Running is Good for Hoarders

A lot of people have been stopping me lately and asking me where my obsession for running 5Ks suddenly came from. I have never been an athlete and I can only do Jillian Micheal workout dvds when distracted by Netflix because I find exercising incredibly boring.

Regardless, the moment for running happened like this – I was about to make a car purchase (the most expensive thing I’ve ever bought in my life) and decided to ask the dealer about this “athlete rebate program” from Subaru.  “Oh, that’s for athletes!” he said dismissively, “sign your name here and the car will be yours!” “But I know friends that run!” I sputtered. The salesperson rolled his eyes, “Well, contact the website, we’re a dealer, I don’t know anyone who’s done it.”

Subaru is a brand known for encouraging drivers to become rugged wilderness adventurers and there are rebates available for athletes, ski instructors, golfers, new grads and people needing to modify cars for disabled passengers. The only category applicable to me is the athlete rebate, aka, someone willing to do either a triathlon or run two 5K races.  Incidentally, I was conversing with author Vincent Ternida about this and I was the third Asian person he knew who was running for this rebate…sigh…

Regardless, I hate it when people say I can’t so something, so I ended up running two Subaru sponsored races to qualify for this rebate of $750 (though I still have to mail in forms before end of the year). My husband refused to participate, but while I do my runs, he hikes 15-20 km instead. He has been encouraging me to run every month so that he can go hiking. It’s a win-win for us I guess, to spend some time in the car before we separate to do our activities!

I thought I would hate running. Instead, I was surprised when my hoarding instincts came out after I started collecting the medals at the finishing lines. So nice and shiny! And heavy! I can’t remember the last time I got a prize for something. Probably it was a science fair ribbon in high school.

My mom is pissed at me now after I told her I registered for “The Chocolate Race” in the 5K category because at the end there is a chocolate buffet. “OK, so the first two races was for money, which I support. But why the heck are you paying to run now? Just run around the block!”

Everyone wants to exercise and get fit and live longer. But often excuses outweigh the motivation! I think the combination of getting a medal and feeling pretty good after a 5K run is doing the trick for me right now. I don’t know how long this will last, but I have committed to walking 5K with a work colleague for the Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon because they seem to have really nice medals. There’s a run at the Toronto Zoo too which sounds fun too because it’s at the zoo! A co-worker came by my desk this morning to tell me that I’ve motivated her to run again. She used to be a runner but stopped due to an injury and then it was too hard to go start again. It was very nice of her to tell me this, I never expected to inspire anyone, except for other potential Subaru owners! Another co-worker advised me that I had joined a cult and welcomed me since she was a runner as well!

I’ll never be a competitive athlete (top times are 15min for 5K runs), but for now I will run for medals and will be looking forward to the chocolate buffet at the next run! The healthcare benefits are a bonus!

 

 

 

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Ingram Spark Vs Amazon KDP Createspace

For publishing purposes, mainly I’ve been using Amazon Createspace (print division) and Amazon KDP (e-books) for distribution. These two were merged recently and not much has changed other than the fact you don’t have to fill in tax info and log in twice. Some past receipts have gone missing, but other than that, the transition has been quite flawless. Creating a title for publishing has been great on Amazon. There is no charge for uploading, you keep what you earn minus fees.  If the print book comes damaged, they will offer to re-print another copy.

Some of my indie publishing friends have gone with both Amazon and Ingram Spark because they want the most out of distribution. Amazon distributes to limited venues and although Amazon captures 60% of the market, the other 40% is still land worth venturing into.

The site Ingram Spark has gone through many changes lately since I visited a few years ago out of curiosity. They provide very detailed manuals on how to publish and upload files. They have a live chat and telephone customer support system during office hours.  However, it costs $25-49 to upload a title and for every revision it will cost $25. There used to be an annual fee of $12 per title, but I believe that has been dropped now. Regardless, I had high hopes for Ingram given they are a giant distributor and supposedly more “professional” for publishing than Amazon.

Last night I tried to set up a title for both print and e-book distribution on Ingram Spark to try out their service. The first snag was the software on the website not allowing me to save the book title. The title “Trump Utopia of Dystopia” has no funny characters, so I was surprised at this happening. After the 10th try of pressing enter, something happened and I was allowed to go to the next page. This hope was false because I would hit other errors on the worldwide rights page and ISBN page. No matter what I did, the page would’t move on. I renamed the title to draft and tried again, only to be stuck on the title error once more. After numerous attempts and running into the same errors over and over, I gave up and went to bed because their customer service hotline was closed.

Waking up, I called them first thing and told them what happened. They asked what browser I was using. I said I tried chrome, explorer and safari. The person on the line advised me to download firefox. So I did and behold, firefox didn’t work either! After calling them back, they sent an email saying tech support will get back to me (unknown about timeline). They mentioned that the issue was trying to use the print/e-book uploading option. Apparently if you upload just print or e-book it’s fine. There is a bug in the code to do both print and e-book at the same time and they it’s been happening after their last software update.

In comparison, Amazon’s software has been fairly flawless for me. Their print and e-books are separate processes with the option to link both onto the product page later. The only time I’ve had a mental breakdown with publishing on Amazon is due to formatting but it’s nothing to do with their software not working.

I am on the fence about using Ingram Spark. If their tech people ever contacts me perhaps I will try again. However, my time is worth something and with tons of things to do, the price of putting up with flawed software might not be worth it in the end for me.

 

 

 

 

Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 2

To reiterate, next week I’m giving a talk to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada) on a panel entitled “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process”. Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Part 1 of post is here.

The Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book slush pile wasn’t that big, about 100 submissions. However, we still had to sort through all stories to pick ones we thought had potential of being great stories after some polishing. Our pay rates were token rates, which meant the editors would have to spend more time with writers as experienced writers would more likely submit to higher paying publishers.

While thinking about how to present the slushpile, I came across Neil Clark’s slushpile bingo blog post. He presents why Clarkesworld, his sci-fi magazine would reject a story.

Given we are speculative fiction publisher and not solely sci-fi, our version of why we would reject a story is slightly different. However, it gives writers an idea of why a story didn’t make it through the slushpile at Dark Helix Press.

Out of 100 stories here are the stats:

  • 100 submissions received (17 females, 83 males, 6 visible minority)
  • published 32 stories (8 females, 24 males, 4 visible minority)
  • percentage published/submission (47% women, 29% men, 67% visible minorities)

As a female and visible minority, with a mandate to publish as many diverse writers as possible, special attention was paid to stories from females or visible minorities.

However, at the end of the day, publishing good quality stories is the basic principle. If the story is horribly written, it doesn’t matter if you are from a diverse group or not, we just don’t have the time to rewrite entire manuscripts.

To make the odds of publishing diverse writers higher, they also have to send in more submissions. Looking at just our Trump book, by far, the highest number of submissions were from male, white writers.  I’m not sure what the stats are with other book projects, but I’m willing to bet they are similar, unless there were exclusion guidelines in place (eg. female only or LGBT only, etc).

Overall my co-editor Jen Frankel and I have been very happy with the authors selected and feel proud of this book even when people look at us in disgust that the main subject is Trump!

Now I have to go rehearse my talking points! Practice makes perfect!

Editing speculative fiction and diversity panel – part 1

Next week I’m giving a talk at the “Editing Worlds: Speculative Fiction and the Editorial Process” panel to Editors Toronto, the largest branch of Editors Canada (also known as the Editors’ Association of Canada). Tickets are available here on their website (free for members). Here is a link to short quirky interviews with all panelists: Jen Frankel, JF Garrard, Dominik Parisien and Drew Hayden Taylor.

Jen Frankel, my co-editor for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia will be joining me in talking about the process we went through on editing this anthology along with the issue of diversity in speculative fiction. We’ll be touching on:

  • the realities of indie publishing, crowdfunding, editing, and world building (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard);
  • the lessons learned from panels on writing and pop culture about the need for diverse stories in literature, film, and media (Jen Frankel and JF Garrard); and
  • strategies for supporting authors of different backgrounds and identities while keeping their voices intact throughout the editing process (Jen Frankel).

For my portion I’ll be using PowerPoint and thought I would share some of my more interesting talking points.

To kick off the diversity issue, I’m going to present the findings from Lee and Low book’s 2015 Diversity Baseline Survey. This independent publisher conducted a survey with 40 publishers and review journals. They sent out over 13K surveys with a response rate of 26%, a bit over 3K responses.

The categories they surveyed included executives, sales, marketing, pr and book reviewers. The results found that nearly 80% of those surveyed identified as white.

Source: https://blog.leeandlow.com/2016/01/26/where-is-the-diversity-in-publishing-the-2015-diversity-baseline-survey-results/

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the majority of the gatekeepers in traditional publishing are white. Going forward, if change is to happen, it’s going to take all of us, white and not-white to make the effort to change if diversity is truly an issue we all care about as a society.  However, it has to be done in a way to prevent “diversity branding” which is backlash with the illusion that things are fair and leads to bias against certain groups. Sometimes diversity programs lead to more negativity and it’s something that we all have to be aware of.

Similarly, I’ve been having a debate with another indie publisher about Dark Helix broadening it’s subject matters from only multicultural subjects. At the end of the day I want to be known as a publisher who provides great stories to readers and be inclusive, regardless of race or gender. To brand my company as solely for diverse authors is excluding other populations. This touches on the diversity branding mentioned earlier.

As a business, by being too niche, it’s very difficult to sell to the general population. In being more inclusive about writers and broadening subject matters, I hope to attract new readers to my publishing house who will then take a chance on the multicultural titles I have to offer as well.

But to publish more diverse writers, they also have to send in more submissions. In Part 2 I’ll talk about the slush pile for the Trump book and stats gathered from the making of this book.

Cheap 10 minute Paw Patrol / Lego Batman DIY Piñata

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A few weeks ago I took a trip to a few stores to look for Paw Patrol and Batman piñatas. The average price was $20 for an empty one and you still had to buy treats! Admittedly they were very nice but I couldn’t bring myself to shred up $20! I would rather spend the money on nicer treats for piñata innards!

People online have made piñatas out of balloons, papier-mâché, cardboard…however all the youtube videos looked like it took a lot of time.

After many unnecessary sleepless nights on how to make a piñata cheaply and quickly, this is the best I’ve come up with – just decorate a paper bag!

Supplies:

  • large paper bag
  • crepe streamer ribbons (2 colors ideally)
  • hot glue
  • scissors
  • printed character decoration
  • stapler
  • broom handle (for hanging pinata on)
  • Piñata stuffing – chocolate, erasers, toys, stickers, etc.

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1. Cut up crepe paper streamers by measuring how much is needed to wrap around bag. Fold 2 cut pieces together to about 5″ in length before cutting fringes with scissors.

Note – for Lego Batman pinata I couldn’t find black streamers so I bought sheets of tissue paper. This is not ideal, it took time to cut ribbons and since the paper wasn’t long enough to wrap around bag things were a bit uneven when gluing.

2. Use hot glue to layer on crepe paper fringes onto paper bag starting from bottom. Basically squirt glue, tap on paper, glue, tap on paper…Cover bag half way before stopping. Don’t worry about perfection, this is going to be broken!

3. Fill piñata with treats!

4. Fold flap of of bag over broom handle and staple flap onto the bag. I had a long reach stapler which made the job easier. Remove broom handle until needed later.

5. Use hot glue again to layer crepe paper to finish covering piñata.

6. Last step is gluing a picture of whatever character you want!

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At party – reinsert broom handle at top and hold. Kids at our party were given a small broom that was part of a play set to break piñata with.

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At birthday parties full of toddlers under 5 years it took over 20 min before the piñata broke! Every kid got to swing at least twice which was important!

Have fun making your own! 😉

 

 

 

 

Ricepaper Magazine Patreon Setup

It’s not a secret that many not-for-profits often struggle with coming up with funds to keep alive. Ricepaper Magazine is not an exception as an example of a publication that is trying out different things to gain access to public grants and private funding.

As a Senior Editor for Ricepaper, my title is quite loose since it’s a small organization. I do a lot of writing, interviewing, partnership building, event planning (LiterASIAN Toronto) and now something new I’m trying out is Patreon.

I’ve tried setting up on Patreon before and some of my friends on it have collected $0/month to a few hundred dollars total. I only know of one person who is surviving as a full time writer on Patreon and they are not rich.

Similar to Kickstarter, Patreon people pledge to give funds on a monthly or project basis in exchange for something. Since mainly artists and writers are on Patreon, the “creator” can give away music, artwork, writing, videos, magazines, etc in exchange for funding to create.

I’m working on the “about” Patreon page and looking back at the amazing magazine covers that Ricepaper has had in the past. There are days when my family and friends suggest I should quit Ricepaper to concentrate on just being a writer, but I tell them that there are few platforms for Asians in English and I believe I’m doing good by helping this ship stay afloat.

Sharing a few covers and when the Patreon page is up I’ll post news about it and hopefully garner some support!

 

What’s In a “Basket of Ridiculousness”?

Since we are doing a Trump: Utopia or Dystopia book launch at Can-Con in Ottawa this coming weekend, we put together a gift called a “Basket of Ridiculousness” as a free draw prize to attract unsuspecting and sort of innocent future readers!

To get free draw tickets, please find me or Jen Frankel and ask us nicely for a ticket at the Can-Con event:

FRI 20:00-20:50 Panel – Braaaains. Please. Sorry  Salon D (Jen Frankel)

SAT 10:00 – 13:30 Dealers Room Table –The Alternate Reality News Service

SAT 11:00-11:50 Panel – Economics of Traditional Publishing Salon E (JF Garrard)

SAT 14:00-14:50 Indie Group Launch Event with food (basket will be given away at this event)

You may think, wait, what’s in this bloody basket worth hunting down strangers for?
The basket is valued at $50 and we put everything we thought we would want into it. So if no one wins or shows up for the book launch we will divide up the goodies among ourselves! Contents include:
1) A copy of Trump: Utopia or Dystopia to laugh, cry and get angry with.
2) A set of politician masks – Donald Trump, Hilary Clinton and Justin Trudeau. In time for Halloween and to re-enact scenes from the Trump book!
3) Lay’s Grilled Cheese chips – it just sounded yummy…and strange…
4) A $10 Starbucks gift card – caffeine just makes the day brighter!
5) Batman Story Cubes – making stories with yourself as Batman, just because.
6) Naughty mug – heck, we’re promoting a Trump satire book!
7) Snickers bars – to eat while watching CNN.
8) Fuzzy Peaches – it’s orange, enough said.
9) Crunch ‘n Munch popcorn – more to eat while watching CNN and Fox News.
10) SPAM – goes hand in hand with fake news.
11) Glow in the dark tie – to transport you to the Oval office.
12) Rubber Ducky Socks – we live in Canada, a tribute to our Prime Minister.
13) Dark Helix Bookmark – to keep your page in the book while you watch the destruction of the free world!
Looking forward to meeting random people in Ottawa and sharing the joy of this Trump book which has fantasy, horror and science fiction stories from writers around the world!