Monday, October 5, 2015

The Day of The Fruit Flies

We’ve been host to an increasing number of uninvited dinner guests this summer.

It started off with having to fish the occasional six-legged connoisseur out of my red wine of an evening, which I’ve come to accept as a normal summertime hazard.

This summer, though, it started to escalate. Instead of the odd one or two, they seemed to be planning their swimming expeditions in threes or fours. Then they invited their extended families along for the ride.

Recently, I’ve poured a glass, re-corked the bottle, and turned back to find they’ve already beaten me to the first sip! They must know the routine by now and be hovering somewhere around the light fittings waiting to pounce!

Then, this weekend, Fruit Fly Armageddon!

I’m pretty sure Drosophila melanogaster is not one of those species that genetically times its emergence into the world to the last stroke of midnight on the fifth Tuesday after the Feast of Our Lady of the Out-Of-Tune Harpsichord, whereupon they hatch in their millions for seven minutes of orgiastic fruit fly pleasure before carpeting the ground three inches thick with their spent corpses, but it darned well felt like it.

It was time to Take Measures.

A quick consultation with Dr. Google yielded some consistent recommendations in terms of trap design. I’m normally skeptical of such things until they prove themselves in combat, but so far this little beauty seems to be working.

Yes, that’s a rolled-up paper cone in the top of a juice bottle. The trap is baited with a scientifically-concocted blend of cranberry juice and red wine vinegar. Don’t ask me why, but it seems to work. And just so’s you can share my primal revulsion, here’s a close-up of the little critters.

Fruit flies of the world take heed: when it comes to red wine...
I do not share!

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Giveaway reminder

Five days left for a chance to win a free paperback of Tiamat's Nest.

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

Also, Ghosts of Innocence e-book is available at all outlets for US $0.99 up to the end of the month, then it reverts back to full price.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Liberation calamity

Has anyone out there moved away from where they grew up, leaving family and friends behind? Do you still keep an eye on local news from “the old country”? I still check out the Guernsey news from time to time because I like to keep abreast of things that affect my family and which might come up in phone conversations.

This summer, I’ve been watching an unbelievable saga unfold over the ferry service to the island.

Being a small island, air and sea links are a vital part of island life. Obviously. And the volume of traffic is too small to sustain a free-for-all competition so the passenger/vehicle route is granted to a single monopoly operator.

You’d think that the Guernsey government, which grants licenses to run the route, would want to ensure a good and reliable service on this lifeline route.

You’d think, when they put the route out to tender and sign a multi-year contract on behalf of islanders, they’d insist on a decent service with enforceable service levels.

You’d think.

You’d be wrong.

The current operator introduced a new fast ferry to the route in March, with huge fanfare and promises of “an even better” service than before, replacing two vessels with one larger boat. i.e. No backup. The story since then has been a farcical catalogue of delays and cancellations due to mechanical failures, inability to dock if even the slightest breeze is blowing from the wrong angle, inability to handle waves a fraction of the height it’s supposedly designed for (and remember, this is the English Channel we’re talking about, with winter approaching), complaints of violent see-sawing in a following sea (and suggestions from the harbor master that passengers need to “retrain their stomachs”) and challenges with loading/unloading its full load of vehicles in the scheduled turnaround times.

I can’t lay my hands on reliable statistics, but anecdotal evidence suggests it has stayed on or close to schedule on only half its crossings. The ferry was even cancelled over the Guernsey Liberation Day weekend, arguably the busiest and most significant public holiday in the island’s calendar. Just Google “Condor Liberation” for a litany of disaster.

People are naturally fed up with this, and tempers flared when the ferry was cancelled yet again leaving people stranded at Poole harbor over this weekend.

The Guernsey government’s response?


Ali is planning to take a trip back there with the kids next summer for her father’s 80th birthday. The itinerary includes her parents (who live in Bristol) taking the car over on the ferry to Guernsey. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this fiasco hoping things will improve before then.

Right now, I wouldn’t trust any important trip to this ferry. Would you?

Sunday, September 13, 2015


After a flurry of rain and wind at the end of August coinciding with our last camp of the season, summer is making a brief rally, but it’s noticeably surrendering to the darker mornings and cool evenings. Not long now before we’re back to lighting the wood stove, I think.

In readiness, we’ve just moved our deck furniture off the deck and to its winter home in our bedroom - a cozy seating area near the stove. This is a sure sign, and always brings a tinge of sadness after months of practically living out on the deck.

Back to school - a few groans but also anticipation. Big change for Matthew, now starting high school. Megan is excited to be starting field hockey, and puppy-training. No, nothing to do with school. She’s training our new arrival to the family. Meet Ellie, an Australian shepherd.

Now that Tiamat’s Nest is out in the wild, and my talk at the library is out of the way, I’m taking a breather before picking up my next writing project. Time to have some fun with iDraw...

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?

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