Thursday, September 11, 2014

A brief anatomy of how long it took a bestseller to land on the nightstand

The book in question is The Hunger Games. Massive bestseller, right?

I know what you're thinking. Bah, kid's stuff! That's what I thought too. I was wrong.

Setting aside the merits of the book, I wanted to track the path it took for this book to land in my hands. Briefly;

The Hunger Games comes out in 2008. Over the next year, it's in my peripheral vision. The book seems to be everywhere but the cover doesn't reveal much about the story. I dismiss it at the time as more YA lit. Harry Potter kid's stuff. Not for me. 

My nephew gives me a copy for Christmas the next year. He tells me it's good. I don't even read the blurb copy, my bias is that strong. Kid's stuff. Not for me.

The movie adaptation comes out in 2012 but it still doesn't register. I do, however, have a vague idea of what the story is thanks to the movie trailer. I dismiss it as a Battle Royale knock-off. The release of the sequel the following year does nothing to sway me. Bias firmly in place.

Then a friend of mine mentions the book a number of times. Heather Jackson is a member of the Writeonsisters, an excellent blog about writing and publishing. Heather is unabashed in her love for Suzanne Collins' book, often referencing it in her posts about writing.

My ears perk up. Why? Two simple reasons; I know Heather and I respect her tastes. If she loves the book that much, then there's gotta be more to this than my bias is telling me.

The movie is on Netflix. Easy peasy. I'm surprised at how much I enjoyed it, at how intelligent it is.

A week later, the sequel pops up on Netflix too. Could I be any lazier? No. I watch this one. Same reaction. 

By this point, I'm curious about that first book. How did the writer establish the specific world of Panem and its thirteen districts? How was the protagonist introduced (something I'm always curious about)?

I download the sample of the Hunger Games to my Kindle, start reading.

Sold. The book is on the nightstand. I rip through it in two days.

Do I feel like a fool for unfairly dismissing the book for so long? Sure. But I was struck more by the winding path it took to get here. I bumbled along oblivious and wilfully biased through the publishing phenomenon of the entire series, a gift in my hand and two big Hollywood movies . What finally convinced me to try it? The recommendation of someone whom I know and trust. Simple as that.

So what's the take-away for authors? Advertising doesn't sell anything. Marketing, at best, builds awareness but that takes a long time and buckets of money. Even blockbuster movie adaptations only go so far. In the end, what gets a book into a reader's hands? The same method as always; word of mouth.

You can decide whether that's comforting or frightening. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Publishers Weekly review...

Making it into the quarter finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards means getting a short review from Publishers Weekly. Wow, validation for my wee tome, Old Flames, Burned Hands.  Most of it is a summary of the plot but here's the highlights...

"This solidly written horror story mixes some unusual elements with others that are tried and true to create a satisfying read."

"The heroine herself is unusual in being a middle-aged sometime musician rather than a young witless woman. Fans of vampire romances should be pleased. The author does an adequate job of marrying some new ideas to classic tropes."

Cool, huh? 

Now back to your regularly scheduled programming...

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Last Wolf cover reveal

Inching closer to the finish line on this one. Here's the cover for the third and final book in the Bad Wolf Chronicles.

Release date is early June.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

ABNA quarter-final round

A wee bit of good news yesterday, Old Flames, Burned Hands made it to the quarter-finals in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. Being the phlegmatic and superstitious cur that I am, I refuse to get too excited about this. It's a nice bit of news but any whoop-whooping from me will jinx its chances as surely as poking a sharp stick into the eye of a sleeping pit bull.

I honestly don't expect it to advance to the semis but maybe I can use this little accolade to build some awareness for the book. It's been a real uphill battle to find an audience for this book. Colour me stymied.

Still, on a day when it snows in April and I got two barfy kids to look after, it's a good reminder that maybe, just maybe, I'm not completely wasting my time here.

whoop whoop

Thursday, April 3, 2014

First draft...killed

The third and final book in the Bad Wolf Chronicles was supposed to be finished and released by December of last year. Wow, did I blow the deadline on that one! Here it is April and I've just finished the first draft.

For some silly reason, I thought this would be a walk in the park. Natch! Took me forever to grind through it and kick out the pages. I've set it aside for a couple weeks before breaking out my red pen and attacking this tower of paper. Then all I have to do is fix all the bad parts!
The tentative release date is early June. However, given how bad I blew the last self-imposed deadline, maybe I shouldn't predict any timeline at all. 

If anyone out there has been waiting for the next book, please forgive this plodding lunkhead of a writer. It's coming, I promise. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

the mail I get...

I love getting packages in the mail, don't you? Look, it's the box of heads I ordered.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Touring Toronto via story

The new book, Old Flames, Burned Hands, is the first novel set in my own hometown. I was reluctant to do this at first because I’m often conflicted about Toronto. I love and despise it with equal measure. Most days, it’s just a tedious bore with its never-ending condo construction, clogged streets and pathological need to pat itself on the back for being a ‘world class city’. And let’s not even mention our crack-smoking, drama-hungry mayor.

However, taking another look at this place through storytelling reminded me of all the weird, cool and interesting things I love about it. Working those elements into the story turned out to be a fun way to take a second look at uptight old Hogtown. So here's a weird tour of town by way of the story.

The main character, Tilda Parish is a musician and the story opens here at the El Mocambo. 

The story travels to other clubs too, like the Cameron House

Look closer and you can see the distinctive ants crawling up the building. 

And of course The Horseshoe:

I had meant for the 'Shoe to play a bigger part of the story because my wife worked here and we spent a lot of time seeing bands play. It's not the place where we first met but it's one of the places where I fell hard for her. Alas, it plays a bit part.

Cherry Street plays a significant part in Tilda's story. This is the bascule bridge over the ship channel where the car accident happens.

Cherry Street ends at Cherry Beach, a great spot to get away from the drone of the city. It's also infamous for something called the 'Cherry Beach Express'. According to local lore, this is where the cops take perps to meet out a little rough justice off the books. This is the spot where Tilda burns her guitar.

Trinity Bellwoods and Dufferin Grove are two huge parks where we take the kids. Bellwoods used to be kinda slummy but is now party-central for the 20-something hipster crowd.

Bellwoods is also the starting point for the zombie walk. The kids and I attended this amazing zombie wedding there in 2011.

Kensington Market is another key locale that Tilda frequents.

The market is adjacent to Chinatown. The alleys behind Chinatown is where Tilda's old flame calls home.

the Detour bar
inside The Boat
The Porthole is a fictional bar where Tilda plays her last show but it's a mash-up of the Detour on Baldwin and The Boat on Augusta Ave.

The University of Toronto (which is right downtown and kitty-corner to the market) figures into the climax. Sort of my alma. Sort of because I never graduated, just kinda goofed off then drifted away. It's a beautiful campus though... it has a network of old steam tunnels beneath it...

...and during the course of the story, Knox College goes up in flames.

Then there's this, the building in the roundabout at 1 Spadina Crescent. Worlds clash for our heroes on the rooftop of this gorgeous, soot-stained building.

Not only is this Gothic beauty part of the university but it also houses the Ontario division of the Eye Bank of Canada. Originally it was Knox College but later became barracks during WW1 and then a military hospital. Amelia Earhart worked here as a nurse's aide in 1918. A tragic history surrounds the place now after an art professor was stabbed to death here in 2001. The murder remains unsolved to this day. Eight years later, a woman who was reportedly 'ghost-hunting' in the building fell to her death from the rooftop.

I pass this building every day, often admiring its imposing facade as the road snakes around it. Funny the things you take for granted without ever seeing its true nature or history.

So, all of that brings us round to the new work. September 10 is the release date for....

Here's the hook: Struggling to balance an unstable music career with her obligations as a wife and mom, Tilda Parish’s life becomes  complicated by the mysterious return of an old boyfriend. One who died almost twenty years ago...

I'm giving away 6 paperback copies via Goodreads, You can enter here or click the button under the banner.

But if you have an ereader and ask really nicely, I'll happily send email you the ebook version.