Sunday, October 04, 2015

Introducing Guest Blogger: Sharon Rowse

It’s my great pleasure to introduce BC mystery author Sharon Rowse, who I’ve known since her first historical mystery, The Silk Train Murders was nominated for an Arthur Ellis award.

Author of eight books in two series, former human resources expert Sharon now spends her days writing and researching. Her love of history combines with her knowledge of human behaviour in books that seek out unique, forgotten bits of history, melding them with memorable characters in the mysteries she writes.

Sharon’s work has been praised as “impressive” (Booklist), “delicious” (Mystery Scene) and “well-researched and lively” (Seattle Times).

Sharon’s most recent work is the historical mystery THE TERMINAL CITY MURDERS, the fourth in a series, which is set in early 20th CenturyVancouver. The first novel in the historical series, THE SILK TRAIN MURDER, was a Crime Writer’s of Canada Best First Novel Award nominee.

Sharon also writes contemporary P.I. novels that explore the dark side of the art world, the Barbara O’Grady series, which are also set in Vancouver. The fourth, and  most recent of those books, DEATH OF A SHADOW.

Learn more about Sharon’s work at:

Sharon’s topic is Writing Historical Mysteries, and it’s fascinating to read what she learned while researching Vancouver at the turn of the twentieth century.

I write two mystery series, one contemporary—the Barbara O’Grady series, and one historical—the Klondike Era mysteries. Why historical, you might ask. Isn’t that a lot of work, all that research? Well, yes. But I’ve always loved history, fictional and otherwise, and the way in which we understand our history fascinates me. In fact, one of my favourite books in university was a collection of six essays entitled What is History by E.H. Carr, which examined the cultural biases that historians bring to their work, and how it impacted their interpretation of history. History is usually written by the victors, after all.

When I sat down to write, I was drawn to the history of the West Coast, especially around Vancouver, Canada, where I live, since it was in many ways the last western frontier, and since much of its written history is very new—a couple of hundred years, at most. I was intrigued by how much was different from today—and how much was the same. I was also drawn to an era of great change—the end of the Victorian era and the beginning of the twentieth century.

One of the biggest elements in the growth of what are now major cities along the West Coast was the two to three year madness of the Klondike Gold Rush in the late 1890’s. Vancouver was a key departure point for would-be miners from around the world—a place to find supplies, transport and comrades for the gruelling journey to the gold fields. In a time of ever-increasing change, many of those men and women heading north to find their fortunes were leaving home to find a place where they could succeed, as much as they were looking for gold.

Usually you read stories about the men and women who came away from the Klondike Gold Rush with a fortune. I was intrigued by all those who didn’t—the ones who put everything they had into the effort, and came home broke. I spoke at length with a curator at the Klondike Museum in Skagway, Alaska. He told me about the journals of some of those miners who never found gold, and how many said the Klondike Gold Rush was the best thing that ever happened to them. The struggle itself was a transformative experience. Those words stayed with me.

All of this came together as I thought about writing a historical series. The hero, John Lansdowne Granville, is English, the fourth son of a minor aristocrat, who hasn’t found his place in late-Victorian society. After eighteen months on the creeks of the Klondike, he finds no gold, and winds up in Vancouver, hungry and broke.

As I research and write, I focus on what living in Vancouver was like then, and on the opportunities that might have existed for a man like Granville. What would he make of them? Vancouver was founded and settled by folks from elsewhere—though the Coast Salish were here long before the city was. I try to make the background and details for each book as historically accurate as possible, and to convey the feeling of the era.

I’m often struck by the differences a hundred or so years have made, as well as the things that haven’t changed. My challenge in writing these books is to convey the experience of that time through the eyes of my character, noting only the things they might have noted. All the while keeping each of my characters true to who they might have been, given their own cultural backgrounds and experiences. John Granville is very real to me, as is his friend Sam Scott and his incurably curious ladylove Emily Turner.

I continue to research while I’m writing, so I’ll often find information that will spark a new direction for the plot. In each book, however, my first inspiration is a piece of history that catches my imagination, and interests me enough to dig deeper. In the first book in the series, The Silk Train Murders it was the silk trains that raced across the continent carrying raw silk, which retailed for three-quarters of a million dollars per railcar, in 1899 dollars.

In The Lost Mine Murders, it was learning about a legendary lost mine near Pitt Lake, some 35 miles outside Vancouver, which has been searched for, and claimed lives, since the 1890’s. In The Missing Heir Murders, I was fascinated with the stories from many parts of BC about a long ago voyage of Buddhist monks from China who travelled down the West Coast from northern British Columbia to southern Mexico.

In my latest book, The Terminal City Murders, I was caught by the fact that banks were not allowed to provide mortgages until 1954. In 1900, all mortgage companies were private, and were often funded by British or American investment syndicates. Given the boom and bust nature and astronomical prices of the Vancouver housing market around this time—shades of 2015—it was a situation ripe for fraud. How could I resist?

I’m currently working on book five in the series, The Salmon Cannery Murders, and you can probably guess my inspiration for that one. I lived in Steveston, which was the hub of the salmon industry in 1900, for nearly a decade, before the last of the big canneries was torn down, and I think I absorbed the stories just by being there. It was finally time to write the book, which should be out early next year.

The funny thing is, my love of history seeps into my current day private eye series, too. Barbara’s cases often have roots in the past, and send her hunting for secrets that have lain hidden for many years as she races to solve a present-day problem.


Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Amazon's KDP, Withholding Tax, International Authors, ITIN and EIN

As a Canadian author using Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), my journey has been less than hassle free, so I'm posting today to help other non-US authors get through the headache of withholding taxes and IRS forms.

If you're a non-US author and you've noticed your royalty checks don't match your numbers online, it's most likely because a withholding tax has been implemented--30% on average. But there's a solution.

First, a non-US resident and publisher/author does NOT need a US address or a US bank account. Amazon and other retailers will pay you with a check or via direct deposit.

However, Amazon will withhold approximately 30% of all earnings of non-US residents UNLESS authors have an ITIN or EIN, which you must get from the IRS.

FYI, below is how I did it a few years ago when everyone said I needed an ITIN. But I should warn you--it's much easier now, and I'll tell you exactly what you need to do after I share my experience.
Don't apply for an ITIN!!!

1. Here's how I got my ITIN. I first contacted an "Acceptance Agent" in my city. There's a list of Canadian Acceptance Agents (and US and International Acceptance Agents) on the IRS website.
2. I had Smashwords send me a letter stating I was selling my books through them. You need one letter only from one distributor, and when I asked Amazon they were completely uncooperative and refused to send me the letter.
3. I filled out the W-7 form at the Agent's office, he photocopied my passport and he sent these out along with the letter from Smashwords (who are aweseome about giving letters).
4. It took about 7 weeks before I got my letter from the IRS with my ITIN.
5. Then I filled out the W-8BEN form and sent one to each US distributor (Amazon, Smashwords etc). From that point on, I've received 100% of my royalties due; no tax was withheld.

Smashwords has great instructions on all this on their site. I don't know why Amazon hasn't done the same. Smashwords also has links to all the forms and the address for sending the W-8BEN. Again, Amazon could take some pointers on customer service.

As per Smashwords, here are the important links you need:
Is this a hassle? Most definitely. That's why I no longer recommend this way. Get an EIN!!!

Is it worth it to get an EIN? Yes. Why should 1/3 of my earnings be held back? I'm Canadian, I pay my taxes here.

Does anyone know the correct mailing address for sending in the W-8BEN form to Amazon?

"We need to receive a physical copy (paper form) of the W8 that contains a US tax id and that is signed in blue ink. Please put the supplier code/vendor code, vendor code: DUVNS in the upper right hand corner and then mail it to the below address. As soon as we receive it, we will update the account and reimburse withholding that has been deducted this year. Note: withholding can only be paid back in the current year it was deducted.

Amazon Digital Services
Attn: Vendor Maintenance
PO Box 80683
Seattle, WA 98108-0683

If you have further questions, please write back to us at"

Please note that you may want to check to ensure that the "supplier code" is the same for everyone. I have no idea if it is or if it's linked to my account only. If you know the answer, please email me at cherylktardif (at)

UPDATE 3: Sept 29, 2015 - Forget the ITIN. Get an EIN instead. It's much easier and FREE!

Get a free EIN by phone via the IRS's toll-free number: 
(800) 829-4933.

It's FREE! And easy to get. One phone call and you'll have your EIN! 

Call 1-800-829-4933 today.

UPDATE 2: One writer reported to me that the supplier code was different than mine, so your best bet is to email DTP support and ask them.

UPDATE: May 18, 2011 -
- Createspace will send you the letter you need to get the ITIn rolling, if you sell your books via them.
- Smashwords has a Google Chrome bug that is preventing emails to go through to them via the customer support link at the top of If you've emailed them about this or any other matter and haven't heard back from them in 3-5 days, your email may never have reached them. They're working on this issue. In the meantime, try IE or another browser.

- From Mark Coker at Smashwords: "At Smashwords, authors request the letters through their payee profile at They can request the letter once their account balance reaches $10.00."

Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Introducing Guest Author: Judy Penz Sheluk

Over the past few weeks I’ve networked with many new people. One of the most dynamic, friendly, and helpful is Judy Penz Sheluk. Her debut mystery, THE HANGED MAN’S NOOSE was published July 2015 through Barking Rain Press. Her short crime fiction is included in The Whole She-Bang 2 and World Enough and Crime.
In her less mysterious pursuits, Judy works as a freelance writer/editor. She is currently Editor of Home BUILDER Magazine and Senior Editor, New England Antiques Journal.
Judy is a member of Sisters in Crime, Crime Writers of Canada, and International Thriller Writers. Find Judy at where she interviews other authors and blogs about the writing life.
I’ve posed some questions for Judy. You’ll find her answers insightful!

Tell us about your book

The Hanged Man’s Noose is the story of Emily Garland, a Toronto-based freelance writer who is offered a lucrative assignment in the small town of Lount’s Landing: find the real story behind a ruthless developer’s plans to convert an old schoolhouse on the town’s historic Main Street into a mega-box store. Recently dumped by her fiancĂ© and tired of reporting on the same old condo stats, she jumps at the opportunity to relocate and start anew. Adding to her motivation is the fact that she blames the developer for her mother’s recent suicide.

When Emily arrives in town, she quickly learns that not everyone is on board with the mega-box store, least of all Arabella Carpenter, the outspoken owner of the Glass Dolphin, an antiques shop on Main. But Arabella is not alone in her opposition. Before long, a vocal dissenter at a town hall meeting about the proposed project dies. A few days later, another body is discovered, and although both deaths are ruled accidental, Emily’s journalistic suspicions are aroused.

Putting her reporting skills to the ultimate test, Emily teams up with Arabella to discover the truth behind Stonehaven’s latest scheme before the murderer strikes again.
Describe an average writing day. Do you have any rituals and schedules?
I try to write every day, though it doesn’t always work out that way. My goal is 6,000 words a week, which gives me a first draft in three months. Once I have the draft completed, I leave it for a couple of weeks and start something else. After a couple of weeks, I’ll go back and change the color of the font on the entire document from black to blue. Then I start rereading it, editing chapter by chapter as I go, and changing the font color back to black when I’m satisfied that the chapter works. I’ll repeat that process once more, and then send the manuscript to a professional editor for their review. Then I’ll revise based on their input. After that final revision, I’ll send the book out into the world for publishing consideration.
As for rituals, I drink lots of tea (Warmth by Tetley, a cinnamon rooibos blend) and water. I also listen to talk radio while I write: either Newstalk 1010 or Talk 640 Toronto.
What are you working on right now?
I’m on the final revision of Skeletons in the Attic: A Marketville Mystery. It also takes place in small town (Marketville) but with the exception of Arabella Carpenter, who has a minor role, all the characters are different than in The Hanged Man’s Noose. I’m also planning the sequel to Noose, this time with Arabella as the protagonist and Emily along for the ride.
Read the first four chapters of The Hanged Man’s Noose free, and get a 35% off coupon HERE

Check out Judy's book on Amazon!

Monday, September 21, 2015

BE the Bird -- reblogged from

Well, not the bird, necessarily, but, you know, the whatever.

Say you're writing a story about a murderer. You know you have to put yourself in the place of the murderer: Why is killing acceptable/inevitable/enjoyable? What does it feel like to think about it, to plan it, to do it, to remember it?

But that's still pretty thin. Because a murderer isn't A Murderer. A murderer is Bill or Jolene. A murderer is an otherwise regular person who kills. Okay, yeah, possibly a wackadoo swivel-eyed loony, but probably just a regular person who does that thing. A murderer is somebody's child, spouse, employee/employer, co-worker. A murderer has a paper carrier, a mail carrier, a regular cashier at the grocery, neighbors. You're always hearing people who know murderers interviewed, saying, "Oh, he was so sweet!" or "I always felt like there was something wrong there." That's because a murderer has social interactions, bad hair days, kids they buy band candy from.

That's not to say all this needs to go into your story, but it needs to go into your head and heart -- in my opinion -- but some of that might impact how that character behaves that is in the story. It can make your character a real, rounded person, not a Murderer sock-puppet.

You can't just think, "What would it be like to kill?" You have to think, "What would it be like to be this person who kills?"

To be less grisly, it's the same for any character. What would it be like to be this person who falls in love? What would it be like to be this person who lives on this particular space station? What would it be like to be this person who gets a job teaching in this particular inner city school?
Picture by Marian Allen -- actual cat actually on Mom's side porch actually eating actual bird seed
Sure, you can skirt around it by asking, "If I were in love / on a space station / teaching, what would I be like?" That's okay. That works. But that runs the risk of your making the character an idealization of the best of yourself and either eliminating or glossing over the flaws that make a character really interesting.

Much better to take some time to sit staring into space and getting into the zone -- the zone where you try to step into somebody else's skin, try to experience somebody else's emotions, think someone else's thoughts.

It's kind of creepy.

Nevertheless, the best books and stories and movies and television shows give you the kind of quirky, specific speech and action that make the stories and characters captivate you and stay with you for-like-EVver.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Introducing Guest Blogger: Catherine Astolfo

I first met the dynamic Catherine Astolfo about five years ago, and have been awestruck by her talent, positive attitude, and contribution to the writing community. Catherine is an Arthur Ellis winning author of short stories. Five novels and a novella are published by Imajin Books and have been optioned for film by Sisbro & Co. Inc. A Derrick Murdoch award winner, she is a Past President of Crime Writers of Canada, and a member of both Mesdames of Mayhem and Sisters in Crime. Find all the stories and Catherine's links right here:

Enjoy her blog, “Mystery Fiction Requires Research? Really?”

Writing mystery fiction books is more difficult than it might appear. Only highly intelligent people can do it. Keeping all the clues straight requires an entire box of cue cards. Or a night’s worth of napkins from the pub. Or writing on the wall with washable markers. (Those were washable, right?) Not to mention quelling the temptation to reveal too much. Just enough to keep the reader guessing; not so little that they’re completely in the dark. And then comes the research!
There’s an old adage that says, “Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.” Writers can’t get all the research right every time, can we? I mean, sometimes the situation cries out for a manipulation of the facts, at least in fiction.
However, the background information provided in a novel is often fascinating, if not entirely accurate to the last drop.
We are all familiar with the detective story, police officer or PI variety.  Think of how much we’ve learned about processing a crime scene because we’ve read these books. Doesn’t mean we could conduct one, but… Other writers opened the world of forensic pathology, autopsies and morgues with the result that many shows on the subjects turned up in television.
Even in the “simplest” of fiction novels, the background information is important. By simple, I mean they’re not necessarily focused on a field of work. They’re not primarily detective or legal or medical fiction, but tell a tale about rather ordinary folk.
In my first book, The Bridgeman, I portray an old-fashioned lift bridge and the person who manages it. I had to actually go and look at a bridge to see how that worked. My protagonist throughout the series, the Emily Taylor Mysteries, is a school principal in a small town. Luckily, I was a principal in my other life, so I had experience on my side. When the caretaker is murdered in the school, I had to explain how the education system would handle such a thing.
Then there is the puppy mill in the book. For this section, as difficult as it was, I wrote about my niece’s experiences as a veterinarian’s assistant.
For Victim, I had to do a lot of reading about Ojibwa folklore and philosophy. Legacy returns to the school and its processes with Emily’s handling of a very dysfunctional family, plus there are tidbits about the effects of fire, inquests and hypnosis. The research! My fourth book, Seventh Fire, discusses a wrongful conviction and how these tragic mistakes happen. My Forensics for Dummies and Criminal Investigative Failures, as well as Until You Are Dead (Steven Truscott) are well thumbed.
Although the stories are fiction, and some of the facts may not be one percent accurate, there is enough background information to give the reader a more in-depth picture of the setting, the characters and how the plot plays out. It may even lead a reader to investigate the topic further.
There must be enough fact even in fiction. You can see why only highly intelligent people can write a mystery.
Is that statement fact or fiction?

Check out Cathy’s latest book, novella Up Chit Creek. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Thoughts on My First Facebook Launch Party

My first FB virtual launch for Dead Man Floating is over, and I think it went well. As I mentioned in last week’s post, I’d attended a couple of different parties as a guest. Hosting one was quite a different experience. As the event was only two hours long (many are longer), I opted to take on all of the hosting duties. Authors who host longer parties often invite colleagues to share duties for a bit which, in hindsight, is a good idea.

As expected, the two hours flew by. Guests were introducing themselves for the first thirty minutes, so I found myself typing responses at a frantic pace. I also posted a new contest every 15 to 20 minutes, which required me to leave the main discussion for a bit. Hitting the Like button helped figure out where I left off. I also refreshed the page a lot.

By the end of the event, there were over 350 posts on the main thread. After I reviewed everything, I realized that I’d missed a couple of questions and comments, but it happens. I also had a colleague act as a second pair of eyes, so she helped spot things I’d overlooked.

So, would I do it again? Absolutely. Guests from all over the world attended, people I would never have met at a physical launch. People appreciated the opportunity to win a prize, and here’s the best part: they mingled with one another, sharing experiences and information that was jumpstarted by questions or comments.

Here are some benefits to hosting a virtual launch: your guests aren’t captive. They can pop in and out as they like without leaving their homes. Secondly, if you don’t like making speeches, then virtual launches are a great alternative. As I’d already posted the book blurb and ordering links on the invitation, all I had to do was prepare two paragraphs: what inspired me to write Dead Man Floating and how I got into security work (which happens to be my protagonist’s occupation). I also prepared trivia tidbits about my work experiences, but discussions at the party were going so well that I only used one out of the eight I’d written. In terms of sales, ebooks were sold but I don’t know how many. I do know that when I checked in with much later in the evening, my ranking had jumped from over 26,000 to 306, but I have no idea what that means in copies sold. My first royalty statement will tell me more.

So, is there a downside to virtual launches? Well, a couple come to mind. One is that you’re hooped if a power outage occurs. Second, you really need to concentrate and stay focused and organized. Granted, this is true for physical launches, but the fast-paced virtual world really ramps things up. Third, keeping track of all posts and guests is difficult. Fourth, there will be reading fans who don’t like FB and won't attend.

Here are some final thoughts and tips. First, it helps if you’re a fast typist who can stay focused. Prepare well in advance, so you can simply cut and paste discussion topics and contest captions. If you’re not comfortable with taking screen shots of books to giveaway for contests, download book covers in advance and post with the contest entry. Have the contest answer and a timeline for posting contests typed up in advance, then send the timeline to the book donators. Invite a helper or two to be an extra pair of eyes. Above all, have fun! I know I did.