False Guilt: At the Funeral

I think of what follows as a short “sequel-prequel” to my book, False Guilt, because it fits between the first and second parts.

Blog 59 ImageBetween the minister’s sombre sentences, one of the wooden doors of Toronto’s Metropolitan United Church thumped shut. Paul turned to look from the front pew and caught his breath. Grace had appeared, five minutes late for the funeral service. She slunk into a back row and sat alone.

An hour later, Paul had helped carry the casket to the hearse and his duties were done. The burial was for family only. He stood on the front steps of the church and pushed a hand through his hair. He wondered if he was doing the right thing waiting for her.

It didn’t take long to find out. Her tall, slim body was one of the last to exit the church. As soon as she saw him, Grace stopped under the arch. Caution, not pleasure, crossed her face.

A surge of May air cleared some strands of black hair. “Hello,” she said.

“I saw you,” he said, clearing his throat. “From the front row. I just wanted to say hello.”

“I just beat you to it,” she said, testing a smile. “How have you been?”

“Oh, busy. With law school and stuff. But second year’s finished now.”

“How did it go?” she asked.

He shrugged. “They still haven’t told me yet. You been busy, too?”

“Very, yes. With dance and work and stuff.” She paused. “I was going to call you back. But I knew you had exams.”

“Of course,” Paul said. “That was very considerate of you.” He felt his face flushing red.

“This is all so tragic,” Grace continued, glancing for a second beyond the front lawn at traffic. “And you knew him a lot better than me.”

“I guess. This whole thing is like a bad movie that won’t stop. And for a guy who always made things work for him. At least until recently.”

“I just hope they find out who did it, really soon.”

“Me, too.” He looked down and pawed the step he stood on. “So, I was wondering, you know, now that I’m done with school, if I could see you again. I enjoyed the time we had coffee.”

“I did, too,” she said. “But I might have some travel plans.”

“Oh, I see, sure,” he said, pawing again. “Well, let me come right out and ask, because, to be honest, I’ve been thinking about you a lot.” He cleared his throat again. “Do you—do you have any interest in me?”

He wanted to say more. That he’d yearned for her since their coffee and intimacy six weeks earlier. That he was sure there could be a connection. That even the menace of the past several days hadn’t changed those feelings.

But her eyes held pity.

“I really did have a nice time with you, Paul,” she said. “It’s just not the right time for me now.”

She began to walk down the steps. He touched one of her forearms. “Are you sure?” he asked.

A hint of impatience joined the pity. She sighed and bit her lower lip. “And I just don’t feel the passion,” she added.

Gutted, his hand fell to his side. He was certain he would never see her again.

But fifteen years later, at the funeral of another friend, he would.

And she would feel differently.

Copyright © 2015 Peter Fritze

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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.

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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.

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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

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My Guest Blog

This week, I’ve guest blogged for Melodie Campbell. Melodie is a crime/comedy writer, a winner of the Derringer and Arthur Ellis Awards, a fellow Canadian and just an all-around really nice person. I read her book The Goddaughter and found it hilarious.

Read my cringeworthy young lawyer experience on Melodie’s blog at http://funnygirlmelodie.blogspot.ca/.

Back to a full blog here next week. Thanks!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

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False Guilt: A Short Prequel

FalseGuilt_FrontCover_Blog 44“Take her nice and slow,” their grandfather said, stroking the white stubble on his chin.

David tightened the recoil pad against his shoulder and drew his face alongside the stock. He pressed one eye shut, squinted through the front sight with the other and took a deep breath.

“Nice and steady,” Granddad added.

Paul stood ten yards back, fingers plugging ears, watching and anticipating.

A second later, a boom echoed through the Northern Ontario forest and the shotgun kicked high in the air. In the distance, a target pinned against a tree stump took it hard in the centre. Paul envied his older brother’s shot.

“Maybe you still got it,” Granddad said to David. “Despite everything.”

“What about me?” Paul asked, walking toward them.

“We had enough for today,” Granddad said. He intercepted Paul with an arm around the shoulder and lowered his voice. “I got to talk to your brother. Hang back a bit, okay?”

Granddad emptied the handgun and two shotguns of ammunition. He gave the handgun to Paul to carry, and David and he each took a shotgun. They began the trek along the worn path to Granddad’s truck.

At first, Paul respected the request and stayed back ten yards. But curiosity drew him closer.

“What are you, twenty now?” Granddad asked.

“Ah-huh,” David said.

“Well, don’t you think it’s time to act responsibly? Hell, when I was your age, I was lookin’ to get married already.”

“Different times, I guess.”

Paul knew where Granddad was heading.

“Not so different, son. The drugs and that crap are different, though. Why are you involved with that stuff?”

“I’m not really,” David said.

“According to your mother you are. And I can see it in how you hold the guns.”

David grunted. “I nailed that last shot.”

“You were miles wide with the others.” Granddad sighed. “You need to take your well-being seriously. What you do affects people.” Granddad snapped his head back toward Paul. “Especially him.”

“I’ll try to remember that.”

“You do that.” Granddad paused. “And one other thing.”

“What?”

“You can talk to me if you want to. I don’t think your mother’s any good at that. Too excitable.”

In his mind, Paul agreed. Then he imagined, and dismissed, telling Granddad the secrets David had shared with him.

“I’ll try to remember that, too,” David said. He slapped the back of his neck. “Man, there are a lot of mosquitoes out today.”

“I’m immune,” Granddad said.

The path opened to the end of a dirt road. As he opened the doors to his pickup, Granddad held his head low, worry crimping the lines across his face.

Paul scrambled into the middle of the truck’s bench seat. “Can I have this one day?” he asked, looking at the handgun. David slammed the passenger door shut, his broad shoulders crowding Paul. He hunched in sullenness, looking back at the forest.

As he started the truck, Granddad gave a low, growly laugh. “You wish. Put that thing in the glove compartment. I don’t want nobody to see it.” The pickup crept forward, tires crunching gravel. “How do I know you’ll be careful with it?” he added.

“Cause I will,” Paul said. “You know me.”

“I suppose I do,” Granddad said. “You think your mother would allow it?”

“Yup. I do.”

“You’re wrong there. But I’ll think about it.”

“Great,” Paul said, his legs starting to bounce.

“But only when I die,” Granddad said. “And that’s not somethin’ I’m planning for a long while yet.”

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

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False Guilt Is Out! What I Learned.

Blog 47 Image At last! I’ve self-published False Guilt.

The eBook is broadly available on Amazon (here for Canada, U.S., U.K.). Use a Kindle or the free Kindle app on your tablet. The print version is also available in the U.S. and U.K. and coming to Canada shortly.

Here’s the blurb.

“Paul Tews, a rising Toronto mergers and acquisitions lawyer, is on a leave of absence for anxiety. An invitation to Rome from a woman with whom he’d once had a close encounter seems like a perfect remedy. Instead he finds that all things captivating have an ugly side. Friends confess baffling secrets. An art collector leads a double life. Passion deceives.

Paul must save himself from it all—and his past involvement with murder.”

And here are the key things I learned from writing False Guilt.

Sometimes, it’s not all about the murder. There’s a murder mystery in False Guilt. But I was just as drawn to the effect of the murder on a close-knit group of friends that includes the protagonist.

Group dynamics take a lot of thought. Individual characters were important, but so were the dynamics between all the friends, especially in relation to the protagonist. I had good editorial help there.

Flawed characters are interesting. Content characters make me drowsy. Those fighting battles don’t.

So are characters seeking redemption. The search to overcome past misdeeds never gets old.

Using two settings is fun. False Guilt takes place in Toronto and Rome. Two settings added dimension even if it was more work.

Research never stops. Among other things, I researched police procedure, art theft and Roman food. As the story deepened, so did the research.

Sex. My theory is that sex is worth considering in a crime thriller if it advances character development. Those scenes are the hardest to write though.

Character names. If enough pre-release readers tell you a character’s last name sounds like an insect, you change it.

Thanks to all prospective readers!

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Buy False Guilt

Buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

False Guilt Front Cover

Here it is! The front cover for False Guilt. 

Thanks to Tara Murphy for the original idea and thanks to Emma Dolan for running with it. And thanks to all who commented on its various iterations, especially Paul and Robert Fritze.

FalseGuilt_FrontCover_FINAL

 

False Guilt will be out shortly.

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

Follow me on Twitter @PFritze.

Eight Thoughts to Help Writers Persevere

IMG_20110531_095913I took a hard look at my writing accomplishments in 2014 and they’re mixed. I received a lot of positive feedback on The Case for Killing. I’ve also had strong beta reader and editorial support for False Guilt. However, sales of my first book have been modest; somewhat above average for a first time self-published author I think. And while I received some reviews, for which I’m very grateful, it’s challenging to get them.

That’s led me to ask how writers persevere. Here are eight thoughts for a writer to work with.

Recognize how perseverance contributed to other successes. My life successes have all involved dogged perseverance and its close cousin, patience. I doubt success at writing is different.

Writing gives pleasure. The challenges in writing are persistent self-doubt and finding a broad readership. But writers are not like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill for eternity. What they do is (or should be) enjoyable. Things like a fun plot development and seeing a character grow are significant rewards for all the pecks at the keyboard.

A writer is learning a craft. Another reward for all those pecks is that many writers will improve their writing ability.

There are writing successes to enjoy. Finishing research, an outline and especially a book are huge accomplishments that warrant chest-puffing. And if a reader says she liked your book, that’s a home run.

Learn to handle rejection. A writer shouldn’t expect to please all readers. There always will be critics and their viewpoints can offer learning. Also, if many people criticize a book, it means the book, not the writer as a person, is inadequate.

It gets easier after the first book. That’s been my experience anyway. It stands to reason that, like any pursuit, the learning curve of writing flattens.

Promotion can be learned…and enjoyed. Many writers view self-promotion as a necessary evil. However, promotion can be conquered using the vast, free online marketing resources available. And it often leads to gratifying contact with readers and other writers.

Remember how badly you wanted writing success. Pretty bad, right?

Any other thoughts?

Copyright ©2015 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.

When is a Book Ready to Publish?

Blog 36I have a confession to make. I said that my second book, False Guilt, would be available this fall. It will be the first quarter of 2015 instead.

I really did think I would make the original deadline. One lesson I’ve learned is that, when talking about a future book’s release date, it’s better to say “soon”.

But there are other lessons, too. My book’s delay has some very good reasons, which I’ve decided to collect under the general question: when is a book ready to publish? These comments are geared toward indie authors.

When the Writer’s Gut Says So. I didn’t become settled with False Guilt as soon as I expected. Now I’m ready to stand tall beside the story and characters and see what feedback I get.

To me, this really is a gut decision, because dastardly voices speak in the writer’s head. One says, “Another rewrite won’t make any difference. Get the thing out there already.” Another says, “This book needs to be perfect. Plan on 2017.”

I think that the more a writer writes, chances are he becomes better at assessing when his book is ready for publication. His sense of plot, pace and character development grows keener. He understands better when more research is required. He learns tricks like allowing enough time to pass between drafts to bring a new perspective to his work.

Several Drafts After Beta Readers Have Read The Book. My last two blogs discussed how useful beta readers are. I’ve learned that, after beta reader comments come in, I need to do at least three drafts of a book before it goes to the editor.

When the Editor Says It’s Ready. A good editor will be clear with a writer if and when his book is ready for public eyes. Some of what delayed False Guilt was my editor questioning character development and interaction. An editor’s structural, stylistic and copy edit comments can take several drafts to sort out.

It’s possible a writer and editor will disagree on some points. So, really, the idea is that a book is ready to publish when the editor says so, setting aside carefully considered points of difference.

When the Writer Has a Marketing Plan. Discoverability is a huge challenge, so writers must actively promote their books. Better yet, a writer should have a marketing plan. Mine for False Guilt, including a Facebook and Twitter presence and upcoming pre-release reviews, is coming into shape.

When a Compelling Cover Design is Done.  Book covers can make such a powerful statement, it’s better not to rush them. I like the direction the cover for False Guilt is heading in.

Not Too Soon After the Last Book. I won’t pretend to know when the optimal time is to release a second book. I’ll just say that I think The Case for Killing, published in April, still has legs.

When Readers Have Time. An indie author needs to think about the time of year when he’s releasing a book.

Initially, I thought releasing False Guilt in the heart of the holiday season was a good idea. I hoped it would be a digital stocking stuffer. But then I decided people will be too busy to give the book any attention. Now I’m hoping that False Guilt will help with the February blues.

Copyright ©2014 Peter Fritze

Where to buy The Case for Killing.