New book

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New story collection, Lands and Forests, coming in April, 2019, from Invisible.

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What You Need nominated for the Danuta Gleed Award

Really surprised, and humbled, and pleased to report that What You Need has been nominated for the Danuta Gleed Literary Award, given annually to a debut book of short fiction in Canada. Also nominated is noted layabout Kevin Hardcastle’s Debris, Heather O’Neill’s Daydreams of Angels, Hugh Graham’s Last Words, and Gerard Beirne’s In a Time of Drought and Hunger. What a thrill to be named alongside those writers and those excellent books.

To celebrate the announcement, Invisible Publishing has knocked a few coins off the price of the book, and also bundled it together with The Utility of Boredom at a great price, so if you’ve yet to read the book, hurry over to the site and take advantage.

Also, wonderfully, for today only, Found Press, who’ve published three of my stories, including two from What You Need, are offering all three for free. Make haste!

I’m grateful to the Writer’s Union of Canada, and to anyone who’s read the book, as well as everyone who’s reached out with kind words today. I woke up thinking it’d be a regular Tuesday, and then this. I’m amazed.

Four Events Down, One To Go

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Brent van Staalduinen, yours truly, Teri Vlassopolous at The Bookshelf in Guelph, Ontario (photo courtesy of Teri Vlassopolous)

It’s been a busy week, but a good one, with events in Peterborough, Ottawa, Guelph, and Toronto. I’ve had the good fortune of doing all these launches with fellow Invisible author Brent van Staalduinen (Saints, Unexpected), and we were joined in Peterborough and Guelph by the wonderful Teri Vlassopolous (Escape Plans). A big, warm thanks to everyone who came out, who listened to our readings, said hello, bought books, and said kind things. When you only come out of hiding every so often, it’s nice to be greeted by nice people. I’d also be remiss if I failed to thank Janette Platana, who joined us in Peterborough, and Phoebe Wang, who graced us with her presence in Toronto. Thanks to the venues, too, who were uniformly welcoming.

Only one more event currently scheduled, but it’s a good one: Authors for Indies is tomorrow, April 30, and I’ll be at Books and Company in Picton, Ontario from 1:00 until 4:00 making recommendations, and happy to chat, so think about stopping by if you’re in the area. Also there will be Invisible’s publisher, Leigh Nash, who’s actually a poet in real life, and poet/editor Andrew Faulkner.  Come by, say hello, and if things are slow we can go next door to Miss Lily’s, have a coffee, and talk baseball and books.

That about wraps up this round of launches and appearances, but I expect there will be more events to follow through the summer. Look for info here.

Opening Day

Hello

Hello

Opening Day is just around the corner and so, not at all coincidentally, is the official publication date of The Utility of Boredom. The book, and the baseball season, debut on Monday, April 4. I mean, technically, the first regular season games of the 2016 season take place on Sunday, April 3, but that’s just evidence of Major League Baseball’s ceaseless tinkering in the interest of drawing more viewers. Real Opening Day is on a Monday. It begins with a parade in Cincinnati. Children skip school. It’s wonderful.

Not that I won’t watch Sunday’s games. Baseball is baseball.

It wasn’t a terrifically hard winter here, but none of them are easy, and Opening Day, like Easter, is a harbinger of the season’s change. Winter is gone. That gets me excited every year, but the prospect of having a book about baseball out in the world is a unique thrill, and it makes this spring feel bigger than most.  So yeah, I’m excited. I’m excited not only because I’m proud of the contents of this book — which I am — but because the book itself is, frankly, gorgeous. It’s a lovely object. When I opened the box pictured up there above this post, I gasped. I mean, the mock-ups I’d seen were great, and I knew it was going to be a good looking book, but I wasn’t ready for the real thing. I mean, it has a scorecard in it. A real, usable scorecard. And the edge of the scorecard is perforated, so you can tear it out, take it to a game, and actually use it. I wrote a frivolous love letter to baseball, and the folks at Invisible made it into a real, practical, usable thing.

To reiterate: I am excited. The snow is gone. The baseball season is about to start. The book comes out on Monday.

I hope you’re excited, too.

And if you’ll forgive the crass commercialism of the following, if you are excited, I could use your help. If you do obtain, and read, and enjoy the book, if you think it of value to other readers you know, please tell them. Tell the world. Having watched the process with my first book, I can tell you that such things do help. So share, link, review, talk, whether on your social media platform of choice, or an online retailer, or a site like Goodreads. And this goes not just for my book(s), but any others you might read as well, especially if they’re the product of independent publishers. Same goes for art of any kind, truthfully. It helps.

Thanks, and I hope to see you soon, somewhere.

/a

PS — A great way to let Invisible Publishing know you’re excited about the book, in addition to ordering it, is to enter their Utility of Boredom Blue Jays Tickets Giveaway.  You get a shot at free baseball tickets, they get an idea of just who’s into the book. There are no losers in this scenario. You have until the final out of the Jays-Rays game on Monday, April 4 to enter. Get on it!

Meaningful Games Wrap-Up

Now that the baseball season has ended (sigh), it’s maybe time to let the world in on a little secret: the series of baseball-themed blog posts I wrote at the Invisible Publishing site were, in fact, an elaborate publicity stunt to promote The Utility of Boredom: Baseball Essays (available in April!). Diabolical, huh?

If you missed the last several entries, let’s get you caught up:

Meaningful Games: Everything is Beautiful and Nothing Makes Sense (October 15):

Baseball’s timeline is measured in seconds and decades; deep troughs of pain interspersed with dazzling moments of excitement. But if Game 5 of the ALDS didn’t fill you with a desire to risk that pain for the potential rewards this game offers, I don’t know what to tell you. You have to risk something to get something. The cards are on the table and the ante is your heart. The feelings you experienced last night–both when it looked as though things were hopeless for the Blue Jays, and when you lost your voice screaming as Bautista rounded the bases–were baseball’s reminder that things needn’t be believable to be true.

 

Meaningful Games: The Results Are In (October 20):

But without getting too rosy about things, you could sense in the Dome’s crowds, and in the blue-clad folks you’d see all over the country, something new, or something as familiar as nostalgia; positivity, or maybe just weariness with all that negativity, which is pretty much the same thing. Belief in the Jays spread across the nation like a populist movement. Give us change, folks said. And give us a World Series, too.

 

Meaningful Games: Distortions, Aberrations, and the Potential for Heartbreak (October 21):

We signed up for something over which we can exert no control; for faint possibilities and the near certainty of disappointment. Sometimes the reward is triumph. Sometimes it’s only that experience of hope. Sometimes it’s levity, as when, trailing last night by a hundred runs, Jays manager John Gibbons sent infielder Cliff Pennington out to pitch an inning in order to save his bullpen arms for another day. This, if you’re just joining us, happens sometimes, and it’s always silly and strange and charmingly amusing. It’d be more amusing, of course, if it didn’t suggest your team was losing, but when it’s all you’ve got, you take it. There’s a warm humanity to it, something like make-believe, people switching roles, pantomiming their peers, or dusting off skills they haven’t exercised since Little League. In the end, though, it usually ends up affirming why pitchers do what they do, and why position players do something else.

 

Meaningful Games:  Hotline Bling (October 23):

The Blue Jays feel as homey and trusted and safe to me as Jerry Howarth’s voice on my car radio as I drive the 401 between Kingston and Port Hope, or wend through cottage country, or take County Road 23 up through Buckhorn. “The Blue Jays are in flight,” he’ll say when they score their first run, or “And there she goes!” when somebody hits one out, just as he’s been saying it on every radio and in every car I’ve owned for years and years and years. How can that experience—so familiar to me, so seemingly mine—jive with the experience of the untold millions out there who’re also familiar with the team, to whatever degree? This is some real epistemological sidetracking, I know. But how can they be so many things at once? How can Toronto be so many places at once? And why can’t I get “Hotline Bling” out of my head?

 

Meaningful Games: The End of Something (October 27):

One minute it was all happening, and the next, well. It was quick. Then the realization that the season is over and it will soon be November—for my money the dreariest spot on the calendar. It’ll be months before we once again see Kevin Pillar leave earth in pursuit of a fly ball, or Josh Donaldson doing something astonishing, or Jose Bautista furiously swatting a fastball left out over the plate. The season is long and overfull, but then it is gone and we’re bereft.

 

Meaningful Games: Wait Till Next Year (November 2):

The Mets got steamrolled by a better team. Not that that salves the burn one bit. Likewise, as a Jays fan, maybe I ought to take some comfort in knowing what the Royals were made of; maybe there’s less shame in losing to the clear champs. Maybe.

Catching Up with Meaningful Games

I’ve been writing blog posts about postseason baseball over at Invisible Publishing’s site, but I’ve been lousy about updating this site to reflect that. So, to catch up:

Meaningful Games: Drama (October 8)

Regarding the Blue Jays, there is a lot to see and hear and read today, probably a lot more than there was the last time the team prepared to throw open the gates of the SkyDome for a playoff game, so I don’t want to get in the way of your taking all that in. I only want to tell you that in grade seven, in Mr. Barrett’s drama class, I conceived of, wrote, and performed a wordless dramatic piece about the Pirates and the Blue Jays in the World Series. It was called “Game 7,” and in it the Blue Jays won.

 

Meaningful Games: That One Hurt (October 10)

But whether or not Odor’s foot came off the bag (it did) and regardless of Tulowitzki’s tag (he got him), and notwithstanding how that would have altered the outcome of the game (they’d have gotten out of the inning and then scored in the bottom half and we’d all be hungover with joy today, not abject misery), it’s probably necessary to pan back a bit and remember that this, in all its heartrending glory, is baseball.

 

Meaningful Games:  Thanksgiving (October 14)

Well fed and watered, sitting on that couch, watching the unsung Marco Estrada spin magic and Troy Tulowitzki send a rope to left field and drive in four runs, talking baseball with a relative, I felt wonderful. I felt sustained. Sometimes, baseball is shorthand for the people it invites into our lives, and those loved ones with whom we’ll share it.

Meaningful Games: Twenty-Two Years

So now that they’ve done this—and to be clear, this isn’t enough, this is only one step closer, but still, it’s something wonderful—you see just how you’d internalized that, the losing, the not-quite-winning-enough, the third- and fourth- and fifth-place finishes, so that all that was left of the big years was a set of memories, stashed-away souvenirs, and a yearning so old you’d accommodated it physically, like shrapnel, or the dull pain of ancient heartache.

on the Blue Jays winning the AL East, for the Invisible Publishing blog

Free Sample of The Utility of Boredom (plus pre-orders!)

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Got that postseason baseball fever? Can’t stop thinking about your team? Been wearing a jersey to the office? Head on over to the Invisible site today and download a FREE sample of The Utility of Boredom. Four essays from the book, hand-picked for your early reading pleasure, delivered to you in handy EPUB format. You can also pre-order a digital or hard copy of the entire book to be delivered around Opening Day next year.

Meaningful Games: Listen to This Crowd!

The Yanks arrived in Toronto this week trailing the Jays by two-and-a-half games, after Toronto dropped a weekend series against last-place Boston and the Yanks took two of three from their crosstown rivals (though Sunday’s victory was less a Yankees win and more a quintessentially Mets-ian bungle). Even those with only the barest understanding of the standings’ trigonometric formulae could tell you: if New York were to sweep, there’d be a flip-flop atop the East.

“Meaningful Games: “Listen to This Crowd!” for the Invisiblog

Meaningful Games: Atlanta

Nothing guarantees anything, of course, least of all the acquisition of a starting pitcher, but maybe it tilts the odds a bit. Who knows. Cone wasn’t actually all that dominant late in the summer and through the autumn of 1992, but perhaps his arrival goosed the energy around the team somewhat. At any rate, they made the Series, flew down to Atlanta, former president Jimmy Carter threw out the first pitch, and Tom Glavine beat Jack Morris to give Atlanta a one-game lead. Before the second game the Marine Corps Color Guard flew our flag upside down, in what was maybe a terrible indignity, or maybe a sweet encapsulation of the relationship between our two nations. I’m still not quite sure.

— I’ll be blogging regularly over at the Invisible Publishing site, about the pennant race and such, from now until the end of the season in a series called Meaningful Games. The first post, entitled “Atlanta,” is now up.