Friday, January 20, 2012

Book winners!

Thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway for Moonlight Sketches. This is the second time I've done this, and I am sincerely touched by the vast number of people who entered, and particularly the large number of people across the country and in other other countries besides Canada who already have bought the book but just wanted one signed. That's really the main reason I've started doing the occasional drawing for a signed copy--because so many of you aren't able to attend signings, or I'm not able to get where you are in order to sign a book for you. As a book collector myself--especially of signed books--I understand why you want the author's signature and maybe a personal note on your book, particularly if I happen to know you a little bit. Believe me, it always means a lot for me to be able to do it.

For others, there's the problem of living in a place where the book isn't even available except through the internet.

Regardless of your reasons for entering, a sincere thank you for your interest and continued support. I promise you there will be another draw for another free copy of Moonlight Sketches in a few weeks. Of course, both books and postage are expensive, and so I wouldn't be able to afford to do this if not for the help of the generous people at Creative Publishers. Thanks to you, Creative (Donna Francis, especially, in this case). I firmly believe I am with one of the very best publishing houses in Canada.

So, the winners are:

First draw:  Frankie Nash Ouellette

Second draw: Deborah Kammerman

Both winners are friends of mine on Facebook, so if you can send me your mailing address, I'll get your book in the mail right away.

Congrats to you both!

Till next time,

Sunday, January 15, 2012

To Drive The Cold Winter Away

All hail to the days that merit more praise

Than all the rest of the year

And welcome the nights that double delights

As well for the poor as the peer.

Sweet blessings attend each merry man's friend,

Each does but the best that he may,

Forgetting all wrongs with poems and songs

To drive the cold winter away.


The poorest of all now do merrily call,

When at a fit place they can stay,

For a song or a tale or a cup of good ale

To drive the cold winter away.

From the traditional song, "To Drive the Cold Winter Away"

There are lots of things we do, this time of year, to "drive the cold winter away." For me, one of the best ways to achieve the goal, to put a song in the heart and a smile in the soul, perhaps even some warmth in the crinkling toes, is to read a book.

The idea of that song, "To Drive the Cold Winter Away" shares a spiritual kinship with the notion of taking a "kick at the darkness" (thanks, Bruck Cockburn). In Canada, and even in much of the Northern Hemisphere in general, the winter months are the cruellest of all, offering barely a hint of hope that spring will soon arrive, that the darkness will relinquish its bruising grip. So we make our own light, much as we do in many ways throughout the year. Anyway, as is my wont, my attempt at cheerfulness often winds up as a study of the darkness that binds us all. (And, yes, I almost succumbed to the Tolkien Effect there. Thank you for noticing.)

In honour of the fact that winter now has us in its relentless grasp, and because I have a very generous publisher, it feels like a good time to offer up some more free books, as a sacrifice to the Gods of Winter, in the hopes that they will see fit to set us free at some point in the not-too-distant future. It's not a sacrifice of virgins, but I think it's more humane and not at all misogynist in nature. I think it's better that way.

So, here's the deal:

If you'd like to win a signed copy of my short story collection, Moonlight Sketches, just drop me an email at or join me on Facebook and click "like" on the post that mentions this offer.

This time, because, I said, I have a VERY generous publisher, I'm giving away TWO copies and so there will be two winners. Also, I expect to have another drawing in the coming weeks and will retain your name for that drawing as well. So your chances of winning are quite good. I'll do the drawing next Friday evening (January 20) at 7 p.m. Newfoundland time (5:30 p.m. Eastern). I'll put all the names into my artsy hemp fedora and, with eyes closed, draw out two names and notify you via my blog and Facebook. So check there to see if you've won.

This drawing isn't just meant for people who haven't picked up the book yet. If you've bought it and simply want a signed copy (for yourself or as a gift to someone else who doesn't have it), you are quite welcome to enter, wherever you are.

I should add that all this has come about because I gave away a copy of Moonlight Sketches before Christmas and, with so many entries, I felt terrible not being able to give away more than just one. The amazing Donna Francis at Creative Publishers (who are also publishing my novel, Finton Moon, in the spring) immediately wrote me an email, asking if I would like to give away more copies, which she would gladly supply. So all of this, really, is because I'm a sook.

Anyway, I hope you enter. And if I don't have you on FB yet, consider coming on over. Maybe you'll "like" it.

Groan, eh?


Friday, January 6, 2012

Creatures From the Blog Lagoon

In this age of social networking, the rise of the e-book, and the countless choices in front of the literary public, the book blog is a crucial means of getting the word out about a book. Book blogs are run by individuals (or sometimes a collective) who simply read books with the pure hope that they will derive some pleasure from it. If they like it, they write about. If they don't like it, they write about it anyway. So, while it's not the traditional, monolithic form of critical review, more and more, the book blog is becoming the voice we know, trust and have easiest access to. These people might be your friends, neighbours, teachers or the cashier at your local Walmart. But one thing they have in common is their love of books. I mean, why else would a person set themselves up as a book blogger, buy the books (although, once they develop a reputation, sometimes people in the industry will start sending books to the bloggers in hopes they will be reviewed) and take the time to write about it? All of these activities consumes time and that's increasingly something none of us have to spare.

The cool thing about book blogs is their unfettered honesty and, if they like a book, the chances for that opinion to go viral on the web within hours or days is always there. Lots of these blogs are linked to dozens of other, similar blogs and so word gets out pretty fast about what's either good to read or not worth your while.

Where is all this going, or coming from? Well, lately I've been blessed with some positive publicity from a variety of sources, and I wanted to sahre it, as well as acknowledge the givers.

A book blogger who goes by "raidergirl3" recently named Moonlight Sketches among her favourite reads of the year. This person apparently has read a lot, is a rabid fan of books in general and seems quite savvy--articulate, too, which I particularly appreciate in a reviewer, regardless of whether it's a postive review or not. Here's the link to her review: .

And here's the link to her ranking of top reads, some of which I'll definitely be checking out: Just scroll down to her "Best of 2011" entry. Look, I know it's not a Giller Prize, but you know what? To know that someone took a chance on your book, spent their hard-earned money on it and is willing to praise it publicly, thereby putting her/his reputation on the could that not mean a lot to any writer? Thank you, raidergirl3, once again, whoever you are.

Another book blogger, Chad Pelley, of Salty Ink, has been quite kind to me, as well as to numerous other writers. To my mind, he's the king of book bloggers in Atlantic Canada and one of the best in the entire country, his knowledge of the industry and of books by Canadians being on a par with anyone's and much better than most. He's also the author of a recently published novel entitled Away From Everywhere, which I highly recommend, especially if you like books with lots of action and conflict, with a steady supply of introspection and subtle commentary on the human condition. I unabashedly loved it and have been telling people about it for nearly two years now, in fact long before I knew anything about the author. So, sure, he's been kind to me lately, so I thought I'd plug his book once more. It's not only good karma, it's the right thing to do.

Chad wrote an article for The Telegram in December and mentioned Moonlight Sketches as one of the "hot reads" for a warm, winter night. A few days later, he wrote a blog entry that listed what he considers the top books of short fiction in Canada this year. Again, Moonlight Sketches made the list.
From what I can tell, this self-professed "slow reader" has read a ton of books this year by Canadian authors and certainly has his favourites. Have a look at his list and you'll see what I mean: But book blogging/reviewing is one of those areas where you're kind of expected to have favourites--I mean, that's partly what having an opinion is all about, being able to separate wheat from chaff, having the ability to rank one's own reactions to books, if not the books themselves.

Most recently, I was informed that my collection became a "Salty Ink bestseller" this year, having been cited by readers of this blog (and they are legion and widespread) as being one of those books they bought at least in part because they saw it mentioned on Salty Ink. So how could I not be grateful? Book bloggers have actually put food on my table this year, and I truly ought to be thankful and humbled. You would think so, right?

I did an interview with Salty Ink a couple of days ago, afte the "bestseller" incident was revealed and, with 2011 in the rearview mirror, I was able to gain, and articulate, some perspective about what kind of year it's been and how I actually feel about the book and the publishing industry itself. You can find the interview here:

As most of you know by now, on this blog I vary from time to time, waxing philosphic about some topics and, on other days, simply letting you know what's been going on with me. There's been a lot of stuff related to Moonlight Sketches lately, as well as with the upcoming novel, Finton Moon (April 2012), and I thought it was time I wrapped it all up in one blog entry of my own with a nice, neat bow on it--a pretty good bit of housecleaning to start the new year.

I've had some fairly interesting and exciting stuff happen in the last couple of days, in fact, including some government correspondence to the effect that I am now culturally "significant" in some way. I'll be sharing that news in more detail soon. I am flattered by the insinuation (I mean, who wouldn't be?), but I have it in perspective. Truly, I am a teacher and a writer who has published one book, going on two. I haven't cured any diseases, haven't particularly made the world a better place in any broad sense and, even in the literary world, realize that there are many who have made themselves far more significant than my book of short stories could ever be. But it was a nice moment, especially after spending the better (or worse) part of two decades toiling away in obscurity. And deserves, as my man Clint says in Unforgiven, well, that's got nothin' to do with it.

Thanks, book bloggers, for taking notice and for loving books of all sorts. And even if you hate something I write in future years, it's okay to say so because I know it's just your opinion, and you're just trying to keep it real and do a good job.

May 2012 be your best year yet and the best year in books in, like, ever!