C h a z z W r i t e s . c o m

The publishing revolution already happened.

Queen Elizabeth (Hogsbottom) decrees “The Golden Rule and all that!”

Life is not fair, but we are supposed to try to make it that way.

In the course of Joshua’s treatment, this young man’s heart has stopped, his kidneys have failed and his hair has fallen out. These are the days of the cancer patient: Lost work, lost time, lost energy, countless appointments, waiting in fear, pain and panic and even more waiting, underdressed in cold rooms. There are long nights waiting for the dawn and wondering. Cancer patients have to face too many stare-in-the-eyes, earnest talks from well-meaning people and are sometimes ignored by others who don’t want to look their way. Exhausted, cancer patients put on brave faces through the day and cry secret, lonely, midnight tears. With cancer treatment, bad things happen to you beyond your control and worry gnaws constantly. In short, cancer sucks. You know this.

But there is also hope. Hope is bigger than all the evil in the world. Health professionals dedicated to delivering the very best care surround Joshua, a phalanx of white-coated centurions. When you join this fight with a donation (and no donation is too small), you’re joining an army in the most important fight there is. This is the war that affects all of us. Communities rally around the casualties because (and this is not a metaphor) we are all cancer’s casualties. Who doesn’t know someone who has or has had cancer?

The IndieGoGo campaign has a modest goal. We are indie authors from around the world trying to help Joshua and his family with the bills. Is $10,000 enough? Not nearly. Please help how you can and you’ll get some sweet perks. For your generosity, there are plenty of great books and useful services to choose from, but the best perk of all is the feeling you’ll get when you help.

That’s why I donate time, money and perks.

That’s why I put my hand up an old British queen’s dress: for the warm fuzzies!

Please click the IndieGoGo donate button at Indies Unite for Joshua. 


Filed under: publishing, , , , , , , , , , ,

AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!: My Night with Obama

I had all the answers.

President Obama was visiting my parents. I was a kid, maybe fourteen, living on a Kennedyesque estate (but without the accent). I somehow convinced the president I knew what to do. I called in emergency help.

Two jets and two helicopters later, the team arrived.

1. Rachel Maddow appeared in the doorway, confused that she’d been called to the Hamptons for a secret meeting with the president. I told her to explain her genius idea to the president. All the Republican candidates took TARP funds for their states and took credit for creating jobs while condemning the same funding. Spending is frozen, but as Miss Maddow explained, they still want to fund their pet projects to create jobs by fixing bridges and highways. “So say yes.” Maddow said. “Michelle Bachmann is first in line. She wants a bridge fixed. Say yes, Mr. Obama. Say yes to all of them. The USA needs infrastructure, so say yes. They won’t say no to that. They already asked. We have the documentation. Rebuild America like Truman did.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I got a guy coming who will make sure the Republicans don’t steal the credit. But first, have you met Mr. Maher?”

2. The secret Service ushered in Bill Maher, stoned, flanked by two models. “We had to take him by force, even after we explained who was asking,” a big Secret Service agent shrugged.

“Mr. Maher, we need your patriotism. You said, ‘The problem is we have one party with no brains and one party with no balls.’ Mr. Obama needs a life coach. Be the balls, Mr. Maher. Be the Cheney, but with a heart in your chest instead of The Pulsing Stone of Pure Evil. We need a Cheney in the administration, but with blood instead of bile. Your country needs you.”

Mr. Maher refused immediately, of course.

I looked over to Mr. Obama. He nodded.

“He’ll legalize it,” I said.

For the cause, Bill agreed to help, with the proviso that he could handle all the renegotiation on his own (and that clouds of marijuana smoke would be pumped into Congress during all debates.)

“New Rule!” Maher said. “No more golf with Boehner! You sit with him in a room with the doors locked, don’t let him have any cigarettes or booze and nobody gets to go to the bathroom until we fix the country because the bathroom is for closers! And Mr. President? You’ll be wearing Depends.”

3. Jon Stewart walked in chewing a bagel and cracking up the Secret Service. He had the air of a guy who always knew it would come to this and it was about fucking time he was called in.

“Mr. Stewart, Rachel’s the brains, Bill’s the muscle. You’re the mouth. We need a press secretary who can effectively mock stupid ideas. Do what you do. Get the Democrat’s message out there. And destroy from the podium like you’re on stage at the Comedy Store on a Saturday night. When the press tries to say ‘On the one hand, on the other,’ mock them until they cry. Shame them until they admit crazy ideas are crazy and the truth isn’t always in the middle. Bring along John Oliver, too, if you want. He’s fun.”

Stewart replied by doing a spit take and rubbing hits eyes in exaggerated comedic gestures as if he was Buster Keaton in a silent film. Stewart made that work and even the president allowed himself a grim smile.

4. I turned to Mr. Obama. “With respect, sir, you’ve got to stop showing so much respect. We know your internal monologue is, ‘I can’t believe I have to put up with this shit.’ Bill’s going to show you it’s okay to say that. In fact, people will love you for it. All the stuff you don’t say? That’s what he’s going to show you how to do. Be a more of a dick.”

Mr. Maher shrugged his agreement. “Call them on their shit. That’s my whole career, actually.”

“In fact,” I said, “I suggest we get the president a copy of the pussy/asshole/dick speech at the end of Team America: World Police.”

5. Next: While we waited for the last guest, I had more suggestions. “US forces are in 150 countries and they are all coming home. You know those YouTube videos where everybody gets choked up when soldiers show up and the family rushes in and hugs them so glad they’re alive? For the next month, there’s not going to be a dry eye in America. Everybody comes home and the military does two things: A. Help with natural disasters and build new bases in New Orleans and Detroit to revivify. B. Defend the borders. With everybody home, it’s going to be safer than Switzerland. From now on, you’re going to handle anti-terrorist strikes the same way you got Bin Laden. In and out and nobody stays. The United States is the only war-ravaged country where America needs to do  nation-building.”

6. Next: “Close tax loopholes and tax the rich. When the Tea Party and the Republicans cry foul, tell them the rich aren’t just “job creators” with untaxed private jets. They are patriots and patriots pay taxes. Mere Clinton era taxation will cut the deficit in half, not just shave it back over many years. When they whine about it, question their patriotism. When they keep whining, call them weak. When they say you’re a tax-and-spend Democrat, tell them you’re a tax-and-save-the-middle-class Democrat. And raise the debt ceiling with the constitution, not negotiation. When they complain about that, tell them you’re saving the country.

7. When you get flack for all that, pull a George Bush. “Tell them God told you to do it,” I said. “Mr. Stewart will handle burying them in ‘What would Jesus do?’ jokes while making funny faces and doing his Italian mob guy accent. Make sure to say it was the Christian God to head off Fox News. God trumps all objections. Really surprised you kept that in your holster this long, sir.”

8. One last thing. Doctor Brown? An old man with wild, white hair and a lab coat entered. Mr. Obama stood, looking at him curiously. His jaw dropped. “Is that?”

“Yes, sir. A fiction based in reality,” I said.

The old man extended his hand and gave a craggy smile. “Just call me ‘Doc’. Marty and I have rebuilt the DeLorean. It’s parked out back by the pool. We’re going back in time to get you a new policy assistant. The assistant will work with you and Mr. Maher to get some things done, like really shutting down Gitmo. Stuff like that.”

Mr. Obama’s eyes widened. “You mean?”

“That’s right!” Doc Brown explained. “We’re going back to 2007 to pick up the Hope and Change Obama to bring him BACK TO THE FUTURE!”

I woke up.

And waking up was disappointing. I didn’t have the solution after all.

Filed under: Rant, , , , , ,

Publishing: How important is nationality anyway?

I can’t say I’m proud to be Canadian. Proud suggests I’ve achieved something by accident of birth. Pride of nationality is like being proud of being tall. I say instead that I’m lucky to be Canadian. It beats a lot of  other possibilities. (I think George Carlin had a bit about that, I’ll have to look for it. Ah. Obviously I found it.)

Since Americans have more e-readers than Canadians, a Canadian author recently wondered aloud if Canadians had a chance of making any money in e-books.

It has always seemed strange to me how parochial many readers can be. Instead of seeing a story set in the Arctic as exotic and interesting, they tend to see it as too Other. In books, the wisdom has long been that people want “the same thing only different.” Americans want to read about Americans and Canadians are the only ones who will put up with sodbusters set in historic Saskatchewan.

This is true and it’s not. We generalize with confidence to familiar settings. New Yorkers enjoy reading about New Yorkers. But what’s true generally is not true in the particular. When Yann Martel wrote Life of Pi, how many people could relate to lion-taming on a raft in the Pacific? For that matter, how many people can really relate to foreign spy thrillers and the intrigue of the Pentagon and State Department? Instead, they read to escape into the unfamiliar.

Can Lit is somewhat fetishized by many Canadians, especially if they are part of the publishing establishment or Canadian media. It’s not that I’m saying it’s all bad, but I would say it’s not the only game in town. I mostly read American authors and personally, I don’t have much patience for a lot of Can Lit. It’s a matter of taste. You can argue I have none, but the heart wants what it wants and I don’t think Chuck Palahniuk‘s artistic sensibility would have been nurtured as a hoser. In college I steered away from Robertson Davies and opted fro Mailer.

But e-books cross all borders. Publish an e-book and you can have english-speaking fans downloading your work in Sweden. Borders don’t mean much anymore. What’s more, come up with a good story—a really good story—and I don’t think it matters much where it’s set. And it doesn’t have to be high art conquering us all, either. Think of all those plot-oriented books English Majors are programmed to hate:  Angels and Demons, Da Vinci Code, The Girl Who Played with Fire etc.,… A bunch of unfamiliar names isn’t deterring anyone from enjoying the Stieg Larson books.

So write a good story. In my novel, the protagonist has identifiably American goals. He wants to be a movie star. He live in New York but wants to live in Hollywood. He idolizes movie stars you know. He has to be American.

I can’t take that story and artificially transplant it so he’s a kid from Moncton who wants to make it big in Toronto. Canadian stars typically head south anyway, make it big in the States and only then are they recognized as talents. We’re Canadian. It’s what we do. Canadian celebrities are the equivalent of D-list celebrities. We’re really proud of them once they prove themselves elsewhere. In fact, Canadians don’t have “celebrity” per se. We just say they are “known” or “recognizable” or “familiar but…” or “Who’s she?”

There are other issues for Canadian authors. If you write SF, chances are excellent you deal with an American publisher directly or have an agent based in the US. Yes, there are some SF Canadian agents and publishers, but relatively few. That’s unfortunate, especially since three major SF authors are Canadian: William Gibson, Robert J. Sawyer and Spider Robinson. (Of those three, Robinson, the man named heir-apparent to Heinlein, is under-appreciated these days because his work is funny SF.)

The main issue is about the numbers. The USA has a huge population and Canada has a small one. Focusing your work exclusively on the Canadian market while ignoring the potential south of the border takes a special kind of focus. To sell more of anything, you have to go where the people are. Bands and authors hit as many cities across the US as they can. For many, if they come to Canada at all, it’s Toronto and that’s it. That’s just how the math works. Canadian tour dates are an afterthought. Authors in the United States may think of Canada kindly, but they’re not getting rich off us.

Nationality isn’t important. Story and marketing is.

 

 

Filed under: Books, publishing, Writers, writing tips, , , , , , , , , ,

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