Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Santa Claus Lives In Canada

Officially, according to international law, no nation owns territorial rights over the North Pole. So shouldn't that mean that Santa Claus is a resident of no country? A citizen of the whole world, as it were?

Sort of. Five nations have borders that overlap the Arctic Circle, and thus occasionally, unofficially, try to stake claim to the North Pole (especially the potentially resource-rich seabed beneath). All five of them also claim to have direct lines to Santa, but one of them is obviously trying way harder than the others.

In Denmark and Norway, kids send their letters for Santa to Copenhagen and Oslo, respectively, where helpful postal workers "pass on" the mail to the Big Man up North, and he sometimes sends personalized replies. In Russia, the government encourages kids to use standardized templates for their letters and not to include personalized information like their age, address and school to avoid their identities being stolen (because Russia).

In the United States, kids only get replies from Santa if they send their letters along with a self-addressed, stamped envelope... and also include's Santa's reply, hand-written by their parents. I swear, that's seriously how they do it. At least they mail them to the post office in Anchorage, Alaska, which I guess is sorta close to the North Pole.

You know. Relatively speaking.

But in Canada, we do it right. Kids in Canada (and technically from around the world) can write letters to Santa Claus at:

Santa Claus
North Pole H0H 0H0
Canada

That's it. No weird PO boxes or redirects to post-offices in the capital city. Santa Claus has his very own, custom postal code ("Ho, Ho, Ho," get it?) You don't even need to add a stamp; it will get delivered if you just put a glow-in-the dark Minions sticker on the corner instead. And the best part? He always sends back a personalized letter in return.

Since 1981, Canada Post has run a program where hundreds of volunteers open, read and respond to children's letters to Santa received from around the country and the world. In 2017 alone, over 1.6 million letters were answered, requiring over 200,000 volunteer hours to accomplish. Even the Amazon warehouse can't process orders that efficiently, and they pay their employees! (well, sort of)

Even this year, when a postal workers labour strike delayed some mail delivery, the program continued and the post office urged kids to keep writing their letters (they just had to make the deadline to get them in a little earlier). I know some people grumble at postal workers, but I can't find fault with anyone who devotes so much time and energy to making little kids happy.

I think the strike had something to do with them forcing everyone to wear these dumb hats.

Sure, lots of places lay claim to being the home of Santa Claus. The real Saint Nicholas lived and died in 4th-century Turkey. The cities of Bari and Venice in Italy both claim to house the bones of St. Nick, stolen from their resting place during the Crusades. Somehow this makes them a tourist attraction, though I don't know how you explain the grave-robbing part to kids. A tiny village in Alaska, which changed it's name to "North Pole," has a pretty good gig going, though I doubt the real Santa has a 50-foot tall statue of himself in his front yard.

I also suspect there's significantly less barbed-wire at the real North Pole.

The province of Lapland in Finland has long been rumoured to be the home of Father Christmas (though other Scandinavians vehemently disagree). When Eleanor Roosevelt visited the city of   Rovaniemi, Lapland during a 1950 post-war reconstruction tour, she insisted on meeting Santa Claus, so the locals quickly built a cabin and told her it belonged to him. The First-Lady was apparently satisfied, and I can't figure out if the Finns were making fun of her or not. They did, however, turn that hastily-built cabin into a massive theme park that now sees 500,000 visitors a year, which is further proof that Europeans are good at suckering Americans.

But for all the claims, I think the best one is clearly with Canada. We have a legitimate postal code for Kris Kringle, and he always finds a way to write you back. The North Pole obviously has a red and white maple leaf flag flying over it.

Just don't tell the United Nations about it.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

And So We Wait (#IWSG December 2018)

This week I should hear whether my book makes the cut to the finals of SPFBO 2018. Like I said, I really don't expect anything, but the waiting still sucks.


I did get a few sales and reviews from the pre-Thanksgiving SPFBO 99-cents sale, so that was nice. Nowhere near as big of a bump as I received for the first sale in August, but that one nicely coincided with HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN being long-listed as a semi-finalist, so the sales were boosted by the buzz.

I've also got several stories out on submission, as well as a full manuscript, so there's that.

The biggest waiting though is for my wife's surgery. Funnily enough, we were waiting for same thing this time last year. Some of you may know that she suffered a spinal injury last year which has put her off work and mostly out of commission ever since.  She had the first surgery back in January of this year that only partially fixed the problem, and still left her with continuing pain. Now she's scheduled for a procedure a few days before Christmas to have a spinal cord stimulator implanted in her back to try and ease some of that pain. This is just a temporary trial to see if it will work - for some people the device causes a huge improvement that greatly improves their quality for life, for others it does next to nothing. The nervous system is a strange beast. The surgery was originally scheduled for yesterday but it got pushed back two weeks, fingers crossed it happens this time.

And then we wait to see if it works...



December 5 question
What are five objects we'd find in your writing space?

I can and will write anywhere, so realistically you could find anything in my writing space. If you asked me while I was writing Hell Comes to Hogtown, I would have found things like a screaming baby, a passed out drunk and that obnoxious guy singing along to his iPod (I wrote it on the bus).

Right now, in The Closet (which I still haven't really used for actual writing) you will find:

1. The main water shut off valve for the house
2. The fuse box
3. Boxes of Christmas decorations
4. My wife's craft supplies
5. A box of rejection letters

Besides my computer itself, that last one is the only thing that's really "mine." ;-)

Anyway, in case I don't check in again, I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday season! If you will excuse me, I'm going back to waiting...

...hopefully it doesn't all blow up in my face.

###

The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.


Thursday, November 15, 2018

99 BOOKS for 99 CENTS EACH! (#SPFBO2018 Promotion)



It's here! Your chance to get a ton of great fantasy books for under a buck each!

As part of the ongoing competition to decide the best self-published fantasy book of 2018, a number of the authors involved have joined together to hold another massive sale, offering 100 books for just 99 cents each for a limited time (special thanks to Travis Riddle and Dave Woolliscroft for spearheading this latest promotion).


The finalists for the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off are scheduled to be chosen before the end of December. Some of the books included in this sale are going to be among those finalists. One of them could even be the ultimate winner. For you hipsters out there, this is your LAST CHANCE to be able to say "I read that book before it was cool."

The sale runs from November 15-19, just in time to grab something to read instead of talking to your relatives over the holidays. The sale includes a number of sub-genres of fantasy, including Epic/High, Urban, Dark, Historical, Comedy, you name it! My book, HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN is in there, so be sure to pick up a copy if you haven't already. It's also still in the competition, so who knows? Maybe I'll be one of the finalists myself! (I won't)



In conjunction with the 99c sale, my story TENTACLES UNDER A FULL MOON is also available for FREE right now on Amazon Kindle. It's the first part of the Werebear vs. Landopus series, and since I just dropped part 3 (THE GUN NUN), now would be a perfect time to pick up the introductory story and dive in.


Both of these sales run from November 15-19, so don't delay! Head on over to Travis Riddle's website right away for a list of all the participating titles!



Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Lots of News (#IWSG November 2018)

First the good news: I finished the renovations on the Closet

Then the bad news: I haven't actually used it to do any writing yet.

Then other good news: I have actually done a fair bit of writing in the last month, just not in The Closet. I finished and submitted one story, and I'm in the middle of two others. I've been scraping to find time to write whenever and wherever I am, I just haven't had time to sit down and do it at my desk.

Sitting down to write this post actually reminds me that I have a bunch of writing-related stuff going on, so I shall get down to it.

THE GUN NUN

For those who didn't stop by on Halloween (shame on you), I have a new story available on Amazon Kindle: THE GUN NUN, the continuing misadventures in the Werebear vs Landopus series.

This long short story (I hate the word "novelette") follows a new character, Sister Siouxsie Cue, a nun of the Gunpowder God, as she hunts a troll and spreads the Good Word of the Gun on her way. While it's technically part of the Werebear vs Landopus series, it stands alone, and you don't really have to read "Tentacles Under a Full Moon" or "Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod" to get this one (though the epilogue will make a lot more sense if you do).

If you have read the other stories, you know what to expect: irreverent, black humour with cringe-inducing adult situations in a fantasy setting. A few people have compared it to a Dungeons & Dragons game. It's not technically LitRPG (which is a very specific subgenre), but I see where the comparisons come from. Like any good D&D game, the characters in the WvL series are nuts, argumentative, and often die in random, horrific ways.

The Gun Nun is just 99 cents on Amazon, or free on Kindle Unlimited. If you want a review copy, hit me, up, I know the publisher.

SPFBO $0.99 SALE

The Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off lumbers on. The Top-Ten Finalists are supposed to be chosen by the end of December. For those who remember, Hell Comes to Hogtown was chosen as a semi-finalist way back at the beginning of August, and the the final semi-finalist in my group was just chosen this week. The reviewers running my bracket has said they will cull their 6 semi-finalists down to their choice for the finals by the end of November.

I'm not holding my breath on moving onto the next round. When I saw the original bracket I was 99% sure I knew who was moving onto the finals before the contest even started, and based on the reviews so far my prediction hasn't changed. But that's okay. I'm already super honoured and pleased to have gotten as far as I have, and my book has already seen a nice boost in sales and reviews thanks to the contest.

That said, there will be one more 99-cent SPFBO sale coming November 15-19, just in time for the Holidays. Hell Comes to Hogtown and somewhere between 70-100 other SPFBO entrants (not sure what the final tally is yet) will be available for just 99 cents that week, so be sure to swing by and grab yourself some cool fantasy books on the cheap! Unfortunately I don't have the direct link for the full list of participating titles yet, but I will share it as soon as it becomes available.

(I also have it on good authority that "Tentacles Under a Full Moon" will be available for FREE during that same period, for anyone looking to get into the Werebear vs Landopus series).


November 7 Question
How has your creativity in life evolved since you began writing?

This is an interesting one. Overall my creativity has gone down since I started writing seriously. Or maybe I should say the variety of my creativity has gone down. I used to paint, draw, act, play music, do woodcraft, play and make games. As I've gotten older my free time has become less and less, so I've had to focus on one thing. Writing was the obvious choice since it's been my passion since I was a kid, plus I'm pretty shitty at most of the other stuff I listed. Still, I've daydreamed recently about getting on a stage and making a fool of myself, or picking up a guitar and learning a few new songs. And I'm always ready to throw down to play a creative roleplaying game, if time permits. Maybe one day I'll have free time again.

Oh, and maybe I'm making some crappy illustrations for a silly children's book (shh, don't tell anyone).


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

TRICK OR TREAT 2018 (FREE BOOKS!)


It's that time again!

Stores have run out of candy and cheap plastic costumes, so they've starting putting up Christmas trees, wrapping paper and those little creepy ceramic villages with the tiny trains running around them.

Also, it's... (*insert spooky voice*) HA-LO-WEEEEEN!!! (*cackles*)

Authors around the web are giving away treats for Halloween, but instead of tooth-rotting candy, they're handing out FREE BOOKS AND STORIES!



Biggest of thanks Patricia Lynne aka Patricia Josephine for organizing #TrickorTreatReads once again. A list of all the participating authors are below. Make sure to be a good little goblin and visit everyone to grab lots of sweet goodies. And PLEASE SHARE the event far and wide. Everyone loves free books, right?

Below is a list of other writers who are participating and SHARING FREE BOOKS for Halloween!



Here's my contribution to the festivities:


This BRAND NEW story is set in the same world as my Werebear vs Landopus stories. If you've read either "Tentacles Under a Full Moon" or "Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod," you know that they're pretty polarizing. You either love them or you hate them. But if YOU like foul language, morally abhorrent protagonists, bodily fluids and black humour you will hate yourself for laughing at, then HAVE I GOT A STORY FOR YOU!

Here's the blurb:

Yet another serious story about grim, dark, hilarious misery.

SUGGESTED FOR MATURE AUDIENCES: Contains violence, coarse language, and members of the clergy selling dwarf-built firearms.

The Gunpowder God does not deal in mercy and salvation, but in lead. And he'll give you a two-for-one deal on a box of bullets if you put at least a 50% downpayment on that shiny new Sacred Revolver of Defense Against Home Invasion.

Sister Siouxsie Cue is not on a mission for her church this time. The weary, cynical Gun Nun rides into the backwater town of Diagonal Luncheon to see a man about a troll - and to figure out why that troll is building bridges in the middle of a flat town square and trying to charge tolls for crossing it. But the misguided would-be toll collector only leads her to an even bigger troll, as well as a baby-faced country bumpkin named Timmy Corkeater who may be the death of her...

You can pick up "The Gun Nun" FREE, exclusively on Amazon Kindle:


And of course, it wouldn't be a free giveaway day if I didn't give away copies of my debut novel, TEN THOUSAND DAYS:



Ten Thousand Days was first released in 2015, but I have since nearly completely re-written it, and released a revised, expanded (and professionally edited) version in 2017. If by some chance you haven't picked it up yet, now is the time to do so! (Cause it's free)

Here's the blurb:

They say love hurts and time heals all wounds. 

Sometimes the reverse is true. 

Isaac was very good at wasting time. Video games, a mindless job, no responsibilities - he had a simple life and few wants. Despite being hopelessly average, unassuming and kind of useless, he had somehow married the most beautiful, wonderful woman in the world. 

He had no idea how good he had it - until it was all taken away. 

Time does not like being wasted. It is mercurial, inexorable and carries a wicked grudge. And sometimes, just sometimes, it enjoys playing games with people's lives. To be perfectly honest, Time is a bit of a jerk. 

Isaac had never learned to appreciate what little time he had, and now he must travel to the ends of the universe and face unspeakable evils in a cat-and-mouse game with Time itself for the slim chance to win back a few fleeting seconds of happiness. The price of failure? Only the end of all existence. 

Ten Thousand Days is a fairy tale set in the modern day, a fantastic journey of desperate love and horror with a twisted sense of humour. It's a story of exactly how far a young man will go for love...



HAPPY HALLOWEEN EVERYONE!
Be sure to check out all the other free books!



Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Trick-or-Treat Reads (2018)


'Tis the season to be spooky.

Just a heads up that I have once again signed up for Patricia Lynne's Trick-or-Treat for Books Blog Hop! I'm pretty excited this year because I've actually got a new story to share for the hop!



Be sure to check back next week on Halloween (to be honest it will be up and available by Devil's Night - October 30th!). Below is a list of other writers who are participating and SHARING FREE BOOKS next week!


Even if you're not participating yourself, please share the list so that everyone knows where to get some great, spooky freebies for ALL HALLOW'S EVE!

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Well That Went Off the Rails (#IWSG October 2018)

So that closet in the title of the blog? You know the one, it's mentioned just a couple of inches above this line on your screen. Yes, the closet in which I purport to find all my stories. That one.

Here's a closeup, if that makes it easier.

The Closet is actually a real place. It's a small room under the stairs in the basement of my house in Ottawa. Sometimes I also refer to The Closet in a more metaphorical way as well, like it's the space in my head where my stories come from. But in the most literal sense, it is a real, physical place where (among many other things) I store all my old writings and note books, a veritable cornucopia of unfinished novels, unpolished manuscripts, forgotten short stories and more scraps of ideas and outlines than I could shake a stick at. There's also a box of rejection letters in there somewhere, which I used to covet and refer to regularly, but I've lately lost track of it. I don't think I've even put copies of my last few rejections in there.

Anyway, my wife and I recently decided to clear out The Closet, which besides my old writing contained Christmas decorations, board games, the cat's bed and litter box, and every piece of clothing my children have ever worn. My wife organized and sold/donated all of the clothes, so we have surprisingly more space than previously (seriously, it was a shitload of clothes). We've decided to move the cat to another corner of the house, paint the room and lay down some old laminate flooring that was leftover when we did the rest of the house, and make myself an honest-to-goodness writing space for the first time in years.

For those who may not remember, this is where I wrote my last book.

I was actually excited. As mentioned in the last few IWSG posts, I had been scraping to find extra writing time lately, so having a proper desk and my own corner sounded wonderful. This was going to be a good thing! I would develop a writing routine and I would be productive and that creative part of me that's always fighting to get out would finally be satisfied! Sure, I would lost my extra writing time for a week or two while I did the minor renovations, but it would be worth it! How could this awesome new project possibly be making me feel crappy and insecure?

It's been a month and my "week or two" project still isn't finished.

I finished the painting, which took longer than planned because I didn't have enough paint and had to beg and borrow to get enough (we are doing this on literally no budget). The walls of The Closet are now five separate shades of blue, which I don't mind because it's a fucking closet, after all. Three of the shades are quite nice.

Then I discovered I didn't have quite as much flooring as I thought, so much debate was had about which part of the floor to do. This decision changed a couple of times, forcing me to change my plan midway through and I ended up wasting a bunch of wood, so now I have my fingers crossed I actually have enough to finish my tiny corner,  which will now basically just be laminate floor around my desk and chair.

Then we had a tornado. We were fine, we just lost power for 24 hours, and I can't complain because many people lost their houses. But it still ruined the weekend and prevented me from getting any work done (it's rather tricky to do renovations in a pitch-black basement).

Is that my saw or the cat? And what did I just step in?

My wife and I were supposed to go away this past weekend to visit friends near Toronto. It was going to be our first time away overnight by ourselves since the kids were born (almost seven years). I was willing to give up my time for that. Except then my wife and I both got the flu, came down with a fever, and we had to cancel our trip. And because I felt so cruddy I could't get any work or writing done.

So yeah. It's been a month, and I haven't gotten The Closet finished, nor have I done any writing of note. Plus the rest of the basement is an absolute disaster because all the shelves and boxes that are supposed to go back in are all over the place, not to mention all the tools and garbage that goes along with any work of this kind.

I wrote a little bit on my lunch break yesterday, which is something, but I'm still feeling pretty bummed.

So that's my rant for this month. Fingers crossed that next month I can report that The Closet is back together and open for business, and maybe I'll even share some pictures of my work. But until then, I hope your writing month was better than mine.

#


The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Writers post their thoughts on their blogs, talking about their doubts and the fears they have conquered. It's a chance for writers to commiserate and offer a word of encouragement to each other. Check out the group at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.
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