Category Archives: Publishing

Audio: “Tempo Rubato”

My short story “Tempo Rubato” was published in the Dalhousie Review in their Fall, 2016 edition. Guest editor Ronald Huebert was kind enough to include the story in his editor’s notes:

And I must mention the last story in this issue, Matthew Bin’s “Tempo Rubato,” which I read as a deeply sensitive work of mourning performed by a seventeen-year-old boy (Thomas) for the loss of his older brother (Edward) in the early stages of World War I.

The story came to me and tumbled out in a matter of hours in the fall of 2016. I sent it out to fifteen Canadian literary venues on a chilly February morning, and the Dal accepted it. It’s been in the Sample Work section of this site since last year.

However, onward progress! I have been learning a little bit about audiobooks lately, and I decided that I’d try this as my first recorded work. So for better or for worse, here’s the audio recording of “Tempo Rubato”.

(It’s also available as an mp3 here, if you’d prefer to download it and listen to it some other way.)

CBC Interview: My Appearance on Fresh Air

Well that was certainly something: an interview on CBC Radio. After listening for so many years, I’ve finally been on there to say a few words myself.

I’ve known Ralph Benmergui for a few years, and have been honoured to be a guest at his table on a number of occasions. The conversation with him (and his wife Cortney) is always engaging; Ralph and I differ on many subjects but I always enjoy speaking with him.

Ralph works from time to time as a host on various CBC shows, most notably Fresh Air, the Ontario weekend morning show. So I was thrilled to accept his invitation to appear on the show to discuss my book Brendan’s Way, as well as other topics related to publishing and self-publishing.

Of course, it’s never fun to listen to an interview you’ve done after the fact – about ten times I wanted a do-over to give a more useful, intelligent, or accurate answer to his questions. But the interview itself was nothing but enjoyable: just another pleasant conversation with Ralph.

Many thanks to the CBC and to Ralph Benmergui (and his producer Sandy Mowat) for getting it all together and putting it on the air.

If you missed it, I’m going to post a recording of the interview here (although be warned, there are a couple of blips in the sound). Listen soon in case the CBC lawyers get wind of it and I have to take it down.

Now available all over the place: Brendan’s Way!

Brendan’s Way was recently released all over the damn place! It’s available on Kobo, Amazon, and numerous other online bookstores.

If you’re looking to load this into your ebook reader, phone, tablet, or Internet-enabled teletype, now you can do so!

And of course if you want a real-life copy hewn from actual tree-type paper, your best bet is to buy it from the publisher.

Amazon link

Kobo link

Brendan’s Way Launches Tomorrow!

Well, the big day is almost here. Brendan’s Way launches tomorrow at 9pm at the Ad Astra convention.

All are welcome to the launch – you don’t have to be registered for the convention. It’s in Suite 1070 at the Sheraton Parkway North in Richmond Hill.

It’s been a long, long time coming! I hope I’ll see you there.

Brendan’s Way: the Title

I’ve always had a bit of trouble titling my work. Once in a while, the title is the inspiration for the work: “Unrest Among the Smart Cows” sprung to mind and I wrote a story to fit it. The Punk Book was an inside joke with my longtime bandmate Jonathan.

But usually I agonize over titles, and I often don’t think they’re very good, even after they’re published. But Brendan’s Way surprised me.

The surprise isn’t that the title worked, or that it’s a good one (I think it is). It’s that from the moment I conceived of the novel, I’ve known that was the title; and no one has ever second-guessed me on it. The title fits. It works. It sounds good. It’s right.

But I know next to nothing about titles. So where did it come from?

It started with the inspiration for the book: the song “Saint Brendan’s Way” by the Lowest of the Low. (How many times am I going to link to that song? Many many times. It’s an awesome song.) The song is about Irish immigrants coming to Canada in the 19th century, and how they were following the legendary path of St. Brendan, the famous Irish monk who sailed his leather-bottomed boat across the sea.

In my book, Brendan is an Irish farmer in the late 23rd century, who lucks into a trip to the newly colonized world of Ellis. Just as Irish immigrants filled leaky boats across the Atlantic, Brendan is taking a dangerous trip across space. So the pattern repeats again: following his Irish forebears, he’s taking a trip across a vast and perilous nothingness, purely based on the hope for a better life in a new world.

But it still amazes me that my little ship of a book has sailed through the writing and publishing process without a single question – or even comment – about the title. And it gives me a bit of hope: maybe this book will make it, too.

Or in the words of Ron Hawkins and the Lowest of the Low:

Our fortunes are fleeting
And our passage in steer
And God knows if I’ll perish
In my twenty-fifth year

In this ship full of scurvy
With my bride at my hand
And I shall kiss her tenderly
In this great new found land

And it’s hope that we follow today
If we dare follow St. Brendan’s Way

Brendan’s Way: the Cover

It seems like forever but it’s been less than a year since I announced the upcoming publication of my next novel, Brendan’s Way, with Bundoran Press.

A little bit of history: It was July, 2011. I was struck by an idea as I walked to lunch with my headphones on, listening to the song “Saint Brendan’s Way” by the Lowest of the Low. Space immigrants. One’s a country rube, one’s a deadly assassin. I sat down and got to work on an outline.

I finished the outline – 9,000 words of it – in two days. The third day I started writing, and I pounded out 1,000 to 2,000 words almost every day until I finished the thing in November. Just over five months to complete a 90,000-word book – the longest book I’d ever written, finished in the shortest time ever.

I went through the entire manuscript with my editing circle. I had multiple friends provide input. I rewrote and rewrote. I had a seminar at CanWrite! with Robert J. Sawyer that helped clarify some weaknesses. And in the fall of 2015 I submitted the finished manuscript to Bundoran Press – the first publisher I offered it to in its completed form.

They liked it.

They bought it.

So here, at last, is the cover for my soon-to-be-released novel, Brendan’s Way.


Brendan’s Way – Promo Trailer!

The excellent folks at Bundoran Press have been busy preparing for my launch of Brendan’s Way on May 6. Check out the amazing book trailer they’ve created.

Coming soon: the finished cover!

Short Story Published: 100 Voices, Volume 2

My latest publication credit: Centum Press’s new short-short fiction anthology, 100 voices. They selected my short piece “The Tether” for inclusion in their new volume of flash fiction (or near enough to it). I’m insanely pleased to have the story placed there.

You can order the book here, although you should use my special discount code when ordering it: 100V2V51. Check it out today!

The Punk Book

punk-book-coverAs you might remember (or not), I’ve written the Toronto Novel Marathon charity event a number of times (three). Each time I finished a novel. The first one was my longest: The Punk Book, which is a fictionalized account of my early years in a punk band in Hamilton’s 1990s music scene.

Well, the time has come to put this one up on the shelf. So I’ve printed up a few dozen copies and I’m launching it on Saturday, November 19.

It’s a fun book, but it took me a long time to figure out how to write it. Many of the stories in the book are based on my own very memorable experiences; but fictionalizing one’s own life is a difficult process. It’s hard to make it about the people without making it a navel-gazing exercise. But I think I figured it out, and the result is this book. The names have been changed to protect the innocent. Except for Larry, because screw that guy.

I’m lucky to be in a band with such great guys as Jonny Palmateer and Derek Fivehole. It’s really tough to write about this kind of thing without being arch, or cloying, or – much worse – boring. But according to Jon, it’s the best book ever written, so I figure I must have hit close to the mark.

What’s it about? Tom is a young guy who gets into punk music and tries out for a local band. He’s brought in as the bassist. The band gets a bit too big, a bit too fast. The band is run by a punk-savant songwriter and pathological liar named Larry. Tom has a thing for a girl in another band. He’s balancing the band and his job as a delivery guy for a Chinese restaurant. Almost all these things are true. (Especially about the pathological liar. Holy crap is that ever true.)

So why am I launching this particular book on Saturday? Mainly because of this:

The Stephen Stanley Band and The Goalies

Yes, my longtime punk band the Goalies has a rare opening spot for the Stephen Stanley band. (If you’re not familiar with that name, Stephen Stanley was the lead guitarist for the Lowest of the Low, which was a band I was fairly obsessed with in the crazy early-90s music scene.) It’s going to be a big, crazy show. And book launch.

In the end, I’m not trying to sell a million copies of this book. It’s punk: fun and crazy and who cares about rules. But I’m proud of the book, too, and I want to get it out there on this night of nights.

Because as I said at the start of the book:

This book was written as part of the 2014 Toronto Novel Marathon. It is therefore short, crude, and a lot more fun for the person yelling than for the audience.

And also the Author’s Note:

Absolutely nothing in this novel is true.

Which is definitely the case.

Except for the stuff about Larry. Because screw that guy.

The Ebook Is Dead, Long Live the Ebook

Last month, I attended Book Summit, an annual conference in Toronto for people in the book trade – publishers, editors, writers, the whole lot.

I’ve been a handful of times, and as a writer it’s not always terribly useful. Hearing about what the content producers are worried about is of interest, of course, but there isn’t much direct knowledge I can take from this day of keynotes and panels. But it’s still interesting and the whole day is very well produced.

I admit I didn’t look too closely at the materials they provided in advance, and I think a lot of the theme was outlined there. So I wasn’t ready for the opening remarks by Cynthia Good – formerly president and editorial director at Penguin Books, and founder of the publishing program at Humber College.

Let’s back up before I get to my point. Book Summit is put on by the Book and Periodical Council, an organization I have extremely high regard for. I have worked directly with members of their board and administrative staff, and these people are among the best people in the writing world in Canada.

But the BPC represents big publishers. And big publishers are so scared about the massive changes sweeping the publishing world that they have no idea at all what to do. Nobody knows what to do. We’re all hanging on, trying to stay in the car as it careers off a cliff.

The Digital Dust Has Settled

Here was the opening statement that Cynthia Good made, the very first words uttered into a mic at the conference:

The digital dust has settled. The book is back.

The rationale for this statement? E-book sales have plateaued, and print book sales are edging up.

The publishers are assuming that this means that things are going back to the old ways. They don’t need to worry; things have gotten as bad as they’re ever going to, and we can go back to our old business model. The ebook revolution that had thrown the publishing world into a tailspin is now over.

They could not be more wrong.

The Print Book Anomaly

Remember when Sudoku was all the rage, back in the early 2000s? There were thousands of sudoku book published, with their clever themes and attractive covers and different skill levels. A huge boon to publishers–people were addicted to the puzzles, and sudoku was a great way to spend a boring train or subway ride.

They’re still out there, of course, but in much smaller numbers. The fad passed, and I’d wager more people are playing sudoku on their phones than packing a book and pencil for their morning commute.

Sudoku was a publishing blip. And last year it was repeated, in the colouring book.

The colouring book for adults was a huge craze in 2015. The colouring book made millions of people put their phones down in favour of their markers and pencil crayons. They are a tactile, spatial, and sensory experience. They come bundled with an appealing call back to one’s childhood.

And most amazingly, there is no digital adjunct. Colouring books have to be physically printed. An amazing boon to publishers who have the resources to deal with large-scale print publication!

They are a fad, though, and they won’t be around forever. They’re still all over the place, but in a year’s time I suspect they’ll be taking up about as much space on the shelf as sudoku books do now.

So a one-time blip in printed books led to a small increase in print sales last year. The print book isn’t dead, but one year does not make a trend.

In the meantime, what about the ebook? The publishers are seeing their ebook sales taper off, and they’re now in a plateau. What’s up with that?

The Ebook Isn’t Over

The big publishers are seeing their ebook sales decline, and their print book sales increase. So the day of the ebook is over; cancel the alarm. All is well. Right?

The new publishing model is about to devastate the big publishers, and they don’t even see it yet.

They’re blindered by their own success, by having a century of being the only game in town. So they’re not asking, if the ebook sales are slowing down for them, where are those sales going?

If colouring books are indeed the reason for the rise in print book sales last year, then ebook sales aren’t going to print. Are people just giving up on ebooks?

No. People are still buying and reading ebooks.

They’re just not reading the books that publishers are giving them.

Self-publishing is the culprit. On Amazon, at least a third of the ebook sales are self-published books, and that proportion is rising.

Meanwhile, publishers are pegging ebook prices to the hardcover prices, then the trade paperback, then the mass market paperback. They claim that the costs of the print and distribution process are so well-established and amortized that they do not significantly affect the ebook price.

This, of course, comes across to most buyers as a transparent lie. And confronted with the choice between a $21.99 ebook from an established author and a $2.99 ebook by a self-published author with hundreds of five-star reviews – well, the choice is becoming clearer and clearer.

Time to Wake Up

I remember hearing a podcast by Michael Stackpole several years ago, where he pretended to be walking through a disused book warehouse, his steps echoing loudly as he paced the empty space. His claim was that before too long, this would be the state of traditional publishing; the old model of mass printings, returns, and advances was going to be completely undermined by the new e-publishing model.

I wasn’t convinced back then, but now I’m pretty sure he was right. Books have always been only a way of delivering words in a specific order; the rest is logistics. As technology starts to provide new ways of delivering those words, every aspect of the existing publishing model is being put to the test.

Here in Canada, signs are clear that ebooks are on the rise. The National Reading Survey in 2013 showed that 7% of citizens did not read electronic publications at all; for 47% their electronic reading had not changed; 28% read moderately more electronic material, and 17% read significantly more. Those are extremely strong numbers in favour of electronic reading in general, and positive signs for ebooks.

And still the publishers remain adamant that the models will persist. The digital dust has settled. The book is back.

Cynthia’s Book Summit opening remarks were an extinction burst from the old publishing model. Publishers don’t want to confront the reality of the new world they inhabit, but they will have to, and soon.

That doesn’t mean it’s over for the traditional publishers. They’ve flourished despite huge problems in the past. They employ a great number of smart, creative people, and they have the resources and capabilities to overcome this change in publishing. (There are many hopeful signs, like Tor removing all DRM from its books a few years back.)

But they’re not going to do it by hoping that the good old days of the single traditional publishing model are going to hang around. The digital dust has far from settled; it’s about to become a digital storm. And unless publishers confront that reality and work within it, they’re in real trouble.

The book isn’t back; it never left. Now figure out where it is, and go out and get it, publishers. You’re not going to be around for too long if you don’t.