The Best Two Books of 2013

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Oh yes, it’s annual list time again! I love doing my annual books ‘o the year blog post because I get to celebrate some amazing authors who, quite frankly, I wish I could write even 1/10 as good as. So here we go, my top two picks in no particular order.

THE BLUE BLAZES by Chuck Wendig

Mookie Pearl. Remember that name because this guy is a big time bad ass of epic proportions. A walking, talking side of beef who works as a mob enforcer  and there’s a lot of seriously bad stuff happening with his daughter who might or might not be plotting a coup to take over all the gangs in the underworld. Throw in some very nasty preternatural creepiness mixed in with the seedy underbelly of the city and a drug that lets you see things the way they really are, well, you’ve got some game changing dark fiction.

I loved this book and raved about it to anyone who would listen. Wendig’s style of writing is gritty as hell (ptooey! sand in my teeth) and the pacing makes this book unputdownable. Mookie is badder than Sandman Slim in his first adventure and you won’t want to miss the surprise twists and turns as Wendig hits it out of the ball park. Go get it!!

 

 

TheBigReap-144dpiTHE BIG REAP by Chris F. Holm

Sam Thornton. Soul collector. He’s a little bit doomed and a whole lotta damned in this third installment. He’s tough as nails …  near indestructible depending on whose body he’s occupying at the time. This is an exceptional urban fantasy series that is unlike anything you’ll find on bookstore shelves. Poor Sam has been tasked with finding and collecting some MOST EVIL BAD NOT VERY NICE NASTY ASS former collectors who’d somehow managed to break their bonds.

What makes this book the very best of the series is the fact that we truly get to see the cost of making a deal with the Devil to saved a loved one. And Holm doesn’t hold back because there is no cosmic pay it forward at work here – Sam is eternally screwed for what he did to save his wife – there’s nothing he can do about it. Blistering pacing woven together seamlessly with a back story that tears the heart, THE BIG REAP is everything that I love about Urban Fantasy & so much more. Go get it. Read it and know that you’ve got a truly special series that I hope doesn’t end any time soon.

 

 

 

 

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My Hope for the 12th Doctor

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… Is that he remembers how to kick ass like the 3rd Doctor:

 

judo

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Self-Publishing: Who Is Making The Money?

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This story in The Guardian caught my attention: 391,000 books were self-published in the United States last year.

Holy, suffering, jumping, dying Moses!

That’s a staggering number of titles – I won’t go into the quality of the books. Most people in the industry agree that most self-published titles lack the kind of editing, style and quality of writing that you see with traditionally published books. But I have to ask: if, say, 300,000 books wind up being self-published each year, and a good portion via Kindle Direct Publishing, for example, who is making the money?

While self-published books receive a higher royalty, the vast, vast majority might make a couple of hundred bucks. A book’s success is wholly dependent on the author’s brand and the ability to market those books. Just as in traditional publishing, social media is the primary source of book marketing because it’s basically cost-free. A book’s success will likely depend on an author’s social media currency, and good on those authors who capitalize on it for profit. (Though my Twitter feed is spammed continually be self-pubbed authors trying to flog their stuff. Twitter seems to be the marketing tool of choice next to blog tours & giveaways.) But here’s the thing: is it not in Amazon’s best interest to flood the market with self pubbed titles? I mean, they own the market – Amazon makes money whether one Kindle Direct Publishing title sells or whether a hundred thousand sell.

Very simply, the math is in Amazon’s favor – or really any self publishing venue online. If they own the marketplace, then it makes sense to get as many titles listed in your online bookstore as humanly possible regardless of their quality or content and then skim pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters off each one that sells. KA-CHING!  (And don’t even get me started on the Kindle Direct Published titles that are *free* Those free titles skew the Amazon rankings, don’t you know.)

Look … the fact is that most traditionally published authors don’t earn out their advance on royalties.  There’s no advance on royalties with self-publishing, but I think writers need to be aware of just how many copies they’re going to likely sell before they decide to self-publishing with Amazon or anyone else.

This is a bad model for authors but you can’t disagree, it’s a hell of a business approach and one that is reflective of the mind-numbing level of change in the publishing industry. I also think it’s unsustainable and might possibly face a self-published author backlash in a few year’s time because the truth hasn’t yet sunken in for those with dreams of becoming the next self-publishing phenomenon. I think what you’re writing is important too, if you want to make a few bucks out of the self-publishing gig. Romance and literature make up the lion’s share of self-published books according to the article – sadly, what’s missing are the sales figures.

If we had those numbers, I think authors might go into self-publishing with realistic expectations.

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Canada’s Reaction to Alice Munro’s Nobel Prize in Literature

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Damn it … where are my tap shoes??

 

 

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Canada Doesn’t Give A Damn About Its Veterans

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Updated on on 15 June 2016. This post first appeared on October 4, 2013. New government is a lot like the old government as we veterans are now told by federal lawyers there is no ‘duty of care’ to Canada’s veterans.

I first learned the Government of Canada is closing the Veteran’s Affairs office in Saskatoon back in the fall. It’s part of a cost cutting regime our federal Conservatives have been embarking on for the past year or so as they try to reign in the deficit. And really, this closure has nothing to do with former Canadian Army, Navy and Air Force personnel – it has to do with the civilians working at the Veteran’s Affairs office here in town. It’s about eliminating federal public service jobs because they eat up a large chunk of the budget. We veterans are just caught in the line of fire, that’s all.

I suppose I could be very shrill and sanctimonious – I could say government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper was very quick to put our military personnel in harm’s way as part of an aggressive foreign policy that had nothing to do with international peacekeeping and everything to do with supporting the U.S. “war on terror”. But I won’t. There’s lots of special interest groups and opposition political parties that are trying to score points. It’s what they do.

And you know, I’ve never really had mind-blowingly amazing  service any time I darkened the doors of the Veteran’s Affairs office here in Saskatoon. Everything is behind thick panes of glass – you know, security glass. You walk into a waiting room with some tables and generic semi-comfy office chairs. There’s copies of the Royal Canadian Legion’s magazine and of course lots of pamphlets on programs and services available to veterans. But every time I paid a visit, I didn’t really feel that welcome – how could I or anyone? The civil servants that are supposed to guide vets through the labyrinth of complex federal regulations deliberately written in vague bureaucratic language that you need a lawyer to decipher speak in that very same language – a language, ironically, that veterans don’t speak.

(The regulatory language of what veterans are entitled to and more importantly, how to access benefits is unbearably difficult to understand, and I’m a word guy. I write books for crying out loud! The media should be reporting on how vague and complicated it is to actually understand how to access veteran’s services.)

I don’t blame the public servants working there, of course – bureaucrats and the Ministry decided to turn Veteran’s Affairs offices into the unwelcoming places they are. I guess all the locked doors and security glass, the talking through a tiny window in the glass to a civil servant exists because the powers that be are afraid veterans are going to go postal. That we’re going to suddenly become violent because we aren’t getting the help we need because of what Canada asked us to do on its behalf.

There’s a lot of symbolism in thick panes of security glass.

I have a regular non-civil service job. I get that our government has to cut back on its payroll to balance the books. I know that most Canadians support these cuts because none of us has any kind of benefit package including a pension and annual sick days that comes within ten miles of what civil servants receive. There’s an old saying in Canada: everyone hates the public service and everyone wants to work for the public service.

But, there are some things that shouldn’t be cut. Veterans programs and services need to be at the top of that list because it is about a bargain the country struck with volunteers who signed up to serve. We (military personnel) will serve our nation faithfully. We will lay down our lives if necessary to protect you. And you (Canada), when the time comes … you must take care of us because of what we did.

It doesn’t matter if the service person is a veteran of combat in Afghanistan or a recently retired administrative clerk who has spent twenty years filing military paperwork on a safe Canadian military base somewhere: We served our country. You didn’t. You owe us.

All in the name of government restraint, I suppose. We’re told that we can access many of the services online now, but that ain’t service. That’s a freaking website. That’s not talking with a case worker.  If the regulations are vague and hard to understand, a website is a thousand times worse.  Military personnel  and veterans know all about service – we know more than any public servant, elected politician or Canadian civilian can ever possibly conceive.

Unfortunately none of this resonates with most Canadians. (Seriously. Whenever I visit the United States and the folks there learn that I am a veteran, they immediately shake my hand and thank me for my service, even though I am from a foreign country. In Canada, if someone learns that I am a veteran I generally get a blank stare and a polite “oh”.) The government knows this. The cuts will come and let’s say that Harper loses the next election. Does anyone in their right mind think the Liberals or NDP will reopen the offices that are now closing? Not a freaking chance. UPDATE – was wrong on that one. But they might as well remained closed since everything is behind locked doors and security glass, but I digress.

I think a lot of veterans give up. I think that’s why the government can point to the fact that of the 600,000 veterans in Canada only 130,000 have a file with Veteran’s Affairs and only 7,500 have an assigned case manager..

The ongoing rash of veteran suicides is a symptom of a much larger problem that nobody really wants to talk about. Combine this with the fact that military personnel are trained to suck it up and soldier on from the first day of boot camp, well, you know the drill.

Nobody is marching in the streets in support of Canadian veterans. They won’t either. The cuts will continue and nobody really gives a damn. Harper’s people know it. The Liberals know it. The NDP knows it.  Nothing to see here, folks. We’re just veterans, that’s all.

It is so exhausting.

It’s so unbelievably soul destroying to know that the country you volunteered to serve, protect and possibly lay down your life for, doesn’t give a damn.

Dear Canada, let’s be honest for once – all of us. If you truly cared about about your veterans, better services would exist. Our national leaders would be held to account. That’s not happening. Veterans issues aren’t even a blip on anyone’s radar. .

And there is probably still that thick protective glass in the waiting rooms of the remaining Veteran’s Affairs offices in Canada.

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