A Canadian book blog: Publishing, marketing, books and technology from a Canadian perspective

Monday, December 02, 2013

Advent — Paperwork

Day 2 of my StumbleUpon advent calendar. This one is beautiful!

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照片 189 by Ginger Garden
Source:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/ginger1977/4129130815/sizes/o/in/photostream/

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Advent — Night Light

The Christmas spirit has captured me this year so each day I’m going to play with StumbleUpon as a little digital advent calendar. Instead of a paper calendar I’m going to push the StumbleUpon button and see what I get. One a day, leading up to Christmas. I’ll post the reveal here for you to also enjoy.

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Source: http://kevron2001.deviantart.com/art/Night-light-345379702

 

Monday, November 18, 2013

Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak

Todd Babiak’s latest novel about a Canadian family accidentally caught up with mobsters in the south of France needs to be read with the lights on and the doors locked!

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This is not earnest Canadiana. Babiak has written a spine-tingling, torture-ridden, political drama about the Kruse family who end up hunted by a Corsican crime family hired by a political party with connections throughout the country and in the gendarmerie.

Christopher and Evelyn Kruse bring their 4-year-old daughter Lily to South France in an attempt to rekindle their love. Instead they are driven apart when their daughter is hit and killed by a drunk driver who happens to be their landlord and the poster-boy candidate for the Front National party, Jean-Francois de Musset. The next morning Jean-Francois and his wife are found brutally murdered, Evelyn is on the run, and Christopher discovers Russian goons hired by a Corsican crime family are hunting his wife. He must draw on his security forces training and own investigative skills to find her before they do.

Come Barbarians is a fantastic thriller where South France is as much a character as Christopher himself; dark, mysterious and desperately seeking some form of stasis.

If you like The Wire tv series, you’ll like Come Barbarians.

I think I also enjoyed this novel because we were in South France last year and visited many of the towns mentioned in the book, including Vaison-la-romaine where the book opens.

Door knocker

Cote de Rhone loop drive

Vaison-la-Romaine

Come Barbarians by Todd Babiak
Published by HarperCollins

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween

My little jailbird is out at a halloween party today.

Jailbird


No problem getting the cuffs off.

Jailbird


WANTED!
For Milk Rustlin’

Jailbird


Also wanted for stealing candy from monkeys.

Jailbird

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Birthday Black Bond Books

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Third Generation Bookseller BLACK BOND BOOKS Celebrates 50 Years! (CNW Group/Black Bond Books)

Oh hooray for Black Bond Books! Canada’s largest independent bookselling group—based in BC—is celebrating their Golden Anniversary this October. Black Bond Books was founded in Brandon, Manitoba in 1963, by Madeline Neill, now retired. She moved to BC in 1972, and with the help of her children, Cathy, Vicky and Michael, the company grew to 10 locations over the years. A true, family business, Madeline’s daughter Cathy Jesson is President, granddaughter, and third generation bookseller Caitlin Jesson manages the Vancouver location, and Mel Jesson, business partner, keeps the financials in order. (Source: Press Release)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

New Writing Prize Honours Michael Fellman

Calling All Historians & Journalists! Do you know about the Michael Fellman Award? This $1000 award was co-established by the SFU History Department and The Tyee to honour a piece of publicly accessible writing that offers a bold, erudite political analysis tied to history.

The inaugural prize honours this historian’s skill at unpacking complex issues and providing context to current day and historical events. Fellman passed away in 2012 and the Michael Fellman Award was created to reflect his spirit of public engagement, bold thought, clear analysis, and writing that rests on well-researched historical understanding.

The submission deadline is fast approaching! Entries are due before November 1.

Deadline: Nov 1
2,500 words
Email doc to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Subject Line: Submission for Michael Fellman Award

Full details are available here:
http://thetyee.ca/Mediacheck/2013/09/12/Fellman-Award-Deadline/

More about Michael Fellman, professor emeritus of history at SFU and historian of the 19th Century, the Civil War, and American Violence: Michael Fellman in Memoriam: an essay by Christopher Phelps

Monday, October 14, 2013

Just Getting Started by Todd Babiak

The Edmonton Public Library is celebrating 100 years and one of my favourite writers is the author of the Library’s grand story. Just Getting Started: Edmonton Public Library’s First 100 Years, 1913-2013 by Todd Babiak is published by the University of Alberta Press. 

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If you live in Edmonton, U of A Press has released 17 copies of the book “into the wild”, one for each branch of the library. The idea is for people to take a photo of the book and share it on social media (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are all good spots), then leave the book somewhere new. Use the hashtags #epl100, #eplbooktravels to spread the message.

The launch is part of LitFest, on Tuesday, October 22 at 7 pm at the Stanley A. Milner Library Theatre. The event is free, and everyone is welcome. You should RSVP asap though at http://litfestalberta.com/events/just-getting-started#.UlwR1WRAQi4.

Regardless of where you live, the EPL is also allowing free downloads of the ebook (PDF, EPUB, and Kindle formats) from its website. EPL.ca/100/book. Look for the tabs with extra content, excerpts, contests, etc.

I don’t have any connection to Edmonton personally but I do love Babiak’s writing and he’s brought the EPL’s story to life through a series of stand-alone, yet interlinked chapters. The archival photos are wonderful and the story of the Library is really the story of a city.

I really liked this chapter “The Violinist with a Broom,” which is a story about one of the library’s janitors turned music director. Russian-born Nicholas Alexeef was hired by the library as a janitor in 1928 but nobody knew, or asked, about his training, which happened to be as a violinist. He was trained by a professor from the Paris Conservatory, took his examinations at the Petrograd Conservatory, and for one winter lived with one of the greatest teachers of the century, the Hungarian violinist Leopold Auer, in Saint Petersburg. But a year before he could complete his studies, he was drawn into military service, fought on the anti-communist side, fled, and arrived in Canada in 1924. I won’t tell you how he became the music director because you should really just read the story. In fact, read the whole book! It’s filled with really interesting stories of the people of Edmonton and how the Library played a central role in the politics and development of the city.

simplebooklet.com

Here’s Todd Babiak talking about the book.

 

Todd Babiak is the perfect author for this book because he’s a great writer (check out his new book Come Barbarians or my reviews of his previous books, The Garneau Block and The Book of Stanley), plus he lives in Edmonton and was a columnist for the Edmonton Journal. Did I mention, I love his writing?

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Page Two: Strategic Publishing

Very excited for my friends Jesse Finkelstein and Trena White who have just launched their new publishing venture, Page Two.

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Page Two is a new form of agency for non-fiction authors needing help navigating the full range of publishing options from traditional publishing routes to self-publishing and digital publishing. Jesse and Trena are publishing veterans with a ton of experience and high-level of detail so there’s no doubt in my mind that their clients will be in good hands.

PageTwoStrategies.com

Author and publisher services:
• Writing coaching and editorial support
• Career strategizing that considers the full range of publishing options, including self-publishing
• Traditional author representation to the book trade
• Sourcing printers, POD, and distribution services
• Sourcing skilled freelancers to work on your project
• Managing or expanding corporate publications programs
• Transitioning print content to digital
• Cross-format content licensing, including contract drafting and review
• Strategic planning and business development
• Editorial and acquisitions strategy

Sunday, September 08, 2013

Book Review: Healthy Mum, Happy Baby

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Hey, my friend Annemarie wrote a book that I can now fully appreciate it. Healthy Mum, Happy Baby is part anecdote and part cookbook for moms who are breastfeeding.

First, I had no idea how hungry I would be all the time. The anecdotes from other moms were funny and reassuring. By 4 pm I am hangry (this is hungry + angry for those of you fortunate to not know this word). I was diligent about food and exercise before being pregnant, during pregnancy and I’ve been pretty good post pregnancy as well. Although really, I owe all my thanks to James. Annemarie’s book is for anyone who doesn’t have a “James” who cooks awesome food and slides healthy snacks across the table at the right times (being mindful of keeping his fingers out of the way).

Second, of course I am aware that my diet affects the baby’s diet. But as an exhausted new mom who is low on energy, making decisions is hard. Annemarie’s book offers some delicious meal options that make it easy to flip through and say, “ah yes, I’ll have that for dinner.” I appreciate the legend showing the prep and cook time for each recipe. I mostly flagged the 30 min or less recipes but I did drool fondly over the 60-min recipes while daydreaming about the days when I’ll have time to actually do some dinner prep.

Overall there are 35 recipes that don’t require exact measurement and will be tasty immediately or sometime later that evening when the baby has nodded off and you can still function to lift fork to mouth. Hands down, the list of healthy snacks is worthy of space on the fridge.

Also good, this book comes in whatever print or digital format works for you.

Healthy Mum, Happy Baby
How to Feed Yourself When You’re Breastfeeding Your Baby
by Annemarie Tempelman-Kluit
Published by Random House

Good job Annemarie! Thanks for this lovely, and timely gift.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Book Review: The Miracles of Ordinary Men & The Metamorphosis

I don’t normally review two books together but I do often have two books on the go. This time it was a fiction book and nonfiction book and I’ve never had such a pair. Amanda Leduc’s The Miracles of Ordinary Men is about a man who wakes up an angel and through a series of coincidences attempts to figure out God’s greater plan for him. Bruce MacNab’s The Metamorphosis: The Apprenticeship of Harry Houdini is about Harry Houdini’s Maritime tour in the years before he became a famous escape artist and all the coincidences between his fame and that tour.

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In both we have a transformation from ordinary man to extraordinary being. We have magic. And we have the coincidence problem. (Aside: If you haven’t read Stephen Osborne’s The Coincidence Problem please do so!).

From the Foreword of The Metamorphosis

Harry Houdini died in 1926. By 1959 only three biographies detailing his life and legend had been published. Today, in 2012, there are literally hundreds of books about the great showman, and almost all of them share the same problem. They concentrate on the part of Houdini’s life when he was a star, one of the most well-known personalities of his time, a time when he maintained an almost daily relationship with the press. He was one of the most photographed men of his time.

The Metamorphosis looks at the time before the fame, when Houdini was travelling with his young wife who was also a performer and they were getting the barest of audiences. The book’s focus is 1891-1899, in particular a tour of Nova Scotia that Houdini and Bessie undertook in their second year of marriage, and it’s full of photos from those early years both of the Houdinis and of the locations where they performed. In short, it’s a fascinating read and Bruce MacNab’s research highlights all the small stepping stones that took Houdini from the Marco Magic Company all the way to the big time.

The first chapter of The Miracles of Ordinary Men is labeled Ten, and the reader goes backwards in chapter numbers but not necessarily time.

From Chapter Ten

Sam’s cat crumpled like paper under the truck’s wheel. He knelt down to touch her and then something like heat, some sudden shock of air, surged through his hands.
Suddenly she was breathing, blicking up at him through a mass of matted fur. Dead, and then not-dead, and his were the hands that had done it.

From there we follow Sam and Chickenhead (the cat) through the death of Sam’s mother, the reconnection of Sam with Father Jim (who can see the wings) and Sam’s eventual discovery of Timothy, who also has wings. Timothy has taken to the streets, not knowing how to cope with his transformation, and his sister Lilah becomes another connection to Sam.

The two storylines that intersect are that of Sam and Timothy/Lilah. Lilah, or rather Delilah, is a wandering soul who is dating an abusive, power hungry man who is also her boss. The Boss is a bit of a dark force who’s the counterbalance to the mediocre, weak angel that is Sam.

The novel is philosophical in its open-end questions about God’s plan, our time on earth and the role of evil. I can’t say it’s an uplifting read but what it lacks in optimism it makes up for in eloquency.

Want more? Check out the publisher websites:
http://www.ecwpress.com/miracles
http://www.gooselane.com/books.php?ean=9780864926777

Friday, July 19, 2013

Book Review: Sisterland by Curtis Sittenfeld

Sisterland: A great novel about the ying-yang of twins with ESP and the choices 1 makes to try to hide it while the other embraces it.

I was lucky enough to participate in the first National Post Afterword Reading Society where 20 readers reviewed Curtis Sittenfeld’s novel Sisterland.

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Curtis Sittenfeld is the New York Times bestselling author of American Wife and Prep, neither of which I’ve read so I was keen to get into Sisterland. I wouldn’t normally go for a book about twins and ESP because although I like magical realism and fantasy, I find things psychic abilities a little creepy. My imagination is too susceptible and maybe that’s why this novel is sort of mesmerizing.

The story is about twins Daisy and Violet who have ESP. Their “senses” help them know things like what a guy likes in a girl and they can sometimes see things like the name of a person who’s kidnapped a little boy. As little girls, the twins have fun playing games guessing at what the other is thinking, which creeps out their mom. As teens, they aren’t popular girls, twins were less common in the ‘70-90s, but they do become a little infamous when Daisy takes a chance and tells another girl that she has ESP. The other girl is a popular, rich girl who takes advantage of Daisy to win a boy but then betrays her to the school as a witch.

One of my favourite lines in the book is early on at page 67 in a section of dialogue between a substitute teacher doing roll call, Marisa the mean, popular girl and Daisy.

She took attendance by calling out our last names, and when she got to Shramm, I raised my hand and said, “Here.”
She looked again at the list. “There are two Shramms. You’re which one?”
“No,” Marisa said immediately. “She’s Witch Two.”

Out of context it can seem a bit slack stick but what I like about that line is that it sums up that caustic humour of teenagers. A less skilled writer would have made Marisa more of a caricature but instead she is craftily constructed.

From then on Daisy masks her senses and Vi embraces them. Daisy even changes her name in college in order to hide from the stories. She starts going by Kate instead, marries a nice sensible boy and has two kids. Violet on the other hand is a lesbian, psychic medium who predicts a massive earthquake and ends up on local, then national, tv broadcasting her predictions and stirring up old tensions between herself and Daisy/Kate.

Kate is of course mortified about the prediction and the publicity, has a run in with old Marisa, who is still chasing boys despite being in her late 30s now, and ends up making a ton of mistakes in her attempts to just be normal.

Between Kate and Violet, I think Vi is my favourite twin. Violet, the first born, who embraces her ESP and rocks the flowy shirts and birkenstocks, really puts the woo in woo-woo. And even though she’s worthy of many eye rolls, there’s something redeeming about her.

At the beginning of the novel I was cheering for Kate but by the end Vi was the champ. Sittenfeld’s set up of the dynamic between the twins and the what-if concerns about Vi’s earthquake prediction made Sisterland into a fun, summer read. The bit of a mystery kept me cruising through the book.

imageIf you like Audrey Niffenegger’s Her Fearful Symmetry, then you’ll like Sisterland. Both are about twins who are intensely attached to each other, emotionally removed from their parents and who possess some extraordinary abilities. Not to say that if you like a twin book, you’ll like another, but more so because Niffenegger and Sittenfeld are both great writers who turn these plotlines into well-written, page turners.

Follow Curtis Sittenfeld on Twitter
Visit her website
Or buy the book Random House Canada

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean At The End Of The Lanel is Neil Gaiman’s latest novel and it’s a melancholic little book about growing up, childhood, dreams and disappointments. It’s short but rich and reminds me of Coraline. Where Coraline was triumphant though, I’m not sure our unnamed narrator—a boy of 7—is. But I don’t want to spoil anything for you.

The epigraph from Maurice Sendak is a great 1-line summary of the novel: “I remember my own childhood vividly … I knew terrible things. But I knew I mustn’t let adults know I knew. It would scare them.”

What the boy knows is that he is a bit of an underling, getting beat up at school and bossed around by his older sister at home, but he’s comfortable. He has a little black kitten and a small room with a little yellow washbasin just his size. But those comforts disappear with the arrival of a lodger who runs over the cat, uses the room, and ultimately dies himself in a most unfortunate way. But instead of that incident being forgotten, our boy gets caught up in the magic that’s unleashed by the death. And that’s when he meets the Hempstock women: Old Mrs Hempstock, Ginny Hempstock (middle aged) and Lettie Hempstock (11 years old, but she’s been 11 for a very, very long time).

Three is a magic number, isn’t it? And the Hempstock women certainly know their magic. It’s old magic. Old magic used to bind things from the old world that have come across the ocean with them. Old magic used to cut and restitch the fabric of time. But all that magic has a price and the novel leaves us wondering if it was worth it. I won’t tell you what it is because The Ocean at the End of the Lane is worth the reading.

Here’s my collage of thoughts about the book.

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CC collage images:
witch: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bean_/9174094099/
kid: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iofoto/4320571280/
lightning: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blitze_IMGP6376_wp.jpg
ocean: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UpsilonAndromedae_D_moons.jpg
cat: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Blackcat-Lilith.jpg
fairy ring: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FairyRingSchoolField.jpg
moon: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:FullMoon2010.jpg
hand: http://www.flickr.com/photos/bambola_world/2998318175/
lane: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Chemin_creux.JPG

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goose Lane Accepts Digital Submissions

The time has come! Publishers, in particular Goose Lane, are now accepting manuscript submissions electronically. 
http://gooselane.com/submissions.php                       

I remember my Raincoast “slush pile” days. Sitting in the back room with inch-thick manuscript submissions and reading (or rather weeding) through boxes of submissions. Now the glut of paper is finally ending with the ease of reading facilitated by tablets. Thank you iPad.

[Press Release excerpt] Beginning this Canada Day, Goose Lane Editions will accept fiction submissions only in electronic form and solely via electronic submission.

In early 2012, Goose Lane equipped its acquisition editors with new tablet computers for reviewing manuscripts. Now, halfway through 2013 and after almost 60 years of accepting manuscripts exclusively in paper, the company will begin the overall transition to full electronic submissions.

“Aside from the ecological benefits of doing away with mountains of print manuscripts,” Goose Lane’s publisher Susanne Alexander says, “this change will allow for a more rapid response to submissions and queries and will result in substantial savings for prospective authors.”

The electronic process for fiction submissions will soon be followed by poetry and non-fiction submissions, which are currently accepted only in paper form, which I suspect is the preference of the editor. The release did say that the publishing house expects these two genres to transition to the electronic submission process.

Full details on the new submission process is available at http://gooselane.com/submissions.php

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Canadian Book Consumer Infographic

Canadian Book Consumer 2012 - An infographic by the team at BookNet Canada

Canadian book buying behaviour (2012 data)
• 1 in 3 Canadians bought a book last month
• 18% bought an ebook
• 26% of purchases were impulse buys

See the infographic for more stats or check out the BookNet Canada website for more Consumer Studies

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Smell of Money—Bank of Canada Says No Maple Scent Added to $100 Bills

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Last January, I wrote about the new Bank of Canada polymer $100 bill smelling like maple. It’s been fun to take part in the dispute and myth busting conversations but the Bank of Canada confirmed recently that they have not added scent to the bills.

The topic is making the rounds again and I was asked, as a “nose who knows,” to weigh in on whether the money has a scent. The story started here with Dean Beeby’s Canadian Press article “Are new bank notes maple syrup scented? Bank of Canada sets record straight”.

Then it was picked up by Robin Gill at Global TV. Watch the Global TV segment here.

Shannon Paterson at CTV News was on the story too and interviewed me.

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Watch the CTV segment here.

As I said in my post last year, although the Bank of Canada denies there is any maple scent I think this would be a really interesting enhanced security feature because it would be incredibly hard to counterfeit.

The smell of money
Read my original post on the Smell of Money.