Category archive: Uncategorized

Boom and Bust Free Day

At Number 6 for SF Adventure last week. I like that.

I promised when I started this blog that I would share raw numbers whether they were good or bad. So today I have to share the results of yesterday’s free day experiment.

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Hero in My Own Mind

At 40 kilometers – 2 to go

Infection was not a predicted side effect. I knew that by running two marathons in less than one month I was asking for trouble, but I didn’t expect a brush with flesh eating disease.

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Where Have I Been?

Corporate year end. Income Taxes. Training for Toronto Marathon (in four days, bib number 49) Hockey with kids.

Enough said 🙂 Will blog again.

I Want to Give Free Stuff to My Fans

A fun thing has been happening since my last free promo day for Apocalypse Revolution: fans have been e-mailing me. At first I was baffled as to how they were getting my e-mail address until my wife reminded me that she had included it in the front and back matter of the novel–smart woman.

So now I get to talk to my fans, see their posts on my facebook fan page and receive their feedback. It’s great. I’ve met some wonderful people. So here’s a promise to all you fans out there waiting to be discovered: contact me and get yourself on my mailing list.  When book two of the 1000 Souls series is ready, I’ll ensure that you a free copy.

I’m sure some people think that’s nuts: give away copies to the very people who are most likely to buy the novel? Well, maybe, but if they liked Apocalypse Revolution enough to contact me, they deserve my attention and gratitude.

So get on the list to get a free copy. You can contact me at: or you can use the handy “Contact Mike” button on this very blog.

I also have plans for a couple of short stories that take place right in the middle of Apocalypse Revolution.  Those will be available only to fans on my mailing list. Just our little inside secret to share.

But since I’m not totally made of money, I may have to limit the free novel to the first hundred fans on the list, so contact early and contact often. I look forward to meeting you.

Death of a Hamster

Where have I been? Second born and third born down with flu. Me, down with flu. Dog sitting–Doug, the dog. Culmination?

Friday night at midnight. Bob, the hamster, is discovered inert in his house. Diagnosis, in hibernation–thank you internet. 1st born, wife and I start gradually warming and reviving Bob. Eyes opening. He’s going to live, yeah! Or so we thought.

3rd born wakes up screaming for help because she has vomited all over her bed. Doug starts running around and barking in the excitement and must be shoved into the cage. Wife hands hamster of to 1st born so that she can help me clean up vomit.

By the time we’re done we find 1st born weeping with dead hamster in his hands. Bob convulsed and seized as he came out of hibernation, probably because he also had the flu–hamsters can get human diseases. In fact, that’s probably why he slipped into hibernation in the first place.

Life and death. Whatcha gonna do?

When I Gave Myself Up for Dead

I was twenty-seven when I did something incredibly stupid and dangerous.  I often still feel the need to apologize to my mother for putting her through prolonged worry, but I had reached maturity, finished university, gone out into the workforce and felt that somehow I had missed my destiny.  I couldn’t tell you what it was, just that my life was an empty disappointment.  My job was okay.  The people were nice and I was liked.  There were promises of advancement, and one women at the head office had made it clear that she was interested.  The whole world, my whole life was before me and I turned my back on it.

A friend asked me before I left, “but what if you get killed?”

I answered with the bravado of a young man.  “Then my tombstone says I died at twenty-seven.”  At the time I meant that in the lifespan of the solar system, let alone the universe, it was essentially the same as gasping my last breath at eighty.

But I hadn’t really learned that lesson yet.  It was later, when I truly did fear for my life, when I stood beside men who did this every day and weren’t flinching, that I took that lesson into my heart: I was going to die no matter what.  Someday, somewhere, I would have a tombstone that marked my passing from this world.  It was just a matter of time, and in the grand scheme of the universe, a minuscule amount of time.

Now a few of you will think that’s depressing, but I found it liberating.  While I sometimes forget the lesson of that time in the day-to-day rush of life, I’ve held it in my heart and it has allowed me to continue to do things that I might never have ventured had I lived as if I could coast on forever.

At a family function over the holidays, my brother talked about cancer screening, saying that if my father had gotten some at fifty he’d never have gotten the cancer that killed him at eighty-three.  Eighty-three!  If I should live so long!  I’m not against cancer screening, and I’m going for a check-up myself in a couple of weeks, but it sounded as if my brother believed that dad could have lived forever.  It sounded like he was saying that we weren’t going to die as long as we had good health care.  I know if asked he’d state that of course he knows we’re all going to die, but I don’t believe he’s taken that knowledge into his heart.

Some days I wake up and wonder why I chose to be an author, why all my career decisions have been built around getting more time to write.  On a good day I remember that I’m going to die.  On a good day I remember that I have to fight to get every bit of me down on paper so that when I go at least some of me will stay behind, if only for a little while.  I want to reach as many people as I can, to give them a moment of ease, a moment of insight and maybe even a sense of their own mortality so that they can do great things too.  I want my grandchildren (if I’m so lucky) and maybe even great-grandchildren know another side of me, to be inspired by me.

I want to be great in a quiet way.  Not a president.  Not a mover and shaker, but a persistence presence that spreads over time, even after my novels are forgotten and the electrons have spun into chaos, or the paper has returned to the earth.

But the other gift of that great insight into my mortality is a fearlessness about who I am.  I don’t care if people think I’m a literary genius or an purveyor of pulp, and this has allowed me to write books about anything, whether it be a lost soul wandering in Afghanistan, a construction worker afraid of heights or a plague of vampires in Chicago.  Yes, vampires.  It’s more the situation that interests me, how people respond to the pressure, how they struggle to survive, how my characters interact that fascinate me.

So giving myself up for dead was the best thing I ever did.  I can do anything.  I can write anything.  It’s my destiny.  To die. When that moment comes I won’t look back and say, “what if?”

So what did I do that was so dangerous?  My friends and family know.  My readers will already have guessed, and the rest of you…does it really matter?  It’s knowing you’re mortal that sets you free.

But don’t worry, I’m not reckless.  I want to see my children grow up, so when I run at night I watch out carefully for cars.  They scare me.  No need to go too soon.

And mom…sorry about that little episode.

My Boycott of Agency Pricing

My library card had expired.  Gasp!

I’ve been reading eBooks for the last few years, either on my ancient Sony ( two year old technology) or on my spiffy new Kindle, but thanks to agency pricing, I have renewed my card and started borrowing dead-tree books again. That’s right, me the big eBook fan, has had to crack open some weighty volumes to get all the information I crave.  But the publishers made me do it.

In an effort to fight the rising tide of eBooks, the Big Six publishers adopted the agency pricing model, where they set the price and no one is allowed to discount, and they’re setting the price of eBooks higher than paperbacks.  So an electronic download, which doesn’t require logging companies, pulp mills, trucks, printing presses, more trucks and heated bookstores are now priced higher than dead-tree books.  Let’s not even get into the incredibly environmentally unfriendly paperback returns policy, which sees the cover of an unsold book ripped off and returned to the publisher for credit, and the rest thrown into the recycling bin so that more trucks, pulp mills and trucks can get rev up their engines.

But what really gets me steamed is that great authors are being squeezed by the new “industry standard” on eBook royalties.  This cartel of six has decided that they will not sign a single contract that pays an author more than 17% of the list price of a novel.  Their stated claim that they must have this deal in order to make a profit on eBooks doesn’t ring true when you read Publishers Marketplace, which reports on each publisher’s financial statements as they’re released, and it turns out they’re all making a good profit on eBooks.  It’s reduced hardcover and paperback sales that are hurting them.  So they’re using eBook sales to subsidize the old industry at the expense of authors.

So I’m boycotting agency priced books, and it’s really easy to tell which books are subjected to this policy.  If it costs more than $9.99, and more than the paperback, it’s an agency priced book.  If Amazon can’t sell you a discounted copy, it’s an agency priced book.

For instance, a friend recommended The World Without Us as essential reading for all apocalyptic fiction authors.  Amazon’s  price for a Kindle version is $11.20, but the paperback is $10.20.  I’ve seen far more glaring examples, where the Kindle edition is near $14 and the paperback is around $10 dollars.

This won’t last, of course.  Someday one of the really big authors will say goodbye and indie-pub (or worse, sign with Amazon) so that they can collect the 70% royalty.  When that happens others will follow suit, and the publishers claim that they have the best authors will melt away.  Then they’ll want to lure someone like John Grisham back, and they’ll offer him a 35% eBook royalty, and every publisher after that will not be able to claim that 17% is the “industry standard.”

Meanwhile, out of the millions of indie-pubbed books, some cream will rise to the top.  These authors will keep selling under $9.99 to get the 70% royalty, and as they build their careers and become in demand, they’ll eat into sales of books from traditional publishers.  The only solution for the Big Six will be to lower the price of eBooks in order to compete.

But for now, I’m off to the library.  I got an e-mail notice that the hold I placed (via the library’s website) on The World Without Us has been filled.  Oh, and I’ve been loaning eBooks from the library too for my Sony eReader.  Thank you public library.  You’re a forward looking institution.

Kindle Publishing: First Step

There are dozens of paths that will take your novel from a computer to Kindle, and the route will largely depend on the current file format of the work.  We’re going to start with the most common for indie authors: a Microsoft Word document.

Microsoft Word comes with some serious baggage designed to make your life easier if you just want to write and print a document.  But we want to publish that document, so we need to clean out all the Microsoft Weirdness formatting.

Smashwords has an excellent 85 page manual on how to do this, which includes going nuclear (their expression) but I found with my document that it wasn’t that complicated.

Step One: Activate the show/hide.  That’s the reverse P-thingy as Mark Coker from Smashwords calls it, or the pilcrow.  You’ll see that weird symbol somewhere in your toolbar.  In my version it’s beside the little red toolbox.  Here are some fun images for a pilcrow if you want to know what it looks like.  Just give it a click to show all your formatting.

Now you can see what a mess you’ve made of the document.

Step Two: Go to the Tools menu item and pull down to AutoCorrect.  Deselect each box under AutoCorrect, Auto Format as you type, AutoText and AutoFormat.  You have complete control now.

Step Three:  Look at your document.  Do you have little arrows showing tabs as paragraph indents?  Bad.  You don’t want these in the document.  Fortunately I stumbled across an easy fix.  Select the entire document and then align all the text to center.  Don’t panic.  It’s just temporary.  With the entire document still selected, align all the text to left.  Boom!  All those evil tab indents are gone and now we can properly format the paragraph indents.  The pros among you will have already formatted your paragraphs this way.

Select the whole document again and go to Format in the menu.  Pull down to Paragraph.  Under Indents and Spacing there’s a section on indentation.  Under ‘Special’ select ‘first line.’  It’ll default to .5″ which is a reasonable paragraph indent.  Click OK and we can move on to the easy stuff.

Step Four: Do any of your quotes look like smart quotes?  We need to get rid of those.  They’ll be gobbly-gook in your Kindle or Smashwords book.  Simply do a search and replace.  Because we turned off the smart quotes in step one, it’ll find the smart quotes ” and replace them with straight quotes ” .  I know, they both look like smart quotes here.  They’ll both look like straight quotes in the search and replace, but it’ll still do the job.

Now do the same for the apostrophes.  Again with the ellipses, you know, those three dot things…

Step Five:  This is probably a no brainer, but do make sure you’ve single-spaced your text.  We’re not sending it to an agent here.  We’re publishing!

Step Six: Insert your page breaks.  I do them between chapters.  Simply go to Insert on the menu and pull down to Break and select Page Break.  Oh, I assume you’ve put your cursor at the end of your chapter where you want your page break.

Step Seven: Make sure you don’t have more than three blank lines in a row anywhere in your document.  Multiple blank lines look awful in an e-book.

Step Eight: I really hope you’ve already figured this one out all by yourself, but just in case: if you have headers/footers/page numbers, get rid of them.  Like I said before, we’re publishing!  Forget the agent formatting.

Step Nine: I like to put my web address into hyperlinks right in the e-book.  Now’s the time to insert your hyperlinks.  Can you guess how?  Okay, just in case: highlight the web address and go to Insert on the menu and pull all the way down to Hyperlink.

Now you have a cleanly formatted document ready for the next stage.  Believe it or not it gets easier after this.  You just need your cover and…you do have a cover don’t you?  Okay, that’ll be tomorrow.