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

See all my books at AllThatChazz.com.

What We Must Face

Greetings from the blanket bunker in the Frozen North, inky internet chums! Whatever you’re dealing with, please stay as safe as you can. Disaster relief will not be immediate, but I am feeling some emotional relief knowing that armies of medical professionals and dedicated workers are determined to see this through and bring this ugly chapter of history to a close.

This is a challenging time and the horrors that have hit the world so hard make me weep. However, today my government’s leadership gave me pause and inspired me to hope for the future. Prime Minister Trudeau called for all of us to do what we can, whether that means staying the hell home, fighting the virus on the front lines or finding other ways to help each other.

“All hands on deck.”

Wherever you are, hold on to hope.

Here’s the latest from the blog on my main site:

The Most Chilling Aspect of this Crisis

What’s to Love about the Pandemic?

Canada’s COVID Action Plan


~ Subscribe at AllThatChazz.com for all my news, updates, and books to distract and entertain you when you need a break from the news.

Filed under: COVID19, , , , , , , , , , , ,

We’re Indie. We don’t lie down.

I’m revising Crack the Indie Author Code: Aspire to Inspire, a book I’ll soon release that is basically the best posts, chosen from over 1,000 articles on this blog. As I edit, rewrite, add and subtract, I’m struck by how I return to a certain theme of independence among indie writers. We need that stubborn streak. The voice in my head asks others to take the risks I take. I encourage other writers to follow their dreams. Encouraging others is part of my dream, too. My tone is sometimes matter of fact and, at other times, defiant. Sometimes the advice is contrarian. If that doesn’t suit your taste, at least sometimes it’s whimsical and I kill a mime.

It’s not easy being indie. We’re still largely ignored by mainstream media. It’s hard to get reviews. Bookstore managers tend to look at us with nail heads for eyes. But I’m doing the thing I always wanted to do and no one stands over me telling me how to do it. That’s worth a lot to me. The writers and publishers who read this blog are a very helpful group. I appreciate that.

It’s Thanksgiving in Canada. I’m thankful for my family of believers, the people who support my campaign and the suspense lovers who read my books. Crack the Indie Author Code will be available very soon, but the blog will continue after publication. I will continue to aspire to inspire. (To the doubters: You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!)

Thanks for reading ChazzWrites.com. 

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

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, , , , , , , , , ,

Opportunity knocks? Self-published writers could unionize (plus association links for writers)

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We started off The Writer’s Union of Canada symposium with the presenter announcing,Self-publishing is mainstream!” Dead on and right on, brother! Come to Jesus! Most of the day was dedicated to authors taking hold of their careers, navigating through the logistics of self-publishing and going indie. As I’ve mentioned in several posts since, it was a great event filled with exciting information that went deep. The kick in the nuts didn’t come until the end of the day.

As we wrapped things up with questions to the presenters, someone asked if she qualified to join The Writers’ Union of Canada. Nope. It looked by the show of hands that about half of the attendees (at least) were not TWUC members, but they couldn’t join to lend their voice to Canadian professional writers.  Publishers decide who is traditionally published and only if you are traditionally published does TWUC recognize you as a candidate for the union. (Yes, there’s an appeals process in which a committee could decide your worthiness on a case-by-case basis, but I didn’t get the feeling that opened a lot of doors for the great unwashed.*)

There are people within the union who want to change this, but there is resistance. Despite all the DIY enthusiasm and knowledge of self-publishing displayed at the symposium, so far it seems the only writers the union recognizes are — and will be for the foreseeable future — the traditionally published. The concern, they say, is about quality. I’ll grant you many self-published books suck. They often are not edited or are not edited well. (In fact, I wrote a blog post not long ago entitled Why self-publishing sucks (and what you can do about it.)

However, the larger point is, you don’t professionalize a group by shutting them out. You raise the standard by bringing them in. Amateurs often become professionals by mentoring and community interaction. Self-publishers can also bring a lot to the table. Many DIY authors will have a lot of information and support to share when many trad authors switch to independent publishing. (Gasp! We talk and share and know things, too! Imagine that!)

Here’s a secret: quality is a myth. You don’t use traditional publishers as gatekeepers. Not anymore. You already refuse to read much of what they publish. You have your unique tastes. You use curators you trust to let you know about a great book to read. Anyone reading this post could name several books traditionally published that, according to their lights, do not constitute “quality.” It’s all, trad or indie, subjective. Do I have to remind anyone that The Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis was rejected by trad publishing? That book  only saw the light of day  (and won the Stephen Leacock Award and CBC’s Canada Reads contest) because Fallis self-published first.

The presenters were not necessarily against letting self-published writers in. They seemed to say that it was the system that was slow on the uptake. “It’s an evolution,” said one.

Yeah? Since we spent the day talking about the publishing revolution, maybe we should splice some DNA and catch up!

“Apply anyway,” another presenter advised. “If they (meaning the admissions committee) get enough applications, maybe they’ll be moved.”

Bewildered, one participant asked, “Why wouldn’t you be proactive and lead” by going ahead and accepting self-published authors? Good question. I asked him if he wanted to be president of a new self-published writers union. He grinned and said, “Sure!” The presenter looked at me with…was that disdain?

Opening up the TWUC membership means a larger, more powerful and better-financed union. Look at the Romance Writers of America. If you’re interested and actively pursuing a writing career, you’re in. That is a big tent that’s open to anyone interested in romance books. They’re big enough they could stand up to their biggest sponsor (Harlequin) when necessary.

A powerful union filled with fresh blood and entrepreneurial, proactive people makes a small union into a big (and relevant) union.

But why should you care? What’s the alternative? Well…I’m not trying to start anything here, but since TWUC isn’t being especially proactive, there is a huge opportunity to start up a union for self-published writers. If you’re DIY, you could join, hold events, help with disputes, etc.,… Oh, and get some fucking respect.

I’m not saying we should. I’m saying we could if TWUC continues at a glacial pace while the old media models implode around them. The crazy part is there are forces within TWUC that agree. Apparently there aren’t enough of those like-minded individuals on the admissions committee. We could unionize. Should we? There are benefits, though if TWUC loosens up we wouldn’t have to invent that wheel.

Maybe they better move before you take the idea of a Self-published Writers of Canada and run with it. (SWOC? Nah, that’s the Steel Workers.) Shutting out the self-published is a major tactical error considering the self-published are a determined group of people who don’t take kindly asking permission to do things. We are all about git ‘er done, DIY ASAP.

Brain food, comrade. If they aren’t as forward-thinking as their own symposium, they could go from The Writers’ Union of Canada to A Writers’ Union of Canada.

*Alternatives? Where you live, there’s some kind of association of varying applicability to your writing career, amiability and varying strength.

Here’s a list of links which is by no means comprehensive: The Canadian Authors Association, the Editors Association of Canada and the Periodical Writers Association of Canada, the Horror Writers Association, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, SF Canada, Crime Writers Association (UK), Crime Writers of Canada, Mystery Writers of America and the aforementioned Romance Writers of America . Check each association’s membership criteria and see if their goals match your own. Another aspect to consider is how active each organization is in your area.

Tomorrow’s posts: If you’re up early, a style ruling on when to use “each other” instead of “one another” (well, never ‘use’ another human being) and at 11:45 EST, one of the good things The Writers’ Union of Canada is trying to do. You know me, I’m all about the yin/yang balance of the universe.

Filed under: authors, Books, DIY, ebooks, getting it done, publishing, Rant, Rejection, self-publishing, Writers, Writing Conferences, , , , , , , , , ,

Author Profile: Anthony Bidulka’s Date with a Sheesha

Anthony_BidulkaAnthony Bidulka’s mystery series tells the story of a world-travelling, wine-swilling, wise-cracking, gay Canadian PI living a big life in a small city. The Russell Quant series is a multi-award nominee including for the CWC Arthur Ellis Award, and was awarded the Lambda Literary Award for Best Men’s Mystery. Anthony Bidulka has enjoyed time well-spent and misspent in the worlds of academia, accounting, footwear, food services, and farming. In 1999, Anthony Bidulka, BA, BEd, BComm, CA, left a decade-long career as a chartered accountant to pursue writing.

The Russell Quant books are: Amuse Bouche (2003), Flight of Aquavit (2004), Tapas on the Ramblas (2005), Stain of the Berry (2006), Sundowner Ubuntu (2007), Aloha, Candy Hearts (2009), Date With a Sheesha (2010.)

CW: When did you first know you wanted to be an author?

AB: Pretty much as soon as I could put pen to paper. As a youngster I was completely entranced by the power of storytelling and my greatest wish was to be someone who could do that. Instead of spending my allowance on candy or toys, I’d buy books and comics. As a teenager, I began writing and illustrating stories for my nieces and nephews. In truth, those were the first books I authored.

CW: Tell us a little about your books.

AB: I write a mystery series, which is not exactly what I set out to do. My first serious attempt at a book—as an adult—was a thriller. While I was waiting for the offers to pour in, I thought it might be a good idea to spend time on something just for the pure love and fun of writing. I created the world of Russell Quant, the first and only half-Ukrainian, half-Irish, wine-swilling, world-travelling, wise-cracking, ex-cop, ex-farm boy, gay, prairie-dwelling, Canadian private eye being written about today anywhere by anyone! (I dare anyone to contradict me.) That was ten years ago. Russell Quant has been my literary companion ever since.

The current release, Date With a Sheesha, deals with a young Canadian researcher travelling to the Middle East to buy antique carpets. Unfortunately, he’s found dead in a Dubai souk wrapped in a carpet. Russell is hired by the young man’s father to discover whether this was a simple tourist mugging gone bad as the authorities insist. (Of course, it is anything but). What follows is a magic carpet ride of an adventure from Saskatchewan to the frankincense fields of Oman and scorching sand dunes of Saudi Arabia.

CW: What research was involved in your book’s development?

AB: In each of the Russell Quant books, although much of the action takes place in Saskatchewan, Russell always finds himself embroiled in some sort of shenanigans in foreign locales. He’s been to the south of France, New York, Africa, Hawaii, and now, the Middle East. Each of the locations is chosen because of time I have spent there snooping about and wondering if this is a good place for murder and/or mayhem.

CW: What’s your writing process?

AB: I am very much an outliner. I like having at least a basic structure on which to build. I like knowing where I’m going. That said, I also think the most exciting—and sometimes nail biting aspect of writing fiction is the unknown. Although I create outlines, they are only the bare bones. The flesh is all the rest of the good stuff that comes out as you write the story, develop characters, create a world that only you control. Heady stuff, it is.

Once I have a first draft, I’ll go through a number of revisions until the piece gets to the point where I think it is the best it can be. Then I send it to my editor and she tells me why it isn’t.

CW: What’s the most surprising thing you discovered writing this book?

AB: I’ve sometimes wondered if writing a series would get boring or formulaic but I don’t findDate_with_a_Sheesha that to be true. I’m writing the eighth and I’ve attempted to give each of the books in the series a slightly different flavour. One is more romantic than the others. One is more of a caper. Another is more of a thriller and one is the scariest of the bunch. It’s a delicate balance because, to maintain the essence of what people liked about the series and characters, you don’t want to change things up too much. My hope is to keep the series fresh, the readers engaged and on their toes. That keeps me interested and excited to write more about Russell.

CW: What’s the hardest part of the publishing process?

AB: Today I think the most difficult part of the publishing process is keeping up with the speed-of-light changes in the industry. How we write, read, publish, and promote the written word is changing into something that was unrecognizable only five, ten years ago.

CW: How has that changed your book marketing?

AB: Extreme change had just begun to show its face as my first book was being published. Oddly enough, this has been a boon to me. I have only known upheaval in this industry. Just looking back over the past eight to nine years, one of the biggest changes is that the majority—the majority!—of small independent bookstores at which I gave readings in Canada and the US are now gone. They were the ones willing to give a new Canadian a chance. 

Oh yes, the world has changed and we must evolve with it. We used to give away electronic copies of the books for free, thinking that people would never read an entire book on screen, but perhaps it would entice them to buy the hard copy. Many of my colleagues now produce trailers for their books that rival those of blockbuster movies.

I have always seen the key to marketing a book as developing an ever-changing toolbox full of tricks. You try ten things and hope two of them work well. And even so, those two things will likely have to be tossed and replaced with something else before you blink. Daunting? Yes. Exciting? Yes. The essence is to be creative, be communicative, never give up trying.

CW: What do you most enjoy about being an author?

AB: There are so many enjoyable parts of the writing life. The firsts are top of the list. Getting that first signed contract. Seeing your book in galley format. Seeing it in a bookstore window. Getting emails from readers (who aren’t related to you!). Having your book reviewed in a major newspaper or magazine. Flying into a city you’ve never been to before and having people actually show up at a reading just to see you. It’s all so wonderful and fun and a truly unique experience.

CW:What advice would you give unpublished writers?

 AB: Get involved in the industry. Join writers groups, go to conferences, meet other writers, volunteer on boards and committees. As I’ve discovered in every part of my life, when you give back, you get back ten times more.

CW:What’s your next book project?

AB: A brand new edition of the first book in the Russell Quant series, Amuse Bouche, is being released soon. I’m currently working on a few different writing projects, one being the eighth Russell Quant mystery, tentatively titled Dos Equus.

CW: Thank you, Anthony! For more information, please visit www.anthonybidulka.com.  

 

 

 

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Filed under: Author profiles, authors, , , , , , , , ,

Winner of Writer's Digest's 2014 Honorable Mention in Self-published Ebook Awards in Genre

The first 81 lessons to get your Buffy on

More lessons to help you survive Armageddon

"You will laugh your ass off!" ~ Maxwell Cynn, author of Cybergrrl

Available now!

Fast-paced terror, new threats, more twists.

An autistic boy versus our world in free fall

Suspense to melt your face and play with your brain.

Action like a Guy Ritchie film. Funny like Woody Allen when he was funny.

Jesus: Sexier and even more addicted to love.

You can pick this ebook up for free today at this link: http://bit.ly/TheNightMan

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