The blog posting about cats

My mum is turning 79 on the 26th of April. She’s a big cat lover and I guess I am too. (Not to the point of spending my spare time making LOLCAT pictures of my two fuzzy friends. No … wait. I do make the occasional funny picture and post it on my 22 yr-old son’s Facebook page.)

Mom would prefer that I put a cat in every single one of my books and I’ve tried … there’s a cat in POLTERGEEKS at the start of the story and there’s a cat as a main character in my novel UNSEEN WORLD. Both are Siamese cats – I had one growing up. He was basically my best pal until he died of feline leukemia when I was twelve. I’m not going to talk about my many cats over the years, but I would love to hear about your favorite cats in the books that you’ve read. In celebration of all things feline, here’s a quick sample from my book UNSEEN WORLD. It’s where Walter the Cat is described by his owner, the 40-something superhero named Marshall Conrad. Oh … and there’s the start of a May-December romance thingy. Enjoy!

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AmazonaGoodreadasaurus Rex


It was only a matter of time.

There, I said it.

As an author, I tend to gravitate from a visceral hatred of Amazon and what its buying power has done to the publishing industry over the past decade not to mention how its self-publishing arm has flooded the ebook market with metric tonnes of books that wouldn’t past muster with an agent in this galaxy thereby making it harder for published authors like myself to have their works noticed by the book buying public … to sheer wonder at how this corporate behemoth is the now world’s defacto book store. I’m sort of where author Chuck Wendig is on the whole thing:

Let’s be very clear – Amazon exists to make money.  By purchasing Goodreads, they see a place where 16 million potential book buyers hang out to socialize about their favorite thing in the world – books. That’s 16 million people who might have access to 16 million credit cards – if they buy one book a month, just one … holy, crap, over. That’s enough revenue to pay off the national debt of Cyprus over and over and over again.  Now, the reaction I’ve read online to the news since it was revealed to the world yesterday is mixed, I think, but I will offer this much: Amazon, whether you love or loathe them gets it. They have transformed the publishing industry in ways that have left most industry watchers breathless and traditional competition like Barnes & Noble choking on their dust. Amazon is planet Earth’s bookstore.

I repeat: Amazon is planet Earth’s bookstore. Period. End of story.

And in buying Goodreads, I believe Amazon is taking a fairly massive risk that if it works, will payoff in ways that Amazon shareholders can only dream of. That risk is this: Goodreads is for readers.

It’s not for authors.

It’s not for publishers.

It’s for readers.

It’s well established among bloggers and regular users of the site who’ve rightly jumped down the throats of authors with the peculiar habit of usng venue as a location for an epic public meltdown against bad reviews that Goodreads is for readers and readers only. And here’s the thing: reviewers don’t like their reviews being f#cked with. Like, ever. Herein lies the challenge for Amazon as it takes over the site – are they going to let it continue in its current incarnation or are they going to mess with the very simple formula that made Goodreads the massive success that it is already? My hunch is they probably won’t, but then again, Amazon has had some spectacular public relations cock-ups over the past few years, most recently the one where authors can’t review other authors books in a bid to clamp down on fake reviews and gaming the system. Who knows, really?

A lot of questions remain unanswered, though.  Like, will Goodreads reviews become integrated with existing reviews on Amazon’s main site? Will new tools be developed that will allow authors to promote their books on Goodreads? Will the site itself become an eyesore of flash widgets advertising books? Will it cost more for publishers to advertise on the site? It’s early days still – who knows what this is going to look like twelve months from now. Who knows if Shelfari is going to wind up getting shut down and who knows whether an anti-Amazon backlash will form in the weeks and months ahead.

Will there be a new Goodreads emerging in the not-too-distant future – one that isn’t owned by Amazon and one that allows reviewers to enjoy social networking about books free of the all-seeing eye of Amazon?

Yes.  I just can’t see how there won’t be. The reason for this is simple: I think people want an independent venue to do social networking about books. I’m not predicting an exodus of Goodreads users when and if this new site emerges, that will depend entirely on whether or not Amazon/Goodreads messes with people’s reviews.

So, there you have it. My two cents. Amazon continues to blow the traditional concept of publishing out of the water. They continue to define the future of books and traditional publishing looks more and more like a Norman Rockwell painting – something quaint and from a bygone era.

But by God, Amazon gets it. They totally get it.

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A 1000 followers, a 1000 thanks and some SWAG!

I finally hit a thousand Twitter followers yesterday – hi new followers! In celebration, I’m giving away a copy of my novels, SHADE FRIGHT, FUNERAL PALLOR, UNSEEN WORLD & POLTERGEEKS. To sweeten the deal even more, I’m giving away the POLTERGEEKS audio book!  Have a listen, won’t you?

 

I needed about twelve more followers yesterday afternoon so I’m picking one of the twelve who answered the call on Twitter. (Thanks to everyone who did retweets!) And the winner is …

Courtney McDonald @shesthelittle1

So, Courtney, send me an email to infoATseanDASHcummingsDOTca and I”ll send you some serious bookage! Thanks to everyone!!

 

 

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Wherein I save Barnes & Noble/Chapters-Indigo & get a Knighthood

Further to a posting I did a couple of weeks ago where I suggested that ;book bloggers (and book forum members) can and should be the salvation of the book section in your local newspaper, I’ve decided to save big box booksellers.

Amazon is killing you. Solution? Turn your websites into a social networking hub. Tap into the power of the blogosphere. Bloggers and book forums have a built-in social network whereas you, dear big box bookseller, don’t. Some of you are trying to reinvent the wheel and I’m simply saying that you don’t have to. Bloggers blog and review for the pure love of books. It is their passion. Call me crazy, but that’s a fairly solid framework from which to build something.

Have blogger events in-house, too! They will share EVERYTHING within their social network – they’ll live blog, live tweet, record on an iPhone and post onto YouTube. Are you getting me yet big box chains? No? Here, I made you a pretty picture:

 

So what do you think? Personally, I say they’re nuts not to. Also, I technically don’t qualify for a Knighthood because Canadians can’t get them anymore. Dammit.

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22 Years Ago This Week – My First Attempt At Getting Published

Remember 1991? I do.

My soon to be 23 year-old son was still in diapers. I was a very young man in the military, though I’d already been serving for more than five years at the time.

And I was writing. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing  mind you, but I knew it was something I had to do. I’d never tried something so ambitious as to write a novel – instead I tinkered with short stories with horrible titles like Gore Town.  (I won’t be resurrecting this story any time soon, by the way. It’s just terrible.) As a young father, though, I wanted to write stories that I could tell my then nine-month-old son when he was old enough to understand what the hell I was talking about. So, in the fall of 1990, I sat down at my brother electric typewriter and penned a children’s story (picture book) that sort of fell out of my head and onto the page.

Written in verse, it’s a nonsense story about a hapless father who can’t cook if his life depended on it. The only problem is that he’s the world’s greatest chef in his mind. Its original title was “Cooking … with Dad!” later renamed “Rutabaga Swish” and after a few revisions, I decided that it didn’t suck on an epic scale. I even spent that Christmas wondering if I might actually try to get it published. But how the hell do you get a children’s story (or any story) published in those pre-Internet days, right? My first stop was the library. I talked with a very helpful librarian at the Village Square library in Calgary and she’d managed to have a few short stories published in a couple of anthologies. She told me the borrow The Canadian Writer’s Market and a handful of other books. I spent January 1991 reading up on the process of getting published which nowadays looks like ridiculously labour intensive process:

1) Type your manuscript on really damned good paper that publishers won’t immediately toss in the trash.

2) Type a query letter on the same damned good paper.

3) Insert query letter in a business envelope along with a self addressed stamped envelope for the publisher to write back telling you to either send more or burn your story because it’s just that bad.

4) Wait impatiently for up to a year to hear back.

That was it. Boom.

The waiting process can still be just as long but at least in 2013 you can use MS Word which makes writing a breeze. You can also email your query which saves on the cost of paper, stamps, envelopes and frustration.

I queried all over the place – anyone who published children’s stories in Canada received my query. After a long two years of querying, I received the loveliest rejection in the world from Coteau Books in Regina, Saskatchewan which I still have. It’s my most cherished possession as an author because it was written proof that I didn’t suck and that I might make a go of this whole writing gig. They’d rejected the story with a standard form letter but the following was hand-written at the bottom of the query letter:

“Cooking … with Dad! was being seriously considered by our readers until we changed our focus. It should go far.”

At any rate, that was some seriously cool validation in my then 25 year-old mind. It took nearly two decades until I actually got to hold a book I wrote in my hands. (Shade Fright – published by Snowbooks in 2010)

The moral of my story is quite simple: your path toward publication requires two things. Write all the time. Keep pressing on.

That’s really my best advice to anyone. It may take nearly two decades, it might not. But you just have to write and keep trying to get better. You must believe that being published will one day happen and you have to hone your craft. I’ll mark this little anniversary by posting that first children’s story below. I hope you get a kick out of it:

 

Cooking … with Dad!

By Sean Cummings

 

My name is Beth and I’m sick as heck, my Dad is home

today.

He’s cooking supper, here! Tonight! I wonder what mom

will say?


It’s not that he can’t cook because my Dad is very

smart,

Every time he bakes a cake my mother calls it “art”.


He keeps peculiar recipes for foods too strange to eat,

Funny things, like garlic rings or pickled lobster feet.


Last summer we went picnicking out by Ramsey Creek,

Dad brought his home made spinach pie, YUCK! It

looked terrible to eat!


It was green like swampy crabgrass and it oozed

inside the crust,

Dad wanted everyone eat to it but that meal we

couldn’t trust.


“My home-made spinach pie!” he chimed as he went to

take a bite,

 

Mom and I turned away, we couldn’t bear the sight.


“Slurp, munch… hey, phooey! Yuck!” Dad cried. I

guess it wasn’t good,

“That’s the last time I make spinach pie, the last

time anyone should!”


Last week he made a special meal called “Brussel

Sprout’s Ole”,

Dad tasted some, his face turned red and then I

heard him say… 

 

“I need a glass of water.”  

 

“What’s wrong?” I asked. Dad looked at me while

sipping on his drink.

He sighed, “Why don’t we take this awful stuff and

pour it down the sink?” 

Last month he cooked a casserole called “Rutabaga

Swish”.

Plop! It made a sticky sound when it landed in my

dish.

Dad tried a mouthful, he wrinkled his nose… then his

eyes began to roll.

“This meal is bad, it’s terrible! We should bury it

in a hole!” 

On Mother’s Day a breakfast feast for everyone to

try.

 

Onion jam on whole wheat toast and banana pepper

pie. 

Dad served it on a silver tray. Mom looked at him

and said,

“This breakfast looks quite ghoulish; I’m going back

to bed.” 

 

Two weeks ago, a Sunday brunch of creamy turnip

stew.

Mashed potato crunch in a bowl, and radish curdle

chew.


Dad served the meal with crackers and hot napkins on

the side,

The smell was pretty bad that day; our dog ran off

to hide. 

 

Of course he also cooks… 

 

Spicy lemon sausage rolls, peanut butter soup.

Roast broccoli in barley sauce, beet and kiwi goop.

French fried eggplant, zucchini quiche, macaroni

strudel!

Marinated mushroom buns, bologna steaks and

noodles! 

He cooks and cooks and cooks and cooks! I wonder

when he’ll stop?

It’s not like everything he tries to make won’t

surely somehow flop. 

Last Christmas it was sauerkraut-asparagus soufflé.

He topped it off with carrot glop and tuna fish

paté

At Thanksgiving we had turkey taco and pineapple

ketchup cake.

There was steaming spicy head cheese salad, and

Cornish liver bake. 

Hot pepperoni cookies, oyster soup surprise

Easy barbecued pumpkin seeds, unusual tarts and

pies. 

Sweet potato goulash, bell pepper custard squares.

Parsnip relish, deviled beans and cheese, tangy

shrimp éclairs… 

 

“Beth, it’s time for supper!”  

 

“Oh no!” I take my seat, it’s time to eat. I turn

and face my plate.

“I’m glad to see you’re here,” Dad says, “I was

worried you’d be late.” 

“Something smells good”, my mother says. Dad smiles

down at me.

“What exactly did you cook, what in heaven can it

be?” 

Dad places a pot in front of me, then gently lifting

up the lid,

Steam billows out and fills the room. Dad giggles

like a kid. 

He clutches a pair of tongs, reaches deep inside the

pot.

“Be careful now,” my mother says. The meal is piping

hot. 

Then Dad pulls out what looks like…

 

A hot dog.

 

“Hot dogs?”

 

“That’s right!” 

“No more alphabet buckwheat pancakes, no more bacon

and squash supreme.

No more backyard skillet stroganoff or wilted

lettuce cream.” 

“No more deep fried ice cream sandwiches or zesty

oxtail curry.

No more carrot cashew suppers that I whip up in a

hurry!” 

“I’ve decided to cook hot dogs and that’s all if you

care to look.

I will boil or fry your hot dogs until the day I

learn to cook!” 

Well, now we eat a lot of hot dogs.

Hot dogs, hot dogs, hot dogs … what are we to do?

It’s either wieners on a bun to eat or Dad’s awful

mustard stew!

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