I had two book signings this weekend: one Saturday at Yorkdale Indigo and one Sunday at the Eatons Centre indigo. Saturday’s signing was a learning experience because, for the first time since our very first signing at The Village Butcher, we didn’t bring food.

All the previous book signings we’ve brought samples, usually maple tarts and bison burgers. This required a larger outlay of money, and with the bison burgers Suman needed to bring an assistant to help heat and assemble them. So yesterday we decided to try the no-food approach, because it’s sometimes hard to justify paying $50-$100 on food, when we only get $1.30 each in royalties for each book sold.

Our average so far is to sell roughly half of the on-hand copies of the book. So if we started the signing with 50 copies, there are around 25 copies left when we sit down to sign the remaining copies. Having food is very useful because it’s a way to draw people over to our table, get them talking, and let the know how tasty the food in the book is. Yesterday, with no food in the offing, we only sold 3 books, our smallest number yet. We even had one person insist that we should have food, and said that he would come to our Sunday signing and buy a book if we had food (he didn’t). So the public has, literally, spoken; today there will be food.

Another interesting thing that happened at Saturday’s signing. About halfway through the event, a man walked up to our table. He walked right up to us with purpose, instead of veering over in response to my greeting, like most people. He walked right up to me and said, “I heard there’s a book signing. Is this the book signing?”

“Yes,” I said. “This is our book signing.”

“Who’s doing the book signing?”

“Well, we are. This is me,” and I pointed to my name on the book cover, “and this is my co-author,” and I point to Suman’s name, and then to Suman himself, who is standing slightly off from the table, talking with someone.

“Are you on Food Network?”

Right at this moment, I new where this would go. “No,” I answered honestly, although for a brief moment I considered lying and saying “Yes”. If he has to ask, clearly he doesn’t know everyone on Food Network. But aside from the fact that lying is wrong, there would probably be a bunch of follow up questions, like “What’s your show?” that would very quickly call me out. So I answered honestly, and the man turned and walked away without another word. Not even trying to find some way of winding the conversation down or even finding out more about the book itself to see if it was something he would be interested in. I hadn’t had the chance to give him my speil describing the book and the awards it’s won. He just turned and walked away, as if he had never started this conversation in the first place. Some people and their priorities!

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I have just discovered a piece of software that is going to make my writing life so much easier! It’s called Scrivener and it calls itself a writing studio, not just a word processor. And that’s no exaggeration. I’ve only been playing around with it for half an hour and I’m hooked!

Anyone familiar with the setup of Access, where you can have multiple files as part of one document, accessible from a left sidebar, will be able to picture the layout of Scrivener. The sidebar (called the Binder) is broken up into a manuscript component and a research component. The manuscript component is where you work on writing the drafts and can be broken up in different ways depending on what you’re writing (they have different templates for things like Fiction, Non-Fiction, Screenplays, that sort of thing). It operates under the assumption that it’s easier to work in parts that can be combined or rearranged as you work, although you can, of course, just write the whole document in one file, if you prefer. The research component allows you to manage all the external things that get referenced during the writing process – character sketches for fiction, research documents for non-fiction, etc. You can even set up a split screen so that you have the scene you’re writing on one side and something else that you’re referring to (a previous draft, a character sketch, a research article) right next to it.

This program really connects with my compulsion to organize and compartmentalize things. But one of the things I really appreciate is the aesthetics. Windows programs tend toward the utilitarian, which always bumms me out. I’m a very practacle person, but I respond much more favourably to a program that looks interesting than one that’s just a series of grey-outlined windows. This program has an option to use a  cork board view, where whatever you’re working on (scenes, character sketches, what have you) are displayed as if they are written on file cards and tacked on a cork board. You can click and drag to move scenes around, and they’ll move around in the Binder, too, and display in their new arrangement in the page mode. This is going to make my writing so much easier! I only wish I’d had it when I was writing From Pemmican to Poutine. When I think of how I had to try to juggle so many different documents at one time…

It’s only available on the Mac for the moment, but they’re launching a Windows version next month. The Windows version is currently in public beta, so I downloaded it for now because I can’t wait to start using it. We bought the Mac version today, but I like being able to work on my cute little netbook, instead of having the huge MacBook spread out on my lap. Plus, the two versions are compatible, so if I want to work on the Mac for some reason, I can!

I’ve so far spent the morning happily importing my existing work on the novel into Scrivener and organizing it in a way I like. I’ll do the same with the textile book shortly.

 

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve updated this thing. School took so much of my time and energy, and add to that promoting the book, that I just couldn’t stand the thought of adding to all that with more activity. But school is done and the book is going smoothly (two awards won, so far) that I feel I can start looking forward again and commit the regular posting.

Right now, one of my main focuses is finding a job. Yes, even award-winning authors need a day job, especially award-winning authors with two student loans to pay off. I’ve been sending out resumes for job postings and I’ve even begun cold contacting companies I’d like to work for, using my best business-style writing to beg for a job. If anyone knows of a company looking for a good information professional, please leave a comment. I will knit a pair of custom socks for anyone who helps land me a good job.

The other thing I’m working on is my next book: actually, my next two books. I’m writing them simultaneaously, because I just can’t stick to one or the other. Whenever I try to settle on one, the other starts to tug at my brain, so I’ve just given in and begun working on them both. One of the books is my next non-fiction, a work on textile history. I’m still in the research phase right now, which is perfect because it’s a break from writing. The other book is a novel, my first fiction book. I don’t want to get into specifics yet, because I’m still fleshing it out with the help of Sarah Domet’s book 90 Days to Your Novel, which sounds gimicky, but is a very helpful book.

Hopefully, this isn’t my last post for another year. I’ll post about some of the events I’ve done and the progress on each of my books a bit later, but for now I just wanted to get back into the blogging mindset.

Just a quick post, because I’ve been so negligent here since my program started. Exams are this week, so I’m spending all my time studying. After Friday I’ll be free (for a week) before the seas of school swallow me up once more.

I’m reading or rereading John Wyndam books right now. I reread The Chrysalids last week, and enjoyed it as much this time around as I did the first time I read it 17 years ago. Maybe more, because I absorbed things that went past me when I was 12. I reread A Wrinkle in Time a few months ago and it definitely did not age as well. I’m reading The Kraken Wakes now, which is considerably slower and more dry than The Chrysalids, but I’m enjoying the underlying commentary about the news media. There are always so many layers to Wyndam’s books.

I just discovered a new blog, Hot Guys Reading Books. Just awesome! I could stare at that website all day, if I wasn’t already married to a hot guy who reads books (and comics! Hott!). I have several pictures of Nyron reading books in exotic locations on our travels, but he wouldn’t let me submit any of them. I’ll have to take a new to send in one of these days.

Ok, I’m going to bury myself in my notes about library roles and MARC21 coding. If you don’t hear from me in a week, send in a search party.

The book edits are done. I finished it on Monday and sent it back to the publisher, with a slight feeling of sadness. At this point, the publisher is going to go over my changes and only send it back to me if there’s anything significant that I need to approve or change.  In fact, she’s probably already finished by now and has moved on to typesetting the pages, the last stage before printing Advanced Reading Copies to send off to reviewers. Any changes I might want to make, any further revisions I feel my work needs, it’s too late now. The words on those pages are the words that will always be there, for as long as this book exists somewhere in the world. There’s a frightening finality in that, which caused me to hover with my cursor over the [Send] button for a moment before clicking. It’s said that finishing with a book is like sending a child off to university, knowing that you’ve done all you can to make it the best it can be, but from now on it has to live in the world on its own. I wonder if authors get used to it, or if even Stephen King, as he pops out books like Michelle Dugger pops out babies, still feels like this after each one goes out for print.

It only lasted for a moment, though, and then I felt a sense of freedom. Empty nest time! The first thing I did was clean the kitchen, something I haven’t been able to do in the middle of the day for a few weeks. When you’re working on a deadline, anything that can be put off for later, is, and I found myself routinely doing the dishes at 10:30 or 11:00 at night before going to bed.  It’s wonderful to have it done by lunch time. Then I spent some time in my studio making a cover for my new laptop.  I bought a pretty new Toshiba netbook for school, the brown one, so I’m turning an old felted thrift store sweater into a cover so that it stays nice and shiny. I’ve also been doing lots of relaxing and watching tv.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll spend some time playing video games, who knows?! Although I felt some sadness at sending my baby out into the world, the feeling of calm and relaxation has lasted longer.

That is, until we have to start marketing.  Then the work starts again.

I’ve got the edits back from the publisher, so the book is in its final stages.  Even though I know it’s the normal practice, it’s seemed strange to me that people have already paid money for my book, when it’s not even finished yet.  I have to go through the edits (highlighted for me thanks to a computer program called Track Changes), approve or reject them as needed and send it back.  The editor only did copy editing rather than the substantial edit I’d been expecting, so I’m doing a bit more revision on my own; hopefully there won’t be too much back and forth before the final draft gets confirmed and typeset for printing.  We’d like to get review copies printed in time for the Book Expos, at least the one here in Toronto if not the American one.

Suman and I met up yesterday to talk marketing.  The publishing house will be sending out review copies, but that’s about all we’ll get in terms of promotion.  We’re still hoping to do a launch somehow, we need to figure out how much it will cost.  We also talked about making little promotional items tied to the book, like fridge magnet measurement conversion charts and bookmarks, as well as local grocers and butcher shops to approach about carrying the book or having us for signings.  My local butcher has been excited for the book since the first and asks me whenever I go there to buy chicken breasts or ground beef when it’s coming out.  He definitely wants us for a signing, too.  For some reason, signings are what I’m really excited for.  I’ve been to quite a few signings of my favourite authors, and having a signing of my own feels like “making it” for me.  Of course, I know I’ll likely get tired of them quickly, but for now I can still look ahead with anticipation.  Does anyone have any brilliant marketing suggestions for the book?  Since we have a budget of $0, it has to be things we can do relatively inexpensively, or are at least worth the money spent.

I had lunch with my friend Rita at the Gladstone.  She copy edited the manuscript before we sent it to the publisher and she’s helping me work on the index. In Kurt Vonegut’s novel Cat’s Cradle one of his characters, a professional indexer, says that an author should never index their own book because it tells too much about the author’s personal feelings and obsessions. I think that an author should never index their own work, because it’s hard to be objective and make decisions about what index worthy.  But on the other hand, I’m glad I’m doing it myself because I’m kind of anal about indexing and cataloguing and I don’t think I would really trust anyone else to do it.  🙂

Rita and I also did a gardening swap.  I gave her a bag of my homemade compost and she gave me seeds for sunflowers, muskmelons, spinach.  Every warm day is 1 day closer to gardening!

Although I don’t have the greenest thumb, every year I can’t wait for the gardening season to start. I begin dreaming of it in January and by February I’m chomping at the bit (trowel?). This year I decided to start my tomatoes from seed which allowed me to start gardening as early as March.

I’m using the Square Foot Gardening method developed by Mel Bartholomew, which is a very simple and space-saving method, and that’s important since my backyard is actually a small balcony off the kitchen.  Square Foot Gardening involves filling a box that’s 6″ deep with a mix of vermiculite, peat, and compost.  To make it especially environmentally sound, I’m using coir instead of peat because coir is a more renewable product (peat takes hundreds of years to develop, which makes it a finite product like oil and some peat producing areas are becoming endangered).  Coir is coconut husks that are left over from the production of food stuffs like coconut oil, coconut milk, and shredded coconut.  It’s cheaper than peat, as well, and easier to store; it comes compressed into bricks or tiles that soften and expand in water.  I like to buy it in tiles because I find it easier to break off and soak just what I need and leave the rest neatly on a shelf in my garage.  I also make my own compost with vermicomposter worms and I use coir as the bedding.

My little garden is 2′ x 3′ and 6″ deep, which gives me 6 squares to grow in.  Last year I went a little overboard by trying to grow something different in each square and while the SFG method certainly allows and even encourages this, I’m just not a good enough gardener yet to make that work, so this time around I’m keeping it simple. Right now I have 6 tomato plants growing from seed on my kitchen table: 3 Box Car Willies and 3 San Marzano Paste Tomatoes. I bought my seeds from Urban Harvest, a local company that sells only organic seeds. Around each tomato, to maximize space and create a living mulch, I’ll plant baby carrots, onions, and lettuce.  I’d like to fit some spinach in somewhere, too, but I haven’t figured out where yet.

My valiantly growing tomatoes

Since our townhouse is an end unit we get more in-ground gardening space than the other units; we have a little garden by the front door that wraps around the side of the house.  So far, we’ve been very shamefully ignoring it, leaving it as a single patch of bare dirt next to all the vibrant plants and flowers of our neighbours.  One house a few units down even grows tomatoes in their front patch. So this year we’ll utilize it for some of the plants that grow too deep to do well in a 6″ deep garden box.  We’ll have potatoes, garlic, perhaps more onions (we cook with onions a lot) and some regular sized carrots.  I also have some sunflower seeds that I got from a woman on Freecycle that she got from the Great Sunflower Project, a nation-wide endeavor to collect data on urban, suburban, and rural wild bee populations.  I love sunflowers and I love bees, so this project is great for me.  I’d also like to fit some dye-making plants in my in-ground garden and balcony; I have lots of undyed fleece that I bought at Romni that I can’t wait to spin and dye.  Maybe I’ll add rhubarb to the front garden; rhubarb stalks are delicious and the leaves (which are poisonous) and roots can be used as a dye, so I get 2 birds with one stone.

So those are my gardening plans so far.  The last frost date is still a month away and it seems to be coming so slowly!  It’s also the weekend before I go back to school, so exciting times.

I’ve decided to re-enter the world of blogging.  After a hiatus of a year or so and with so many things going on in my life right now I feel like it’s a good time to get back into it.

In previous years I’ve tried to keep separate blogs for separate subjects, but that’s just more complicated than it needs to be.  This time around, I’m going to keep it more casual and a forum for anything.  If you’re a friend and you want to see what’s going on in my life beyond my facebook status update, this is where you’ll find out.  If you’re following my first foray into publishing with my book From Pemmican to Poutine: A Culinary History of Canada, and you want to find out about my other writing, I’ll be talking about it.  I’ll also be writing about the launch of my etsy shop Broccoli Design Studio, starting with setting up the studio space in my spare room and doing product design.  And, who can forget my return to the hallowed halls of education, when I go to college this spring.

This blog will be a little bit of everything and i hope you enjoy.

What I’m reading

Dance of Dragons by George R.R. Martin

What I’m playing

Kingdom of Amalur: Reckoning on PS3

What I’m knitting

Socks

Chirp, chirp

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