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/.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Holy Crap, I'm Feeling Good Two Months in a Row (#IWSG September 2018)

"It blends comedy and blackness in a way that hits all the right notes for me. I would go as far as to say it may appeal to Pratchett or Vonnegut fans."
-Lukasz Przywoski, Fantasy Book Critic

In case you couldn't guess, that quote from a glowing review of HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN made my year. I don't think it's warranted, but even a tangential comparison to Terry Pratchett or Kurt Vonnegut (!!!) is about the highest praise I can imagine.

Kurt looks almost as shocked as I was.

August was a great month for me, writing-wise.

For those who missed it a few weeks ago, my book HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN was selected by Fantasy Book Critic as a semi-finalist for Mark Lawrence's 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off. Basically that means it has made it to the top 50 or so of the 300 books entered. That quote at the top came from their official review of the book.. It still has a long way to go to make it to the top 10 (literally, it will probably be 6 months before the finalists are decided), but I am beyond thrilled it even made it this far.

As a side-effect to the success in SPFBO, the first week of August was the best sales week I've had in years. I sold more copies of Hogtown in August than I had in the two years since it was released, not to mention a few other sales and several hundred free downloads of TENTACLES UNDER A FULL MOON. Not only that, but people were buying it all over the world - I usually get sales in Canada and the US, maybe an occasional one in the UK, but thanks to SPFBO I've had sales/downloads in Germany, Mexico, Australia, Sweden and India. Needless to say that was a great accomplishment, at least for me.

I'm now an international best-selling author!

In additional to Fantasy Book Critic, I also received 10 new reviews/ratings on Goodreads, which is more than I usually get in a year. Most of them were quite positive; even the worse one is pretty good:

"Fun, urban fantasy that'll keep you turning pages. Its not fantastic literature, but it's entertaining and you won't be disappointed with it."

I mean, he's not wrong.

On top of all that, I wrote and submitted another story (with an hour to spare before the deadline!) and have another one ready to go for a submission later this month. I've also started a new writing game with my friends online - I'll probably write a more detailed post about that later. It's probably not something that will generate content I can share publicly, but it does force me to write regularly (and quickly - I wrote over 3000 words last week), and it tends to spawn a lot of ideas that I can use elsewhere down the line.

If I had one thing to be insecure about this month, it's that there is no way in hell I'll be able to keep this positive energy and momentum going... :-/

One moment you're flying like a bird, the next you're landing on your face.

September 5 IWSG Question 
What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

I've talked about this a lot before so I won't go in huge detail, but the short version is that I started self-publishing because I was impatient. I wanted to see my books on Amazon and in print RIGHT NOW.

In hindsight that's probably not the best reason to self-publish, but in the last couple of years I've grown to appreciate it on a number of levels, the main one being is that the stuff I write is not usually palpable to traditional publishers. (Seriously, have you read Tentacles Under a Full Moon?) With self-publishing I can write what I want, when I want. I don't have anything against traditional publishing, and I still submit to them regularly, but I suspect the majority of my work is going to continuing being self-published for the foreseeable future.

#



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/.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Hell Comes to Hogtown is the first SPFBO Semi-Finalist of 2018!


Remember that secret I hinted about a few days ago? Well the cat's out of the bag now...

This morning, Fantasy Book Critic officially announced their first pick to move forward in the 2018 Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off, and it's none other than HELL COMES TO HOGTOWN. Like I said, I had actually found out about this a few days ago, and I'm so thrilled that the news is finally public and I can shout it from the rooftops.

(For those of you not up to speed with SPFBO, it's a yearly Self-Publishing contest organized and hosted by best-selling fantasy novelist Mark Lawrence. Check out more info here.)

This is especially vindicating because, as many of you know, my book was the very first one eliminated in it's group in last year's SPFBO contest. I only submitted again because I couldn't possibly have done any worse this time around. I could only go up, right? Little did I know...

You can check out the full details of the first round of eliminations right here, but below is a snippet from the judge's comments. A more detailed review is expected to follow.

It’s a strange, genre-bending mixture of action, horror, fantasy and comedy. And it works - it entertains, surprises and, above all, provides a lot of fun.
It’s not lighthearted, but a strong dose of absurd and wicked sense of humour balances off some of the tragic events.
It has a similar vibe to Tarantino or Guy Ritchie's movies. The story is simple but twists and turns are Legion and you really can't be sure what to expect. It'll entertain you in a loud,violent and inappropriate way. 
- Lukasz Przywoski, Fantasy Book Critic

Holy shit, someone actually liked this...

There's still a huge field of competition in the contest and it's expected to run a full year, but even if this is a far as my book goes I am incredibly pleased. This is a huge bump of validation that I've been missing from my writing for a long time. In the last three days alone I've sold more copies of Hogtown than I have in the last 18 months (it helps that it's on sale). Hell, according to Amazon I've sold copies in places I never would have dreamed, like India and Mexico. Seriously, if nothing else comes of this contest I'm already way ahead, so thank you, Mark Lawrence and SPFBO. I am so psyched right now.

#

Speaking of the sale, Hell Comes to Hogtown is available for just 99 cents (USD) through Sunday on Amazon and various other retailers. If you haven't read it yet, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.


While you're at it, head over to Andrea Domanski's website where you can find over 120 other SPFBO entries also on sale for just 99 cents. There are a lot of gems in there waiting to be discovered, so do yourself a favour at check a few of them out.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Revenge of the Spiff and Other Stories (#IWSG August 2018)

Lots of news this month! Some insecurity, some head-scratchers, and even some good news. There's so much to talk about that I've had to break it down into easily-digestible categories...


RETURN OF SPIFF-BO

Remember last year when I signed up for the Self-Published Fantasy Blog-Off? Quick recap: It's a contest organized by award-winning and best-selling author Mark Lawrence, where 300 independent writers submit their books to be judged by 10 book review websites to find "the best" self-published fantasy book of the year. While there's no "official" prize (besides a replica of Dumbledore's Elder Wand - it's a long story), the exposure of doing well in this high-profile event does wonders for you and your book. Previous winners have gone on to big things, and even making it as a finalist can provide a huge boost to your sales and audience.

Of course, Ten Thousand Days was the very first book eliminated in its group when the reviewer was offended by some off-colour jokes and didn't make it past the first chapter.

Well, I didn't learn my lesson, because I have submitted Hell Comes to Hogtown to SPFBO this year, which has TEN TIMES as much offensive humour as Ten Thousand Days. My thought was I can't possibly do any worse than last year, so what do I have to lose?


99 CENT SALE

The SPFBO contest officially starts today, so reviews should start to roll in soon. You can start taking bets on how quickly I'll be booted out this time around. In conjunction with the contest though, I'm also taking part in a special sale, where over 100 of the SPFBO participants are offering their entry on sale for just 99 cents! That's right, you can check out exactly how funny, gory and inappropriate Hell Comes to Hogtown is FOR YOURSELF, all for less than the price of a cup of coffee.

Get your own copy right here!
(Or here)
(Or here)
(Or here)

If schlocky horror-comedy is not your thing, there are many other great books participating in this promotion. There's paranormal, epic fantasy and YA fantasy as far at the eye can see! Just check out Andrea Domanski's website for a full list of all the books on sale this week. Special thanks to Ms Domanski for organizing the sale, too!


Just for fun, I also made Tentacles Under a Full Moon FREE on Amazon this week, too, so check that out if you haven't already.


WRITING NEWS

A few weeks ago I finally started writing a story that I've been putting off for two years. It's not that I didn't want to write it, I just had so many things I wanted to write I couldn't decide which one to start first. I actually started - and abandoned - three other novels in that time, and wrote several short stories. Then a lot of personal and family stuff happened that wiped out my free time and made all writing pretty much impossible.

I've finally started to carve out that time and put words to (digital) paper, and in the first week or so so I wrote 5000 words. I was ecstatic! I finally got my groove back and I felt like myself. Plus I was making progress on a project that's been rolling around in my head for years. It was great, I was feeling good and positive...

...and then I realized those 5000 words sucked and I threw pretty much the whole thing out.

I was forcing the story to go places it didn't want to go. I'm notoriously bad at starting stories/books, and in this case it was because I had certain scenes and jokes in mind, but it took a lot of set-up to get there, and when I finally got to the punchline it really wasn't worth it. I tried to jam way too many characters and plot lines into the first few chapters and it just didn't work. So I trimmed it all out, jumped right into the main plot line instead, and I'll introduce those characters and plot elements more naturally over time as the story progresses.

Maybe I'll be able to use my ideas later on in the book after everything is established, maybe not, but either way I'm not upset about it. It's a learning experience and I think the book will be better for it. I'm just happy it's taking shape at all, and hey, I'm back up to about 3000 words, so I'm doing alright.


#IWSGPIT NEWS

I submitted my pitch a few times during the #IWSGPIT a few weeks ago on Twitter and got a couple of bites. One agent wrote me back and told me the sample I sent was hilarious, but it really wasn't the kind of thing she represented so had to pass. I had thought the same thing when I looked her up before submitting the query, but hey, it's still nice to know someone liked it.

SUPER SECRET NEWS

I can't share it yet, but let me just say it made my day (and month, maybe year?) writing-wise when I heard this bit of news a few weeks ago. No, I didn't land a book deal or anything, but man, I really felt vindicated when I got this particular message. I'll share the details when I can (hopefully in time for next month's IWSG), but until then just know that this info is what triggered my recent resurgence in writing, so it's definitely a good thing.


AUGUST 1st BONUS QUESTION 
What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Don't wait. I wish I had started doing what I'm doing now at least 10 years earlier. Sure, I'm a better writer now, but I truly believe if I had started publishing when I was 25 instead of 35 I would have gotten better faster, too.

If you're looking to be traditionally published, submit. Submit, submit, submit. Submit anything. Pitches, short stories, full novels, grocery lists, whatever you have. What's the worst thing that can happen? They say "no?" They're going to say "no" 99% of the time anyway, so you might as well start building up a tolerance to it. Let it become a routine. Submit, get rejected, submit somewhere else. You'll start to write more stuff because you'll want to try again. Or maybe you'll re-write and start over. Eventually SOMETHING will get accepted, and you will get better as you go.

If you want to be self-published, just do it. If you're afraid it will suck or you don't know what you're doing, you're probably right. Publish it anyway. Use a pseudonym, if you feel you need to protect your name. Start with just a short story, if you like. It will be full of typos, the cover will be terrible, the formatting will be all screwed up and no one will read it or buy it. You will take it down and re-write it multiple times. But much like with submitting to a market, the first time is always the hardest and scariest. The experience you will gain self-publishing your first story will be invaluable, and everything will make much more sense the next time around. And again, you will want to put out something bigger and better than last time, and use what you've learned to help you along, so you will only improve as a writer each time.

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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 at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

BOOK LAUNCH: Tempting Friendship by Patricia Josephine

This week, friend of the blog Patricia Josephine drops her latest book, Tempting Friendship, which was previously known under the working title of The Incubus and the Asexual. (Personally I liked the old title, but I'm the guy who has a story on Amazon called The Revenge of the Lycanterrancephalopod, so maybe I'm not the best judge of book titles). Make sure to check out the book and show Ms. Josephine some social media love. She's good people.


THE BOOK!

At first, Quinn isn’t impressed by Keane. He’s cocky and has sex on the brain. The polar opposite of her. Despite their differences, something blossoms between the two.

Never one to take things seriously, Keane is an incubus coasting through life without a care. When he meets Quinn, her lack of reaction to him piques his interest. No human has ever been able to resist him.

As Keane and Quinn struggle to understand what is going on between them, something sinister rocks their world. Young incubi are vanishing, and Keane's friends go missing. Someone is after his kind. When Quinn is kidnapped, Keane must uncover who is behind the abductions and get to her before it's too late.

BUT IT NOW on AMAZON or SMASHWORDS

WIN AN AMAZON GIFT CARD!

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THE AUTHOR!

Patricia never set out to become a writer, and in fact, she never considered it an option during high school and college. She was more of an art and band geek. Some stories are meant to be told, and now she can't stop writing.

She writes New Adult under the name Patricia Josephine and Young Adult under the name Patricia Lynne.

Patricia lives with her husband in Michigan, hopes one day to have what will resemble a small petting zoo, and has a fondness for dying her hair the colors of the rainbow.

THE LINKS!


A WORD FROM OUR WRITER!



Sexuality in Tempting Friendship

A reader might expect the topic of sexuality would be important to the plot when one of the main characters is an incubus, but honestly, not really. I'll leave people better educated in the various sexualities to write a story where it's important to the plot. But I figured I would dive a little bit into my approach. (Not that I really had much say. My characters tend to dictate stuff like that and leave me with no choice.)

If you lined Quinn, Blake, and Keane up and asked them what their sexuality was, this is how they would answer.

Quinn, a human: Asexual.
Blake, human-born incubus: heterosexual.
Keane, an incubus: Why's it matter? A meal's a meal.

Incubi and succubi don't have a sexuality in the world I created. Honestly, why would they? That's limiting themselves on who they'll snack on. They have personal preferences. Jade, for example, likes athletes. Keane goes on emotions. The more emotional, the better. Serge, after falling for Blake's mother, stopped having sex with human females. If you asked all three of them about sexuality, they wouldn't have an answer. It doesn't matter to them.

Human-born, on the other hand, do. It's because they started life out as human and became a succubus or incubus later in life. It only made sense that their sexuality could be as varied as human sexuality. Yes, that means there could even be an asexual incubus or succubus. That would be an interesting story to write!

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

It's Really Late and I Just Ate a Bag of Skittles (#IWSG July 2018)

It's after midnight and I just finished writing a short story (the second one in two months!) but I'm not going to bed because I just realized that IWSG was bumped up a day because of you silly Americans and your independence. So here I am pounding out a few more words before I drag my weary carcass off to the blissful oblivion of sleep.

The story was, I think, pretty good. Much better than the last one. I might have to tweak the ending a little bit and it's a tad longer than I would have liked (I was aiming for under 5000 words and it came in at 5600) so I may have to do some trimming. I struggle with writing short stories sometimes because I try to jam too much in. You need to get the characters and plot established right away and jump into the action. And while I very purposefully established the plot and story in the very first line, I still take longer than I should building up to the climax. The journey's the fun part and all that, but I often indulge myself too much.

It's a story with a lot of humour, a little bit of a darkness, and (I hope) a nice gut-punch of a surprise toward the end, just the way I like them. We'll see if I'm as happy with it after a few hours of sleep.

July 3 question
What are your ultimate writing goals, and how have they changed over time (if at all)?

Maybe it's just because I'm exhausted, but I'm about to let you all in on my super-secret author goals that I don't usually tell anyone. I have three of them:

1. I want to buy my book from a remainder bin at a big book store chain. Ideally it should have multiple stickers on it, marking it down from $6 to $3 to $1.
2. I want to see a stranger reading my book on a bus/subway and ask them, "That thing's a piece of shit, isn't it?"
3. I want my book to be turned into a movie. Not a big budget Hollywood movie mind you, but a micro-budget, shitty independent movie, preferably filmed in Canada, like Jesus Christ Vampire Hunter. Or Twilight.
Still a better love story than Twilight.

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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 at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.



Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Write Story, Place in Drawer (#IWSG June 2018)

I wrote a short story last month. It wasn't very good and it will probably never see the light of day, but it was the first one I've written in a long time (seven or eight months, for sure), so it was nice to finally get back into it.

Life has started to settle back into a routine. There's still plenty of bad stuff happening but we're learning to deal with it.

Oh and hey, in case you missed it, there was not one but TWO anthologies released in May featuring yours truly. I'm sure you've heard ad naseum about Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime from our very own IWSG, but I'm contractually obligated to mention it in every blog post or conversation I have for the next six months. :-P What you might have missed though is STRANGELY FUNNY V, a new collection of comic supernatural tales from Mystery & Horror. It was released quietly a couple of weeks ago, and while the paperback is still forthcoming you can get the Kindle version from Amazon RIGHT NOW. I haven't read through all of this year's edition yet, but last year's was delightfully bonkers, which prompted even my usually stoic father to ask: "What the f*ck is this?"

It's funny, that's what it is.

Oh, and in case you want to read even more of my weird ramblings, last week I posted an interview on the official Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime blog. It's the interview that was BANNED from a book review site earlier this year, so if you want to see for yourself what the fuss is about, be sure to check it out.

June 6 IWSG Question
What's harder for you to come up with, book titles or character names?

Book names, without a doubt. I actually mentioned in the interview from last week that I put about as much thought into character names as I do into what socks I should wear. Since I own fifty pairs of identical black socks, that amount of thought it exactly zero. It's how I end up with characters with names like Fistpunch, Thumb and Rat Bastard.

Book titles (and short story titles) on the other hand, provide me with no end of headaches. It took me weeks to come up with "Hell Comes to Hogtown," which in the end is joke that I find funny but probably only six people will get the references it comes from. Originally the title was supposed to be something along the line of "Come Into My Parlour" or "Spake the Spider to the Fly," but there are literally hundreds of other books out there with those titles, so I rightly chose to avoid it. I have a short story I've been shopping around for over a year and I think part of the problem is the name of it is stupid, but I can't think of anything better to call it.

To be fair, it's not THIS bad.

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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 at http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com/.


Friday, May 25, 2018

Book Release: SOME VERY MESSY MEDIEVAL MAGIC by C. Lee McKenzie

Fellow Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime contributor C. Lee McKenzie has a new book available that I think everyone should check out. If you love intricately-plotted fantasy with a bend toward younger readers, then this is definitely for you.

THE BOOK!



Pete’s stuck in medieval England!

Pete and his friend Weasel thought they’d closed the Time Lock. But a young page from medieval times, Peter of Bramwell, goes missing. His absence during a critical moment will forever alter history unless he’s found.

There’s only one solution - fledgling wizard Pete must take the page’s place. Accompanied by Weasel and Fanon, Pete’s alligator familiar, they travel to 1173 England.

But what if the page remains lost - will Pete know what to do when the critical moment arrives? Toss in a grumpy Fanon, the duke’s curious niece, a talking horse, and the Circle of Stones and Pete realizes he’s in over his young wizard head yet again...


Release date – May 15, 2018
Juvenile Fiction - Fantasy & Magic/Boys & Men
$13.95 Print ISBN 9781939844460
$3.99 EBook ISBN 9781939844477

THE AUTHOR!



C. Lee McKenzie has a background in Linguistics and Inter-Cultural Communication, but these days her greatest passion is writing for young readers. When she’s not writing she’s hiking or traveling or practicing yoga or asking a lot questions about things she still doesn’t understand. http://cleemckenziebooks.com

THE LINKS! 



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