We Need Diverse Books & The Old Fat White Author

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We Need Diverse Books.

This is an important campaign. It’s all over social media, and rightly so – it makes sense that books should reflect our cultural mosaic.

Mea Culpa time: I’m a 48 year old white guy that most people haven’t heard of and who, amazingly, has been published seven times. I’m a bit right of center in my values (understand, a Canadian conservative would be an American Liberal, BTW) but I’ve always considered myself a pretty tolerant person. It likely comes from having grown up in a country that traditionally votes Liberal, sticks to the mushy middle and basically tries to get along with everyone. Seriously, Canada is like the next door neighbor that everybody borrows gardening tools from but fails to return them and we’re too polite to ask for our property back. Apparently, the NY Times thinks we’re “hip” all of a sudden. Naturally, Canadians mocked this … politely, of course. Apparently, Planet Earth wants to have sex with our new Prime Minister. Good for him, I guess.

At any rate, multiculturalism is an official policy in Canada, but we’re still a very white with two official languages – English and French. Where I live in Saskatoon, we’re pretty darned white. We have a large First Nations population. (until very recently their federal government ministry was called “Indian Affairs”. Now it’s called Indigenous & Northern Affairs.) My own experience is lilly white. I was born in Ontario and spent my childhood in a very tough neighborhood of predominately working poor white families in Sudbury. We moved out to Calgary Alberta in 1980 and my experience there was mostly a white one.  Yes, there was a large east Indian community but we didn’t mix in Junior High or High School that I can recall.

So when I started writing to get published, the mere thought my characters being anything but white hadn’t occurred to me. I didn’t expand that cultural mosaic into my writing because it didn’t reflect the reality of my life so everybody was a WASP. Or a WASC.  I thought I was being progressive by including Ukrainian names for characters in my books because there’s a heck of a lot of Ukrainians in Western Canada.  I didn’t write non-diverse on purpose, mind you. But over the past three or so years, I’ve come to recognize that books should reflect everyone in the community because the community is everyone. Know what I mean? It’s not just white people like me.

In my novel STUDENT BODIES, I decided to throw caution to the wind and write a diverse character. Twyla Standingready is a First Nations mage-in-training. She kicks ass all over the book. People loved her and I even got emails from readers who thought it would be cool for her to have her own book. Her grandfather was in there too, again, kicking ass using native magic – which of course I made up entirely in my world building process and to this day, I wonder if I had a right to do that. I wasn’t trying to make a statement by putting in a diverse character. I was just trying to make the story more reflective of the world I live in. This isn’t without risk because I wonder if I am going to upset anybody by writing a diverse character and not getting something right about their culture. Seriously … I’ve lost sleep over this. I don’t know what the rules are. I don’t know if I have a right to write diversity because I am a fat old white guy.

I purposely included diversity in my bleak post apocalyptic YA novel, THE NORTH. Again, a First Nations character.

But I have felt a need to write a novel with a non-white protagonist. Not because I am trying to correct historical maltreatment of ethnic groups but because I thought it would be cool.

Yes. There you have it. That’s my motivation in writing diversity now. Coolness followed by a healthy dose of “why the hell not?”

In 2015, I wrote a novel called #GRUDGEGIRL. My protagonist is named Jia Song – she’s Chinese. She sees the ghosts of murdered women and children. She hunts their killers. She’s off the grid. She’s massively bad ass. My agent has it and is about to shop it. I hope a publisher buys it but there’s this niggling fear that I didn’t get something right. That I might piss somebody off because I didn’t do enough research into her culture.

Writing is never without risk. It’s a great story and I hope it finds a home.

And I guess I’m kind of glad about We Need Diverse Books, because it grabbed this author’s attention. My motivation is still “this would be a cool idea” but now I’m looking at it through a multicultural lens and that’s progress. Writing books is a massive undertaking. Writing books that reflect my community is now on my radar and before it wasn’t. The funny thing? Because I’ve added diversity, I’ve got more angles to explore in my characters. More texture as I try to write their backstory.

Diversity might even be making me a better writer.

Not bad for a 48 year old white guy who needs to drop about fifty pounds.

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Onward to 2016

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me

(Here I am rocking my new glasses)

I didn’t spend a lot of time blogging in 2015.

I’m of mixed feelings on it because I’d rather be writing something new that might possibly manage to get published and frankly, I’ve been a very cranky person for about a year and a half now – not sure why. I’m trying to change that.

I did, however, complete a new book which is now with my agent. I think it’s very good. Possibly the best thing I’ve written so far. We’ve got one project we’ve been trying to sell but it’s urban fantasy and that’s a tough one these days. That said, I’m thankful to the good folks at Rebelight Publishing for making my first foray into middle grade by publishing my little story about a girl, her hippie granny and missing cats  in the fall, so that was good news. It’s been hard as hell to get reviews for TO CATCH A CAT THIEF. I’m not entirely sure why. I’ve sent physical copies to traditional media here in Canada but there hasn’t been a nibble of interest which is a bit of a puzzle to me. The whole issue of discoverability for an author has been on my mind a lot lately and I honestly can’t figure out what makes people take notice of a new book. I could write a book filled with hints and tips from so many different writers both traditionally published and self-published about how they made their books a success, and I’ve tried a few of them but it’s been a hard slog.

I don’t believe blog tours work one bit and a number of author friends of mine are of the same opinion. Hiring a publicist might be a good option for some but we authors aren’t exactly swimming in cash these days. I think I would have hired a publicist for my latest book but I just can’t afford to do it. So you try to get the word out the best way you can in between writing and working your day job. Six of my seven books have been traditionally published. I have rights back to SHADE FRIGHT, FUNERAL PALLOR, UNSEEN WORLD and I’ve self published them. I also have the rights back to POLTERGEEKS and STUDENT BODIES and I hope to get them out there as reprints. There was to be a third book – END GAMES. I’d like to finish it but I’m not going to until I know where the first two books stand.

To date, my best selling books are MARSHALL CONRAD – A SUPERHERO TALE & THE NORTH. Both are self-published, the first being a reprint and the second being an original work. I actually sell enough of both books that I get real money in the form of a cheque from Amazon every month. Like, more than enough to buy a few tanks of gas and fill the fridge with groceries. The irony is that I don’t do any book promotion for these titles. Nothing. Zip. Nada.

So – stuff that I promote doesn’t sell. Stuff that I self-publish and don’t promote does sell. I truly must be living in Bizarro World.

I started a writer’s group here in Saskatoon about two years ago. There’s a core group of about 8-10 of us and they’re a great bunch of people. This year we self-published an anthology. The goal was to get everyone writing outside of their comfort zone and for those participants who submitted stories, I have to say Well Done! Well Done Indeed! You worked hard at something. You committed to a project and deadlines and editing and everything that goes with getting published. Some even discovered they were better writers than they gave themselves credit for. Go buy our little anthology, won’t you?

So, not the most inspiring end of the year blog posting. I keep hoping to write that elusive breakthrough novel. Maybe we will with the new one. It’s dark fantasy – sort of Kill Bill’s The Bride meets The Sixth Sense meets Sons of Anarchy. A train wreck of a protagonist and a shock ending. I’m quite proud of it. I’m very blessed to have the world’s most supportive wife. She puts up with my weird writing hours and my bouts of melancholy that I do battle with whenever I feel like I’m slipping.

What am I working on right now? I’m experimenting with a detective novel but it’s not really lighting my world on fire. Just doesn’t feel right. I might shelve it for a while. I have another project I”m about 20K words into now – a YA detective story featuring a brother-sister sleuth team. They hunt serial killers.

Anyway, that’s it for 2015. If you’ve been following my sporadic blog posts, thanks you. I’ll try to write more in 2016. If you bought one of my books this year, thank you, thank you, thank you!

My best to you and yours in the new year.

 

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Launched!

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Here’s a quick blog post with some pictures from this past Monday’s launch of my new middle grade book TO CATCH A CAT THIEF. Thanks so much to McNally Robinson Booksellers who are such huge HUGE supporters of local authors. There’s something going on every night at this bookstore and the one in Winnipeg as well! Thanks as well to members of Saskatoon Writer’s Meetup, (my writer’s group) who came out to cheer me on – Nicole Rimmer, Courteny Piech, USA Today Bestselling Author Rachel Astor and David Buglass. If you look closely you will see a tiny little woman with dark curly hair – that’s my 81 year old mum, the real Grandma Bev. (Who actually wasn’t a hippie back in the 1960’s. She was basically the person who chased hippies with her car.) Finally, thanks to the good folks at Rebel Light Publishing for making my seventh book happen in the first place. Oh, and Edward Willett for telling me to submit to them.

We’re getting some nice reviews, and of course you can follow the blog tour to win a copy! It ends this week.

Onward!

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It’s A Giveaway!

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Cat Thief Twitter

I’m giving away five (5) copies of my forthcoming middle grade debut and all you have to do to win is:

Post the above image on your Facebook page
Post the above image on your Twitter feed using #pleasesavethekitties
Mention the blog tour which begins on Monday November 2nd.
ToCatchACatThiefTour

 

 

 

 

 

Sound cool? Okay … GO!

 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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To Catch A Cat Thief – Book Trailer

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Cat Thief Twitter

 

 

 

You can pre-order here. Please, won’t someone think of the kitties?

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