Friday, December 28, 2018

2018 Year in Review (5-Year Plan Revisited)

Two years ago for the IWSG December post, I talked about my 5-year plan as a writer. Last year I touched base as to my current progress on those goals, and today I'll look at them again. Remember, these are 5-year goals, so even if I haven't met them yet, I still have 3 more years to go. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

Who knows what the new year will bring?

FIVE YEAR GOALS (2 years in)

Write 3-5 books.
-Nothing to add for this one, unfortunately. I tinkered on a few books, but didn't come close to finishing anything. Total: 2 revised/rewritten books, but 0 new books.

Submit at least 3 books to agents/publishers.
-Ditto. At least I didn't submit any NEW books. I did submit the one I wrote last year a few times, but my total still stands at 1.

Self-publish 2-3 (full length) books.
-Nope. Total: 0.

Self-publish at least 1 Werebear vs Landopus story per year.
-This was not in the original 5-year plan, but I added it last year, and I succeeded with it again this year. The WvL stories are each well over 10K words long, so they're significant enough blocks of work, but nowhere near a full-length novel. Total: 2 for 2!

Write at least 2 short stories per year and submit them to anthologies/magazines.
-Here's one category where I actually met and surpassed my goals. Two of the stories I submitted last year were published (in Tick Tock: A Stitch in Crime and Strangely Funny V). I also wrote 5 new stories this year, submitted two of them for publication (one of which was accepted - see below), and had a third enter (and win!) a small online writing competition (I'll have details on that one later). There's also another story I wrote last year that I'm still trying to find a home for.

Collect at least 100 rejections.
-I received only 5 rejections I believe this year, as compared to about 15 last year. That's just due to quantity; my submission rate has slowed along with my writing, and while I submitted a greater number of different stories this year, I had the same story rejected like 13 times last year. So my lifetime total stands at somewhere around 40 rejections, not including non-responses. I'm going to have to pick up the pace a little bit to make sure I hit that 100 rejections mark in the next 3 years.

Some News To Celebrate:
For the third year in a row, one of my stories will be appearing in Mystery & Horror's STRANGELY FUNNY anthology series. I just got the word last week that STRANGELY FUNNY VI will feature my story "Eyewear of the Damned" when it's released this April. The last two volumes have featured some weird, creepy and hilarious comic horror stories, so it's always an honour to be part of this collection. I'll have more details when they're available.

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season, and that the New Year is wonderful to you all.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Apparently I'm a Rising Author?

A couple of weeks ago I was tagged by the lovely and talented C.G. Coppola to participate in the Rising Author Tag. Personally I think I kinda plateaued years ago, but if someone else thinks I'm "rising" who am I to judge? ;-) Of course I didn't notice the tag at the time, but I eventually picked up on it (Thanks, Loni!) so here we go! The rules are simple:
  • Thank the person who tagged you (thank you, C.G.!!)
  • Answer the questions they came up with.
  • Nominate four people to do the tag (no tagging the person who tagged you originally).
  • Come up with 10 new questions for the people you nominated.
So without further ado:

What are you currently working on?
A bunch of stuff, honestly. I'm in the middle of a short story that I was writing for someone for Christmas, I hope I still have time to get that finished. I've also got ideas for Werebear vs. Landopus Part 4 that I'm itching to put into words. But the next "big" project I'm slowly making progress on may or may not be a sequel to what may or may not be Hell Comes to Hogtown. Allegedly. I can neither confirm nor deny anything.

Are you a plotter or a panster?
I hate to admit it but I'm a pantser. I want to be a plotter because I always imagine having a firm outline will make the writing easier (and avoid the dozens of re-write I usually have to do), but I find whenever I plot too much I lose interest in actually finishing the story. It's like once I know everything that will happen, I'm no longer interested in writing it.

If you could re-write any of your books, would you? And which one(s)?
I actually completely rewrote Ten Thousand Days last year, so that one's good. Honestly if I could re-write anything it would be one of the seven or eight unpublished books I have in The Closet. None of them are publishable in their current state, but some of them have good ideas in there I would love to use. It's just a matter of finding the time and energy to re-write them when there's so much NEW stuff I want to work on.

How long does it typically take you to write a book/story?
It varies tremendously. The original first draft of Ten Thousand Days took about 72 hours. Hell Comes to Hogtown took 18 months from writing the first lines to release day. I have another manuscript I'm submitting now that I originally wrote in less than 20 days, but the re-writing and revising took about 3 years. It shouldn't come as a surprise that those shorter timelines all happened before I was married and had kids. These days I have way less free time so even a 5000 word short story often takes up to a month to write.

Of all your characters, who do you wish could be real?
That's a tough one. A lot of my characters are horrible, annoying and/or gross, so I'm not sure I really want any of them to be real. Sister Siouxsie Cue from The Gun Nun would be fun, but she probably wouldn't want to hang out with me. Same with Dee from Hell Comes to Hogtown. My characters are way more interesting than me, and would likely steer well clear of me at a dinner party.

How many drafts do you go through?
A lot. Too many. Once I finish the first draft, then I usually write the outline to see if what I wrote fits a sensical narrative structure. It inevitably doesn't, so then I have to start adding and removing scenes, and moving stuff around so that it makes sense. Then there are multiple passes to fix grammar, clarity, voice, etc. Often I have to do this multiple times from different characters' point of view. Then it goes to the editor and they have a round or two of revision, too. How many drafts is that? I don't count them, I just see it more as an organic, growing process. Sometimes I work on small sections, sometimes I work on the whole piece, but the work overall is constantly evolving and changing.

When do you tend to write? Early or late?
Both. It's either early in the morning before the rest of the house gets up, or late at night after everyone's gone to sleep. Sometimes I write on my lunch break, and I used to write during my bus commute to and from work. So basically I write anytime I can find the free moments to do so.

Do you listen to music while you write?
Almost always. Sometimes it's to set a particular mood and get me in the right frame of mind, but usually it's just to drown out the world around me. Kind of like a sonic barrier. When I wrote on the bus I would crank my music up all the way to block out all the noise and sound around me, in my headphones of course. Writing is probably ruining my hearing.

What is your least favorite thing about writing?
I think I mentioned it before, but it's definitely the revising part. That's why I have so many manuscripts that's just a first draft - I find going back to re-write and revise a monumental task. Honestly I would rather market and write query letters than revise. I like to say Writing is fun, but revising is work, and I truly believe it.

What is your most favorite thing about writing?
As a corollary to the previous question, my favourite part is writing the first draft. When the story is new and fresh and flowing freely, everything is very fun and exciting. I guess it's like a new relationship. Every day is a new adventure with new things to discover. I guess that means revising is like an older, established relationship, where everything is a slog and you have to work to stay together? I'm going to stop this analogy before I get in trouble.

I have no idea why this tree has giant, throbbing testicles.

And now as a Christmas present to you all... I'm NOT going to tag anyone else! Actually I'm just tired and it's late and I can't think clearly enough to come up with 10 more questions. :-) Here I am ruining the game, I'm terribly unfun, I know. But if anyone reads this and WANTS to answer those ten questions (or ten similar questions), GO for it. I was trying to come up with questions about secret author goals and personal measures of success but I kept dozing off. Maybe I'll try again in the New Year.

I hope you all have a fun and safe holiday season. May you relax and not feel bad about missing your word counts, and hopefully all get a good book or two under the tree (or other appropriate cultural festive decoration).

Peace, love and hugs!

Sure this is cute now, but wait until you come home and there house is covered with broken glass and the cat has tinsel hanging out of its butt.

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

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

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...