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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.

In his relentless desire to support and help others, Frank spotted a Facebook post about my most recent book (Tomes of Terror: Haunted Bookstores & Libraries) and offered to buy a number of copies of it for those interested in reading it but who couldn't afford to purchase a copy.


Over coffee, Frank and I caught up on one another's lives since we both had left Indigo, we laughed about some memories of our times at Indigo, I signed the books, and I left further inspired by his unabashed generosity and kind spirit.

And I have continued to watch and admire the amazing legacy of giving that he has fostered.

Below is a brief 2 minute clip of a talk Frank gave earlier this year at Georgian College from a full 40 minute video which was recorded and produced by the good folks at Five Points Media. The entire talk is wonderful, but I wanted to capture Frank's brilliant "takeaways" regarding the life clock that is wound for each of us, the paths we decide for our life journey and the importance of those moments of human connection.


Frank didn't just give and care for others, but he also continues to inspire others through the Glowing Hearts Community Give and Get Centre and other similar programs that are focused on returning value to people in the local community. (This 1 minute video below features Frank sharing how that works)


The world can truly be a dark and often frustrating place. There are, often, too many things we can point at that illustrate the ills that people do to one another.

But there are people like Frank who bring light and kindness and goodness to the world and to the lives of other. And they remind me that the world and that people can be absolutely magnificent and caring, and generous and kind-hearted.

The world is a better place for people like Frank. And I am a better person from having the honour of calling him a friend and the human connection that I had with him.

Thank you, Frank.


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:



Kobo Book Report: What Canadians read in 2017
 
TORONTO, Dec. 7th – With the last chapter of 2017 soon coming to a close, the annual Kobo Book Report once again reveals insightful eReading trends from the past year.


Rakuten Kobo strives to help you fit reading into more parts of your day, including the commute, the wait in the bank lineup or when you want to take a book to lunch.


  • Time of day for most reading is, perhaps predictably, during the morning and evening commute and into the evening hours.
  • Canada’s biggest reading day—when the most people were reading—was June 30th, just ahead of the 150th Canada Day. So, on a long weekend, we eschew parties and barbeques and instead curl up with a book!

Let’s take a peek at what resonated with Canadians this year.


Canada’s top ten bestselling titles this year—those that raked in the most sales:

 
1.    The Woman in Cabin 10 – Ruth Ware
2.    The Handmaid's Tale – Margaret Atwood
3.    The Silent Wife – Kerry Fisher
4.    Origin – Dan Brown
5.    Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter
6.    The Girl Before – JP Delaney
7.    The Fix – David Baldacci
8.    Lion  – Saroo Brierley
9.    Behind Closed Doors – B. A. Paris
10.    Blink – K.L. Slater

  • Although Queen of CanLit Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale was originally published in 1985, it enjoyed an impressive resurgence this year due to the TV series of the same name—a testament to how books and TV are interacting to bring great stories to life on screen and in stores.
  • Canadian Shari Lapena became a household name with her 2016 thriller, The Couple Next Door, skyrocketing her to the top of bestseller lists here at home as well as internationally. This book stood the test of time, with its popularity extending throughout this year. 

Most Read

 
But as every booklover knows, buying is one thing, actually reading books is something else. We all have towers of books on our bedside table, or, in our world, lists of books in our Kobo libraries.


Here are the books Canadians actually read…

Top ten Most Read books – that is, the books that actually got finished:

 
1.    Secrets in Death – J. D. Robb
2.    The Right Time – Danielle Steel
3.    The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
4.    Y is for Yesterday – Sue Grafton
5.    The Late Show – Michael Connelly
6.    Use of Force – Brad Thor
7.    When the Music's Over – Peter Robinson
8.    Glass Houses – Louise Penny
9.    Rituals – Kelley Armstrong
10.    Come Sundown – Nora Roberts

Three Canadians made our page-turner list; it appears Peter Robinson, Louise Penny and Kelley Armstrong all have the knack to get our adrenaline pumping with thrillers that keep us reading into the night.


Just one more chapter, err, or two…


You know how it is when you fall in love with a great read – you can’t put it down! That’s what happened with these books.


The top 10 gripping novels with the longest average reading sessions:

 
1.    The Girl With No Name – Diney Costeloe
2.    The Clay Girl – Heather Tucker (Canadian author and a 2017 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize finalist)
3.    The Good Daughter – Karin Slaughter
4.    Mississippi Blood – Greg Iles
5.    Remains of Innocence – J. A. Jance
6.    The Married Girls – Diney Costeloe
7.    Little Girl Lost – Carol Wyer
8.    Pretty Girls – Karin Slaughter
9.    A Great Reckoning – Louise Penny
10.    Unspoken – Lisa Jackson

Canadian’s love a good eBook binge. The anti-heroine theme made popular by books such as Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins were instrumental in the creation of a new sub-genre, and Canada’s passion for the bad girl shows no sign of slowing down.



 
I am, of course, not at all surprised to see Kobo Writing Life published titles included in these lists. Proof that readers care MOST about a great read and not where or how it was published.

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.