Monday, December 17, 2012

The Beerbelly Journal

Hey Big Time Writer followers. Of those fans of Big Time Rush ("Hey, hey listen to your heartbeat") that accidentally came here: check out my new blog: The Beerbelly Journal .

Friday, August 24, 2012

Canada is Awesome!

I started to write something pithy and clever about my new scar, add a bit of political theatre, make fun of the American system, guns and all that, but I changed my mind.

I had surgery on Monday, minor surgery to repair a hernia. The incision is about six inches long and it will leave a scar. But other than that and the typical recover bits after minor surgery, I'm fine. The nurses and the doctors were wonderful, especially the nurses.

Since I'm Canadian and we have a government-run universal healthcare system, I didn't have to directly pay for the surgery. It's covered under the taxes I pay every year, which is about 17 - 20 percent or so of my income. I didn't need approval from anyone for the surgery, save for the doctors, and I had to fill in no forms, save for the admitting and some history and had no worries about deductibles, being refused by an insurance company, higher rates.

Simply put, I needed surgery, got the surgery, and was sent home with instructions on how to take care of myself and a follow up appointment in the near future. That's it. If I need surgery for a hernia again, I will get it the same treatment.

Canada is Awesome.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Giant Novelty Cheque #2

As promised here are the photos from the Alberta Book Awards Gala. There are a number with my Giant Novelty Cheque. Had some fun with that. And  because of the win, Fall From Grace, which was out last year, hit the Bestsellers Lists in Calgary and Edmonton, with #9 in Calgary and #3 in Edmonton.

Here I get the Giant Novelty Cheque from Linda Cook, CEO of the Edmonton Public Libraryand Brent  McDonough, Chair of the Board of Trustees for the Edmonton Public Library.
After receiving my Giant Novelty Cheque, I make a nice speech, thanking folks
 and saying nice things about Alberta writers. Applause follows.

Giant Man with Giant Novelty Cheque. Forget about me, look at the
wonderful glass work behind the Giant Novelty Cheque.
The Hotel Arts in Calgary is filled with great pieces like this.
This thing has got to fit! I need to pay my room service tab!

Summer is here.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Giant Novelty Cheque

If I won the Alberta Readers Choice Award, I was planning to joke during my acceptance speech about the lack of a giant novelty cheque. But when I won the Alberta Readers Choice Award for my book Fall From Grace last night (June 9, 2012) in Calgary, they actually presented me with a giant novelty cheque. We did the typical grip and grin shot and I was grinning from ear to ear because I was stunned to win. I had hoped I would win, but actually thought someone else did. According to the organizers and sponsors of the award, the incredible Edmonton Public Library, the voting was neck and neck until the final couple of days. Even so, it was very close.

As I said last night, it was great honour to win this award and to be nominated with such great writers such as Tim Bowling, Lynn Coady, Dawn Dumont and Judy Schultz. If you know that group of writers, there are at least three (maybe four) GG nominations, plus two or three Giller nominations, along with a lot of other awards. In fact, three out of the other four nominees won other awards. So it was very exciting to win.

Back to the novelty cheque. So they give me this novelty cheque, which is pretty cool, but it's the middle of the award ceremony and I have to keep this thing by my table while the other awards are being presented. Then I have to keep an eye on it while I'm visiting with other writers afterwards because the banquet staff was cleaning up and they really seemed keen on getting us out of there. I was worried that one of them would think it was left behind and they would throw it away. Then I have to parade through the hotel lobby and up the elevator back to my room with the cheque in hand. And the next day for the ride back to Edmonton, I have to find room in the car for this big cheque. It fit but with my kid, my wife and all our stuff, it was tight.

But now the cheque is home and there is no plan to hang it on the all in the house. But it will have a place of honour in my drum and music room. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I convinced a photographer to take some weird shots of me with the giant cheque. There's one of me trying to jam it into an ATM and once I get approval to run that photo, I will.

Thanks to all that voted for me and the other writers for the Alberta Readers Choice Award.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Holy Media

Wow, it's been a big couple of weeks in the media for me. I've had stories in the Calgary Herald, FFWD (a Calgary alt-weekly), CTV News, plus I was the Guest Editor for the Afterword section of the National Post for the past week. I wrote four articles for the NP, a number of them were shared, etc. on various social networks, blah blah blah. And because of all that, A Killing Winter hit #2 on the Bestseller Lists in Edmonton and Calgary, beating big name books from Richard Ford, John Irving and that 50 Shades of Grey stuff.

 Unfortunately, the stores that keep track of the various bestsellers for the local newspapers don't report to company that keeps track of stuff like that so I won't make it into any of the national bestseller lists like the Globe or Macleans. But that's okay. Books are selling and folks are paying attention.

Next weekend is the big Alberta Book Awards Gala and I'm shortlisted for the Alberta Readers Choice Award. I've never been shortlisted for an award before so I'm pretty excited. Got some great competition and I don't think I'll win but it'll be a fun time. I'll update this whatever happens.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Real Indian

Something happened today, something cool First some background.

Many, many years ago, when a Canadian aboriginal woman married someone outside of her band, whether this man was European or Metis, she would lose her status as an aboriginal. She would, officially, no longer be considered an Indian. And neither would any of her descendants. Conversely, if an aboriginal man married a woman who wasn't native, he never lost any of his status. And neither would his descendants. This denial of rights was only applied to women.

My grandmother was one of those women. She married a man who wasn't part of her band, who didn't have treaty status, although the amount of native blood in him was pretty high. But she lost her status, she lost any benefits she might have gained from that status. So her children were never considered status natives and neither were their children. Although many of my relatives suffered discrimination and racism because of their outward appearance.

However, only many years ago, a suit was launched to reverse this discrimination. And the women won. They were given their status back and so were some of their descendants. Only one generation aftewards. So my grandmother got her status back. Officially, she was a real Indian. And my father, once he decided to apply, got his. He was now a real Indian too.

In late Fall 2011, the Canadian government passed Bill C-3, which further improved the situation. Another generation was added to the mix. Even though my father married a French Canadian, it was possible that I might get treaty status. In truth, I didn't really need status because in my heart, I was an aboriginal person. My story as a native Canadian was as valid as any others. But I applied anyway. Just to see if I could. I thought I wouldn't because of my mother but if it was my grandfather who married a European woman instead of my grandmother, I would already have status, regardless of who my father married. So I had a chance.

And it turned out, I did qualify. A letter arrived in the mail today telling me that I had official treaty status; that according the Canadian government, I was a real Indian. Like I said, I've never needed official proof to accept myself as an aboriginal person, but it was real nice to get the letter. And soon, a treaty card. I still have to apply to my father's band, The Norway House Cree Nation, to be accepted as a member of the band. And I will because that is where my people come from.

In the end nothing will change, if Norway House accepts me. Except my bio. Instead of saying I'm just an aboriginal writer, it will be more specific, saying I'm a member of the Norway House Cree Nation. Which is really neat considering all the crap my grandmother had to go through.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

ARC Award video interview

As part of being shortlisted for the Alberta Readers Choice Award, I was interviewed by Jocelyn Brown. I thought this interview was going to be cut down to about three minutes but they put the whole thing online. So here it is, me talking about Fall From Grace and my character Leo. Please note the Edmonton Public Library shirt I'm wearing. It was my attempt to pay homage to the sponsor of the ARC Award.

 If you want to vote for Fall From Grace to win, then just go here. Won't take any time at all.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

A Killing Winter reviews, plus vote for me.

Hey, it's been almost a month since A Killing Winter has come out and many of the reviews are in. The concensus, don't just take it from me but see the links below, is that it's really, really good. And you should read it. Here are the links:

Also, the previous novel in the Leo Desroches series, Fall From Grace, is shortlisted for the Alberta Readers' Choice Award. It's the biggest literary award in Alberta. And you can vote for the book. Go to

I'll also be in Calgary on May 25 at Pages Kensington at 7:30.

Friday, April 13, 2012

A Killing Winter is Coming. Or has it arrived already

Yes folks, I'm finally back because the second novel in my Leo Desroches series, A Killing Winter, came out April 10. On that day I was in Phoenix at the Poisoned Pen, talking to folks about the book, my life and why my new band is named Beerbelly. The next day I was in San Diego at Mysterious Galaxy doing the same thing. It was nice to head to some great stores that support crime writers, especially relatively unknowns such as myself.

As for A Killing Winter, reviews have been great. Three of the major review publications in the US have said great things about the book. Below are links to these reviews, except the one from the Library Journal, which isn't online yet. But they still said nice things calling it a "fast-paced, action-packed sequel to Arthurson's notable debut, Fall from Grace". They even ran a pull quote from the book in the magazine, which is cool.

And when I was on my US trip, something really exciting happened. Fall From Grace, the first book in the series, was shortlisted for the $10,000 Alberta Readers Choice Award. I've got some major competition but they are all great writers who have written some great books, so it's fantastic to be included in this group. Here's more info on the shortlist announcement.

Okay, I'll work hard to update this more often but I have a major writing project due at the end of April plus the local launch for A Killing Winter to work on. Gotta pay the bills you know.

If you live in Edmonton and wish to attend the launch, here's the link for that. Please note that while Audrey's Books is the bookseller, the event takes place at the Artery.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Beerbelly Live March 2

As the regular followers of my blog know, I'm a drummer. I've been playing regularly in rock bands in Edmonton since 1993. I recall five bands in total. For the past six months, I'm back with some of the members of the band I played with for the longest time: The Ways. I backstopped The Ways for about 10 years. But the busy parts of life put us on hiatus for about a year and then we just decided to quit. The bass player and I formed another band with another guitarist, but that lasted only a few months, no gigs at all.

But then one of the guitarist from The Ways changed jobs and he had more time on his hand. He wanted to play. We formed up again, a three piece this time. We practiced for about three months, rehashing and rearranging old songs, writing new ones. Because of my connections in the local music industry, I got us a gig. We had no name but a gig.

We spent weeks coming up with ideas. I went for some literary themes, The John Updikes, The Gore Vidals, The Salmon Rushdies (yes spelled like the fish). All were rejected. Other names included the Wastrels, the Winsomes, the list went on. All rejected.

Finally, over beers after a solid band practice, we started throwing out names related to what we were doing and who we were. We're all in our 40s, we all don't have the same physique we had when we were younger. But we still liked to rock.

And thus Beerbelly was formed. We had to think about it for a few days but it grew on us (yes that's kind of a pun). We passed the name around to friends although our wives weren't that impressed but they understand it's our band, not theirs. Other folks like it. We confirmed it and told the promoter. He liked it. The poster designed to promote the show, clinched it. Beerbelly is an awesome band name; the visual potential is endless, although familiar at the same time.

So all you followers of this blog and of the Torforge authors twitter feed, check out the poster. Tell me what you think. Watch the name in the future. And if you're in Edmonton on March 2, come on down. Show us your Beerbelly.

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Big Bad, Part 2: Reviews That Suck

Something happened yesterday which reminds me that the way I deal with bad reviews kind of works. I'm loathe to mention any bad reviews about my work but there was one written about my novel, Fall From Grace. I read the first line and based on that, I didn't continue. Some of my friends read the rest of it and said I was smart to stop. It was mean, they said. Almost personal. Those comments almost enticed me to read the rest of this review, but I held back. I let out my annoyance in private, took a deep breath and then figured out on my response.

I had the e-mail address of the editor of the publication in which this bad review appeared. I had fed him a tip on a story and he had also quoted me a couple times for other pieces. I wanted him to know that I was aware of the bad review but I didn't want to create a scene and burn a bridge. So I sent him an e-mail with the subject line: Angry Writer responds to review. I knew when he saw that he would shake his head and think "Fuck". He didn't write the review but he did put it in his publication. But I also knew he wouldn't erase the e-mail; he's the kind of editor who would read it no matter how angry and mean the response would be.

It really helped that the bad review appeared on April 1, so when actually read the text of the e-mail the first two words were: "April Fools." The rest of the e-mail was short, only asking if he was still interested in doing some kind of profile on me, but also saying that I wasn't angry about the review because bad reviews happen. I've written them myself. And that was it. No admonishments, no complaints that the reviewer didn't understand my book, no anger.

The editor's responded in two ways: first, he tweeted to his thousands of followers that my reaction to the review was one of the classiest things he'd seen in a long time. And second, when I contacted him this week and asked to be the Guest Editor for his books section around the time my next book, A Killing Winter, comes out, he immediately said yes. The Guest Editor gig is for one week. I write four stories about me, my books, etc. for a major national publication. Every day they run my piece, they run an image of the cover of my book and a short description of it, and of me. That's some great free, wide-reaching publicity that will sell a bunch of books.

And the best part is that I might even get paid for it.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Getting to Know Me

Okay, if you really want to know me, this post from the Vancouver International Writers Festival, explains it all. I hope this satisfy you.

Friday, February 17, 2012

How to Date a Writer, Really

I saw a post on CBC's CanadaWrites page, one that's been shared amongst writers on FB. I had to respond. Here's the original post:

And here's my response.

How to Date a Writer, Really.

1. Writers have visions of grandeur because they’re brave enough to put their work out there. And they’ve been rejected over and over again for a variety of reasons, their work wasn’t Canadian enough or it was too Canadian, it was too literary or too much of a genre work; you name it, a writer’s been rejected because of it. So they’ve had to developed strong self-esteem about their work.

2. Sure it helps if you like a writer's work, but you don’t have to. A smart writer understands that not everyone likes their work. As long as you respect them for what they do, you’ll be fine.

3. Some writers are moody, some aren’t. Some accountants are moody and some aren’t. Everyone has an inner life and everyone else has problems. If you don’t like a moody person, then don’t date a moody person.

4. Not all writers are financially insecure. If you only write fiction or poetry, without doing anything else, then you might be financially insecure. Then again, you might be successful and make money at writing. If your writer love does that, don’t call them a sellout. Actually a lot of the writers I know also work for a living, either writing or other stuff. Some of them are the only bread winner. And if actually push a writer to make some money, they might even become a better writer because of it.

5. Good God, please only be eccentric if you are eccentric. One thing writers hate is someone trying to be something they aren’t.

6. Maybe you’ll turn up in their work, maybe you won’t. Some writers rely on their personal lives to create and others use their imaginations. Whatever you do, don’t go looking for yourself in their work because you could be mistaken.

7. If my wife walks in on me while I’m wearing underwear, leafing through a book of photographs and putting out a cigarette in a bowl of ice cream, I hope she interrupts me. For one thing, we don’t allow smoking in the house and I don’t smoke anyway. And I’m not that delicate that I'll lose an idea just because you interrupt me while I’m thinking about it Also, like every relationship, don’t walk on eggshells. Writers hate it when you do that.

8. Based on a recent survey I heard on the radio, it seems that everyone was picked on as a kid at some point. And not all writers are/were weird. Some of us were just normal kids who read books. Some even played sports like hockey. Or we didn’t smell erasers. Some of us even like talking to people at wedding and other social events. We’re a diverse group, us writers.

9. Don’t know about other writers, but when I’m on a roll, I’m able to stop, interact with other people, and then get back to that roll. It’s just something I developed working as a professional writer for 25 years. When you got to pay the bills you can’t wait for inspiration.

10. My wife, who is not a writer, is better at writing notes in cards than me. I can write a decent book or magazine piece but she does all the notes. But whatever you do, if you date a writer, don’t pigeonhole them based on stereotypes. That’s just annoying.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Big Bad: Reviews That Suck

Bad reviews are nothing new in the world of words. I've gotten my fair share. I've even written my fair share of bad reviews. The topic of writing reviews popped its head up recently in Canada with this fine conversation between two well-known and well-respected writers who also review: Robert J. Wiersema and Timothy Taylor. See the link below.

This reminded me why I no longer review books. Number 1, the opportunity doesn't arise anymore because the newspaper I used to review for doesn't do as much reviewing. I had a rule when I reviewed books. If the writer was local, relatively new, or someone that I knew or was connected with in some way (not just as a FB friend though), and I didn't like their book; I didn't review it. If the writer was established and someone I didn't know, and I didn't like their book: I would write the review. But I wouldn't get personal. I would only comment about the book. I also agree with Taylor's position; I'm really hard to please for books but I don't want to be seen as some kind of pretentious asshole. Some books I just don't like and others may.

But what about the other side: how should a writer react to a bad review. We've all heard about the infamous Alice Hoffman reaction. She got a bad review of one of her books so she tweeted about it, telling her followers to call the reviewer and complain. She even gave a phone number. That's a bad response and no doubt Hoffman realized that because her twitter feed shut down almost immediately.

There was another example that occured in Canada a year or so ago. I won't go into details, mention the writer, etc., but this writer was annoyed with a negative review. And felt that the reviewer had missed important aspects about the book and was even inaccurate in describing the book. So the writer wrote a blog piece that was shared on FB and linked to other sites and blogs. In short, it got plenty of play. A lot of the reaction to the blog post was positive, cheering the writer on for standing up for the book, etc. It also had many valid points.

Regardless of the validity of the post, I, on the other hand, didn't think the response was a good idea. And I said so in a comment section. I met the writer not too long ago, and we talked about the article and my comment. The writer thought I was a bit of an asshole for my comment. And maybe I was, but the writer sort of got my point. And I said I understood why the post was written. We parted friendly.

But I would not write such a post. Bad reviews happen but in my opinion, reaction to them should be kept private. Complain all you want to your loved ones, close friends and get all the cathartic reaction out. But don't go public. I know there is a desire to call the reviewer out, to point their mistakes or their lack of understanding of your book. Someone has insulted your baby, your child in a sense and there's a visceral desire to strike back. But don't.

The problem with striking back in public is that now you've given the bad review validity. You've also attracted more attention to it. If people haven't read the bad review, they will. And they might agree with it, especially if the reviewer is well-respected. And you might come off as thin-skinned, someone who can't hack it in the publishing world. Worse, if you've written reviews yourself, then you might be accused of double-standard attitudes - especially if some of your reviews have been negative.

So the key response to a bad review is to ignore it. Don't draw any attention to it and to the best of your abilities, move on.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Longlist At Long Last

The other day, I was at a literary event in Edmonton. I went for the company and the beer, which they serve at the Artery, the place they held this event. (Side note: The Artery is one of the greatest new arts spaces in Edmonton, developed by local musician and artsy type, Lori G.) Anyway, at the event, they announced the longlist for the Alberta Readers Choice Award. Even since its inception, I've been a critic about this award. I wasn't against the award per se, heck an award for Alberta is a great thing. But in its first two years, the award wasn't entirely for Alberta writers, even though the promotional material said it was designed to support Alberta writers and publishing. The original rules stated that books had to be published in Alberta, regardless of whether the author was Albertan or not. So what happened in the first two years of this award designed to promote Alberta writers is that writers from out of province (both from BC) won the award. And many great Alberta writers who had books published weren't even in the running because their publishers were not Albertan.

To give the organizers of this award, the Edmonton Public Library, their due, they realized that there was a problem and decided to fix it. Now the award is open to all Alberta writers who had a book published in one year, regardless of whether their publisher was Albertan or not. When the longlist (see below this paragraph) was announced two things happened: First, every single Alberta writer on the longlist, save for one (Brian Brennan's Leaving Dublin), was published outside the province. Alberta has some great publishers but unfortunately, they cannot publish only writers from Alberta. They, like Alberta writers, have to open to out-of-province opportunities.

The second thing that happened is that I and my book, Fall From Grace, was included on that longlist. It was nice to be included but it's still too early to celebrate. A longlist is just that, a longlist. To me, it's the shortlists that counts. I've got a bit of a problem with the frenzy over Canadian book awards, shortlists, longlists, etc. but I won't go into it. The article below explains it better.

But I do know that being on a longlist, especially for an award worth $10K, does help get books into stores, and then into the hands of readers, which is always a good thing.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Let it Begin, Let it Begin

The other day, the VP for Marketing of Raincoast Books, my Canadian distributor, contacted me. He wanted to set up a phone meeting with their publicity department to discuss creating pre-publication buzz for my next novel, A Killing Winter. I was pretty stoked about that because once again, I'm going to be selling a book. And selling a book is fun. There are media interviews, trips to other cities, readings, signings, a launch, cool stuff that makes being a writer fun. And this year will be even more fun because last year, my Canadian distributor went bankrupt and shut its doors less than six weeks prior to the release of my book. But with Raincoast on board, things are going to be different. I met with them while I was in Vancouver and not only do they like my work, they are keen to make things happen for me and the book.

I don't know for sure where and when I'll be heading out and doing stuff except for the fact I'll be at Left Coast Crime in Sacramento March 29 - April 1. I was at the previous LCC in Santa Fe and had a great time. Met some great authors and fans, and made an impact at my one and only panel. Maybe in Sacramento, I'll have more than one panel.

And since I'm in bookselling mode, I'll be blogging more. I'll comment about the ups and downs of promoting a book, and all that. But one thing I won't do: I won't be commenting about any bad reviews. I won't argue with them, won't complain about them or anything like that. I've seen a bunch of writers do that and while it may be cathartic to rant or call down a reviewer for writing a bad review, to me it just doesn't make sense. Why attract more attention to something that says your work is bad. The best thing to do with a bad review is ignore it and forget.

Anyway, my new book, A Killing Winter can be pre-order here

It comes out April 10, 2012. Let it begin, let it begin....