Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Am I a Bad Person For Not Buying Your Book?

I was really cheesed off a few months ago during the Burningeffigy Press launch of my sci/fi comedy, Section K. I put in the legwork, did a decent reading and entertained a not-inconsiderable number of people who'd come out to the event. At the end of the evening, however, I found out we'd only sold three copies.

Three copies? I was livid! This was the launch of the book, for Heaven's sake! People who come to launches are supposed to buy books, I thought. After all, what else was that event for? I wanted to jump up on stage and yell at them, "What is wrong with you people? Get back here and buy something! We didn't go to all this trouble just so you could admire the pretty cover art!" I knew they had money on them; plenty of drinks were served that night. So why weren't these people who'd come out to support local artists buying more copies of Section K?

Well, last Saturday it was my turn. My friend Monica, editor and publisher of Burningeffigy Press, threw a launch to promote two new new chapbooks, Words Written Backwards by acclaimed horror scribe Gemma Files, and Sea Change by Toronto's Junior Poet Laureate, Adebe D.A.. And I didn't buy either of them. Last Saturday, I was the one not supporting local talent. Does that make me a hypocrite? Or am I just an ass-goblin?

I like to think that I'm neither. So why didn't I shell out for their books? Simple - I knew I was never, ever going to read them. I've done a lot of supporting writers in the past, and their books sit on my shelf gathering dust. I do like horror, but I just don't like Gemma Files' writing. Sorry, Gemma, but your writing style doesn't do it for me. I'm also not that into poetry, unless it's really cool and speaks to me on a level that I get. My friend Cynthia Gould does that perfectly. Ditto most of Monica's work. To me, however, they are the exceptions that prove the poetic rule. Adebe is a very good poet, I'm sure, but I know I'm not going to read her work, either.

This year, with my finances already really strained, I simply can't support everybody. Therefore, I'm only going to buy books that I'm actually going to read. And that's hitting the nail right on the flat, non-pointy part, isn't it? When it comes to buying books, most people are only going to buy what they're actually going to read. And people in the literary community just aren't that into science fiction comedy. The same way I'm not that into poetry and literary works. It's not that the people who came to the Section K launch were cheap bastards - they just weren't ever going to read my book. Finally I can accept that.

Sorry Adebe and Gemma. If it helps, I did feel bad about not buying your stuff.

Temp Pest

It's official - I've become a pest to my temp agency. I called them up today to see if there were any job possibilities, and my contact said, "Yes, I got your message yesterday. Just call us once a week. We'll call you if anything comes in."

Yikes. Sounds an awful lot like "Don't call us, we'll call you." I know I'm taking that the wrong way; they're trying their best, and if there was a job they'd tell me about it. Nevertheless, it's not the sort of thing I want to hear when I'm going into my second week of unemployment, especially not with rent due on Friday.

Employment-wise, this has been a really bad year. I'm amazed Violet and I got through it. 2008 will be a better year. For starters, I'll get my first royalty cheque for Epoch! That will be sweet.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Writing This Week

Financial situation be damned! Sometimes it's just good to have a week off. My writing has been going very well - two chapters of The 25 Demons You Meet In Hell, a chapter and a half of Cupidity, and of course numerous blog entries. I've also started typing up what I have so far of Kids Who Know, and am dying to show it to Violet. It feels good to be back in the game. Plus, my agent recently emailed to congratulate me on Epoch's sales, and I couldn't help but feel good about that.

I also felt really good when I met a woman named Beverley Steeles on the subway last week (see, Beverley? I told you I'd blog about you eventually!). She noticed one of my Transformers buttons, and we got to talking about the Robots In Disguise and how cool the movie was, then we talked about gaming and how she was always beating her kids' friends (in video games, not real life). I mentioned I wrote for the young adult market, and she promised to look for my books. Awesome.

Tonight, I will be attending another launch party for Burningeffigy Press. My friend Monica is launching two new chapbooks, and has asked that all of her authors turn up and read something, and generally provide moral support. I will read a short story, but I haven't decided which one yet. If you are reading this and are in Toronto, the event will take place after 8:00 PM at the Renaissance Cafe (on Bloor Street, between Coxwell and Woodbine subway stations).

As fun as this week has been, I do hope I'll be going back to work soon. My temp agency is working on numerous possibilities for me, and I am confident they'll place me with something early next week. Then it will simply be a matter of working my writing schedule around the new job.

In Memory of Popsey

I'm afraid to say my family has suffered another feline loss. No, Karma is just fine, and is even now prowling around on top of the bookcase looking for something to knock over. No, I'm speaking of my parents' cat, Popsey.

Popsey, a beautiful white cat with cow-like black splotches, has been in my family for 18 years. She was a stray, found by neighbours of ours just before they were to head out on a holiday. They asked if we could look after her until they got back, after which they would start looking for a home for her. We didn't really need another cat at the time - Tigger and Christine were handful enough - but she just had such a sweet nature that we couldn't help but fall in love with her.

I'd like to stress that I was not responsible for her name. I'd suggested Pudding, but I was the only one who liked that one. My mom wanted to call her Popsey, and she was alone in that, too. However, she really wanted to name one of the family cats, and she put her foot down. Popsey it was. And looking back, I can't imagine her having any other name.

Apart from being very sweet - she loved licking fingers, and always had to be in a room with someone else in it - she was also extremely clever. While Tigger would just sit and howl for what he wanted, Popsey would try and figure out how to get it for herself. One of her greatest accomplishments was figuring out how to open folding doors. She worked out that if she pushed her head into the middle, a space would open up on the side that she could squeeze her way through. This was not always a welcome skill - we had to shut the cats in the kitchen area each night to keep them from howling us awake at all hours of the morning. Tigger was especially bad, and not just because he was he best howler. He also figured out that if he reached his paws under my parents' bedroom door and tore up the carpet, he got instant attention. To save the carpet, he and the others had to be shut in the kitchen. Which had a folding door. That Popsey loved to push open. You can see the problem.

She was also quite strong. When we were moving house, my mom shut the cats in my father's den in the basement and stacked a couple of crates of pop in front of the door. That would have kept most cats safely secure until all the furniture was out, but Popsey was a very determined little cat. She pushed and she pushed and she got the door open, leading to all kinds of pandemonium trying to get all the cats back in the house again.

Popsey started out very small, but then she discovered canned food and ballooned. It was hard to control her weight because we always had to leave food down for the other two cats. Tigger could be relied upon to eat his food promptly, but Christine was another matter. She liked to look at her food from a distance, then circle her dish a couple of times before finally having a little nibble. Then she'd go away, no doubt planning to finish off her food at a later time. Except there was no later time, because Popsey would woof it. And then, when Tigger started getting old and frail, Popsey would start headbutting him out of the way so she could eat his food. We had to shut Popsey away in order to let the other cats eat, and she would do what she could to outsmart us. She did not start significantly losing weight until Tigger passed away and my sister Claire took Christine with her to Toronto. With only one dish to worry about, my parents got her back down to a healthy weight again.

Sadly, Popsey had other health problems, and had to be put down earlier this week. I was very sad when I got the news - I'd hoped to see her one last time this Christmas. You can't always help these things, of course, and I respect my parents' decision. The house will seem so empty without a cat there.

Goodbye, Popsey. You were loved, and will be missed.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Work... Or Lack Thereof

Ahh, it's Friday. A very special day if you are employed. Sigh.

I'm still certain I made the right decision leaving Manulife's mailroom last week, even though I enjoyed the work and loved the people I was with. Sometimes, though, you can just tell that things will only get worse. The boss (and his bosses) were looking at every way possible to pinch pennies. It even got to the point last week where I finished the work early, so they sent me home early. Most people would be overjoyed with a situation like that. Those people are on salary, and not getting paid only for the hours they have worked. If a temp gets sent home early, they lose pay. "I'd rather stay until 4:30," I told my boss. "I'm sure you would," was his reply.

So not only had they cut two and a half ours out of each workday, but now he was cutting another half hour. As a reward for finishing my work early.

The sad thing is, my boss wasn't a jerk. In most cases he was the nicest of guys. He even had the Dr. Who theme on his cell phone! How cool is that? But when it came to matters of work ethic and money, his dark side came out. That incident wasn't the only time we clashed - we also fought over my breaks. I feel that, as an employee guaranteed two 15 minute breaks by law, I'm entitled to take those breaks when I need them. He felt that breaks should only be taken when all the work was done, or you ran the risk of throwing off the 'work flow'. There was always a constant stream of work, which meant there was never a time during the morning or afternoon when I could take a break.

Then there was the matter of my lunch breaks, but I don't want to get into that. You get the idea, and I didn't want this to degenerate into a sob-fest. Besides, he wasn't nearly so bad as the boss I had before him at Bank of America - the guy who wanted me to use a different photocopier because I could save 15 seconds walking to it. I'm slowly but surely developing a story premise around that guy. Just you wait.

So I made the right decision leaving Manulife. The pay was bad, and then my hours were cut, and it was clear to me my boss and I would get on each others' nerves over other issues, and I just don't want that. Here's hoping my next employers are better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Withdrawal's A Pain

I've been feeling withdrawal lately, in more ways than one. Withdrawal from blogging, withdrawal from employment, withdrawal from writing, and honest-to-gosh withdrawal from my antidepressant medication.

For those of you who don't know, here is my dark secret. I've been fighting a mild but persistant form of depression for half of my life. I won't go into any great detalil about that here; suffice it to say, I've been dealing with it as best I can.

I made the controversial decision last Friday to stop taking my regular dose of Effexor (probably spelled wrong), the drug I've been on now for the last four years. The effect it was having on me wasn't bad, just not really doing anything for me at all. I've felt this way about Effexor for several months now, but have been afraid to go off it because of what the withdrawal would be like. I'd had a day here and there where I'd forget to take it, and I would feel dizzy and funny in the head the next day. The thought of going off it completely was not tempting.

However, a few things came together and suggested that now was probably the best time. For starters, I don't have a regular doctor any more. My last doctor was a terrific guy, and not just because he bought my books and has a love for Monty Python. Lately, however, he'd been cutting back on his availability, and last week I found out he isn't seeing patients by appointment any more - only on a walk-in basis, between 11-3 on Thursdays. That just wouldn't work with my schedule, and I really need an available doctor if I'm going to keep taking medication. For one thing, I need a doctor just to get prescriptions for the stuff!

Not entirely true - I was told by my pharmacist that they could call my doctor and arrange for a refill. Nevertheless, I decided to go for a fresh start, medication wise. Now was the perfect time to go through withdrawal, for one very simple reason - I'm out of work. After having my hours cut, I gave my notice at Manulife and ended there last Friday. It was sad, but I'll blog about that later. My employment agency had nothing for me for this week, but rather than panic over the lack of income I decided to put the free time to good use.

I am now in day six of my withdrawal from the stuff, and I'm through the worst of it. I'm still a little dizzy, but over the worst of it. What was the worst of it? Drastic mood swings. Really horrible thoughts. Super-intense dreams. I was scared to go to sleep, scared to be alone with my thoughts, and scared to have my wife around in case I gave in to my darker nature (which I never did).

Violet, by the way, has been great through this. She doesn't exactly think I'm doing the smartest thing going cold turkey, but she's there for me and she understands. On Thursday, Violet will take me to a meditation class. We both believe that will help.

And, as Optimus Prime would say, fate has yielded its reward. My writing is back. I really want to work on my projects now, rather than just feeling I should if I could only find the energy and motivation. I predict I will have a finished first draft of The 25 Demons You Meet In Hell by year's end, and Cupidity shortly after that.

Life, once again, is good. I feel good.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Enter the Chick Zone

For those of you who are interested, I just thought I'd fill you in on what's going on over in Biblical Proportions.

I've started reviewing the works of one Jack T. Chick, probably the most notorious tract maker known to humankind. A number of people have asked me since I started the blog when I'd be getting around to his work. Well, the time is now!

Enjoy. If you can.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Reduced Hours Begin

So begins day one of my reduced hours at work. Not so bad, actually - I have time to blog, and in a few minutes I'm going to watch The Daily Show. And I got to sleep in an extra hour. All good things, until you factor in that I'm not getting paid for any of this free time.

It's a shame - these new hours could really work out for me, if only the pay was higher. I like having the morning free - that's when I'm most creative. I need a job with this many hours but paying enough to live on. That would be ideal for my situation.


Sunday, November 11, 2007

Blocked? Not Exactly...

Last week was not so good. For one thing, my writing output has really dropped off. Normally I get a couple of pages done in a day, but lately I'm lucky if I make it through a paragraph.

Stress kills writing. It kills my mood, and I can't write when I'm in a down mood.

And I had two really good reasons for being in a down mood this week. First, I found out that an author event I've been trying to set up at a big Indigo bookstore has been cancelled. Second, My boss told me that, starting Monday, my hours would be cut. It seems there simply isn't enough work to justify my position, at least on a full-time basis.

Two things led to this. One, the mailroom just got rid of some work. We were all very happy to see it go, but we should have known better. Two, we've been doing a process called Benchmarking for the last three weeks. This involves writing down exactly what we do and how long it takes us to do it. Looking at the numbers, and factoring in the work that's gone, someone's time had to get chopped. And when you've got three full-timers and one temp, well... it's a pretty easy choice.

The sad thing is, they were going to hire me on full time back in August. I went through two interviews, and then they went quiet. Now I know why. Too bad. I would have gotten dental benefits. I haven't seen a dentist in over a year. Suckage.

Heh. I remember I made a commitment to being more positive a few posts back. What happened to that?

I do have some good news. I have a book signing set up at a smaller Indigo store on December 18. It used to be a Coles, where I've done signings before. That will be fun. I'll have something good to blog about that day.

Small Press Fair

Last Saturday was the Fall Toronto Small Press Fair. My friend and editor Monica rented a table, and I joined her for the last two hours of the day. Sales weren't good - for anybody, or so I heard. Lots of lookers, but not that many buyers. Still, I managed to sell one copy of Epoch and three copies of Section K. Not bad. Not great, but not bad. And I got to hang out with my friends, which is always a good thing.

After the Small Press Fair, Violet and I went out to dinner. We hadn't been out for a date in a while, so it was long overdue. The service was slow but the food was good, and it was just great to relax in the company of the woman I love.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Another Epoch Review!

Ah, it's good to blog again. As with last year, I have to squeeze my blogging in when my wife Violet isn't doing her homework.

That's why I've waited until now to spread the good news about a new review of Epoch, courtesy of The Book Connection here on Blogspot. You can read the review by clicking on this sentence.

I was very happy to read that review after the pounding The Globe and Mail gave me. Ego boosts all around!

In other Tim news, I've got a signing gig lined up with Indigo Spirit in First Canadian Place here in downtown Toronto, for December 18. I've signed there twice before (when they were Coles), but this will be my first one for Epoch. I can't wait for that! I'm also trying to line up an author event at the Indigo at Younge & Eglinton. I've talked to all the people that need talking to, and they want me to do it, but we still haven't managed to secure a date. I am hopeful this issue will be resolved this week.

Writing-wise, I've finished Part 1 of Kids Who Know. And, even though I abandoned it in the summer, I've gone back to The 25 Demons You Meet In Hell. And, I'm also working on Cupidity. This seems to be the way I'll be writing for the foreseeable future - doing books a chunk at a time. I used to be able to stick with one novel all the way through, but now things are different. Now I'm trying to think of what my publisher will like best, and that's having an effect on my work. This is a new phase of my life as a writer. I just hope I'm up to the challenge.