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Leader of the World

Oh all right, I’ll take over the world for you. If you really want me to.

There’s a federal election coming up so I thought this would be a good time to put my name forward.

Not as a candidate in that election, as I have no interest in being an MP or Prime Minister, but I thought I’d put my name forward as, well, leader of the world.

Like, the whole world.

Because I think that what would be best for everyone would be if there’s a single leader running things, cuz we have so many big problems, and we can’t seem to agree what to do about them, but if you made me leader then I could just take care of all the problems for everyone. Simple, right?


I’ll be honest, it’s not something I really want to do, cuz I think it would be a lot of work, and I don’t really like work, as a rule, but I think that we all have to do our part, and that could be my part. Running things. Running the world.

You don’t have to decide right away, folks. Take a few days. think about it and then, lemme know. If you want me to run the world for you.  Cuz seriously, it’s about time someone did.

Hope to hear from you all soon.

Book That Day! May 4th for BookMarkIt!

Maybe you’ve heard of our book fair by now.

It’s called BookMarkIt!, complete with capital letters in strange places and exclamation marks that Elmore Leonard would almost certainly frown on.

BookMarkIt! happens May 4th—Star Wars Day—at the Whitby Curling Club 815 Brock Street North in Whitby, 10am until 5pm, rain or shine.

Special Guest Robert J. Sawyer

Many authors from all over Ontario will be present. Award winning science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer is our Special Guest. Well known producer, author and interviewer Mark Askwith of Prisoners of Gravity fame will also be on hand to interview some of our amazing authors. Which authors? So many to choose from! We are pleased to have Dale Sproule, Sarah Tolmie, Douglas Smith, Bernadette Dyer, A.A. Jankiewicz, Maaja Wentz, Lesley Donaldson, Yahaya Baruwa, and many more. We are also honoured to have publishers Bundoran Press, Brain Lag, and ChiZine Publications taking part. ChiZine authors David Demchuk, Stephen Michell, Michael Rowe and Brent Hayward will also be dropping by.

BookMarkIt! is designed to introduce books to to readers and readers to books.  Our mission is to promote the work of Canadian, Small Press, Independent, and genre authors. All of our resources and efforts are focused on these tasks.

David Demchuk,
Author of The Bone Mother

We are proud to be sponsored by the following terrific and generous organizations: SF Canada, Amazing Stories Magazine, On Spec Magazine, Constellate Publishing, Groupa Concrete, and Bookshelf (Writer’s Community of York Region).   

Our industrious team is active on Twitter (@it_bookmark), Facebook (@whitbybookmarkit), Instagram (whitbybookmarkit) and more. Check us out at www.bookmarkit.ca.

If you’re an author or deal in book related products, it’s not too late to join us. Tables are $75 apiece. You can sign up at www.bookmarkit.ca

If you’re a reader, reach out to us on one of our social media feeds. And by all means drop by the Whitby Curling Club May 4th to meet your favourite—or new favourite—author in person!

Joe’s Top Travel Tips

I travel a lot for work these days. This travel has taken me to every province and almost every territory in Canada as well as to parts of the U.S. Like John Candy and Steve Martin in one of my favourite movies, I’ve travelled by plane, train and automobile. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to see a bit of the world this way.

As a way of paying it forward, here are a few travel tips I’ve picked up along the way.

Become a Trusted Traveler

I have no idea whose hands these are

If you travel frequently, consider getting a Trusted Traveler Nexus card or the equivalent. This can expedite travel through major airports. While everyone else is lined up waiting to get through security, Trusted Travelers are usually whisked through. You still have to do security like everyone else but there will only be a handful of people ahead of you in the Trusted Traveler line. Caveats: Smaller airports don’t make a distinction between Trusted Travelers and everyone else. And on one occasion the Trusted Traveler line in Toronto actually took longer than the regular line, but in my experience this is unusual. Getting such a card will take a bit of time; you fill out an online application, wait, and have to do a physical interview at the airport, but it was worth it for me.

At the Airport

Random airport shot

I think everyone knows to get to the airport early, but every now and then I forget that excellent advice and cut it a bit too fine (usually this has to do with early flights and wanting more sleep). I recommend building in extra time in case your ride arrives late or doesn’t show up at all.  Ideally I plan on being at the airport at least one hour before boarding begins.

A few words about getting through security. Make sure your fluids are travel-sized and fit in the small bag the airport provides. Double bag it within a ziplock bag to prevent spills in your travel bag. Know and follow the airport rules. No knives etc. as they will be confiscated. Don’t wear metal, or make sure you take it off before you pass through the security scanner. I stubbornly wear a metal belt that I always have to take off before stepping through the scanner. It is my one inefficiency. One day I will find a plastic one. But dammit I like that belt. And keep your hands out of your pockets as you step through the scanner.  

The Perfect Bag

My bag. I love it

I only ever travel with one piece of carry-on which I never check unless I’m forced to. My longest trips for work so far have been seven days and both times I managed no problem with just the one bag. I love being able to walk right off the plane into a taxi.

I use a small carry-on with wheels and a padded compartment for a 13” laptop. It’s perfect. I made sure to get one small enough to fit into just about every airplane overhead compartment. Because I travel often, I always keep my bag partially packed. I have toiletries and cables just for travel that live in that bag permanently. I can pack the rest of what I need in minutes.

Accessories

These aren’t actually my accessories. I was too lazy to take a picture of my actual accessories

I always bring a pair of headphones for the plane and for catching the odd Netflix show in the hotel room. Like everyone else on the planet these days I carry a cellphone, and I make it work for me. I have apps on my phone for Air Canada and WestJet with all my info, including my Frequent Flyer numbers. When possible I download my boarding passes directly to these apps.

I always travel with a battery charger for my phone and at least one spare cable. This is especially important when my flights are long and involve multiple legs, and I’m relying on electronic boarding passes.

I carry a hair brush, a toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, spare shampoo (twice the hotel didn’t have any), Ibuprofen, my laptop, a power cord for the laptop, and that’s about it.   

Identification

I have no idea whose half a head that is

Once in Iqaluit the authorities almost didn’t let me fly home because the name on my ticket was Joe Mahoney but the name on my Nexus card is Joseph T. Mahoney. It took almost an hour to convince the authorities that Joe Mahoney and Joseph T. Mahoney are one and the same. I nearly missed my flight. Now I always make sure the name on my ticket is exactly the same as the name on my identification.   

On the Plane

One day I will get my own plane

I always book an aisle seat when possible. When I first started travelling I always booked window seats because I enjoy the view, but that was soon overshadowed by the need to pee at least once every trip because of my tiny little bladder. Now I love the convenience of aisle seats where, if I have to get up during the flight, I can do so at my leisure without bothering anybody. Now other people bother me to get up, but I don’t mind.

I always bring a good book and my laptop. I rarely take advantage of inflight entertainment, preferring to either read, work, or nap.

Airlines

I took this shot after being ejected from a flight one day, on the way down. I thought it displayed incredible presence of mind

In Canada, I prefer Air North. Unlike southern airlines such as Air Canada and West Jet, Air North always feeds you, anywhere from a steaming hot pasta dish to a hearty sandwich to (once, for breakfast) a muffin (it was a damned good muffin). On a recent trip to Whitehorse, Air North concluded lunch with chocolate chip cookies. For half an hour the entire plane smelled like freshly baked cookies. The cookies were delicious.

If I can’t fly Air North, I choose West Jet. Unlike Air Canada, West Jet still serves pretzels along with their free beverage, at least the last time I flew with them. Also, you can upgrade your seat to Premium seating with more leg room and a few more snacks for as little as forty bucks.

If I can’t fly West Jet, I grow a pair of wings and fly myself.

If I can’t do that, I fly Air Canada.

Take the Train

Whenever possible I take the train instead of flying. I highly recommend Via Rail Business class if you can swing it. They feed you in Business Class, and the food is good. The train takes a bit longer than the plane but it’s so worth it. It’s better for the environment, for one thing. And you have the option of booking a seat all by yourself. A window seat, no less.

Meals

At first, eating out every night while travelling for work is a treat, but if you travel often this can become an insidious trap. It’s easy to spend too much, eat too much, and make poor choices. The less you spend, the more you benefit from your per diems. Consider adopting a specific strategy to ensure that you eat well consistently. One day, one day soon, I plan on adopting such a strategy.      

See the Sights

One fine morning in Iqaluit

I don’t often have much in the way of spare time when I travel for work, but I usually have at least one evening to myself. If I’m some place new, I like to take a walk around, get a bit of exercise, see the sights, take a few photos, and eat at a restaurant unique to that location. I’ve really enjoyed exploring Iqaluit, Yellowknife, Calgary, Winnipeg, Kamloops, Prince George, Kelowna, Victoria and New York this way, and I’ve been fortunate to have friends old and new show me around St. John’s, Rankin Inlet and Washington, DC, to name just a few locations.   

I hope you find some of these tips and observations useful. Feel free to share your own travel tips and thoughts in the comments below. Or not. Hey, it’s up to you.

Safe travels!

Review of a Review

Cover Art for A Time and a Place, by Jeff Minkevics A Time and a Place

Time now to amuse myself by revisiting the Publishers Weekly review of my novel A Time and a Place.

Generally I don’t react much to reviews. Well, I do write to reviewers from time to time to thank them for taking the time to read A Time and a Place and for writing a review. I will even do this sometimes for less than stellar reviews–hey, everyone’s entitled to their opinion. But I will not engage them or take issue with their reviews, and I’m only commenting on this one from Publishers Weekly, because, well, it amuses me to do so.

And no, in case you’re wondering, I’m not missing an apostrophe when I write “Publishers Weekly.” Apparently they dropped the apostrophe a while back; I don’t know why. Can we take a review seriously from a publication that doesn’t even know how to punctuate its own name properly? Sure we can! Especially if it’s a positive review. 🙂

Now, is drawing attention to a positive review in Publishers Weekly boasting? Of course it is! That is, if bragging about a review of an almost entirely obscure book that’s sold (let’s face it) hardly any copies (compared to say, J.K. Rowling) and written by a completely unknown author can be said to be bragging.

Anyway, onward:

Our anonymous reviewer begins thusly:

“Debut author Mahoney…”

I choose to imagine our reviewer as female. A part of me suspects it’s someone I know. Someone doing me a favour, maybe. A moonlighting friend, say, scoring a few extra bucks writing reviews for Publishers Weekly during her scant precious free time to supplement her meager public broadcasting income.  Why else review a debut novel by a completely unknown author? I have no other evidence to support this conjecture. Whoever it is will carry their secret to the grave.

“…this entertaining, chaotic adventure.”

Whoever the reviewer is, I think I love them. They called my book entertaining! And chaotic isn’t bad, is it? Not if the chaos is entertaining! And who doesn’t like adventure? It seems a very positive review so far.

“…temporal loops where effects come before causes…”

She’s actually read the book. No head scratching on the part of this reviewer. She might even have understood the book better than I did. When I read that line I had to stop and think about it. Yes, effects do come before causes in A Time and a Place. Heck, had anything happened to me while writing A Time and a Place this reviewer could easily have stepped in and finished writing it for me. She understood what she was reading. She could summarize it afterward effectively, pithily. I should have had her write the synopsis and query letter before pitching it to publishers. Could have saved me a lot of time. Maybe got me a better deal.

“Mahoney skillfully (but unsubtly)…”

My head almost exploded when I read that. Skillfully! A reviewer for Publishers Weekly thinks my writing exhibits skill! It almost makes me want to write this blog post well. The word “skill” gives me joy. I spent years writing  A Time and a Place trying to get it right, and not just right but exactly right. Can you say validation, anyone? And from someone who obviously knows how to write well themselves because this is one, well, “skillfully” crafted review. And I’m not just saying that because they think I write “skillfully.” Okay, maybe I am. But still.   

Oh, but then there’s that “unsubtly.”

Was that “unsubtly” really necessary? Could we not have just left it at skillfully? Perhaps that was to ensure that I could get my head through doorways in the future. Okay, clearly she’s saying that A Time and a Place wasn’t quite as subtle as it could have been. Noted. I’ll try to do better next time.

“…moments of comedy, tragedy, horror, and philosophical contemplation of time, free will, and personal responsibility.”   

That pretty much sums up what I was trying to do. I mean, aside from just trying to get the damned thing written. Here our friendly neighbourhood reviewer conveys the sense that she both understood what I was trying to do and maybe even—dare I say it?—appreciated it.

“Despite occasional segments that distract or feel a little overdone…”

Okay, so it’s not perfect. I accept that. I may have been a tad self-indulgent here and there. Perhaps I should have taken out the line about Ridley’s nose that Arleane (the first editor of A Time and a Place) wanted me to cut. You know the one:

Emotion played over Ridley’s face like ripples on the surface of a pond. A pond from which, I might add, his nose protruded like the dorsal fin of a shark.

Again, noted.

Mahoney’s work is great for those who like their speculative fiction thoughtful, eloquent, and messy.”

The final line of the review. The money line, really—the one I quote when promoting the book. Sporting an Oxford comma, no less. As if we didn’t already accept this reviewer’s credentials.

What did she mean by “messy?” Something to do with the plot, I imagine. I don’t really know.  Who cares?  

Not me.

Not after a review like that.     

Here’s the review in its entirety:


A Time and a Place
Joe Mahoney. Five Rivers Chapmanry, $38.99 trade paper (412p) ISBN 978-1-988274-25-6

Debut author Mahoney sends a mild-mannered fellow on an interdimensional journey in this entertaining, chaotic adventure. Barnabus Wildebear needs to know why his teen nephew and ward, Ridley, is acting so strangely. Unfortunately the cause is an ominous entity, possibly a demon, named Iugurtha. She whisks Ridley away to dimensions unknown while implanting mysterious information in Barnabus’s mind that allows him to (sort of) control portals to other dimensions and times. The odyssey that follows bounces him to other planets, the minds of other people and creatures, temporal loops where effects come before causes, and a war against a merciless enemy seeking to steal the knowledge in his head. He’s accompanied by an increasingly vocal artificial intelligence named Sebastian. Mahoney skillfully (but unsubtly) uses Barnabus’s multilayered adventures to yank readers into moments of comedy, tragedy, horror, and philosophical contemplation of time, free will, and personal responsibility. Despite occasional segments that distract or feel a little overdone, Mahoney’s work is great for those who like their speculative fiction thoughtful, eloquent, and messy. (Oct.)

BookMarkIt! About a Book Fair

On Saturday May 4th, 2019, we’re holding a book fair in Whitby, Ontario called BookMarkIt!

What’s a book fair? It’s where authors come to sell their books. It’s where people come to sell products related to books. It’s where yet others come to peruse these wares, meet a favourite author or two, and discover new favourite authors.

Why hold a book fair?

In my case, it’s because I published a book recently. And since becoming an author I’ve discovered something:

Books are hard to sell.

This made me want to do something to make it a bit easier. Not just for myself, but for other writers too. 

You might be thinking, how are books hard to sell? Can’t I just walk into a bookstore and buy them? What about online? Can’t I just buy them there?

Sure, you can do both those things.

But you’re not necessarily going to find the best books by doing that. Just because a book is online doesn’t mean it’s going to be visible there. Take for example fellow BookMarkIt! organizer and author Pat Flewwelling’s first Helix book, Blight of Exiles. Despite thirteen excellent reviews on Amazon.com and a 4.7 Star rating, it’s still sitting at #10,911,700.    

(I recommend you all go purchase Helix: Blight of Exiles right now to correct that problem.)

And you might be surprised to learn that a lot of good books aren’t even in bookstores. Most major book retailers don’t carry books by independent and self-published authors. There are a lot of reasons for this, starting with lots of high octane competition and limited shelf space. 

As you can imagine, this is a bit of a challenge for those who don’t get shelf space.

Independent publishers are committed to publishing voices you’re not going to find elsewhere. Here in Canada, that often means Canadian voices. These are publishers willing to take chances, not wholly driven by the bottom line. They are like craft brewers, except instead of producing beer, they produce quality books, every bit as unique, distinctive and flavourful as the suds produced by your favourite craft brewer.   

Hmm… Beer… (Image courtesy of Little Beasts Brewing of Oshawa, ON, which you should also check out)

Also, in the last decade or so there’s been an explosion of self-publishing. Costs have gone down and quality has gone up. Unfortunately, like the books of many independent publishers, these books don’t usually make their way into bookstores.

Shelf space in bookstores isn’t the only challenge for authors and publishers. It costs money to sell books. I mean beyond the cost of making the books in the first place. There’s the cost of marketing and advertising those books, which is frequently a challenge for small publishers and independent authors. Not to mention that everybody involved in the production and selling of a book has to get their cut. Here’s an example of how it can work:

One day I took my book to a bricks and mortar Indigo bookstore to sell it. Before I could do this I had to purchase several copies of my book from my publisher to have copies to sell. This was a fair investment to begin with. Indigo kindly gave me a table and a chair and a prominent spot on their floor. I met a lot of nice people and sold nine books that day.

Unfortunately, Chapter’s non-negotiable policy is to take 45% of the sale price of each book sold. This forced me to charge a rather high price for each copy of my book to break even. At the end of the day, after Chapters took their share, I made a little under two dollars profit for that day’s work (never mind all the work that went into creating the book in the first place). I don’t see the point of ever trying to sell my book at Chapters again.

Fortunately there are other avenues to sell books. Farmer’s Markets and Dealer’s Rooms at conventions, for example. Still, although these places don’t typically take a share of your profits, you are required to rent a table. The cost of renting a table varies, anywhere from $10 a table (at a Farmer’s Market in Summerside, P.E.I.) to over $150 a table (at a science fiction convention in Toronto). Sometimes you can share a table with another writer, which helps a lot. But if you’re shelling out for a table, you need to sell a certain number of copies of your book in order to break even.

Whether a convention, a Farmer’s Market, or another type of event at which you rent a table to sell your books, you don’t always break even. Why not? Sometimes the sad truth is that no one wants your particular book. Maybe it just isn’t the right crowd. For example, sometimes these events are populated predominantly by writers as opposed to readers. So you wind up trying to sell your books to other writers who are also trying to sell you their books. This is not entirely an obstacle as writers are a uniquely supportive lot who frequently buy one another’s books. I have a lot of friends’ books on my shelves.      

Of course, these examples are not the only means by which writers can sell their books. Many writers do book tours and interviews. Others successfully do outreach to libraries and schools which raises their profiles while giving back to their communities. 

But the more opportunities writers have to sell their books, and the more opportunities readers have to find those writers, the better it is for everyone. Which is why my friends and I decided to create BookMarkIt!

Our goal is to create an attractive environment to expose as many writers and readers to one another as possible. And we want to do so at as little cost to writers and readers as possible. This is why admission to BookMarkIt! is free. BookMarkIt! itself is a non-profit organization. And writers can rent tables as inexpensively as we can manage, and share those tables if they choose.   

Whitby Curling Club
Whitby Curling Club, which, on May 4th, 2019, we’ll be renaming the Whitby BookMarkIt!

We’ve decided to hold BookMarkIt! at the Whitby Curling Club, located on Brock Street, the main street in Whitby, just north of Whitby’s downtown. There is a lot of traffic on this road, and the Club has a huge sign outside to draw people in. We’re placing Food Trucks in the parking lot to attract further traffic and create a bit of a stir. It will be a family friendly event. The Whitby Curling Club itself is an attractive venue, well laid out inside with plenty of room for vendors and visitors and another whole room we’ll be using for interviews and readings, which we’ll post on social media later to help writers sell their work after the event.

It’s called BookMarkIt!

And we hope to see you there.

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