Uh-Oh… It’s Almost Camp NaNoWriMo

Now I’ve done it. Not only have I committed to participating in July’s Camp NaNoWriMo to try and get more words out on the Distant Early Warning sequel, I have also now enlisted someone to keep me accountable.

This is going to be an interesting summer.

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Further Updates on all my Life Stuff

So, it’s been a little while since I posted an update on what’s been going on in my life. Actually, a lot of it is quite well summarized on The Hatchery, as I’ve been working my tail feathers off getting Love, Time, Space, Magic ready for release.

However, what I don’t tend to post on The Hatchery are my feelings about what goes on, or any projects I may have going that don’t relate to the company. There has been lots going on lately, and not all of it has been Pop Seagull related.

I’ve been spending weekends in St. Catharines since the new year, to carve out time to write the nonfiction book I’m working on with the Mayholme Foundation. The first draft is due May 1st, and with the launch of Love, Time, Space, Magic now in the rear view, I’m going to be forging ahead and finishing that draft off, as well as catching up with some web design that’s been on the back burner for way too long. My mini-retreats out of town are resulting in lots of work done, and a much-needed break from the daily grind, but I will be cutting back to every other week after the manuscript is done. I’m missing my church community, and I haven’t been to as many classic movie screenings lately, which is kind of a bummer.

After May 1st, I will be meeting with Mayholme stakeholders and working on the next steps for the book, and reading submissions for Robotica, Pop Seagull’s next anthology. After the riotous success of Love, Time, Space, Magic at the Ad Astra launch, we are well-positioned to continue with production on future titles and grow Pop Seagull to accommodate more outside authors. For more details on that, see my post on The Hatchery, and the upcoming con report series. I’m also planning a possible local Hamilton launch for the anthology since I have confirmed local interest, and the first one went so well.

So, how am I feeling about life, the universe and everything? Pretty good, actually. The success at Ad Astra was a watershed moment for the company, where we far surpassed any evidence-based estimate I had formed for our sales and the enthusiasm of con attendees. The hard work I have put into the company, and the ongoing research and development I have committed myself to have paid off in a big way, and I’m hoping that things will only get bigger. If things continue the way they are going, I can see a day when I might derive a modest income from the company and be able to accomplish many of the larger goals I’d always had in mind.

In my non-literary life, I’ve found some stability doing regular temp work, and I’m currently at a place that I enjoy very much. Since I don’t comment online about employers, generally, that’s all I’ll say. But, the stability in my work life has enabled me to better focus on the other things that I want to do, and I’m happy for that. Robin and I are making a modest savings per month now, and as a result we’re able to worry less about the future, should there be a break in employment, and we’re seeing the eventual light at the end of the student loans tunnel, although that’s still a few years off if I don’t find a permanent job. We’re even dreaming about the day, still a long way off but closer than ever before, that we might be able to afford a cute starter house.

So, where to go from here? Well, I’m looking at some new conventions for the 2015 season after a last-minute change in the lineup, and most of the summer is going to be spent selling, working The Day Job, and working on future books. Oh, and I’m going to go camping for at least one weekend, with or without anybody else. I’m determined.

Enjoy the sunshine, everyone!

Spring is Here!

Me, after conquering the Wentworth Stairs for the first time. I legitimately can't feel my anything in this photograph. But... I did it! And I'll do it again.

Me, after conquering the Wentworth Stairs for the first time. I legitimately can’t feel my anything in this photograph. But… I did it! And I’ll do it again.

Since my last post (ages ago, I apologize) was bemoaning the long stay of winter, I thought it might be appropriate to start in again with a post celebrating the arrival of spring.

The weather has gotten nice here in Southern Ontario, and the nasty flu and infections that have been plaguing everyone since Christmas seem to have finally cleared off. It was a terrible season for illnesses this year… absolutely everyone got sick at some point, and for an extended period of time. As I understand it, this was because of extreme weather conditions combined with a poor choice of flu vaccines.

But… that’s all behind us now, and I, for one, am finding ways to get out and enjoy the good weather while it’s here (and before it gets so hot and humid that it feels like you’re in a steam room). My friend at The Day Job and I, consequently, are attempting to walk to work every rainless day via the Wentworth Stairs.

For those of you who don’t live in Hamilton, the Wentworth stairs are a set of steel grate stairs built into the side of a kilometer-high sheer cliff called the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment runs from nearly at the border with the US up into the hinterlands, and is a result of glacial activity. In ancient times, it was actually the shore of a vast, deep inland sea, and has lots of fossils embedded in the rock. It’s higher in some places, lower in others, but in Hamilton, it’s pretty high, and sheer, dividing the city almost in half between ‘The Mountain’ (on top of the escarpment) and ‘Downtown’ (the sea-level portion of the city leading down to the bay and the steel works).

My co-worker and I live on The Mountain, and work downtown. Thus, the only really practical way to walk to work is to take the stairs, over four hundred of them in total. We tried the walk last week, and I think it’s going to be really good for us, in the most painful sense of the word. The stairs require a lot of endurance, and more than a bit of courage. At one point, you descend down a sheer cement wall on mesh that you can see right through. It’s not the least vertigo-inducing thing I’ve ever done, and that’s for sure.

But, there is a beautiful smell of spring in the woods around the stairs, and I’m inspired by the people I see climbing daily, multiple times, who are honestly so fit that they should have trophies made in the likeness of their rippling abs. They’re not all young, either. Walking is also saving gas money, and the environment. It’s about time I started walking the walk when it comes to my belief in protecting the environment. And Hamilton really is a walkable city. Proper maintenance of sidewalks and access routes like the Wentworth stairs make what could be a very divided city quite accessible by foot.

Still, by the time I got up those steps, all I could keep repeating was, “I can’t feel my anything…”

It’s going to be a great adventure.

Writing Progress 24/01/2015

Since I want to make more use of this blog in the new year, I thought it might be interesting to post my progress on writing and submitting things as well as the usual local new and opinion pieces. After all, this is my personal blog, and it’s great for posting stuff that would be less pertinent, or totally self-indulgent, on the Pop Seagull blog.

So, let’s start with today. I’ve finished 2000 words of the non-fiction book I’m writing with a local non-profit, which is excellent and making me feel very accomplished. That’s probably why I’ve come online to brag about it, honestly. But, I do plan to remain accountable when I’m not doing so good.

I’ve also finished another few paragraphs on the story I’m hoping to have done by the end of the month to submit to Tesseracts. That one is becoming an issue… I think I can get past my unease with the structure, but it is threatening to become a bit of a whale, and that might be more of a problem. I think I’ll finish it, see how long it is, and then if it’s too long for the GL’s I might change the POV or start it in a different place.

And, lastly, I’ve begun work in earnest on the layout and cover design for the Love, Time, Space, Magic anthology. That’s not word count, per se, but I am really proud of it and I’m looking forward to geeking out on fonts and graphic design again. I’ve actually found some really helpful books in that arena that are helping my designs out, and I’ll probably do a separate entry on those.

So, overall, lots of progress today, which I hope will continue over the weekend and beyond. It’s great to be back working after so long being under the weather. *shakes fist at the Streptococcus Bacillus*

Getting Back to Notebooks

Like just about everyone else in the Western world, except the cynical and the very, very confident, I tend to make New Year’s resolutions. I like to flatter myself that I stick to them pretty well, too. I mean, I might forget a few minor points, but for the most part I actually tend to follow through on my resolutions, at least until I figure out whether they’re going to be sustainable for me, or I hit a large and unexpected road block.

Most of my resolutions aren’t really pertinent to anyone but me, and certainly not to this blog. Honestly, think of the worst New Year’s resolution stereotypes, and yeah, they’re on there. Because I do need to lose some weight and make more time for self-care and craft a chore wheel that actually works.

I also have a less common resolution: I want to rediscover my passion for the writing life.

As writers go, I would say my level of professionalism is really high. I know my work back to front, I’ve got several degrees related to writing and the creative arts, and I’ve been a writer in the workplace, meeting tough deadlines with ease and delivering copy that meets and exceeds the specifications. I know how to knuckle under and get the work done, and how to tailor my work to the correct audience. Writing is not just a hobby for me. I take it seriously, and hope to be taken seriously in return.

However, as I have written here before, I have been through some tough times in the last few years, and some of my experiences have left me doing my writing and art on auto-pilot, to some extent. Somewhere along the line, creating became an obligation rather than a joy. Some people might say that this is a necessary and practical progression in the journey to artistic professionalism. To some extent, I would agree. Part of taking my craft seriously is understanding that I have an obligation and a responsibility to get work done, on time. However, I also think that the journey to getting the work done, on time, is a much more powerful and productive experience if it is also filled with joy. I have a lot of work to do in the next few months, some for other people, much of it for myself, and I would like to enjoy this time. I remember when writing was my life, and that was so amazing and exciting for me. I want to recapture the spirit of my thirteen-year-old self, toting a hard-bound notebook everywhere and secreting away stories that were so amazing to me that I wanted to live them.

I began to think about the kinds of things that influence my motivation and mood while writing. I realized that my office was a mess, due in part to it also being my bedroom, so I hauled out the backhoe and shoveled it out. That helped, but the office is always pretty much the same. It doesn’t look much like anything that used to inspire me.

I then got thinking about how I approach work. Usually, I sit down in front of the computer after a long day at the office, and spend a few hours typing out a draft, or working on the publishing business, or doing some graphic design. Something felt off about using the computer, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was for a few days, but then it hit me… my writing had become completely computer-centric. Due to the ease of editing in a word processor, I had slowly shifted writing in my mind from something that you can do anywhere, that adds joy to your day, to something that is solely confined to a computer, in an office, at a very specific time of day. Freeing up my mind to see writing as an ‘anywhere’ activity again, and grabbing my hardbound notebooks when I go out, has ignited some of that passion again, and freed up a lot of creative energy that was going to waste.

Looks like I’m on my way to seeing my resolutions through.

Crazy Times…

Wow, a lot of stuff has happened for Canada in the last week or so. The shooting in Ottawa has hit us especially hard in Hamilton… Nathan Cirillo, the soldier who was cut down while on volunteer duty honouring our veterans, was from our city. I’ve talked to some lifelong residents who knew him, and by all accounts he was a lovely person and a credit to our community in and out of uniform. Everyone in Hamilton watched the funeral, whether they were on the streets or watching the live feed. That is the spirit of Hamilton… community involvement. This is a very little big city. I’m still processing this tragedy, and may write about it more when I’ve collected my thoughts, but for now, I just want to honour the people that went above and beyond that day to protect our country and our officials.

Closer to home, we’ve also had some really weird goings on. A couple of days ago, a guy down on Queenston Road spent eight hours (with cops and SWAT looking on) tossing the contents of his eighth floor apartment onto the ground below. This included knives, a fridge, wallboard, his toilet… what is happening lately? Even by Hamilton standards (and please know I say it lovingly) this is weird.

Even closer to home, there have been some changes in the Pop Seagull lineup, and a formerly very close and trusted friend and I have gone our separate ways. I’m not posting this to spread dirt or twist the knife… just to express my sadness that someone who used to bring joy to my life has changed so much. In the wake of these changes to our ‘behind the scenes’ team, I am left with a few resolutions. I want to record them here, so that I won’t go back on them when it’s convenient for me to do so.

1: I will pay everyone who is not already a beneficiary of my company for their time. I will not allow any more volunteers, no matter how well-intentioned they may be. Depending on what the service rendered is, the payment may be in the form of goods, a trade, or some amount of money, be it large or small. But my associates will be paid if I have to sneak the money into their purse when they’re not looking, even if it’s just ten dollars. This was something that was presented to me as a sound business practice when I began this journey, and I saw the sense in it, but I allowed myself to be overridden by the good intentions of others. The thing I didn’t count on was that when times get tough, good intentions are pretty thin on the ground. Also in this vein, I will never again promise references. References will be given out on a case-by-case basis. They will not be something you can earn by time spent or payments waived. I compromised my integrity without realizing it, but I won’t make that mistake again.

2: I will no longer work with friends, and especially friends who won’t understand why I need to treat them like an employee when we’re working. It is so tough to go back once you’ve mingled those two things, and it’s just not worth it. I never want to feel like my friendship is secondary to my position as a business owner ever again. I don’t know how real celebrities do it.

I think, sadly, that problems like these are very common in the arts, due both to small budgets for indie artistic professionals and the tight-knit nature of our communities. Just look at all the bands that break up in spectacular ways. I still want to collaborate, but I’m going to be a lot more careful about how I do it from now on.

The sad thing is, though, I don’t think anything could have been done to prevent this from happening. I was inexperienced, and didn’t know better, and neither, I think, did the other party in all this. Then they went one way, I went another, and… snap. I really wish there was a tried and true way in life to keep our valued relationships happy, but people just change, and have differing values and goals, and then it’s not as simple as when we were in Kindergarten, and it was all ‘share your toys’ and ‘don’t hit’. I think a lot of people find it comforting to oversimplify and try to find a bad guy, but often times, drama, fights and relationship breakdowns are completely and utterly unavoidable.

If anybody reading this is interested in indie publishing or owning a business, I hope they learn from my mistakes. Sometimes, the things that, at the time, seem like common sense just aren’t good business sense.