Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Five-Year Plan (#IWSG)


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After a disappointing October, November started off well as I finished a couple of short stories, neared another to completion and made good progress on my special project. I knew that I wouldn't be able to carry the momentum into the holidays, so I tried to get done as much as I could while the going was good. Sure enough, everything came crashing down at the end of the month as my wife ended up bed ridden for almost two weeks and then everyone in the house started working through a nasty flu.

Now we're hurtling headlong into the holidays and we haven't even started cleaning, decorating and all that fun stuff, so the next few weeks are going to be crazy hectic. I'm not going to put down many words for the rest of the year (I nearly forgot about this post, too) but something about today's IWSG question set off a spark in me. So without further ado...

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December IWSG Question: 
In terms of your writing career, where do you see yourself five years from now, and what’s your plan to get there?



I had to think long and hard about this one, because I don't think about my writing as a "career." I've said before I'm not doing this to make money or achieve praise, nor do I ever expect to make it a full-time gig. A small second income would be nice, sure, but it's not a priority.

I've never had a long term goal or plan for my writing. For me it's more of a hobby. Usually I just go project to project, but lately I've thought a bit more about new things I want to try, and what I want to do next. If I had to make a list (and really, that's the point of this exercise) some things I want to accomplish in the next 5 years, it might look something like this:

  • Write 3-5 books. That doesn't mean publish or even get to final polish, just a first draft would be acceptable. I just have to keep working on something and moving forward.
  • Submit at least 3 books to agents/publishers, just for the hell of it. One of them is already mostly done, and the other two are heavily outlined (and will fall under those 3-5 I plan to write above). As I've said in the past I have no particular desire for the validation of a traditional publishing contract, but it's worth a shot just to see what happens. Even if none of them are picked up, that leads me to...
  • Self-publish 2-3 books. This could be stuff that is not picked up traditionally or one or two ideas I have that I know would have to be self-published (including a sequel to one of my previous books). 
  • Write at least 2 short stories per year and submit them to anthologies/magazines. I really like short stories and I've been working lately to get better at writing them. Two a year, even with my other goals above, should be reasonable, and even I will admit it would be cool to get a couple published and see my byline somewhere.
  • Collect at least 100 rejections. Between the three books and 10+ short stories, that should be more than doable. I'm not even sure why I want to do this, as I don't care that much about the ultimate publication, but I feel like this is just supposed to be part of the author experience and I kinda want to say that I've done it.
So yeah, I don't know if this is "where" I see myself so much as a just a bunch of roadposts I want to hit along the way. Where exactly will I be in five years if I follow this plan? I have no idea, but at least I'll feel that I accomplished something along the way.

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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 here.

Read More »

Friday, November 18, 2016

GUEST BLOG: Piper Morgan to the Rescue by Stephanie Faris


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Stephanie Faris is a Piper Morganing machine, and I'm here today to tell you all about the latest entry in her continuing series of misadventures. This little girl has already joined the circus and taken over a school through nefarious schemes (or maybe her mom was the principal, I should go back and check), now she's saving dogs from an animal shelter! Make sure you follow her every step of the way (and follow the lovely Ms Faris at the links below)!

THE BOOK!

Piper helps some four-legged friends find the perfect home in the third book of the brand-new Piper Morgan series.

Piper is super excited to help out at Bark Street, a local animal shelter in town. Who wouldn’t want to be surrounded by adorable puppies and dogs all day? And when Piper sees Taffy, the cutest dog she has ever seen, Piper is determined to find a way to bring Taffy home. But it won’t be easy—especially when she finds out someone else wants to make Taffy a part of their family, too!


THE AUTHOR!

Stephanie Faris knew she wanted to be an author from a very young age. In fact, her mother often told her to stop reading so much and go outside and play with the other kids. After graduating from Middle Tennessee State University with a Bachelor of Science in broadcast journalism, she somehow found herself working in information technology. But she never stopped writing.

Stephanie is the Simon & Schuster author of 30 Days of No Gossip and 25 Roses, as well as the upcoming Piper Morgan series. When she isn’t crafting fiction, she writes for a variety of online websites on the topics of business, technology, and her favorite subject of all—fashion. She lives in Nashville with her husband, a sales executive. 






THE LINKS!
TWITTER | INSTAGRAM

THE CONTEST!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Well that didn't go according to plan... (#IWSG)


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I just made a donation for $10 to Canadian Blood Services. This was my pledge for the Vampire Books for Blood campaign, in which I said I would donate $1 for every copy of Hell Comes to Hogtown sold in October.

I didn't actually sell ten copies. That was just the minimum donation the website would allow.

Truth be told, I didn't even sell five copies, which is what I had originally intended to donate. I was rounding up from three, which itself was a bit of an inflation as it included two books I sold at the end of September.

That leaves me with one. One book. That's what I sold in October.

And it was on-sale for 99 cents, which you may notice is less than what I pledged to donate.

So yeah, I don't know what I expected to get from Vampire Books for Blood. I certainly didn't expect huge sales or anything, but I thought with 50 authors in a similar genre cross-promoting on their blogs and Facebook and Twitter pages, SOMEONE might see my book and decide to give it a try. Hell, I bought a couple of books myself because they looked interesting. But it was not meant to be.

I just Googled "sad vampire" and got, like, a billion hits. 
I should have known better.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about donating money to a worthwhile charity. I'm just disappointed that I continue to flail about impotently hoping someone will check out my book. I've only sold half as many copies of Hogtown as I did Ten Thousand Days in a similar time frame, and only received 1/5 as many reviews, despite the new book being much better (in my opinion).

I was so bummed about my non-existent success that I gave away copies of Hogtown for free yesterday for Trick-or-Treat for books. At least it's in someone's hands now. I'm not worried that those freebies took away from any potential donations that would have went to Blood Services, since I ended up covering it anyway.

Anyway, I'm bummed, I'm frustrated, I'm disappointed. Awhile ago I said I don't care if my books make money and I meant it, but I really would like someone to read them.

Anyway.

Here's a picture of my kids dressed up as Minions for Halloween.


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November IWSG Question: 
What's your favourite part of being a writer?

This one's easy, and ties well into my anecdote above. The best part is definitely when someone tells me they enjoyed one of my stories. It doesn't have to be much, even a "hey man that was really cool" is great (though a detailed review is always awesome). I ain't in this for the money or your revolution. I'm a ham and a storyteller and a clown - I just want people to read my damn books. ;-P

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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 here.


Read More »

Monday, October 31, 2016

FREE BOOKS! (Happy Halloween 2016!)


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In honour of the joyous festival of Samhain, today I'm joining forces with Patricia Lynne's Trick or Treat Book Blog Hop to give out free stories to everyone who stops by. It's just like Trick or Treating for candy, except with (hopefully) fewer cavities.

A number of authors and small publishers have signed up to give out free books and stories this year, so be sure to check out everyone on the list to get your free stories. Just make sure you come in costume! 




As for my contribution to the list: For today only, you can download my novel HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN from Smashwords absolutely free. It's a perfect for this Halloween season, as it features monsters, ghosts, violent murder, evil cults, fortune tellers and um, drugged-out professional wrestlers. It's creepy, it's gory, it's got a sense of humour, and it's all yours if you visit Smashwords today:

Get your copy at Smashwords

Happy Halloween, everyone. Be careful, be safe, and have fun! Don't forget to visit all the participants to grab your free stories, or you'll regret it!

Poor Marilyn missed his free stories, and he regrets it.
He regrets a lot of things in his life.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2016

BOOKS ARE CANDY! (Trick or Trick for Books)


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It's that time of year again!

For the third year in a row (second year for me), the talented Ms. Patrica Lynne has organized a Halloween Blog Hop where everyone can go trick-or-treating for FREE BOOKS!

It's super easy: On that wonderful, magical day of Samhain (Halloween for you non-pagans), visit any of the author sites on the list below to get free books and stories into your grubby little hands. It's just like going door-to-door to get candy, but it's like candy for your e-reader instead, and it's guaranteed to cause 100% fewer cavities.


Dressing up in costume while you sit at your desk surfing these sites is completely optional, though highly recommended.






If you're an author or publisher and you want to join in on the fun, be sure to sign up as well. All you have to do it make sure you have a story or book to give away for free, and some way to distribute it (through Amazon, Smashwords, email, Google docs, post the text into your blog, save it on a floppy disk and staple it to a messenger pigeon - you know, all the regular channels).

Be sure to stop by here on October 31 for your treat!

Also, don't forget I'm still participating in Vampire Books For Blood. For every copy of Hell Comes to Hogtown sold in October, I will donate $1 to Canadian Blood Services. To learn more about this great charity and to browse lots of fun books participating, go to vampirebooksforblood.org.


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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Happy Bloody October! (#IWSG)


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So what am I insecure about this month?

I have a very specific topic on the agenda.


As you may know, I've signed up for Vampire Books For Blood, a charity organization where authors pledge to donate funds to the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services based on the number of vampire-themed books they sell during the month of October. I have pledged to donate $1 for every copy of Hell Comes to Hogtown.

(If you haven't heard about it, you will - I'm going to keep up on it for the next four weeks!)

I thought this was a stellar idea. It's a great cause as well as great cross-promotion between a number of authors in a similar genre (at last count there was over 40 authors and publishers participating). The charities win, the authors win and hopefully readers win by discovering new books and writers they enjoy. It seems like a perfect situation for everyone involved.

So why am I worried?

I am convinced that come the end of the month when I tally my sales and go to make my donation to Canadian Blood Services, I'm only going to be giving them, like, two dollars, and it's going to be hugely embarrassing. I mean, I'm used to lousy sales numbers, that's been my reality for the last two years, but to pledge to the world that I'm doing this and then announce exactly how many people bought (or did not) buy my book, well, that's something else.

I'm already checking my bank account to see how much I can pad my donation to make it less shameful.

Anyway...

You should definitely check out Vampire Books For Blood. It's a great cause, and if you're vaguely interested in vampire-themed fiction at all, there's a ton to choose from and surely something to slake your thirst. You certainly don't have to buy my book; but please, considering picking up something that catches your eye.

And if you're a writer who has your own vampire fiction, there's still time to sign up!




Fitz is a broke night manager for a grubby comic book store. His only friend Dee is a drugged-out, womanizing pro-wrestler. Together they’re the most pathetic losers on the face of the planet. Their lives cannot possibly get any worse.

And then they’re implicated in the kidnapping of the prime minister’s wife.

On the run from the cops, Fitz and Dee discover there is something far worse than the RCMP stalking the dark streets of Toronto. They are being hunted by an ancient demon of unspeakable evil with an insatiable taste for blood... or maybe it’s just your run-of-the-mill giant murderous hobo?

Either way, life in prison might be better than whatever the creepy drifter has in store for them…


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IWSG October 5 Question: When do you know your story is ready?

I am ABSOLUTELY not the right person to ask about this, as I have gone back and edited everything I've ever published (one of the advantages to our digital age of self-publishing). Most of it was minor things for typos and such, but I may or may not also be in the middle of a massive revision of one of my previously-published works. But those are just rumours.

Also, everything I've ever submitted to other publications has been terrible. Anytime I've gone back and looked at things I've sent in, I've shaken my head in shame. "What was I thinking? How did I think this was ready?"

That being said, I think you'll know when it's ready. Hell Comes to Hogtown was ready, I think, and I felt pretty good when I hit the publish button. The changes I've made to that one after the fact are very minimal, because I felt like I put in the right amount of work to get it where it needed to be. I also had huge help from outside sources, mostly my amazing editor Amy Allen-Macleod, and my wonderful wife, who pointed out some very key things that fixed a number of problems in the plot. After all these years you really think I would listen to her more often.

If both you and the people you trust think it's ready, then it's as ready as it's going to be.

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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 here.
Read More »

Monday, October 3, 2016

Interview with Comic Fantasy Writer and Former Pro-Wrestler, Philip Overby


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Philip Overby is many things. He's a self-published author and the Godfather of Splatter Elf, who has a new book out right now! He's also the co-host of the always wonderful and informative Grim Tidings Podcast, an engaging interview-style program where he and fellow host Rob Matheny speak to authors, editors, agents, publishers and all plethora of folks in the fantasy and sci-fi industry, especially those purveyors of all things Grimdark.

But do you know what doesn't get spoken about enough? Philip's former career as professional wrestler, "Phil the Drill."

Phil is doing the rounds right now promoting his new Splatter Elf book, One Goblin Army, but when I knew I had a chance to ask him a few questions, I insisted they be about wrestling. You can read about Philip's writerly pursuits and One Goblin Army elsewhere, but no where else will you get the inside scoop on the life of a small-time professional wrestler!

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So how does one get into pro-wrestling? Did you start off in a backyard? Did you go to some kind of semi-reputable school?

I did actually start doing backyard stuff with some friends and my brother. It was fun beating up my brother, but we were really rough on each other. I think I shaved a few years off my life doing the backyard wrestling. It's mostly important to not do anything too stupid. Later on I worked with some local wrestling promotions to get training. Again, I'd recommend finding a reputable school whenever getting into wrestling. Not just for safety but people running a school for a long time usually have good reputations for teaching all types of skills you need.

Why did you get into wrestling? Were you an athlete or a theatre nerd in high school?

Probably like most people that I loved it growing up. I saw a window to get into it and I jumped at it. I never really expected for anything to happen. Yeah, I did church plays when I was really young and always liked being a character.

Mr. The Drill in all his glory.

Tell us about your first match.

No one's first match is ever great really, but I won. I think I did like twenty DDTs with no psychology whatsover and I was wearing a what looked like pajama pants and an AC/DC shirt. I looked like a typical dumbass with no gear on. In retrospect, I should have gotten gear from the beginning, but like a lot of dudes that get into wrestling as a hobby, I just rocked up in whatever shit I had. Later I learned my lesson, but in the beginning I looked like a doofus.

I know you worked mostly heel (ie, he played the villain character). Tell me about making people hate you. I know you're dying to tell a story about kids spitting on you.

I don't really know how to describe my early character, but the closest thing to a current wrestler would be maybe Joey Ryan's sleazeball vibe. I was heavily inspired by the more flamboyant characters like Gorgeous George and Adrian Adonis. Now that I'm more aware of him, if you watch videos of Jimmy Del Ray from the Heavenly Bodies, it was very much like that. I was always dancing really sleazy and of course my body was not great, so it made people hate me more.

For reference, this is Joey Ryan. Phil willingly compares himself to this guy.

One show we did, I was a lumberjack in the main event and I kept feeling something wet hitting my back. There were kids spitting on me. They remembered me from my match earlier in the night and decided to welcome me back to ringside. I had people threaten to fight me in the parking lot and one time a kid pushed me off the turnbuckle when I was about to do a move. Since these shows had shitty security, nothing happened.

I was strict with kayfabe at shows. Meaning if I was a heel, I was a heel. One kid asked me for an autograph once and I said "If you give me twenty dollars." He offered to give me some necklace he had and I said "I don't want that." As a person, it still makes me feel bad. But as a character, it made sense.

What was your finishing move?

The move I used the most in the beginning was the Drill Bit, which was Victoria's Widow's Peak move. Later on I developed some other movies such as Secret Tiger Death Crank, which was just a headlock and the Reverse Frog Splash, which was just a frog splash that I did backwards.

BTW, this is the Widow's Peak. I really hope Phil got some decent training so he didn't kill anyone with this. 

What was the worst/weirdest/dumbest character/wrestler/gimmick you encountered?

My character was pretty weird as it went through different phases. I was teamed up with Crazy Charlie and we were called Beauty and the Beast. We were probably the strangest pairing in terms of characters, but our chemistry worked well because we loved to antagonize people. Often we wouldn't even care about the moves in the match, but would be more concerned with what were were going to yell at people. One time we won the tag team championships for a promotion and did like a ten minute celebration. People were really annoyed.

What was favourite match/best moment?

I did a No DQ type of match before I left to come to Japan. This was when I had turned babyface at one promotion. I had kind of the Damien Sandow/Heath Slater vibe in that I was entertaining and got beat so often that I actually got over that way. After the match, the fans were chanting my name and it was a cool send-off. Winning championships is always fun as well because it means the promotion thinks you're good enough to represent them in some capacity.

How long did you wrestle? Why did you hang up the boots?

I wrestled when I was older, so I only worked for maybe five or six years off and on. Mostly I just quit wrestling because I moved away from the U.S. Wrestling in Japan would have been a dream come true, but my body was already beat to shit by then. Wrestling in Japan isn't a good idea if you're already beat to shit.

Do you follow wrestling in Japan? Ever attend any big Tokyo Dome/Sumo Hall shows?

I used to go to Wrestle Kingdom every year at the Tokyo Dome when I first moved to Japan. I think I went three or four years in a row. It became a tradition. Then I started to do so many other things, I didn't have time to go anymore. I'd still love to go to shows every so often, but it's been a few years now. Some of the best wrestling I've ever seen live was at the Tokyo Dome. Kota Ibushi vs. Prince Devitt (Finn Balor) still stands out as the most amazing match I've seen live. I've seen New Japan, DDT, NOAH, and ZERO-1 live. New Japan was always my go-to promotion.

Do you still follow American wrestling? What pisses you off the most about wrestling today?

I still follow it but I wouldn't say I watch it regularly anymore. I actually think NXT is must watch TV for wrestling fans. I've seen some incredible matches and storylines on that program. Wrestling is one of those things I stopped nit-picking. It's like reading books or watching movies or whatever. Some of it really stands out as amazing and some just isn't for me. I seek out the wrestling that appeals to me and I skip the things I don't like. I haven't watched Lucha Underground, but it sounds like a cool way to present wrestling that makes it stand out. I also like the trainwreck appeal of what Matt Hardy's doing right now with matches like the Final Deletion. His character Broken Matt Hardy is unique and weird, just the type of character that made wrestling fun when I was a kid.

Any chance we'll ever see wrestling-themed fiction from you?

I actually wrote a story not long ago that features a monster wrestler. It hasn't found a home yet, but it could be appearing somewhere soon-ish. I've also wanted to just write a straight-up wrestling story one of these days, but I wouldn't want it to be a typical story. It would have to be weird. And bloody. Maybe even be based in Japan?

Who is your all time favourite wrestler?

I have so many favorites, but if you ask me right now, today I'd say Shinsuke Nakamura. To me he's the perfect blend of entertaining and brutal. He's got that quality about him that makes you excited to see his matches. If I go back and look at a wrestler I've enjoyed consistently since I was young, I'd say The Rock because, like Nakamura, he was good at everything.

Gotta agree with Phil on this one, not many guys could pull this off.

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Phil's new book, One Goblin Army, is available now at Amazon along with all the Splatter Elf stories. I highly recommend you give them a try. Here are some helpful places you can find Mr. The Drill online:

HOMEPAGE/BLOG: http://PhilipOverby.com
AMAZON: https://www.amazon.com/Philip-Overby/e/B00P588ETQ

Grinner, the goblin with the fancy teeth, wants his damn money and he's not going to let some bastard wizard run away with it. Katzia of Clovenhoof, the part-time monster hunter and full-time sword enthusiast, is kidnapped in order to help capture the ever-elusive monster Tundertum. In the chaotic, grotesque art project that is the city of Phlegm, Grinner and Katzia encounter mercenaries, warlocks, a cursed accountant with maggoty powers, and other dangers all while seeking out the one weapon that can stop the rampaging Tundertum: the blood-drinking chainsaw known as Manglesaw.


This story is for mature audiences due to naughty language, blood, guts, and other fun stuff!

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Saturday, October 1, 2016

Vampire Books For Blood Begins Today


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Do you want to support an organization that - quite literally - saves lives?

Do you want to find some new vampire-themed stories for this Halloween season?

Have you been holding off on picking up Hell Comes to Hogtown?

Vampire Books for Blood brings authors and publishers of vampire-themed books to raise money for the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services. Organized by author Scott Burtness it is now in it's third year, and the event is running from October 1st to the 31st, 2016.

Participating authors and publishers pledge to make a financial donation to the American Red Cross or Canadian Blood Services at the conclusion of the event. The donation can be an amount per book sold in October, a percentage of royalties earned from book sales in October, or a flat amount at the conclusion of the event.

Personally, I will be donating $1 to Canadian Blood Services for every copy of Hell Comes to Hogtown sold.

There are over 40 authors/publishers and more than 50 books participating, so head over to the Vampire Books for Blood website to see if there is anything there you'd like. Grab a new book and support a great cause, It's a win-win situation for everyone!

Also, if you're reading this today, October 1, head on over to Facebook for the VampBooks4Blood Kick-Off event, starting at 12:00 PM Central time, 1:00 PM Eastern. You can meet some of the authors participating, play some games and maybe even win some prizes!





Fitz is a broke night manager for a grubby comic book store. His only friend Dee is a drugged-out, womanizing pro-wrestler. Together they’re the most pathetic losers on the face of the planet. Their lives cannot possibly get any worse.

And then they’re implicated in the kidnapping of the prime minister’s wife.

On the run from the cops, Fitz and Dee discover there is something far worse than the RCMP stalking the dark streets of Toronto. They are being hunted by an ancient demon of unspeakable evil with an insatiable taste for blood... or maybe it’s just your run-of-the-mill giant murderous hobo?

Either way, life in prison might be better than whatever the creepy drifter has in store for them…

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Will you be supporting the American Red Cross or Canadian Blood Services this Halloween season?
Read More »

Thursday, September 29, 2016

My Fall To-Be-Read List


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Below is a list of books sitting on my shelf and in my e-reader, patiently waiting for me to get to them. I know I won't read them all in the next few months, and you may not care, but if nothing else this keeps them all in one place as a reminder for me. And hey, if you're wondering how my mind ticks, checking out lists like this is a pretty good way to find out.

Welcome to Deadland by Zachary Tyler Linville

One of the winners of the Nerdist/Inkshares publishing contest I took part in last year, I'm actually in the middle of this book right now and I'm enjoying it immensely (which is good, because I was quite disappointed with the other winning book). It's a zombie apocalypse story with some actual strong YA themes about coming of age and sexuality, and I'm very pleased with how it's going so far. Again, I'm only halfway through so there's plenty of time for it to go off the rails, but I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

The Pickpocket by Celine Jeanjean

I love Celine Jeanjean's fantasy/steampunk/mystery whatever-you-want-to-call-it series, and she just released a new novella detailing one of the main character's backstories. It's burning a hole on my e-reader right now waiting for me to finish Welcome to Deadland.

Sawdust & Spangles: Stories & Secrets of the Circus by W.C. Coup

My post about The Toronto Circus Riot last week renewed my fascination with 19th-century circuses, and I found this book, written around the turn of the last century, filled with first-hand accounts of living and working with said travelling shows. It's said to be pretty hard to stomach in places (they weren't exactly known for the sterling animal rights) but it should be an curious read.

The Bear Who Wouldn't Leave by J.H. Moncrieff

I've been meaning to get to this one for awhile, as it's by a fellow Canadian horror author as well as a member of the IWSG. Plus how can you resist that creepy fucking bear on the cover?

Right Ho, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

I read a collection of PG Wodehouse stories earlier this year and it blew me away. The fact that such simple jokes stand up nearly a century after they were written speak to the exceptional style and skill of the writer. Plus, his influence on future British comic writers like Stephen Fry, Douglas Adams, Hugh Laurie and even Terry Pratchett is obvious. I picked this one up on sale at Kobo and I'm really looking forward to it.

Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome

I'll be honest, I know next to nothing of this book, but I've heard it described as the funniest book ever written, and it in fact was one of the influences on Wodehouse. That is more than enough to make me want to check it out.

Utopiates by Josh Finney & Kat Rocha

I won a copy of this cyberpunk graphic novel in a contest - apparently it's about a bleak, Blade Runner-esque future where the most popular drug changes people's personality, rewiring their brains to basically swap their souls with someone else. Sounds pretty freaky and worth a looksie, but I will admit when I signed up for the contest I actually thought it was for another book (Casefile Arkham) by the same authoer. Still, I'm not one to turn down a free book!

Wisconsin Vamp by Scott Burtness

Scott is the organizer of Vampire Books For Blood, the charity drive I'm taking part in during the month of October. Wisconsin Vamp is just one of the many fine books that are available (including of course Hell Comes to Hogtown!), proceeds from which will be donated to the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services. And just looking at the cover, you KNOW this book is right up my alley...

One Goblin Army by Philip Overby

It's Philip Overby. It's Splatter-Elf. You just have to read it.

We've been waiting for this one for a long time. It had better be good, Phil. ;-)

Rise by Brian Guthrie

Another book from the Nerdist/Inkshares contest that I somehow got a free copy of. Once again, I know nothing about this one or how it was entered into the contest when it was already published last year, but I am willing to check it out. 

So what books are you planning on checking out this Fall?

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Toronto Circus Riot of 1855


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Some of you know that I love weird Canadian History (see: The soldier who adopted a bear and brought it overseas to World War I), and the following is one of the weirder stories out there. How this hasn't be dramatized as a film, I have no idea. I'm thinking I'm going to have to write a novel about it myself.

Picture this: Toronto, mid-nineteenth century. Victorian prudishness has not yet settled into the only recently-incorporated city, which was mostly still a booming frontier town. Canada would not officially exist as an independent country for another twelve years. The city had a huge Irish Catholic population that clashed regularly with the Irish Protestants (as well as the English and the Scottish), having brought the ancestral grudges with them when they came to the colonies to escape the Great Irish Famine.

Can you picture what we're dealing with now?
 Downtown Toronto c. 1868 
On the evening of July 12, 1855, the Hook and Ladder Firefighting Company visited Mary Ann Armstrong's brothel on King Street, as was the accepted after-hours activity for a volunteer fire department at the time. Now, it must be pointed out that two weeks prior, this same company had gotten into a brawl with a rival firehouse when both groups showed up to combat the same blaze.

Yes, they had a "rival" firehouse. Yes, they fought over who got to put out a fire.

Trust me, it gets even better.

It turns out the circus was in town, and actual honest-to-gods clowns from SB Howes' Star Troupe Menagerie and Circus showed up to partake in Ms. Armstrong's "services." It doesn't mention in the history books whether they were still wearing their costumes and make-up, but I would like to assume that they were. The story goes that a drunk fireman named Fraser picked a fight with one of the clowns (because of course he did) and a brawl broke out. The clowns then proceeded to beat the ever-loving daylights out of the burly firemen, putting two of them in the hospital.

Source

Seriously, how would you react if these guys showed up at your whorehouse in the middle of the night?

Yes, clowns beat up firefighters. I'm not sure if that's some kind of fever nightmare or really weird fetish porn.

The firefighters were all Irish Catholic Orangemen, and an army of their countrymen showed up at the circus fairgrounds the next day (poetically, Friday the 13th) to cause trouble and get retribution. Police were called, but since they were mostly members of the Orange Order themselves, they just stood by and smoked cigars while the crowd grew more and more violent, demanding that the carnies "send out the clowns."

Source
See? Actual newspaper clipping of the event. I'm not making this up.

The situation got nastier as the locals set fire to the circus tents and wagons. The Hook and Ladder Company was called, but instead of putting out the fire (someone should have called that rival firehouse), the firemen started tearing down the last of the tents where the carnies were hiding. The mayor and police chief Samuel Sherwood showed up at the scene themselves to try and restore order, but to no avail. Chief Sherwood actually attempted to personally arrest a rioter and got beat up for his efforts. The mayor allegedly grabbed an axe from a dude who was about to commit coulrocide. Yes, that is the academic term for "clown murder."

Source
This ad seems to imply the circus had tigers. TIGERS. Why didn't they unleash their tigers on the rowdy Irishmen??? 

Finally the mayor had to call in the army to put the riot down. Amazingly no one was killed. Several locals were hurt but I can't find records of what sort of injuries were suffered among the circus folk. Something tells me the carnies wouldn't have cooperated with the police even if they had bothered to question them, and the circus quickly fled town. Many of them actually jumped into the lake and swam away.

Source
I would like to imagine that Lake Ontario wasn't as disgusting back then, but somehow I doubt it.

Afterward, seventeen rioters were arraigned in court but the police present at the scene claimed they were unable to identify even a single participant in the riot. This came as a surprise to no one, as they acted similarly during the previous firemen's brawl as well as the ongoing Protestant-Catholic street fights. Police constables of the day were appointed by city councilors with no training or vetting processes, and were, to be polite, massively corrupt bastards.

The public and the press put heavy pressure on the local government to fix the much-maligned police department. In 1858 the province finally put down legislation for an overhaul of the police force, and in 1859 the entire force was fired, leading to the basis of a new, better and less corrupt police organization in Toronto that exists to this today.

I can hear you snickering about a "better" and "less corrupt" police force in Toronto today, but compared to where it was in 1855, it's miles ahead.

Well, slightly better.

Sources:
http://www.russianbooks.org/crime/cph4.htm#_ftn36

http://torontoist.com/2013/09/how-a-fight-with-clowns-led-to-the-birth-of-modern-policing-in-toronto/

http://blogs.canoe.com/parker/news/the-great-toronto-circus-riot/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto
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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I Signed Up for Vampire Books for Blood!


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Want to check out some fun vampire-themed stories this Halloween season?

Want to support a very important cause at the same time?

Vampire Books for Blood is an author-created and driven donation drive run every October to raise money for the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services. I could go on, but here are the details directly from the source:

From VampireBooksForBlood.org:

Author Scott Burtness created the Vampire Books for Blood (SM) event in 2014. It is held annually from October 1st through October 31st.

The event brings authors and publishers of vampire-themed books together for a shared goal: to raise money for the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services.

Participating authors and publishers pledge to make a financial donation to the American Red Cross or Canadian Blood Services at the conclusion of the event. The donation can be an amount per book sold in October, a percentage of royalties earned from book sales in October, or a flat amount at the conclusion of the event.

When an author or publisher pledges their support, their book is listed on the "Vampire Books for Blood" event website. The website allows readers to easily browse books from participating authors and publishers, and link to where the books are sold. By purchasing a book from a participating author or publisher, readers know they're helping that author or publisher support the life-saving work of a vital organization.

Blood products are perishable and the need is constant to help prevent a shortage and ensure an adequate blood supply for patients. Red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days and platelets just five days, so they must be replenished constantly – there is no substitute.

Proceeds from “Vampire Books for Blood” will help the American Red Cross and Canadian Blood Services organize, promote, and manage blood drives, as well as support other great services.
Donating blood is of course an important responsibility - there is always a critical need for blood supplies to perform life-saving procedures. But if for some reason you can't donate blood, chipping in a few dollars is the next best thing. Now you can do that, and check out some great new books at the same time!



I've signed up for Vampire Books for Blood. I pledge to donate $1 to Canadian Blood Services for every copy of Hell Comes to Hogtown sold during the month of October. There are lots of other authors signed up as well, so head over to the website to see if there are any books you'd like. It's a win-win situation for everyone!

And hey, if you're a writer yourself (I know there are a few of you who read this blog) and you have an appropriately bloody book, why don't you sign up yourself? Submissions are open until October 15th!

Will you be supporting the American Red Cross or Canadian Blood Services this Halloween season?
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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

And Summer Ends... (#IWSG September)


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I missed the August IWSG post (my second miss this year!) for a very good reason. No, not because I was on vacation, but because some idiot ran into our car. Again.

Which, incidentally, was the main reason I missed that previous post, too.

Like the last time, it was completely the other driver's fault and fortunately I was the only one in the car (no babies this time!) but for various reasons this one was much more complicated and involved fighting with insurance companies and numerous trips and calls to the police station, all while we were on vacation half-way across the country no less. I was fuming and seething for a week and thus missed the post.

Amazingly, it all worked out and didn't up costing me a cent, nor should it affect our premiums. That was a huge relief to find out last week. Hopefully the other driver also loses their license over this, but that's not up to me to decide.

The vacation was rocky, as in addition to the car accident the baby also got sick for a few days, but my older son had the time of his life getting to visit (and be spoiled by) his grandparents, getting to play with his cousins and go camping and to the beach and a variety of other things. So if nothing else at least he should have good memories of the trip. And hey, I also actually sold a bunch of books to my relatives, so that was pretty fun. I have no idea if any of them will actually read them, but it's still awesome that they're being supportive.

Actual picture of me and the boy.
All that said, I actually did get a good bit of writing time in since I've got back to town, and have actually made some solid progress on several projects. Projects which I won't discuss since I've learned my lesson about hyping things before they come to fruition. I'll just keep it to saying I'm happy with the way things are progressing. :-)  And you know what? After a very busy and stressful two weeks on "vacation," it was actually very nice to get back to a regularly writing schedule.

Speaking of writing schedules...

IWSG September Question: How do you find the time to write in your busy day?

I've mentioned this a few times so any of my regular followers (both of you) have heard it but it's worth repeating. I have a young family and a full-time job with a hour-and-half commute each way, so I don't really have a lot of free time... except that I've taken to use that commute time for writing. My latest book, Hell Comes to Hogtown, was written almost entirely on the bus with my laptop on my knees.
Actual picture of my writing office.
It's not an ideal way to write, but you do what you have to do. It's part of my daily routine now, and I actually feel pretty crummy if I don't get my morning and evening bus-writing time for some reason (usually because I fall asleep). Just like any priority, if you want to write, or if you have to write, you find a way to make it work. If I didn't have the bus, I would probably just end up sleeping even less, which is probably not healthy because I don't sleep much as it is...

Oh and hey, one other nice little highlight of August: I got my first reviews for Hogtown, and so far, so good! I mean, Amazon deleted them for a few days, but then they came back, so huzzah! We're off and running.

Till next time...

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 here.


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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Text-to-Speech Software is a Valuable Editing Tool


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I don't think that anyone disagrees that having an editor is an integral part of your writing process. (Well, maybe some people do, but that's an argument for another day.) (Here's a great one for hire, in case you're looking.) But there are times when you will have to do some editing yourself. Maybe it's to prepare a piece before sending to an agent or publisher. Maybe you're so embarrassed at your awful grammar that you want to polish it a little before sending it to your real editor. Or maybe you're just starting out in self-publishing and can't afford a real editor yet and you're not convinced your cousin Eddy did a good enough job proofreading.

What was my point? Oh yeah, every writer needs to edit their own work. Which is really hard. One, because every word is a like precious little baby (hint: they're not), and Two, you stare at those words so hard for so long that it's impossible to look at them objectively and notice mistakes. As you read, you hear them in your head the way you think they're supposed to sound, not the way they're actually written.

Oh man, I am such a brilliant writer...
Having someone else read it is a big help, because they will pick up lots of things you don't notice. Having someone else read it ALOUD is even better, because they will very quickly pick up (and stumble over) things that don't sound right. Of course, most of us don't have friends and family members willing to sit down and read our manuscripts out loud to us (I'm sure my loving wife would, if she didn't have a million other better things to do than humour my obsessiveness). But you know what? Most of us have a dear friend in our pocket right now that can help us make our editing easier, and our writing better.

Text-to-Speech (TTS) technology is a really cool feature that I'm sure your smartphone possesses. It does exactly what it claims, converting printed text on the screen into audio. Technically it's meant as an accessibility feature for those who have trouble visually, but it has many other uses. The biggest one is having it read your manuscript back to you, forcing you to experience your work in a new format, which will allow you to pick up on typos, incorrect grammar, weird sentence structure and a multitude of other errors in your writing. These errors become painfully obvious when read out-loud, errors that you would glaze over when you're reading it, because again, your brain and your eyes are telling you what you EXPECT to be there, not what's actually there. It's much, much harder to do that when you're listening to the story in someone else's voice.

No, my book is awesome. You're just not reading it properly.
I find it's also helpful for picking up on plot inconsistencies and bad word choices. For some reason I pick up on things better when I hear them, and realize "oh, hey, I said that here, but I said something contradictory a few pages previous." The best one is noticing when you use the exact same adjective or verb three times in two sentences, which for some reason I never notice when reading it, but sounds SUPER obvious and terrible when read aloud.

Sure, the audio quality is often terrible and mechanical. Honestly it sometimes it sounds like Stephen Hawking tripping on really bad drugs. But this is actually a good thing. The computer is not trying to make the words sound good - it's just repeating back exactly what's on the page in a consistent, monotone format. There's no way you can get lost in the story or listen to the poetry of it or whatever. It's just the words, and whether or not they're the right words. If it hits a snag, it will IMMEDIATELY become apparent. Sometimes painfully so.

I'm sorry. This manuscript is so terrible, I refuse to read another word.
On my Android phone, I use a free App to convert the book to an Epub (I currently use Ebook & Document Converter), then open the file in Google Play Books, which comes with the phone and has a built in TTS-reader. It's really simple, and Android comes pre-loaded with dozens of different voices in various languages and accents, both male and female. Plus you can download numerous other voices on Google Play which are often of higher quality (but be forewarned that the files are HUGE).

The system will work very similarly on your iPhone, though you will probably need a slightly different app to convert and possibly read your files (I'm pretty sure you can get Google Play Books on iOS).

I like using Google Play Books because it will continue reading the book aloud while I do other things, but if I hear something I don't like I can quickly pause it, highlight the offending section and then continue. When I have time later I can go back and easily go through my highlights, fixing the problems. It's all terribly convenient.

No, seriously. I'm editing my book, right now.
Speaking of having multiple voice options, I've discovered that after I've listened to the document and made my edits, it's very helpful to go back and listen to again with a different voice and accent. Because of the variety of ways people/programs pronounce the same words, you will actually notice different errors depending on the voice. I put a recent short story through the process three times, and found new mistakes each time. For instance, I used the word "expense" where I meant to use "expanse," but the first two voices said it so similarly to "expanse" that I didn't notice it until the third pass. (I also can't solely blame the computer, because I had read it a dozen times without picking up on it, too.)

I'm sure you can use TTS technology on your desktop computer for similar effect, though I've never done it myself so I can't speak to it. If anyone has tried this, please let us know in the comments.

What do you think? Have you tried using TTS as an editing tool? I love it, but I'm sure there are detractors. Let us know in the comments below!
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