Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Very Quick Spinetingler Update (and personal note)

We ended 2006 with more stories submitted* than we could publish in a whole year. Since we work 1-2 issues ahead, that means I've sent out a hefty chunk of rejection letters.

Some writers (accepted for our Summer Issue) are still waiting on edits from me. I know... but it will be Feb. before you get them. Sorry.

There are currently 15 stories on the shortlist, and I'm only taking at most 6 of them this time. So, it's back to the subs for me with the big red pen.

Oh, and there are still subs in the inbox that haven't even been read.


Now, this is very important. Not only are we moving down to three issues per year, we're also closing to submissions from May until September. The exact dates will be posted on the website soon. Anything coming in after May 1 will not be read.

So, if you're thinking about a story now is truly the time to put the polish on it and send it in. By the end of April I expect to decide on half the stories for the Winter 2008 issue.

* Guess I should have been clear - that was stories submitted for consideration for publication in 2007. Not counting all the other subs we went through for 2006.

(And on the personal side, there is a big difference between being OFFERED something you're CONSIDERING and inking a deal. Deals are nice and the ultimate goal but writing with Ken Bruen? Nothing's made me more excited... I think ever.)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Upheaval/Spinetingler announcement

On holidays until February.

Congratulations to Cornelia for snagging her first Edgar nod.

Spinetingler News

Despite the overwhelming volume of submissions we'll be taking Spinetingler down to three issues per year as of this year. It certainly isn't for a lack of material. We already had more stories submitted by the end of the last year (for consideration for 2007) than we could have published in a regular year, and this means it's going to get even tougher to get in. But if you don't have the time to do something right, don't do it at all, so we're cutting back on the number of issues, but not the quality.

You won't see this hit the issues until late 2007. There won't be a Winter Issue until January 2008. That will be followed by Spring/Summer in May 2008 and a fall issue in September.

There will be no Canadian Issue this year either.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Ratings For Books?

Children are exposed to too much violence in the media.

This news flash is brought to us by a coalition of parents and teachers, who want bolder warnings and tougher laws, preventing television and radio stations from airing certain content until late at night and restricting the sale of violent video games…

While others blame the influence of entertainment, some are putting the blame squarely on the parents.

But the focus is on this group and what they’re advocating. They want ways to regulate the internet so that kids aren’t accessing violent sites. The example cited is:

In September, a violent webpage was in the spotlight after Kimveer Gill went on a shooting spree at Montreal's Dawson College, killing a student and injuring about 20 others before killing himself. His online life featured hate-filled and violent writings as well as the glorification of guns.

Last January, cab driver Tahir Khan was killed when his taxi was T-boned in Toronto by a car allegedly involved in a street race. Police said they found a copy of the popular video game Need For Speed next to one of the young drivers now facing charges in the case.

I would like to point out that Kimveer Gill was not a youth. Just how extensive do they want these laws to be? Should they regulate content for adults too?

There’s something else in there that automatically concerns me. Some of the things the group is after include:

Among the measures the group called for are:

- Changing the Criminal Code's public incitement of hatred laws so girls and women are protected.

- Amending the Broadcasting Act to establish "a watershed hour" of 9 p.m. for radio and television stations to limit the violent programming seen by young people.

- Having provincial governments legislate an age-based classification system for recorded music similar to one that exists for films, music videos and video games.

It’s the first one that strikes a nerve with me. What about protections against the hatred of men?

I am always conflicted when I hear about these movements, prompted by studies, for a variety of reasons. First of all, I doubt television programs were responsible for influencing the Crusades. Did the Vikings rape and pillage because they’d played Grand Theft Auto on X-box? I think not.

Truth is, violence has been around since the dawn of time. The Bible is one of the most violent books out there.

Do I think that children should have access to violent games and TV programs? No. But I also believe that what is forbidden is so much more tempting. I was always allowed to drink alcohol at home as a child. I remember being probably all of 6 – I do remember exactly where I was – when I had my first taste of beer. And I didn’t turn into a drunk. In fact, I almost got charged bringing back some alcohol from the UK in July because I had no idea what the regulations were. We seldom have any alcohol in the house. It just isn’t a big deal to me.

Now, that approach might not work for someone else, but I think it underscores the fact that access does not prompt unreasonable influence in every case out there. And I do believe that anyone disturbed enough to listen to a song a few dozen times and then go on a killing spree would have found something, eventually, to trigger them. So many people I know won’t even read the news because of how violent it is.

The debate has come up from time to time about rating books. I mocked the topic back here, months ago. But groups like this one do raise some automatic concerns in my mind: where will it stop? If someone raises issues with a book they believe promotes violence will we start seeing stickers on books, or have shelves up high in bookstores with the books wrapped so kids can’t see?

What about all of the issues around Islam in our culture today? I completely disagree with judging this religion on the basis of the actions of a few people, but that doesn’t change the fact that some are using the Koran as the basis for committing violent acts. The Bible certainly helped incite the Crusades.

Will there be a day when religious books are banned because of the risks they might incite violence? Will we find ourselves facing a Fahrenheit 451 future where books are banned outright because they’re too hard to regulate and it’s easier to control other forms of entertainment?

Having worked with children, I can say with certainty that racing cars and performing wild stunts is something that comes into the equation long before kids are playing video games. Watch how children play and you will see physical acts of aggression from the toddler ages. Not all kids, some kids.

And my initial instinct is to say we have enough laws in place. That instead of looking to blame elsewhere we need to start addressing the root issues in our society. More kids from broken homes, more kids who don’t get proper parenting. From my own experience I remember kids age 11 telling me about their weekend, staying up with Dad until midnight and watching South Park. Dad so desperate to make his limited weekend time positive he approached his child like a buddy instead of being a parent.

And I’ve seen that from mothers too.

I think there are bigger fish to fry. I think the groups just don’t go after it because the one “god-given right” we entitle everyone to is to be a parent if you can reproduce, as long as you don’t hurt your kid. We’re usually pretty good up here, north of the 49th, when it comes to staying out of bedrooms and parenting philosophies.

Maybe it’s time for that to change. What do you guys think?

Any my apologies for not being around yesterday on the comment trail much. I was having a very long conversation with someone who needed to do some jaw exercises. I may have a plan but I dread that phone bill!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Authors At Risk

Most people think I don’t have boundaries. A bit too outspoken for my own good sometimes. And given the way I talk about my life here there’s a definite perception that I’m an open book.

There is a real difference between the perception and the person. Now, to be fair, I’ll answer just about any valid question someone puts directly to me. It isn’t like I’m trying to keep secrets.

But I definitely have my comfort zones, and I definitely don’t like some people intruding on them.

I live in a village. 800+ people. I have always kept a very low profile here. There are even guys on the fire department who call me Karen when they happen to see me outside. No offense to any Karens, but I can’t stand being called Karen. But I don’t correct them. Three years we’ve lived here.

Some of the guys on the fire department know I’m an author, but they don’t know the name I write under. They know Kevin’s last name.

So, the only two women in this village who’ve known my ‘other’ name are the two who work at the post office.

Until recently.

The ladies at the post office know my name and business because of the volume of ARCs I get and the volume of stuff I mail. I have to declare stuff going over borders. I spend a fortune on postage.

And I happened to be in there one time when this guy was, who figured out from what I said about the package that I was an author.

Turns out he’s written something and, well, in the end I gave him my business card to part ways. I live a block off main.

I do not want people I don’t know turning up on my doorstep. As it is I’m notorious for not answering the door. If I’m not expecting you, I’m not interested. And I find it hard enough going out on my own sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a residual thing from being attacked all those years ago or what, but I definitely go through prolonged house-bound phases and irrational fear is definitely involved.

I guess that makes me a bit of a recluse. It took two years of Butthead’s shit for me to say something. Trespass on our property. Steal something. Leave your garbage all over under our trees. But you start messing with my sleep and it’s the straw. I know Julia Buckley is snickering right now, thinking Sleep?! That girl doesn’t sleep! She stays up half the night and catapults out of bed at 6 am! To which I will say Only at conventions. Do you think I should have warned Toni before LCC? Oh well, too late now.

Anyway, before I get sidetracked on my sleeping habits, I’ll get back to my slightly less private life. I told someone about this incident and they said I should have given a false email address.

It never occurred to me to lie.

Now, I would disagree with them anyway. Village and all. Sooner or later the guy tries the email address and doesn’t get me he’s going to ask for it again.

But I share this little story for an entirely different reason. Authors are vulnerable. We pretty well have to maintain some online presence to market ourselves. How much varies, but even authors who don’t have websites have information about them posted online. Stores where they are doing book signings will post info, their publishers may post touring schedules.

Which means that people you don’t even know who are watching can know where to find you. And that’s a really disturbing thought.

Having been to a few different conventions now, I can say that I have heard some criticisms about standoffish authors, or authors who aren’t quite as approachable as their online persona. To which I say, “Oh wah.”

Now, I did something a bit horrid to JA Konrath at B’con myself. Before I’d formally met him I walked up behind him and put my arm around him. And understandably he was trying to put as much distance between me and him as he could until I introduced myself. It was a horrid thing to do, although Joe, I must admit it was amusing. Especially for the group of people who’d put me up to it, though they were a bit let down, as they’d been hoping I’d grab your ass.

See? I have some restraint.

As more authors feel under pressure to blog, to share details of their lives, there will be more authors who go to events feeling vulnerable. I’m mindful of every author who’s given me their phone number, their address, had me to their home, their email address if it isn’t in the public domain, told me about a future project. And I wonder how hard it is for some of them to trust people.

I mean, if I wasn’t me would I trust me?

That is the yin and yang of the blog. On the one hand, somewhat exposed. On the other hand, open. People who’ve never met me come here and feel they’ve gotten some sense of who I am. Apparently it hasn’t scared off everyone.

But it is something to think about. Particularly for those just finding their way on the blogs, be mindful of this: Before I had a book signed, back when I was just on a few forums, I already had a little cyberstalker issue. And I have definitely had some emails that have made me very uncomfortable.

One thing I think cyberfriends also have to realize is that, although you feel you know someone from online, that doesn’t always automatically transfer across into ease when you meet in person. I’ve been fortunate. I do get along very well with most people I’ve met from cyberspace. I actually feel far more comfortable (in general) meeting people I’ve emailed with, because there is a basis for communication right off. On average I’ll talk more to people I’ve corresponded with, definitely. And that carries forward over time, event to event.

If you think I’m being overly dramatic on this, a Canadian author without much of an online profile had a stalker issue and the guy turned up on her doorstep. He was charged and found guilty and sentenced.

Gives you pause, doesn’t it? And the next time someone won’t give out their email address try to put yourself in their shoes for a moment.

So, any of you got any cyberfreak or just general freak stories to share?

If not, Kevin Wignall has another interesting publishing industry post up that is worth a look at. This time he’s touching on some of the secrecy in the industry.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Free Books, The Time To Read Them In (& a mini rant)

Okay, first off, the rant. It’s RUE (rhymes with Sue) tan (rhymes with fan).

Not Ruttin’ rhymes with nothin’, but said the country twang way like nuttin’.
"Whatcha doin' Billy Bob?"

The name is French. What the hell were they thinking in the 13 Colonies when they changed Rutant to Ruttan? That I’d open of a furniture shop called Ruttan’s Rattan? Not bloody likely.

I’ve moaned on here before about how long it takes me to read the average book. It seems to be double to triple the time of typical readers. The latest Rankin took me about 16 hours (at least Ian knows what he spent months working on wasn’t brushed off in an afternoon here) and that’s about standard for me.

The more review copies come in, the more books I choose to spend my money on that remain unread, the more I wonder how to get time back for reading.

And I’ve figured it out. Stop reading blogs.

Okay, now, seriously. I stick around the blogs because I love keeping in touch with my network of friends. Yes, it means sometimes people talk about me elsewhere and maybe it helps with my profile. I don’t know. I mean, all of you ended up here somehow, right? And there are a lot of you I’ve never met in person.

But for what seems like a prolonged time now I’m having trouble making it around to the blogs. Even more trouble commenting occasionally on some.

This morning, I got up, and had a topic in mind to blog about, but it was similar to something I’d blogged about before. You find yourself wondering, short of sharing all the intimate details of your life, how you can really hit new terrain year in and year out on the blogs.

And here’s an example of where laying it all on the blogs went bad:

10. Litigation log: Man sues sexual partner who publishes all on her blog
Robert Steinbuch is suing his girlfriend who discussed intimate details of their sex life in her online diary. A Capitol Hill staffer when the publication occurred, Steinbuch responded with a lawsuit.
Steinbuch has since accepted a teaching job in Arkansas, leaving Washington and girlfriend Jessica Cutler's "Washingtonienne" Web log behind.
But now, Steinbuch's case over the embarrassing, sexually charged blog appears headed for an embarrassing, sexually charged trial.
Lurid testimony about spanking, handcuffs and prostitution aside, the Washingtonienne case could help establish whether people who keep online diaries are obligated to protect the privacy of the people they interact with offline.
Cutler, a former aide to Sen. Mike DeWine, R-Ohio, says she created the blog in 2004 to keep a few friends up to date on her social life. On her blog, she described juggling sexual relationships with six men. One of the men was Steinbuch, a counsel to DeWine on the Judiciary Committee. Cutler called him the "current favorite" and said he resembled George Clooney, liked spanking and disliked condoms. "He's very upfront about sex," she wrote. "He likes talking dirty and stuff, and he told me that he likes submissive women."
When Ana Marie Cox, then the editor of the popular gossip Web site, discovered and linked to Cutler's blog, the story picked up more audience than does a typical best-seller. Cutler was fired and Steinbuch says he was publicly humiliated. He wants more than $20 million in damages.
The trial is now in the discovery stage. Steinbuch wants to know how much money Cutler received from the man she called her "sugar daddy." Cutler wants Steinbuch's student evaluations from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Law School, where he teaches.
Steinbuch recently added Wonkette’s Cox as a defendant in the case.
Attorney Jonathan Rosen says what Steinbuch wants is the restoration of his good name. He’s embarrassed that students in his legal ethics class search the Internet and learn about the blog, Rosen said.
To win, Steinbuch will have to prove that the details of their sexual relationship were private and publishing them was highly offensive. Billips argues that Cutler never intended to make the blog public but, in the information age, data is easily copied and distributed beyond its intended audience.
Marc Rotenberg, director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said he may teach the Washingtonienne case this spring during his class at Georgetown Law School. "Anybody who wants to reveal their own private life has a right to do that. It's a different question when you reveal someone else's private life," he said, adding that simply calling something a diary doesn't make it one. "It's not sitting in a nice, leather-bound book under a pillow. It's online where a million people can find it."
Since being fired, Cutler moved back to New York, wrote a novel based on the scandal, posed nude for Playboy and started a new Web site, where she solicits donations "for slutty clothes and drugs."
U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman told attorneys for both sides, "I don't know why we're here in federal court to begin with. I don't know why this guy thought it was smart to file a lawsuit and lay out all of his private, intimate details." (Source: Associated Press and various newspaper accounts)

I would have sent you there, except there’s no direct link to this story.

A lot of us talk about it from time to time. Anne’s pondering her blog again.

Let’s face it. People only have so many hours in the day. And part of me got thinking about it because Mark Billingham sent out his first newsletter in nine months. And look how he takes himself off the hook.

It’s been nine months since the last newsletter, which would be pretty slack, even for someone to whom relatively little ever happened. While it is tempting to fall back on the lame old excuses of schooldays and try to convince you that I had actually written several very good newsletters which were destroyed by pets, I can only trot out the usual stuff about the pressures of work, the demands of a family…and an early draft being eaten by the dog.

I’m consoling myself with the thought that your own lives cannot have been affected in any profound sense by the absence of this newsletter. If anybody has been sobbing over their keyboard every day, forlornly scanning their inbox and toying with ending it all, I can only apologise, and beg you to get: (A) help, (B) laid, (C) out of the house a bit more.

Sheesh! And I feel guilty for not blogging for a day?!

But I can’t quit now, because the ‘hey there’s a dead guy’ blog is too funny, too tell it like it is…

Too good to pass up. Damn. Some day, I want to be part of a cool group blog like that. Sigh.

So, do you guys ever find it hard to keep up? Meanwhile, there are places to win free books, in case you decide to take that quit reading blogs suggestion seriously.

Lesa’s giving books away. So are the folk over at Reviewing The Evidence.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

I Should Have Brought My Gun

Your Life is Like

Grosse Pointe Blank

With thanks to Angie for the link.

And an admission. My first result was:

Your Life is Like

High Fidelity

But I haven't seen it. So I'm soliciting for votes. Which one am I?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Top Reads 2006

Stuart MacBride. Allan Guthrie. Duane Swierczynski. Anne Frasier. Ian Rankin. Ken Bruen.

Yes, there are some familiar names, ones you might expect.

There are also other names. Lee Barwood. Vicki Lane. Javier Sierra.

Robert Fate, Cornelia Read...

What the hell am I talking about? The Spinetingler Best Reads of 2006 list, posted on the front page of the Spinetingler site.

I had tried to avoid doing a top reads list for 2006, but eventually broke down and named my 13 personal picks. Then it grew from there. What about doing an official Spinetingler list?

We contacted some of our regular reviewers and asked for their picks, went over everyone's lists, tried to narrow it down...

Considering it's a list comprised from the reviewing and personal reading choices of a number of Spinetingler regulars, it's a good list. Tough as hell to make.

If I have one regret from my personal reading from the past year it's that reviewing took up too much time. The new Simon Kernick and Mark Billingham books are still waiting. Haven't managed the new Laura Lippman yet either. What sucks is, I don't want to short-change those reads. I want a few days when I know I can savour them. So, instead of squeezing them in between all the other madness I've been holding out.

I need a vacation, just so I can read more.

However, I won't complain. I got to read a lot of good books in 2006, and not even all of my own personal choices made the cut for this list. My own top reads included Ken Bruen's Vixen, Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects (okay, I finished it Jan. 1 but I read most of it last year), Bill Cameron's Lost Dog. John Morgan Wilson's Rhapsody in Blood. Damn, JMW's books, I want to buy the whole series and get caught up.

One of these days...

Maybe when I quit reviewing. ;)

Aspiring Writers Take Note & Canadians Lose Heart

This just in: Bloody Words has been cancelled.

First, writers, sharpen your pencils. Murder in the Grove is having their annual writing contest. Entries must fit in the thriller, mystery, suspense or romantic suspense category. For more details on the link. You do not have to be attending Murder in the Grove to enter. Although if you attend, you get to see me, as I'll be on a panel there.

Now, on the other side of the equation, news just in that Bloody Words, the annual Canadian mystery writing convention, has been cancelled this year. This from the CWC:

Bloody Words 2007 – June 15 to 17 (Victoria, BC) – LATE-BREAKING NEWS!!!
FRANCES THORSEN, chair of Bloody Words 2007, has decided to cancel this year’s conference. Unfortunately, with only five months till the actual conference date, there’s no way we can pull anything together in Toronto for 2007, including booking our hotel.

There is also a note up on the Bloody Words website.

Already, frustration is being vented on listservs and discussion groups. More than anything in business, consistency is critical. Five months before this conference was to happen the plug has been pulled.

I certainly hope that this reminds everyone in this business how important the conventions are. They are critical to authors, readers, booksellers and organizations involved in promoting books. All of these relationships are critical. We cannot survive without each other. Although I suspect there will be further explanation in the coming days as to why the conference has been cancelled, at this point people have been left without a reasoned explanation. In fact, they've been left without an explanation of any kind.

Such decisions can damage the credibility of conventions. Authors and booksellers have limited resources. They can only attend a fixed number of events each year, and often those decisions are made months - if not a full year - in advance. When conventions fail to run it is possible to lose bookseller support as they opt for conventions that have a track record of consistency. The same with authors. Investing money and time in travel plans, budgeting and all of the arrangements that go into attending a conference only to have it cancelled can be exceptionally frustrating. In some cases, authors are choosing between one event or another, and such late notice means they're missing an event.

It is also a blow to local retailers, who typically utilize the authors coming for the convention to do in-store events that otherwise wouldn't happen.

Most of all, if there is one thing I hope people are more aware of, it's the enormous importance of these events for the entire writing community, and that there is more support of making them happen and making them successful in the future. Organizing a convention is an enormous task, and the volunteers who make these events happen, and do their best to deal with demands from all attending, need our support.

I can imagine this is quite a shock to the authors who were planning to attend.

Friday, January 12, 2007

PS: Head Games

An impressive write-up on Thomas B. Cavanagh's new novel has been posted at Lesa's Book Critiques. You might want to check it out. We ran a profile on Thomas in the Winter Spinetingler.

Guilty of Soliciting

You can vote for your favourite ezine editor until Sunday January 14.

I’m not going to try to solicit votes, but I am going to shift gears and talk about another form of solicitation: reviews.

There’s been some discussion recently elsewhere on the blogs about why reviewers give glowing reviews to some books that really aren’t that spectacular. All of which promoted me to discuss reviewing with another author.

I’ve always maintained I don’t like reviewing. I feel a hefty weight of responsibility for setting myself up as judge and jury over someone’s work, and I take it seriously. Sometimes, there’s a fine line between fair criticism and unfair criticism.

But there is another reality to this, one that I wonder how many readers think about. There are a lot of reviewers who are aspiring authors. And that’s a tricky position to be in, because if you have a reputation as a reviewer and pull apart books represented by certain agents or published with certain publishers, you might get a reputation with those agents and those editors.

And not a good one.

Which makes me wonder, how many reviews are soft-pedaled in order to curry favour with people in the business?

You know, this is at least one advantage to being with an insignificant publisher: Nobody’s trying to gain an advantage with them. The reviews will be about the book.

I know I’ve mentioned some of the issues for reviewers here before. I’m always going to remember the strong opinion expressed to me at Harrogate that reviewers had no business schmoozing with authors, that it was incestuous.

I know that it feels like I’ve had this conversation too many times. I will say this, as a reader. The reader in me seldom reads reviews. I read reviews at Crime Scene Scotland sometimes, and Reviewing the Evidence. In my experience the reviews there have been well balanced and I usually agree with the assessments, so I trust the referrals.

I always go through the review section in Crimespree.

A lot of the newspapers I ignore. In Canada they seem to be more about reviewing “literary” fiction. And beyond that, a lot of them seem to review the same books over and over and over again. Nobody needs to read 20,000 reviews singing Michael Connelly’s praises.

And there are a couple of notable places that publish paid-for reviews. The minute a place offers that kind of service it undermines their credibility in my eyes, and cheapens all their reviews. You don’t know if their praise was bought. It tarnishes the whole publication.

Reviews are necessary for authors. Like it or not, they have an impact on sales, they have an impact on getting news about books out. One of the things about Spinetingler is that we 100% don’t care about the source of the book. We look at the description. If someone is interested in the story, they’ll take the book, because there’s a better chance they’ll stick with it. I mean, give me some fluffy chick lit and you know how long I’ll last? Not long. I much prefer reviewing something a bit darker. It’s good for me to read what I’m interested in, and it means there’s a better chance that the author will get a balanced review, because the fact that it isn’t to my taste preferences won’t get in the way.

There’s only one thing I concern myself with when I review a book, and that’s the quality of the story. I don’t concern myself with who the publisher is, or the editor, or if the book is POD. The book stands or falls on the writing and storytelling.

Now, it’s true that it’s hard to review people you know. But one of the things I know about a lot of people is that they will accept fair criticism when it’s warranted.

There is just one thing I need to get off my chest about the whole process. Please please please follow our guidelines for requesting reviews.

Or I won’t consider them. Not to be a bitch, but, well, oh hell. I am going to be a bitch about that.

I’m getting way too much email these days to keep up with everything. I don’t particularly care f the book comes through the author or the publicist. What I do care about is having that brief description when someone is cold-calling and asking for a review. I don’t have time for all the email… Which means I don’t have time to look the book up. And if I don’t know what it’s about, I can’t offer it to my reviewers.

Now, all of that said, I’m looking for another reader/editor for Spinetingler. The pay sucks. You lose time you won’t ever get back. And you have to deal with me. If anyone’s still interested, you can email me.

Meanwhile, I’ll be sifting through the dozens of submissions, pulling my hair out.

Oh, and don't forget to nominate your best crime fiction reads at Crimespree - you have to scroll down, as I couldn't get a direct post link.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

The Great Copyright Debate

PVRing your show may soon be grounds for you to be charged.

From the article: “Ever taped or PVRed a show so that you can watch it later, otherwise known as time shifting?
Or ripped a CD so you could listen to it on your MP3 player, called format shifting? With changes to Canada's copyright laws expected as early as next month, these mundane 21st century activities could theoretically be open to prosecution - unless the Conservative government steps in with expanded "fair use" or "fair dealing" protections for consumers.”

I could hash over the intricacies of this article, but there’s one thing about it that stands out. “Researchers, reviewers, reporters, non-profit archives and libraries and people with sight or hearing problems are allowed to use copyrighted material without explicit permission.
Making mixed CDs or tapes is also considered OK because there is a levy applied to every blank CD or tape as a sort of royalty.
But there are no levies applied to DVDs, MP3 players, telephones or computer hard-drives where music can also be stored - a major black hole.
And there are no protections for relatively new activities like time shifting, or even old ones like using material in a parody or satire.”

What automatically irks me about the fact that they charge a levy on CDs and tapes is that they presume that you will use them for burning music CDs and making mixed tapes. When I went to the local Medical Examiner’s Office I was talking with a staff member there, who said they had to apply to get the money back because all photographs from all autopsies are stored on CD for records. In order to get the levy back you have to prove that you didn’t use the CDs for burning music. So, here’s one government agency talking to another government agency, who refuses to believe that the ME’s office buys thousands of CDs for any reason other than making music mixes.

The lady at the ME’s office told me she invited them to come on over and take a look for themselves…

I use CDs. I use them to back up the contents of my computer. I use them to maintain records of my manuscripts.

And yes, I pay the levy.

The reality is, for someone like me, it isn’t worth the time and trouble to go after getting that money back.

And none of that even addresses the fairness of the law. We live in the country. Some of the roads out here are a bit rough. I do my bit and go buy my new CDs. I mean, a few years ago, authors were bemoaning the loss of the ‘album’ with the onslaught of MP3s and downloads. But hey, I go to the store and buy the albums, like always.

But I like to make a copy of the CD and keep the good one here so it doesn’t get wrecked in the truck. And I honestly don’t see what’s wrong with that.

The reality is that a lot of CDs cost as much as $25 in store. Sure, if it’s a big-name seller they’re less. But some of us don’t listen to much mass-market stuff.

Now, the idea of charging people for time-shifting programs pisses me off, too. We have one of those things on our satellite. And you know what? We pay $75 per month for the frickin’ satellite. Know how many shows we watch weekly? Kevin watches The Simpsons. The Wire is over for another season.

Which means we pay a whole lot of money for fuck all.

Now, a show like The Wire, broadcast on HBO, there aren’t even commercial concerns. It isn’t like we’re skipping through them. We are paying 100% of the asking price to watch that show. But it’s on so late for us that we can’t stay up and watch it.

But we don’t have a DVD recorder and there’s a limited amount of storage space for shows. Which means you can’t keep them forever.

We buy every season of the show as soon as it comes out on DVD, so the thought of being charged just because we watch it 18 hours after it was originally broadcasted?

Guess what? I’ll cancel the satellite and we’ll wait for the DVDs then. I mean, we buy them anyway, and we can save $900 per year.

But guess what? All the networks we subscribe to will lose a bit of money. So, by coming after us for even more money for time-shifting, in the end they lose. TV isn’t that important to me anymore – I’m not a teenager. I will not let my life be dictated by a television schedule.

So in the end, who wins in that scenario? A lot of people time-shift. A lot. A lot of people do it because they have to work late, they have to go to parent-teacher meetings, they have kids to chauffeur to lessons… It’s a modern convenience that allows them to relax and unwind and gives them something to look forward to.

You know what’s funny to me? You take your books to the used book store and the author doesn’t get a second set of royalties on the sale. There are book exchange groups that allow for swapping…

Nobody cares about that. Not saying I do either. I’m just saying that the laws are hypocritical. It is only because television networks and the music industry have so much clout that they can push for changes that further penalize consumers.

And you know what? I’m not having any of it. I already pay my levy, thank you very much, even when I’m not using CDs to burn music… Which is most of the time, so I pay more than my fare share.

I’m not going to swallow this from the realm of television. May it be the first step in the process of seeing Star Trek be right about one thing from the future – a future with no television. Given the choice between paying more for precious little… well, I can buy a hell of a lot of books for $900, thank you very much.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Desperate For Heroes?

I’ve been thinking a lot about hero-worship lately. I’ve always held to the idea that we create heroes to fill the void in ourselves. There’s a part of us that wants to believe that, faced with insurmountable odds, when all hope seems lost, we’d rise to the challenge. We’d risk life and limb to save the universe from Darth Vadar. Shame nobody saved us from Pokemon.*

I am going to need your help on this – this all builds to a question. So, bear with me.

Now, what has prompted me to comment on this today is the fact that apparently Justin Trudeau is going to take a run at federal politics.

A lot of you are probably thinking, Who?

This is the eldest son of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau. He was our PM when I was a kid. All I really remember about him is that I knew adults who hated his guts and people used to say PetroCan stood for Pierre Elliot Trudeau Rips Off Canada. I actually have no idea why.

Speaking from experience, well, I don’t really have anything to say. I was 13 when he was leaving office, and knew precious little about politics at that point in my life.

So, you ask, what’s so special about Justin Trudeau?

Well, apparently he’s good-looking. Don’t ask me. I’ve heard the same said of many who hold no appeal for me whatsoever. Usually, the more universally “gorgeous” the more I don’t get it. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with his looks.

I actually didn’t realize Justin and I are the same age.

The reason Justin’s a stand-out? Only because the Trudeau’s are, to some people anyway, Canada’s answer to the Kennedy’s. To be quiet honest, I’m not sure why. My initial instinct on it is to say we’re copycats and were desperate to appoint someone we thought we worshipped.

It is true that the Trudeau family brought something to Ottawa that isn’t often there, our usual leaders being a fair bit older. The Trudeau’s had kids. And for some reason, being not only a Prime Minister but a parent makes you far more interesting. As though the country isn’t filled with parents.

So, I saw the headline about Justin Trudeau this morning and thought to myself, What’s he done to merit the attention? Of course, the answer is nothing special. Just by nature of being born a Trudeau he is, to many Canadians, a celebrity. Off-hand, I couldn’t even tell you if he has a job or what he does.

Why would he make a good MP? It’s clear to me that the people who want to see Trudeau in federal politics believe he can heal the Liberal Party and be the next great leader of Canada.

Me, I’m okay with the guy we’ve got right now. Who also has young kids.

I have nothing against Trudeau at all. But I don’t like the interest in his running, simply because it has that celebrity angle to it. It isn’t quite as over-the-top as it would be if Pamela Anderson ran, but it’s still bad enough. He represents some legacy…but he has no proven track record as a politician, a leader, an example.

He’s not my hero.

Now, that isn’t to say he wouldn’t make a good PM some day. (We all know that’s what some members of the Liberal party are anxious to groom him for. No wonder the current leader of the Liberal party isn’t too happy about Justin’s sudden interest in taking a run in the next federal election. But it is to say that when I decide how to vote, “celebrity” has nothing to do with it. Party record does. I belong to no political party, and I will weigh a number of factors each election. If I think a government is filled with lying bastards who’re defrauding Canadians of millions of dollars so that they can set their friends up for life, I’m not too damn likely to vote for them. Of course, surviving Bob Rae in Ontario has me fairly set in my decision to never vote NDP… And I haven’t really taken to the fringe parties just yet, but next time might be the time I vote Marijuana. Except I usually like a party to have more than one platform to run on.)

It’s just that this announcement contributed to things I was already thinking about… About why we seek heroes, about why we decide someone is a hero.

Someone’s a hero if they rescue a person from a burning building? In a manner of speaking. They have committed a heroic act. But are they a hero, forever worthy to wear the label? What if the person is also a drunk? What if he beats his wife at home? He still saved someone’s life…

In a few weeks I’ll be attending Left Coast Crime. I’ll be moderating a panel.

Guess what the panel is about?

So often, the protagonists in a thriller is up against a conspiracy or an establishment and is all alone. Do we want him to succeed because of that - because we all want, or maybe even need heroes?

I’m curious to know what you guys think. Are we looking for heroes? To be honest, I think much of the time we’re looking for real, normal people who just happen to stand up and display some courage. I’m not sure if that makes them heroes. To me, the hero character is Luke Skywalker. And the real person is Han Solo.

Years ago I was talking with a friend about other friends, who they were dating. One had some very unrealistic expectations in a partner. Nobody measured up. I rather tactlessly said, “Gee, I want to marry someone at least a little bit sinful.” I remember the moment clear as day because everyone doubled over laughing at me. I never thought it was that funny, and when I was ultimately asked why, I said it was simple. Who wants to marry someone who’s perfect? You’re saying yourself they can never do anything wrong, and since I know I’m not perfect I’d be constantly reminded that I didn’t measure up, and who wants to be saddled with that?

Of course, the other thing is, if someone does the right thing to get accolades, can they really be considered heroic?

I’m finalizing my panel discussion questions, and still sifting through my thoughts on this. If you think you have any great questions, or examples, I’d appreciate the input. I guess that, with so much of what I read being police procedurals, I definitely don’t qualify as reading for heroes. I mean, cops are heroic. But Rebus, a hero? Not quite how I see him. And then the thrillers I do read, Simon Kernick’s books (particularly featuring Dennis Milne) are definitely not about a conventional hero. He’s an anti-hero if ever there was one. And it seems to me there are a lot of anti-heroes out there in fiction today.

I am looking forward to this panel. I’m with a great group of authors, and I only hope I measure up as moderator. (And we all know there isn't a single person on the planet I worship, right? So I definitely need some help with this topic.)

*Deletta, I bet you’re laughing and thinking what I’m thinking.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Today’s regularly scheduled post has been interrupted by the phenomenal news that the one, the only M. G. Tarquini of the Footsore Fame placed as Runner-Up with her unpublished novel Hindsight in the 21st Annual (Philadelphia) City Paper Writing Competition.

I feel confident there will be some form of celebratory dance at Angie’s. Meanwhile, we’re all bowing at Mindy’s feet at her blog – stop by and congratulate her! I have read pieces of Hindsight and it’s phenomenal. Mindy of the Ginsu Tongue kicks ass!

I had more serious things in mind for today. The weekend contained news of two deaths connected to our family, and my youngest nephew Dashiell was in the hospital.

He has to have surgery later this month, although a full recovery is expected.

However, there is a saying. “Without the sorrows of life, the joys would not exist.” We grieve. We celebrate. Life does not stop, for anything, good or bad. Some of the other bad news we got this weekend involved my niece’s teacher from last year – her partner was taken off life support. That has affected my schedule a bit, because she was one of the teachers I would have been working with at Wordapalooza, an event I’m doing in a few weeks. I’m not complaining in the slightest, but since I know the principal and librarian at the school I’ve been asked to incorporate writing short stories into my sessions when I’m there, to help cover what will be missed in this teacher’s absence. I need to get my lesson plan (yikes! A lesson plan! It’s been ages!) done for Thursday.

I have decided to title my session How To Catch A Killer. Now, to come up with the rest of it…

I can’t concentrate at the moment, though. I am completely thrilled for Mindy. I remember her asking me if she should enter this contest, but I don’t remember her telling me if she did. Getting the news that she placed was a wonderful way to start the day.

Since I’m on positives today, I may as well stay in that vein. There is a new review of my book up at Crime Scene Scotland.

And, although rankings mean little, in the end, because there are so many variables to consider, no one can dispute that they like to see a good ranking. My husband dragged me out of bed to show me my day 1 Amazon ranking.

You’d think they’d discount the book or something.

Unbelievably, it still isn’t up on or on Chapters. And the version on is apparently the unauthorized version. People googling my name on Amazon have told me they couldn’t find the book, because has me listed as Sandra, Ruttan and doesn’t have my name attached to the book at all.

More than anything, that’s what makes me feel like a real author. Amazon screw-ups. It’s a right of passage.*

But that’s more than enough naval-gazing for today. I’m going to go to the city a bit later, although I’m not sure if I’ll get to see my nephew. (Opening presents with Aunt Sandra.)

Please stop by and congratulate Mindy. The aspiring authors out there know how much work writers put in, and how hard it can be to get published. This is a huge stepping-stone for a worthy writer. May an agent and deal follow.

Oh, and there’s a new post up at In For Questioning today with some other award-winners and news about a writing contest… and there was a post last week I forgot to link to about the Ippy Awards.

* Ooops. Guess that should be rite of passage? Ach, whatever.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Practice at Narcissism

One thing I've never wanted my blog to be about is just my book. The thought of blogging continuously about how I wrote my book, why I wrote this book, where the characters came from, where the idea came from, blah blah blah...

The idea of doing that bores me to tears.

So, I promise all of you that I'm not going to post continuously about the book...But I do have a few things to share.

1. The book is up on Amazon. I have been assured that it will be listed as available to purchase any moment now.

2. The release date has been updated on Barnes and Noble (see link on the sidebar). No longer shipping in four weeks, Stephen, but shipping in 24 hours. So there! Which means that yes, my book really is available tomorrow.

3. I'm on Amazon UK. I'm also on something called Amazon UK marketplace. Hopefully there will be pictures there soon.

There is one thing I want to share, and that's the first review to hit DorothyL.

Suspicious Circumstances
by Sandra Ruttan
TICO Publishing, January 2007

I think it’s fair to say that Sandra Ruttan’s first novel has been eagerly awaited on this list, by myself included. It’s out this month, and I was pleased to receive an ARC from Sandra.

Suspicious Circumstances tells a dark tale of crime and corruption in a Connecticut suburb that behaves like Smalltown Anywhere. The main characters are a newspaper reporter and a police detective who investigate in tandem, though they come together reluctantly at first. Watching them reconcile to each other as they are drawn deeper into the crimes is a large part of the enjoyment of this book.

I expect other readers and reviewers will comment here on the strong characters and rewardingly complex plot, so I’ll leave that to them. What I want to emphasize is the striking style in which Sandra writes: It’s episodic, cinematic, and highly effective. Most unique is her method of advancing the storyline almost entirely through dialogue. That dialogue is neat, crisp, precise, and where appropriate, witty. There is very little physical or narrative description, but when it occurs it’s well done, as for example when introducing a new character or place. Although I was occasionally confused by dialogue without the
usual tag lines (the he-said, she-said stuff), that’s a part of her unique style, which can only grow smoother with practice and should make her a stand-out in our crowded field.

Suspicious Circumstances has already begun to receive accolades both here and in Canada and the UK. Way to go, Sandra!

Diana Bane

I know Diana to be an astute reviewer, to be tough and honest. I was floored by her review. It made my day.

Coming Monday: Day 1 of what it's like to be an author. Just kidding. That would drive me mad, and drive all of you away! Besides, I vent so much unhealthy anger into my rant posts, I'd probably have a heart attack if I bottled it up.

Now I'm going to do something else that I don't like. Off to go shopping...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Say What?

I know it’s hard to believe, but yes, I really am suggesting you go read Kevin Wignall over at Contemporary Nomad again. Now, just between us, I wonder if he’d mind if I called him Wiggie. Probably safer not to ask. But it’s just so damn confusing distinguishing between my Kevin and Kevin Wignall. This is why I dislike common names.

Okay, but to the point, Kevin (Wig-ee-er-um-nall) has put up an interesting post with a very interesting question at the end. Again, authors, soon-to-be-authors, anyone thinking and talking about book promotion will find this worth their time to consider.

He’s probably slaughtered me in the comments by now. But it’s okay. We don’t always agree, but it makes for interesting discussions. Actually, Kevin Wignall was the reason I really want to do a panel called “Is Fair Foul and Foul Really Fair? Do we really need those bleeping expletives? Swearing in crime fiction.” Some day, Kevin and I will be on that panel at a convention. Of course, not if the event organizers know what’s good for them…

Now, in a bit of a BSPish moment here, I’d like to thank some people. Mindy. Trace. Ken Bruen. Angie. SW Vaughn. James. (And if you read James Oswald’s story in the fall Spinetingler, congratulate him. He’s written a manuscript based off that story, and I can’t wait to read it. He put down the final words on the draft on New Year’s Day – what a way to start 2007 James!)

What does thanking them have to do with BSP? Each of them posted this week about my book being available for pre-order on Barnes & Noble (or in Ken’s case, commented on the book in an interview). And none of them had to. They all decided on their own they wanted to, and surprised me. I’m sure from time to time I’ll hit other blogs and see mentions as well, and there are probably some I’ve missed here. But I’ve been simultaneously honoured and humbled to see you guys spreading the word about my book. Thank you.

Thanks to Norby, we now know my ratio of dog to cat in my breeding

You Are: 60% Dog, 40% Cat

You are a nice blend of cat and dog.
You're playful but not too needy. And you're friendly but careful.
And while you have your moody moments, you're too happy to stay upset for long.

And since I was there anyway, I had to settle this question once and for all

You Are 40% Sociopath

From time to time, you may be a bit troubled and a bit too charming for your own good.
It's likely that you're not a sociopath... just quite smart and a bit out of the mainstream!

Anyone want some free books? My friend Tim Maleeny who steals dragons instead of chasing them, asked me to pass on this news


It's a thriller lover's dream - the chance to win autographed copies of 150 novels by some of the biggest and best thriller authors in the business. That's right, 150 thrillers, signed by the authors.

Imagine receiving signed books by Joseph Finder, Tess Gerritsen, John Lescroart, Gayle Lynds, and David Baldacci for free. Then multiply that by thirty, because they represent only five of the 150 books you will receive if you're the winner in the International Thriller Writer's 150 Thrillers contest. The best part? Just by entering you'll begin receiving the free ITW newsletter, a monthly email newsletter that contains loads of information about upcoming thriller novels, thriller authors and thriller news.

All you have to do is go to before February 15th and sign up to get the free ITW newsletter. That's it.

Once you've subscribed, you're entered. The winner will be picked randomly from all entrants, and will receive 150 books from some of the top thriller novelists writing today. Three runner-up entrants will each receive a copy of the 2006 Thriller Anthology, edited by James Patterson. But really, everyone who signs up to receive the ITW newsletter is a winner.

So go on, sign up. You know you want to.

*Please note, there is a limit of one entry per person. And, as always, ITW will not share or sell your email information with others.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

No More Screwed Up Than Anyone Else

If there was one thing I’d think everyone would agree on, it’s that there’s a pretty high percentage of fucked up kids out there today. My niece is 12. She has a lot of friends, not just from school, but also from her extra-curricular activities.
Not one of her friends has two parents living under the same roof.

What are the long-term implications of that for kids? You know what? Sometimes it’s better for the kids to be in a home ripped apart by divorce. I mean, if a parent is abusive, it’s probably better to have them absent than to live with that….Right?

Yesterday I posted this:
And finally, a tremendous victory for same sex couples in Canada.

Today, my morning began with a read through the news and I think the first words I uttered were, “Oh give me a fucking break.”

Here’s why.

It is quite possible that the five-year-old boy who now has three legal parents will grow up to be a happy, well-adjusted member of society.

On the other hand, in 10 or 15 years, the Ontario boy being raised by a lesbian couple with help from his biological dad who lives in the neighbourhood, could be a mess.

He didn't ask to be a poster boy for the redefined family but Canada is rushing headlong into uncharted waters and this anonymous child is one of the star attractions in this surging culture war….there are two troubling aspects to this ruling. First, the court of appeal wielded the inherent common-law power of judges to reinterpret the law.

This may be necessary in exceptional circumstances but in this case, surely our lawmakers are best suited to rewriting the law.

Secondly, the future consequences of such a profound redefinition of parenthood are unknown.
The Institute of Marriage and Family Canada has called for a royal commission on the future of the family. Considering the furious pace of social and reproductive change in recent years, it's a wise idea.
"It's time to hit the pause button - especially as courts redefine basic terms like parenting - to analyze what the long-term outcomes of family-related policies are," says Dave Quist, executive director of the institute.

Now, I think the column isn’t someone trying to spearhead a crusade. But I have to wade in with some things that haven’t been mentioned.

We’re looking at this like it’s fucking revolutionary. You know what? It really isn’t. The boy has three parents. A hell of a lot of kids have three parents. It happens when their parents divorce and one remarries. Some kids have two parents at home. Some kids have two parents at different addresses. Some kids have one parent and the other remains a mystery, maybe to appear some day, maybe not.

And some kids have two parents plus Dad’s live-in girlfriend, or Dad’s new wife (stepmom). Or Mom’s live-in boyfriend or new husband.

Or Dad’s new live-in boyfriend…Or Mom’s new live-in girlfriend.

What is particularly true in this case about this specific court challenge is that from the very beginning, these two women were in a relationship. The father of the child is a friend of theirs. He assisted them in having a family. There was always a clear intent that this child was the child of the two women. I’m not saying that this man shouldn’t have any parental status, but I am saying that this is an ideal case for allowing the law to adapt to changes in society. After all, we don’t make people get licenses to have children, and there are times I think we damn well should. That’s a rant for another day. But if we give people the ultimate right to decide how to produce a child is it really up to us to dictate that the child can’t have two moms and a dad, just because the moms live together?

That’s bullshit. And let me address the idea that “we don’t know how poor little Johnny might be stigmatized by this.”
Look, Johnny might get picked on every day of third grade by a bully named Biff and end up emotionally scared and afraid to go out in public. There was a very public case here in Canada, where a girl committed suicide because she was being bullied at school. Tragic. And what did that have to do with parenting dynamics in her life?

But the real question to consider is this: What’s the damage to these kids who have two moms or two dads and are denied full family status because of antiquated interpretations of the law about what defines a family and how many people can be in it? Because if you’re going to talk about the potential damage we don’t know about and can’t measure, let’s talk about that. That is something we can start to measure, because kids have been living in these dynamics for decades.
Everyone here knows I spent years working with children. And yes, I have worked with children from same-sex families.
Children can be incredibly cruel. Most don’t pull punches. Sometimes, because they haven’t come to appreciate the need for that, sometimes because they’re just mean. I just read Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, as though I needed a reminder…

So how good is it for children who are taunted because their family isn’t a “real” family? What happens when the non-Mom wants to pick up Johnny from daycare? What happens when Johnny falls and breaks his arm or worse, requires stitches or needs a blood transfusion, and Mom is unreachable at work at the moment? Can non-Mom authorize medical treatment?

We risk letting children’s lives hang in the emotional, and yes, even physical balance because of antiquated laws. I’ve seen this from other angles, when there’s been a custody battle over children. There was one case where the boy did break his arm, a horrid break. And because of an ongoing court battle there was actually a restraining order against one parent. We couldn’t reach the legally responsible parent. Legally responsible parent’s partner had no legal standing. I spent hours in the hospital with the boy, waiting, until his legal parent could be reached.

While I can appreciate that courts shouldn’t make rash decisions, they do need to catch up to certain things. By failing to grant parental rights to extended partners of biological parents, in some cases a child’s life could hang in the balance.

Since I’m on this tirade anyway, here’s another thing to consider. Parenting is more than biology. (An exaggeration I know, though the saying is) any idiot can reproduce. But not just anyone can raise a child. I have worked with a lot of children who would have been better off raised by someone other than their biological parent(s).

The only reason this is an issue is because (gasp!) the boy has two moms, who happen to live together. If this was a case of the second mom being the wife of the father, there wouldn’t be a discussion.

So let’s call this what it is. Homophobia, pure and simple. Because we don’t know what the long-term impact of some hussy screwing 10 men at the bar one night and getting knocked up and sticking Junior with her folks (who clearly did a bang up job raising her to be a responsible adult) while she “gets a handle on her life” will be. Or what the long-term impact of watching parents divorce will be. Or being adopted. Or being adopted but still having some contact with the biological parent. But it happens all the time. We’ve accepted that, and dysfunctional is the new norm for most families.

All that matters is that Johnny is raised in a loving environment, where he is cared for and nurtured.

And the one thing that certainly isn’t going to help Johnny is having people dissect and analyze his family.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Other Places To Be

Today is a very special day. It’s the birthday of a good friend of mine. He knows who he is. I would have sent him dancing girls, except that costs a pretty penny to ship….er, um, overseas. So all he gets are these lousy blog birthday wishes…

Now, one of my wondrous friends, the very famous MG Tarquini, named for an Italian alcoholic beverage, put up a wonderful post about my book. And you need to click on the comments and scroll down to #* from e. ann bardawill, that starts, “WOOT SANDRA!!” and put down your beverages. . Ladies and Gentlemen, courtesy of Liz I have a new working title for the sequel…

Dear God, I hope I never slip up and write that by mistake! Damn her for putting that in my head! And I was so excited to see the Bunions back…

I’ve blogged today over at Killer Year and you should check it out. Except for Vincent, who doesn’t do realism.*

But I also want to comment on a fantastic post Kevin Wignall has up over at Contemporary Nomad. Each of you who read those BSP posts I did back in the summer, about what turns readers off and what marketing approaches work, will find Kevin’s post on how far you’re willing to go to promote yourself very interesting. A must read for any debut author, and for anyone who’s thinking of being published some day, because these are the very real questions you might have to ask yourself.

There is also an interesting discussion starting in the comments there. This is one occasion I’m going to beg you to go elsewhere and share your thoughts, at Killer Year and Contemporary Nomad.

That doesn’t mean you can’t comment here. Just that I don’t want to steal Kevin’s conversation, but I think it’s an important one for writers to consider.

I'll be tidying up my blog links and such over the next few days. I thought it was time for a new look. What do you guys think?

And finally, a tremendous victory for same sex couples in Canada.

*Remember, that’s my definition of realism, Vincent, so that’s extreme pessimism to you.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Most people make New Year’s resolutions. I don’t, usually, but I did meet one of my first goals already:

To not blog on a Monday. Next time I'll try for one that wasn’t a holiday.

However, I still hit the blogs yesterday. Just not by posting. I kicked off the New Year on Campaign for the American Reader with my page 69 test. My thanks to Marshal Zeringue for the invitation to participate – Marshal did a fantastic job with the post. It’s the only place online you can get a sneak peek inside the book.

I’m a person of extremes and contradictions, something that fails to translate well into book characters. Readers jump up and cry, “INCONSISTENT.” But aren’t the majority of us just a little inconsistent?

For instance, I’m a lousy housekeeper. But don’t you dare touch my mess. Each pile in my office is in just the right spot and somehow, my brain has the clutter organized. I can be looking for the scrap of paper that starts, “Carly page 197 rape kit semen ad info” and know I’ll find it near the Vodophone receipt from my last trip to the UK.

I’m the small-town kid who was too chicken to go to Toronto alone for the day, despite growing up in a town a few hundred kilometers north, but got on a plane and flew to the UK with a return date scheduled for almost a year down the road and didn’t know people, just went with it.

Toronto, scary. London, England? Give me a map and a tube pass and I’m set.

See what I mean about contradictions?

I can be incredibly anal about my routine, right down to what I buy every year. I realized that yesterday, as I went through the process of taking down 2006 calendars and putting up 2007 calendars. Down went Edinburgh 2006. Up went Edinburgh 2007. Down went Wolves 2006. Up went Wolves 2007. Down went The Group of Seven 2006. Up went… well, damn. I know I bought it, but someone has obviously messed with my system of organizing my clutter. Now I’ll have to look for it. And since my clutter system really applies to my office, well, I’ll have to clean my office.

But are you sensing a bit of a pattern there? Oh, it isn’t that bad. I know people who are far worse. Besides, I also had an Ireland calendar last year and haven’t found one for 2007 yet. I can cope with some small changes. Baby steps.

Although I’m deeply disappointed it looks like I won’t be going to Scotland this year, so no 2008 Edinburgh calendar for me. Not sure my body can handle the shock. Probably a good thing I have a year to cope with that.

Now that 2007 is here I’m trying to get back into the work routine, and as of the official day 1 I’m failing miserably. I don’t like it when my system gets messed with. (I could blame a certain person for telling me to sleep in this morning, but if I hadn’t been up at 1:30 in the morning because I couldn’t sleep I wouldn’t have known he told me to do that.)

The busier Spinetingler gets, the harder it seems to be for me to keep up.

So, I’m working on organizing my work in some meaningful fashion. I keep hoping it will make me more productive. But it might mean I’m a bit hit and miss here over the next few weeks.

It might also mean I’m not so quick with emails.

All I know is, looking at my calendar for this month, it’s busy. Which means there’s no time left over for getting into trouble unless I get motivated now.

On an unrelated note, how’d you like to be in a book? Sean Chercover is having a contest to be a character, and all you have to do is sign up for his newsletter. Hey, it doesn’t mean you have to read them, but you should, because Sean’s a great guy and he’s interesting. And he didn’t pay me to say that.*

And in other random news, the cube is making a comeback. Never could figure that damn thing out.

* Threatened with blackmail instead.