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Winterwakers Part 1 is free on Kindle (plus other book-related thoughts)

We’re coming up on the two-year anniversary of the publication of Winterwakers Part 1: Cold Hands, the book that kicked off both the Winterwakers series and my writing career. What started as an experiment to see if I could actually do this has turned into a new phase of my life, one that will continue for as long as I can make it work.

To coincide with this anniversary, I’ve shuffled some of my sales channels around, and, more interestingly, lowered some eBook prices. Here’s what’s happening, now and in the future:

  • Winterwakers Part 1: Cold Hands is currently free in the Kindle Store! This is a limited time deal. If you’re interested in the book, but haven’t been willing and/or able to pay for it, now is your chance. It will go back to its regular price on October 25. Speaking of that regular price …
  • After the free promo ends, Part 1 will be 99 cents US in the Kindle Store – forever! I am not kidding when I say “forever.” That’s the new permanent price of the eBook.
  • The Part 1, 2, and 3 eBooks are now Kindle exclusives. There are pros and cons to this. The obvious downside is that you can no longer buy them from other eBook sellers. There are quite a few positives though, including the fact that I am now able to run these free eBook promos.
  • Don’t worry: the Winterwakers Omnibus is still available everywhereThe aforementioned Kindle exclusivity only applies to the individual-part eBooks. You can still buy the Omnibus Edition, which combines all three parts, a bonus epilogue, and extra appendices, at the eBook retailer of your choice.
  • The Winterwakers Omnibus eBook is now $4.99 US everywhere. Yes, Part 1 is cheaper than a bag of ice (and far less likely to leak all over the trunk of your car), but the Omnibus Edition eBook is the best value for your reading dollar, especially at this price.

Cool, right? I think this will be a good thing for a lot of potential readers, especially the ability to read my work for free (or, at most, a buck). Continue Reading

Buy A Signed Book To Support Fort Mac

Kickstarter Backer and soon-to-be-published author Ron Norman sent me this beautiful pic of his book. I use it everywhere now.

Kickstarter backer and soon-to-be-published author Ron Norman sent me this beautiful pic of his book. You can get your own signed copy, typewriter not included, and support Canadians who need your help.

Quick link to the eBay listing.

A year ago, I was running a Kickstarter to fund the Winterwakers omnibus paperback. Thanks to the contributions of many generous people, the project was funded, the paperbacks went to press, and the books were shipped to their new homes.

When I did the print run for the Kickstarter, I ordered a few extra “in case something goes wrong” copies of the book. I didn’t end up needing any of them; they were left in the closet, still in their shipping box, untouched.

Fast forward to the present: while packing my office in preparation for our big move this summer, I came across the books and said “dammit, I don’t want to pack these.” And then the small part of my brain that has good ideas said “I bet there are people who would like a copy. Maybe … I should give them a chance to get one? And maybe I could sign them???”

A few days later, news of the Fort McMurray forest fire broke. It’s likely one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history: tens of thousands evacuated, entire neighborhoods destroyed … it’s a nightmare. It’s been two weeks, and the people of Fort Mac are still unable to return home, assuming they even have a home to return to.

You can probably see where this is going. I want to help the people of Fort Mac, and give you an opportunity to get one of the last remaining Kickstarter Edition paperbacks of Winterwakers.

Continue Reading

5 Software Development Skills That Make Me A Better Writer

It’s no secret that I don’t earn much money from book sales. The bulk of my income comes from my day job: I’m a software developer for a big Canadian health care organization. If you’ve been in a hospital in British Columbia in the past eight years or so, there’s a good chance your doctor used the app I work on.

I don’t talk about my software job much, mainly because it’s not that interesting from the outside looking in. Still, I’m glad to be doing it. It’s challenging without being overly stressful, the people I work with are great, the pay is good by almost any standard, and it leaves me with just enough free time to bash out a book every year.

The importance of a good day job was recently highlighted by Robert Jackson Bennett, a talented, award-winning author who also works a nine-to-five. In particular, Robert suggests you need a steady day job while you’re building your backlist. I agree — in fact, I’ll go one step further and say a good day job might even teach you how to be a better writer.

Looking back on Winterwakers, I notice that a lot of the things I did right involved skills I acquired from the software biz. I’ve compiled (nerd pun intended) the most important ones here. Some are quite obvious, but some may surprise you. Continue Reading

Permission To Screw Up

Every month of 2016, I’m focusing on a different area of self-improvement. My goal is to tackle various aspects of my physical and mental health, with the end result of becoming a stronger, more capable person. I’ve decided to blog these challenges in case anyone else is inspired by them. This post explains what I’m working on in January.

I’m my own worst critic, and it’s making me miserable.

I’m very hard on myself. In my mind, no matter what I do, or how successful I become at anything, I’m only as good as my mistakes. And no mistake is too small to escape my self-scrutiny or self-punishment. This is terrible for me in many ways, and I want to stop doing it.

“Isn’t being hard on yourself a bit of a positive quality, though? Doesn’t it make you self-motivated? Doesn’t it make you do better work, and be a better person?”

That’s what I used to believe, because I had confused being hard on myself with perfectionism/attention to detail. In truth, I am a perfectionist, but instead of applying that trait productively I use my perfectionism as an excuse to be shitty to myself.

It’s easiest to explain this by example: Continue Reading

So Chill Media

Look out, Internet: I’m trying something new with social media! Clicks! Engagement! Brand identity!


Eugh … Sorry about that.

Anyway, the main change you will see is the introduction of my Tumblr into the regular rotation. I’ve had a Tumblr for a few years, but I’ve never really figured out what to do with it. Is it a blog? Is it another Twitter? I’m still not entirely sure I get what it’s for, but I do know people love it. More to the point, I think I’ve finally figured out how I will use it. Continue Reading

The Addictive Allure of Outrage

Admit it: you love getting mad.

It’s okay. We all do to some degree. The adrenaline surge from a perceived threat is a primitive, powerful high. Responding to that threat with primal outrage is a marvelous release of tension. We’re designed to get excited by conflict, even if it frightens us sometimes.

When someone is wrong on the Internet, we feel that surge. And when we hit the reply button and vent our outrage, we feel satisfied. We’ve identified a threat and fought against it. We’ve done something good and righteous.

And when someone we like gets outraged, we join in. Combat is a team sport, after all, and we all want to reap the spoils of victory. But when it’s one of our allies who’s attacked, we take up arms and repel the invaders. We must protect our tribe at all costs.

An eye for an eye until we’re all blind.

I’m a fan of stand-up comedy. It’s one of the purest forms of creative expression that exists. As someone fascinated by stand-up, I enjoy reading interviews and articles where comedians talk about their craft. One central topic that keeps coming up is how much the game has changed for them in the social media era. Before Twitter and smartphones existed, comedians would go to the clubs and deliver their fresh material to a small crowd — essentially a beta test for new jokes. Some jokes would work, others would not. The jokes that got laughs stayed in the act, the rest were cut and never heard again. There was an implicit understanding between the comedian and the club audiences that this was a proving ground, and that mistakes would happen from time to time. To err is human, and when a real, live human is standing in front of you performing a labor of love, it’s only natural to cut them a bit of slack. Continue Reading

Winterwakers Part 3 Now Available

EDIT (May 28 12:25) Now available on iBooks

EDIT (May 26 13:23) Now available on Barnes & Noble Nook store

This is it, folks: the third and final book in the Winterwakers series is now available!

The Stormas it’s called, is probably definitely the most exciting, high-stakes, emotionally raw installment so far. It’s a fitting end to the saga I’ve dedicated almost two years of my life to, and I’m very proud of it. Behold, the cover!

Winterwakers Part 3 eBook FINAL-small

But before you rush out to buy the eBook, consider this: as you have likely been informed by now, I also have a Kickstarter in progress to fund the Winterwakers Omnibus Paperback There are ten days left on it, and if we’re being completely honest, I’d much rather you spend your cash on that than on the Part 3 eBook. As of this writing, we still need a few more backers to hit the funding goal. And for you, it’s a way better deal: you get an eBook with all three parts plus an epilogue and other cool bonuses for only $7 Canadian. That’s to say nothing of the paperback itself, of course.

(Of course, if you’ve already backed the Kickstarter, I sincerely thank you.)

Nonetheless, I believe in providing as many options as possible for my readers, so if you’ve already bought Parts 1 and 2 and you just want to read the end of this damn story now now now, please do purchase The Storm from your preferred purveyor of fine eBooks. I’m grateful for your support either way.

As with the first two eBooks, Part 3 is gradually appearing on e-shelves across the Internet. Below is a summary of where to find it, and where it will be soon.

Available Now

Coming Less Soon

  • Google Play Books (I still need to figure this out)
  • Direct download from my site (perhaps after the Kickstarter?)

You Have the Right to be Stupid

UPDATED March 27, 9:36 AM: New information about Clean Reader’s status as a book reseller has come to light … see footnote.
UPDATED AGAIN March 27, 10:43 AM: The point has been raised that Clean Reader is marketed as a way to censor books for kids, which raises a lot of thorny issues … see footnote.

A lot of online ink has already been spilled over a controversial new app called Clean Reader. It aims to get naughty words out of your eBooks, and it works by substituting these words with “cleaner” alternatives. “Fuck,” for example, gets replaced by “freak,” which would make Freaks and Geeks a totally different TV show if this were reversed. It also replaces “Jesus Christ,” apparently, which would probably make The Bible a confusing read, especially with all the “damns” and “hells” in there.

In response to the existence of this absurd thing, authors are sharpening their pitchforks en masse. Nothing gets an author’s back up quite like censorship, to the point that even the insinuation of it causes blood to boil. Some are corresponding with Clean Reader, ripping the app developer a new one and demanding to have their books de-listed (Clean Reader, for the record, seems to be taking these requests seriously and acting on them). Others are posting persuasive legal arguments on why Clean Reader’s actions are against the spirit of the law, if not the letter. Here’s a good summary by Chuck Wendig, a man whose books would be rendered completely illegible by the app.

I’ll summarize my view right off the bat: I think Clean Reader is fucking stupid (yes, the wording there is intentional). And of course I am opposed to censorship of creative works. But what Clean Reader does is not illegal, immoral, or any of the other hyperbole being thrown around right now. Continue Reading

Lenovo vs. Mrs. Perkins

Three weeks ago, my mom told me she needed a new laptop, and wanted some recommendations. I pointed her toward a Lenovo with a 15 inch touch screen, a model I considered to be a great bang-for-buck high-end laptop that met her specific needs (she’s visually impaired, so the large touch screen is a must-have).

This weekend, I had to take a break from editing Winterwakers Part 3 so I could spend some quality time with said laptop, repairing one of the worst security holes in the history of computing.

The whole situation really drove something home for me: when it comes to computing, there are two worlds. I live in one of them, and my mom (and most people) live in the other. In my world, computers are an open canvas, one that is frequently shat upon by companies like Lenovo. In my mom’s world — the world of the “normal” computer user — computers are mysterious black boxes that work most of the time, but occasionally act malevolently for no apparent reason.

I learned about Superfish on Thursday morning because I follow the right people on Twitter, and understand what they’re talking about. My mom learned about it because I sent her an email titled “Lenovo severe security/adware issue,” in which I volunteered to fix it for her because I knew it was beyond her capabilities.

Let me be perfectly clear on that point: my mom would have never even known about Superfish, or how serious a problem it was, if it weren’t for me personally warning her.

What if my mom had bought a Lenovo laptop without telling me? What if I was on a trek through the wilderness this week, missing the whole Superfish story? More to the point: what if my mom was one of the millions of normal-world Lenovo users who didn’t have someone in the tech world to tell her about Superfish, and impress upon her how serious an issue it is?

Continue Reading

On Fat Shaming and Obesity

I’m a fan of Abby Howard, a cartoonist who does two excellent webcomics: The Last Halloween (comedy-horror), and Junior Scientist Power Hour (autobio/gags). She was also the best reason to watch Strip Search. Go check out all those links, then come back here. I’ll wait.


… are you back yet? Yes? Cool.

As I said, I’m a fan. Which is why I feel intensely conflicted about this new comic of hers. It’s about fat shaming, a subject I’ve been personally familiar with for decades.

Fat shaming is the act of making overweight/obese people feel ashamed of their non-ideal bodies. As Abby hints in her comic, and reinforces in the blurb she wrote below it, fat shaming is usually much more subtle and insidious than “ha ha, look at Fatty Fat-fat!” And, as Abby says, the subtle stuff is far more destructive than the overt teasing, especially in the long run. It’s a societal problem, and like most societal problems it’s invisible to those not affected, but deeply personal to those who are.

I’m fat. Not “pudgy” or “could lose a few pounds.” I’m straight-up fat. Technically, I’m obese. At this moment, my BMI is 34.2. Yes, I know BMI isn’t a perfect metric, and I know that I have a wide frame and a lot of lean muscle in my legs, but I am definitely obese. I’m lugging around an unhealthy amount of body fat. That’s an objective, inarguable fact, and it’s plainly evident from a cursory look at my physique.

And yes, I am ashamed of this. Even though my logical mind knows I have no reason for it, some part of me is ashamed of my body, and always has been. I’ve been fat for as long as I can remember, and I’ve been ashamed of being fat for as long as I can remember.

When you’re a fat kid, the first sign you’re undesirable comes from the overt insults and teasing of your peers. They tell you in no uncertain terms that you’re fat, and that your body is a joke to them. And when you tell a child he’s fat and ugly, he will believe you. Kids (and some adults, to be fair) don’t have the emotional maturity to see the difference between idiotic teasing and sincere criticism. Stupid shit that would bounce off my adult armor today was absorbed and internalized, becoming part of my self-identity.

The overt fat jokes stopped when I hit puberty, but they laid the groundwork for my fat shame. I was a fat kid, a lesser being. Besides, what was to come was far more destructive than any fat joke. Continue Reading