A Story in Trastevere

Rome 060One of the key locations of my second book, False Guilt, is Trastevere, Rome. Why?

As I shared in an earlier post, a few years ago I was in Rome for the first time. About five days in, I had the idea for a book about two Canadians becoming lovers there, only to begin suspecting one another of the long unsolved murder of a friend.

At patio dinners on warm evenings, I fleshed out the idea. With three days left in my trip, I’d progressed to imagining some dramatic events at the female character’s Roman apartment. But I needed a neighborhood. Something with winding streets, some history and good restaurants, I thought.

Of course, that was like saying I wanted an office tower on Wall Street or a Toronto condominium near Lake Ontario as a location. I had a lot of choice. And, also, little time.

I walked and took many taxi and subway rides on the hunt for the right Roman neighborhood. My feet and lower back became sore. Despite many great spots such as the one pictured, I couldn’t find what I wanted. I started thinking I’d move the idea to North America.

Then serendipity struck. At lunchtime on the second last day, I spoke with an English couple with a poodle. They mentioned that her father, “a wealthy bloke”, had bought an apartment in Trastevere years before, which they were renting for a few months. Trastevere, they went on, was a rione across the Tiber and less busy than the center. It had been working class once but now it was “quite buzzy”.

I headed there right away and spent the afternoon. The area of Trastevere I was in had the right feel for my story: busy, cramped, colorful and edgy. Getting up the next day, I knew I had to return and take some video.

The best part of that process was that I stumbled across a small square, which, in False Guilt, became a little piazza. I took a 360-degree video that included a two-level orange house with green shutters. In an apartment in that house, Grace and Paul cope with peculiar neighbors, difficult pasts and mutual suspicions.

That’s a serendipity that should happen more often in writing.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt.

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.


Blog 54 Image


I’m continuing my blogs about a first-time writer choosing between traditional publishing and self-publishing.

One key difference between those two routes is that a writer who chooses traditional publishing will have a contract with a publishing house. I thought I would write posts about copyright, promises of the publisher under a traditional publishing contract and promises of the writer.

Before continuing, I have these important cautions.

  • My posts are not intended as legal advice and shouldn’t be relied on as such. They’re for general information.
  • I’m going to focus on Canadian law to illustrate concepts. However, copyright and contract laws vary by jurisdiction. Typical contract terms do as well.

So, if you’re a first-time writer considering signing a contract with a publisher, you must get advice from a lawyer qualified to review the contract.

Here then is a very basic overview of some of the main aspects of Canadian copyright applied to a work of fiction created by a first-time writer.

Why is copyright important? For a writer interested in traditional publishing, copyright is essential because it’s the right the writer sells an interest in or licences to a publisher in exchange for royalties. If a jurisdiction’s laws didn’t say that a writer owns copyright in her book, it would be harder or impossible for her to realize value from the book.

What is copyright? Under the Copyright Act (Canada), “copyright” is defined in relation to a work. For a literary work, most fundamentally, copyright means the sole right:

  • to produce or reproduce the work or any substantial part of it in any material form, and
  • if the work is unpublished, to publish the work or any substantial part of it.

However, the basic copyright definition is extended in many ways. For example, for a novel, copyright includes, among other things, the sole right to publish any translation in the work, to convert it into a dramatic work and to convert it into a cinematographic work.

As a first-time Canadian writer, does my book automatically have copyright? The Copyright Act creates conditions that must be met before copyright subsists in a book. However, in many cases, they are easily met. For example, copyright subsists in an original literary work if the author, at the date of making the work, was a citizen of any of the countries, including Canada, that has signed specified treaties relating to copyright.

How long does copyright last? In Canada, copyright in a work generally subsists for the life of the author and fifty years after the end of the calendar year in which she dies. There are exceptions.

How does a writer come to own the copyright in her book? The Copyright Act says that, subject to other provisions, the author of a work is the first owner of copyright in the work. One exception is where a writer creates a book in the course of being employed by someone else. In that case, the employer will be the first owner of copyright unless the parties agree otherwise.

Infringement. If someone infringes a writer’s copyright, the Copyright Act provides for civil and criminal remedies. There are exceptions to infringement such as fair dealing.

Needless to say, piracy thrives because enforcing copyright is costly or difficult to pursue.

Assignment/Licence: An author of a work can assign or licence her copyright in whole or in part. In a traditional publishing contract, the assignment or licence is the main right the publisher is buying.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Distributing Your Self-Published Book: The Overview

Blog 53 ImageIn my blog series called How to Self-Publish, it’s time to turn to the question of how to distribute your book.

Subsequent posts will look at various eBook and print-on-demand (POD) distribution channels that a self-published author can access. This post starts the process with an overview.

It’s amazing what’s available. When I’m finished the posts on distributing your self-published book, you’ll see that there are many options to make your book available far and wide, both in eBook and print formats. The pace and scope of this development have been astounding. Writers have unprecedented ways to publish their manuscripts and control the promotion of their books.

What’s available is constantly changing. At the core of the advent of self-publishing has been the development of technology that allows the uploading and sale of manuscript files on sites like Kindle. That technology is advancing quickly, so self-published writers will find that distribution platforms come and go, and change often. Writers must regularly assess what distribution strategy will work best for them.

Don’t ignore print. When I wrote my first book, The Case for Killing, I imagined only publishing it as an eBook. The world of self-publishing was full of commentary that readers were moving from hard and softcover books to digital versions on their readers or tablets using apps.

I’ve now ensured that print versions of The Case for Killing and False Guilt are available in many markets as well. Why? The rate of growth in the adoption of eBooks seems to have slowed. A recent study by Publishing Technology shows that higher percentages of both older U.S. readers and millennials (18-34) prefer print books to eBooks. And I’ve found something similar. I often hear readers say they still prefer the look and feel of paper books.

A few self-published authors will actually make money; most won’t. Occasionally, I still encounter people who are surprised that money can be made distributing self-publishing books. More often, I encounter writers who read about a few massive successes and think they’ll get to the same spot. You can find lots of speculation and some studies about self-published author income. Bottom line, it takes enormous perseverance and some luck to recover upfront costs, let alone make money. And…

You still need a great book. Given the huge numbers of self-published books, the starting point for selling any copies of a self-published book, eBook or print, is writing a great manuscript and ensuring the cover and interior are well designed.

Don’t confuse distributing with promoting. Another naive thought I’ll confess to is that sales would come simply by having my books on a well-trafficked site like Amazon. Nope. Self-published writers, more than traditionally published authors, must promote, promote, promote. Readers won’t be looking for your book in a distribution channel if you don’t.

You will be pitched other services. Many self-publishing retailing sites will pitch writers other services like editing and advertising. I’ll write more about this later. The point is that writers should tread very carefully to avoid additional expenses.

More posts on distribution soon.

Hard to believe I’ve been blogging for one year. Thanks readers!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

False Guilt and Robert Street

Blog 51 Image 2Writing the first draft of False Guilt, I needed a street close to the downtown campus of the University of Toronto where five students shared a house in the early 1990s and hid secrets.

I chose Robert Street, partly because I remember student housing there, partly because my second son shares the first name and partly because I think it’s quite charming.

Robert Street is west of the downtown campus parallel to Spadina Avenue, running north from College Street to Bloor Street. The street was laid out in 1873 by Robert Baldwin.

Robert Baldwin’s great-grandfather, another Robert Baldwin, and grandfather, William Baldwin, came to Toronto from Ireland in 1798. William Baldwin became a prominent doctor, lawyer and politician supporting responsible government. He is the namesake for Baldwin Street in Toronto and laid out Spadina Avenue in 1836. William’s son, the father of the Robert Baldwin who laid out Robert Street, was also named Robert. He too was an important politician who made contributions to the development of democracy and responsible government in Canada. (All this courtesy of Toronto Street Names – An Illustrated Guide to their Origins by Leonard Wise and Allan Gould.)

The Harbord Village Residents’ Association is doing a lot of great work to preserve the history of Harbord Village, of which Robert Street forms part. From their website, I learned that Harbord Village was once considered a poor neighbourhood and that residents would typically only live there until they had saved enough money to move elsewhere. Anglo-centric in the 1920s, over the next decades, the area become home for various other communities. Houses were divided into multiple units until gentrification began reversing the trend in the 1980s.

In the late 1960s, Toronto held a huge debate about making Spadina Avenue and Road into an expressway to downtown. Linked to this were discussions about demolishing area houses, including on north Robert Street, for high-rises and parks. Today, it is hard to imagine the effect of the expressway and those planning changes on Harbord Village.

And I would have been looking for another street for False Guilt.

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.