My nude calendar

Earlier this year I ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to help cover the cost of printing the debut novel that I will stop shamelessly referencing sometime in the middle-distant future. The campaign was a success, and the book is now for sale at better tanning salons near you.

In fact, it was so successful that it has inspired me to come up with other innovative fundraising ventures. What am I fundraising for? I’m retelling Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night using characters from “Happy Days.” It’s called Misery Loves Chachi.

But I don’t have any innovative fundraising ventures, so I’ve stolen one. Namely, I have decided to emulate the firefighters and the athletes and the writers and the senior citizens and the United Turnip Workers Ch. 64 by producing a tastefully nude calendar.

The hook here is that all the months will feature me – me like you’ve never seen me before. Well, most of you. (And, once again, Doris Paxton of Abercorn, I apologize for jumping out of the bushes like that; I thought you were the mailman.)

The calendar will be a celebration of the demise of body shaming in our society. When I was in the convenience store the other day, the shirtless young man who walked in to buy ham slices, mustard and two large loaves of bread, certainly he wasn’t ashamed of his body. Or carbs.

I too am not ashamed of this collection of angles and lumps that my organs call home. In fact, that’s what I’m calling the calendar: Angles and Lumps 2017.

The calendar is still in its planning stages – mainly crude, stick-figure sketches that nonetheless bear a striking resemblance – but I can at very least describe to you the various poses.

(Please note that for the sake of propriety and for educational purposes, references to my discreet body parts will be replaced by names of former Canadian prime ministers.)

January
The Chinese New Year begins January 28, 2017. It’s the Year of the Rooster. In other words, the calendar opens up with a fairly obvious visual gag.

February
I am depicted wrestling the heating oil man as he attempts to deliver to my house. Unpaid Christmas bills scatter onto the snow. Why I am nude in this scenario is not quite clear, but fortunately the positioning of the oil man’s hose blocks my Charles Tupper.

March
Since firefighters pose with their fire gear and rowing teams hold their buoys, I should include some of the tools of the writer’s trade. Therefore, March sees me posing provocatively with potato chips.

April
To mark National Pet Month, I stretch out on the sofa and place the family dog and all the cats between me and the camera. In the end, there’s no nudity to be seen at all. A lint brush will feature prominently.

imageMay
Standing at a clothesline with a basket of clothes strategically blocking my Louis St-Laurent, I incredulously hold up one of my daughter’s thongs that looks like it could be speedily dried in a salad spinner. I title it “Hung Laundry.” Think of a Norman Rockwell painting but with man nipples.

June
Get your pencils out. It’s the Bonus Fun Page! Connect the moles to discover a drawing of a concerned dermatologist!

July
Two words: Diefenbaker; bacon.

August
In the tradition of my ham-and-bread-buying friend, August sees me nonchalantly naked at the local convenience store, holding up other customers as I blithely count out the last Canadian pennies in circulation. I am purchasing, coincidentally, a copy of A Hole in the Ground, my delightful and hilarious debut novel, available wherever people wear clothes. A display of candy bars perfectly blocks my Lester B. Pearson. The brand of candy bar is, of course, Mr. Big.

mrbigSeptember
I’m in the audience of “Ellen” surrounded by women, and they’re screaming, screaming, screaming. I’m sitting there with my legs crossed, rolling my eyes, because, seriously, women, you have to quit with the screaming. You’re not helping yourself. Would Hillary scream and jump up and down over a L’Oréal Mochaccino Mud Mask? No, she wouldn’t. That’s what I’m thinking as I’m sitting there nude, because, honestly, ladies, you don’t want to look ridiculous.

October
October is American Cheese Month. I see myself with several semi-soft varieties. I’m also holding a sign that reads, “I once promised to eat a pound of cheese; it was a binding agreement.”

November
It’s too complicated to explain here, but does anyone know where I can rent a wolverine?

December
December is as yet undecided, but I can assure you I will cover John Turner with tinsel.

*

Order your copy of A Hole in the Ground, my debut novel, containing only partial nudity. 

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90s nostalgia: Ross Murray | “Regret”

Bill at Pinklightsabre put out a call for 90s nostalgia. Bill and I have chatted a bit about music over the years, so I was happy to submit this song-triggered piece and indulge in my moody side. If you haven’t read Bill’s superb, thought-provoking prose, do yourself a favour and follow his blog immediately!

William Pearse | pinklightsabre

Last week’s call for content for 90s nostalgia pieces shifts now to the band New Order, and today’s featured writer Ross Murray. Ross helped me a lot when I started on WordPress and has promoted and supported many other would-be writers, a real mensch. I enjoy his bent take on life, and I’m about to enjoy his new book, which you can also link to at the end of his story below.

Note: this series ends Saturday, and I regret I’m no longer accepting submissions.


Regret
by Ross Murray

I was working in production at a suburban Montreal newspaper named, appropriately, The Suburban. It was 1991, and our first daughter had been born that summer – not an accident, we would later say to her, but a surprise, like we’d won something. We were awfully young.

After earning my first freelance writing gigs and in a fit of self-delusion, I…

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Emergency measures

This Saturday at Townshippers’ Day, I will officially launch my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground. Set in the fictional town of Beaverly, the plot hinges on a local disaster. And turtles. I can verify there are stampeding beavers. But mostly the disaster.

At any rate, the disaster calls into play various emergency response measures. In celebration of the launch, I am wearing a party hat and have draped myself in streamers — that’s it. What can I say, that’s how I celebrate. But also in celebration, here are some other emergency measures you should be aware of.

 

What to do in the event you have to remember what to do in the event you meet a bear

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Try to recall that poster you saw at a state park that one time after a few beers and you made that “beers/bears” joke that seemed hilarious at the time but not so much now.
  3. Make yourself as big as possible and shout loudly.
  4. Or maybe it’s make yourself as small as possible and remain quiet.
  5. No, wait, make yourself into a medium-sized person and whimper cluelessly.
  6. Do not make eye contact with the bear. Or maybe do. Whichever one works, keep doing that.
  7. What was the name of the girl you were with at that state park?
  8. Now’s not the time!
  9. If you have any on you, fling beer at bear.
  10. In retrospect, this may be what to do in the event you meet a cougar.
  11. Seek medical attention.

 

What to do in the event you crash-land in the Andes with a plane load of vegetarians

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Seek shelter.
  3. Keep remaining calm.
  4. Really, you have nothing to worry about.
  5. Don’t bother rationing food.
  6. Enjoy the irony.

 

What to do in the event of fire at a meditation retreat

  1. Remain a little less calm.
  2. Seek within yourself the answer to the true nature of fire, whether it is mere energy beyond our earthbound notions of good or evil or whether it is consuming the drapes beside the Tibetan singing bowls.
  3. Remember the The Four Noble Truths: the truth of suffering, the truth of the cause of suffering, the truth of the end of suffering and the truth of the path that leads to the nearest emergency exit.
  4. Move from the cross-legged sitting position to the standing fleeing position.
  5. Be mindful of the moment, especially as the flames are at the moment very nearly singeing that robe you’re wearing.
  6. Be one with 9-1-1.

 

What to do in the event you’re at the grocery checkout with your husband-to-be, and the clerk asks how many corn-on-the-cob you have, and you answer, “Seven,” and your fiancé sings out loud, “Seven cobs a-swimming…!”

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Do not make eye contact with the clerk.
  3. Do not worry, because she is not making eye contact with you either.
  4. Slowly exit the store.
  5. Find the nearest telephone.
  6. Carefully phone the caterer and the band to see if you can get your deposit back.
  7. Silently resign yourself to a single life where you can never again look at a cob of corn.

 

What to do in the event you meet an author launching a book at Townshippers’ Day

  1. Remain calm.
  2. Do not make eye contact with the author.
  3. Do not engage in social media with the author.
  4. Do not for one minute believe the author when he says he doesn’t care how many copies he sells as long as even just one person enjoys it.
  5. Do not startle the author by making sudden movements or saying he looks like Terry Fallis.
  6. Do not be Terry Fallis.
  7. Slowly reach into your pocket to retrieve a 20-dollar bill.
  8. Wave the bill in the air to distract the author.
  9. While the author is busy rationalizing the virtues of self-publishing, retrieve a book from the over-optimistically tall pile of books for sale.
  10. Make yourself as big as possible by standing on the book.
  11. Slowly back away as the author ponders whether this might be a metaphor for something.

 

What to do in the event you wake up and you’re a mollusk

  1. Remain clam.
In case of emergency, sit on stock.

In case of emergency, sit on stock.

Posted in It Could Happen..., Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 22 Comments

Adventures in Self-Publishing: The Shipping News

An occasional and mostly self-serving record of self-publishing my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground, with possible tips (or warnings) for others thinking of doing the same.

*

It was a bit of a struggle to get my books here in the first place. Ordered from Blurb in the United States, my shipment was expected to take about a week. A week went by and nothing. Another week and still nothing. Finally, I contacted the company. After a bit of customer-service head-scratching, they discovered that my shipment had… disappeared, probably because I had listed my town not as “Stanstead” but “Stanstad.” Someone at UPS is a stickler.

Blurb agreed to reprint at their cost, but because of the delay, I missed the deadline for a writing contest that, though a long shot, was part of my marketing strategy. On the plus side, the company agreed to waive the shipping costs, so I saved about $650. This is good, because I had failed to take into account the fees and taxes involved in bringing the shipment across the border.

This brings up two points in the self-publishing adventure. One, you should have some basic accounting skills to track your expenses and revenues. (Excel has some simple templates for basic accounting.) Two, be prepared for things to go awry.

Prior to placing my big order, I had a couple of sample copies shipped for one final proofread and to determine mailing costs per book. With my book in a padded envelope, I went to the post office and determined that it was just thin enough to get the letter rate. This amount was then factored into the pledges people made to my Kickstarter campaign to cover the cost of shipping the book to them. Simple accounting.

However, somewhere between my sample printing and the final printing, the paper changed slightly, resulting in a book that was mere millimetres thicker, just thick enough that when I brought my 50 sealed and labelled bubble envelopes to the post office, they no longer slid through the slot that determined whether they qualified for letter rate. Parcel rate was approximately triple the amount I had accounted for. Simple accounting, bad bottom line.

After scraping my morale off the floor, I tried this:

Fifty times I did that in the post office lobby. Self-publishing is good cardio.

Whatever. It worked, and people received their promised books and my budget remained intact.

Between this and learning how to do e-transfer, there’s been a bit of a curve. I won’t even get into describing the look on the face of retailers when you walk into their store to ask if they would like to carry your self-published book.

Next time, I’ll talk about the need to constantly (on the verge of obnoxiously) publicize yourself. Like this!

Order your copy of A Hole in the Ground and read a sample at Blurb. Here’s what people (okay, person) are saying: “You put together a story that made me look forward to being done with everyday life so that I could dive into the book – that is a huge present.”

 

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Saltwater Lips, or Explaining the Ocean

IMG_2829Overheard in Maine: “And later we’re going to the ocean. Remember I told you about the ocean? It’s a big, big water…. No, there are no crocodiles.”

 *

So. Imagine a water. A big, big water. No, bigger than that. Think of all the bathtubs you will fill in your lifetime. Now multiply by infinity. Add salt. That’s the ocean.

It’s where the land stops. There’s land on the other side of it, but you can’t see it. You just have to trust that it’s there, and for a while a whole lot of people didn’t. If you ever saw an ocean you would understand why.

There are no crocodiles.

There are also no bathtubs, only the water.

The ocean is ripply at the edge by the shore, to varying degrees. Sometimes just wiggling, other times standing up and crashing forward, then back. These are waves. The ocean never stops moving. For something so big,  the ocean behaves like a toddler.

While it’s true there are no crocodiles, there are many other things that will do you harm in the ocean. There are sharks, jellyfish, fast boats driven by jackass playboy millionaires, a general lack of oxygen. There are countless reasons to be wary of the ocean. But essentially crocodile free. Crocodiles should be the least of your concerns.

I don’t think you appreciate what a big, big water the ocean actually is. Years ago, if people wanted to get to the other side of the ocean to visit a relative, a World’s Fair, a renowned phrenologist and such, they would have to take a ship. This ship would take many, many days to complete the voyage, so one had to be truly motivated to undertake such a visit, ensuring  it was in everyone’s best interest, something I think we can all agree is missing in this modern age.

Colour-wise, we’re talking a greyish blue. A tad green. Watery. Trying to describe the colour of the ocean is like trying to identify the eye colour of an unattractive person; why bother? Many poets have taken a crack at it, though usually they’re more interested in the ocean’s bigness, metaphor-wise.

The ocean is a cold, cold water. Many fishermen don’t bother learning to swim because they know that if they were to be swept away, the cold would eventually kill them; swimming would only prolong the agony. The fishermen are swept away by large waves and the music of Adele.

There are even sometimes massive chunks of ice in the ocean that have been known to prevent would-be visitors from completing their voyage. There are also no crocodiles on icebergs.

Despite the ocean being lethally cold, people flock to the ripply edges during the summertime with many possessions, games, furniture and food. These people typically wear underwear, although it is not called “underwear,” so it’s okay.

In the not-too-distant past, people thought the ocean had curative powers. If they were seeking a cure for not being covered in salt, then mission accomplished.

Today, people venture to the ocean because they want to cool off and be seen in their not-underwear. If you were to join them, you would stand in the ripply edge for a long time, losing feeling in your toes and later other parts, and you would wonder why you aren’t home cooling off in a fathomable amount of water in a non-infinite bathtub or even a lake, one where you could see the other side and touch the bottom and swim for hours without thinking, “If I hadn’t taken those swimming lessons, I wouldn’t be dying slowly of hypothermia right now.”

But then you get hit by a wave, which is a shock. You squeal like you didn’t know you could. You taste the sting of salt water on your lips, and you go, “Oh. I get it now.” And then you bob like a top.

That’s the ocean.

Remember how big I said the ocean is? Well, hang on: there are five of them. Five! Each of these oceans is crazy big. The biggest of them all is the Pacific. And now I must tell you about the saltwater crocodile. They like to hang out on some ripply edges of the Pacific Ocean where the people and other yummy animals live. So while I stand by my statement that there are no crocodiles in the ocean, it is also true that there are crocodiles near the ocean.

But don’t worry. The ocean is a big, big water and you are a small, small person. You’ll probably be fine.

*

Don’t forget to order your copy of A Hole in the Ground, available through Blurb.

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This is your fight song

aacca.org

aacca.org

If we learned one thing from the recent Summer Olympics, it’s that trampoline is a freaky thing to dedicate your young life to (Born to Bounce: The Rosie MacLennan Story). If we learned two things, it’s that there’s nothing quite like a stirring anthem to cement your jingoistic ties to the abstract notion of nationhood. Or nation of notionhood. Whatever.

With classes beginning this week, it seems a shame that many schools no longer have fight songs to rev up the bloodlust against other schools differentiated only by their postal code. There’s nothing quite like teenagers singing in unison as they call for the metaphorical death of their peers to make one feel pride in the ol’ school colours.

Maybe it’s because the nature of high schools has changed. It’s no longer about winning the big game. It’s about being sensitive to the times we live in.

And with that long introduction that really had nothing to do with the Olympics at all, I bring you some contemporary high school fight songs.

Fight Song for Schools with Racially Insensitive Team Names
We are the Indians
Though most of us are white
We come here not to cause offence but
Fight, fight, fight!
Our team name is an homage
To the spirit of First Nations
Their pride we share, their strength, their heart
We have no reservations

Chorus
So fight, Indians, fight!
Letting winning be your mission
So fight, Indians, fight!
Though you cannot fight tradition

Yes, play on, you Indians
Our enemies can’t smite us
Nor can angry pressure groups
Despite how much they write us
We’ll cheer and chant respectfully
For every hit and pass caught
But please don’t make us justify
Our slightly racist mascot

(Repeat chorus)

Fight Song for Schools Whose Athletics Have Been Decimated by Budget Cuts
(To the tune of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic”)

Oh, they took away our soccer team
They took away football
Yes, they took away our hoops, our pucks
They took away them all
Still they left us with one athlete
Who will heed the victor’s call
His cleats go marching on!

Glory, Glory, Howard Schula
Glory, Glory, Howard Schula
Glory, Glory, Howard Schula
He’s all we can afford!

He’s the tight end for the football team
He’s quarterbacking too
He’s a point guard and a forward
And he does what goalies do
If he lives through solo rugby
Then he’ll play next season too
His cleats go marching on!

(Repeat chorus)

Fight Song for Schools with a Perennial Losing Record
Go Black, go Green, go Burgundy
The team we gather here to loudly cheer
Play on, play on, though certainly
The time for you to win is nowhere near

For we love thee-e-e-e
Lacklustre Puma-a-a-a-s
Fight on, oh team that we adore
Yes, we know you-u-u-u-u
Can’t muster too mu-u-u-uch
But fear not – ’cause they stopped keeping score

Fight Song for Schools Preoccupied with Concussions
Hit them! (But not too hard)
Hit them! (And wear your mouth guard)
Romp ’em, stomp ’em, chomp ’em gently so
Crush them! (And then disperse)
Rush them! (To see the nurse
And tell their lawyers that we made them go)

For we are the Warriors
The lawsuit-fearing Warriors
With pride and caution we’ll bring home the Cup
Yes, we are the Warriors
The mighty careful Warriors
How many fingers am I holding up?

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Self-Publishing Adventure: Storage

An occasional and mostly self-serving record of self-publishing my debut novel, A Hole in the Ground, with possible tips (or warnings) for others thinking of doing the same.

Like Santa's friggin' workshop in here.

Like Santa’s friggin’ workshop in here.

Three hundred books takes up a lot more space than you’d think.

That was my first reaction when the 12 boxes finally arrived at my workplace yesterday. I didn’t squeal in delight at the long-awaited arrival of these books. But then I’m not much of a squeal-in-delight person. More of a holy-shit-where-am-I-going-to-store-all-these-books person.

And as soon as they arrive, the goal now is to get rid of them.

Here’s the story so far:

  • I wrote this comic novel between 2013 and 2014 and have been trying to get it published since. With no publisher willing to take it on, and limited prospects for an unknown Canadian author, I decided to do it myself. Through Blurb and using my  experience in layout, I designed and readied my novel for printing.
  • But I have no money. I launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise the printing funds. The incentive for backers was an autographed copy of the book. Basically a pre-sale.
  • The campaign was successful, and I gave Blurb the green light. Somehow, though, my first shipment got lost en route. So plans to get this in the hands of early readers for the summer went awry. I sense I should get used to such awry-ness.
  • Finally, they’ve arrived. And now the hard part begins.

Even though the Kickstarter money definitely helped, most of that has gone into the printing and shipping. There is still the mailing to my backers to take care of, which is money I have to spend, money I don’t really have anymore. But a commitment is a commitment, and the sooner I get readers reading the better. This should all balance out once the new sales begin. I’ve started a simple Excel account to track revenue and income. Excel has templates to help idiots like me figure this out. Use them.

Besides mailing copies, I have to get the books into area book stores and other retail outlets. Where I live, there are essentially two English book stores. That means I have to approach grocery stores and museum gift shops. There will be a lot of legwork and paperwork involved. For an artist type, this is the least fun of all. But it has to be done. Remember those boxes in the spare room? They can’t stay there!

Same too for promotion. This is easier because most writers are used to it: Facebook, blogging, Twitter, Instagram. We’re not bad at promoting ourselves and our projects in this passive sit-at-my-desk kind of way. But, still, I’m just one tiny voice on social media and this is one tiny book. Did I mention “unknown Canadian author”?

This brings me to public appearances. My official launch is at Townshippers’ Day, an annual gathering of (mostly) English Quebecers here in the Eastern Townships. This is my audience. These are my people. Townshippers’ Association has agreed to organize the launch for me, which is amazingly supportive.

In fact, so many people have been supportive and keen to organize readings and promote the book, without having read a single word of it! That’s gratifying and quite the boost. I hope they’re not disappointed.

So readings are being lined up, book stores to be contacted, festivals to attend, writing contests to enter, fake reviews to write, videos to make, Goodreads pages to set up, readings to select and books to sell, sell, sell!

Want one? You can order a copy now through the Blurb website.

Let’s see how this goes…

 

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