Monday, January 31, 2011

Wake Up Call!

On the weekend I participated in a workshop on promoting yourself as a writer. It was eye-opening to say the least. Before I went I was under the impression that once you have a publisher willing to publish your novel, the work is out of your hands. The publisher then becomes so invested in making you successful that they will do what it takes to make sure that book sells.


According to Marty Chan, the workshop facilitator, even though on rare occasions you might find someone that will put in the effort, it’s more likely that you won’t. What a crap shoot! No matter how you decide to publish, you will still have to do your own marketing and promotion because you and only you, will be invested enough in the project. And I was hoping to NOT have to do all that work. The publisher is going to invest its time and money in what they KNOW will sell, not with a newbie even though they thought your story was good enough to publish.

And then to add to the reality that I learned this past Saturday, I came across this blog post that only managed to reiterate what I had already learned. To be successful, you have to work hard. And not just at creating the masterpiece. You need to believe in yourself and your abilities enough to sell yourself. You need to put yourself out there, and not necessarily just when you actually have something to brag about.

Facebook, Twitter, blogs, personal websites. You need to create a network that will encourage a publisher to take a chance on you. So it’s not all about the writing. You could have a fabulous story but the publisher won’t take the time to look at you if you have no internet presence. If you don’t already have a following, so to speak.

So let the promotion begin.

Baby steps.

So then you might ask, what’s the benefit to publishing with a publishing company? Why not just self-publish since you still have to do all the work? And the answer is this…established publishing companies have the distributors, they also have an obligation to submit your work to awards, such as the Governor General’s Award or the Scotiabank Giller Prize, just to name a couple. An author cannot submit to these awards directly and self-published books are ineligible.

I still say crap shoot.

But it’s got to be done.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Working in the literary arts industry, I have been approached on several occasions, just in the past week of so, with questions regarding e-books and how, as a writer, to approach this latest technology. But I have to admit, I know little about this, as do many writers.

I was asked to see if I could find someone that knew something, anything, about e-books and how to go about doing it from a self-publishing perspective. But really I am the wrong person to ask about self-publishing because I don’t believe in it. But that’s another blog post.

I am actually torn on e-books. While the advantages seem to far outweigh the disadvantages, I can’t seem to get past the idea of not holding a real book in my hand. To not feel that paper between my fingers or hear the crinkle of the page as you turn it, doesn’t feel the same. It feels wrong on every level. Yet, there are advantages.

1. No more packing around numerous books or documents. If you have a Kobo you can download as many books as you want onto one device. So instead of taking 5 heavy books on that two week vacation to the in-laws, you can put them on the Kobo and it slips neatly into your purse or carry-on or suitcase. You can also put PDF documents on the Kobo and read at your leisure.

2. It’s more environmentally friendly.

3. At first I thought the Kobo would be like reading on a computer screen, but I have heard, because I don’t actually have one, that there is no backlight on the screen of the Kobo, therefore you still require light to read on it. Just like a book.

4. E-books are cheaper than the real thing.

5. If you have a spouse like mine that doesn’t appreciate books for what they are and is always trying to convince you to get rid of that somewhat small library of favourites, you can do just that. (if you can actually bring yourself to empty those shelves). You can stop the constant complaining of how much space it takes up, or that your toddler daughter keeps pulling everything off the shelves. Not an issue.

6. You don’t have to leave the house to get your next great read. Sit in the comfort of your home on a cold Canadian winter day, purchase an e-book online and within minutes you have that next great novel at your fingertips.

7. From a publishing perspective, I suppose you could have your books available to your readers a lot faster than waiting for those 500 copies of your first print run to be complete. Sometimes months from signing the contract. Only one e-book needs to be created and voila, it’s available to millions. And in what? Maybe a week?

At a recent publishing workshop I participated in, the subject of e-books came up and whether or not actual hand-held books would become obsolete. And in the opinion of the facilitator, no, it’s just another option being made available. Like when it was thought TV programs would do away with the need for movies, or the numerous channels now available for viewers would cause many other television stations to crumble. It never happened, it just created more options.


Would love to hear from anyone that has more experience with e-books, or just some opinions on the subject.

Monday, January 17, 2011

I was twelve the first time I saw a dead body. My great-grandmother lay in her coffin and we all filtered past to pay our respects to a lovely woman. I remember how peaceful she looked, but still became choked up and had to look away before my pre-teen emotions got away from me.

At that moment I think I realized for the first time just how final death is. I would know longer see her sitting at the kitchen table doing her word searches or playing the hundredth hand of solitaire.

In 2002 my grandfather passed away. I remember the call about him being rushed to the hospital and I wanted to be at his side but then the snow came and there was no way I could get there to say my goodbyes. A couple of days later he was gone. In retrospect I am glad my last memory of him is not of him laying in a hospital bed. He was cremated and I still hold on to my earlier memories.

In 2007 a friend took his own life. There was a viewing before the funeral service but I had no intention of seeing him lying there. However, you had to pass right by the viewing room in order to get to the service. And morbid curiosity got the better of me. I didn’t go in the room, but I did see him lying there, finally at peace.

In all of these cases, someone was there. All of these people had loved ones that they left behind and who knew the instant they were gone. They didn’t die alone, they were missed the second they were gone.

This past Thursday I walk out of my apartment to see an ambulance and two police trucks outside of the apartment building next door. I watched for awhile until one of the paramedics came out. Nothing of interest. Probably a false alarm. The ambulance left but the police remained.

A short time later I had to walk past these vehicles and for the first time noticed another car, hidden behind the third police car. The logo on the side, Office of the Medical Examiner. They don’t come out unless someone is dead, I thought. Again my morbid curiosity took over and thoughts went through my head of who it could be but I don’t know that many people in my apartment complex. I knew there was an elderly lady that lived in that building but I had never spoken to her. Who else could it be? Only the elderly are supposed to die. Right?

A short time later I saw a stretcher on the ground but never did see them remove the body. It was too bloody cold to stay outside for that long. The vehicles left and all was forgotten.

Several hours later I see a fire truck outside our building. I go outside to see what’s going on but there is no action. No fire. I watch for awhile and finally a fireman and our landlady walk out of the next building. I am a little nosy by nature, I have no trouble asking people questions that probably aren’t any of my business. The landlady walks past me and of course I ask her if someone died earlier.

To summarize, this is apparently what happened. 911 was called earlier in the day because of a bad smell in the building. Obviously the police and ambulance arrived first. Discovered a body that, according to my landlady had been dead for a couple of days. I instantly question that, not to her, but internally. How long does it take a dead body to smell? From my experience of watching all the crime and forensic television I do, I am sure it takes longer than 2 days for a dead body to smell up an entire building. It’s been cold out, but certainly it was probably warmer in the apartment. But it would have to be really warm for a body to smell that quickly. My best, uneducated assumption, is that he had to be dead closer to a week.

This could be argued, and that’s fine, because I don’t really know the answer. There are too many variables. The fact of the matter is, a 40 year old, male, dead body lay in his apartment for days. No one missed him until the building started to smell.

Cause of death is unknown. Could have been medical related, could have been drugs, could have been suicide. But no one missed him. He had to be found by emergency personnel.

I did some research on the decomposition of a human body. Did you know it turns green, then purple, then black? The organs are consumed by bacteria until they become liquid. This is what causes the bad odor which no one can actually describe unless you’ve experienced it first hand. The best I could find is it’s a combination of ammonia and garbage. That doesn’t offer much. But it’s bad. I feel for the people in the building, I feel for the young man who was essentially left to rot. How could there not be someone that missed him before it got to that point?

Just makes me appreciate those I have around me, that much more.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I've Been Thinking...

Happy New Year to all my loyal readers...and sorry for the lag in posts.

I've been thinking a lot about what I want to accomplish in 2011. Well it's probably more fantasizing about what I could accomplish. But I guess that's want too, isn't it?

I don't make new year resolutions. They are silly and just people another reason to feel bad about themselves when they have a set back. I have goals. You have to have goals or life can get really boring. I plan to make more deadlines as I actually did pretty well with the self-imposed deadlines of last year.

I plan to write and write and write. And when I think I can't write anymore, I will keep on writing. And with that writing I will have completed projects. Whether they are short stories, or heaven forbid I actually finish my novel. And I plan to get more stuff published this year. Of course, that one is somewhat beyond my control. Once I submit's in some editor's hand.

There are other things that will happen in 2011 that are beyond my control. I will officially be 4 years away from turning 40. In so many ways, that bothers me, but I have 4 years to worry about it and maybe even get used to it. I don't like the idea of getting older. I don't like the idea of death. I know it will happen eventually, but I really don't like it. Yet, I think about it a lot. I am getting to an age that others around me will start dying. And maybe that's what bothers me more than the thought of actually dying. But okay, lets not talk about death.

I will potty train my daughter (alright that is supposed to be in my control but somehow I really don't think anything she does is in my control.) She will start pre-school. (I am counting down.) She will turn 3.

I will have one of my biggest debts paid off.

In so many ways, it's going to be a good year. It has to be. And that is within my control.

I am going to take on more challenging projects and I am going to accomplish those projects. Reaquaint myself with old friends. My kick some of the others in the butt. And maybe, just maybe...I will make some new friends.

And I am going to take a vacation. (a girl can dream can't she?)

All the best to everyone in the coming year and may all your dreams come true and all your goals be attainable.

Now...I have a great new idea for a story so have to go write.