Planting seeds

I’m still intermittently thinking about the speech I should write for May 15. Yes, it’s a little over two weeks away and I haven’t even started.

You should probably know that this is par for my academic career. At my worst, I tried to write a final assignment 15 minutes before it was due, arrived in class late and got a C-. At best, I would routinely churn out essays in the Scott Library a couple of hours before they were due, and it just worked, because I had spent enough time thinking about it and the worst you could say about the product was “needs an editing pass”.

No one’s grading this speech. If you are, don’t tell me unless you want to ruin the experience. I am going to have cue cards, and I am going to fill ten minutes as best I can. But I will share one of the early ideas I had that didn’t take off.

Because I’ve spent the past couple of weeks doing a lot of planting, I wanted to talk about all the firsts I had been through, and how I was planting seeds. Like the first manuscript, the first draft, the first publishing… just a faithful planting without knowing what seeds will sprout.

But that’s not where I’ve been for a while with the book I’m showcasing that day. I planted those seeds in 2006, and planted more a couple of years later. Now I’m tending to the harvest and planning the next planting.

I’ll probably read something short from the book, with context.

Another book spotlight and promo

I’m mostly busy with planting and zine stuff this week, and reviewers need time to read the book before they post anything. But in the meantime, some promos are beginning to surface, and they bring some brief topics to mind.

Here’s the latest spotlight/promo on My Life, My Books, My Escape.

If you have a book trailer uploaded anywhere while you’re promoting, and soliciting any kind of blogger attention, try not to forget that the trailers exist even if it’s been a year or two. That may sound like common sense, sure, but I have to admit that when I was first offered such author spotlights I forgot about them. Yeah, the things I had specially filmed, and backgrounds specially illustrated, and a whole afternoon spent stuttering through different takes; the first time I agreed to a promo, I didn’t mention them. See if you can get them in the post.

Some bloggers won’t post two trailers. In this case, you may have to choose a favourite. While I like both of mine, I think things really came together well for Trailer 2, so that’s my go-to. Of course, if you only have one trailer, or only one newest that’s your auto go-to, you don’t have to think much about this. And if you don’t have a book trailer, this won’t come up.

Author Interview on Book Whore blog

Behold, the latest interview I’ve participated in.


What do you find most distracting when you write?

I have to find a way not to get caught up in other people’s energy. People don’t intend to distract me, but if they’re there I think about them. This is why I tend to think of group sessions as socials, most of the time; unless all of us at the session agree to plug into whatever we’re doing and not stop to have a chat, I’m there to have a chat. And if I managed to get VR glasses in addition to noise canceling headphones, just to zone in to my work in any space, I fear I would become more susceptible to pranks. I know some of my fellow writers all too well!

The courage required for author interviews

When you fill out an author interview, you’re putting yourself out there. People value frankness and authenticity just as ever, if not more, in features today; if I want people to be interested in reading my interview, I want to answer questions honestly and as best I can.

There’s a real risk in that. I don’t think I need to remind you, but in the interests of making the post longer, I’ll do it anyway. You’re putting yourself into your answers. You know that someone reading any answer has the power to decide they think your answers are disingenuous, pseudo-intellectual, faked; you know that you can’t directly control the way they view your answers. You can control your answer, you can phrase it as best you can, and from there, you’re at the mercy of the reader.

Is this new, though? If you’ve written a book, fiction or non, and you’ve actually published it anywhere or otherwise made it available to readers, you’ve already done something similar. You put yourself out there the moment you decide to show those words to other people, or even to yourself. Every time anybody reads anything I write, they have the power to conclude to themselves that I’m a complete fraud without talent or skill. When I fill out an author interview, it’s the same thing. They could decide that in their view, I don’t qualify as a “real” author. Sometimes they tell me and other times I just think it.

I’m going to tell you right now, I definitely don’t have any special talent or skill at fielding destructive criticism. I acknowledge the risk, I understand how people can be, and I wouldn’t call it carelessness because I certainly care. It’s just that the type or degree of caring didn’t happen to stop me, or that there are certain other things I care about more. When one thing is cared about more than another or given a higher priority, the other thing, the other caring doesn’t vanish. It’s not a balance sheet, it’s your feelings. And I find more often than not, you don’t have to view this as carelessness, you can view it as courage.

If I did have any remotely helpful observation to make, it’s that this sort of discomfort is situated in time. The time span may feel like forever, but that’s because of how uncomfortable it is. The good thing about that is, all the other things we have to deal with in life eventually just become more important, and the sting fades as it becomes less “now”, less important. You still feel it at the time because you have feelings, which isn’t any kind of weakness at all. Matter of fact, I view it as a positive, desirable character trait.

Author Spotlight on NYA READS

An author spotlight went up today over on NYA READS. It contains a synopsis, a trailer, a link to the Goodreads giveaway, and the first chapter as an excerpt. If you’re curious, you can find it by following this link.

Goodreads Giveaway!

I woke up today to find 17 new people having marked my book as “to-read” on Goodreads.

It took me a moment to remember that I arranged a Goodreads Giveaway, it was approved, and it begins today.

There are three autographed paperbacks up for grabs, and the giveaway ends on May 13, 23 days from now.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

The Gift-Knight's Quest by Dylan Madeley

The Gift-Knight’s Quest

by Dylan Madeley

Giveaway ends May 13, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


In the meantime, I had better finish some more transcripts and save up for postage. I have one week shy of a month to work with, so I’m sure I’ve got this covered.

Book Review Requests

selfie with glasses

If, like me, you have difficulty waiting for something to happen, you need some form of busy work. I already discussed why this shouldn’t be about trying to merge promo with all your usual social outings and also not seeking out questionable paid services that may net you nothing, so I would like to go over one thing you could be doing instead: sending book review requests to bloggers. I’ve done this in smart ways, and I’ve done this in dumb ways, and here are a few generally reliable tips.

Pre-compiled review blogger lists

If I’m not using a list compiled in someone’s blog post or on a website, I’m using Google and trying to remember whether or not I already sent something to that blogger. I’m also concerned my search terms aren’t the best, regardless of how many permutations of search term I try.

There are pre-compiled blogger lists on some sites. The Book Review Directory is the one I most recently used, which tries to keep up-to-date and also divides the list into subsections. I crawled along Fiction – Fantasy for a couple of days last week.

Check the time of the list’s last update

I’ve noticed there’s quite a turnover in the book review blogger world. It makes sense to me. Thousands upon thousands of writers, self-published or not, flood the field with review requests in the desperate hope of getting some positive attention, some more Amazon or Goodreads reviews, whatever.

The other thing is, it’s not like you want a set number of reviews before stopping. You want as many as you can get. That means no matter how many book review bloggers spring up, I don’t foresee there ever being too many for the insatiable hunger of today’s writers on the internet. If a hundred new book review blogs came up that didn’t immediately rule out my submission, it just means I have 100 more requests to send, which could take me a couple of days.

But my point is, a new book review blog opens for submissions, they get swamped, the reviewer has a job or jobs or school and work; life suddenly gets busy, and at some point they may re-evaluate whether they really have the time and energy to run a book review blog. They close for submissions, and maybe they never catch up with that backlog, and maybe the blog doesn’t ever become active again. The only obligation anybody has to keep a blog running is an obligation to one’s own feelings, which can shift at any time.

As a result, if your top search result is a handy list that was written in 2010 and hasn’t been updated since, prepare to encounter a lot of broken links or closed blogs. The ones that stuck around are probably listed on a newer such directory/masterpost.

Google lets you specify how recent you need the search results to be. I found that one list I used from 2015 was still okay, but I didn’t try anything older than that. Once you’ve run your initial search, find the tab that reads “Search Tools” and click that. You should then see three new drop-down menus reading “Any country”, “Any time”, “All results”, because that’s the default setting. I clicked on “Any time” and chose “Past year”. If you want to expand the time frame you can enter a custom range.

Be careful with your default email

If you write a personal email for every book review request, you’ve avoided this problem, instead opting for the problem of taking longer to send out large numbers of requests. And you’re probably right, but being eternally impatient, instead I have advice for people on how to carefully manage their Default Email. That should be the one you only dare use whenever a blogger simply says they’re open to submissions, but doesn’t have a form on their site, or any content that otherwise narrows down the few things they want to see in their email.

If they have an outline or numbered list of things they want to see in an email, follow that. They’re handing you a guideline on what they want to see, and just give them what they want. They suggest that format for a reason, and they’ll appreciate it. If they aren’t specific at all, they’re going to get your Default Email.

That said, make sure the Default Email gets tweaked every time in any way it needs to be. Look at one I’ve used recently, with mixed success:

Hello [NAME],

I have a fantasy for adults that was released on May 28, 2015, and I was wondering if you could fit it into your review queue. It’s 92,000 words or about 288 pages, and I have it in epub, mobi, or PDF depending on what format you prefer.
I’ve sent out over a hundred review requests since before the book came out, so I understand that if your queue is backed up for 3 to 6 months or more, it’s not really a problem for me–I just require reviews, and your blog came up in The Book Reviewer Directory under “Fantasy”. I don’t think people last very long in the “review request” game if they can’t be patient with bloggers who are usually swamped.
So, about the book.

When a young woman named Chandra takes the throne under suspicious circumstances, she has to solve the deaths of the King and Queen before those responsible get to her. She has to maintain peace in an empire where people consider her the number one suspect.

Derek is summoned by an official letter and his people’s tradition to be Chandra’s personal guard. He’s immediately suspicious given that her family ruined his once-noble ancestors, but if there’s no way to escape the world’s largest empire, what might he do to turn the tables?

The first of a trilogy, but the only one published so far. “The Crown Princess’ Voyage” has been written but the plot arc of the first book should stand more or less on its own.

I have enclosed it in .mobi format. Let me know if you’re interested and/or need any more information.
Thank you!

The things I put in bold up there are things that need to be regularly changed or omitted. If the blogger doesn’t specify what format they like, I don’t enclose anything, and I leave that second bolded phrase intact. I may leave that second bolded phrase in there no matter what, because maybe someone’s about to inform me that my usual .mobi attachment is corrupted, and I just want them to know I have it available in different formats.
I don’t have enough spare paperbacks to mail free to just anybody anymore, but during my first ever reviewer sweep I did mention that as an option.

Get used to time frames of over a month

If you have a good reason to specify a hard review deadline, then you have to work with that and you have to let the reviewer know what time frame you have in mind.
If, like me, you really do just need more reviews and you’re flexible on the time, and someone says “it sounds interesting but due to my queue it may be 2 or 3 months, is that okay with you”, the correct answer is yes, 100% of the time. Reviewers take a long time because it’s necessary, they’re not doing it to inconvenience you.
This is why one of your first blog reviewer sweeps may happen when the book’s not even out yet, when you want to time the review to its release or shortly afterward. I tried that, with less luck than I’m having this time around. Some blogs don’t actually want a submission unless it’s an Advance Review Copy; I recall at least one reviewer wanting nothing older than a year, which means I was potentially there in the nick of time

When a blogger politely declines, politely thank them for getting back to you

It helps them to know that even if you used your Default Email quite a lot, you’re not a bot or a script. It might build rapport for the future. Also, some blogs offer promo options other than reviewing your book, and it helps not to rule that out. Maybe they’ll offer you a guest post, or an interview, or depending on whether you’re comfortable with that, a giveaway. Getting reviewed just happens to be the opportunity you were pursuing first. In my most recent reviewer run, I’ve had two of these “positive declines”. One blogger wants to know if I’d like to do any other type of promo, and another mentioned my book in great detail in his podcast free of charge.

Currently reading: “Neverwhere”

Having finished The Last Unicorn, my choice of reading order was between Interview With the Vampire by A. N. Roquelaire Anne Rice, or Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. I put the question to two outlets of social media, and ultimately Neverwhere won by 1 votes to 0.

I’ve experienced cinematic adaptations of Neil Gaiman’s work, but to tell you the truth, this is the first full book of his I’m attempting to read. I’ve read one personal essay, and one excerpt from Coraline which dates all the way back to my first year of uni, either fall 2003 or winter 2004 semester.

We’re both a couple of guys who were influenced by Michael Moorcock and the New Wave sci-fi authors at some point, but Neil’s got a lot more to show for it so far. I’m just at the beginning of Chapter Two, and being reminded once again that the odd time I force myself to read, I typically enjoy the experience. Is it that the idea of reading-as-chore has become so pervasive that even a person who’s aware he’s enjoyed it again and again, on numerous occasions, falls back into the general spirit of the age when he hasn’t reminded himself recently enough?

Maybe that’s taking things too far, something I’m experienced at. In any case, I’m trying to make sure that at some point in my day, I make time to keep reading this book. Usually before bed, and sometimes after a binge read of subreddits about ghosts and the paranormal.

Auxiliary Magazine’s new website

frontpage sample of new auxiliary magazine website

My first official article written for Auxiliary Magazine was an interview with The Birthday Massacre. They also did a full photoshoot so I’ll always remember the issue for Chibi on the cover in a sailor outfit. And the fact that I remember the interview itself can only mean I made prudent, not excessive, use of the “open bar”. It was quite fun. At the time, I was rooming with a cousin and one other friend over in the Bloorcourt area and showed up in my standard hat and stripey shirt of those days.

Now it’s about three and a half years later and I’ve interviewed a bunch of musicians and other people, written a couple of music reviews, and just recently an article focusing on alt-markets.

It’s nice to see that it’s still around, and still has quite a lot to do. Pop over and have a look if you’re into the alt-fashion-music thing, or just curious.

One feature I’d like to point out right away, scroll to the footer. Note the menus for Contact, and all sorts of fields under Submissions. It’s like “if you have a problem/question, go here”; “if you want to submit a fashion editorial, go here”. If there’s anything you’re not seeing while browsing this zine that you think should fairly be in it, that footer’s your number one place to go.

I’ve already forwarded some of the submissions URLs to a few friends. It’s nice as a copy editor to be checking out the margins of an editorial, or a full article, and see the names of people you know, so I thought, why not?

Separating social outings from promo

selfie with a glass of wine

Last year was like a long, citalopram-addled nightmare of panicked, half-baked marketing and gimmicks. Pretty impressive given that for at least three of those months, I would only be out of bed for two separate 3-to-4 hour periods, and fitting everything into that time.

I already covered the topic of ill-conceived spending and gimmicks, so I don’t wish to revisit it; I’ve already gone as far into debt depth as I would prefer. No, this is about entering full-on promo mode all the time, which can include the spending and gimmicks, but this time I’m more focused on the social side. I’m going to approach the point in the most roundabout, built-up way possible, so I hope you’re feeling patient today.

And I feel you, if you’re there and don’t know how to stop, because that’s a place I’ve been and only just recently begun to leave behind. From the strange childhood moment I decided to tell everyone I was going to be a writer, I have been judging myself over the years for lack of having done much. When I finally got a manuscript finished in any draft number at all, that was a watershed moment in life, but it was also like thinking I’ve reached the top of a mountain only to see the other, taller peak in the chain that had been obscured by my prior perspective, that could only have been revealed by getting where I was, or by getting off the mountain entirely and watching from afar, detached and indifferent. Whenever I accomplished anything else in life, it was more like a side quest with varying degrees of relation to the One True Purpose.

So at some point, it wasn’t good enough for me to have done what I had done, because if I had managed to accomplish it, it couldn’t have been so challenging and I needed to put more effort in. Also because the more manuscripts I wrote and the more I learned, the more I knew what that weak 50K-word thing needed to become more like something I could feel proud of again.

After years of effort, with more added each time the manuscript got rejected, I got really sick of waiting. I was supposedly living in an era where self publishing was the future, anyway, and all the tools I needed were supposed to be a Google search away, free if you’re willing to do a lot of work for which you would otherwise pay people. I grew more determined of this when I understood that some of the writers I look up to never received a single rejection letter, because they lived in an age where they got to be groomed from very early on in their career, and it was the right time and place for that to happen. But they also didn’t have the tools to do everything themselves, so there were dreadful years in between when it must have become increasingly difficult to get published, while other options were derided as “vanity press”, and then the Internet happened and strange days have found us since. So why shouldn’t I use what’s now here, that wasn’t always seen as an option before?

I set up a Kickstarter and was pretty much doomed from that point forward. I was working for my book, and now it was my life, and I desperately needed the entire world to know. I didn’t have a team on the sales and marketing side, and had no chops in either field, but I was too impatient to do anything except blunder forth.

By the time all the card-handouts were done, and all the pushing and shoving, some people had blocked me on social media, while others just didn’t talk to me anymore. The problem is, everyone’s in the middle of their own struggle, economics hasn’t been kind to most of my friends for a long time, and people befriend you to talk about mutual interests and whatever they like you for, not this one project you’re pushing painfully hard. When you’ve entered full promo mode, social outings become “networking”, and it’s all about who will let you put cards in what venue, or at least it can begin to look that way to others.

And the amazing thing is, you might also have the self-awareness to understand how poorly this is working. You just might not know what else to do, and if you do nothing at all, you feel like you’re not putting in enough effort to say “I well and truly tried”; if things don’t work out, you’ll think of all the times you did nothing and wondered if you should have done something. You know the difference between working hard and working smart, but you could be a panic-driven creature like me. You could have internalized all the times you were made to feel lazy in life, and this, this is the golden opportunity to actually want to work yourself to death, for something you believe you’ve lived your life to do.

Unfortunately, it’s no one else’s job to see that. They see what you’re actually doing, from their perspective. Or they might understand it all too well, and that might be why they haven’t blocked you, or simply stopped talking to you. There’s a fine line you went galloping past on your palomino, just like me. You feel it, don’t you? It hurts you too; not just the saddle burn, but thinking of the possibilities.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do is refrain. It’s the tricky thing about finding life’s balance, and finding perspective and judgement. When you’re doing other things, you’re not “doing nothing”. Those other hobbies and interests, those side quests, some of them are how some people know you best and it’s one way you keep connected with them. Continue to live a life where you do many things, have many interests, and pointedly refrain sometimes from discussing your One True Mission. You can save yourself from burnout, and likely spare a lot of people around you too. Once you’ve been in promo mode for too long, it actually takes more effort to remember a social outing for its intended purpose, so exert the effort and know that you’ve done something right.

If not, charge forth; vent at me once in a while, in chat, when you need. And I’ll do my best to still be there when you get to the other side.