2018 WWC Collision and a little Banff

13 Aug

Wrapped up another When Words Collide – didn’t get to go last year, and I wanted to make talking to my publisher in person a priority. The good news is things are a go and I got to briefly visit with authors, editors and other creatives I’ve met over the years. It’s really nice to meet people who’ve had their babies polished and unleashed into the world. This is a pretty big convention, I intentionally picked two editors I already knew for my blue pencil session as a way to ensure I got to at least say hi, and some people I didn’t see until an hour before the end of the convention! The Champagne Authors all got together at Bostan Pizza on Saturday night, so we got to chat and share pictures beyond going just at the business end of the books.

An aspect I really enjoyed was the inclusion of science lectures – mostly physics I think, I didn’t get to all of them – from lecturers from the University of Calgary. The main complaint I heard from multiple sources is that the convention appeals for writers like me – the science fiction and fantasy crowd – and the other genres writers are getting a little annoyed. I mostly chatted with romance writers, so I wouldn’t know how the literary types are fairing.

I made it a point to hand in less-polished works to the editors. I know that sounds dumb, as the rule with Beta Readers is “make it as polished as you possibly can”. I handed in something a few years ago and the guy was like, “Why are you here, exactly?” I try to make it a point to learn something, and I’ll admit to being the Queen of Non-Sequiter Paragraph Structure.


I don’t care it’s funny.


One of the nicer things I got was from the Coffee Klatch with Guy Gavriel Kay – festival guest from last year. He basically reaffirmed a contradiction us authors face. There’s a plethora of types of fiction in need and unfortunately, certain works wouldn’t be picked up today. He used the example of LotR because it takes 100 pages for it to essentially get moving. One lady said, “My stories don’t hook and grab. They’re a slower form of fiction.” Which is completely valid, and I agree whole heartedly. My publisher and I had a chat about covers and as the Writer Convention Appeals to readers, everyone else I spoke to on the subject said we feel fooled if the cover conveys the wrong image, or the book is marketed incorrectly. We get that there’s a certain sales amount that is involved, but generally speaking my grandmother and I don’t immediately reach for the same books on the shelf.

Weekend went by super fast and I went to my first ever Dr. Seuss Off – never read Fox in Socks but my father read me “Oh Say Can You Say?”  way too many times. Rather enjoyed the entire thing, additionally it’s something new to try with the nieces and nephews.

I’m currently typing this at a Hostel in Banff. I wasn’t going to stay, but the ads showed up on my feed and I was “Ba-ha”-ing at the minimum price of pushing $300 to stay in Canmore and area. I couldn’t find a B&B for the two nights I needed and I thought it was silly to change places considering I need to be at the airport by 10 on Tuesday for a noon flight. Figured if it’s not safe to stay in a Banff Hostel it’s not safe in any hostel – we’ll confirm how I feel in a day or two, but seems like we got a good range of people here and I’ve been getting up early to hit the gym. I was originally thinking “horseback riding” but I might wake up and go for an early morning hike and rent a SUP and get some editing done. It’s a little smoky out, but it’s still beautiful here. I haven’ t been here in probably fifteen years – way more built up than I remember it.

Anyway, if I missed you at WWC apologies – I’m excited for a day of outdoor fun (weather and glut med strain permitting, hah!)  I didn’t take any pictures as I was trying to navigate walking around, so I’ll have to fix it in the morning.


Thoughts on Branding, Rejection, and Perseverance

5 Jun

I was at Keycon a few weekends ago hocking books. I should have updated earlier, but alas I was behind in my edits and it seemed within an hour of firing them off, my stomach took a turn for the worse. Let’s just say it wasn’t the most violent puking episode that followed, but it does make one appreciate how relatively pain-free one goes about through life. Add working OT, a wayward cat, life’s finally slowed down.

A topic we didn’t panel but a few writers mentioned, was about a series versus a standalone. I’ve blogged on the topic before, but the general consensus I get from writers is, if they knew how much work was involved, they would do a smaller project.

I try not to tell people what to write, but I think I like the idea of thinking about the body of work as a whole. Most of us have more than one idea, and I think it’s a great idea to experiment and study all forms of creative writing: Shorts, poetry, non-fiction; playing in first and third person and generally improving the overall quality of the prose.

“Branding” is something my publisher talks about a lot, and the idea behind it is to present to the reader the sort of books you as an author write. Typically, my published works have been described as “epic fantasy” but I consider myself a science-fiction and fantasy writer. In general, I’d say my “brand” is science fiction and fantasy adventure stories. I think the genre is a nice wide open sandbox, and it’s important to relay the idea behind the book relatively quickly to potential readers.

If you want to write a series or a trilogy or whatever, that’s wonderful and I encourage you to do so. The main issue with working on a sprawling series is making the first few sales. I have plenty of rejections, and in general I’m thinking that if I can’t sell book 1, I’ll have a heck of a time moving book 2 or 3. Some series you can enter in at various books (Narnia) and sometimes I’m in the same world, but following a different cast or the cast in a different time period (Michelle Sagara-West’s Sunsword Series has three different series set within the same world and time period, for instance). No problem doing all that world building and revisiting the world.

The problem is with putting your hope on a series, is that book 1 might keep getting rejected for reasons beyond the writing. The market might be oversaturated with that topic. You picked an unpopular style. The publisher doesn’t know how to market it.

None of this isn’t to say you shouldn’t write it. I think if you are serious and want to write a sprawling epic, go for it. But write something else, too.

Having another completed manuscript also buys you time to finish book 2 in your series. Pretend your intended book 1 gets picked up – and you are only 30% into book 2. If you have a different book, say a standalone – publication and editing take time, but you can fire off other titles to your publisher while you’re finishing the beloved sequel.

The “con” if you will, is that assuming the series gets picked up, you worked really hard to get someone to notice your book, and now that you have contracts and a deadline, life tends to throw curve balls. You thought you had plenty of time, and suddenly you don’t. I wouldn’t want to leave my audience in suspense. Wanting more is fine – not knowing the fate of the hero, it feels like the product is unfinished and can feel unsatisfied. Knowing that the next part is coming out soon – but hey, the author has another title to enjoy while you wait – it builds the momentum and that way, allows the author time to make the sequel stand on its own and not feel rushed.

In my opinion, the pro outweighs the con to writing different books outside of the series. You’re forced to use different styles and research, and you can play with a different cast. In general, writing more improves your writing overall, and helps you improve as an artist. A scene or technique might come to you when you’re writing in a different style or voice, and who knows – you might enjoy the project de jour as much as or more than the epic masterpiece in your mind’s eye.

Disagree? Comment below!

Well, at least the Cat is Healthy

23 Mar

My poor dog has developed a bit of a honking cough. I’ve had a scratchy throat for the past few days, but just enough to annoy me from doing a really good work out. It’s been nice, these past few months working at a quieter station I’ve been able to focus on health and fitness. Less drama, as our newest member of our station will attest.

Anyway, just a quick post to high-five myself and mark the date for future reference. Just finished the A-Plot of the sequel to the book that should have come out last year. It’s around 120k at the moment, so depending on how much I can do, I can blow right past the 135k mark book 1 is at, or eradicate and utilize the idea either in a novella, or leave it in some various form of appendices. But I suppose I should get on figuring out what the plan with book 1 is. I’m terribly behind – I figured I would have the bulk of this book written in November and I’d have it finished off January, but life doesn’t work out the way I planned. Overall I’m very pleased, but I think a big part of it is the high I get because I got to play. The real work comes with revision, and believe me, this project needs revision. I also cut a ton out of it, so if I had kept to my original plan including a small novella’s worth of flashbacks and fleshing out the world, this would have been in the 200k range. Not bad for a fantasy novel, but I need to meander less, focus more.

I am probably going to take a break and do some shorts for various anthologies, and eventually get back to the B plot, but time tends to help me see the real problems I fail to acknolwedge, as well as helping me streamline unimportant things. As for other good news, my boss confirmed she’s going to give me the days off for When Words Collide. She couldn’t give me the whole tour off, so I’ll have to make some decisions as to whether or not I have time to fly or drive (it’ll be tight if I drive, but then I don’t have to rent a car!) a friend living in Moosejaw (5 hours from here, about 7 from Calgary) certainly doesn’t hurt in the driving aspect. I love flying, but road trips are fun too, you know.

Revision as Adaptation: One Approach

9 Feb

My principle problem with the pantsing (or quilting) approach to writing is essentially while it lets me play a lot, I find that I start with an idea, it’s moulded into something perhaps not completely different, but different enough from when I started the first pages of the first draft. Entire scenes get scrapped, or revised from a different POV, and often the beginning needs to be rewritten to match the dominant narrative voice. Honestly, quite often I go back and write a beginning because I like to start with plot and conflict.

My biggest problem with revision tends to be competing ideas. I found with my earliest works, that I’d throw tons of ideas into the story – with complaints like “Too many characters” and reminders to describe the scene, those still tend to be comments I get to this day.

I argue about what’s realistic – that there would be many unnamed people in the tavern, and it’s weird that you keep running into the same few people. But, I remind myself, that I’m not dictating history, I’m writing fiction. The audience doesn’t want to be bored, so focus on the important bits. But how do I determine what’s important, who’s important, and if the hero from this tale is suspiciously similar to the last guy I wrote about?

The easiest way for me to think about what is essential, is pretending that the book is going to be adapted. Specifically, a discount musical with no budget, and they have to reuse the same few actors. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to write songs unless you really feel like it).

Why a musical? Besides that I enjoy theatre, the stage lends itself certain aspects that don’t give me as much control as if I were to adapt it to a movie or tv series. We can’t close up on the actor’s face. We can’t wallow in their thoughts unless it’s blatantly implied. There’s a certain amount of time – so if I have a sprawling epic and my old high school needs to cut it into two hours with a fifteen minute intermission, what is so essential that, when someone adapts it for the stage, the themes and ideas of my story are evident for the person changing it?

I’m not taking it all the way – I care about how the story reads in a novel, and recognize that there would be adaptation even if the director or an artist wanted to be extremely faithful to the source material.  I’m imagining, as I’m doing revising, “Is this scene essential? What does it convey? Does it run counter to my theme? Is there a more entertaining way of doing this?” And obviously, this doesn’t always work. I can’t keep everything bare-bones. The appeal of some books is the heavy stylized narration, and novels re pretty much limited to the skill of the artist. When I’m talking revision, I’m not talking about “Dumb it down for the masses” I ask myself, “If I were to cut this, what would change”? This is doubly important if I have a sprawling epic and my publisher only wants to publish a certain length. Assuming I need to drop 10 000 words, my precious prose needs to still convey all the necessary information to the audience.

An example of what I’m talking about was in Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy.

I had some very opinionated friends who regularly argued (not really) while both LotR and The Hobbit came out. Amongst the many changes that took place in both sets of films, I had zero problem with Glorfindel being replaced with Arwen in the Peter Jackson adaptation (I believe it was Legolas in the Bakshi adaptation, it’s been a while and I can’t seem to find the scene on Youtube). More strict fans I’ve talked to despise the change for a variety of reasons – the best argument I heard against was that it made Arwen too powerful. As a casual fan, my main argument for replacing Glorfindel with Arwen or another character was that Glorfindel essentially just shows up for the act of ferrying injured Frodo to Rivendell and Elrdond. Was it realistic that Aragorn happened to be found by Arwen? Not really, unless Arwen has some unexplained magical way of finding her beau. Utilizing Arwen allowed for the reveal in the third film that her life is now tied to the quest. I look forward to the upcoming tv series, to see if Glorfindel will finally rescue Frodo as Tolkien intended or he gets replaced yet again.

Finally, I’d like to say this is a revision tactic. Written stories are different from stage plays, and ultimately when I’m writing, I want what’s best for the story. Movies have the advantage of showing training montages and showing swooping landscapes that would take pages to describe. Theatre has its own magic, and can interact with the audience and the audience often utilizes a suspension of belief that won’t hold up in other mediums.

Anyone else have a tactic in revision? Lots of times when I talk to writers, they talk about their perfect actors who would play their leads. I usually assume by the time my novel sees the light of day, the “perfect” choice would no longer look the part.

Braiding Plotlines

27 Jan

My back spasmed and locked me up a little under two weeks ago – I am on vacation for something like the next ten days, and just starting to get back into the swing of things. So if you were following along on my FB and are curious how my Fitness Staycation is going, let’s just say I’m looking forward to getting back into things, but I’m not in any rush to reinjure myself (I don’t even know what I did). You’d think being barely able to walk would give me lots of time for writing, editing, or whatever; but not so much.

I’m not one of those people who has a problem working on multiple projects at once. Don’t get me wrong, I do notice that my voice can change, especially if I’m doing something pretty stylized, but I try not to worry about it too much in rough drafts. I like to agree with Terry Pratchett.


But let’s not wax rhetorical. Apparently I write epic stories, so I can have events going on with a different group of characters and really have different stories intertwined, but it starts to get complicated when it seems like I’m what could be in two different novels – they share a theme, but that’s about it. I’m told I’m really good at balancing out story threads, or at least devoting enough time to my cast of snowflakes. I usually don’t worry about potential problems (Plotline A happened this day, Plotline B happened chronologically later in the story telling, the characters in A couldn’t get there…) in the first draft, but I don’t want to get fancy with skipping around with time for the sake of simplicity.

So what I didn’t expect this time around was for my A Plot to take a backseat. I’ve been diddling around with the ideas for this novel for years, technically, and Pantster that I am, took a scenic detour and went somewhere very different. Problem being, one of the characters got stuck in that plot and, while it does feel unbalanced, I’m liking the way it’s going, even if it’s progressing much slower than I anticipated. The problem is, of course, natural breaks in the story almost feel like mini-cliffhangers as we change locations. Granted, all of this can be changed in revision, up to and including “Hey, this belongs as its own project, where I can devote time to the ideas properly.” And I’m effectively writing two projects at once.

I’m not going to make this so much about advice but a sounding board. I try not to worry about devoting equal time to different parts of the story – but how do you handle it when you have competing story lines in the same novel? I’ll also point out that, 10+ years ago on my first reading of A Game of Thrones, I read all of Danys’ chapters first (okay, about three of her chapters in) then went back and read the rest of the novel. I know I’m not alone.


Dare I post thoughts on “The Last Jedi”?

28 Dec

There’s been a lot of media supplementing the original trilogy, notably the prequel trilogy, and an extended universe which has been officially retconned. About two weeks ago, The Last Jedi premiered, and it’s been… polarizing.

I’ll talk spoilers below, so if you haven’t seen it and don’t want it ruined, now’s the time to skip.


Okay, I saw the film and among the group was my five year old niece who was scared, and I had to leave the film twice to take kids to the bathroom. So I might get a detail wrong.

I thought the premise was great and the first third of the film was great, but then it got slowly underwhelming. I thought Rogue One built up and got better and the fight sequences were excellent, but it’s almost like we got to the best visual fights and suddenly there wasn’t enough substance to carry the final act. Moreover, I found myself not caring about any of the new characters, and questioning the actions of the familiar (besides R2-D2 and Chewie).

I thought Finn was the most interesting character in The Force Awakens, and he felt like a tagalong for a pointless sidequest.  Rose was okay until she decided to sacrifice to save Finn from his attempted sacrifice, and I found myself saying, “You know you’re in a war, right? How many others just died!?” And I swear, that they must have had more planned for Captain Phasma that got cut from this version.

Jedi/Force powers greatly expanded in this movie. I’m okay with building on to the lore, and while it was fine to see Yoda again, I still think it should have been Luke to light that fire. More on him below. Leia using powers I was all for, but the way it was handled seemed… odd.

Finally, we learn that Luke was essentially tricked and considered killing his nephew, which triggered Ben’s turning and destroying the Jedi school, and Luke taking the last of the sacred jedi texts and hiding out at one of their ancient islands so that it would die with him.

A lot of the heavy criticism thrown at the film is that they don’t like what was done with Luke’s character. (And a lot of criticism thrown at the criticism is those who don’t like it hate diversity or whatever) I’ll throw out I get it as a writer, but there’s things as a writer we find interesting that an audience wouldn’t necessarily resound with. As a writer, if I jump time, I know that certain characteristics of a person are bound to change. Luke Skywalker as a 20-something is the same person as he is a 60-something, but he’s been through a lot more – he’s lived a life and experienced more than just being a hero – his failure with Ben, realization that the Jedi can’t live up to their ideals – all of it.

But as a reader, I can fill in some blanks, but I want to know what those changes are for that natural change in character. I’m not a huge fan of this prequel stuff (Young Han Solo, anyone?) and we don’t have footage of our beloved cast in the 90’s or whatever filming some off this very interesting stuff – Han and Leia’s break up, Luke abandoning the galaxy rather than face the monster he’s made (and likely, a pissed off sister if she figures this out). I’d get the ‘going into exile’ bit, but why he didn’t say, “Well, I made him I’ll unmake him” it could be with Force Kumbaya for all I care (okay, I would care; the apparating oneself across the universe was another choice I thought was odd) but I thought now that we got Luke, we’d get a more active character. Granted, what was established this movie with Force Ghosts, it’s not exactly like it would be hard for him to step in if need be, but it honestly feels like we’re getting into the realm of deus ex machina.

There were things that I liked – I didn’t mind killing off Snoke quickly and I don’t think Kylo killed him to save Rey so much as realizing he was being manipulated. If anyone knows Darth Vader’s history it was him, and realized he didn’t need Snoke. His character is built up as powerful, and since Rey is the closest thing he has to an equal with the force he’s able to take command easily. Was Snoke a powerful ally? Yup. Was Snoke prepared to sacrifice anyone – including Kylo – to further his goals? We don’t know, because we barely knew anything about the guy. Kylo, for all I could go on about him being not nearly as intimidating as the movie would have us believe, ain’t dumb. And from what little Snoke told us, Kylo’s got a lot of Solo in him.

As always, stunning visuals and I love watching the deep space battles. I liked when Rey and Kylo fought together.  Luke getting sent off was a great tribute to his character, and I hope they do something like that for Leia. I like that they’re taking the franchise in new directions, but I’d reign in the force powers and give the characters more distinct personalities. I swear, it’s a marketing thing to make generic heroines who teenage girls can project themselves into, but these are movies, not video games, people.

Anyway – in general I’m going to say I was excited but now that I don’t really have anyone to look forward to seeing for the next film, I’m hoping that they remember that these are supposed to be fun kids films and lay off the social commentary.

NANOWRIMO, Kittens, and Life

28 Nov

So I should be at least into a new novel – I did *technically* start a new one, but I’ve barely been at it at all. Most of my word count has been on the current WIP, and even that is kind of abysmal. Now, before I go blaming Calypso, here’s the backstory:20171110_124927

Coworker found her crying on a freezing night, Halloween to be specific. This coworker happens to own a dog that can only not be trusted, but can be expected to eat the kitten. You ever sit around the table and compare stories? We medics do that a lot – and occassionally, we bring up our pets. This dog WINS; they have a second, very well-natured dog. Anyhew, mutual coworker I’m friends with posted the pic on FB. I’m watching all this, meanwhile she has extreme allergies to the kitten. We had cats when I was a little kid, and I already have a dog, so I figure – hey, what’s one more? I hastily looked up names for Tortoise-shell cats. Calypso came up; technically it is the name of a character from the Odyssee, I thought of the music. Before you say, “What is calypso music?” You probably recognize at least one song:

So I was feeling really good and well about being friends with animals, but in the meantime, my neighbors who I am attached to – they had two dogs when I moved in, two yorkies, one was a puppy, younger than Dodger. They got rid of the boy (the girl is maybe 5 lbs and roams the neighborhood, honestly I don’t know how she stays alive on base) about a year after I was in, saying they had no time for him. Naturally, six months later, new dog. Big, fluffy, neglected Riggs, who as a puppy roamed the neighborhood, but buddy here is 80-100lbs and about as good natured a suck as you wouldn’t expect.  I walked him every once in a while so he’d get exercise.

Anyway, he stopped being chained in my attached back yard and last month, ending up chained to another yard (he was an escape artist) and recently, he was roaming the neighborhood at night. Yeah, we had snow on the ground before Halloween even though it’s been unseasonably mild, this dog likes the winter but still: I’ve pulled in both dogs when it’s raining because some people can’t pull their dogs in. Rigg’s picture is currently at the pound in Portage la Prairie. Let’s just say, I’m not happy, but I’m capped at two animals and, my hope is some farmer comes in and gives that dog space to run. So if I’m testy or ornery about animals, I should know better but I’m tired of this. I helped with an animal, and I know bloody well that I see so much abuse, neglect and general incompetence and people act like it’s not weighing on their souls.

But as for Calypso – she took a little while to warm up to others but seemed to be relieved to have someplace safe and warm to be, food is plentiful and she stalks the dog. I’ve mostly been keeping an eye on those two to make sure he isn’t being too rough, technically she was too young to be taken from her mum and Dodger’s honestly been pretty good about everything, I just want to make sure it stays that way. Other work excuses for not getting my novel finished/started include reorganizing my spare room and shredding a lot of old paperwork I don’t need anymore. I’ve been looking at properties and ideally, I’ll find something for the Spring, but I’m in no rush so we’ll see what happens over the next few month now that I’m approved. The goal for the end of the year is to get this rough finished, edit one novel and have another that’s just needing some finishing touches taken care of. I said it was going to be a goal to work on Terran in 2017, but I’ll be honest and say I haven’t really touched it, but depending on whether or not I sneak off or stay for my vacation end of January might see me doing heavy writing-related work. Work has honestly been really decent and I’ve barely done any OT, so it feels nice to not be stretched so thin for the time being. That means time to start reassessing and setting goals, but in general, things are pretty good, so hopefully I’ve grown as an artist in 2017 and that growth will continue well into next year.