Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Fans, your bread and butter

Panellists: Dennis Lee, Jane Ann McLachlan, Gregory Wilson

JAM: How and when do you acquire fans?

DL: Work with another author who already has them. I was playing City of Heroes and met Mercedes Lackey online. I couldn’t have planned it. Our collaboration started as a podcast. No one wanted to read superhero stories by Mercedes. They were too invested in her fantasy. We had to find voice actors who were willing to work for free. When you offer something for free, people will find you. We also got an opportunity to be a part of the Humble Bundle. We moved 50,000 copies. It’s all about word of mouth and good will.

JAM: Offering something for free is a great method of attracting fans. If you’re working with a publisher, they’ll want to know the number of your followers. You’ll need to know something about marketing.

GW: Draw upon existing groups. I draw on readers of my existing publications, the audience for my show on Twitch about story and narrative in games, and I have a speculative fiction podcast for which I’ve interviewed a number of well known science fiction and fantasy authors. You have to make the connection between where you are, where you existing fan bases are, and where you want to be.

JAM: Once you have fans, how do you keep them?

GW: You have to write more and get better. You have to continually interact with your fans and be able to seek out feedback without being irritating. Respond to your comments.

DL: I agree. In my case, I was part of a group of four authors working collaboratively. We set up social media accounts in our characters’ names and we interact with our fans in character. Sometimes we get provocative.

JAM: Write well and interact. If you wait until you’re ready, publishers won’t beat down your door. Take too long between books (posts and events) and your readers will forget about you. At the same time, you shouldn’t write so fast that you compromise quality. Start a newsletter. Build an email list. Value your fans. Fans like books. Friends value authors.

DL: Mercedes and her husband interact differently with their fans than they do with friends.

JAM: How do you encourage your fans to spread the word? I’d have a light touch. No one wants to be manipulated or told what to do.

DL: It’s hard to ask. We don’t. We assume that if they like what they’re reading, the fans will talk it up without our having to ask. Be polite.

GW: I’m happy to ask. But it’s an ask, not a tell or a manipulation. Fans will spread the word if they want to. Sometimes they need to know that the effort is appreciated, though.


And that was the last session of day 1.

Next week, I’ll move on to the day 2 sessions with “And agent and an editor walk into a bar . . .” Of course, I’ll be back with Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday as well, and if I get off my bloggish butt I might have another Wordsmith Studio homecoming post about what I’m reading these days.

Thank you for reading.

Stay tuned and be well.

Ad Astra 2015 day 1: The beldam, the hag, and the hedgewitch: Witches in popular culture

Panelists: Derek Newman-Stille, Kate Story, Karen Dales, and Gail Z. Martin

GZM: How has the trope of the witch been used in the past?

KS: In the European tradition, witches were evil. We have a countercultural fascination with them.

GZM: That might depend on your point of view.

KD: The roots of the word witch are from the Anglo Saxon wicce/wicca. It means wise. The vilification of witches came about as a result of the Inquisition and the malleum malificarum (the witches hammer). Disney’s portrayals of witches have cemented the pejorative image witches have.

GZM: Every village had a hedgewitch. Someone wise, who knew about herbs, could deliver a baby, and so forth.

KD: Hereditary witches are still around today.

DNS: In Greek and Roman times, the practitioners were mostly men. They used curse tablets and imported Egyptian and Jewish words.

KS: Nnedi Okorafor writes about witches in her young adult novels. In Nigeria, there are actual witch camps.

GZM: Voodoun and Hoodoo, though they started in similar ways, are very different traditions. Santeria, too, started with the mystification of Catholic saints and ritual.

KS: One of the lenses we’re looking through is the appeal of the witch to young people. It’s the attraction of the unseen, ghosts, supernatural abilities; it’s the longing to see and work with these things.

KD: Llewellyn publications has seen a massive uptake in sales of their informational magic books. In Toronto, we have four occult shops. Young women are attracted to wiccan practice thanks to shows like Charmed and Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Willow). The attraction is the ability to have a personal relationship with the divine without an intermediary.

GZM: The young protagonist may not even know what’s happening to them.

DNS: There’s actually an organization called the Harry Potter Alliance and they are activists. They do good for a lot of different people in a lot of different situations.

GZM: In Bewitched, the curses the witches made were all to Hecate. The Kathryn Kurtz novel Lammas Night was based on true events.

KD: Sir Terry Pratchett went to the Pan-European Convention to conduct research for his novels.

GZM: Butcher’s Dresden was not an evil character, but, because he was taught by an unscrupulous master, he suffered repercussions for decades afterward.

DNS: We love delving into the darker aspects of the witch. Look at “Dark Willow” from Buffy, and Stephen King’s Carrie.

GZM: A character can find an ouija board and an old book and suddenly there are unforeseen consequences.

DNS: It plays into political conservatism. If you experiment, bad things will happen to you. Essentially, it’s fear of knowledge.

GZM: You have to take responsibility for your actions.

KD: In The Mummy, the characters are told not to read the book. She reads it anyway and releases the mummy.

KS: A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

Q: Do you find in fictional depictions that it’s the girls who are called to the dark side? Boys seem to get away with anything.

KD: Maybe the guys can handle it and the girls can’t? I’d argue that’s societal bias and not necessarily accurate.

GZM: Our culture is still struggling with women who have power. In reality, there are just as many foolish boys as there are foolish girls.

DNS: Knowledge is still forbidden to women in many ways. In fiction, it’s often a traumatic event that triggers the emergence of power. It reflects institutionalized abuse.

GZM: In Norse culture, it’s okay for women to have power.

KD: In Celtic legends the king could only assume power—and keep it—by virtue of having ritualized sex with the goddess, or her representative.

KS: There’s a South African contemporary dancer who has recently revealed that he is from a long line of shaman. That’s how he channels his dance.

DNS: The curse tablets I mentioned earlier were meant to harness Cthonic powers (under the earth). England is a particularly rich source because they used lead tablets which were then rolled. These have lasted much longer that their stone equivalents. They were stabbed with nails to enact the curse.


And that was my short hand for what was a lively discussion of witches in various popular media :)

Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Science fiction for a young adult audience

Panelists: E.K. Johnston, Charlene Challenger, Leah Bobet, Jane Ann McLachlan

YA SF panel

Having just been in a session, Leah was a tad late . . .

JAM: Has fantasy done a better job reaching the YA audience? Who is the audience for YA SF?

LB: There’s the problem right there. Is YA about and geared to young adult readers, or do readers just find their ways to it? Adult authors will write YA SF to “convert” younger readers. That’s a bad reason to write YA SF.

EKJ: Girls are starting to look for science fiction in the YA section.

LB: It’s really YA novels that are paranormal at the core. Authors are starting to cater to YA readers bored with standard paranormal.

JAM: Who are the readers of YA? There are a lot of adults who are looking for, perhaps, a simpler plot or a more youthful protagonist.

LB: I wouldn’t trash readers.

Mel’s note: There was a bit of awkweird at that point. Leah confessed to a lack of sleep but continued to make her point. For the record, Jane Ann’s remark wasn’t intended as a slight to readers of YA of any age, nor was it intended as a slight to the authors of YA, of whom she is one.

EKJ: One of the things that YA does well is include something for readers of all ages.

CC: I remembered being intimidated by SF as a kid. Star Trek: The Next Generation made is accessible. [SF] elevates the human condition.

EKJ: It asks the important questions.

LB: SF is no longer about showing your geek pass card. It’s rooted in outsider culture.

JAM: Are there more female protagonists in YA SF? What does this say about the authors? The readers?

LB: Traditionally, SF has had a massive issue with sexism and misogyny.

Q: Would genre crossing novels find readers in YA?

EKJ: Maybe. That’s the charm of YA. It encompasses all genres. It would probably be an easier environment to break through with a cross-genre book.

Q: What makes for a good YA novel?

EKJ: The pacing is faster, length is a little shorter than the average novel in the adult category. The story doesn’t make them feel bad for being a teenager.

LB: In 2014, the biggest trend was adult readers, particularly women readers, reading YA. As a result, the YA market became huge. Advances were five times the advances in other categories. Publishers had the budget dollars for editing and promotion.

EKJ: Check out Midwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick.

JAM: Most YA share common themes: leaving home, dystopia, romance, authentication. Most are written in first person, present tense.

EKJ: Second person is rare, but it can be mind-blowing when done well. Fan fiction is a great way to learn the conventions and break them at the same time.

LB: Understand the conversation you’re entering.

JAM: What’s the difference between YA and adult fiction?

EKJ: Flexibility is the key. The main differences are the age of the protagonist and the age of the reader.

CC: The YA journey is outward. The adult journey is inward.

LB: It’s the reading culture. Adult SF is the classic authors like Asimov and Heinlein. It’s not accessible to new readers.

LAM: There is accessible adult SF. The Time Traveller’s Wife is an example, but is it really SF? Young adult is distinguished, in my opinion, by the intensity of emotion and its sense of optimism.

And our time was up.


I’m going to have to defer my next chapter post until tomorrow. I’ve had a couple of evenings out, I have full-tum syndrome (sleepy) and it’s late.

Until tomorrow, be well.

Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Deconstructing tropes

First, a disclaimer

These posts are composed of my notes. Often, because of the scheduling, I enter sessions after they’re already in progress. I write by hand, so as I’m writing what I believe to be a salient point, I may miss the next one. I do my best to catch as much as I can, but things will be missed. Also, if, in my haste I recorded something incorrectly, please don’t be shy about coming forward and letting me know. I will correct all errors post-hasty once informed of them.

We good?

Alrightie, then!

Panelists: Gail Z. Martin, Leah Bobet, Charlotte Ashley, K.W. Ramsey

KWR: What if you love genre, but hate tropes?

LB: Tropes are clichés. They’re mass produced. They’re widgets. Genre is more than just the tropes that are common to it. Genre is an assumed set of knowledge. This can include tropes, but it’s more enjoyable for most readers if the writer alludes to tropes rather than spelling them out in the same ways as other writers before them.

GZM: We have archetypes, the Hero’s Journey. That’s structure. To use a construction metaphor, not every house will be built the same way, even if the builders start out with exactly the same materials.

KWR: You have to understand the tropes to use them properly. When you understand what an FTL [faster than light] drive is, and the scientific problems attendant upon creating one, then you can use it well.

GZM: Butcher does that with Harry Dresden. He’s a wizard, and powerful, but he lives without any of the benefits you would think go with that power.

CA: Dresden is basically an import into urban fantasy of the hardboiled detective trope.

KWR: And there are writers who do this well. Firefly mixed science fiction and the tropes of the western. Defiance tried to do something similar, but they didn’t understand the tropes they were trying to use in enough depth to use them well. The writers behind Firefly were conscious of what they were doing and wrote around their tropes intentionally.

GZM: After the Civil War, people went west, not seeking adventure, but because they’d been on the losing side.

KWR: Defiance trots out their tropes too obviously: here’s the stagecoach episode, etc.

LB: A photocopy of a photocopy eventually fades to nothing. If we see the same tropes used similarly in story after story, they lose meaning.

GZM: If the writer wants to be successful, she has to bring something new to inform the trope and give it fresh life.

LB: We all read books for different reasons. Some readers want comfort and familiarity. For these readers, tropes are fine. Some readers want their minds blown.

CA: In that sense, Firefly does not subvert its tropes.

GZM: It’s not just the tropes, though. Characters can bring something fresh as well. Tropes alone will only get you so far.

CA: Comfort reading is like decor. Mind-blowing reading is deeper.

LB: The stories that meant something to us as children need to be reinvented for a modern audience.

GZM: Myth is bigger than the telling.

CA: Look at Diana Wynn Jones’s retelling of Tam Lin.

LB: The books that point out that “this is messed up” further the conversation. We need these conversations.

KWR: Literature is cyclical. It responds to what has gone before but also invites the next voice to the conversation. The pendulum is always swinging.

GZM: In the 50’s and the 60’s, the cold war was a huge trope in science fiction. Recent authors have brought that tropes forward successfully.

LB: There’s a genre fallacy that there should only be one conversation going on, though. For example, post-colonialism is not part of the SF conversation.

CA: A Stranger in the Laundry speaks to that.

[There was a short side-track into the Hugo’s controversy that I chose not to record.]

CA: Is Star Wars not a post-colonial narrative?

KWR: The Jedis are basically samurai. It all goes back to the Tokugawa gun law.

GZM: What about Carpe Demon? The protagonist is an everyday person. She has to get the kids to school, work, manage her household, and still fight demons.

LB: That’s just good writing. Rounded characters are the result of good writing. Kate Elliott is an underrated writer. Karen Addison’s The Goblin King is fabulous also.

And we were out of time.

Next week: You get a double shot. Science Fiction in YA from Ad Astra 2015 and my next chapter April update.

Sundog snippet: (W)rites of spring returns to Sudbury

It’s been a while since I posted on a Sunday, and I had another literary event to report on, so I thought I’d share a Sundog snippet with you :)

The last time the (W)rites of spring visited Sudbury was in 1997 (!). I was a part of that event as a budding poet as was my friend Kim Fahner, who was getting her first chapbook, You must imagine the cold here, published through Your Scrivener Press.

Kim’s gone on to have two further collections published, braille on water, and The Narcoleptic Madonna, both through Penumbra Press and she’s currently working on the contents of her next collection. It wasn’t a surprise, therefore, that for this year’s National Poetry Month, she decided to bring the (W)rites of spring back to Sudbury.

On Friday evening, at Marymount Academy in Sudbury, Kim, along with Sudbury’s current poet laureate Tom Leduc, its past PL, Roger Nash, Susan McMaster, and Tanya Neumeyer did a round-robin reading of their poetry on the theme of food.

The MC was Marcus Schwabe of CBC Radio Sudbury and he kept the evening moving with some humour and commentary. Here is Kim and Tanya’s interview with Marcus from Thursday morning.

The League of Canadian Poets and The Canada Council sponsored the event.

The organization to which proceeds were being donated was the Young Writers’ Guild which meets every month at the Greater Sudbury Public Library.

It was a lovely evening and the breadth and depth of poetry was wonderful.

Sundog snippet

Ad Astra 2015 day 1: Arrival and Julie Czerneda workshop

The Ad Astra 2015 reportage starts now!

This year, I managed to find the Sheraton without too much difficulty (yay me). I can be Google Maps challenged at the most inconvenient times, especially when GM wants to send me on the 407 (I am toll route averse) or tells me to pull a u-turn when I don’t see the need for it :P

Still, I just—just—got checked in to my room in time to run back down and into the workshop.

Julie Czerneda’s workshop was entitled It only hurts when I write: Destroying your story gremlins.

After a brief round of introductions, we got to work. Julie asked us to work in pairs and assigned us a series of writing tasks. The focus on the workshop was to solve the gremlins that many writers experience. The main gremlin was the blank page, or not knowing what to write/how to come up with story ideas.*

  1. Using a grid, storyboard a plot with a beginning, middle, and end (plot emphasis).
  2. Using a grid and a character card prompt, storyboard a plot with a beginning, middle, and an end (character emphasis).

After each exercise, each group shared the results of their efforts.

There was a brief break and then we reconvened for the second half of the workshop.

In the second half, Julie handed out a story worksheet to each pair. We were to fill out the worksheet with the following information: Story idea, Protagonist, Setting, Type of story, Format of story, Readership for this story, and what Feeling we wanted the reader to respond with.

Once the worksheet was completed, Julie handed out cards that added completely random items to the story. My partner and I received these three: What this story needs is a cat; Add an hilarious death; and Rewrite as a comedy.

Considering that I’d elected to fill out the worksheet using my main WIP, Initiate of Stone, a darkish epic fantasy, the cards actually threw three rather large wrenches into the gears.

The point of these wrenches was to concretely prove that we can change our stories, sometimes to good effect, on a dime and at the request of someone else. It teaches you to relinquish control, release from attachment, and may serve you well if/when an editor wants you to make changes your story.

It was a bit of a light bulb moment for me. I learned that I had, to a degree, achieved a certain amount of detachment from IoS. It’s a novel, not one of my vital organs.

Though I think if anyone actually asked me to rewrite IoS as a comedy, I would refuse. Categorically, even.

Overall, it was an enjoyable workshop.

Julie Czerneda

*I walked into the workshop thinking that we were going to be working with our actual story gremlins, as in the problems we are experiencing with our WIPs. It took me a few minutes to get over my disappointment that I was not going to get help with the opening of IoS. I was motivated, as ever, to learn, though, and so I did :)

There you have it.

Next week: Deconstructing tropes :) Yes, we had all the fun! Really. I like this kind of thing :)

Review of Walls of Wind by Jane Ann McLachlan

I actually started reading this novel in parts, as it came out earlier this year, before I received the advanced reader copy (ARC) of The Occassional Diamond Thief this past fall. The ARC took precedence, however, and as I generally don’t review anything I haven’t finished and enjoyed, this review had to wait a bit.

Yes, this is another bit of catch up ;)

The Walls of Wind

What Amazon says:

What if males and females were completely different species from each other?
WALLS OF WIND explores this question and its ramifications on a world in which males and females are two equally intelligent sentient species: Ghen and Bria. They are interdependent and reproductively symbiotic, although physically, emotionally and mentally they have little in common. Or so they believe, until their city-state is threatened by increasing internal conflict and a terrifying external predator that has invaded the forests just beyond their walls. A handful of Ghen and Bria struggle desperately to find a solution before their civilization is destroyed.

WALLS OF WIND combines anthropological speculation with the tragedy, suspense and triumph of individual characters who struggle to overcome external threats as well as their own internal fears and prejudices.

My thoughts:

When I started reading The Walls of Wind, I was immediately reminded of Ursula K. Le Guin’s Left Hand of Darkness, which presented an alien race with distinct gender and reproductive attributes.

McLachlan goes further, technically eliminating gender, but biologically linking two species. The unique circumstances of this biology define McLachlan’s world of Wind and form the heart of her story.

Bria and Ghen are very different, and very aware of their differences. One of the walls on Wind that must be broken down is the prejudice that exists between these two quintessentially linked species.

This is where McLachlan’s novel became reminiscent of Sherri S. Tepper for me. Tepper often explores the stratification of human society as it encounters alien worlds and species, or the post-apocalyptic changes that humanity undergoes, usually in terms of divisions along gender lines.

The dynamics between the Bria and the Ghen struck me as similar, but because the two species are effectively gender neutral, McLachlan is able to offer the reader a fresh perspective on the old challenges of equality and compassion.

A terrible secret is another of the walls of Wind that must first be revealed, and then addressed by the Bria and Ghen who have conspired—for the betterment of their peoples—to keep it hidden for generations.

There are love stories that play out through the novel, the generational stories of several families, transgressive acts by various characters that challenged species roles and capabilities, scientific discoveries, and adventures.

At every turn, the centre around which McLachlan’s story turns is the encounter with the other, whether between Bria and Ghen, Ghen and the fearsome Broghen, or Bria and Ghen society and the unknown communities of Bria and Ghen discovered elsewhere on Wind.

There is something for every reader in these pages. The novel is tremendously rewarding, and though tragic, ultimately hopeful.

My rating:

Five out of five stars. Yup. I’m a new fan. Jane Ann is amazing.

About the author:Jane Ann McLachlan

J.A. McLachlan was born in Toronto, Canada. She is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press and two College textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. But science fiction is her first love, a genre she has been reading all her life, and The Walls of Wind is her first published Science Fiction novel. She is represented by Carrie Pestritto at Prospect Agency.

Robert J. Sawyer reviewed The Walls of Wind and had this to say:
“Look out, C. J. Cherryh! Step aside, Hal Clement! There’s a new master of truly alien SF, and her name is J.A. McLachlan. THE WALLS OF WIND is doubtless THE debut novel of the year.”
— Robert J. Sawyer, Hugo Award-winning science fiction author

You can learn more about J.A. McLachlan and her books on her website at: http://www.janeannmclachlan.com

Connect with Jane Ann on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/janeann.mclachlan

When Words Collide wrap post

So . . . it’s been a few months since I attended When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta. It was an interesting event. Organizers billed it as a literary festival, but it grew out of a fan con. It was an interesting mix, one part writing conference, one part reader/fan convention.

It takes its organizational model from conventions, asking a nominal membership fee rather than a pricey conference fee. Most of the sessions were panels with a few workshops and guest of honour sessions worked into the schedule.

I enjoyed my first WWC and got a lot out of it, as you may have gathered if you’ve been following my WWC posts over the past months.

One thing I didn’t appreciate was the heavy scheduling. With the exception of the banquet, there were no set breaks for meals, and even during the banquet, which was an optional extra cost, there were concurrent sessions.

It made what was already a difficult decision between a plethora of sessions even more challenging. They should have handed out time turners at the door ;)

I met a lot of authors I had previously only known on the interwebz and I got to act all fangirlish around Brandon Sanderson. I also reconnected with a lot of authors I had previously met at other conferences and stayed an extra day so I could spend some time with an old university roommate hiking at Lake Louise and Johnston Canyon.

There was a book room, and of course, I bought a few books. Not as many as at past conferences, but I picked up enough to keep feeding my addiction and weighing down my bookshelves.

WWCBooks

One of the other bonuses was the writing contest, which I was happy to place second in with my paranormal short story, “On the Ferry.” I got to read an excerpt from my story, meet all the other top ten authors, and the judges of the contest, who also gave all of the top ten their comments.

I am currently revising that story for another market.

Overall, it was a rewarding time. I probably won’t be able to attend every year, however. Like the Surrey International Writers’ Conference I attended last year, the air fare and accommodation costs make WWC an occasional treat rather than a definite must.

And that, as they say, is a wrap.

Next week: I’ll be updating you on Nuala’s situation and the state of things in the yard and driveway.

Review of The Occasional Diamond Thief by Jane Ann McLachlan

What Amazon says:

On his deathbed, Kia’s father discloses a secret to her alone: a magnificent and unique diamond he has been hiding for years. Fearing he stole it, she too keeps it secret. She learns it comes from the distant colonized planet of Malem, where her father caught the illness that eventually killed him. Now she is even more convinced he stole it, as it is illegal for any off-worlder to possess a Malemese diamond. When 16-yr-old Kia is training to be a translator, she is co-opted by a series of events into travelling as a translator to Malem. Using her skill in languages – and another skill she picked up after her father’s death, the skill of picking locks – she unravels the secret of the mysterious gem and learns what she must do to set things right: return the diamond to its original owner. But how will she find out who that is when no one can know that she, an off-worlder, has a Malemese diamond? And how can she bear to part with this last link to her father?
Kia is quirky, with an ironic sense of humour and a loner. Her sidekick, Agatha, is hopeless in languages and naive to the point of idiocy in Kia’s opinion, but possesses the wisdom and compassion Kia needs.

The Occasional Diamond Thief

My thoughts:

The Occasional Diamond Thief is a fabulous adventure, but it also offers thoughts and feels for readers of all ages.

In The Occasional Diamond Thief, McLachlan’s protagonist, Kia, learns the truth about herself by learning the truth about others.

Kia is the youngest of three children. Her father, a space ship’s captain and merchant, returns from a trip to another planet with the illness that eventually kills him. He is secretive and haunted, but Kia wants his love and approval.

She believes her facility with languages will accomplish this and so learns the difficult Malemese. Unfortunately, hearing the language worsens her father’s condition.

Kia is also at odds with her mother, who is strictly religious and seems to resent Kia’s connection to her husband through the language of Malem. In an attempt to protect both spouse and child, Kia’s mother forbids the speaking of Malemese in the house.

When her father dies, Kia is with him, and he commends to her an incredible diamond. Determined to solve the mystery of the gem, but escape her mother’s oppressive grief, Kia applies to become a translator. Independence is a challenge, and Kia must turn to thievery to support her life as a student.

She gets caught, and as a consequence is sent to Malem as a language teacher for the Select who assisted her in the theft. Once there, Kia must solve the mystery of the diamond, risking her life and that of the Select, uncovering a conspiracy that has its roots in the highest levels of Malemese society.

Kia believes her mother harsh, but learns that she was only trying to protect the ones she loved. Kia believes her father is a thief, but learns that it was his compassion that placed the diamond in his custody. Kia believes the Select and her order, the O.U.B. are attempting to manipulate her, but discovers that they are only trying to make it possible for Kia to right old wrongs. Kia believes the Malemese people to be cold and barbaric, but experiences their capacity to love first hand and fights to free them from a fearful legacy.

McLachlan has created a simple, but compelling universe that doesn’t strain credibility and serves as the perfect backdrop for Kia’s journey. She even weaves in a sweet love interest that proves to have his own secrets. Woven into the overall plot are mystery and thriller elements that will keep readers turning pages.

McLachlan’s novel is reminiscent of Madeline L’engle and Ursula K. LeGuin’s young adult fiction.

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

5 out of 5 stars.

Jane Ann McLachlanAbout the author:

Jane Ann McLachlan is the author of a short story collection, CONNECTIONS, published by Pandora Press, and two textbooks on Professional Ethics, published by Pearson-Prentice Hall. She has a Science Fiction novel, Walls of Wind, on Amazon under her pen name, J.A. McLachlan, and a second science fiction novel, The Occasional Diamond Thief, coming out on Dec. 2, 2014. She is a professor at Conestoga College in Kitchener, and lives with her husband and daughter in Waterloo, Ontario. Her goal is to write and publish the kind of stories you hate to finish reading.

http://www.janeannmclachlan.com/

WWC 2014, Days 2 and 3: All the Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Photo by Nazrilof

If you want to find out moar about Brandon Sanderson, please visit his eponymous web site.

I attended several of Brandon’s sessions at When Words Collide, but I didn’t take notes in any of them. I just soaked up the writerly goodness :)

On the Saturday, I attended “An hour with Brandon Sanderson,” in which Brandon shared his path to publication, as well as the highlights of his involvement in finishing Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series. Much of the information is summarized in the About Brandon page of the above linked site.

I love finding out how authors started out, how they made it work, and how they manage to make a living writing, which is a rare privilege (IMHO).

On Sunday, I attended Brandon’s two hour “The Writing Process” session, followed by a panel discussion he sat on about “How to build a consistent and original magic system.”

Both were fabulous.

I’ve read many posts recently about attending author sessions at conferences and conventions. The warning is that some authors don’t know what their processes are, or if they do, they speak to how they write only, without giving context or alternatives. Some are speaking as a form of self-promotion, or to get you to buy and read their books and don’t necessarily offer anything of value in terms of what the individual writer can take away and apply to their own work and process.

There’s nothing wrong with promotion, but it’s best not to dress such sessions up as workshops.

I’m happy to say that Brandon was nothing like that. He achieved his Master’s degree in English from Brigham Young University and subsequently took over teaching their SF&F creative writing class, which used to be taught by David Farland (from whom Brandon himself learned in his undergraduate years).

You can find links to Brandon’s courses and videos on his web site (linked above), but you can also find them by Googling Write About Dragons. Here’s a link to his 2012 and 2013 lectures on their site, and another to their YouTube channel.

Another great way to get your hands on Brandon Sanderson’s writing advice is to listen to the Writing Excuses podcast, which he co-hosts with Mary Robinette Kowal, Dan Wells, and Howard Tayler. I started listening in the spring.

Needless to say, Brandon did a mah-veh-lous job of his workshop. The two hours flew by. He’d either enter into a topic by describing his process and expand out to discuss alternative methods, or, he’d cast his net wide, and describe the various approaches to an aspect of the writing life, and then describe his personal preferences.

I appreciated this, because, ultimately, every writer develops her or his own process, and there is no one correct way to write a novel. It’s a message that can’t be sent often enough.

As the saying goes, anyone who tries to tell you differently is selling something.

Finally, in the magic system panel, I was just fascinated about how the authors approached their individual magic systems and how they all applied the rule that all magic comes with a cost. There was even some speculation about writing a magic system without a cost, but, it was argued, that would be science and technology.


 

Next weekend, I have a few posts that have to take precedence: my month end (and NaNo) update, a post about my intrinsic motivations for writing, and a Caturday quickie on a blog award I received this month.

So My When Words Collide Wrap Post won’t arrive until the second weekend of December. In the meantime, Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday posts will continue and, just to whet your appetite, I’ll have posts coming up about teaching team building, the Humber Writers workshop I attended, a pupdate on poor Nuala, and the state of the driveway and yard now the construction season has ceded to snow.

I’ll even have a couple of book reviews coming up for my friend Jane Ann McLachlan. So, yes, December’s going to be a busy month on the blog.

Fare thee well until Tipsday and my book review of Jane’s The (occasional) Diamond Thief.