Monday, September 16, 2019

Book Fairs and Author Scams

I can't tell you the number of scams involved that prey on a self-published author's dreams of seeing their work on display at the prestigious trade shows. There are too many to count.

Writer Beware® Logo

And the fact is they have been in operation in plain sight of the publishing industry, for the longest time.

The people running the major book fairs obviously have no problem taking money from companies whose business practice involves deceiving authors with false or overtly grandiose promises that, for just this price tag, their work will be on display for agents, movie producers, etc, in a respected way.

Vanity Publishing, indeed.

David Gaughran, an author and long-time advocate for other authors, and always on the lookout for shading practices, recently shared researched details about these practices and these companies in a post entitled: The Combined Book Exhibit and Author Scams.

"This is a considerable fee when you consider what the author gets in return, especially if you have seen these tired, unloved bookcases at industry events. The idea that an agent or editor or movie producer would peruse these shelves, let alone actually acquire something from them, is risible......Needless to say, this is quite a lot of money for some rather questionable return"
An image from David's original post - read the full post

"There are all sorts of scammers and weasels in publishing. And partnering with known and trusted entities is how they dupe authors in such huge numbers, particularly inexperienced authors, very young authors, or those of more advanced years – who make up the overwhelming majority of victims."
Header image from David's original post - read the full post
"Keep in mind that the Combined Book Exhibit isn’t an unknown entity operating at the margins of the publishing industry, it is right at the heart of the traditional end of the business, with long-standing partnerships with the most prestigious industry events and deep links with the likes of Publishers Weekly and some writing organizations too (who should know better)"

Again, I commend David for advocating for authors, and remind those who are considering forking over their hard-earned money to self-publishing services to please do some research, check sites such as Writer Beware®, do some simple Google searches on the company name to see what authors are saying about their experiences being duped, misled, and gouged.

I am posting about this, and re-sharing his detailed blog post, in order to help ensure that writers are made aware.

Friday, September 13, 2019

ALLI Self-Publishing Advice Conference

The good folks behind the Alliance of Independent Authors are hosting another virtual conference called The Self-Publishing Advice Conference starting tomorrow (Saturday Sept 14th)

I have been a presenter/speaker at this conference in the past and love how valuable it can be to authors to consume and enjoy at their leisure, without having to leave their home or office.

This is because, for this conference, the alliance host 24 video sessions over 24 hours, bringing authors the latest self-publishing news and interviews, webinars and presentations, live to authors everywhere. This year, their conference theme is Sell More Books.
There are going to be top authors like Brian Meeks, Michael Anderle and J. Thorn as well as top companies like Bookbub and Findaway voices, and all sharing their very best strategies, tactics, and techniques for selling more books.
At The Self-Publishing Advice Conference, you’ll learn:
·      How to grasp and master Bookbub’s CPM ads
·      How to copy write like a pro and crack your Amazon sales page
·      Why your book isn’t selling and what you can do about it
·      How to sell more audiobooks
·      Top tips for video marketing 
·      How to become an Instagram influencer
·      Who can benefit from AMS ads and how to master them.
And much more.
The best part?
The Self-Publishing Advice Conference is totally FREE to attend live and for the following 48 hours.
We all know there are a lot of courses, resources, and virtual summits out there for writers, but this one is unique…
You see, The Self-Publishing Advice Conference is focused exclusively on helping you sell more books.
This conference is about making YOU a better marketer, period.
To join in, all you need is a pen, some paper, and the drive to sell more books.
I’m really excited by the line up the alliance has managed to bring together to show you how to sell more books.

If you want to learn from people who have ‘been there, done that’ and can show you what to do (and what not to do) to achieve book sale success, then…
Check out “The Self-Publishing Advice Conference” (FREE for a limited time):
These conferences are free to ALLI members, but if you aren't a member, outside the window, an ALL-ACCESS PASS can be purchased for $199 and it offers access to this conference, previous and future sessions.
Having worked in this industry since 1992, I benefit from constantly learning. I know that I'll be learning more from this wonderful 24 hour virtual conference, and I'm sure that you will too if you check it out.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Pausing To Reflect and Give Thanks

Last week I went out for lunch with a new friend.

Jan and I had been introduced via a mutual friend, Laurie Blake, who had long insisted me meet, because we were both writers, and, of course, did share a common past working in the Ontario tourism industry.

It took a while between Laurie's initial desire for us to connect and an actual in person meeting.

But when it happened, it was, as I should have known, a delightful experience.

Jan and I hit it off immediately, talking books, and writing, and publishing, and tourism.

And we also, of course, talked a lot about our mutual friend, Laurie, whom we both adore, admire and respect so deeply.

When I left that lunch, pleased with meeting such a wonderful person, I thought I should reach out to thank Laurie for that. But when I started to think about it, I realized that I had never thanked Laurie for all of those previous gifts he had given me over the years.

I also realized that he was likely unaware of just how much he had given me, just how much he had inspired me.

And, since my podcast is about reflecting on things I have learned, I adapted all those thoughts into a special new type of episode that I will roll into the regular feed from time to time.

I call the episodes "Thanks for the Inspiration" - the first one, of course, was: "Thanks for the Inspiration: Laurie Blake."

Laurie was a neighbour to me and my parents in the town where I grew up, Levack, Ontario.

He and his wife owned Fox Lake Lodge. I occasionally worked at the lodge, and had the wonderful opportunity to be a protege under Laurie both at the lodge and on some other wonderful experiences, such as being a back-up driver on a quest to Old Town, Maine, to bring back canoes.

Apart from the influence Laurie had on my character and perspectives on life, he also helped shape my skill in oral storytelling. Heck, a story that I've been sharing and have re-adapted countless times over the years, "The Legend of Prospero's Ghost" was derived from a deliciously atmospheric ghost story Laurie shared one night over a campfire and which I can still fondly conjure up each time I am sharing a ghost story.

That tale, which eventually evolved into a short story called "Prospero's Ghost" that I co-wrote with Kimberly Foottit for the anthology Campus Chills, is still one that I continue to play with an re-adapt in new ways when asked to share a ghost story.

I share all of that in my special recent podcast episode, and have made a note to continue to pause to acknowledge and thank those who have had a positive and profound impact on my own life as a person and as a creative.

I think it's important to pause and reflect and give thanks to those who have had a positive difference on your life and who likely never even knew that they did.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Guest on the Phantom Faction Podcast

Last week Liz and I took at drive up to nearby Harriston to meet up with the boys (Dan, Danny and John) from the Phantom Faction Podcast.

The interview, which runs about an hour long, was recorded in the Crown Theatre (an allegedly haunted building), in Harriston, Ontario.

We chatted a lot about my co-authored book Haunted Hospitals, but also talked about several of my other books on the paranormal and unexplained and eerie phenomenon.

My skeletal companion, Barnaby Bones, came along for the ride and sat in the theatre while we recorded the show.

I describe myself as having a believer's heart but a skeptic's approach.

So, just prior to the interview began, when Dan mentioned that he was seeing floating orbs through the lens of his iPhone camera, I was curious to take a look. I'd never witnessed orbs in person myself (though have seen hundreds of different ones in research done on hauntings).

A pair of streaks of light shooting up from the ground over Barnaby's head in a left upward direction (from Dan's camera)

I had expected to see little blurry flashes of light, which I'd always suspected were light from the flash reflecting off of dust or water particles in the air. (I'm not all that knowledgeable about science, but do understand some of the basics at least)

I was surprised to see that whathe was seeing through his phone weren't little floating specs of blurry light (ie, what could be dust particles floating about), but, instead, odd thin streaks of light seeming to shoot up from the ground and towards the ceiling. Some straight, others on odd angles.

Again, I'm not much of a scientist, but do like to understand what I'm seeing. I comprehend how gravity works and that dust might not float down all the time - movements in the air as we walk around stirs them up.

One of the streaks of light in front of Barnaby's head (from Dan's camera)

But I couldn't figure out what might cause the streaks of light to be shooting up at such speeds.

I pulled out my own iPhone and spotted several of the same type of phenomena through my own viewfinder. None of the pics I snapped captured them.

Liz did the same thing on her android phone but didn't see any of the lights at all. Only Dan's phone and my phone seemed to show them.

Does this mean there's something in the iPhone that is picking up some sort of electromagnetic element in the air? Some sort of electric charge shooting up? (Again, I'm not a scientist, but I always like to explore all of the possibilities - like I said, I'm an open-minded believer with a skeptic's approach).

I've done of bit of looking into the phenomenon, but haven't yet figured out what it is, nor have I found any videos showing the odd fast streaks of light zipping in an upward direction.

I will, of course, keep looking as I'm sure there has to be some sort of explanation for it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Write Stuff Bundle

I am honoured and thrilled to be part of a new The Write Stuff Spring 2019 Bundle from StoryBundle.

Curated by the awesome Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the bundle contains three themes:

  • Finding Time to Write (no matter what your life's circumstances are)
  • Growing As An Artist
  • Practical Business Advice
The Write Stuff 2019 Bundle

I come in on the "practical business advice" side of things with my book Killing It On Kobo: Leverage Insights to Optimize Publishing and Marketing Strategies, Grow Global Sales and Increase Revenue on Kobo.

But there are so many fantastic books available for a great value. (I've already read a handful of them and will be buying this myself so I can read the rest).

Here's how this StoryBundle works.

You decide what price you want to pay. 

For $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous), you'll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
  • Business For Breakfast - Vol. 10: Growing As a Professional Artist by Leah Cutter
  • How to Write Non-Fiction by Joanna Penn
  • Practical Meerkat's 52 Bits of Useful Info for Young (and Old) Writers by Laura Anne Gilman
  • The Rational Writer: A to Z by Mindy Klasky
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus SIX more things, including a $50 video lecture!
  • Business For Breakfast - Vol. 11: Beginning Marketing for the Professional Publisher by Blaze Ward
  • WMG Publishing Presents: Carving Out Time for Your Writing by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Writing With Chronic Illness by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Killing it on Kobo by Mark Leslie Lefebvre
  • Money-Making Business Models for Writers by Tonya D. Price, MBA
  • The Million Dollar Writing Series Boxed Set by Kevin J. Anderson

So that's 10 books plus a $50 online video lecture for only $15?

$15 for all of that? YUP! (Yes, I know, I'm borrowing and re-editing a line from Monty Python's LIFE OF BRIAN out of context) So, if you think we are a little out of our heads making such a generous offer, go ahead and take advantage of our temporary absence of mind.

Even if you only consume half of the content, or perhaps even a quarter of it, you're still getting a huge value.

You can thank us for it later.

You can read MORE about the bundle here.

It's super convenient to get these ebooks onto your reader of choice—just download and sync. Or, if you have a Kindle or Kindle-enabled tablet or smartphone, StoryBundle can send the books directly to your device. No computer required. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Public Lending Right Program Canada

We are now more than halfway through April. If you are a Canadian author and haven't registered for Canada's Public Lending Right Program you're missing out on an opportunity. (And the deadline is coming fast!)

Public Lending Right is the right of authors to receive payment for free public use of their works in libraries. PLR payments are determined based on the presence of an eligible title in the collections of selected library systems.

This particular program supports Canadian authors being stocked in Canadian libraries.

A random sampling is conducted, the totals are tallied, and eligible authors are paid usually in February of each year for the previous year's results.

Elgible titles include print, eBook, and audiobook.

You have to first register. And you can add titles that go back five years.

But the submission period, each year, is between Feb and May. You have to register by May 1st.

If you've already previously registered, you can (for example), add 2018 published titles in 2019.

You can download the forms from the PLR Canada website.

This year, the PLR Canada cheque I received covered the cost of an all inclusive tropical beach vacation we booked in March.

Apart from various print titles, I also have my ebooks and audiobooks listed in multiple library systems (such as OverDrive) through Kobo Writing Life and Draft2Digital for eBooks and through Findaway Voices for audiobooks.

Here's a short video of me mentioning this recently during a recent London Book Fair Self-Publishing Advice Conference #SelfPubCon2019.

And here is a longer, more detailed one about how the program works. (More of a presentation).

More than 30 countries around the world participate in a similar program. (Sorry US authors, it's not available there yet). Other countries include Australia, the UK, New Zealand.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Recipe: Skull Burger Patties

The other day the Skull Cakelet Pan from Nordic Ware arrived in our home.

The "Haunted" Skull Cakelet Pan from Nordic Ware

I ordered it after drolling over the cool pizza skull recipe video that I kept seeing online.

While I haven't yet made the pizza skulls (or skull calzones) have been having fun experimenting with ways to use it.

The first night, Liz made some delicious skull scones to accompany a delicious trout and rice dinner.

Skull scones

The next day, I used a package oatmeal muffin mix to make oatmeal skull muffins.

Oatmeal skull muffins go best in the morning with a skull coffee mug
And then yesterday I thought I'd keep experimenting.

And I came up with a recipe that I call Skull Burger Patties - or maybe Spicy Burger Patties (or, more accurately, Slightly Spicy Burger Patties).

Skull Burger Patties

They were delicious.

Here is the recipe.


  • 700g extra lean hamburger meat (approx 1.5 lb)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced, sliced into tiny chunks) (or garlic powder)
  • 3/4 cup of  crushed Dorito BOLD BBQ tortilla chips (approx 1/2 a family sized bag)
  • 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
  • Montreal steak spice

Makes 6 Skull Burger Patties.


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray inside of Nordic Ware Skull Cakelet Pan with cooking spray.
  3. Crush down 1/3 to 1/2 a bag of Dorito BOLD BBQ tortilla chips. (Easy to do this in a sealed sandwich baggy. Crush by hand or use a roller. Heck, play catch with it, step on them, whatever turns your crank) You'll want to end up with about 3/4 a cup of broken Dorito tortilla chips - some fine chunks, some slightly larger ones will be in the mix
  4. Mix hamburger meat with 2 eggs, breadcrumbs and Dorito BOLD BBQ.
  5. Add minced garlic and Montreal steak spice and ensure hamburger is mixed well
  6. Press mixed hamburger mixture into the skull pan. (Each one will be about 3/4 full, or less than a centimeter from the top.
  7. Cook in center of pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes. (Depending on your stove, you might want to check the meat about 18 minutes in. It could be done, or it might take longer than 20 minutes.

Skull Burgers hot out of the oven.

They turned out delicious.

I had the burgers without buns and a side salad that included sweet-hot peppers. I added ketchup and President's Choice Smokin' Stampede Beer and Chipotle BBQ sauce to the eyes and the nose for fun effect. But these burgers didn't really need any condoments.

I suppose I could have sliced dill pickles and placed them across one another beneath each skull to make a skull and crossbones effect.

Skull Burgers and Salad

As I said, the burgers were delicious. But perhaps not as spicy as I would normally like. (I can handle really hot food).

Next time I might use the Dorito "Flaming Hot" chips to give some nice punch. Or, stick with a regular less painful Dorito flavour, and add in sliced jalapeno or some additional hot dried spice to the mix.

I might also try adding in grated cheese. Maybe by pressing the hamburger meat into the bottom of the pan and a bit up the sides then inserted grated cheese inside, then topping the "back of the skull head" with a layer of meat so the cheese cooks inside.

So many fun possibilities.

Friday, April 05, 2019

Territorial Publishing Rights: Looking At A Ten Year Prediction

Ten years ago I had been asked to make a prediction about something that I didn't think would be around a decade later.

Frustrated with the slow manner by which publishers were reacting to the opportunities that the digital world presented, I speculated (in a wishful-thinking sort of way) that territorial publishing rights might not be a thing.

Turns out it still IS a thing.

For legacy or traditional publishing, that is.

It's not as much of a thing for indie or self-published authors.

In the latest episode of my Stark Reflections podcast, I reflect on an article I had published in the summer of 2009 as well as offering a bit of a background on why and how territorial publishing rights exist.

How they are based on securing the rights to and producing a book within a country, or shipping that book to another country where it can be warehoused for bookstore distribution.

Things that still exist, but aren't much of a concern for indie authors whose world is 95% digital.

Because it was episode 69, and because the reflection was about the summer of 2009, my lyric-infested mind went immediately to the Bryan Adams song "The Summer of '69."

A little Mark Leslie Adams anyone?

You can read the accompanying podcast episode shownotes here. You can also listen to or subscribe to the podcast there too.

Or you can listen to it online here.

Just be warned, there might be a tiny bit of me singing a parody version of the classic awesome Bryan Adams hit song.

Friday, March 22, 2019

Rut-Busting for Writers with Nancy Christie

In the latest episode of my writing and publishing podcast, I interview Nancy Christie about her book Rut-Busting Book for Writers.

You can listen to the episode in the window below or click here to read the full show notes and listen to it from that site (or download the episode to listen)

The timing on this was perfect, because I recently applied a few of the strategies she shared with me (which I talk about in the pre-interview personal update as well as in the post-interview reflections that I share).

Specifically, I talk about getting started back into the "Canadian Werewolf" universe by writing a short story about my nain character, Michael Andrews. I also talk a bit about the revision to the existing cover (to give it a slightly more "urban fantasy" feel than it had before - as well as the forthcoming audiobook of the short story "This Time Around" which was recently completed and should be showing up soon on audio retail and library platforms.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Is Sprung, The Sun is Riz, I Wonder Where The Snowman Is

Ah, the joy and wonder of spring.

The temperature rises, mother nature begins to peek out from under the slowly melting snow.

All is wonderful and joyous as "new life" takes form in the annual cycle of life.

All is good, of course, for everybody except certain creatures.

Like snowmen.

What does spring mean for a snowman?

That's exactly what the two dark humor stories in SNOWMAN SHIVERS explore, each in slightly different ways.

THAT OLD SILK HAT THEY FOUND - What might really happen if a snowman were brought to life. Would he really be jolly and happy? Would he dance around, singing? How could he? He doesn't even have legs!

IDES OF MARCH - Taxes are due soon. But that's just a minor annoying deadline. There are more urgent things to be concerned about. Such as why a pair of odd strangers are kidnapping snowmen.

The eBook is free virtually everywhere. Check it out at various online retailers.

If you prefer to watch me read the first story in this collection "That Old Silk Hat They Found" (my attempt to wonder if a snowman that suddenly came to life might actually be a jolly, happy soul) via this #FreeFridayFrights video from April 2018.

You can also watch the video on my author Facebook page.

Enjoy. And happy spring.

Just try not to think about what it means for those delightful masses of snow that we enjoy building and then just forgetting about.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

2018 Book Related Sales And Stuff

In the past two episodes of my podcast (Episode 55 and Episode 56), I spent some time looking at where I had earned writing specific income. What formats, what sources.

For example, in looking at just writing income, I broke it down into Self-Publishing, Traditional Publishing, Mixed (a combination where it was difficult to determine or split the source), and business writing. IE, writing I got paid for but didn't get a byline.

I also broke down the format into Print, eBooks, Audio, Mixed (again, where it was difficult to split off the actual source in any meaningful way) and speaking (this would be talking as a writer of fiction or non-fiction paranormal, and not my speaking about the book and publishing industry)

I found it interesting that, within my eBook sales, two collaborative publishing platforms represented my #3 and #4 spots. (With Kindle and Kobo holding the #1 and #2 spots).

I have long suggested that the future of publishing is going to involve more collaboration than ever before. This appears to be happening more in my own writing world.

I find this exercise useful for figuring out my plans and strategy adjustments for the next year.

If you are curious to read more details, you can read/listen to them on the aforementioned episodes:

Episode 55 - Forward Momentum While Looking Back
This is a solo episode where I review my sales - or at least start to. Because I continue some of it into Episode 56.

Episode 56 - Balance and Counterbalance with Katie Cross
This is an interview episode with Katie Cross - awesome and inspiring all on its own. In the opening personal update section, I share a few more of those 2018 sales details

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Aging Like a Good Cheese Or A Fine Wine

There has been a fun #howhardhasaginghityouchallenge going around on Facebook, and, since curiosity got the best of me, I thought I'd look back at what my first Facebook Profile pic actually was.

LOL, it was the exact same profile pic I had used, consistently, across all social media.

And I didn't change it for 7 years.

Then, in the past few years, it was like I was trying to make up for lost time, because I changed it multiple times.

Apparently, I also lost my shirt in 2014. (In retrospect, maybe that was some sort of thinly laced separation/divorce joke)  ;)

Intersting that I only ever used a photo that wasn't me when Barnaby, reading one of my books, stood in for a short time period.

I thought it might be fun to then look at my author profile page on Facebook and see how many profile pics I'd shared there.

Only 7 changes on my author profile page since I started it up in 2011. About once per year.

I'd started with my very first author photo - one that my buddy Greg Roberts took for me and that I had used for my first book, One Hand Screaming, in 2004. I had also used a few that were a little more "on brand" particularly the smart-ass one with the graveyard backdrop and the latest, the caricature done by the talented Seth Wilks.

Saturday, December 08, 2018

Awesome Reuseable Block Feature in WordPress

Recently, when editing a post on one of my WordPress powered sites, I noticed a feature or option that I hadn't seen before.

It first involves the creation/identification of blocks within a blog post.

But that's where the awesome-ness comes in. In the edit block option, under more options . . .

. . . all you need to do is click on "Add to Reuseable Blocks" and then name it.

Any edits you make get propegated across all posts that use this block.

Create content, and save it for you and other contributors to reuse across your site. Update the block, and the changes apply everywhere it’s used.

This is extremely handy when updated the Creative Commons Liscence, for example, like in this example of the music I use for my Stark Reflections on Writing & Publishing podcast.

And I'm a big advocate for proper attribution and credit for creative talent. I have been using Creative Commons for this blog almost since its very beginning in the early 2000s.

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Disruptor? I Don't Even Know 'Er . . .

This is fun. I was interviewed by Jon Bard earlier this year (July, I believe) for his new podcast called DISRUPTOR.

In his podcast, Jon introduces listeners to the rebels, mavericks and weirdos of the publishing industry, engaging them in thoughtful and pointed conversations.  And you’ll learn the skills and mindset needed to cause a disruption of your own, wherever you feel it necessary.

I was honored to be a guest for Episode 5 of the podcast which was recently released.

In the half hour discussion, Jon and I talk about my own personal path which started off in the "ancient history" days of publishing, in the typewriter era, following the only path writers had back then - submitting stories, building a reputation in the smaller magazines before seeking to find an agent and publishing -- and then how I migrated into becoming a digital evangelist. First by using POD (print-on-demand) technology to launch my first book in 2004, then running and operating a POD business to help empower other local authors; which led to moving to Kobo to establish their hugely successful Kobo Writing Life self-publishing platform.

I must admit, I enjoy being refered to as a digital evangelist. And a disruptor.

Disruptor is described as: "a person or thing that prevents something, especially a system, process, or event, from continuing as usual or as expected." When you read that definition, it, at first, seems to be a negative thing. IE, preventing something.

But that's the beauty of it. It might seem that way at first, because it prevents something from continuing.

And that's just it. It prevents something from continuing as usual or expected.

Which means, it allows a new something to happen, a new pathway to be available, a new option.

And that's what digital publishing has allowed.

While I most certainly have embraced digital publishng options since I first started experimenting with them back in 2004, what I have more been interested in is helping writers and publishers understand that there's no longer one specific path; there's no longer one way of doing things.

There are multiple options, multiple pathways, more options than ever before in the history of publishing.

Since I first embraced taking control of my own writing path, I have been singing the praises of the new opportunities available. But that doesn't mean I have shut the door on the previous options. I still continue to work with more than one traditional publisher. There are, simply, some projects more suited for trad publishing, and other projects better served via a DIY methodology.

Being open to both has allowed me to take advantage of some truly great opportunities over the years.

So, yeah, I like being called a disruptor. And a digital evangelist.

Not to mention maverick and weirdo.

Seems fitting.

Monday, November 26, 2018

For Those Who Enjoy Visuals over Audio

In January of this week I started a weekly podcast called Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing. I have released a new episode every Friday every single week since January 5th.

Sometimes the episodes are solo ones with me harping on about something in writing and publishing.

Most times the episodes are interviews with writers, creators, industry folks and other people who inspire me or I want to learn from.

There will likely be 54 episodes by the end of this year. Mostly because I made a math error and accidentally skipped an episode number and so felt obliged to quickly fill in a mini-episode so they all added up. I'll also be posted a special 50th episode post this coming weekend - just because I like that round number.

These two extra episodes in Season One will make it 54 episodes rather than 52.

But there are a lot fewer episodes of the podcast in Video format.

I use ZOOM to record most of the interviews that aren't done in person. And for those, I will ask the person I am interviewing if it's okay to use the video feed for sharing the interview portion on YouTube.

When they are okay with it, and, maybe more critical to the process, when I find/make the time to actually produce a video version, I post the videos to my Stark Reflections Playlist on YouTube.

For the sake of those who enjoy video over audio, here are some of the video interviews from a few different episodes:

Episode 5 - Global Audiobook Opportunities for Authors with Kelly Lytle

Episode 29 - Writing with Authenticy, Humor and Passion with Terry Fallis

Episode 21 - Real Connections in a Digital World with J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon

Episode 15 - The Process of a Writer's Life with Kevin Tumlinson

Episode 35 - Lessons Learned from the Novel Intensive Workshop with Ara Grigorian, Janis Thomas and Julie Strauss

Episode 48 - Publishing Strong with Andrea Pearson

Episode 45 - Co-Authoring with the Writers Behind C.K. Wikes (Kerrie Flanagan and Chuck Harrelson)

I haven't been all that great at capturing/keeping all of the video feeds to post in this format. But I did manage to get some short clips derived from some other episodes.

Like these excerpts, often from my own little post-interview reflections....

Using Digital Reading Analytics for Strategic Planning...

Understanding the Cost of Self-Publishing an eBook

And, for a funny, here's a blooper from Episode 16 with Natasha Bajema . . .

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Halloween 2018

Every Friday since early April 2018 I have been doing a thing called #FreeFridayFrights.

This is where, on my website, I offer up either a free short story or a free non-fiction eerie/ghostly article read. I also do a Facebook live video that is often also posted to YouTube and other places.

For this past Friday (Oct 26, 2018), because it was the last Friday before Halloween I talked a bit about the origins and sources for Halloween customs as well as some trivia related to Halloween.

Since the Free Friday Frights articles only appear for a week and then are replaced by new content every week, I thought I'd share this past week's article here. If you'd rather see the video based on this written content, scroll down to watch it.

Friday Oct 26, 2018

NON-FICTION:  Halloween

A look at the tradition of All Hallows Eve (Halloween) as well as some interesting trivia associated with it.

Halloween appears to be a combination of traditions and folklore derived from Pagan, Celtic, ancient Roman and Catholic traditions.

Originally a pagan festival of the dead, All Saints’ or All-Hallow’s Day is November 1. The day is also known as All Saints Day, All Hallows Day, and All Souls’ Day. According to the original pagan custom, the celebration of the dead is meant to begin as the sun sets the evening before, and that is usually when the souls of the dead are said to begin to get up and roam around the earth. This original festival has, of course, survived to the present day in popular culture as Halloween, a night of trick-or-treating by children dressed up in costumes.


In the 17th Century, the catholic church used the same day as a way to honor and celebrate the known and unknown saints and martyrs of the church. It had originally been celebrated on May 13, but was moved to November 1st in the eighth century.

The ancient Celts refered to the festival surrounding this day as Samhaim and used it to celebrate the onset of winter and the begining of the Celtic New Year. Samhain translates to “end of summer.” In Ireland, the same celebration was known as Samhein, or “the feast of the sun.” In Scotland, the term Hallowe’en was used.

The act of children dressing up and going door-to-door to collect treats was likely adapted from the Gaelic practice of giving cakes to the poor (aka “soul-cakes”) in return for praying for a good harvest, prosperity and protection against bad luck. The concept of the trick is likely to have been derived from an English Plough Day custom where Ploughmen went door to door begging for gifts, and if they did not receive anything they would threaten to damage the grounds with their ploughs.

There are numerous folk customs associated with this festival. Here are a few Halloween related bits of trivia:
  • THERE IS NO ESCAPE: Harry Houdini died on Halloween. It’s true. I even wrote about it in Macabre Montreal (yes, that’s a bit of shameless self-promotion). One of the world’s most famous magicians died on October 31, 1926 in Detroit at the age of 52 in Detroit. He died of peritonitis, secondary to a ruptured appendix. It is commonly stated that Houdini died due to repeated or unexpected blows to the abdomen by a McGill University student in Montreal. This proposition might be partially true, as it is possible that the pain from the blunt force trauma Houdidi received might have masked the fact he was suffering from appendicitis, and, had he been treated earlier for that, he likely would have survived.

  • NOT SO HAPPY JACK: One of the traced origins involving the carving of jack-0-lanterns is believed to have come from Ireland with the carving of turnips and the legend of a man named Stingy Jack. The miserable old drunk enjoyed playing tricks on people. After playing a trick and trapping Satan, Jack made a deal to release him, so long as Satan promised not to take his soul. When Jack died, he was denied entrance to heaven, but also banned from hell. Satan gave Jack a single burning coal, which he placed into a hollowed out turnip. He then spent eternity wandering the earth with this lantern hopelessly looking for a resting place.

  • GIMME SOME CANDY:  According to the National Confectioner’s Association, one quarter of all of the candy sold in the United States every year is purchased specifically for Halloween. In addition, a majority of all candy given out on Halloween is chocolate. Three out of every 10 homes will pass out lollipops or other types of hard candy. Candy Corn was created in the late 1800s. The three colors are meant to look like the colors in kernals of corn. More than 35 million pounds of candy corn is produced each year. According to a 2017 Forbes article, Candy Corn is among the most hated of all Halloween candies (second to Circus Peanuts) and Reece’s Peanut Butter Cups were the most favored

  • HALLOWEEN 2018: THE TRIVIA OF MICHAEL MYERS: Jamie Lee Curtis was considered for the heroine for the original 1978 Halloween by John Carpenter as a tribute to Alfred Hitchcock. (Janet Leigh, famous for the shower scene in Hitchcock’s Psycho, is Jamie Lee Curtis’s mother. The movie, produced in 12 weeks, was shot on a shoestring budget of only $300,000 and went on to make $47 million. It was the most profitable independent film ever made until The Blair Witch Project in 1999. John Carpenter was paid $10,000 for the film, and Nick Castle, who played Michael Myers, was paid only $25 a day. The sound of slashing flesh was created by stabbing a watermelon. Myers mask was another side effect of a low budget. It was derived from William Shatner’s likeness because they purchased a Captain Kirk mask, peeled off the eyebrows and some hair, and spray painted it white.

This article was originally composed for Mark Leslie’s weekly #FreeFridayFrights

You can also watch the video on my Facebook page, where a fun POLL has also been embedded.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Oh Yeah, By The Way, I Wrote A Book, or Two

It's so funny.

I spend the majority of my time helping authors with gaining better visibility, maximizing their title and author SEO on various retail websites, enhancing and working on their author brand, and overall, attempting to sell more of their books. I quite love doing that. I find it extremely satisfying.

Then there's me. And my books.

Yes, I work hard at them. Yes, I love writing. Yes, I love publishing.

But I keep forgetting about mentioning or talking about my own books. For example, I published the eBook version of KILLING IT ON KOBO last week. But I was at a writing conference and was busy with engaging in the daily activities and with the writers there; you know, helping them learn more, helping them strategize for selling more. So I neglected to really do much to even mention that the new book on that exact topic was out.


No, I've never liked pushy "salesy" sorts of social media posts. And though I will, from time to time, mention something about one of my books as it relates to something else, I try my best not to be too in peoples' faces with pushing my books.

Sometimes I lean, too far, in the opposite direction.

Because in the past month and a half I have published two books about writing and publishing. And I realize that I haven't even mentioned them here on this blog.


It's funny, my friend, Joanna Penn, of The Creative Penn Podcast, sent me an email late last week asking if there was some sort of landing page for my latest book, KILLING IT ON KOBO because she wanted to recommend it. Joanna has done more to sell my book than I have.

I realized, of course, that I hadn't even added a listing of that book to my website. Nor did I add the other book in that same series (Stark Publishing Solutions), THE 7 P's OF PUBLISHING SUCCESS.


I have fixed that. I have those two books and the forthcoming one that's still a work in progress, listed under the bibliography/books section of my website.

Currently, only the eBook versions of these are out, but I plan on having the audiobook versions released by the end of November if all works out well.

Speaking of Joanna's podcast, her latest episode, Episode 400, is a great interview with Kobo's European Manager of Kobo Writing Life, Camille Mofidi. And I'm not just saying that because I originally hired Camille for that role. I'm saying it because she's awesome. And so is Joanna

Seriously, go check out that podcast interview for great free tips about selling more on Kobo. Listen to that. It's free. Then, if you want a "Reader's Digest" version of tips for Kobo (kind of like a significantly shortened version of the book I mention in this post), sign up for my10 day free email course from Reedsy called Kobo Hacks for Optimizing Sales.

Yeah, go do those two things. Don't buy my book about Kobo. Enjoy the free content/advice and tips.

See, there I go again, being an under-pushy salesperson.


Friday, October 26, 2018

On Flying and Firehoses

In the past week, I flew over Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas at 35 MPH on a zip line.

I also took in a firehose of information at the WMG Publishing, Inc. Business Master Class.

The overwhelming stimulation for each is somewhat similar. In the latest episode of the Stark Reflections on Writing and Publishing podcast, I share how I plan on dealing with the information, inspiration, and ideas that can fill your head at the end of such a conference, which include:

  • A few key things to remember before setting out to try to implement the ideas gathered
  • The importance of first stepping back to take a breath and get perspective
  • A list of questions to ask yourself when looking at all of the ideas that you have jotted down or taken in
  • The importance not just of deciding on something, but deciding to act on that something
  • The concept of EAT, FEED, DRAIN
  • The FOUR-D way to update a to-do list
  • The importance of taking responsibility for your own career

These are just some ideas, and potentially useful strategies you can adapt in your own way whenever you attend a conference or workshop where you have so much information to process and never enough time to try to do it all.

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

The Mysterious Little Boy Ghost at Indigo Montreal

This past weekend, I was in Montreal to launch Macabre Montreal, which I co-authored with Shayna Krishnasamy. We did two events at two different locations. Given that, at both events, we sold all but a single copy, I'd call the events a success.

THANK YOU to everyone who came out to see us, to hang out, to chat, and to get books signed. Thanks to the awesome staff at both the Chapters Pointe Claire and the Indigo downtown Montreal.

Our event on Sunday Oct 7th took place at the Place Trust Indigo in downtown Montreal and was followed by a mini ghost walk of three nearby locations from the book conducted by the good folks at Haunted Montreal. (Seriously, if you go to Montreal and DON'T check out their wonderful historic ghostly tours, you are really depriving yourself of some fun)

At the end of the mini-ghost walk, where we were all left with chills, our guide warned us to be careful when returning home in case a ghost might follow us back.

What she should have warned us about was the ghost that might have already been following us.

Let me explain.

When I returned home to Waterloo last night (Monday night) around 9 PM, I received a disturbing text from Shayna.

"Question about our signing yesterday." She wrote. "Who the hell is that in the mirror?"

She included a picture that her friend Naz had taken of the two of us and Barnaby.

Who is the mysterious child in the mirror behind us?

In the image you can see, in the reflection of the mirror of an Indigo display behind us, what appears to be the spectral image of a child, perhaps a little boy, with dark eye sockets whose disembodied head is overlooking the scene.

Zoom in on the mysterious child with sunken eye sockets staring out from the mirror

"That's awesome." I texted back. "Ha Ha. Who doctored the image to add the ghost kid?"

"Naz swears up and down she did nothing to the photo."

"Well, then, THAT'S a story to share!!!"

We messaged a bit back and forth while I showed the image to Liz. Liz was looking at the pic to determine if there was someone maybe standing behind Naz or off to the side whose reflection was appearing in the mirror. We couldn't find a match, nor did a little boy (I decided it was a little boy) who looked like that ever seem to have been around that evening.

Shayna and I joked about it possibly being Mary Gallagher, one of the most famous Montreal ghosts - a murdered Griffintown prostitute who allegedly returns every 7 years to look for her head.

Liz then asked if I had taken any other pictures that evening, reminding me of the selfie I had taken of a woman who we wished Happy Birthday to on Instagram.

When I looked at that photo I felt my face going pale.

The mysterious vampire-like child appears in another photo from different camera

Sure enough, the mysterious ghostly boy face appeared in that photo too.

"What the hell?" I said. I knew I hadn't touched up the photo, with the exception that I added an Instagram filter. So who the heck was that little boy with the haunted sunked eyes?

The ghostly image zoomed in

I wondered about contacting the store, to see if anyone else had spotted this little boy ghost? I was curious about it not just as an intriguing Montreal ghost mystery that we could share on our Macabre Montreal Facebook page, but also one for my Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores and Libraries page too. Also, we had to call Donovan from Haunted Montreal to let him know about a new tale they could share.

My heart was racing.

My skin was continuing to get more and more pale.

And, a chill running down my spine, my phone ping'd

Another text.

From Shayna.

It read: "It kind of looks like Audrey Hepburn."

Then, a few minutes later. "The image is clearer here." And she sent me a photo.

And, finally: "This is indeed Audrey Hepburn."

Audrey Hepburn does possess a haunting beauty
Liz and I looked at the image. And we laughed. It was Audrey Hepburn.

It was likely part of the display of the mirror for the products Indigo had on display.

We laughed, but I still felt a delicious shiver over the experience.

And I love that Shayna and I approached writing this book with the same sense of open-minded skepticism. I'm the true believer. She's the skeptic. We did our best to balance that as we researched, read about and then presented the facts in order for the readers to decide for themselves.

Of course, in this particular case, the mystery is solved. It's not the ghost of a little boy. It's an image of Audrey Hepburn. Although, if one admits, she DOES possess a haunting beauty.

In the initial slightly blurry image, I saw a creepy dark shadowed boy staring at us with his eyes open; when in fact, it was the timeless classy beauty of Audrey Hepburn with eyelids closed or down-turned.

Evidence that sometimes you see what you want, or you see what you are looking for. Like one of those psychology/Escher style prints where you see either an old woman or a young woman, depending on how your eyes focus.

A mystery solved, but still a fun one nonetheless.