Archive for category Personal

Isolation and the Writer

This post by Cyrus Keith has got me thinking. A common meme in the world of writers and other creative types is that of the starving artist spending long periods of time in their favourite coffee shop or bar. Almost by definition, creative acts are solidary endeavours where isolation is a fact of life, and yet here we have a theme that requires these same isolationists to interact with other people on some level.


Having said that, I will be the first to admit crowds make for a great place to be alone. They can also be a painfully lonely place to be if no one notices or cares about you.

But back to the coffee shop meme. As a regular you will develop connections with other patrons. Even hidden in the corner behind the screen of your laptop someone is bound to draw you out with a familiar hello. At other times you must either interact with a waiter or join the lineup to refill your beverage of choice. All little things that force us out of our shells to engage in some level of interpersonnal interaction. None of which would be necessary if we stayed in creative caves to do our work.

Even those who take regular get-away-from-it-all retreats return to places where they must interact with other people on a semi-regular basis.

For that matter, I don’t know of any creative types who don’t eventually want some level of exposure for their creations, and, even if by proxy, themselves. While I’m sure there are exceptions, the very existance of the meme I’m working from suggests that they are just that, the exceptions.

We may or may not be social butterflies, but social is part of all of us on some level.


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As The Leaves Turn

imageWe lost power at home for a few hours due to gale force winds yesterday. This happens three to four times a year where we live, with an average dark time of four to six hours. Last night torrential rain pounded off the metal roof above our bedroom, though not to the room shaking degree that sometimes snaps us awake.

Fall has arrived with a vengeance.

imageThen, at work, though too dark to take a picture, the drain outside the back had stopped up with leaves causing a lake deep enough to touch the lip of the curb.

Also, I should have gotten off my butt when I had the chance to refresh the water repellant on my jacket.


Some people will read this as belly-aching. It isn’t, I love this time of year. In truth I love all four seasons. Wind, rain, snow, thunder, lightning, even the sun of Summer until it gets too hot to think.

Think of it as being one of the perks of being planet born on a top of the class habitable world. (Did you really think I wouldn’t squeeze in a link to my life as a science fiction writer somewhere?)

I encourage everyone who reads this to look out the window and think about the beauty that is all around us, in all seasons.

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Royalties in this New World of Publishing

IMG_6351I keep seeing lots of articles comparing the royalties earned from Traditional Published (TP) deals versus Selt Published(SP) works.

One argument that always comes up is the advance earned when signing a Traditional Publisher, but very few such articles take the time to explore this aspect of the equation.

Because I’m feeling physically down and having trouble wrapping my head around the edits I should be doing, I opened my spreadsheet instead.

I used this article from The Passive Voice as my starting place.

Say the writer in question receives a $5000 advance and $1.49 a book for a TP and $6.99 SP.

Under TP this author sees no royalties until the advance has been paid out. Meaning 3356 books must be sold before they see any new money. (Please note I’m rounding all calculation up for simplicities sake.)

Under SP this author must sell 716 books before they’ve made the same money as the advance. Should this author ever sell 3356 books, they will have made $23456.

Remember also that advances do not get paid out all at once. They could be dolled out in 2, 3, or 4 payments between the moment of signing and the book hits the shelf. (1,2, or 3 years?)

Some people do point out that stores like Amazon take a distribution fee from the author’s royalty. The actual amount being dependent on how many megabytes the book takes up. Other online bookstores may have similar charges.

So let’s say the say author looses $.30 a book to distribution for a net of 6.69. Now this author has to sell 748 books to match the TP advance and will only make 22450 when they match the 3356 book mark.

What if the SP author shells out $2500 for editing and a cover? This new $7500 break even point (versus the TP advance) now requires 1073 sales and will reduced the 3356 book match point to $19950.

Someone is bound the mention the whole arena of marketing. In theory, the big TP house does have an equally big marketing machine to help boost your numbers. If the word I see on social media is even somewhat accurate, the kind of author who receives a $5000 advance is going to get little or no help from the marketing machine.

I’ll take that a step further. When researching potential TP houses for my own WiP ALL of them have made it clear they expect me to have a pre-existing on-line presence and some idea of what MY marketing plan will be. Everything I’ve read on the subject suggest the author who comes home with a whopping $45000 advance will only see a marginal increase in marketing clout come their way. That kind of support appears to be reserved for the BIG (6-7 digit advance) players.

I’ll be the first to admit this is a rough overview that fails to take into account innumerable nuances that can affect the numbers I’ve used. I also don’t address the question of how long each book is kept available for sale, if ever for those who never win the TP lottery and make it to the acceptance phase.

Okay, I also gloss over the SP quality question except in the mention of paying out significant money for editing and cover.


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A Dearth of Common Courtesy

A morning spent overthinking the incident that found my wife Cat in the hospital ward lounge crying because she’d been driven out of her ward by a hoard of visitors to another patient has led me to the following plan.

You’d think everyone understood hospitals are designed as a quiet place where the sick and injured can rest and recover, and not party central.

Remember that lounge I found Cat crying in? How hard would it have been to take the party out there and leave my wife in peace?

Should I ever end up in hospital and a comparable situation happens to me, I will:

  • Pack up all my things.
  • Throw open all the curtains.
  • Tell the patient who is receiving so many guest that she needs this space more than I do.
  • Walk out.

And when I’m asked what I’m doing, I will:

  • Look the asker in the eye.
  • Answer with the question: You don’t honestly believe I can be so selfish as to squat on such a valuable piece of real estate when it is obvious other people need it more than I do.
  • Set up camp in the lounge.
  • Refuse to go back on the same grounds.

Rather passive agressive of me, I know.

Maybe it’s a good thing I’m a writer and can find other ways to let the steam off.



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Looking For The Good

The last 24 hours have given me the opportunity to see too much of the inside of a hospital. From the news to TV dramas to dramatic scenes in our writing we see lots of examples of the dirtier sides of such places, but few examples of when things go right.

20140624_103951Hospitals are by definition places of pain and anxiety. It is easy to see how both visitors and staff can be pushed to the breaking point inside such a pressure cooker. Blowups do make for great tension in our stories, but miss out on so many other impacts for our readers.

Yesterday a young lady came to the ER well past the point of panic over her extreme pain. Enter the care worker whose job it was to get her settled. Not once did she raise her voice or issue direct commands. With a calm reasonableness I would have had trouble achieving, much less maintaining, she talked this lady past sobs of pain and bouts of hyperventilation to the point they could begin the process of accessing her condition and dealing with the underlying problem.

Breakfast for the elderly man in the bed beside my wife’s and the care worker begins the process of making sure he eats. He takes a bite of his eggs but cannot swallow. She does her best to get him through this, then patiently convinces him to spit it out and try a bite of something else. He never does swallow any of the semi-solid items on his tray and she never once crosses the line into coercion and force. I recognise that the need for maintain proper nutrition may force a change in this routine, but it’s hard to imagine this care worker going too far when it comes time to making sure this man eats.

Sure, in isolation these vignettes may have little impact (I have no way of guessing what state of mind you’ll be in when you read this), but placed at the right spot in your work?. There will be times when such a moment may be exactly what our plot calls for. Don’t be afraid to use it where it fits.


Stat Holidays In Our Modern Age


Confession: I don’t work Mondays and I do not get an alternate day off in lieu of not working Mondays when a Stat day comes along. Which means that Monday Stat Holidays have little effect on my schedule.

Growing up, I can remember looking forward to the next Stat Holiday and all the fun I could have on my off.

Today, the 2nd annual British Columbia Family Day, I took my daughter down the hill for a few errands.

In the process, our itinery looked like this:

  • Go to a fully staffed craft store.
  • Head over to a fully staffed grocery store where I picked up an item from the fully staffed pharmacy.
  • Watch my daughter take off to do some writing at a nearby fully staffed coffee shop.
  • Head to a fully staffed electronics store.
  • Proceed from there to a fully staffed home improvement store.
  • Stop on the way home at a fully staffed gas station.
  • Oh, and the house builder two blocks down from us started at 8am.

Exactly how many of the staff people we interacted with on this trip were out and about enjoying their special day off?

To put it another way, Why are a siginificant portion the working population out working on a day that’s been set aside for them to have time off with family and friends?

It seems to me that our once looked forward to Stat Holidays have been replaced by a special day in which a privileged portion of the population can expect the remainder to wait on them hand and foot.

Sure, some of these people get another day off in lieu of the stat while others get extra pay for working the stat, but is that even close to receiving the leisure time the term Stat Holiday implies?

I wish I could answer my own questions. I can’t.

Happy BC Family Day.

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We Share The Road

Last Monday while circling the block searching for the entrance to a parkade, I had a wholy unpleasant encounter with a cyclist. It is not my intention to rehash the details of that exchange, but to explore my reaction. To start, I am willing go so far as to admit that my failure to be completely on top of the 360 degree environment in which I was operating did have a direct influence over what happened.


Intro over, I must say I escaped the moment convinced that a significant portion of the local cycling scene consists of self-righteous, self-important, uncaring, and uncivil individuals who consider the rest of us dirt to be trod on. If I’d given into my gut instinct to blog about it then the level of vitriol coming from my fingers would have all but guaranteed me a comment stream of hate from cyclists everywhere.

Five days later I have had lots of time to process what happened, both at the encounter and in my own heart, and I have reached a conclusion:

I will continue to do my level best to treat those with whom I share the road with all the respect and care they are due. Whether they appear to deserve it or not. Anything less would drag me down to the level I attributed that cyclist when we parted.

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Another Rant About How Much Authors Earn

I’ve been giving a lot of thought about the most authors earn less than 1000 a year survey from DBW and have decided there is still room for a rant.


Though this survey does break out aspiring authors from the published ones, the data people like me have access to doesn’t answer the big question. Of the aspiring authors, how many plan to self-publish and how many are waiting for a publishing house to offer up a contract? I know, these numbers will be skewed further by those who will decide to FP if they can’t get a contract.

Point is, the low threshold to SP means lots of people who aren’t ready are calling themselves published while on the House side lots of people who are ready must report themselves as aspiring. Until this gap can be bridged, all these surveys are guilty of comparing apples to oranges.

I do have one other question nobody seems to be addressing. Are to people responding to these surveys answering in gross or net earnings? For that matter, are the House respondents using the actual amount they received this year or the total advance amount given in the contract regardless of when it will be received?

Now to find out how those percentages of people who earn $20,000 a year or more compare in terms of real fingers to the keyboard authors.


Keeping Your Eyes Open

I had forty-five minutes to kill between dropping my dear wife off at work and when the doors of my next stop opened. After some exploration, I’d found this little parking lot near Burrard Inlet just east of the Canada Place Convention Centre where I could hang out at times like this.


On this particular morning I looked up from the story I’m editing in time to see the full moon hovering right on top of the hotel tower. I couldn’t get my camera out fast enough to get that initial image so I decided to experiment a bit with what I could get.


How many such moments do we miss because we’re too busy or otherwise occupied to notice? I could say that, as a writer, I have a special duty to keep my eyes open for inspirational purposes, but I won’t. All of us, whatever our artistic bent, need to cultivate the ability to stop and admire such moments. They are a reminder of the grandeur of creation that speaks to the deepest centre of our being if we will just listen.


When was the last time you stopped for such a moment? They’re all around us, everyday.

Now to learn how to be quicker with my camera so I can get a shot of the next apex moment that causes me to stop and listen.

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Price Promotions

A recent article over at Dear author got me thinking about my book buying habits.

Unlike the author of this article, I keep a virtual TBR pile and only purchase the next book when I get close to the end of the one I’m currently (unless they have already been gifted to me in the interim). To put that another way, I do not purchase a new book until I know it is time. As such, I cannot remember a time when I ever felt burnt because the price of my new book changed a few days later. I bought at a price I considered fair at the time of purchase and really don’t care what the author or seller decided to do with the pricing now that I own a copy.

To make matters worse, unless we’re talking about a Specialty or Hard Cover version, even full price House Published books are generally a deal for what I get out of them. While the kind of price differentials referenced in the Dear Author article would have felt nice to my pocket book, they are well within the range of my personal discretionary spending allowance and could just as easily have disappeared into an unplanned Hot Chocolate. What it won’t do is make me sweat over any perceived I’ve Been Cheated moments.

Okay, I have been known the break down and buy a book early because I did find it on sale, but I have never held off buyiing a book because it might come on sale later.

So there you have it, my very different view of Promotional Pricing policies.

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