Monday, March 26, 2012

Examining Alternative Futures For Publishing

Tonight after work I'm flying in to Edmonton where I will be participating in an exciting Book Publishers Association of Alberta (BPAA) publishing project.

Jerome Martin of Spotted Cow Press is heading up the project and contacted me a few months ago asking if I would participate in the project with 5 other writers to create an intriguing new book. We have each written a chapter roughly based on the theme of "Alternative Futures for what we currently call Publishing" and sent them in to Jerome.  He was reworked them into a standard format and re-distributed the to the group.

Middle Ages Tech support YouTube video - how to read a book rather than a scroll

On Tuesday March 27th and Wednesday March 28th we'll be gathering in Edmonton at The Enjoy Centre in St. Albert. 

Each author will discuss his or her chapter and the ideas which flow from it with the group, who will then offer suggestions on revisions, additions, links, audio or video. I am excited about this unique opportunity to work with a group of intelligent and knowledgeable people regarding an industry I am passionate about.

The last time I worked with Jerome was when his publishing company Spotted Cow Press did the world's first double espresso book launch back in 2009.  Martin's publishing company published an ebook by Susan Minsos called Squire Davis and the Crazy River that was also created in print format using the Espresso Book Machine at the University of Alberta Bookstore.

Because the book had a "local" element to Hamilton (Minsos was originally from the Hamilton area), the book was launched in two locations. There was an arts festival happening in Edmonton where the book was being launched, and simultaneously a group of fans gathered at Titles Bookstore McMaster University to watch the event via a two way video feed where they could listen to the reading and ask the author questions and get copies of the books off the EBM in Hamilton. The author even signed book plates that were shipped to the Hamilton area customers afterwards.  That way they could begin reading the book immediately and insert the signed plates into the books afterward rather than waiting for a signed copy to be shipped.

Squire Davis is one of the books that Spotted Cow Press makes available in bundled format. When you buy the printed book, you get a free code for the electronic edition. (The ebook costs $3 without the purchase of a book) Martin has been doing this type of thing for years while elsewhere in the industry, the concept is still being considered and discussed as a possible thing to try.  (Marvel Comics, for example recently announced free digital versions for customers who purchased select comic titles and has been getting a lot of press about it as bold and innovative)

These will be just one of the opportunitys we will be exploring when we explore the future of publishing in our two days of working on this exciting new publishing project.  The chapter I have written is currently subtitled:  "Birthing pains, growing pains and the family ties of an evolving industry." But the cool thing is going to be how what I've currently written evolves after the two days of workshopping.

I'm so looking forward to this experience, and with sharing our activities.

The twitter hashtag will be #altfuturespublishing.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Seen Some More

Yesterday, at the end of another book-loving work day, I was able to snap some fresh pictures of bookish folks holding Julie Wilson's Seen Reading. 

All for the love of continuing to grow the Pinterest Seen Holding Seen Reading board.

So without further ado, here are a few of my Kobo pals checking out the awesome book.

No more "faking it" for Nathan - he's truly excited (halo effect & all) to be holding the real book.  That, or he was excited that I was moving to another spot and would no longer be sitting right beside him. The jury is still out on that one.

Stephen was annoyed to learn that I was moving beside him - but getting a chance to get his hands on a copy of the book seemed to lift his spirits.
Uma, who was a fan of the original blog the book is based on couldn't wait to not only get her hands on the book, but to start reading it. (I had to wrestle the book out of her hands to get her to give it back)
And while I was fighting with Uma for the book, Christina snuck up and grabbed the book, starting to read it. Here she is caught and Busted!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Seen Holding Seen Reading

This just in!

I now have an actual physical copy of Seen Reading by Julie Wilson.

Why am I so excited? Check out my blog post about this from last week called Seen Wanting.

I'm going to start digging into it this weekend.  Okay, I'll admit it, I started to take a few peeks. I couldn't help myself.

The book, by Freehand Books (an imprint of Broadview Press) is gorgeous, beautifully designed - from the texture of the cover itself right to the cover flaps, and right through the visual presentation of the printed text on paper. And it's not just the curious geo-tagged map cover that tempts you with spots to immediately jump to within the text, but the layout and presentation of the entries themselves.  There's an overall aura about the book now that I've held it in my hands which reinforces that it is a celebration of something I adore -- the voyeuristic thrill of seeing someone reading in public.

Along those lines, I must show a recent status update that my beautiful wife made the other day . . .

. . . she said "I saw someone reading . . . a BOOK at the bus stop! Not their stupid phone, but an actual book! So nice to see!"  She's a smart cookie, Francine, and often states things this wonderfully.  It falls right into line with this voyeuristic thrill us book lovers get when we spot someone reading in the wild.

And that's part of the meta magic of holding this book in your hands.

Simply, the book feels wonderful in your hands. It fits perfectly, like a glove. And it looks even better to be seen reading.

Speaking of which, I've got a photo of Clare Hitchins, publicist at Wilfred Laurier Press and a fellow book nerd. Seems she rec'd a review copy of the book yesterday as well.  So I'm presenting her picture holding the book . . .

. . . so that I can add her to the Pinterest board called Seen Holding Seen Reading.

Better be careful - I could add YOU to this growing board.

In fact, I WANT to add you to this board.  If you're a book lover and get your hands on the book, snap a pic and point me to it (or send it to me). If you're a bookseller, snap a picture of the book in your store (ideally, merchandised front and center for all your book-loving customers to marvel over)

Go ahead, get seen holding Seen Reading.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kickstart This!

I found out about this shared world mosaic anthology that a friend of mine (the awesome Julie E. Czerneda) is involved in, which reminds me of Robert Lynn Asprin's Thieves World.

Funded by Kickstarter, this is a bold and exciting publishing project from R. Scott Taylor.

Eight authors and 3 artists are bringing something together that is bold, original and beautiful.

Set in Art of the Genre’s trademarked universe, The Nameless Realms, the anthology will take readers to the Free City of Taux, a fantasy port of cursed stones, dark plots, and a core of rich characters who share space inside the infamous Black Gate District.

It will link characters and tales in an interwoven mosaic and features authors like Lynn Flewelling, Harry Connolly, Juliet McKenna, Martha Wells, Robert Mancebo, and Julie Czerneda sharing characters with newcomer Michael Tousignant and iconic fantasy artist turned writer Todd Lockwood, the book plumbs the depths of dark city-born fantasy.

Editor and contributor R. Scott Taylor helps create the shadowed metropolis of Taux, where Razor Duelists and mailed and heavily armed Sturgeons try to hold back the tide of ghosts, Moon Cultists, and shadow magic that lurks inside the slithering coils of Wizard’s Mist.  Rogues, harlots, and merchant princes share the same streets, and all watch their backs as the stones of the city call out to the living in a never ending game of cat and mouse for the true ownership of the great port.

Check it out! Help them out!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Run . . . Zombies!

I like to run, but my biggest tendency to get bored. For that reason, I have been combining running with listening to audio books and/or podcasts.

But even still, sometimes running for more than just a few kilometres is a bit of a challenge.

That's why I was excited to learn about a new app called Zombies, Run! from a friend of mine at work. (Just a few weeks ago, Nathan (an avid runner) mentioned receiving an email regarding a Kickstarter project he had helped to fund. The minute he explained what the project was about, I was sold)

Zombies, Run! is an immerse audio game built right into your iPhone. The story unfolds between the songs from your custom playlist, and you automatically pick up supplies (ammo, first aid kids, water, clothing) as you reach certain distances.  When your mission (and run) is complete, you can use these supplies to help the survivors in your home base. 

I purchased and downloaded this app just this past Friday and gave it a whirl.

On Saturday, I used it to go for a 5 K run on my treadmill and played the very first mission. Since the story unfolds between songs, I figured it would be best to not try to listen to a podcast or audio book, but, rather, listen to music.

The story was immediately addictive and fun. Instead of just running and focusing on my speed and distance, I was intriuged by the items I was collecting, paying attention to the unfolding story and curious to see what was around the next corner.

On the treadmill I was using the experimental Accelerometer option that attempts to record your pace.  Within that mode, random Zombie chases will not occur.

While the story was good, the idea of Zombie Mob Chases thrilled me. It's supposed to work out that, when you're running, you might hear a sudden warning of "Zombies Detected!" with urgent beeps and the sound of zombie moans getting closer. In order to escape them, you need to increase your speed for up to 1 minute.

A scene from The Walking Dead

That's why, on Sunday, I thought I'd switch over to the GPS tracking and thus get a chance to try out the random zombie chases.

Sadly, though the run on Sunday was even more fun (I found a new neighbourhood route a the approapriate 5K I was hoping for), I didn't stumble upon any of the zombie chases.  I even purposely slowed down a few times just to see if my slower speed might prompt the app to kick those chases in -- but they are apparently not based on your speed, but, instead, are random.

The only issue I had with the app (and it's something I logged onto the support site to register officially so it could be addresses) was the way the playlist works.

On Saturday I was having so much fun that I wanted to run a second mission. So, after completing the first, I stopped the mission, but stayed on the treadmill while fooling around with the app to check out the supplies I had collected, distribute some supplies to the hospital, housing and armoury locations of the home base. Then I selected the next mission and started again.

The playlist started up again -- but it started from the very beginning. And there was no way to skip ahead to the other songs, nor was there a way to set up a shuffle for your playlist - it simply plays the songs in the order they were built into the playlist.  That was a bit disappointing.

I got around the playlist challenge by building a series of custom playlists each with 5 to 10 songs in them.  That way, if I played a second mission after stopping, I could simply switch to another playlist so as not to have to hear the same songs over again (something which I would find tedious and boring)  - [UPDATE:  As mentioned, I logged a query regarding this issue with the good folks at Zombies, Run! and have heard back from them informing me that a shuffle option will be appearing in the next update - Woo Hoo!]

One neat feature, supporting the desire to keep running without stopping at the end of a mission is the "radio mode" that automatically kicks in.  It features, instead of the mission, (which has an instructional voice telling you where to run to and warning of the location of zombie groups), the voices of two survivors from a nearby town who are broadcasting a radio station. They chat about the apocalypse and play songs (from your playlist) just like a real radio station. It's fun and adds flavour while you keep running, and continue to collect supplies.

In all, this is a fun app and adds a whole new dimension to my running.  It'll keep me wanting to use the GPS feature and do more runs outside, which will be good. After two short runs, I have already built up my base to level two and am enjoying the gamification of my runs. Looking forward to more . . .

. . . and, of course, being able to outrun the zombies during one of the random zombie chases.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pictures From Graduation - 1992

Nine years ago today my father died.

I think about him often, but days like today, Father's Day, his birthday, I spend a bit more time reflecting.

I was recently looking through some old photos I had of my buddy Steve and his father (who died not all that long ago), so I could scan them and email them to him.  I came across these two, taken in the same time period.

These pictures were taken in 1992, the summer I graduated from Carleton.  My parents and Baba had come down for the ceremony. It was funny, I didn't even want to attend. I got my degree and just wanted the papers and to move on. It was my parents that were insistent on celebrating the event. They were obviously proud and had invested a great deal in my education. So I'm glad they pushed it. 

Even when I was an "adult" they were right. It was at about that stage in my life when I was beginning to finally see just how much my parents knew and evolved from the "know it all teenager" who never listened to what they had to say and into a man who respected his parents and began to properly take heed of their advice and suggestions.

There's a wonderful old thought that constantly comes to mind when I think about this.  It's along the lines of:  "I can't believe how much my parents learned about the world while I was away at college."

I'm a lucky man. Great parents, good memories.

Dad and I at Carleton University - after Graduation

Dad, Mom and I having a beer in their Ottawa hotel room (air conditioned, as opposed to my place)

Memory Lane:

2011 - HNT - No Regrets
- Pictures of my Dad and me (Wedding day, playing Mattel Intellivision) further musings and a link to the previous posts - kind of like this . . .

2010 - A Man, His Son & Their Laughter
- Includes a poem I wrote for my father back in 1996)

2009 - Mourning Son
- I talk about my still unpublished novel Morning Son, much of which was inspired by stories from my father.

2008 - And I Miss You Just The Same
- Mostly pictures of my Dad

2007 - Dad, Four Years Ago Today
- Memories of the last hunting trip with my Dad and my cousin on Manitoulin Island

2006 - Still Miss You, Dad
- Basic memories, a lot of which I have repeated in this blog over the years; and the father/son poem

2005 - Miss You, Dad
- Simple thoughts of being a new father myself and thinking of Alexander and my Dad interacting

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Ides Of March Are . . . Free

Julius Caesar was warned by a soothsayer to "beware the Ides of March" - at least, according to Shakespeare's version.

I had always been fond of that soothsayer, wondering if Tom Stoppard might one day base an entire play on the character.

My story "Ides of March" is a very subtle nod to that legendary warning.  It concerns a fateful day in the life of a man who witnesses two strange beings who arrive with the intent of kidnapping a snowman.

You can download the story for free in an ebook collection entitled Snowman Shivers - available free at Kobo, Barnes & Noble, Apple & Smashwords (among other places)  If you really want to spend money on it, it's available for $0.99 at Amazon. But, seriously, save your money and download the mobi version from Smashwords for free.

Snowman Shivers contains two snowmen stories. Ides of March and That Old Silk Hat They Found.  Both of these stories were published in my collection One Hand Screaming, which is available in print and ebook.

If you read it and enjoy it, go ahead and review it or give it a rating at the online review place of your choice (places like Goodreads, etc)  Don't worry, I won't mind at all if you do.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Seen Wanting

I was delighted to see a picture of my friend and fellow book lover Steph (of the awesome Bella's Bookshelves) holding an advance copy of Julie Wilson's forthcoming book Seen Reading, which is based on her wonderful website Seen Reading.

(Seen Reading was the result of Julie seeing a person reading in public, making a note of the book as well as what page of the book the person is on, then head to a local bookstore to jot down some of the text from that page report it all on her website. I blogged about my love for this project In Jan 2011)

So I created a Pinterest board for it called Seen Holding Seen Reading.

Wouldn't it be really cool and very meta to collect pictures of people excitedly holding Julie's awesome book? As the book prepares for launch, I'm making it a personal mission to find photos of people holding Julie's book - then, when it is released, I'll want to collect pictures of it on display in bookstores, being held by booksellers and customers from as many sources as possible.

I think it would just be good, clean fun.

I can't wait to get my hands on a copy of the book - so in the meantime, I snapped a picture of myself holding a print-out of the cover of the book.

I call it "Seen Wanting Seen Reading"

Can't wait to add a picture of me holding the REAL BOOK.

And can't wait to read the book too!

Friday, March 09, 2012

10 Neat Quotes From BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2012

Yesterday I attended BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2010: Digging Deeper Into Digital.

On a personal level, the day started off interestingly enough. On my way into my car, I dropped my iPhone. It only fell about 2 feet (the case slipped off my hip and onto the driveway) but when I checked it was showing the white screen of death.  Various reset tricks didn't work (although I could still take phone calls using a Bluetooth headset - suggesting it was just the display that was fried and everything else was working)

But the result was that I wasn't able to use my smartphone for all the normal things I usually would. 

First, GPS for navigation checks (normally only used when traffic issues led to a change in route plan - which, fortunately didn't happen on the way in).

Second, for checking in to the venue on Foursquare (mostly for the gamification of going places, and seeing who else is checked in)

Third, for the ability to quickly dip in to my inbox and scoop out the most urgent emails. Yes, I was away at a conference - but that doesn't mean messages coming in to my inbox didn't need to be considered.

Fourth, for the opportunity to snap some really quick pictures of speakers, groups of people, the crowd, interesting and amusing slides (mostly for sharing in social media)

Fifth, for the entire Twitter back-channel of conversation that has become an important part of these events (Not being able to easily follow the #TechForum12 hashtag along was strangely disconcerting - almost like being denied access to a particular track.

(Okay, I just noticed that I didn't mention making phone calls -- although I do also make phone calls on my mobile phone . . .)

But I didn't let the lack of an operational smartphone stop me from absorbing the great presentations, discussions, ideas and sharing that took place at BNC TechForum 2012. I ended up taking 9 pages of notes, in fact. (Likely more notes than usual since I wasn't as occupied with following the Twitter stream and typing neat things I heard said, responding to other people's comments or re-tweeting the gold nuggets.

There's lots to say about how wonderful this day was, and I would love to expand upon several of the things captured in my notes (which I might just do in a future blog post), but I thought I'd simply quickly dip back into my notes to highlight . . .

10 Neat Quotes from BookNet Canada Tech Forum 2012:

1) "We love to declare the death of everything."
     - Liz Ross

2) On the drive towards the bottom for ebook pricing: "The $1.99 Solution is a momentary spark thrown at the fumes of gasoline."
     - Evan Schnittman

3) "Print must thrive for publishing to survive."
     - Evan Schnittman  

4) "Books are objets. Ebooks are pure reading."
     - Evan Schnittman

5) With regards to the experimentation many self published authors perform with ebook price points: "What is the thrill of the unknown actually worth?"
     - Michael Tamblyn

6) "Discovery happens in a lot of ways, but there is no magic bullet."
     - Kyusik Chung

7) "Agile is not a special sauce that you add to a project. It's the way the web works."
     - John Maxwell

8) On Publishing: "There are easy and cheap ways to experiment with doing it differently."
     - Hugh McGuire

9) On a fundamental game design question about how it should make the player feel: "Foursquare is designed to make you feel like someone who goes out a lot - like a man about town."
     - Jon Ingold

10) "Books aren't passive - they never were passive. Good books are exhausting."
     - Jon Ingold

Again, these are merely high level quotes that I thought bore repeating - they likely would have been the type of thing I tweeted.  But instead, thought I might share them here.  As mentioned, I did take a full 9 pages of notes that include presentations from more great speakers, and drew a great deal of value from the day.

And that doesn't even begin to mention the great networking and hallway discussions that took place, which is always one of those added value benefits that is hard to put a price on.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

An eBook For Book Lovers

Because it's "Read an eBook Week" I'm offering an eBook collection of 3 short stories for book lovers -- sort of a "Twilight Zone" style collection of short stories for book lovers, which normally sells for $1.50 for free.

ACTIVE READER and other Cautionary Tales from the Book World includes the stories ACTIVE READER, BROWSERS & DISTRACTIONS

ACTIVE READER is a cautionary tale about book loyalty programs.

BROWSERS involves walking into a bookstore that you can never leave.

DISTRACTIONS explores an obsessive writer's reaction to a self-help book.

This ebook, which has received some great reviews, normally retails for $1.50 and is available at Amazon, Kobo, Apple, Barnes & Noble and more.

But for the rest of this week, you can download it for free from Smashwords using the special code RE100 during checkout.  You can choose from a variety of formats to read the book in - even if you don't own an ebook reader you can still choose a variety of ways to read an ebook.

Check out other great Read an Ebook Week Specials via Smashwords.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Read An e-Book Week 2012

It's "Read an E-Book Week" (March 4 to 10, 2012)

To celebrate, I've kept a "chapbook" sized collection of two of my short stories (snowman themed) free via as many places as possible.

Snowman Shivers - Scary Snowmen Tales contains two "Twilight Zone" style stories involving snowmen.

If you have ever cast an uncomfortable glance over your shoulder when passing the silent snowy sentinels that stand looking at you as you pass on the icy sidewalk, if you've ever questioned what might really happen if the old silk hat placed on Frosty the Snowman's head was truly magic, then these two dark humor snowman tales by Mark Leslie are for you.

Why does that classic song always portray a jolly, happy snowman dancing around and celebrating life? What if, once the kids placed that old silk hat on Frosty's head, it wasn't quite the magical experience?

In the middle of March a middle-aged man frustrated with the benign activity of filling out his annual tax forms is confronted with a bizarre event - two hulking creatures appear in a pick up truck and are intent on kidnapping the snowman from the front yard. 

Here are the places you can download the ebook of Snowman Shivers for free.

Barnes & Noble (Nook)
Apple (iBooks)

Unfortunately, I can't lower the price on Amazon, so it's still listed there for 99 cents. However, if you want to read it on a Kindle, you can download the Mobi file from Smashwords.

Check out other ebooks either for free or at reduced prices as part of the Read an E-Book Week Specials at Smashwords.

Please note that many great ebook reading platforms (oh, like Kobo, for example) allow you to download free applications so you can read an ebook on your computer, on your iPhone, your iPad or your android device.

So, if you've never read an ebook before, why not give it a try? Download and install one of the free apps and check it out.  There is usually something available for virtually everyone's tastes.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Bookstore Quote Fairy

I have long been following a delightfully refreshing blog that is covering all of the trials, tribulations and gritty details that a Hamilton couple are experiencing renovating and building their downtown Hamilton bookstore: J. H. Gordon Books.

Julie, the main blogger of Reno Challenge 2012, has been posting interesting tidbits about their experience.

Her profile description which begins: "I am a writer, bookblogger, and soon-to-be bookseller. I live in Hamilton, Ontario and I freaking love this town!" really caught my eye. 

I mean, what better way could you show that you love a town than to give it a bookstore? Hamilton is rich with some great bookstores already. But this one will be in a downtown neighbourhood that doesn't have their own local "go to" cultural meeting place that a bookstore offers. So it makes my city that much richer.

Photo from  Reno Challenge 2012
What caught my eye today is that it seems someone in the neighbourhood who wants to show their appreciation for the forthcoming shop has printed up and taped 15 literary and book quotes onto their front window. This appears on the post entitled:  Day 175: quote fairy.

Photo from  Reno Challenge 2012

One of the quotes spotlit is from Jerry Seinfeld and reads:  "A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking."

I'm curious to know what the other quotes are.

More than that, I'm curious about the act of doing this itself. And I'm tempted to pick one of my own favourite quotes (Cicero's "A room without books is like a body without a soul.") and post it. Or ask bookish fans if this type of activity might be a fun thing to do at your own local favourite neighbourhood bookstore.  You know - stick up some supportive book loving quotes, take a picture or make a video of it, and record the whole thing.

It would be a fun way to show your support and love of books and bookstores.

In her blog post Julie calls up one of her favourite book quotes, from Neil Gaiman's American Gods: 

"What I say is, a town isn't a town without a bookstore. It may call itself a town, but unless it's got a bookstore it knows it's not fooling a soul."

Fitting quote.

What's your favourite bookish or literary quote?