Monday, August 31, 2015

A hijacking, and bureaucracy bites back

Today, I’ve hijacked Misha Gericke’s blog, in the nicest way of course, to talk about the need for research in speculative fiction. Why not pop over and say “Hello”?

I’m preparing to give a talk at the Sidney library on “A Writer’s Visual Toolkit” - based on a series of blog posts I wrote a few years ago.

And further to last week’s post about my paperbacks snared in DHL-land, I filled in and emailed the form they needed last weekend. One week later, having heard nothing further and seeing my shipment still showing as awaiting customs clearance on their tracking site, I called again.

A very apologetic lady looked into it and said I should have received an email with the amount of duty payable. Had I? No! She told me how much was owing and gave me instructions for paying online. Duties paid, and I have my receipt to prove it - see, they do know my email address, they just don’t seem to know how to use it - I’m now back to the waiting game...

Saturday, August 22, 2015

A mention, a giveaway, and more bureaucracy vanquished!

Today, Tiamat’s Nest is featured over at Unicorn Bell. Please drop over and say “Hi.”

I’m also running a giveaway on Goodreads, with the chance to win a free paperback.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Tiamat's Nest by Ian S. Bott

Tiamat's Nest

by Ian S. Bott

Giveaway ends September 30, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Speaking of paperbacks, I’m waiting for a shipment from CreateSpace so I can sell direct to friends and colleagues locally. Yesterday I got an email from DHL Canada requesting some details from me before the shipment can clear customs. When I looked at the form they sent me, everything looked easy except the last line where they ask me for my Business Registration Number with the note that my company must be registered as an importer in order to get a release.

Holy fees and forms, Batman! I started to panic. I felt like my small box of books was being held hostage by kidnappers, and fully expected the cost of releasing it to far outweigh the value of the package. However, I decided long ago to treat this writing lark properly as a business, so I gritted my teeth and prepared to do battle once more with the bureaucracy involved.

When I decided to self-publish, I chose to make things official. Not that I ever expect to make enough to buy anything more than a cup of coffee, but, ya know, just in case... So here is a quick summary for anyone else thinking of doing the same in Canada.

Because I’m operating under my own name as a sole proprietor I don’t need to register my business in BC, but I do have a business license to operate in my municipality. This is what I regard as making me “official.”

Being “official” brings benefits. I get to claim legitimate expenses against tax, and as a sole proprietorship the process is easy in Canada, just an additional form to submit along with my personal tax return. I was also able to get an Employer Identification Number with the US IRS - an easy thing to do over the phone rather than the horrendous process to get an Individual Tax Identification Number - so I don’t get dinged US tax at source.

In BC, businesses have two sales taxes to deal with. Luckily books are exempt from BC’s Provincial Sales Tax, and I’d love to have the kind of turnover that would require me to account for the Goods & Services Tax, so I never expected to have to deal with the Canada Revenue Agency.

All that changed last night, because CRA is the body that issues Business Registration Numbers.

I did some research and found to my relief that the process is fairly painless, and free! Having already laid the groundwork, I was able to go to the CRA website and say “Yes, I’m a business.” They asked lots of questions about name and contact details several times over, which was irksome but not difficult. A little while later, I had my Business Number, which is a nine-digit number that uniquely identifies businesses in Canada. You then ask for relevant “Program Accounts” depending on what activities you need to have associated with your business. Most often, businesses will need an account for GST, but in this case I needed to register an account as an importer of goods. And that was it! I am now officially an importer, and I had the information I needed to finish off DHL’s form.

Now, hopefully, I can get my grubby mitts on my books. After all, the package has only been sitting in DHL’s warehouse for 11 days before they deigned to contact me!

Have any of you had to deal with officialdom just to get supposedly easy things done? How did things work for you?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Homeward bound

We said a reluctant farewell to Magna Bay, and headed back towards Vancouver for our last stop. Our route took us down the magnificent Coquihalla highway winding through the mountains in sinuous loops.

3 nights at Brae Island, Fort Langley

Another spacious and well-appointed campground and another check on the “to be revisited” list. All told, we’ve done pretty well this trip thanks to Ali, the tireless Internet travel agent.

This was our shortest stop, nothing more than a layover on our return journey, so we didn’t plan on doing a lot. Walked across the river to historic Fort Langley, of course...
Where we learned about the trading history of BC
And glimpsed life as a pioneer

...mooched around the pretty town with its colonial-style buildings...

...and most of the rest of our time was spent lazing by the river.
Our campground is just behind those trees on the right
And a mile's cycle through the woods brought us to the tip of Brae Island


Finally, it was time to pack up for the last time and head to the ferry. The one slight oversight on our part was that we were traveling back on the Friday of a holiday weekend - BC Day on Monday - so we had a 3-hour wait before we were able to sail. Something to bear in mind another year.

Summary: 18 nights, 4 stops, 1,600km driven. Wildlife: Bald eagles, deer, ground squirrels, rocky mountain goats, a brief glimpse of a bear. Lots of new experiences for the kids, lots of reminiscences for us.

When we started planning this trip, the kids had qualms about all the packing, unpacking, and long drives in between. At the end of the trip, the big question on their minds? Can we do it again next year?

Monday, August 10, 2015

Release update and spooky coincidences


In the awkward silence that followed, Joseph glanced over her shoulder and his blood froze. “Exit.” The word came out as a hoarse whisper.

There was something wrong with the willowy avatar sashaying towards them across the hall. The customization was phenomenal, but porcelain skin didn’t quite hide the hint of golden scales. He stood, transfixed by dead black eyes.


Joseph snapped back to reality. “Exit! Now!”

“I don’t—”

“Just exit, while you still can.” Without waiting to see if Serena was obeying, Joseph pushed past her and ran at the menacing apparition. He hoped this zone enforced physical rules about cohabiting space. He should be able to block the approaching danger while Serena escaped.

It seemed as if his eyes couldn’t quite focus, or as if two avatars were occupying the same space. The tall and curvy blonde in a red kimono had initially caught his eye, but scales and fangs were coming into sharper focus. Claw-tipped fingers reached for him. Ghostly wings enfolded him.


Tiamat’s Nest is on schedule for official release August 29. Although everything is ready and waiting, and in principle I could release it for sale anytime now, I’m sticking with the schedule as previously announced. It also means you still have a chance to get the e-book at the pre-order offer price of $0.99 until the end of the month.

Meanwhile, I couldn’t help but be slightly spooked by a post on Chuck Wendig’s blog yesterday.

Chuck is launching his new book, Zer0es, this month. It’s a man-versus-machine end-of-the-world thriller. At that 40,000-foot level it has themes in common with Tiamat’s Nest, though of course the actual stories are entirely different. But what caught my eye was that Zer0es features a computer program called Typhon. Tiamat’s Nest features a computer program called Typhoon. Spooky, huh?

OK, back on planet Earth, the paperback version of Tiamat’s Nest is now available on Amazon, and speaking of offers, I have reduced the price of Ghosts of Innocence to $0.99 through to the end of September.

Friday, August 7, 2015

The third leg

When breaking camp, we’ve always packed up neatly - stowing things like camp stove and barbecue and picnic shelter in their proper places before moving off. By now we were getting good at packing up quickly and throwing things into the trailer ready to drag out again at the other end. This traveling day marked the midpoint of our trip, saying goodbye to Penticton and heading north to Shuswap lake.

Ali and I stayed at a campground on Shuswap years ago, and we chose this spot as a good base to explore the region further. We weren’t able to get into the same campground again, but were just around the corner ... weren’t we? OK, the map really doesn’t do justice to how big some of these lakes are. From the turnoff to that old campground, it was another hour’s drive along the highway and then on a narrow twisty lakeside road before we reached our destination for our third stay.

6 nights at Magna Bay resort, Shuswap Lake

If first impressions of Penticton were bad, first impressions of Magna Bay were awesome. So good, in fact, that I wondered what the downside was going to be. There had to be a downside, didn’t there? Well, really there wasn’t.

The campground is very new and spacious. They are geared up to selling the pitches to permanent buyers and there was already a growing community of “regulars” there. Megan and Matthew soon made friends with other teens on the campground, and hung out a lot on the beach and the on-site games room.

Being so out-of-the-way, we were pleased to find a very well-provisioned store a few minutes’ walk away. We also didn’t do as much traveling off site as we’d intended. We took one day trip (3 hours’ drive each way) to Roger’s Pass to show the kids some real mountains. This was one of our must-do activities, revisiting the scenery we remembered from years ago.

The kids were excited to see up-close some of the mile-long freight trains that accompany the highway across the province.

Apart from that, we made the most of facilities on the lake and nearby...

After scorching temperatures the previous week, it was actually a blessing to get some rain this week. We had one torrential downpour one night...
...and sporadic showers breaking the sunshine on other days, but it brought the temperature down to tolerable levels and eased some fears about the many wildfires breaking out across the province this summer.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Our BC tour part deux

Our camping trip this summer broke new ground for us in many ways. It was our first foray off the island with the trailer, the first time the kids have seen anything much on the mainland beyond Vancouver, our longest camping trip (since moving to Canada, anyway) and the first time we’ve planned multiple stops. After an activity-filled few days at Cultus Lake, it was time for our first move...

5 nights at Lake Skaha, Penticton

After a four-hour drive meandering through Manning Provincial Park and twisting minor highways to Penticton, our first impressions of Lake Skaha campground were not good. When we saw the pitch we had to cram ourselves into, tempers frayed and we came close to tears realizing that this was our home for almost a week. Positioning ourselves to open the slide on one side with less than an inch to spare before we hit the utilities post, we still couldn’t open the awning fully on the other side, it was that narrow. Our carefully-planned vacation seemed to have taken a nosedive.

We normally have everything unpacked and camp set up inside an hour of unhitching the trailer. This time, we had to take a stroll through a nearby park to collect our thoughts before tackling the question of how to lay out our living space. Eventually, we squeezed Megan’s tiny tent into the gap between our trailer and our neighbors, and set up picnic table and cooking area around the hitch at the front instead of alongside the trailer. It was cramped, but workable.

We determined to make the best of it and soon forgot those disastrous first impressions. Although the site was small, the location had a lot to offer. There was a beautiful park, beach and lake just across the road where we spent many hours walking, sitting, and swimming.

We had to walk all of 50 yards from our trailer to find ourselves here...

This was an early-morning shot. The lake is normally buzzing with activity...

In the end, we had a fabulous time in Penticton. These were the hottest days of our trip, with temperatures in the high thirties (Celcius - around a hundred Fahrenheit) most of the time. As well as the beach on our doorstep, we checked out a couple of other beaches a short drive away where dogs were allowed, and took a day trip to Wildplay at Kelowna.

Wildplay - an aerial obstacle course. Rope swings, cargo nets, bridges, ziplines...
BTW - yes, we are wearing safety harnesses and are hooked on at all times

One evening, we treated ourselves to a wonderful meal at Theo’s restaurant which Ali and I remembered from our fist visit to Canada 19 years ago. We were glad to see it was still there, and the food still as good.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Touring (a corner of) the BC mainland

After six consecutive years we decided to give Pacific Playgrounds a miss this year and go further afield for our main camping trip. Nothing against our regular spot, but it was time for a change, and we’d often talked about showing the kids some more of this vast province.

This expedition took more planning than usual if we wanted to avoid horrendously long days of traveling, so we booked short stays near Vancouver on the outward and return journeys, and two longer stays in the Interior. Ali is our family travel agent, and she was close to tearing her hair out looking for decent spots with good facilities on the days we needed, but a plan came together in the end.

We have a well-worn routine these days when setting off for camp. The trailer is loaded and ready during the days beforehand, and hitched up ready to roll the night before. This just leaves the last-minute ritual ferrying of bags of groceries across the drive as we empty fridge and larder, and we’re away.

Usually this marks the start of a long drive, but we live just a few minutes away from the ferry terminal so the majority of that first journey was actually spent on the ferry. No great hardship, because the Swartz Bay to Tsawassen trip is a calm and picturesque glide between islands with views of rugged coastlines and occasional wildlife.

Once on the other side, we’d forgotten what a long trek it was through the suburban sprawl of the Vancouver environs, but memories came flooding back as we hit the open highway and headed into the countryside of the lower mainland. A short while later, we were onto minor roads and our first stop at Cultus Lake.

4 nights at Sunnyside campground, Cultus Lake

A large campground with generous pitches set in trees, and a long stretch of beach on the lake. I think when we arrived they must have recently had rain because first impressions of the pitch were dark and damp, but the ground soon dried out and we know from experience to value shade in a typical BC summer.

Overall, this was a lovely campground that we’d be happy to return to in future years.

The kids enjoyed paddling their kayaks out on the lake, and just a few minutes’ cycle away there was a water slide park and a small but beautifully-laid out adventure park, which happily occupied two of our afternoons. The best part about these out-of-the-way parks was that, apart from a couple of rides, there were no line ups for anything so with our all-day passes it was uninterrupted enjoyment with little time waiting around.

Megan spent a couple of hours on this ride alone

To be continued ...

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