review is important. Read the novel and you’ll see what I mean.

* In a lot of ways, John Scalzi’s writing reminds me of Joe Haldeman, who is one of my favourite writers.

** A note on prologues: Elmore Leonard famously wanted writers to avoid them, and generally speaking he’s right (IMHO). But any list of “rules” of writing are really guidelines, and usually reflect what works best for the author writing the list of rules. I’ve read a lot of Elmore Leonard’s detective novels, and I can’t recall ever running into a prologue there.

I don’t skip prologues when I read, but I do notice when they really don’t connect at all to the story. When that happens, I agree, it would have been better to excise the prologue entirely.

The Collapsing Empire‘s prologue was fun enough — and connected enough to the overall story — that I read it twice.


A couple years ago, I had an epiphany while reading Gene Wolfe’s The Book of the New Sun, when the narrator Severian pointed out that

It is always a temptation to say that such feelings are indescribable, though they seldom are.

Today, though… Today I was finishing Wolfe’s superb 1988 novel There Are Doors, and I happened upon this on page 294:

"An indescribable sound filled the arena"

Which is it, Mr. Wolfe? Which is it?

I must admit, though, it’s nice that, immediately after he calls the sound indescribable, he proceeds to describe it with delightful economy. Wolfe may be fond of unreliable narrators, but his prose is reliably amazing.