2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 13,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 5 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Advertisements

The next chapter: 2013 in review

I think it’s important to recognize all the good things one accomplishes.  With regard to my writing, 2013 has been a banner year.  I haven’t seen its like in … well a very long time.

You may remember way back at the beginning of the year what I wrote about resolutions, how I’m not fond of them, and how I prefer to make reasonable goals so I can have a chance to reach them.

It worked a charm for me.

I wrote four (soon to be five) new short stories this year and revised six others for submission. This has resulted in three fiction publications (one paid), and another three poetry publications.

While the goal of Kasie Whitener’s Just Write Challenge was to write thirteen stories in 2013, I think that eleven was pretty darn good, considering the other things that I’ve accomplished.

I sent Initiate of Stone for a content edit in January and revised the whole thing twice. I’ve now sent the manuscript to select beta-readers and have sent it off to one agent and will ship it to one editor shortly.

In the mean time, I started on a middle grade fantasy, Gerod and the Lions, and drafted Figments, a YA fantasy, during NaNoWriMo.

Since the end of November, I’ve given myself a bit of a break. I’ve written a crap-load this year (because in addition to the 11 short stories, poetry, revisions, and the 50k+ draft, I’ve also tried to keep things rolling with my blog) and felt the distinct need for a rest before diving back into things in 2014.

Though I was not able to meet my goal of revising my blog (reader response seemed to indicate it wasn’t a priority) or moving to self-hosted WordPress, those goals remain on the list.  This time last year, I managed to accrue 100 followers on my blog. Now I’m over 222. While I’m still considering a newsletter, I continue to hold off. Until I have a novel out, I’m not certain a newsletter will have much value.

This year I also attended the Canadian Authors Association’s (CAA’s) CanWrite! Conference (June) and the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (October). Both were amazing experiences, and I learned a huge amount from the sessions at both conferences.

Currently, though my services haven’t been much requested of recent months, I’m sitting on the CAA’s Program Committee, and so putting some of my efforts into not only the CanWrite! Conference, but also, the Literary Awards, the Roving Writers Program, and other events.

As a reward for all my hard work, I’m going to be investing in Scrivener, thanks to the NaNo

Scrivener (software)

Scrivener (software) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

reward discount, and purchasing the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents.

As far as what I’m aiming for in the New Year, stay tuned. I’ll have a post on more reasonable goals coming up next week.

books for sale!

books for sale! (Photo credit: bookgrl)

In the meantime, please share your accomplishments. It really helps to put them down in writing. I think when you see everything you’ve managed over the last year in print, you’ll be amazed. I was.

Then celebrate! You were fantastic! And you know what? So was I 😉

Sorry, couldn’t help the Doctor Who reference. Geek girls rule!

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection)

LEGO Doctor Who (Collection) (Photo credit: ChocolateFrogs)

My dog has cauliflower ears

And other dogaliciousness 🙂

Yes, this is a pupdate.

Nuala’s doing well these days, but has persistent issues with her allergies/ears that have resulted in a second aural haematoma … in her other ear.

Let’s back-pedal to several years ago.

Nu was going bald in places. There were several hairless patches on her chest. She would also fuss incessantly with her ears and her paws. The vet diagnosed food allergies and after a summer of Phil and me making Nu’s food, we switched to Science Diet z/d, which is a hypoallergenic formula food.

The fur grew back and though not completely alleviated, Nu’s snarf sessions with her feet weren’t keeping up us at night.

When she was diagnosed with kidney issues earlier this year, we switched to k/d, the kidney formula diet. Since then, Nuala’s been scratching at her ears more and back to chewing at her feet long enough that wherever she sits or lies to perform this operation gets soaked with saliva.

I know. Ew.

Not long after the food switch, Nu gave herself the first haematoma in her right ear. That healed up after a month or so, but now her ear is twisted and bent.  At the time, the vet said he couldn’t find anything wrong with her ears per se, just a persistent inflammation.  So he prescribed some drops. He gave us the economy size so that if her ears flared up again, we could treat it.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Nu gave herself a second haematoma in the left ear and we were out of drops. When we went in to get her latest batch of food, we asked for some more ear drops. These were given without too much of an argument.

So now my pup will have two bent and twisted ears, akin to the condition called cauliflower ears sometimes seen in humans. It’s kind of sad because she did have lovely, perky ears (see header). I’m sure it will have some affect on her future hearing and possibly the frequency of inflammation. Dogs ears are the way they are for a reason.

Nu in profile

Nu in profile

I wrote a poem about my snow-loving Nu and posted it to Facebook. People seemed to like it, so here it is for all of you:

A dog’s ode to winter (on the occasion of the first persistent snow of 2013)

Winter, I want to roll in you
—on my back,
paws in air,
body a-waggle—
I want to get your scent
all over me.

I want to bury my nose
in your fluffy layers,
find the dainties hidden there
—this is where the garbage goes,
racoon and raven
tear it open,
leave these treats for
meeeeeee!

I want to lay down,
fold my front legs back, and
push my head into your depths using
my back paws;
slide down a hill on my belly;
shatter thrown balls of snow;
follow the scent of mouse burrowing;
bark at the strange, frozen
tower that appears in the
front yard.

Winter, you are love to a
black dog to whom the
summer sun means suffering, but
not after a thaw.
Then, all is ice, hard, and
crystalline, packed snow into which
no nose may thrust.

Let us not think of thaws and
hardness; for now, you are soft,
white, and mine!

Floppy ears, wagging tail, the new kung fu puppy movie :)

Floppy ears, wagging tail, the new kung fu puppy movie 🙂

Solstice and other things that happen around this time of year

Today was, in case you didn’t notice (you could be forgiven for missing it), the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice. It’s also the first day of winter, though you wouldn’t know it up here in the Sudz. It’s been snowing and cold since mid-November. It usually is, this time of year, but that doesn’t mean I can’t complain about it.

Now we face the longest night, but you know what? Things get better from here on out.

You’ll notice that the days start getting longer again and we start that long stretch to spring.

Christmas is coming, and with it the latest Doctor Who special 🙂

New Year’s is coming, with all its promise for another fresh start.

We actually have a chance to appreciate the people we’ve taken for granted all year, or the activities we’ve cut back on so that we could work/get the promotion/pursue various important things.

We can put things in perspective.

We just went out to celebrate my mom’s birthday. It was yesterday, but we celebrated tonight because everyone’s off. I was a terrible kid and forgot to wish Mom happy birthday yesterday. I took her shopping this afternoon. I don’t think it really made up for the lapse.

The 20th of December was also the day, twenty years ago, that Phil asked me to marry him.

We were getting ready to take my mom out, and I’d just gotten off work. I was a life guard back then, and I was rushing to get changed. I noticed that every time I turned around, Phil was there, but I whirling-dervished around him until I turned and nearly tripped over him.

Phil was kneeling. I was stunned until I realized what was going on. Then, I was all *amazeface*! He asked my parents’ permission and everything.

I’m always rushing at this time of year, and I have to remember to slow down and appreciate the people in my life.

Slow. Down. Appreciate. People.

Don’t be a dervish douche. Don’t forget your mom’s birthday. Trust me. It sucks.

Other reasons I like the solstice

It’s scientific.

Winter solstice

Winter solstice (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Because of the tilt of the earth’s axis and the way we orbit the sun, we have seasons. The solstices and equinoxes delineate the divisions of the year.

It is a fact that the winter solstice is the occasion of the shortest day of the year and the longest night. In the northern hemisphere, anyway.

It’s pagan.

Well, neo-pagan, at least.

Seemingly on the opposite side of the spectrum, the solstices and equinoxes form some of the pagan holy days. In case you haven’t been following me for that long, my spiritual inclination is agnostic with pagan leanings.

Agnosticism, according to Richard Dawkins, is the worst form of self-delusion in that we aspire to atheism, but can’t quite commit because of the niggling doubt that maybe there is a God …

Well, Phil is atheist, and we’ve discussed religion at length. I think that the atheist position is very sensible. I also acknowledge that there is a lot that science hasn’t made clear for us yet, and while I think that the existence or non-existence of God is not one of the questions that science can answer for us, I think that there is enough mystery left in the universe that the answers science will provide us will be surprising.

I like to keep an open mind.

Besides which, I’m a fiction writer. A fantasy fiction writer at that. Gods, goddesses and magic are kind of what I’m all about.

I’ve studied shamanism in some depth (though not, I would say, comprehensively) and I’m fascinated by the ancient sites and their purported use in astronomy and astrology, time-keeping, the precession of the stars, and the observation of the sun.

I could geek out on ancient cosmology all day and all night.

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter sols...

English: Highworth cemetery at the winter solstice The shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere falls between the 20th and 23rd December depending on the year. In 2007 the solstice occurred on the 22nd with the period between sunrise and sunset being 7 hours 49 minutes and 40 seconds. The sun set in London at 15.54 today, 22 minutes after this picture was taken. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s quiet.

Because a lot of people travel to visit relatives at this time of year, the city (small, yes, but a city nonetheless) grows quiet. In the morning when I’m walking the dog, I can feel the increased stillness, the anticipation of a world holding its breath for the next sunrise.

It’s about light.

This is why we have so many festivals of lights at this time of year. We’re fighting back the darkness, recalling the light, celebrating with our wee candles in the night, shielded against the wind.

I prefer strings of LED lights on the stair rails outside my house, though. I plug ‘em in the night before solstice and don’t unplug ‘em until New Year’s Day.

I’d just like to wish everyone, regardless of your religious or spiritual convictions or devotions, the happiest of holiday (holy day) seasons.

And ‘cause I was raised Christian and still celebrate with my nearest and dearest: Merry Christmas!

Work madness

The Ren & Stimpy Show

The Ren & Stimpy Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To really get the effect of the title of this post, allow me to coax you back to the classic Ren & Stimpy episode, Space Madness. If you’ve never seen it before, take a few minutes and watch.  I’ll wait.

Ok, now that you’ve had a taste, you have to say “work madness” the way Commander Hoek says “space madness” in the ep. Seriously. You have to say it the same way or this won’t work half as well.

I think the last time I blogged about work was at the beginning of October, when my self-funded leave started. Though a fifteen-month stint as a regional training coordinator (consultant) was, strictly speaking, the reason I needed that leave, I am grateful to my employer that such options are available.

When I feel the spectre of burnout or depression, I know I have the means to fend them off.

My leave was five weeks of heaven spent focusing on the art and craft of my writing. I attended the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, and participated in my first National Novel Writing Month, which I won 🙂

I returned to work November 19, which was a Tuesday, and before I’d even settled in, learned that I was to start delivering training the following Monday, training that I hadn’t delivered in about two and a half years (!) It was in Sudbury at least, so I wouldn’t have to travel.

I did spend the rest of the week prepping and revising the training material, though, and somewhere in there found the time to complete my travel request for something else coming up (more on that in a few paragraphs).

Say it with me now: work madness.

This was something that had come up in the five weeks I’d been off. Though I’d only heard the rumours before I left on my leave, I knew the powers that be were interested in “stabilizing” one of the processing positions. This meant hiring, and a lot of it.

The November 25th to December 3rd training was the result of hiring from an established internal pool of candidates.

After the training, the last two days of which I completed solo, I had to work some overtime to get the marking done and summary reports prepared. Four and a half hours added onto my seven and a half hour day. It was a loooong day. The rest of that week was devoted to further revisions—a lot of errors emerged during the delivery—and facilitating a conference call as a follow up to a self-study module.

While I was off, I was recruited to participate in a “training for trainers” session in team dynamics. The idea was to develop some regional expertise so that operational teams could assume delivery of the course. As only of a few certified trainers in the province, I was invited.

It’s nice to be needed.

This would be from December 9th to 13th in Toronto (yes, I know a couple of people who may be displeased to learn that I was in Toronto and didn’t tell them, but really, I was so busy, I wouldn’t have had time—still, my apologies).

Then the next sessions of stabilization training in Mississauga and London were to begin December 16th through to Christmas Eve. I was tentatively scheduled for London. These would all be new hires.

This training would require me cancelling some leave that had already been approved, and missing out on my family’s Christmas celebration, which we hold on Christmas Eve. Further, it would require the approval of some hefty overtime so that I could travel home on Christmas Day.

Work madness!

Still, I was prepared to do it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

While I delivered training and stood on tenterhooks waiting for plans to solidify—they weren’t even finished with the hiring process yet!—another person was given the acting assignment so she could do the training.

Plus, there were so many people being given acting assignments to cover the training and monitoring for the fifty or so new hires coming into the organization, that I might have to resume my consulting duties as regional training coordinator.

This may require some ‘splaining.

My substantive, or permanent position, is with the operational training team for Ontario. We’d been told for years that our positions were “overstaffed.” This meant that as team members retired or moved into other positions, that there would be no back-filling of staff. We’d have to make do with less.

Prior to my joining the team in 2009, there had been fifteen or sixteen trainers. By the time I joined, we were twelve. Then ten. When I accepted the regional training coordinator position, there were eight trainers left. Then two more received assignments and another was affected by business transformation, leaving five.

Shortly after I returned to the team in September, another of our number received an acting assignment elsewhere. Now that I’m departing again, the number of permanent staff on the team is down to four. That’s to serve all of the training needs of staff in our business line in the whole province. Really?

Though being regional training coordinator wore me out, I was nonetheless disappointed when my assignment ended and I returned to the training team, especially when I learned that the reason I’d likely never get a consultant-level position again was geographic rather than merit-based.

Though the consultant pool I’m in has been extended through to December 31, 2013, this may be my only chance at a consultancy again, ever.

On the team that houses the regional training coordinators, there have been changes as well. The manager has received an acting position as a director and the person taking his place is also acting.

Two other team members have received assignments off the team, and now, due to the number of acting trainers and monitors in this stabilization exercise, another of them will become a second acting manager for the training team.

Though they too had been told that no positions would be back-filled, there won’t be anyone left on the team who’s done the regional training coordinator gig who doesn’t already have a full plate.

And so I’m heading back.

Altogether now: WORK MADNESS!

I’m going to adjust my expectations of the position.  I know now the kind of chaos I’m going to be parachuted into the middle of. And the planning process I worked at so dilligently last year? It hasn’t even started yet.

I think I’m going to start every day with the Serenity Prayer.

Are there other projects I’m going to be involved in, work-wise? Yes. I’m going to be observing and potentially delivering the Business Expertise Curriculum (though I never received the training myself—this may be my only opportunity to take it in) in January and (possibly) February.

I may be training the team dynamics workshop too, though there are currently no plans on the table for it. Things shouldn’t be as insane as they were last year, however. I’ve already been certified. I won’t be going back there again.

In other news, the training certification program has departed our internal college for another training provider. So, no next steps for Mellie.  No assessment, no mentoring, and no training. Unless I get some kind of in with that other training provider. I become eligible to apply to them in March. We’ll see how that works out…

So that’s my work madness.

What’s yours?

Six questions with Sarah Lashbrook

I met Sarah back in the summer at a book signing in the local Chapters. I immediately approached her about doing an interview, and of course, I bought her book!

The book signing at Chapters (Sarah’s on the left, chatting up some friends)

Without further ado:

Sarah Lashbrook has been writing since the early age of 12, when she wrote her first letter to the star of Days of Our Lives, inquiring about a writing career on the popular Soap Opera. Inspired by television, Sarah continued to pursue a life of writing, gaining her first recognition when she graduated high school with top English marks and won a National scholarship worth $15,000, from Global Television. Sarah chose the Journalism Program at Humber College, and after the three year course ended she furthered her education with a post-grad course in Writing, Directing, and Producing, for Television.

WG: You state that you started writing at the age of 12 with a letter to Days of Our Lives. Writing for television was clearly your inspiration, but what was it about television that drew you to writing?

SL: Hmmm good question. The idea of entertaining people always appealed to me. The thought that with a simple twist here and there to the English language – you could cause a reaction in someone that is very deep and personal. Whether it be laughter, tears, anger, or total joy…the appeal of causing the reaction was always one I wanted to be able to provoke. Back as a child, I had more access to television than books, so that is probably why my love started with that medium.

WG: What was your first published/aired piece and what did you learn from the experience?

SL: My first published piece – well I had two in one paper – the first was a newspaper profile article on Margaret Atwood, and the Second was an interview with Bobby Hull on fighting in the NHL. Both were in our school newspaper. My first aired piece was with CTV – I had written, filmed, and edited 6 family stories for the Easter Seals Telethon. Both times thrilled me to bits. I must admit – I still get quite giddy when I see my name attached to anything written – in print or on aired. It is a rush.

WG: How have your degree and experience in journalism contributed to writing Where the Stream and the Creek Collide?

SL: Well, I guess the quick answer is it helped me to formulate what I wanted to say in smaller doses. Which helps you be concise and to the point when needed. I can break down a large sentence into mere words if I need to. Besides that – it has helped me greatly in knowing how to research a topic. I am comfortable in searching for printed information as well as reading stats, which are two very handy skills to have. It also has helped me in regards to being able to find the people I need to interview, asking them the tough questions, and deciphering the information they give me. I have room for improvement on these skills of course but would not be as strong at them as I am now – if it weren’t for my background in journalism.

WG: Your protagonist, Sadie Coleman, is a paraplegic but her story seems very different from yours. Why did you decide to write a paraplegic protagonist, and what of your experience contributed to who Sadie is?

SL: I always wanted to write a book or books where my main character had a disability but the story wasn’t necessarily about that. I didn’t want it to be a service piece for those who aren’t in wheelchairs. I just wanted a related character for those who seem to lack just that in literary works. I know I have never read a fiction piece where a good main character was in a wheelchair…only non-fiction. I started out with a main character being paraplegic because that is what I know. I am paraplegic…I thought for this first book – I should make it a bit easier on myself.

Sadie has a lot of my qualities and experiences even though our stories are quite different. Those qualities and experiences though are mine. Maybe someday I will share but for now – they stay my secret with Sadie. I will tell you though – that after I wrote the book – I did find out that the name Sadie is a form of the name Sarah. Very strange coincidence.

WG: When you were ready to publish, did you query or seek an agent? What was that process like, and how did you end up with Spire Publishing?

SL: I did think about approaching an agent but from everything I read and from experiences of other writers around me – I decided that that wasn’t an approach I wanted to take at this time. It was advised to me to just get published. That once the first book was out there and published – all sorts of new doors would open up. And it was true.

Spire Publishing was the third place I approached. I felt strongly at first about staying true to my Northern Ontario roots and so approached a publisher in the Sault first – they said they would consider it with a few changes. I was too stubborn at the time to make those changes…and am still confortable with that decision.

The second place I approached was a publisher here in Sudbury – but unfortunately I sent it right when Canada Post had its strike – and I never heard back from them – only by email saying that they were not getting any posts. By the time the strike ended – I had already chosen Spire and was in the publishing process. I am very happy with my choice. Philip and his team have been fantastic to work with.

WG: What’s next for Sarah Lashbrook, author?

SL: Wow…what is next? A few things actually. I am working on my next novel – working title is Missing Link. It is a story of love, betrayal, pain, and happiness between two women but has a nice little organized crime twist – quite fun to write.

Also, very recently, I was approached by the fabulous director Shirley Cheechoo, who read my book, and asked if I would write a screenplay off of Where The Stream And Creek Collide. She said she would like to direct it as a film. I am so blown away and honoured with this. I have chills. So, before I finish my novel, I will be writing a screenplay from the last book.

Thanks for a fabulous interview, Sarah!  Break a pencil in your future writing endeavours!

Where the Stream and the Creek Collide

Where the Stream and the Creek Collide

For 23 year old Sadie Coleman, the last year of college will be anything but kind. Not long after arriving at College to begin her last year as a Resident Assistant, Sadie finds out that she will be spending the entire employment with the assiduous task of monitoring last year’s rogue, Jack DeGraff. But Jack may not be Sadie’s only problem. She may also be forced to come to terms with her past. Six years prior, Sadie was involved in a terrible attack that killed her mother and left her a paraplegic. When Jack’s antics become too much to handle, her endless efforts to set up her father fail, her boyfriend bails, and her friend and boss become a little too close to her and the situation, things start to unravel. Sadie realizes just how damaged she is. That she has injury far beyond the physical.

My first NaNoWriMo

Winner, winner, chicken dinner

Off the top, I have to say this: I won!  My first time out and I won 🙂

Backtracking to my trip to Surrey

Before I even left, I was considering NaNo. The municipal liaison came out to the Sudbury Writers’ Guild meeting in September to promote. My leave would be until November 18, 2013, so I thought I’d probably have a chance.

While at SiWC, I heard several people talking about NaNo and how it had really helped them get their ideas down, break through writers’ block, built their confidence, and so forth.

By the time I got back, I was determined to give it a try.

I chose a project that I had outlined years ago. I’d had a little bit written, but I hadn’t touched it in years.

I was going to start over in any case.

The power of planning

I knew I was going away for a few days to visit some friends, and that I’d be going back to work before the month was out. I started out by front loading the work, trying to move ahead quickly at the beginning so I could coast a bit at the end if I needed to.

Still, when I went back to work, there were a few low count nights. I was worried.

To make time for my writing in the evenings when I went back to work, I tried using my smart(er than me) phone to keep track of my email and social media.

I got up a half-hour earlier than usual to check Facebook, WordPress follows, and my Feedly follows and share the interesting stuff on Twitter and Google+.

The pilgrim’s progress

Here’s a convenient table for you:

Day Count Total + or –
1 2161 2161 +494
2 2284 4445 +1111
3 2325 6770 +1769
4 travel 0 6770 +102
5 2122 8892 +557
6 travel 0 8892 -1110
7 1877 10769 -900
8 2168 12937 -399
9 2190 15127 +124
10 1675 16802 +132
11 1721 18528 +191
12 2284 20812 +808
13 2008 22820 +1149
14 1699 24519 +1181
15 1684 26203 +1198
16 1894 28097 +1425
17 1668 29801 +1462
18 1727 31528 +1522
19 return to work 1181 32709 +1036
20 549 33258 +82
21 507 33765 -1242
22 1822 35587 -1087
23 1814 37301 -1040
24 1707 39008 -1000
25 1731 40739 -936
26 1677 42416 -926
27 1692 44108 -901
28 757 44865 -1811
29 2232 47097 -1246
30 3802 50899 +899

What I learned

I don’t think I could do this working full time.

Having said that, it was fantastic to know that I could pull a 50000+ word draft together in 30 days. It was interesting to me because my first novel took me a year to write, working in the evenings and on weekends.

It gives me hope that if I do end up getting a deal for my work at some point and am asked to pump out sequels in swift succession, I should be able to do so. Also, if I end up going the self-publishing route, it’s always good to have moar material out there. If people like what I write, I can potentially supply the demand.

While my Samsung Galaxy Note II is quite lovely, I don’t think that I could manage my social media long term using it alone. Some of the information so easily accessible on my desktop is not so convenient to find in an Android app version of the program. Also, some things don’t translate well. Though the Feedly app appears to allow FB mentions in a post, it does not actually include them when posting to FB.

I have a few strange-looking posts over the last couple of weeks, and was not able to keep track of anyone’s birthdays on my phone, so apologies to anyone I may have offended or missed as a result.

Again, it’s good to know that I can do a minimally good job of maintaining my social media from my phone if need be.

Today, except for these blog posts, I have not written. I’ll get back on that horse shortly. I’ve also had to let a few submission deadlines slide because I just couldn’t manage to do it all. Everyone has their limits.

Coming up

I’ll be blogging in the future about my writing plans moving forward as well as a little about work. Interesting times I live in 😉

Writerly Goodness, signing off.

Mark Leslie workshop with the Sudbury Writers’ Guild

This past Thursday, November 28, Mark Lefebvre of Kobo, who writes under the pen name Mark Leslie, conducted a workshop on self-publishing for the Sudbury Writers’ guild.

Mark spoke a bit about his experience with self-publishing first.

Mark Leslie

Mark Leslie with members of the SWG and Barnaby

His horror short story collection, One Hand Screaming, was published using Lightning Source (now Spark) from Ingram.

For his anthology Campus Chills, Mark and his friend Steve formed Stark Publishing (Steve + Mark). They used the Espresso Book Machine, which got its name because in the time it takes to make an espresso, the machine could produce a book.

At the time, Mark was working for a university book store and convinced the store to invest in the machine. He made the venture a paying one, producing all kinds of books for various groups in the university and surrounding community.

Mark is also an editor, editing North of Sixty, and Tesseracts Sixteen.

More recently, he compiled stories with background research for Haunted Hamilton and Spooky Sudbury, which he co-authored with Sudbury journalist Jenny Jelen. Both books were published with Dundurn Press in Hamilton.

One of the things to keep in mind is that traditional publishing can get you into places that you could never get into alone, for example, Costco.

Now Mark works for Kobo (which is just an anagram of book, by the way).

Why authors choose to self-publish

  • For the new author, it’s a way to break in to traditional publishing, make a mark, get noticed.
  • For mid-list writers, it’s most often used to resurrect their backlist. As copyright returns to authors, they format for self-publication and keep their work in circulation longer than their traditional publisher were willing to.
  • For the NYTBS author, self-publishing offers control.

In general, self publishing offers higher royalties and faster payouts than traditional publishing.

Epub format is the industry standard.

Mobi is the Amazon standard.

Self-publishing is good for long-form journalism. (Mel’s note: we had a fair discussion of this. For those who don’t know what long-form journalism is, it is the full version of the article with bonus research materials. The print article may be a thousand or so words. The long-form version may be five or ten thousand. Think academic essay, but more accessible.)

It’s also good for publishing collections of short stories. If the stories have already been published elsewhere, then it can be seen as a kind of validation or pre-screening, and the collection may have a ready audience.

Services:

  • Kobo
  • Kindle
  • Nook
  • iBooks
  • Smashwords

Kobo started out with Reading Life for their ereaders, and then developed Writing Life for their authors. The Kobo dashboard allows the author to see stats, earnings, and sales figures globally at a glance. (Mel’s note: Hugh Howey used, liked, and promoted Kobo Writing Life.)

You can format your work in Word or OfficeLibre (formerly Open Office). Use Sigil, or Calibre to tweak formatting, and Kobo even has a native WYSIWYG editor which will be familiar to WordPress users.

Follow the formatting instructions of your chosen platform carefully.

A word on DRM: it only hurts paying customers.

Branding

It’s not just about your name.

Mark takes his skeleton, Barnaby, on the road with him wherever he goes. He puts a t-shirt on Barnaby and sets him up outside the bookstore. People wandering by sit down and have their pictures taken, post them on social media. It’s free publicity.

Vistaprint is a great source for promotional materials. Pens, mugs, and t-shirts are just some of the swag you can buy to give away and promote your work.

KDP and KDP select

KDP select is Kindle’s exclusivity line. You can only publish with KDP select, no one else. You can only price books for free on KDP select, but only for five days out of every ninety.

You can work around it. Just publish using KDP and also on other services. Price the book for free on Smashwords or elsewhere, and Amazon will price match if one of your fans reports the competitor pricing.

Diversifying is better. Get your work out there and into the hands, or ereaders, of your fans. Let them choose the service.

Price is a verb

$2.99 seems to be the sweet spot (right now). The lower you set your price point, the more your royalties will be reduced.

You have to know who your audience is.

$1.99 seems to be the price point of doom. Currently, no one knows why.

$.99 is good, as are $3.99 and $4.99.

Authors can experiment. One author change the price of her ebooks from $4.99 to $5.99 and saw sales across all platforms except Kindle increase slightly. Kindle sale went down initially, but within two weeks, they levelled out again and all was well.

The two biggest complaints from marketing about ebooks are:

The cover sucks; and

It’s priced too low.

Free can work as a gateway to a backlist.

It’s a wrap!

There is so much more to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (SiWC) than I wrote about.

Yes, there were a tonne (that’s metric, eh?) of sessions that I couldn’t get to, everything from self-publishing, to social media and platform maintenance, from screenwriting to non-fiction sessions, and marketing sessions.

And yes, I may have mentioned things like the blue pencil and pitch sessions with the agents. Those keen on these could sign up for multiple sessions.

There was a professional photographer there to take head shots as well.

Where would I fit it all in?

But I didn’t mention the Master classes that preceded the conference. They required an extra fee, but I hear they were well worth it.

I didn’t mention Michael Slade’s Theatre of the Macabre, in which Anne Perry, Jack Whyte, Diana Gabaldon, and KC Dyer did a dramatic reading of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Tell-tale Heart,” replete with music and sound effects.

I didn’t mention the book fair, author signing, or writing group get-together.

I didn’t mention the excellent food served at the lunches and dinners.

I didn’t mention the annual tradition of Jack Whyte singing the Hippopotamus Song.

Really, this is a conference you need to put on your writer’s bucket list.

We’re all time travellers

Since British Columbia is three hours behind the Eastern Time zone, I thought I would experience jet lag. I did, but not until I returned.

While I was in Surrey, I typically stayed up late to check on social media and do a bit of transcription of the notes I’d taken during the day. Although I stayed up until about 11 pm (2 am, my time) I woke up every morning around 5 am. Again, I used the time to prepare for the day and get in a little transcription.

When I flew back, I did so by the “red-eye” flight. It departed Vancouver at 10:30 pm. I tried to sleep on the way back, but I should have spent some money on one of those neck cushions. I woke up every hour or so and attempted to ease the pain in my neck and find a more comfortable position to sleep in.

When I finally got home, after an early morning layover in Toronto, the connector to Sudbury, and a hectic shuttle ride back to town, it was about 10:30 in the morning.

Needless to say, I spent a good portion of that day in bed 😉

I thought about time zones and jet lag again the following weekend when Daylight Saving Time ended. I’ve described the time change as self-imposed jet-lag, and I’ve never agreed with the continued practice. While it’s not so bad in the fall, it’s murder in the spring when we lose an hour again.

Really, though we can’t leap forward or back, we’re all time travellers. We all travel through time as we wake, work, eat, and sleep our way through life.

It was a philosophical moment 😛

Thanks for following my reportage of the conference, and I will be getting back to my regularly scheduled ramblings forthwith.