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 http://www.storybundle.com. 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 theiLit.ca 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 www.ilit.ca 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.

Click here if you're a New Registrant
Click here for downloadable forms for adding new titles

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.