North York Mirror
When it came to writing medical self-help books, North York's Dr. Ian Blumer had no trouble having his name appear as the author.
But he had reservations for his first work of fiction, a new novel called Unto the Breach, about three young teenaged boys and their teacher who take a fateful sailing trip on Lake Ontario.
The book was released under his pen name, Sidney Gale.
He chose Sidney for Sidney Dakin, one of the world's best sailors of the Canadian-made Shark sailing boat.
Gale refers to a gusty wind, while the similar sounding galeus is a type of shark.
"I think Sidney Gale sounds more interesting than Ian Blumer," he said, acknowledging he also had a self-preservation reason for employing a non de plume.
"To be perfectly frank, in case the book was considered terrible, I didn't want my professional reputation to suffer. Now that the book has received nice comments and will not savage my reputation as a doctor, I am willing to 'fess up," he said.
The friendly Blumer had already made a name for himself in the publishing world with a number of non-fiction books.
He started off with What Your Doctor Really Thinks, aimed at helping patients navigate the health care system.
"Like don't piss off the (doctor's) secretary, especially if you want to get squeezed in the next day," laughed the 54-year-old Blumer, who lives near Hwy. 401 and Yonge Street and practices medicine in Durham Region.
Blumer was then approached by the publishers of the For Dummies series of books to write about health care.
He has written or co-written books about diabetes, celiac disease and prescription drugs, the last co-written with his wife Dr. Heather McDonald-Blumer.
A decade ago, Blumer decided to write a novel.
"I think ever since I was young in high school, it was one of those things you wonder if you can do," he said.
"I really enjoy what I do (being a doctor). I come to work and I'm happy to be here. I work incredibly long hours and I'm good at it but if that is all I did in life (I wouldn't be satisfied). Maybe it's a fault but it's my nature to try difficult things. Maybe I'll crash and burn but I want to challenge myself."
When he first began writing Unto the Breach, his two sons, now in their early 20s, were at an age when it was difficult to find novels that interested them.
"Books were either dumbed down (adult) adventure stories or overly romantic books," Blumer said.
Around the same time, he was inspired by an award-winning book called Island of the Blue Dolphins, about a young girl stranded for years on an island, which his elder son Brian brought home from school.
It was a book that spoke to adolescents and adults.
"I thought 'I don't have to write See Dick Run'," he said.
Blumer allowed Brian, younger son Michael and daughter Leslie to critique his work in progress.
While they praised parts they enjoyed, they were quick to shoot down their old man over sections that didn't ring true.
"Kids are honest, especially your own kids," Blumer said.
A sailor since the age of 10, Blumer combined his loves of sailing and medicine in Unto the Breach.
Now that he has one novel under his belt, Blumer isn't sure whether he'll pen another.
For one thing, he points out writing won't replace his medical practice.
"God forbid anybody has to rely on writing for a living," he laughed, adding he recently read that only 40 authors in North America make a living exclusively from writing.
For another, he's now written about sailing and medicine, the two topics he knows most about. A second novel would require research and Blumer jokes that he's not sure if he's up for it.
If he does write a second novel, he's debating which name he'll write under.
"If Sidney Gale becomes a name people know, I will stick with it," he said.
Under the Breach is available for $12.99 through www.amazon.com and ebooks for $2.99 are available at www.lulu.com