Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Why I Write - By Michael Hiebert

Hi! I'm substituting in for a blog post for Leo today. Don't worry, she's doing the same thing on my blog, so if you want to read her (and of course you do), you can scoot on over to my blog at and see what she has to say right now.

Okay, for the few of you that are left, I want to thank you for humoring me. I'll try to make this an enjoyable read and, (and this part will be the toughest) I'll try to keep it short.

I'm sure most of you have no idea who I am. There might be one or two. Mom, are you out there? Well, I'm an author who's been struggling to get published and become a "professional" for the last ten years. Ten years ago I walked out of my "real" job and never again worked a job that required me to wear anything more than my underwear. And I didn't work much. Mainly, I spent every minute of my waking hours thinking about or actually performing writing.

Usually a very dramatic one. Unfortunately, it nearly always ends up being a tragedy.

People either don't have the patience it takes and so they quit, or they don't have the luck it takes and so they go through their entire life thinking they just aren't good enough.

Yesterday, I had my first major book released by a New York publisher. The novel's called Dream with Little Angels and the publisher is Kensington. So far, the book has been unbelievably well received and even managed to get a starred review on Publisher's Weekly. On July 7th, the New York Times will be reviewing it. If they review it favorably, I have no mental concept of what could be the result. The New York Times reviews can create bestsellers—it's called "making the list" in book circles; that list being the New York Times bestseller list.

I'm trying not to even consider that possibility, although my agent and my editor both seem to think it's in the realm of likelihood.

All I know is that whether I "make the list" or not, one thing is for certain: I will not change. I've had too much change in my life. And I've worked at this too hard. Even if I pull in a million dollars, when I think of the time I've spent working at my writing, it's not a huge amount of money when you amortize it across all those hours.

At least I keep telling myself that.

But then, when my agent called me two years ago to tell me she'd made the sale my reaction surprised her. And yes, it took two years for the book to go from being sold to coming to market—and this was a finished book. I didn't have to rewrite a word of it.

My reaction to her news was very nonchalant. Not because I wasn't happy, more because I'd spent ten years working at it. It was damn well time it happened. In a way, I was angry. Angry that she expected me to yell and scream and jump up and down for something I had expected to happen eight years earlier.

Why did it take two years for my book to go from sale to being published? Simple. Publishing moves at a glacial pace unless you're doing it on your own as an Indie author. I actually do both. I write so much content that I have far more than I could possibly sell to a single publisher, so I put much of it out under my own imprint (which is a fancy name for "publishing company"). My imprint is called DangerBoy Books.

If it's any consolation, after I hung up from my conversation that day with agent having told me I finally sold my first book and sat down and actually thought about everything, I did get pretty happy. But not over the moon happy. She sold that same publisher a second book—a sequel—six months later, entirely on proposal. That made me happier.

But the main reason I wasn't exploding with combustible energy was because something happened to me throughout those ten years I wrote so many words and so many novels (I managed to complete sixteen books and over a hundred short stories); I stopped writing in hope of being published and started writing for myself. I wrote to entertain me.

I write very fast. I used to keep track of the number of words I crafted every year. For two years running, I managed to make it over the million mark. And I wrote those words because I was telling myself stories. I would sit down at my keyboard and just start typing, having no idea what was going to happen next. When you type as fast as I do and stop caring about the rest of the world, the words just come to you and your characters really do dictate their own story. It was like reading a book, only a book with a secret plot, kept squirreled away between me and the right side of my own brain.

And that led to another funny thing happening. Turns out that writing is just like every other craft in the world. If you do a lot of it, you simply get better at it. I was doing writing like Robert Downey Jr. used to do cocaine and one day I noticed that, hey, I was starting to get pretty good. So I started taking it seriously again. But not too seriously. I didn't want to ruin the covenant between me and my brain.

Lately, though, I think it's something else pushing me on. I am still writing fast. I started a new novel three days ago and I am already twenty thousand words into it and have the proposal a fair way done. Probably in another week it will be at a stage where I can stop working on it for now and sell it.

See? There's that "sell it" thing at the end and the part about "stop working on it for now" which means I'm no longer doing it to entertain myself. I think now I'm doing it to entertain other people.

 I'll divulge a secret: I have horrible stage fright. I know what you're thinking: oh, don't worry about that, we all do. Take Toastmasters or some sort of public speaking course. Well, let me explain something. I did take Toastmasters once. They made me the Timer and just having that much attention focused on me made me have to run to the restroom halfway through the evening and throw up. The Timer.

But when I write, I can say anything I want to say and everything I've always wished I could say. I can shout things out from rooftops. I can be a boy again, only this time not one afraid of all the other boys. I can be one of the jockey guys who hung out together and laughed when the ones like me with the arm full of binders and textbooks slunk by them in the halls. Or I can be one of those girls, those deliriously beautiful girls with the glossy lip balm and the sparkly eyes who stood by their lockers as long as they could between classes chatting and giggling in ways that made my heart miss beats.

 And who knows? Now that I'm being published, maybe after I'm gone someone will find one of my books somewhere all dogeared and creased and, peering at the crinkled cover, read my name wondering who this Michael Hiebert guy was and what the heck did he have to say that was so gall dang important that he had to put it in a book anyway?

And maybe he'll buy that book and take it home and read it and I'll get one final person enjoying my work even without me here.

I like that possibility. I like it a lot.

So why do I write? It's definitely not for the money, so far that's been ridiculously minimal. And it's definitely not for the women, those ones from school never did notice me, even after I grew up. And it's certainly not to entertain myself anymore.

So my choices are getting pretty thin. But I think I know what it is.

When I think about it, really there's nothing closer to me than my writing.

Like I said, it's a covenant. It's a small piece of me, containing a little bit of my thoughts a tiny slice of my heart, and a sprinkling of my humor. Along with a dash of my dark wit that gets me into so much trouble sometimes.

But mostly, it's a chance to leave those little pieces of me behind when I go, just a tiny hint of me left for someone else to discover. For someone to maybe look at and think: he was here.

Yeah. That's it. I was here.

Michael out.

Michael Hiebert is the award winning author of the critically acclaimed mystery Dream with Little Angels. He lives in British Columbia, Canada, and spends a lot of his time writing. When he's not writing, he enjoys reading graphic novels, building Lego with his youngest son, Legend, and hanging out with his two older children, a boy named Sagan and a daughter called Valentine. He wants to sincerely thank Leo for allowing him to ramble on someone else's site other than his own for once.

He can be contacted a number of ways:
His website is: 
He's on Facebook at: 
His twitter handle is: @Hiebert_M

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Wine...So Many Bottles, So Few Glasses

By now, you’ve probably guessed that wine plays a fair part in my book, Hemphill Towers. But wine is so much more than just a tasty sip from a beautiful bottle. It has a long, exciting, often sordid history, and has been a part of the cultural and daily life of nearly every group of people on the planet.

Here are a few fun facts you may not know about wine and its impact on just about everything it touches…Stella’s fancy blouse not excluded!

Old Wine…She Ain’t What She Used to Be
There are a great many things that get better with age…cheese, friends, George Clooney. But it is a common misconception that all wines fall into this same category. The vast majority of wines, more than 90 percent, in fact, should be consumed within one year.

My New Diet
According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, there are 100 calories in a 5-ounce glass of wine (compared to 150 calories in a 12-ounce beer). Plus wine is a fat-free and cholesterol-free drink. So skip the beer, have the wine, and half a chocolate bar.

Pour Me a Glass and Call Me Healthy
A report in American Journal of Epidemiology claims that those who drank red wine had 44% fewer colds than those who did not drink red wine.You get the corkscrew, I'll get the glasses.

A Mother’s Nose Knows
Women are typically better wine tasters than men. That’s because women, especially those in reproductive ages, have a better sense of smell than men. So, the same ability that allows us to detect the delicate nuances in the bouquet of a rich Cabernet also gives us the super-parenting skill of sniffing out a fully loaded diaper at a hundred paces. Go figure.

Wanna Party? All You Gotta Do Is Sign
After the signing of the US Constitution, the 55 signers hung around for a little celebration. On the bill? Oh, just the following: 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of port, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 beers and seven bowls of alcohol punch large enough that "ducks could swim in them.” And it would seem the party didn’t end there. During that time period, Thomas Jefferson’s salary was $25,000 per year of which he spent approximately $3,000 a year on wine! Give me a pen, and show me where to sign.

It’s Not Just In the Book
One of the subplots in my book looks at a scheme to sell inferior wine in bottles labeled with a
much finer vintage. And apparently I’m not the only one that thinks this is absolutely wrong. In the Code of Hammurabi (1800 B.C.), there is a law that specifically indicates that fraudulent wine sellers were subject to death if caught. They were to be drowned in the nearest river.

Wine…It Helps You Bink Thetter Occifer.
The ancient Greeks knew how to get a discussion going. At the center of Greek social and intellectual life was the symposium, which literally means, “drinking together.” Indeed, the symposium reflects Greek fondness for mixing wine and intellectual discussion...among other things, I'm sure.

Plato Called it As He Saw It
Plato argued that the minimum drinking age should be 18, and then wine in moderation may be tasted until 31. When a man reaches 40, he may drink as much as he wants to cure the “crabbedness of old age. Way to speak the truth, Plato, way to speak the truth.

Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Glass
In English pubs drinks are served in pints and quarts. In old England, bartenders would advise unruly customers to mind their own pints and quarts. It's the origin of "mind your P's and Q's."
I know, I know, you can’t thank me enough for filling your mind with all of these amazing facts. You can give me credit at your next party when your guests ask you how you know so much about wine. Cheers!