Category Archives: The Writing Life
It’s PLR time again!
Writers all across Canada are celebrating the arrival of PLR payments — and I’m one of those writers.
Being a writer can be challenging at times, as most writers typically earn poverty wages from years of creative effort. Thankfully there are programs like the Public Lending Right Program, which sends yearly payments to creators whose works can be found in public libraries across Canada. The formula used to calculate payments varies a little, but let’s just say it’s a lifeline for Canadian authors.
The PLR payments are important for a few reasons. They a crucial form of compensation for authors to receive payment for books they’ve already written and others get to enjoy for free, courtesy of our great library system. So it’s a win-win scenario – the public gets free library books AND the authors get compensated.
But the PLR payments are more than just compensation. They are also an investment. Those cheques that get sent out every February help writers across the country keep writing — they’re both a boost to the bank account and a boost to morale. As such, they’re part of an ecosystem of cultural support that includes other funding programs — Canada Council awards, regional funding programs, Access Copyright and so on. All these critical supports help pay the bills so writers can keep doing what they do best — write. And they remind writers they are in fact valued creators and people want to see their next creations.
I’m one of those creators, for I’m not sure I would have published six books to date without such support — that’s my most recent book, Has the World Ended Yet?, in the photo. The arrival of another PLR payment in the mail helps me pay some bills, and that’s great. But more important than that, it makes me want to sit back down at my desk and do one thing: write.
Thank you to all those at PLR and the other cultural programs — and a very special thanks to all the readers across this wonderful country. You are what this is all about.
Ottawa has its share of characters….
I did a Six Questions interview with rob mclennan for Chaudiere Books about how Ottawa influenced my writing career. I only lived in Ottawa for a couple of years, but it’s still one of my favourite places in the world, and I think it’s still affecting my literary life in quiet ways.
I should point out the interview took place before all the recent excitement in Ottawa, which introduced a whole new set of characters to the city….
Reintroducing Poplar Press
“The new vision for Poplar Press is to be a place for untraditional takes on the speculative.”
Wolsak and Wynn, who published my book Has the World Ended Yet?, has some exciting news for speculative fiction writers and readers. They are dedicating the imprint Poplar Press to spec fiction, with the first books to come out in 2023. I’m thrilled about this news. They did a great job with Has the World Ended Yet? and they are fantastic people. Canada certainly needs more homegrown presses like this. To the future!
The angels of inspiration
It’s quite lovely to see my book Has the World Ended Yet? included in a list of recommendations from the Edmonton Public Library and Shawna Lemay. Some of these creators have been an influence on my own writing, so it’s both gratifying and humbling to be on this list. Shawna talks more about influences and her forthcoming book, Everything Affects Everyone, over at Transactions with Beauty.
How many writers does it take to escape a dungeon?
The Broadsword Bandits return for an epic fantasy battle with…. a rug…? Yes, that’s right — in my first foray into Dungeons and Dragons in a legendary amount of time, I decided to go check out a suspiciously nice-looking rug in a room full of ghosts. We all know what nice rugs in a dungeon are….
Anyway, watch how writers Arthur Slade, Adrienne Kress, Kevin Sylvester, KC Dyer and myself figure out how to escape James McCann‘s Rug of Doom!
Episode One Part Two:
Free mead, you say?
The first instalment of the online D&D game I recently joined with a bunch of fine writers is now live. In typical D&D fashion, we head straight for the tavern and try to get in a bar fight with a quest giver….
Back to the Beholder Ranch with the Broadsword Bandits!
What happens when a bunch of writers get together to play D&D? I don’t know but I’m sure we’ll all have interesting back stories…. Watch it live Monday, April 26! (Link for livestream.)
If you want the meta back story, this whole project came out of James McCann’s Dungeons and Dragons Resource Guide and the Beholder Ranch.
Put a ring on it
It’s lovely news to hear my most recent book, Has the World Ended Yet?, made the long shortlist for the ReLit Award. Some of you may remember my first book, Please, won a ReLit Award back in… well, let’s just say Life Before the Pandemic.
I’ve been lucky enough to win a few writing prizes over the years, and they’ve all seemed to come just when I was ready to give up on writing altogether. Most writers will recognize that feeling — it’s a lonely affair at the best of times, and self-doubt and imposter syndrome comes with the territory. So it’s nice to get that validation from strangers sometimes that maybe someone out there actually does like your writing.
The ReLit is one of my favourite awards even though there’s no money involved. The prize is a ring made of moveable dials engraved with letters, so that you can spell words with it. It is a lovely little fetish object and the perfect award for a writer. Even though I won it many years ago, it’s still on my writing desk today.
Not only is the ReLit Ring a beautiful creation, it is also a frequent and much valued reminder to myself that other people do care about what I write. Sometimes you need that reminder while staring at the blank screen, wondering what to do with these obstinate characters who refuse to tell you what they want. Sometimes that reminder is enough of a writing prompt that I continue to write when I feel like giving up, and I press on and get through the day until I finish the story or book or whatever mad experiment it is I’m working upon. The ReLit Ring was a prize for a book I had already published, but it’s helped me to write many other stories, and for that I will always be grateful.
Plus, I get to write secret messages to myself with it!
Learn more about the ReLit Ring and the ReLit Awards here: http://www.relitawards.com
(I know not everyone has a spare magic ring sitting around to throw at their favourite writers, but a good review works wonders as well. Please consider making a writer’s day by writing a review for a book you’ve enjoyed. Any writer — this isn’t about me. Trust me when I say it will make a difference.)
ChiZine news update
For those who have been asking, yes, I am one of those authors affected by the ChiZine news. (ChiZine published my Cross series of supernatural thrillers under the pen name Peter Roman.)
I don’t want to speak about the situation publicly at the moment as I’m consulting with various people about my options. I’ll have more to say in the future. I’ll just say I’m heartbroken about it all and had no idea of the scale of complaints. I recently finished the fourth Cross book in the series, so this certainly isn’t the news I wanted to see.
You can find summaries of the situation at File 770. I can’t really speak to their accuracy, as I wasn’t personally involved in any of these cases.
- Authors Break Silence with Complaints About ChiZine Publications
- Writers and Staffers Share More Bad Experiences with ChiZine Publications
- As Authors Share More ChiZine Experiences, Others Part Ways with CZP
- ChiZine Publications Announces Interim Publisher
(Photo from Pixabay.)
It’s pronounced ia ia ftagn!
One of the last things I do in the writing process of any new story or novel is to read my work aloud. It helps me find missing words, typos and, um, poorly worded sentences such as “He panted heavily in her rear.” I mean, technically not a typo but….
Reading my works aloud also helps me to figure out how I want to pronounce weird names and such when I read in front of live audiences as opposed to the mannequins I keep stored in my basement. With my new book, Has the World Ended Yet?, I decided to skip that with one of the stories: “We Are All Ghosts,” a sort of Lovecraftian superhero tale. It’s a bit long for readings and hard to pull sections out without over-explanation. Also, there’s a lot of strange language in it, such as “ia ia ftagn” and my own takes on Lovecraftian language: “Wgahst’nar phl’unk!” So I decided just to never read that one aloud. Pronunciation problems solved.
And then the other day I talked to the woman who will be recording the book for an audio version and she had some questions.
“On page 168, how do you pronounce….” she asked.
“Right. Urbl’phhar mypr’ttsh urbl’phhar,” I said. “Like it sounds.”
OK, I should have thought about the audio versions. Live and learn.
Anyway, we figured out an approach for pronouncing the unpronounceable. It went something like this:
“Just do your own take on it,” I said. “But make your own take sound like a fish. An angry fish – you know, deep tones, like the Deep Old Ones. Burbling and moaning. None of that high-pitched Dory fish stuff. This is the voice of a fish that has seen it all and knows everything ends in tentacles.”
So there you have it. Always read your works aloud, if for no other reason than to avoid awkward conversations about your sanity. I get enough of those at home already.
(Re the image: It’s called Into the Depths by Patrick Reilly, and it’s one of those illustrations that haunts me.)