Monthly Archives: November 2014

A spoonful of art history


I recently found fellow Vancouver Island writer Veronica Knox on the web. She is an artist who moved to the island (I left to settle in Europe). She – like me – just happens to write books that are based on her background and studies in art history. I dropped her a line, so I could prove there is someone else who thinks writing – at least in part – about art history (and in a different, interesting way) is kind of cool. You can see Veronica’s books here: Adoration – loving Botticelli is one of them, a paranormal love story between Sandro Botticelli and a retired art history professor who is drawn into his 1475 painting, The Adoration of the Magi. Synopsis: a retired woman in 2014 embarks on a journey of sublime intimacy as a thirty-five year old, transported to Italy’s fifteenth-century after experiencing a supernatural connection with Sandro Botticelli’s self-portrait in this modern version of a feminine Dante in search of her star-crossed beloved. Veronica has posted the opening of the book as a sample, here: I’m just saying: if you like museums and art and great background stories from the world and the times that created the masterpiece of the ages, you can’t go wrong with a book that has art history as a main ingredient. Veronica adds imagination and elements of the supernatural to premise what happens when people interact with famous (and often, missing) works of art. What stories could they tell? I interviewed her to find out: Are you from the island? I was born in England, brought to Canada when my parents emigrated, and lived in Alberta until after high school. I attended an art school in England, age seventeen, where I was coerced into taking graphic design and dissuaded from fine arts. I returned to Canada (Alberta) and worked in television (graphic design at CBC in Edmonton and CKVU Vancouver, and eventually art director of CITV Edmonton) as well as several local advertising agencies (graphic design). Many years later (after a career in graphic design) I flaunted my past and entered the University of Alberta as a ‘mature’ student and completed a Fine Arts degree in oil painting with classical studies and art history as minor subjects. How did you first get interested or involved in art history?  Studying art history textbooks and continually coming across the words ‘now lost.’ So, my characters tend to find them (the lost works) with supernatural assistance, ie: lucid dreaming, reincarnation (sort of) and time travel. Sounds bizarre, but it’s the only way I can travel and unravel the past and have fun. When did you first write a book?  Second Lisa, the fanciful biography of the ‘Mona Lisa’ (Leonardo’s kid sister), took three years to write although I began in 2006. It was published in 2011 and broken it into a trilogy in 2012. Did you write any books before print-on-demand? No. I joined the self-publishing throng even though I found an agent. We parted company after a year of non-communication. If an agent doesn’t bother to connect once in a while or read subsequent novels in the same genre, the rapport isn’t there. Who do you listen to in terms of getting publishing insight? Donald Maass and a few other authors of writing books. On Writing by Stephen King is great. Nathan Bransford’s new book How to Write a Novel is brilliant, as is Les Edgerton’s Hooked. How do you go about publicizing your books? I’m still working on that. Any day now… Is book writing and publishing and marketing a sideline for you, or is it a central focus? Or do you work at something else? Writing is my fulltime business. I am also a freelance editor. What do you think is the best part of the process (the writing, the publishing, the contact with readers, or something else)? Definitely, the writing. More specifically, the final draft. Writing a sentence one can’t improve upon is a thrill, and the more one writes, the more that happens. Is there anything else you would like to add on this blog post?  Just to say thank you. It’s a small club we art history enthusiasts belong to which is sad because there are so many stories in paintings and the lives of artists. I hope you will allow me to ask you some questions for my own blog. Veronica Knox’s books and paintings can be discovered at: Veronica Knox


Who are you?

There are a lot of Bryce Finley’s in the world these days. I use my full name on anything official (thanks 9/11) and even on Facebook now, to make sure you are getting the real deal when you need me. If you search for Bryce Finley on the Internet, though, you get all sorts of quasi/pseudo/beginner Bryce Finley’s. The same happens when you view the images. Almost none of those people are me. That has to stop. In order to bring back the balance, I need to post a pic or two of myself once in a while, so the search crawlers can go out and get them and display them under my own name, gosh darn it. Oh, and I’m not a student anymore, so they need to look a teensy weensy bit like a grown up. That explains the cardigan, and it’s warm.

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Bookselling weirdness

As much as I love selling my new book Finishing Year on Amazon and other online retailers, the only place I hope anyone ever buys the paperback copy of it is at Amazon division Createspace. There,, they pay me nearly two times as much as when they sell it on one of their many Amazon sites around the world.

How can that be? Who knows, but it works. I guess when someone goes to buy my book at Createspace, it is because they have been sent there or stumbled upon the listing, but when Amazon sells one, they feel it is as a result of their marketing exposure.

I really don’t know, but if you want to read about my adventures of finishing my first university degree at age 48 by being an exchange student overseas, I only hope you’ll pick it up at Createspace’s eStore, at

Mayne Island writers a tough act to follow

Being from Mayne Island, and being a writer, is getting to be a hard act to follow. Better said, it has been for a while. There are many writers from my British Columbia island home, but I never really noticed them until Vancouverite David Scearce (and some-time Mayne Island weekender) got noticed for adapting the screenplay for the Tom Ford film A Single Man from Christopher Ishwerwood’s book. He has since adapted at least one other book into a screenplay. Of course, it will be a movie.

You can read about his story here: Wikipedia also has some info on him.

And now a few other things have happened: Vancouver-to-Mayne-Island transplantee Grant Buday has written a book I could have just stayed home to write, instead of hauling myself off halfway around the globe to study art history in Europe (and write the resulting book about it). But, he wrote it instead.

It is a slim volume (at 80 pages) but just an excerpt from it makes me miss my island home. You can read about it here: And here:

And now Mayne Island cottager and Victoria resident Arleen Paré has won the Governor General’s Award for poetry. Originally from Montreal, she now spends some time on Mayne and says she will also spend some of her GG prize money buying a heat pump for her cottage.

Besides the fact I think the GG award prize should be a much higher dollar figure, at least it will help her keep warm if she visits the island this winter. Read about her plans here:

Who shall lead us?

Back when I wrote my first books, I used American Dan Poynter’s Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book for advice on how to publish, promote, and sell books. It was the most solid work out there and perhaps one of very few available (at that time).

There are now newer versions of the book, and I got the latest one, but it was disappointing. Publishing has really moved along in all those years, and I don’t feel the book has kept pace. The problem is, I feel like I need to find a new, near-perfect source of publishing advice, like Dan Poynter was (he really was) and now, there are way too many people wanting to be the next Dan Poynter.

I just don’t know how to judge these books from the outside, and there are far too many to have a closer look at. The authors (often) don’t seem particularly well-suited to writing about publishing (whereas, if you remember Dan Poynter, you will recall he was pretty darn successful at publishing and selling books and probably still is).

The new gurus usually write books, sell a few, then (much too soon in their careers) write a book about how to publish YOUR own book. Their book about how to publish YOUR book invariably sells far more copies than their actual ‘writings’. Their blogs and websites aren’t so much about their ‘writings’ as they are about their handbook for publishing YOUR book.

Not that this is all bad (well, it isn’t all terrible, anyway), it has just produced (like so much self-publishing has) a slew of books on the market. Now the topic is crowded and polluted, and there is a lot of junk floating around.

So I am wondering, who do you turn to when you are looking for advice about how to publish in today’s world?

That’s just typing

Yep. I am trying to coordinate what I post on Twitter with what I say here, and I am trying to use this space to expand on the tiny text field Twitter offers.

So, the latest post is… typewriters. Yes, I write my books on typewriters. I am a long-time Mac fan and have owned one of almost every product they have ever produced, but for writing books, nothing beats a typewriter. Truly.

I have been collecting them for a while, I guess, longer than I thought I had been. The habit just sort of creeps up on you and suddenly you have a house full of the things. Now I lurk on a typewriter forum. I always check in the second-hand shops to see if they have one in. I usually get them for between 1 and 3 Euros each here in Germany (ridiculous, I know). I collect only portable or ‘travel’ typewriters. Most of them, right now, have German keyboards, because I am based in Germany, but they are not at all hard to get used to. I posted a snapshot on Twitter of the two I used to write “Finishing Year” and I have several others. Two are on their way out the door because one is not truly portable and the other is a nightmare to type on, a cheap mail-order machine. The rest are mechanical dreams and of the highest Swiss and/or German quality. They are simply amazing and pleasant to use. And they produce results! You get paper, with words on them, each sheet a unique document.

As the pages add up, I keep them in an old artist’s paintbox. But that is another story.

The red typewriter here (not my pic, but the same as mine) is a good one, and the grey Hermes Baby from Switzerland is nice, but my all-time favourite is the Adler Tippa from the snapshot I posted on Twitter. I had two but lost one in a move and am always looking for more of the same. Madness.

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