Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Holiday Gift For Writers

I just received a great offer from the good folks behind Superstars Writing Seminars and am delighted to be able to share this during the holiday season.

In February 2018 I will be a returning guest instructor at a three day workshop designed to teach writers the BUSINESS of writing and publishing. Superstars Writing Seminars (or SWS for short) is a conference that embraces all aspects of the publishing industry, offering insights into digital and indie/self-publishing as well as the aspects of traditional publishing.

One of the things I've loved best, and the main reason I've spoken at this conference for the past five years is that a writer attending Superstars Writing Seminars leaves with a fully balanced understanding of the business of writing so that they can make solidly informed decisions on their own writing and publishing paths.

2018 Instructors: Kevin J. Anderson, David Farland, Eric Flint, Rebecca Moesta, James A. Owen, Brandon Sanderson

2018 Guest Instructors: NY Times Bestselling authors Jim Butcher, Jonathan Maberry & Dean Wesley Smith, Smashwords founder Mark Coker, Paul Stevens from the Donald Maass Literary Agency, Lisa Mangum, editor of Shadow Mountain Publishing, David Pomerico, Editorial Director of HarperVoyager US, and yours truly.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Channeling My Inner Dominatrix

I was recently a guest on Dana Pharant's Inner Dominatrix podcast.

Episode 77 is entitled "Transition Time Can Be Fun" and in it we talk about the recent changes in my life and how I am taking the time to enjoy the moment rather than panic about what is about to come next.

It's funny, this is the first time that I haven't had steady work (via an actual job where I'm required to be somewhere almost every day) since 1992. And, instead of being nervous or anxious about it, I'm relaxed and soaking in the moment as much as I can.

Dana was helpful by asking me questions that assisted me with finding that place to be as well as recognizing some of the elements I was barely aware of as I was living in that moment.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Make Your Own Path On Life's Journey

Yesterday I drove to Barrie to say goodbye to a friend.

I hadn't seen Frank Nelson in person in a couple of years, and it had been much longer since I had seen Frank on a regular basis. We worked together at Chapters/Indigo many years ago.

But he continued to inspire me. And he continues to inspire me to this day.

On December 8, 2017, Frank Nelson passed away. I won't say that he "lost his battle" with cancer; and that's because he won his battle. He won the battle on so many accounts. When Frank was diagnosed with colorectal cancer in 2010, he began a phase of creating a bucket list that involved "Paying it Back" and helping others in need.

Frank's desire to take $1000 and give it to a complete stranger turned into an incredible legacy of caring and giving.

The last time I saw Frank was a couple of years ago when we arranged to meet at a Tim Hortons in Barrie.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

What Canadians Read in 2017

One of the things I always loved about Kobo was their willingness to share insights about reading data.

I rec'd two messages from Kobo today that really tickled me.

One was about my Kobo Reading Life. (And yes, when I created Kobo Writing Life I DID base it on the already awesome "Reading Life" program the company had crafted)

Interesting to see how much MORE reading I have done in the past month compared to the one before that. Not working 60 to 80 hours a week can have that positive affect on a person's reading time. (I'm MUCH richer for the reading experience)

The other was a fascinating series of lists and stats about what Canadians were reading on Kobo in 2017. Below are some snippets from that message:

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Long Goodbye, The Quick Hello

In my podcast feed this morning, two of the Wednesday podcasts that loaded to my pod-catcher come with interesting timing.

The interview with Rachel took place in Kobo's office in October and is wonderful to go back and listen to. I was particularly impressed with how hard and long she worked at writing (and how she prioritizes writing into her daily schedule), and the tipping point for her towards making a full-time go of it. Rachel was inspiring and charming and fun to talk to. At the end of that episode I offer my own "audio" goodbye to the podcast listeners.

For the SPP Podcast (not always safe for work, BTW - and I believe I'm the first to say a naughty word in this episode - "When in Rome" after all) I talk about "Life After Kobo" but also reflect on the book industry in general and what I learned from my years at Kobo, as well as speculation about what the future holds.

It feels as if I'm spent the past thirty days participating in "The Long Goodbye" - I suppose that's a side-effect of the deep adoration I had for the past six years working at Kobo (all the amazing people I worked with their and the fantastic authors I was fortunate to get to know and to spend time with.

Something I realized, in the past month, was that I was going to miss the ongoing interaction with authors, and for that reason, I decided to create my own podcast where I could talk to industry folks, to authors, and continue to share my own reflections on publishing.

So I decided to adapt the first publishing imprint I created back in 2004 to publish One Hand Screaming (Stark Publishing - derived from Stark Entertainment, the DJing service that my best friend Steve and I created back in University. STARK = "Ste" from Steve and "ark" from Mark), use part of the original design Steve created for me and call it STARK REFLECTIONS ON WRITING & PUBLISHING.

I'm recording episodes now and will be releasing it in January 2018. But you can listen to a quick teaser about the podcast and be notified when the episodes start up.

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Cheers to Beers

Admittedly, I haven't been blogging here much, even though I'm proud to say that I have been blogging since my initial post on March 3, 2005.

That first post wasn't much, just a note that my friend from work, Mathew (work back then was Chapters Online, or Chapters/Indigo) had mocked me into starting a blog. It's short (so unlike me) and sweet (well I can sometimes be sweet) and called Beginnings. (I was unique, since it wasn't like many blogs, called "My First Post")

My second post, on March 9th, was a little more typical of the musings I would blog about over the years. It was called Not the TV show starring Dick. This one was about the growth of my Van Dyke beard. You know, the facial hair that everyone calls a goatee. (It is technically either referred to as a Van Dyke or a goatee and mustache. A goatee is just chin hair. A mustache is hair over the top lip. But, since laziness prevails and that affects language, most people call it a goatee. Gee, see how I like to rant about such things?)

In my first eight years of blogging I averaged between 180 and 190 blog posts per year, which was almost one every two or three days.

I haven't blogged as much since 2012. Perhaps one reason is that many of my updates end up being shared in the quicker click share of Facebook and Twitter and Instagram. Another part of the reason is likely that my "blogging" efforts were directed towards the Kobo Writing Life blog as well as other writing efforts.

But I still quite enjoy blogging. Heck, I've even started other blogs that align directly specific passions.

While the KWL Blog was focused specifically on writing and publishing, and I was able to channel much passion into that, Liz and I started Spirits Untapped, a blog that focuses on the spirit and spirits that inhabit beer and bar culture.

A "Beer with Norm" - What does it say about me for this being on my bucket list?
Yes, this will be information that we have started compiling for a forthcoming book in my "series" of books on the paranormal, called SPIRITS UNTAPPED: Haunted Bars and Breweries that likely won't be out for a couple of years; but we started this the blog in May 2016 and on the blog we decided to focus on the Spirit of Beer Culture, while throwing in a few spots about haunted locations.

For example, the first post, May 7, 2016, was about The Winking Judge on Augusta Street in Hamilton. I first learned about it when writing Haunted Hamilton: The Ghosts of Dundurn Castle & Other Steeltown Shivers. And it has since become a local "haunt" since I moved into an apartment "above" the judge in 2014.

The Winking Judge - One of our favorite haunts

On Spirits Untapped, Liz and I blog about such things as:

. . . along with other fun intersections from beer culture as well as a map tracking the various locations we have enjoyed beers together since 2014.

I'm pretty sure that the Spirits Untapped blog will continue to grow now that I have more time for writing, and that I'll also be returning to blog more here as 2017 draws to a close and we usher in 2018.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

So Long And Thanks For All The Books

A few weeks ago I did something I didn't think I would ever do.

I said goodbye to a job that I not only loved, but that I felt was the absolute perfect role for me.

It wasn't easy.

Starting in October of 2011 I had the role of Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations for Rakuten Kobo, Inc. It truly did feel like a role that was custom built for me. And not just for the fact that, before I even applied for the job, I met with Kobo's current CEO, Michael Tamblyn to discuss the idea he had of forging a new element of Kobo's business, a platform or tool that made it easier for self-published authors and smaller publishers to publish direct to Kobo's catalog.

I still remember, with a brisk and fresh fondness, how it sounded as if the job Michael was describing was custom made for me.

In some ways I still think it was, because the experience, the ride, of being a part of Kobo and being at the forefront of building Kobo Writing Life, which wasn't just a free publishing platform at, but it was an entire movement and spirit, as encapsulated at that gave writers and publishers a place where the craft and business of writing were explored, celebrated and shared openly and freely.

In the six years that I was at Kobo and in the five full years of KWL's operation (it was launched in July of 2012), Kobo Writing Life went on to represent 1 in every 5 books sold at Kobo globally, and 1 in every 4 books sold in the major English language territories.

KWL was a huge success and I had hired the absolute best people to work with me on making it that success. What more could a guy ask for? But I suppose what made saying goodbye really hard was saying it to my amazing colleagues and to the thousands of authors that I was privileged to work with over the year.

Just prior to the public announcement on the KWL Blog ("Thank you, Mark" - Nov 2, 2017), I quickly composed a letter that went to as many of the authors whose emails were easily accessible by a quick-fill in my Outlook email.

The letter was entitled "So Long and Thanks for all the Books" - because, ultimately, KWL was successful because

Below is an excerpt from that email message I sent out:

It was, of course, not an easy decision to come to, because I’m sure most of you already know how much I adore Kobo and the fantastic people on the KWL Team that I have been very fortunate to work with. But, after having the privilege of building Kobo Writing Life, which launched in 2012, to working with the teams at Kobo and with authors around the globe to establish its place as a wonderful success story, and, of course, a world-class platform for publishing to Kobo, it is time for the next phase for both Kobo Writing Life as well as for me, personally. As many of you know, I have always loved my job at Kobo and have always loved interacting and engaging with authors – and I WILL miss that the most. Of course, I won’t be going far, as one of the things I plan on pursing is to double-down on my own writing, which has taken a back seat for the past 6 years. (Yes, I find all of you so inspiring, and the one thing that was perhaps lacking for me was the satisfaction of actually writing more)

And, of course, I couldn’t be leaving “my baby” Kobo Writing Life in better hands. And that is one of the things that gives me great comfort.

Christine Munroe, Senior Manager, Author Performance, will be overseeing the KWL team and I couldn’t be entrusting KWL into more capable hands. She is an experienced and forward thinking publishing professional that I am not only proud to get to work with but am excited to watch help take KWL to the next level of greatness. Many of you likely already know her, and I’m sure if you don’t yet, you’ll soon have that pleasure. 

Below is a quick snapshot of the current KWL team – (yes, I left myself in the picture just for the pleasure of getting to hang around with them for that much longer) -- so when you are emailing them you can get to love them the way that I do. They are an amazing group of people whose hard work, passion and commitment to excellence I have been the “front person” for. I am tremendously proud of this fine group of people who, like many of you, have felt like family.

And, if you don’t have their direct emails, that’s just fine. Please never hesitate to reach out to the KWL team at – They are an absolutely amazing team who are very responsive to your tickets. Chances are you’ll hear from Laura or Joni or, if your issue is related to Publishing Operations, from Tara and Stephanie. If the message needs to get to someone else on the team, the team works closely together to ensure the right person gets the right question. The average response time, during business hours is usually within 4 hours. They’re top notch, they are experts and they all truly care about authors having a good experience with Kobo.
I know that, I, for one, am looking forward to continuing to publish to Kobo via Kobo Writing Life and I have promised the team that I’ll not only be their biggest advocate, but that I will, of course, be an informal author QA person, always eager to offer suggestions about things that make an author’s life easier. That is, of course, the way that we originally built and have continued to maintain Kobo Writing Life. And it’s only going to be getting better thanks to this amazing team and feedback of authors like you.

Lastly, I want to thank you all for writing amazing books, for connecting with me over the years and for providing content for Kobo’s customers in 190 countries. In the same way that I’ll be watching Kobo’s and the KWL Team’s ongoing growth and success, I’ll be watching and cheering you on as well.

Thanks for all that you do. I’m sure I will see you around many of the old familiar places.

Yours in writing,

Mark Lefebvre
Director, Self-Publishing & Author Relations
Rakuten Kobo, Inc.

So it wasn't an easy email to write. And leaving Kobo was not an easy thing to do.

But I look back on a truly unique and amazing previous six years and I am appreciative for all that it brought to me and all that it continues to bring to me. Because the connections and friendships and benefit I have personally received from being a part of this amazing company and the incredibly extraordinary movement in the publishing world, have fulfilled me and made me rich in ways that I am still barely able to count.

I am appreciative, and honored and thankful.

So I suppose it might be appropriate, with my US friends in mind, to be thinking in that way during American Thanksgiving.

Okay, now back to some writing. After all, I have a NaNoWriMo novel to finish in less than 7 days (the sequel to A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK entitled FEAR AND LONGING IN LOS ANGELES), and I also have a contract to co-author my next book for Dundurn (MACABRE MONTREAL). (Of course, there'll be more on both of those things shortly here on this blog which I have been ignoring too much in the past few years)

Love and hugs to you and yours!

[EDIT - If you've worked with me and are interested in sharing a brief "testimonial" on my character, how I've helped or supported you, feel free to make it official:  Show Mark Some Love!]

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Feel The Fear In Many Forms

Fear comes in many forms and guises. It creeps up on us in more ways than even the most creative parts of our minds can ever imagine.

I explored the various different types of fears in an anthology I edited and which was recently released by WMG Publishing. FICTION RIVER: FEEL THE FEAR is an anthology that explores a concept inspired by the Douglas E. Winter quote that "horror is not a genre but an emotion."

Fear is a universal element that is pervasive through all genres. It is certainly an element that I enjoy reading about and, of course, also writing about.

But, during October, more folks are inclined to want to explore fear and horror and dark chills.

Which is why I am absolutely thrilled (and perhaps a little chilled) to have both my anthology FEEL THE FEAR and my horror novel I, DEATH included in an amazing StoryBundle.

Curated by editor and writer extraordinaire, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, this amazing StoryBundle contains 10 full length books that assemble all the various fears.

The initial titles in the The Fear Bundle (minimum $5 to purchase) are:
  • Show Trial by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
  • Last Call by Sean Costello
  • The Night Killers by Rebecca M. Senese
  • Fiction River: Feel the Fear by Mark Leslie
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular titles, plus SIX more!
  • Calling Dead by Dean Wesley Smith
  • Immortal Clay by Michael Warren Lucas
  • I, Death by Mark Leslie
  • When the Moon Over Kualina Mountain Comes by Leah Cutter
  • Gates of Hell by J.F. Penn
  • One-Way Ticket to Midnight by Gary Jonas
This bundle is available only for a limited time via It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub and .mobi) for all books!

And, while this StoryBundle focuses on fear, the writers here understand that while they can't alleviate all of the fears felt by the victims of so many devastating natural disasters taking place, they can help with their dollars. So the assigned charity for this particular StoryBundle is the American Red Cross, with donations earmarked to Puerto Rico relief.

Below are just a few selected reviews from books in the bundle.

Show Trial by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
"Deeply evocative, it breathes menace from every page and memorably conveys what Rusch calls the 'casual evil' that suffused Germany as the Nazis came to power."
– The Daily Mail (London) on Hitler’s Angel
Last Call by Sean Costello
"When Mr. Costello said this book was not for the faint-hearted he wasn't kidding. I had to put the book down for a bit just to catch my breath. This story scared the bejeepers out of me."
– Amazon Review
Immortal Clay by Michael Warren Lucas
"This was a book full of non-stop action and strange goings on. I found myself unable to put it down and the chapters raced by quickly."
– Alex Kourvo, Writing Slices blog
I, Death by Mark Leslie
"If you're looking for an easy, yet uniquely written, fast-paced read, I, Death is a thrill with comedic undertones that will leave you both satisfied and disturbed, but in the greatest way possible."
– Amazon Review
Gates of Hell by J.F. Penn
"JF Penn writes like she has the hordes of Hades after her. Fast-paced, smart, and so much fun."
– Simon Toyne, bestselling author of the Sanctus trilogy
One-Way Ticket to Midnight by Gary Jonas
"Jonas has written a well-paced trip through the mean streets of Tulsa infused with music and magic."
– The Denver Post

Go ahead, get your fear on. Treat yourself this Halloween season to a fantastic bundle by writers I am honored to be sharing the same space with. .


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Dark Tales on the Street

Thanks to the support of my publisher (Dundurn) and the Ontario Media Development Corporation, I was able to accept the request from the good folks at The Word on the Street Halifax to read from and discuss my latest ghost story book, Haunted Hospitals, co-written with Rhonda Parrish.

I love the city of Halifax and haven't been here since a little over three years ago. (Okay, I was back in the area a couple of years ago, but drove past Halifax on the way to Hubbards, a beautiful community on St. Margarets Bay)

It was wonderful to be back. Halifax is a gorgeous city to walk around, and this time, the weather (a bit seasonably warmer than normal for mid Sept), was glorious.

I attended the pre-event reception on Friday night, getting a chance to mingle with other writers, including hanging out with Nicola R. White. Then, on the walk back to my hotel, I took a slight detour to check out the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site. It was, of course, closed, but the fog that had rolled in off the ocean created a delightfully eerie view, and I marveled in it as I walked quietly through the dark fog.

The Word on the Street itself, which is a single full day of bookish goodness, was wonderful. I had the chance to mingle and chat with wonderful publishers, authors and booksellers, and even ran into my old friend and fellow horror and ghost-story writer, Steve Vernon.

For my author appearance, I shared the stage with another Dundurn author, Lorna Poplak, author of Drop Dead: A Horrible History of Hanging in Canada for a session called "Dark Tales." Lorna's book is fascinating, and the readings and talk she did on it were stellar. I also think that our books and the things we discussed were quite complimentary and over-lapped nicely.

Below are a few pictures of WOTS Halifax as well as the absolutely beautiful Halifax Central Public Library location (where it was held).

After WOTS was over I had the chance to do some more walking around. This time I sought out the Victoria General Hospital where I did a Facebook Live video sharing one of the stories from Haunted Hospitals about the ghost of the Old Grey Nun, and then proceeded to explore a few of the newer wonderful breweries that Halifax has to offer.

In all, a wonderful trip filled with bookish delights and wonderful Halifax sights.

Monday, September 04, 2017

Earning Money From Re-Cycled Short Stories

The other day I cashed yet another check from McGraw-Hill Ryerson for a short story.

The check was for $29.24 - which doesn't seem like a big thing.

However, let's look at the source, and the history for where this payment came from.

A snapshot look at how "Almost" appears in format

The History of my short story "Almost"

  • 1988 - 1989 - Some time between high school and university I was reading Stephen King's Dance Macabre and was fascinated by his mentioning of the classic "tales of the hook" -- it inspired me to write a short story called "Almost" involving many of those elements
  • 1989 - 1996 - I submitted "Almost" to three short fiction horror markets. Rejections from all of them.
  • 1996 to 2003 - "Almost" remains "in the drawer" as one of those stories I had written but didn't have a home for
  •  2004 - I decide to include "Almost" in my self-published collection One Hand Screaming in the "Curt Cries in the Night" section featuring short-shorts (stories approx 1000 words and under) and poetry.
  • 2010 - I record a free audio version of "Almost" for Episode 14 of my podcast "Prelude to a Scream"
  • 2012 - I reprint "Almost" in the digital chapbook Bumps in the Night. This collection was described as "a collection of four short stories perfect for either sharing around a campfire or reading while on a vacation or sleepover."
    • Bumps in the Night was, for the longest time, my most successfully selling digital book
  • Dec 18, 2014 - A Permissions Editor from McGraw-Hill contacts me by email requesting the use of "Almost" in the digital collection provided a few small editorial changes are made to make the story more palatable for an education audience. I agree.
  • Jan 5, 2015 - Paperwork/contract is signed for re-print publication of "Almost" 
  • Feb 25, 2015 - Receive editorial notes on revisions to story as well as initial layout proofs.
  • Mar 9, 2015 - Receive request to modify a few additional words based on sensitivity issues with the Newfoundland and Labrador ministry of education. Accepted changes.
  • Mar 9, 2015 - Receive flat fee payment for "Almost" - $350
  • Oct 20, 2015 - Published a free version of "Almost" with an ambient soundtrack on BookTrack
  • Oct, 2015 - "Almost" appears in the free Wattpad version of One Hand Screaming
Three of the collections that "Almost" has appeared in

Revenues Earned from McGraw-Hill

$350.00 (Flat Fee - "Advance" for story being made available in digital catalog)
$75.00 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)
$88.65 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)
$29.24 (Royalty payment for printing of story in custom printed secondary school books)

Total rec'd so far: $542.89

The story "Almost" is approximately 870 words long. The initial flat fee payment of $350 means that payment for this story was approx $0.40/word. Standard professional rates for fiction run at about $0.05 to $0.06. I have been paid $0.25 when selling non-fiction to magazine markets. So getting $0.40 per word for a short story is quite a spectacular "win" for me.

Not to mention, of course, the fact that I continue to receive royalties each time the story is added to a new teacher's custom-printed collection for a class. Heck, those royalties alone currently mean the story has earned an additional $0.22/word.

In addition, with the recently received check and royalty statement, I can see that the payment is for the reproduction of about 225 copies of the book in which the story appears. Based on those numbers, I can safely assume that more than 1000 students have either read, or had access to read this story in the past couple of years.

Yes, I know that most high school students who encounter a story aren't going to remember it or the author. Even this book nerd balked at some of the texts high school teachers forced me to read. But I also remember, quite fondly, those particular short stories I read in high school that have stuck with me all these years later. So there is always a slim chance that, among the students encountering this story, that some might be intrigued enough to read some of my other work.

The total money received for this story doesn't include the funds received from having "Almost" published in One Hand Screaming nor having included in Bumps in the Night, nor its availability in the BundleRabbit's The Crimes, Capers and Rule-Breakers Bundle.

But, just to do some minimal math on that, Bumps in the Night sells for $2.99 of which I keep 70% which comes to about $2.09; since the collection has four stories in it, it means that every time that collection has sold ths share for "Almost" is about $0.52), and I can safely say that I have sold more than 1000 copies of Bumps in the Night.

Bumps in the Night revenues earned since 2012:  Approx $2,090. The "cut" for Almost = $522.50

So, even without adding in the cut from One Hand Screaming (the revenues on this go back to 2004 - I haven't always been good at tracking the income on print and ebook for this one) or the other places "Almost" has been included, such as the Crimes, Capers and Rule-Breakers Bundle, I can safely say that this story has earned me more than $1000.00 in revenue. That comes to about $1.15/word so far. And the earnings continue to tick along.

Not bad for a short story that I initially hadn't sold to a short fiction market (and for which a professional short story sale would have been about $43.50)

Interesting end note. I still have no idea how the "right person" at McGraw came to discover my short story "Almost" and thus want to acquire rights to it for the high school literary catalog, but I have to believe that it might have something to do with the story being so broadly available and accessible.

Various Links to Almost:

  • Listen to "Almost" in my old Prelude to a Scream Podcast Episode 14(Free)
  • Read "Almost" on BookTrack (Soundtracks for Books) complete with an atmospheric sound-track (Free)
  • Read "Almost" on Wattpad. (Free)
  • Buy One Hand Screaming (includes "Almost" and 15 other short stories and a handful of poems) at your favorite online eRetailer (available in ebook and print)
  • Buy Bumps in the Night (includes "Almost" and 3 other short tales perfect for "around the campfire" reading) at your favourite ebook retailer (ebook format only)
  • Buy The Crimes, Capers & Rule-Breakers Bundle (includes "Almost" and 19 other stories from great authors) from BundleRabbit or your favorite online eRetailer

Saturday, September 02, 2017

A Haunted 5K Run in Hamilton

Almost by accident this morning, I discovered a neat way to turn a run into a historic haunted run.

It started when I left my apartment, wanting to go on a relatively short run that had a bit of a challenge to it. So I decided to head south on James St S. towards the Hamilton Mountain where there's a path and set of stairs (part of the Bruce Trail).

Once I got to the top of the stairs, I thought it might be fun to keep moving along the upper edge of the escarpment and run out towards Century Manor. A week earlier, I took a short hike up there to do a Facebook Live video to help promote a new book (Haunted Hospitals) that includes a chapter on the beautiful old abandoned and boarded up building that used to be an insane asylum.

One of the spectacular views looking down on the city from Hamilton Mountain (ie, Niagara escarpment) on this run

When I reached Century Manor and lifted my iPhone to do a selfie (because apparently I'm a teenaged girl), I noticed that it was approximately 2.6 KM from my place to that spot.

While I'm not a math whiz, I knew that the full route would end up being approximately 5K, which is a decent short run.

Century Manor

So, considering the beautiful and picturesque landscape I'd gone through (not to mention the fun challenge of the hill and the stairs), I wondered it if might make a thematic run. A Haunted Run, I imagined.

So I mapped it out and created a "Haunted Runs in Hamilton: Winking Judge to Century Manor" route.

The Winking Judge to Century Manor & Back Route

I figured one haunted location might not be enough, and so, since I live near my favourite bar to haunt, The Winking Judge, I figured I'd add that into the route and have a fun haunted destination at both ends of the run.

Of course, after I finished, I realized that the route is pretty close to a few other haunted locations (Augusta Mansion on the mountain and Whitehern House down in the city). But I figured incorporating them into a slightly longer route might be more fun.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A Recipe for Author Collaboration

Because I do so much writing for the Kobo Writing Life blog as well as Spirits Untapped, I haven't been updating this blog as often. (I know, I know, there's always SOME excuse, isn't there?)

But I wanted to share an excerpt from a recent guest blog post that I wrote for Dundurn, the publisher of the newly released Haunted Hospitals, a book that I co-authored with Rhonda Parrish.

The article is entitled A Recipe for Author Collaboration and talks about the origin of this book project and how the proper "ingredients" need to all be lined up for a collaboration to happen.

In much the same way that fire is created from the combination of the three elements of oxygen, a fuel source and heat, the ingredients necessary for a writing project are Inspiration and Commitment and Timing- From "A Recipe for Author Collaboration" on Dundurn's Blog

At When Words Collide, the Calgary conference where we met and decided to collaborate, we recorded a quick Facebook Live video that was originally posted to the Haunted Hospitals Facebook page.

If you're a fan of video over text, there are a few other videos on the Facebook page as well that I recorded at two of the locations from our book (The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia and Century Manor in Hamilton, Ontario)

Monday, June 12, 2017

So Long Chapters Ancaster, And Thanks For All The Books

I arrived home this evening to an interesting invitation for a new bookstore that is opening, or rather re-opening in Ancaster.

My heart actually skipped a beat when I saw the invite.

Because the invite was to the "New Indigo Ancaster."

Mailer invite to the New Indigo Ancaster

Why did my heart skip a beat?

Perhaps because my mind raced back, all those years, to a significant change in my life. The main reason I moved from Ottawa to Hamilton.

It was to open the original incarnation of that particular location -- then known as Chapters Ancaster.

Back in early 1996 I was working in Ottawa where my career in bookselling had started in 1992, the same year I graduated from Carleton University. In 1992 I had been working four jobs at the time: Part-Time at the Coles on Sparks Street, Part-Time at Theatre Operations at Carleton University, Part-Time as a Security Guard for Wackenhut Security (mostly at Lansdowne Park) and Part-Time for PM Displays. With those four part-time jobs, and taking as many hours as I could from each, I was working anywhere between 40 to 60 hours per week. Because I was working so many hours, and usually during Friday and Saturday nights, I was rarely out spending money, which was good, because I was mostly making minimum wage. I really needed those pennies.

Once 1993 hit, I took on a full-time role as a bookseller and ended up losing hours from my other part-time jobs; but I still managed to put in an additional 20 or more hours from several of those other jobs. I just wasn't able to take as many regular shifts by then.

But it was too late by then. Because I was bit by the bookselling bug. I then ended up moving into management with Coles, which ended up merging with SmithBooks, the rival company, and moving from store to store in the Ottawa area as an Assistant Manager. (Ironically, while working full time at Coles, I had a benefits package, even being a manager meant I was earning far less than I would have had I continued to work those multiple jobs. But that was no matter, because my passion for bookselling took hold)

But it was in 1997 that I caught my "big break" - I applied for a position at the Chapters in Ancaster and become one of three managers of that store: The Product Manager. I was in charge of managing the inventory of and helping to top off the local buying for a store that, at the time, boasted 100,000 different titles. (In a funny reflection about money, I remember drooling over the $26,000 I was earning in order to work a minimum of 60 hours a week helping to run that store. But I was a man possessed by the bookselling bug. The work itself is what motivated me, and is what continues to motivate me -- fortunately, the money I'm earning has grown as I've continued to move up and along)

The original look of the Chapters Ancaster with its "Flying Book" logo

Leaving Ottawa, a city that I adored behind, I made the move with my wife (who was from Hamilton) to her home-town. Opening the store was a tremendous feat. Working several weeks of 16 hour days was incredibly taxing (of course, I had already gotten used to that from early in the 90's working multiple jobs). But it was a satisfying accomplishment. The Chapters Ancaster celebrated its grand opening in the Fall of 1997.

And it denoted a significant and important turning point in my own career, not just as a bookseller, but also as a writer (and heck, yes, as a Book Nerd)

Being closer to the "hub" of Toronto publishing by being in Hamilton allowed me befriend some amazing Toronto area writers. I got to know and hang out with folks I had only ever previous read: people like Robert J. Sawyer and Edo van Belkom. Not only did I get to hang out with them, but I was able to organize fun day-long reading events at the store by calling upon them all.

Writers Appearing at Sci-Fi Saturday at the Chapters Ancaster (1998?) - Left to right: David Shtogryn, Edo van Belkom, Carolyn Clink, Robert J. Sawyer, Douglas Smith, Andrew Weiner, Mark Leslie, Sally Tomasevic, Marcel Gagne

And it was when I was working at the Chapters in Ancaster that I first met Julie E. Czerneda and Kelly Armstrong, who have since also become friends. (Julie was the editor who bought my very first "pro sale rate" short story, "Looking Through Glass" which was published in the Anthology Stardust in the Tales from the Wonder Zone series in 2002. And I have also published one of Kelly's stories in one of my own anthologies, Campus Chills).

It was from the Chapters Ancaster that I moved to Chapters Online on Peter Street in Toronto in 1999, which led to meeting and first working with Michael Tamblyn, Noah Genner and Doug Minett -- three amazing book industry leaders who I learned a lot from and whose vision and leadership I continue to admire. From there, I moved back to Hamilton to be the Book Operations Manager at Titles Bookstore at McMaster University from 2006 until 2011, where I continued to meet even more amazing book industry folks and booksellers, including brilliant campus bookstore geniuses like Todd Anderson and Chris Tabor among so many other great people via my role on the board of the Canadian Booksellers Association. That path eventually led me back to Toronto to Kobo where I reconnected with Michael Tamblyn and Mike Serbinis (the former CTO at Chapters/Indigo who moved on to found Kobo), where I've been since 2011, in a role that feels like I was born for.

It has been a tremendous journey, with so many amazing moments along the way, but it all stems back to that critical move to Hamilton to open up the Chapters in Ancaster. So many of my accomplishments in my bookselling career as well as in my career as a writer can be traced through the wonderful connections and people that I got to know and work with.

So many of the things in my personal life that I am incredibly grateful for involve being here in the Hamilton area and the many people I wouldn't have met had I not been here in this area, including the Love of my life, whom I was fortunate enough to meet back in 2014 shortly after my marriage had ended.

But that is another story.

For now, I'm reflecting on the end of the Chapters Ancaster, that life-changing career move location that will always hold a special place in my heart.

Yes, I closed the "chapter" of my life that was the Chapters Ancaster long before it declared its own final "chapter" and is being re-branded and refreshed.

But in my heart, the Indigo Ancaster will always be Chapters to me.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Public Lending Rights Payment for Canadian Authors

Today I received my annual cheque (or check for Americans) from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Public Lending Rights Commission.

This is me during early to mid February each year

I was among 17,344 Canadian authors to receive payment this year as compensation for free public access to my books through Canada's public libraries.

Last year, for the first time, the PLR Program started to accept eBooks; meaning that authors are now able to register electronic books with the PLR Program.

I registered my eBooks with them last year and, each year, continue to update the new print and ebooks that are published in the previous year. I have been registered with PLR for several years, so my oldest title, One Hand Screaming (published in 2004, more than a dozen years ago) doesn't earn as much per hit, but it still brought in $80.48 in revenue from being found twice in the random sample of 7 libraries.

That $80 might is nothing to sneeze at. Particularly when you look at the fact that, when one of my traditionally published books sell for $24.99 CAD in print, I get $2.00.

I'd have to sell 40 copies of one of my traditionally published print books, or more than 20 units of one of my self-published eBooks at $4.99 CAD to earn that much.

How PLR Payments are Calculated

This year, I received hits from 7 of my published titles. (5 hits from traditionally published titles and 2 hits from self-published titles) This year also represents the largest payout I have received from the PLR Program. Each year the amount has increased. But, of course, the fact that the PLR

The minimum author payout is $50 and the maximum is set at $3,521.  For any payment over $500, the PLR Program will submit a T4A income tax slip.

If you are a Canadian author and haven't registered your books with the PLR Program, the registration period is open between February 15 and May 1st, 2017.

Apologies to any non-Canadian authors out there. This program is only eligible for Canadian authors. One of the other fringe benefits of living in the world's best country.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Boy Inside The Man

My twelve-year old son and I spent the morning today playing Minecraft, where, under his leadership, I was reacquainted with how to do the basic things in that world. Yes, I've played it with him before, but it has actually been a couple of years and my memory of how to do more than just the basics of moving around and digging were lost.

But he patiently helped me, guided me along, crafted me armor (to stay protected from the creepers and other wandering beasts) along with other tools, continued to bring food to me and reminded me to eat, coached me, and, together we had a marvelous adventure that we'll continue again later this evening after dinner. (Because we do, after all, have many plans for the things we're building and developing in this world)

That was the morning, spent in pajamas with coffee and milk and cookies.

After lunch we went outside to enjoy the spring-like weather and wandered up and down some of Hamilton's down-town streets playing Pokemon Go.

Again, since this isn't a game I've played more than a handful of times, he coached me on strategies, what to do and patiently supported my learning and development, cheering me on when I achieved something worthwhile.

It's funny. I always thought that, as a father, I would be the one teaching my son about the world.

But today is the perfect example of just how much the child can teach the parent; if only the adult takes the time to listen.