Monday, December 1, 2008

Time to Fish?

...or Cut Bait?

As a participant in last year's ABNA contest, I recently received an invitation to join the second generation contest, with the entry date coming up fast at February 2nd. My first inclination was to get right to work on The Wayback Machine to whip in into shape for entry. But then, in working through the thread from last year's contestants that never left, I came across references to Authonomy. Being as how I'd just submitted my seventh draft of Mai Shangri-La to Createspace and basically decided that I was done with it except to let it sink or swim on its own merit, I decided to just have a look. Boy, did I get routed onto a alternative-destination siding!

In a nutshell, I joined up, posted four chapters from Mai Shangri-La, and waited for other authors to read my excerpts, give me a few "Attaboys" and then tell me to keep writing. Instead, I got several focussed, perceptive and mildly scathing, and most importantly, generally consistent critiques of the four chapters telling me, in different ways, that I was;

-neglecting the "story" at the expense of the "back story"
-overwriting the hell out of the story that I did manage to commit to paper
(too much description, too many adjectives, etc)
- relying on "tell" rather than "show" at almost every turn, and what is worst of all,
- committing the cardinal narrative writing sin of "infodump"

It seems that I was so passionate about the underlying messages I thought Reuben James's story were illustrating that I didn't trust his story toactually illuminate and reveal those messages. Seems I felt it necessary to hit readers over the head with my concerns for the environment, my dire prognostications for the future if we continue down the "business as usual" path, and my incandescent descriptive prose describing that dystopic future.

Talk about getting taken down a peg or five. To make a long story short, I'm hooked into posting on Authonomy at least several times a day, I'm looking at completely excising at least four chapters from the MSL manuscript, and I seem to be committing myself to an almost complete rewrite to address the concerns that the Authonomy folks have raised.

More on this new path as I follow it. The Wayback Machine's back on the back burner. Let's see if we can whip Mai Shangri-La into the shape that will garner the same consistency of critique from other writers that it has thus far - but this time with a positive spin.

Back to the drawing board!!! Who knows? Maybe MSL will be different enough when I'm done that it will be worth re-submitting to ABNA.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Really Close...

...but of course I've said that before.

More importantly, I've decided that this time, I really am close enough (I'm halfway through a "cosmetic" seventh draft polish that I think is where I'll leave MSL for now and move on to other writing projects. I'll make brief notes here about it's status, but leave it at that. I'll also comment briefly on publication progress (and possibly on sales) on Twitter at

I'm not leaving the "Mai Shangri-La" concept behind, though. Instead, I'm going to begin posting here some of the thoughts, beliefs and concerns that have driven this project for the past three years, along with the background reading and activities that have kept it alive.

Underlying everything about MSL is a concern for the state of the environment and a fear, which is growing rather than receding, that we've already passed a number of both environmental and social Tipping Points which mean that the Future is going to be about mitigating the effects of two centuries of excess and learning to cope with the results rather than preventing them.

My first posting along this line will be a commentary on Thomas Friedman's new book "Hot, Flat and Crowded". Friedman's "The World is Flat" figured prominently in the original draft of MSL in how it shaped Reuben James's thinking, and the striking thing for me is how fast and how radically Friedman's emphasis has changed from touting the benefits of a "flat earth" to explaining how the flat earth concept will still be a factor in a world which is Hotter and More Crowded.

Hot, Flat and Crowded. Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Strous & Giroux, 2008

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Edging Toward Release...

...and for the record, I've given up on the "Errata" page posted back in May. After four months of wordsmithing the MS page by page, paragraph by paragraph and line by line, I've found just TOO many edits to even contemplate listing them all. The Errata page goes dead, and along with it, the Replacement Book Offer I made there. Since I pulled the MS after selling just a single copy, I don't feel that anyone's going to be cheated out of anything here.

Suffice it to say that the whole "6th-draft" experience was humbling indeed. I begin to see more clearly with every pass through the MS the value of a professional editor to identify weaknesses and errors and get the author moving on them. By the time I completed the 6th draft run-through (with the grammar checker finally turned on, to point out my many grammatical and syntactical sins:(), I had found and corrected a minimum of 2,000 errors in the MS.

Generally, my errors - so easy to see now, with the benefit of two years of "cooling off" since I completed the first draft - fall into five categories, all of which I know better than to indulge in. The big categories are;

  1. Simple typos and word substitutions that the spelling checker didn't pick up (their for they're, to for too, etc) This one puzzles me. I must have had the spelling checker turned off - a lot..
  2. Passive Voice - I had no idea I so often resort to long, contorted passive sentences ("the box was packed with/He was slow in climbing to his feet, etc)
  3. "Null words" - LOTS of instances where I gratuituously used "that" and "which".
  4. Sentences beginning with "And" or "But". Really glaring stuff! I remember writing many of these, and thinking that (see, see?) I was doing so consciously, to add emphasis to the statement. But (see again?) there were just way too many of these. Many of these were edited to create compound sentences (and note the passive voice...)
  5. Run-on sentences. I had no idea I was such a wordy writer (well, actually, I did, but I thought I had already addressed that...). The good folks at Microsoft must have pointed out three hundred incidences of "Long Sentence - consider revising", and by combining those "And" and "But" sentences, I just created even more of these.
The bottom line is, I'm no longer very confident about anything regarding the novel. I just checked CreateSpace, and note that the book is now shown with the status as "Retired". I assume I can resurrect it, but I'm not quite ready yet. After getting burned with the first release, I really don't want to make the same mistake again - just one more pass through to check that I really did mean to write all those Sentence Fragments...

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I just added ClustrMaps to this site, and it's interesting watching markers beginning to come in from around the world. I guess that these are just random hits from people trolling the web for something to do with climate, weather or the environment, but they are proof that the "long tail" really does work! Now if only it'll work as well when the book's actually released in spreading the word and building a reader base. Stranger things have happened!

IF you end up at this site, do leave a comment, even if it's to dis my layout or berate me for running a blog on a book by an unknown author that's not yet even released.

On that note, the MS text for Draft 6 is now done, with over a thousand edits hopefully moving it up a notch from badly flawed and unedited to finished to the extent that a novice writer can. If you're interested in speculative fiction, particularly with an environmental subtext, watch for Mai Shangri-La available for shipping on Amazon by mid-October.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Another month trickles by...

...and Mai Shangri-La's still - Not!

It's been a challenging new year, both personally and professionally, and work on brining Main Shangri-La to a (tentative) conclusion has languished. It's not that I'm not working on it. I grab a few minutes every day to pore over another couple of pages winkling out more of those irritating typos, grammatical errors and compositional weaknesses. The problem is that it has been, quite literally a few minutes each day instead of a few hours. With the amount of work yet to do, it's likle to be months, rather than weeks more to bring it to conclusion.

I've got about 100 pages left to go. The first 150 pages are finished in electronic draft, but beyond that, the edits are just pencilled into my 5th draft proof copy. I'd better not lose that copy, or I'll be like Hemingway and his famous lost novel in Paris. It's likely never to see the light of day.

But no, that's not going to happen. I AM going to plow through the last 1oo pages. I AM going to get the electronic MS tweaked and sent off to CreateSpace. I AM going to finish this up soon and move on to other projects. I am...

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Temporarily out of stock... a euphemism for - It's not yet ready for Prime Time!!!! :(

It's been a while between postings. 30,000 miles of air travel, reintroducing my year-old son to his Canadian family, and catching up on maintentance at his "piece of the rock" in Canada has kept me away from the keyboard (this blog), and largely from further review (of the hardcopy)of the recently released fifth draft of Mai Shangri-La since June.

In the 60% of the MS that I have reviewed, though, I've found FIVE HUNDRED more edits that need to be completed before I can re-release MSL for sale. If you've been following this blog and wondered if MSL has gone to that big slush-pile in the sky, the answer is NO! It's just gestating a bit more. The story's been told. Now it just needs a final polish.

The Sixth, and, I hope, final draft of Mai Shangri-La should be ready for upload to CreateSpace by the end of August. I'll need to order a new Proof copy and then approve that before the book will go back on Sale. Stay Tuned!!!

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Perils of "Going it Alone..."

Mai Shangri-La has just appeared on Amazon, and I'm thrilled - but I'm in a quandry. I've discovered it needs a critical final "polish" and I KNOW I should put it on hold right now - in case anyone out there really buys it. I KNOW I shouldn't release it in a less-than-perfect format.

But it's the last couple of weeks of the school year, and a final polish just is NOT going to get done until summer - so I've decided to leave it out there and to make a gift-book offer to anyone who buys this copy (if they notify me either through this blog or by email, of three undocumented "errata". I'm assuming that the "long-tail" of POD publication is not going to bring in a lot of buyers - and so there won't be many of these May20th editions ever actually printed.

Who knows? When Mai Shangri-La becomes a best-seller:):):), maybe these editions will become Collectors' Items!!! -rjr-

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Errata - Mai Shangri-La

If you've paid full-price for this book in the May 20th release, I have an offer for you. I'll send a Gift-Copy of the final, polished (CreateSpace) edition of the book to any reader that adds at least THREE new errors for final correction in this Errata" posting. Submit your corrections either as Comments to this post or email to me at, along with your name and the mailing address to which I can send the Gift copy. And THANKS! It's been a great experience, and I look forward to your help in bringing it to a final, polished conclusion. - rjr-

ERRATA - Mai Shangri-La
(error-corrections to the May 20,2008 Createspace publication)
Author's Note: par.3, l.5, missing "inevitabe" following "arguably"
Chapter I
p. 1. - paragraph4, line6, add "the" before "diaphanous"
p. 2. - par3, l4, space between "twentyhours"; par.4, l9, close quotes on "Roaring 20's"
p. 3. - par2, l11, italicize "the Great Leveling"
Chapter II
p. 9. - par1, l3, "know" to "knew"
p. 10. - par1,l9, "an ever-changing" to "a never static"
p. 11. - par2,l5, cut "to the" before "of the tower"
p. 14 - par2, correct indent second line.
Chapter III
p. 15 - last line, last word, "seven" to "four"
p. 16 - par4,l9, "up to the" for "up toe the"; par5, l1, cut "," after "Strange," he"
p. 17 - par1,l7, "still" for "held"; par1,l9, cut "still" before "offered"
p. 18 - par5,l11, "protecting" to "protected"
p. 19 - par2,l4, cut "by" before "flu";par3,l3, cut "of" before "down";par3,l9,"as it was" to "but";par3,l10, "as" after "gold" to "where";par3,l11,full stop after "sea";cut "where apparently; new sentence begins with "The air there was relatively"
p. 20 - par.1,l5, "clicks" for "miles";par1,l14 "The majority of" for "Most of";par1,l18,cut "that had", change "greeted" to "greeting";par3,l7,Cut "Although", begin sentence with "He";l9, add "but" before "all in all".
p.21 - par2, l2, cut "had" before "barreled";par2,l13, "mile and hour" to "mile-an-hour";par4,l4, "as" after "stupidity" to "when".
p.22 - par2,l1, "importantly" to "important"
p.23 - par2,l13, cut "that" before "left";par3,l4, period after "through" to outside quotes.
Dreamory, 1994
p. 293 - par3, l. 7, "taxi-drives" to "taxi-drivers"; l.8 "comfortabl" to "comfortable"; l15, "buse" to "buses"; par 4, l.3 del "sh", add "breathing" following "are"
p. 294 - par4, l.5 - replace "Reuben" with "he". Dreamories do not name the character.
p. 295 - par 2, l12 - move "off" before "into space"; l15 - cut "he now sees" & change to "that's"
p. 296 - par2, l2nd from last, cut "," after "turn";par3,l3, "Wwhat's" to "What's";par5, last line, "awayt" to "away".
Chapter XXVII
p. 300 - par1, l9, cut "that";par4, l6, "here" to "he";par5, l9, add "," after "port".


...well, it's a little too late for that, as the book's already been released to Amazon and I've ordered a dozen copies for a few chosen friends who've agreed to be my "First Readers". But last night, while thumbing through it, thinking, for the hundredth time, "Wow. It's hard to believe it's actually finished," I realized that actually, it wasn't.

"What's this?" I exclaimed as my I scanned p. 293, one of the "Dreamories" I particularly enjoyed originally writing, but then reworked extensively in draft 5. "Comfortabl," with no "e?"

I grabbed a pencil and circled the offending typo. "How did I do that?" I wondered. "I ran a spell-checker on the damned thing a dozen times. It would have picked this up for sure!"

I went back to the to of the page.

"OUCH!" I yelped. "Another one!" "Taxi-drives. Should be "Taxi-drivers!" Another pencilled circle. I kept reading, finding two MORE glaring typos. FOUR errors on one page!!!!

How could this have happened? How had I missed a page so glaringly unfinished? What do I do now? The book is already for sale at CreateSpace, and I've initiated sales on Amazon. I've ordered those dozen copies for First Readers. I've emailed a select group of colleagues to crow about finishing my first book...

My first inclination was to go directly to CreateSpace and freeze the publication. But then I thought again. It's nearly summer break. There's no time to correct the errors, order a new Proof Copy, review and approve it again, and get new copies before summer. And I want to get some other eyes on the book. I've spent almost three years "writing with the door closed", as Stephen King calls it, and it's time to open the door on the damned thing, warts and all.

And so I'm leaving it up on CreateSpace and letting it go for sale on Amazon - but I'm going back to do a full re-read myself, and I'll keep a log here of all the errors I discover. At the same time, I'll ask my "First Readers" two additional favors. Along with offering me some general constructive feedback on the premise, the plot and the character development, I'll ask if they'll note specific grammatical, spelling and formatting errors, either by marking up their copies of the book, by dropping me a note to advise me of these, or by posting comments to this blog.

It's a lot to ask, but the people who've agreed to be "First Readers" have been really supportive of the project so far. I'm hopeful that they'll see this as an opportunity to help me polish this thing into a really finished product that we can all take some pride in.

And so, in a new post, I'm going to set up an "Errata" post. I'll note, page by page, the remaining errors I've picked up myself, for cleanup once I've completed a full re-read (this is a busy time of the year, so it's going to take, at a guess, a month). With First Reader input, I'll then put the manuscript on "Hold", resubmit the (final?) polished copy, and then, of course, go through the process of ordering yet another proof copy and, hopefully, on receipt, taking the book off "hold" and back up for sale. This, of course, is one of the really nice things about Print on Demand. It's an ephemeral product, and as such, I can hold to a baker's dozen the number of copies that go out with all these remaining errors. If my First Readers give it a thumbs-up, the final draft will include the cumulative corrections of a half-dozen people rather than just me.

SO - If you're still with me here, something about this process has interested you. I hope you'll join me in this next phase, which will be to get a final polish on this thing, so I can move on to other projects.

And why did this happen? I think I've got the answer. I ended up doing some pretty extensive rewrites of several chapters in Draft 5 - and I did NOT run a Spell and Grammer check after completing the last of these. In fact, I didn't run a spellcheck in the last two weeks I worked on it. So, I'm guessing I introduced new errors in my final rewrites, and in my eagerness to finish and finally get the project off to CreateSpace, I forgot a final check. Egg on Face - bigtime!

Oh, for an editor, a professional who does this for a living, and could probably spot these compositional faux pas in a flash! As the writer, I'm beginnning to really believe that as I read and reread passages I've been over a dozen times, that I start seeing what I "meant" rather than what I really committed to the page.

But hey, who ever said this was going to be easy! Let's not give up when we're this close. Onward!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mai Shangri-La - AVAILABLE NOW!

Mai Shangri-La is now available from these online outlets; - and on Amazon at;

Or just go to Amazon and search for "Robert J. Rubis" or "Mai Shangri-La"

This is all new to me - so visit often if you're interested in the process of bringing a novel concept to fruition and publication in the emerging world of Print on Demand ~ rjr 19/05/08

Monday, May 12, 2008

Mai Shangri-La - NOT (quite) a Vanity Press pub...

Mai Shangri-La really IS almost ready for release! Watch here for details on where to buy the book. I"ve completed tinkering with it and am just waiting for my final proof copy to arrive. Hopefully, I'll find the result satisfactory and release the book for sale on CreateSpace and Amazon before the end of the month.

I've just reviewed the distinctions between Vanity Publishing, Self-Publishing and Publish-on-Demand. I'm going to take the high road here and state, for the record, that I don't consider Mai Shangri-La to be a Vanity publishing product. It's a self-published "Print-on-demand" title, and, assuming that my layout and cover looks as good on the actual copy as it does on the PDF files my wife helped me to lay out and format, it's a work I'm proud of. I can't deny that I'd love to see MSL published by a traditional press, but I'll hope that the work will speak for itself and provide the next level of positive promotion to get my work into the public eye.

If YOU get a look at Mai Shangri-La and can provide a positive, constructive reader-review, I'll be pleased to offer you an early signed copy of the book; on my nickel. My profit margin with CreateSpace is very small - but I want to get my work in circulation and I believe in the power of the "Long Tail". YOUR positive Reader Review will become my primary advertising tool. Thanks in advance for your support.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

Why Print on Demand (POD)?

I wrote this post in an earlier incarnation of a "writing" blog that I decided was neither elegant enough in appearance or "meatier" enough in content. I'm much happier with the current layout and except for not yet figuring out how to group postings under different topics like I can in the Edublogs blogs I set up for my work, I'm content with the content so far. For now, this one seems like a "keeper"...But what does this have to do with Print on Demand?

I became a Dad a few months ago. Although this event was not entirely unanticipated (we had tried for three years), when it did happen, it took me almost completely by surprise. Suddenlly, every routine I had established over a lifetime of childless adulthood was turned on its ear. The first to go, it seemed was the writing regimen I had established only two years ago. Luckily, by the time my son made his appearance, I had my first book (Mai Shangri-La) "in the can", so to speak, and my second book at what I estimated was 70% complete. So much for good intentions.

In the nearly ten months now since Jr.'s birth, I have completed the first draft of the second book ("The Wayback Machine"), but the second draft rewrite of Mai Shangri-La has languished - and my marketing efforts have pretty much dried up on this, my first completed novel.

"Too long for a first novel," said one publisher.
"Too complicated," said one prospective agent.
"The flashback technique isn't compelling," said another agent.
"Not my kind of book," said a third, although I HAD carefully (I thought) researched the market to match potential agents with my genre and writing style.

And so, I find myself now with TWO completed manuscripts, and, at the moment, nothing in the way of a really promising publishing prospect in the works. This begs the question, "Should I launch the new book that's been simmering away on the back burner ever since I was halfway through Mai Shangri-La, or should I concentrate on getting something into print to confirm my belief that making the break into the publishing world will, ultimately be achievable.

To cut through this problem, I've decided to finish the third draft of Mai Shangri-La and let it go with the POD service. Although I'll need to spend a good bit of time on promotional work (since I'm a complete unknown at this point), I think that putting a wrap on MSL will free me to begin work on any one of several new projects that have been bubbling on the back-burner for some time (ike MSL did - for ten years....)

I'm not a whiner by nature, but if anyone was ever to read this post who can offer a new, sure-fire suggestion for making that first big break into traditional publishing, I"m all ears....

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Third Draft'll Nail it?

Well, they never said it was easy. Working through the Proof Copy of Mai Shangri-La has been something of a humbling experience. I finished the first draft in a whirlwind six-month stint where I never missed a writing day, and then, following Stephen King's advice in "On Writing", I put it aside for several months while I went on to other writing projects. Then I printed a hard-copy, read it over again and cleaned up the remaining punctuation errors, grammatical faux pas and basic story detail.

I guess I came back to it too soon, though, because when I submitted the second draft to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest, I actually thought it was a pretty clean copy. It's only now, when I'm actually holding what feels like a "real" novel in my hands, that I can so clearly see the many rough edges that still need polishing. I'm almost glad now that I got knocked out of ABNA early on. The MS needs a LOT more work!

And so it's back to the beginning, doing a line-by-line edit and review, rechecking, of course, for things like punctation that's still buggy and adverbs that still dangle obtrusively (see what I mean?) following verbs that aren't specific enough, but this time also stepping back a bit and scanning for an overal narrative flow and story cohesiveness. So far, I'm finding an average of four obvious edit requireemnts per page, and these are taking me anything from five to fifteen minutes to fix, so quickly doing the math, I see that I've got about a hundred hours of third draft work here before I'll be satisfied that I've finally got the thing ready to release.

My intent is to get this all done by the end of April, to submit the new draft to CreateSpace, and then to start promoting the book through every contact I can muster. I'm not trying to get rich here (I think my royalty on a $19.95 sticker price is 93 cents), but I would like to either sell enough copies to be able to consider myself a published writer and move on to other things - or attract the attention of an agent or publisher who would offer to represent or publish me, respectively. But you know what they say about Good Intentions...

Having just complete the first draft of the second story (the Wayback Machine), I'm also finding a lot of potential for linking back from the second story to the first, and in some cases, this means I need to set these links up a little better in Mai Shangri-La so that bringing them out in Wayback makes more sense. Chalk up another few dozen midnight-oil sessions. Sigh...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

It's REAL!!!

So far, so good, as they say. The Proof Copy of my first "baby" arrived the other day. It badly needs cover art and a quick flip through reveals that it definitely needs another line-by-line edit. How could I have missed so many close-quotation marks and periods? What's my reader supposed to make of unattributed quotations when I can no longer keep track of the speaker? Where did I pick up the annoying habit of almost always using an interesting adjective a second time within a paragraph or two of it's first appearance? And why didn't I notice THAT rather glaring editorial gaffe on the second draft?

In spite of its warts, though, it's an actual, 379 page paperback novel. It says so, right there on the cover!

Mai Shangri-La
A Novel
Robert J. Rubis

So far, CreateSpace has definitely lived up to their end of our "agreement". They've taken my uploaded file, laid it out in a 6X9 format, added a cover, and bound it in a finished product. The rest is just tweaking. I'll hope to complete the next round of editing within the month, and hopefully by the end of April, I'll have my first book available (Print-on-Demand) for sale. Exciting stuff!

Watch for "Mai Shangri-La" on your CreateSpace homepage (and hopefully on Amazon, too) sometime soon.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Mai Shangri-La: the Cover Blurb

Reuben James Runquist is finally facing facts; at eighty, he's stuck with a retirement condo in an environment that is decidedly "Mai" ("Not" in Thai) Shangri-La. Global climate has "flipped" raising sea levels seven meters over turn of the millenium levels, plagues have killed hundreds of millions, and worldwide transportation and commercial infrastructures have collapsed. Reuben is reduced to s subsistence existence in the high-tech but questionably secure "Panic Room" of his barricaded condo in Pattaya.

Reuben needs to escape if he's going to truly live out his "golden years" in relative peace and security. By now, though, the Thai central plain is awash in a new inland sea, and Hong Kong tycoon Stanley Lee is ratcheting up the pressure to acquire rights to Reuben's new virtual reality game/novel "StimSim". Reuben's always been his own man, but what are his options? How can he escape global warming AND the clutches of a man who won't take no for an answer?

(many thanks to Joan Rickard of Author Author Literary Agency for her straightforward advice on drafting a workable cover blurb. This is approximately what went on the back cover of the 1st Proof Copy at CreateSpace, and I haven't yet come up with a better draft)

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Why did I write "Mai Shangri-La"?

Five Big Reasons...
  1. I've always wanted to be a writer (haven't we all?)
  2. I'm becoming increasingly concerned about the future of the planet - and need to find something I can do that might influence more than just the kids I teach to do the right thing
  3. I'm still healthy, involved in my life, and planning to live to 100 (even without dramatic life-extension intervention as seen by some futurists). I've got a vested interest in trying to make a difference for the future
  4. At 54 (when I launched the book), I was about to become an official "senior" in some circles, and mandatory retirement is beginning to loom large. I need a second career; something engaging, challenging, meaningful - and hopefully at least somewhat remunerative. My overseas teaching "provident fund" (no pension plan) is not going to allow me to live the lifestyle to which I've become accustomed...
  5. Although he was not a factor when I wrote the book, now that I'm trying to market it, my nine-month old son IS. He needs a stable family and a secure future. He also needs a positive role-model for living a life as "part of the solution rather than part of the problem".

Monday, March 31, 2008

What is "Mai Shangri-La"

Mai Shangri-La is my first novel. As a career Teacher-Librarian, a new father and a late-awakening environmentalist, I wrote this novel in response to a convergence of concerns and ideas involving Global Warming, impending retirement (from my first, or primary career) and "Fifty-something" Fatherhod. More about this in another post.

"Shangri-La", as most reasonably well-read people know, is the mythical kingdom created by James Hilton in his 1933 novel "Lost Horizon". In it's modern usage, a "Shangri-La" can be any place of great beauty or tranquility or having qualities that might lead to inner fulfilment of a life's desires. If you're not familiar with the term, or the novel, check out the wikipedia entry at

Mai Shangri-La has been the working title from early on, although the very early chapters went through several different titles as I honed in on my themes. The title is intended as a play on words, contrasting what you might hear as "MY Shangri-La" with the reality of "Mai", meaning "NOT"in Thai. Literally, then, the title of the novel is "Not Shangri-la".

The basic premise of this novel is that the world we face in the coming decades is likely to be decidedly NOT a "Shangri-La". To provide a story framework upon which to hang this idea, I built on the naive faith of the western Baby-Boomer in a "Golden Years" period after retirement set against the decidedly frightening scenarios being presented ever more stridently by climate modelers and research scientists.

Reuben James Runquist is a Baby-Boomer, who, at 80, and living in his own version of a retirement "Shangri-La", finally realizes that if he really is to enjoy his Golden Years, he needs to escape from the "Land of Smiles" and return to his native Canada. Unfortunately, he finds himself alone and ill-equipped to make the arduous trek halfway around a world newly drowned under seven meters of continental ice-sheet meltdown; a world in which Man's 20th century hubris has been replaced by a decidedly 21st century gritty reality brought about by personal self-delusion, commercial and corporate greed, global pestilence and digital infrastructure collapse.

Mai Shangri-La is not, however, a post-apocalyptic novel in the traditional sense. It is a novel which explores Mankind's most powerful motivations, his core values and his potential to rise above circumstance and create a life worth living in spite of, or perhaps because of adversity. Mai Shangri-La is conceived as the opening piece in a three book series examining life in the 21st century approximately 25 years, 50 years, and 100 years from today.

The second book (the Wayback Machine) is completed in first draft and the third is is framed conceptually but no nothing has yet been "committed to paper" as the saying still goes. Whether the final chapter ever gets written is dependent on whether Mai Shangri-La finds an audience and whether Danny and Cathy's story (from the Wayback Machine) calls me back to finish documenting what Reuben James started in Mai Shangri-La. -rjr

Blog Migration

This will be my third cut at writing a personal blog about turning to personal writing, about the process of "becoming" (hopefully) a "writer", and about the motivations behind Mai Shangri-La as a story, an allegory and perhaps a cautionary tale.

I decided to drop the first blog because it focussed on reading and writing at my place of work, an international school in Asia. As I wrote, I found that more and more I was presenting personal perspectives and opinions on issues I found personally compelling rather than perspectives which related in a meaningful way to the interests and needs of my students.

My second attempt was better (I thought) but still contained artifacts from the first (including the initials of my school in the URL - I had just renamed and refocussed the blog). My hope with this one is to make a clean break; to completely separate my personal writing from my professional interests and responsibilities as a HS Teacher-Librarian. I also wanted to name the blog after my novel. As my "Proof" copy from CreateSpace nears a third-draft cleanup/rewrite, I'm beginning to think about promotional strategies.

For the moment, I've opted the POD route, rationalizing that I'm saving trees, actually accepting for now that my premise has not been compelling enough, or my writing interesting enough, to attract the serious interest of either a literary agent or a publisher. In the long run, however, I do, of course, hope to "break into" the print publishing world, and the POD edition of Mai Shangri-La has become one of my principal sales-tools. This blog will become the "author's notes" for that edition, and hopefully, a vehicle for introducing the novel to a potential readership, and possibly for continuing an exploration of the themes and issues raised in the novel.

Welcome to my "writer's world".

Rob Rubis
March 29, 2008