Review of Ursa Unearthed by JL Madore

Ursa Unearthed

What Amazon says:

Mika’s life has never been normal, but it’s hers.
After being told by the Great Spirit that her destiny is to stand up for the Earth Mother’s children and “save the great species from extinction,” she buries herself in an investigative journalism career hunting down poachers and exposing illegal trade in wildlife exotics. A survivor by nature, she would rather fight injustice than maneuver the hassles and heartache of relationships.
When danger suddenly finds her unprepared, Mika’s perception of her life is shattered and she’s hurled into a realm of magic and murder she does not understand. Seduced by Bruin, the powerful warrior who saves her life, Mika is catapulted into a world where Were-creatures and Scourge assassins threaten not only her life but her heart as well.
With the boundary between worlds crumbling, Mika realizes that committing to save the great species of Weres will draw her deeper into a reality more terrifying to her than anything she’s faced before.
Trusting in love.


 

My thoughts:

I read and reviewed Blaze Ignites a year or so ago, because Jenny and I had worked together in a critique group and I was itching to find out what the finished product was like. When Jenny offered me a review copy of Ursa Unearthed, the second novel in her Scourge Survivor Series, I again jumped at the chance.

I love to see my writer friends grow and mature in their craft.

I’m happy to say I lurved Ursa Unearthed.

Jenny writes in a bare (dare I say, naked) style. Not a word is wasted. Action and hot sex propel the reader through the book. I actually finished reading it the week before last. At my reading rate, I burned through it.

My critical eye caught a few, very minor, editing gaffes, but by and large, my only critical comment on the story itself is that Mika’s “lie,” the thing that prevents her from committing to Bruin until things become so dire she has no choice, is not well developed at the outset. I occasionally found myself irritated with Jenny’s protagonist for her failure to get over her bad self, spank that inner moppet, put on her big girl panties, and deal.

Developing her trauma would have given this reader something to hang that irritation on. There would be a reason beyond being transported into a world of magic and danger to prevent her from accepting her altered circumstances.

Given that Mika is Native North American, has a spiritual connection with the Earth Mother, which grants her supernatural insights, and her main support, her grandfather, accompanies her to Haven, Mika shouldn’t have been so resistant.

Having said that, I think Ursa Unearthed is a fabulous book. The characters are otherwise well-drawn and Jenny has a knack for making you care about them.

And yes, you read that correctly earlier, there is lots of hot sex in the novel and Jenny writes this well, too. You’ll tingle in all the wrong naughty right places ;)

The story is standalone, but readers of Blaze Ignites will recognize many familiar faces in the cast. They don’t detract from Mika and Bruin’s character arcs, though. The spotlight remains where it should, on Mika and her bear.

My rating:

Four out of five stars.


 

About the author:JL Madore

JL Madore didn’t find writing so much as it found her. Waking each morning with a vivid cast of characters tangled in chaos in her head, it seemed essential to capture them on the page. With Blaze Ignites and Ursa Unearthed published and receiving rave reviews, she’s turning her attention to Watcher Untethered, an unpublished paranormal/erotic romance manuscript which just won 4th place in the Toronto Romance Writers – The Catherine. Aside from spinning tales of elves, weres, demons and fallen angels, she’s also Vice President of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region, a 300 member writing organization just outside of Toronto. http://www.jlmadore.ca/

CanWrite! 2014: How to get published with Halli Villegas, June 21

There was no panel discussion on Saturday and at breakfast, one of the organizers asked me if I’d host Halli’s workshop in the afternoon. I said sure, but I was a bit nervous. I even asked Halli how she wanted her name pronounced, and then promptly messed it up anyway. Sorry about that, Halli.

Halli VillegasFor your information, it’s Vee-yay-ges :)

Please note: This is a transcript of my hand-written notes. Halli, or anyone else who may have been present, if I’ve gotten any of the details wrong, please feel free to correct me. I will fix it post-hasty.

To the workshop (allons-y).

 


 

The title of this workshop might be misleading. I’m not going to publish you. We could have called it The Business of Writing. Now there’s a sexy title.

We’re going to talk about what happens when you get published. I can give you my perspective on that, but I’m looking more toward a sharing of expertise. I don’t have a grounded knowledge in self-publishing, or publishing with a micropress, or with a major publisher, but some of you may, so I’m looking forward to bringing out the knowledge in this room.

<We then went around the room and introduced ourselves and shared a little bit about our experience, or lack thereof, with publishing.>

Tightrope Books is a small, or indie press. We’re also called a boutique publisher, because we cater to a specific writer and reader. We tend to the literary, but we’re not publishing so much poetry as we used to. We now have an annual anthology of the year’s best poetry, with guest editors.

You don’t want to compete with yourself.

I worked for five years with Guernica and when it came time to think about starting my own press, my idea was to make it author-centric. That core idea had to evolve, though. It had to become a business.

Always read and follow the submission guidelines. What does the press publish? Does your work fit?

Be professional. Fill out your writing C.V.

Some publishers will have set reading periods. Some have particular niches. ChiZine Publications, for example, focuses on horror and dark fiction.

There’s also the Writers’ Reserve. It’s a fund that provides money to publishers to publish professional writers offered by the Ontario Arts Council (OAC). That reading period is from September to February. Tightrope will receive maybe three hundred submissions under the Writers’ Reserve. We might look more seriously at twenty manuscripts. How many of those we publish varies from year to year.

<Halli discussed the Writers’ Reserve in more detail in the Tightrope Books context. Here’s the link for the Writers’ Reserve if you’d like more information.>

Do your research. Is there a house style guide? If not, the Chicago Manual of Style is the default reference.

Poets generally aren’t agented.

Networking is a great way to make contacts. Conferences like CanWrite! and events like Word on the Street (WotS). WotS used to have a festival atmosphere. Now it’s more commercial. Small press fairs are much the same. All are great places to make connections.

Determination plus persistence equals success.

What happens once your submission is accepted?

You will go through what’s called a substantive edit with an editor. This takes at least two months and is a process of shaping that manuscript.

Next is the line edit. This phase of editing focuses on details and continuity in the manuscript. That leads to the copy edit, which delves into spelling and grammar.

Once your book is accepted, it’s usually about two years to publication.

The fall season is the big publishing season. Spring is a second big season, but you’ll see more beach reading and other, lighter fare.

Typesetting is an art. It’s not as simple as it looks. It’s really about capturing the spirit of the book in a tangible form.

Similarly, your cover design, and therefore your cover designer, is important.

Even the back cover copy is tailored to the book.

Most publishers dictate typesetting, cover, and back cover copy.

Simultaneous submissions are frowned upon.

Response times run anywhere from three months to a year. It depends on the volume of submissions. Responses often can’t be personalized. There’s no time.

The launch is your champagne moment. Make sure you have review copies and copies set aside for contests, major media, etc.

With respect to marketing, print ads aren’t worth it. Budgets have decreased across the board. Grants are disappearing. Sometimes we have to go begging for reviews. There’s no money to send the writer on a book tour. We can’t pay for flights.

Initial sales can be between six weeks and six months. It depends on the profile and popularity of the book. This is the main sales drive.

In a cooperative arrangement, the publisher pays for preferential placement of your books. Even if the publisher pays, however, you should check.

Engage in guerrilla marketing. Go into the bookstore and rearrange the books on the shelf to better display your books.

A bestseller in Canada is about 5,000 copies. A poetry bestseller is between 200 and 300 copies. In the American market, you have to sell at least 35,000 copies to even crack the lists.

I’ve given you in your package a copy of the Tightrope Books contract. It was based on the Writers’ Union of Canada (WUC) contract. Let’s have a look . . .


 

Since I’m not going to share Halli’s contract, I’m going to end here.

I will offer you the link to the Writers’ Union of Canada’s contract information page. If you’re not a member, you may have to pay a nominal fee, but their resources are well worth the cost.

Halli gave us a load of handouts that was very informative. 10 pointers to help you get published; a list of resources for writers; a list of Canadian literary magazines; The Tightrope Books house style guide; and a copy of her contract.

Next weekend: The CAA Literary Awards Gala and wrap post.

Review of Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics by K.M. Weiland

I read Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre for the first time when I was in high school. At the time, though I enjoyed it, I wasn’t yet reading with the critical mind of an author. I wasn’t reading for craft.

The second time I encountered Jane Eyre, I was in university and, having read it before, it was one of the books I set aside from my massive stack of reading. I managed well enough in the course and placed the book on my shelf.

Years later, I read the book a second time. Though I was a writer, and published, it was as a poet, and again, I read for enjoyment rather than for craft.

Now, I read for craft and I find I mentally dissect books as I read them. I don’t mind knowing the ending, and in fact, I often flip forward in a book. Rather than spoil the reading experience, knowing the climax allows me to see more clearly where the author has foreshadowed events.

I can see the structure of a novel like a glowing thread. Here is the hook, the inciting incident, the first major plot point. Reading for craft is more enjoyable for me than reading for pleasure.

It’s like daily writing practice. Once you start down the path, it’s hard to stop, and, after a while, you no longer want to.

K.M. Weiland and her blog, Helping writers become authors, have been instrumental in my development as a reading writer.

You could say I’m a groupie, if there is such a thing. It’s a bit more than being a fan. I share nearly all of Katie’s posts. I want all my writer friends to benefit from her insight and technique.

So, of course, when Katie emailed me and asked if I would mind reading and reviewing her upcoming book, Jane Eyre, annotated with an eye to technique I instantly agreed.

Onto the review . . .


 

What Amazon says:

AnnJaneEyreCover

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will…”

One of the most sweeping and enduring novels in English literature, Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre has become a beloved classic and a must-read for fans of period romance. Filled with memorable characters, witty dialogue, emotional scenes, social commentary, and intriguing twists, Brontë’s novel, written in 1847, still has much to teach writers about crafting exceptional stories.

As part of the Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics series, this edition of Jane Eyre features hundreds of insightful annotations from writing instructor and author K.M. Weiland. Explore the craft and technique of Jane Eyre through the lens of a writer, and learn why and how Brontë made the choices she did while writing her iconic novel. The techniques learned from the annotations and accompanying study guide will aid in the crafting of your own celebrated works of fiction.

My thoughts:

I’ve read Jane Eyre a couple of times, once in high school and once in university, but I’ve never read it as a writer.

Weiland’s annotations were an eye-opener.

Initially, I considered a couple of what I saw as lapses on Weiland’s part to be creative or editorial decisions, and there is an element of that present. What I was amazed to discover is that Weiland’s annotative decisions are artful, or perhaps I should say crafty, in a way I never expected.

Very quickly, her annotations have the effect of tuning the reading writer’s eye to Brontë’s creativity and craft. The reader begins to pick out additional examples of the same techniques as they occur, and may even, as I did, page back through the book to see where Brontë employed the same technique in the past and to what effect.

Jane Eyre: Writer’s Digest Annotated Classics is not only a writing craft book, but an instructional manual on how to read critically, as a writer.

Under Weiland’s ever-gentle guidance, the reading writer learns that analyzing a text for craft does not have to be a negative experience nor even an academic one.

Those of us who suffered through textual dissection in university will be grateful to Weiland for showing us, in the best authorial sense, that analysis can be fun, and even exciting, as our minds race back to our own works-in-progress to apply lessons learned.

On that subject, the worksheets in the back are, in my opinion, worth the price of the book. Covering setting, character development, structure, indeed, every aspect of writing a novel, Weiland asks questions, assigns tasks, and refers back to Brontë’s work if we need a little help figuring out how to apply the technique in our writing.

This is a top-notch writing craft book and a spectacular start to a new series for Writer’s Digest. Diana Gabaldon’s introduction doesn’t hurt either ;)

My highest recommendation.

My rating:

Five out of five stars.

About the Author:

KMWeilandLooking-Back

K.M. Weiland is the internationally published author of the Amazon bestsellers Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, as well as the western A Man Called Outlaw, the medieval epic Behold the Dawn, and the fantasy Dreamlander. When she’s not making things up, she’s busy mentoring other authors through her award-winning blog HelpingWritersBecomeAuthors.com.

CanWrite! 2014: Writing fantasy with Kelley Armstrong, June 20

I took a little break last week because of the blog tour and interview with Mat, but I’m back and ready to proceed with moar CanWrite! 2014 reportage.

I’ve been interested in Kelley for years, ever since I first heard Brian Henry’s story of how he helped hook Kelley up with her agent, effectively launching her career. Kelley’s version of the tale appears later in the workshop, so I won’t spoil it.

Everybody loves a good origin story :)

Kelley ArmstrongKelley was a dynamic speaker, hardly ever keeping still long enough for me to snap a decent picture. I won’t torture either you or her with my attempts. Suffice it to say that by the time my phone camera took the shot, she was in mid-speech. So here, instead, is the promo pic she gave the CAA to post on the conference page.

 

Kelley also likes to sit on desks as she holds forth.

Overall, I found her workshop a fascinating one. She frequently asked a question of the class and had us share our expertise, as a good facilitator should (corporate trainer kudos, Kelley!).

Without further ado, here are my notes from the workshop.


 

What is fantasy?

Set in an alternate reality; featuring non-human characters; plausible impossibility (Mel’s note: this was my offering. It’s from Brian Aldiss’s Trillion Year Spree.); mystical elements.

What about sub-genres of fantasy?

Steampunk (think Gail Carriger); urban fantasy (what Kelley writes); epic or high fantasy (Tolkien); contemporary; paranormal romance; speculative fiction; magical realism (Alice Hoffman’s Practical Magic).

On writing rules.

There are rules for grammar, spelling, syntax, etc., but with regard to writing a fantasy novel, there are no rules, only guidelines. Following them can definitely improve your chances of being published, but we worry too much about rules.

Don’t worry about the market. Let’s look at an example of a sub-genre that has long been considered flooded.

Current market research reveals that with regard to vampire novels in the last eighteen months there have been:

  • Eighteen deals for new series or standalone titles;
  • Fourteen extensions of current series;
  • Three novels from established novelists in other genres; and
  • One debut.

The “Big Five” are still buying vampire novels. Movies and television series are still being made from these books as well.

Who are the Big Five?

  • Penguin Random House (imprint – DAW)
  • MacMillian
  • Simon & Schuster
  • HarperCollins
  • Hachette (imprints – Little Brown, Hyperion)

All of the Big Five have their imprints. You can publish different books with different imprints.

<Kelley took a few minutes to review her most recently published novels and which imprint and parent publisher each was produced by.>

Bitten was the fourth novel I’d written. The three previous were, a novel about a private investigator (Mel’s note: my notes indicate PI, but it could be something else. My apologies to Kelley if I got this wrong), a traditional fantasy, and a Harlequin Romance, written for their Intrigue line.

Never write to the market. Write what you want to write. If it’s good, it will find an audience.

It takes, on average, about two years for a novel to be published.

Research is important, even in fantasy. Research your setting, history, weapons and armour, etc. Even if your world is a created one, there’s probably something in the real one it was based on.

Here’s how I define a few terms:

Myths have to do with the gods, demigods, avatars, or other similar beings. Folklore relates to fairies and other fantastic races of creatures. Each culture has its own. Legends are real people doing amazing things, generally blown out of proportion after years of retelling.

Can you “break” a myth and retell it in an original way?

Worldbuilding is all about research. You have to have rules and you have to be consistent with them. Or you have to create a convincing “in-world” reason for the rule to be broken.

Part of my research for one of my novels was In the Sleep Room by Anne Collins, a book about sleep deprivation experiments. I also looked into MK Ultra and other military experiments as well. For those who don’t know, MK Ultra was a program that attempted to create an assassin like The Manchurian Candidate.

Urban fantasy usually deals with some form of sub-culture.

How to write your way out of a corner (A.K.A. break your own rules).

First, you have to acknowledge the issue. Then, there are four ways out of your bind:

  • The magical whatnot – a mystical device that will supersede the rules.
  • The lost spell, ritual, or other knowledge – ditto.
  • A new or expanded power – caution: do not use often.
  • Mea culpa – just take responsibility for the “mistake.”

Be careful with these. If the solution to your magical bind sticks around, it can cause trouble for your story in the future (think the transporter as used in Star Trek: The Next Generation). You also don’t want your protagonist becoming too god-like. The easy fix can become a crutch.

Do not give any unnecessary details. If you explain too much, you are bound by the new rules you’ve created. Cover your ass.

How do I know another writer hasn’t already done “this”?

Don’t worry about it. There are no new stories, only new ways of telling them.

What’s the difference between high concept and low concept?

Every agent and editor will have a different definition of this. Sometimes it’s a matter of originality. It’s all in the execution. High concept usually involves global stakes. Low concept is more personal.

<We were then assigned the task of coming up with a concept statement, or logline, for our current works-in-progress. We shared them and critiqued them. Kelley came up with some very inventive ways to rewrite these offerings for greater impact.

The floor was then opened to questions.>

Q: How are you so prolific?

When I got my first deal, my novel was accepted on the condition that I could produce the second novel in the series—as of that time not written—in a very short timeframe. The publisher wanted to release them one after the other.

I was working in the IT field at the time, and though it was a big deal financially, I talked it over with my husband and he said go for it. I also had one young child and was expecting my second. It was a very scary time.

Everyone pitched in to make sure my life didn’t fall apart while I was taking this risk. My sister, who was conveniently in search of a job, became my business manager. When I had enough money, I paid for a housekeeper.

Value your time. Would you rather be doing laundry, or writing your next novel?

Now my kids are helping out too. It’s a family affair.

Q: How did you get your agent?

I’d been writing for a while, in the evenings and on weekends, while I worked. I took a workshop with a man named Brian Henry, and I asked him where I should submit my latest novel (Bitten). He read it for me and called me up one evening to discuss options.

He said, “Helen Heller would love this.” I gulped. Helen Heller? And then Brian continued, “I just can’t tell her what it’s about.”

Later, Brian told me about his conversation with Helen. He’d known her from his work in the publishing industry and he called her up.

“Helen, I have this fabulous new novel that you would just love.”

“What’s it about?”

“Werewolves.”

“Werewolves? If it was anyone but you, Brian . . .”

She read it, however reluctantly, but she loved it and she agreed to sign me as a client.

<The rest, as they say, is history.>

Six questions with Mat Del Papa

Mat is a writerly friend and a past-president of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. He’s published two collections of stories loosely based on the history of the railway in Capreol, and now, he has become an editor, assembling fact and fiction to create Creepy Capreol, a collection of supernatural tales about his hometown.


 

Welcome to Writerly Goodness, Mat!

WG: What inspired the Creepy Capreol project, and how did it evolve?

MDP: The inspiration came from Spooky Sudbury. Mark Leslie and Jenny Jelen put together a great book and I was fortunate enough to be involved in a small way. That got me thinking about doing something more scary than my usual. Seeing the phenomenal success they had combined with the unexpected discovery of two other stories about Capreol in Spooky Sudbury to give me another push. Mark provided the final impetus. We’d been joking, via email, about the various weirdness in Capreol (the river’s burned twice and the fire hall three times — for a example) and he said something like “You should write a book.” I forget who came up with the title, him or me, but it clicked.

WG: How did you go about recruiting your writers and artist? How smoothly did that process go for you?

MDP: I recruited the writers I thought would the best fit first — current and former Capreol residents who already write genre-type stories. Steve Vernon was on top of that list. Born and raised in Capreol he’s had a great deal of success writing horror. Next came Jason Shayer, another Capreol boy who’s gone on to bigger things. Both were happy to contribute and their inclusion gave me the confidence to move forward (until they signed onboard I was more or less toying with the idea — getting two published authors was the final push).

It would have been a thin book though if I hadn’t approached a few members of the Sudbury Writers’ Guild. Betty Guenette wrote about her uncle from Milnet (a ghost town just north of Capreol) and gave me a second story set in Sellwood (another nearby ghost town). Lisa Coleman-Brown had impressed me with her ability to write gross fiction and she delivered another stomach-churner for Creepy Capreol.

The artist proved easiest of all. Robert Michelutti lives in Capreol and volunteers at the local train museum (the Northern Ontario Railroad Museum and Heritage Centre). I’ve had dealings with the museum before (they sell my previous books in their gift shop) and so had an “in” with Bob. I sent him some samples stories and he sent me some sample art — they proved a great fit.

WG: Once you had the writers lined up and their stories in hand, it would have been time for editing. What did you learn from wearing the editorial hat that you may not have known as a writer?

MDP: Editing is hard. Everyone knows that. What I didn’t realize was how many little details there were. Things you have to keep track of at all times. It’s like juggling — only you’re dealing with people and their creations! Getting the best work sometimes meant stepping on toes. I found a hundred ways to say, politely, “Try again. You can do better.” The amazing thing is . . . the various contributors did do better, every time, revising until we both were happy. No doubt they came to curse my very name, but the final product proved the efforts (and swearwords!) weren’t in vain.

WG: Did you do the layout work yourself as well? How was it organizing text and images for publication?

MDP: I did just about everything — that’s the only way to keep costs reasonable. Luckily there are plenty of quality programs and templates available. It probably took me ten times as long as a professional, but in the end everything came together.

The hardest part was balancing the content. I agonized over the order, trying to compliment each story with the one before and after.

WG: What is it like to create a project like this and have a hand in it from start to finish?

MDP: Satisfying . . . and frustrating. I enjoyed 99% of the process. But that last 1% had me almost tearing my hair out. I can live with the odd technical glitch. It’s my own stupid mistakes that gall. Luckily I’ve done the whole self-publishing thing three times before and have learned from most of my mistakes.

Having contributors was a new experience. One I found both difficult and exhilarating. Their enthusiasm pushed me through some rough patches, but waiting on others to revise (in some cases four or five times before getting it right) was a challenge. The fact that I’m not the best time manager meant that the last few weeks were a tight crunch. Still, for all the struggles, the final product turned out better than I could have hoped.

WG: What’s coming up for Creepy Capreol?

MDP: First comes the official launch. I always hold a book-signing/launch as part of the Capreol Days festivities (held on the August long weekend). This summer is no different. I’ll be in downtown Capreol on Saturday, August 2nd with a table of books — Creepy Capreol will be selling at a special holiday price of $14.00 — and encourage anyone interested to come out. There’s music, barbeques, a sidewalk sale — last year had horse rides, kids games, an animal exhibit — and more.

After that I hope to hit Valley East Days in early September. It’s another fun weekend, full of music, food, and entertainment.

The book should be available on Amazon in the fall. Kobo, Kindle, and iBookstore versions are coming soon. And I hope to have it in Chapters Sudbury location for October.

Thank you for taking the time to tell us a little about Creepy Capreol and your journey to publication.


 

About the book:Creepy Capreol
Creepy Capreol
Chilling Tales from a Railroad Town

Introduction by Mark Leslie.
Illustrations by Robert Michelutti.

The book consists of two parts:

Non-Fiction

That Darn Sock Monkey — How a stuffed sock monkey traumatized my youth.
Bigfoot Lives! — A look at the Capreol connection to the famed creature; with references to fact, legend, and some personal observations.
Help! My Wheelchair Is Trying To Kill Me — Humorous take on the many times I’ve almost been killed by my wheelchair. Mostly true, some exaggeration for effect.
Vigilante Justice: Capreol Style — An account of Frederick Chase Capreol’s many failings and lone stellar success. It is mostly factual, but with some humour.
The Mystery Of Capreol’s Mass Grave — Fact-based article that refutes the commonly held belief that between 30 and 80 people are buried in a mass grave.
The Wreck At Drocourt — A poem by Ida Quackenbush and her son George. Originally written approximately 1930.
Ghost Town Trilogy — Loose histories of three local ghost towns.

Fiction

Rolling Stock — Steve Vernon
Set in Capreol’s railyard the story revolves around one man’s late-night encounter with the supernatural.
Not The Basement! — Lisa Coleman-Brown
An overworked PSW is filling in for a co-worker when she discovers a disturbing secret.
The Likely Story — Paul Mandziuk
A literary mystery; it features a vicious murder in a bookstore — with a novel twist.
This Old Man — Betty Guenette
The bond between nephew and uncle are tested as more than age and isolation separate the two.
The One That Got Away — Matthew Del Papa
A northern Ontario fish story as told by the bait dealer who saw it all happening.
Dual Ghost Towns — Betty Guenette
Ghost towns aren’t always empty. Two sisters find this out in traumatizing fashion on a visit to Sellwood.
Stagnant Waters — Jason Shayer
Exploring abandoned buildings reveals something unexpected … and evil.

CanWrite! 2014: Publisher Panel, June 20

Christie HarkinCraig PyetteHalli VillegasPanellists: Christie Harkin, Lorimer; Craig Pyette, Random House; Halli Villegas, Tightrope Books.

Moderator: Sue Reynolds

 

 

 

 

 

SR: What would make you shout “Eureka!” if it crossed your desk today?

CP: If we’re talking fiction, I’m not likely to shout right away, but something fresh, or new, would make me pay attention.

HV: The writing has to be excellent. The writer has to be willing to work hard in the editorial process. I like unique settings, LGBT, quirky, diverse books. In our best essays anthology, there was a piece about hospitals that was fascinating.

CH: I have a spreadsheet with tic boxes. I have to check off all the boxes to consider the piece. It has to fit into one of our current series, have an urban setting, preferably in the downtown core, it must be edgy, realistic, modern, and not elitist. If I receive something that meets the criteria, I’d shout “Eureka!”

SR: How many books do you consider from your respective slush piles? How do you prefer to be approached?

CP: If you want to submit to a larger house, get an agent. Most of what we produce comes to us through agencies. With regard to your first question, it would be close to none. I can think of one book we accepted from the slush pile. It was non-fiction about the intersection of gun culture/manufacture and hip hop/urban culture.

HV: Every season, there’s at least one book I find in the slush pile. We’re a small press and periodically closed to submissions. Sometimes we put out a call for an anthology. Our most recent was for mystery stories. We also accept projects though grants, like the OAC’s Writers Reserve. If I like the work, I’ll get in touch.

CH: I’ve been with Lorimer for eight months and before that, I was with Fitzhenry & Whiteside. At Lorimer, there is no slush pile. When the list is specific, the submissions are low. We ask for specifics. Read the submission guidelines.

SR: How do you make a business case for a book? In other words, what happens after “Eureka?” How do you sell a book?

CP: The business case is part of the eureka moment. We have to see that there is a robust audience for the book. We talk a lot about comps.

HV: Comps are the first thing sales asks for. Tightrope has built its own market. Readers say, “I trust their aesthetic.” We have our annual poetry and essay anthologies, we’ve published material on plus-sized women. We’re not necessarily focused on the market in general, but on our audience. We published a book titled, How to get a Girl Pregnant, about a gay couple trying to have a baby. The author needs to be part of the process.

CH: We also want proactive authors. They have to be willing to attend conference, Word on the Street, commit to local promotion. The biggest market for kids books is in schools and libraries. Take a look at the curriculum and write book club-like content for teachers so they can teach the novel in class. There was a book about Jacques Plante, but it was too focused and a lot of the kids it was aimed at wouldn’t be able to relate. This morphed into a book about hockey safety in general and how players have contributed to innovation over the years. The revised book had a more universal appeal.

SR: Publishing is a business. You know what you’re looking for. What about international rights and contracts?

CH: If you don’t have an agent, you don’t have any negotiating power. You probably don’t have the knowledge, or the connections. Think seriously before you sign a contract.

HV: We had a South African author who wanted to publish in both countries. I have a North American and European distributor. I don’t like being limited to Canadian rights only. It’s a smaller market. The first print run is 600-1000 books. We’ve just added ebook rights as well. We don’t do commercial fiction, however.

CH: You want your publisher to contract for US rights. More books will sell in the States than in Canada. Lorimer insists on US rights, in fact. If the author wants to retain them, that would be a deal-breaker.

CP: You don’t want your rights squandered. Ask what the publisher wants to do. Random House has a great foreign rights department, but half of our authors aren’t Canadian. We’re a Canadian-oriented publisher, though. With an agent, the world is their oyster.

HV: Big publishers will have a legal department. I don’t. If things get too complicated, I send the writer to an agent or a lawyer.

CH: Yes, an intellectual property (IP) lawyer.

SR: Let’s open the floor to questions.

Q: What’s your risk tolerance?

CP: Keep in mind that the greater the risk, the higher the potential payoff. Last fall was unusual. We published books on Bobby Orr and Chris Hadfield. Colossal risks, but the payoff was huge, too. Sometimes you blow it, but if you’re passionate, you take the risk.

HV: We don’t have a big budget, so we don’t take big risks in the traditional sense. I like to build the ladder rather than climb it.

CH: At Fitzhenry & Whiteside, I had a lot of latitude. My risks paid off. I’ve been lucky. Lorimer is less of a risk-taker, but we will still weigh the pros and cons before making a decision.

Q: What is the process of getting on the bestseller lists?

CP: If we knew that, we’d all be millionaires. That’s putting the cart before the horse. In 2006 Booknet started tracking sales at the cash register for 90% of the retailers in Canada. The Globe & Mail Bestseller list is based on Booknet numbers.

Q: Does politics play a role?

CP: It’s hard sales numbers.

HV: Do you mean, “it’s who you know”?

CP: Maybe there’s the odd favour.

CH: Maybe we can get the book into a reviewer’s hands.

HV: It’s a chicken and egg thing. Some authors will automatically be on the bestsellers lists. Stephen King, Margaret Atwood, Michael Ondaajte.

Publisher's Panel


 

And that’s all we had time for.

Next week: Writing Fantasy with Kelly Armstrong!

CanWrite! 2014: How to be your own editor with Farzana Doctor June 19

Farzana DoctorThat’s Dr. Farzana Doctor ;)

Learning to edit your work is learning to know when to let go. Maybe that’s what this workshop should be called: Let it go.

This is what I do. You don’t have to do what I do. Do what works for you in your process, but I hope you’ll find some interesting tips and techniques you can incorporate into your process.

First, a couple of definitions:

  • Prose editing is fine tuning: Spelling, grammar, syntax, usage.
  • Revision is substantive, structural, plot-related.

To start the editing process, you must have a completed piece of writing.

What was your intention in writing the piece? That core intention will guide you in the editing process.

Plan the process

Prose editing checklist:

  • Overused or repetitive words. First identify them. Everyone has her or his words. Then, use find and replace to address them.
  • Useless words (Mel’s note: also called zero words, because you can remove them from the sentence without changing the meaning of it) such as, just, only, that, actually, etc.. If you’re not sure what useless words are, Google it.
  • Grammar tics. Again every writer has a weakness. (Mel’s note: mine is commas. I either use too many or too few.)
  • Passive language. Examples: The biscuit was eaten by the dog (the dog ate the biscuit). She was jumping up and down (she jumped up and down).
  • Telling versus showing. Telling has its place, but avoid it where possible. Check your use of adverbs, adjectives, and clichés. These are often signs that you are telling, rather than showing.
  • Dialogue. Tags – do you need them, or would an action beat be better? Do all of your characters sound the same? Said is just fine. Read it out loud to see if it “sounds” right.
  • I start with editing first, because I find it easier. Some writers may not want to do this because it may mean too many wasted words when the revision stage is reached. Editing first works for me.

Revision checklist:

  • Where does the story begin? Is it too early, too late, is there enough action, conflict?
  • The protagonist. What does he want? What prevents him from getting it?
  • Other characters. If you can take her out of the story and not alter it, she should go. Every character should serve the story. Every character should be real, have a background, desires and frustrations of her own.
  • Keep track of plot and subplots. Structure.
  • Description. Is there too much or not enough?
  • Flashbacks. Do they stall the story?
  • Is the ending satisfying? Is it a resting place?

How to do it:

  • Focus. No distractions. Space. Set time, page number, or word count goals.
  • Separate new writing from editing and revision. Could be different times of the day, or different days.
  • Revision iteratively. Editing as you’re going. Must always make progress, however. S.J. Rozan’s method of Iterative Revision – Bookbaby. Start with previous day’s work, and then move on. It’s like a progressive spiral.
  • Change perspective. Step away. Change your font. Read aloud. Print it out. Draw maps. Pretend you are a reader.
  • Create a visual outline. Literally cut and paste your scenes and chapters.
  • Write a synopsis or jacket copy. Write a logline or tagline. Write a poem. Find your theme.

Asking for feedback

  • Who will you ask?
  • When is the best time to obtain a critique?
  • Be specific about what you want/need.
  • Stay general. When did you stall, get bored, get lost?
  • Receive your critiques without resistance. Set it aside. Decide what rings true. Ask for clarification (do not defend).

The rest of the workshop was spent reading and responding to the participants’ works-in-progress.


 

I must admit, I haven’t thought of purposefully editing first. I have edited too early before, and regretted spending all that time fixing scenes and even chapters that I would eventually delete. For me, I would think that revising first makes more sense.

Similarly, iterative revision doesn’t work for me. I get caught in an endless loop of going further and further back. It doesn’t prime the pump for me, it engages my inner editor too early in the writing process and stalls me.

Overall, I found Farzana’s workshop informative and practical.

I hope that you, too, will find something useful that you can use in your daily practice.

CanWrite! 2014: Agent panel, June 19

Panelists: Sam Hiyate, Carly Watters, Marie Campbell

Sam HiyateCarly WattersMarie Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

Moderator: James Dewar

JD: What’s changed in the author-agent-editor relationship over the years?

SH: When I was studying English literature, agents were invisible. Editors shaped the work. Now, there is too much work for an editor to do. Some of that work has devolved upon agents. The leisurely relationship between author and editor is a thing of the past. Editors want a perfectly edited manuscript to they can turn around and sell it to their publishing house.

MC: Whatever golden age there might have been, ended just before I started working in the industry. YA is a big market now. Editors are not so much about developing talent, but about recognizing it. We need to be good “pickers.” Some agents have moved into this gap.

CW: Agents are also fighting against each other to get their authors placed.

JD: How much time do you spend developing authors?

SH: I couldn’t give you a percentage, but somewhere between three and five drafts.

MC: It varies with the client. It could be anywhere from one to twelve drafts.

CW: I spend between three and six months, not just editing, but understanding the vision for the work. The “revise and resubmit” letter might contain one to seven pages of suggested revisions. You have to find out if you can work together. Some agents won’t take on a client without doing an R&R letter. They won’t take the risk.

JD: What are some of the reasons authors don’t respond to your suggestions the way you expect?

CW: The author doesn’t take it seriously. They don’t understand how much work goes into reading and analyzing and preparing the R&R.

MC: I was at a conference last year on a panel reading first pages. The top three, as the prize, would be given consideration, moved to the top of my slush pile. Only one of them responded right away. I read and signed her. The second one just came in last month. Sometimes they’re scared. When you get the opportunity, jump for it. It may not be there in six months.

SH: The easy answer is that Canadians are afraid. Americans want to see the money. Adopt a professional persona. Andrew Pyper wrote five or six books. His agent asked to see what he was working on. He presented it to his agent and the agent asked, “do you have anything else?” It’s a conversation.

MC: I had a conversation with one of my writers who said he had so many ideas he could work on. It’s my job to say, “no, no, no, yes.”

JD: What is exciting you these days?

SH: Ask me when I’ve had a few cocktails.

MC: Because I’ve worked in children’s literature for so long, it’s exciting to see the new work coming in. Because there’s so much of it, the bar is set high. Picture books were dying out, but now they’re coming back.

CW: In the acknowledgements of her second book, one of my authors said that without me, she’d be a starving artist. I was thrilled. It’s the best part of being an agent, being able to grow with your authors.

SH: I can give you an answer now. There is a graphic novel about two girls coming of age in this one summer in cottage country. Canadian writers do this very well. The book was #8 on the New York Times, moved up to #7, dropped off the list, but now a review has come out and we’re waiting to see where it goes.

JD: When you look at a manuscript, what are you hoping to find?

CW: The book always comes first, but I look for potential for book cubs, translations, you never know.

MC: With kids’ books, you have to consider the age of your audience, and then look at merchandizing. Is there series potential? Having said that, I will never say the word “trilogy” again.

SH: It depends on the book. The first may be a distinctively Canadian book, but two or three down the line, it could be a whole different story. Look at Yan Martel. Pi was his fourth book. His first was a collection of short stories.

JD: So, the book is not the end of it.

SH: The moment Pi hit the mainstream, everyone went back to buy his other two novels.

JD: How are Canadian authors doing on the world stage?

SH: That’s a really big question. Ebooks are based around genre. It’s getting harder and harder to sell literary novels. The Luminaries is essentially a thriller written in a literary style.

CW: Canadian authors aren’t as ambitious. They’re too laid back. Literary is still a market. If you’re writing genre, though, consider your setting. An anonymous town that could be anywhere in North America won’t be as problematic for an American publisher.

MC: Writers have come to me and said, “I’ve been successful in Canada. Now I want to break into the American market. Canadian’s are good at problem novels. American’s love them too, but they don’t translate into the UK market. It can affect foreign rights and sales. Consider changing your setting to Detroit.

JD: If you had one piece of advice for emerging writers, what would it be?

MC: Treat it like a business. It’s my business and it’s hard work. It’s creative, but it’s also a business.

SH: If you think your manuscript is perfect, it’s probably not. Make sure you have readers, alphas and betas, and critique groups lines up.

CW: Define what success is for you. Plan for it. Implement the plan.

Q: Is there an art to selecting alpha and beta readers?

CW: You have to give some thought to who your ideal audience is. Find people who are better than you to work with. Read everything.

MC: One of the most successful, grass-roots groups I’ve heard of is a workshop run by an editor.

SH: There isn’t a formula. Getting criticism can destroy your work. Art is not created by committee. Have a conversation with your critique group and your readers. Be discerning.

MC: A book club does not trump an editor. Don’t try to defend your work by saying that your group loved it.

Q: Do books set in other countries, like Australia, do well in Canada?

CW: Good books travel.

SH: Catton (The Luminaries) is from New Zealand.

MC: Children’s books are not sold to or bought by children, but in libraries and schools (teachers, librarians, parents). It can be tricky. For every rule there is an exception.

JD: Is sex okay in a YA novel? We’re seeing a lot more of it.

MC: We call it content.

CW: It needs to be part of a character’s development and not gratuitous.

SH: Erotica is still on the New York Times Bestsellers Lists, but the market may be saturated until the next big thing comes along.

Q: Have you ever turned down something you later regretted?

CW: I haven’t passed on anything that became a bestseller, but maybe I failed to get a deal I wanted, or someone beat me to the punch.

MC: I presented a book to an editor who passed on it, but later, when that book sold and was produced by another house, she pointed to it as her “ideal” book.

SH: Agents compete all the time.

MC: On the adult side, I recommended a book to two colleagues. One passed and the other took it and ran with it. It ended up being on the Globe and Mail bestseller list for eight weeks.

Thank God Harry Potter never crossed my desk!


 

I’m just going to head right into the panels and sessions for CanWrite! 2014. I’ll give a little perspective in my wrap post at the end.

Since I’m away from home, I don’t have copies of the fiction and poetry I was going to post this weekend with me. I’ll try to get one of those posts up tomorrow.

A poetic road trip to Rutherglen

Yesterday, those of you who follow me on Facebook may have noticed that I was out of town again for a bit. This time, it wasn’t for work, though!

My gifted, poet friend, Kim Fahner (who is likely cringing as she reads this—stop that—you are gifted), was invited to a reading, irreverently called Fools on Stools at the La-Tea-Da Cafe in Rutherglen (about 20 minutes outside North Bay, ON).

She asked me to go with her and we decided to turn the reading into an opportunity for a poetic road trip—my FAVOURITE kind!

At the reading was fellow Sudbury author Ric deMeulles, and North Bay area authors Steve Pitt, Barry Grilles, and Ken Stange. We saw several poets and writers from the Conspiracy of Three reading series, and the host, Carin, who owned the La-Tea-Da Cafe, was gracious and welcoming.

Fools on Stools readers

Ken Stange, Kim Fahner, Barry Grilles (behind Kim–sorry Barry), Carin, Ric deMeulles, and Steve Pitt

The group rotated through three sets of readings with breaks for refreshments. At the end, the readers were invited to make Fools on Stools a regular event.

It was a lovely and creative afternoon.

Kim sold several copies of The Narcoleptic Madonna, and received some publishing advice from the other readers.

Then we returned to North Bay, checked into a hotel for the night, and set off in search of supper. The parking lot of Average Joe’s, to which we were referred by the helpful young man at the front desk, was full, so we turned into the downtown area to find sustenance.

Since neither of us had had much by way of lunch, we were ravenous by this time.

Fortunately, we saw My Thai Palace, a restaurant that we were both familiar with from Sudbury, parked, and dined.

After a delicious supper and a half litre of wine, we moseyed down to the lakeshore for a walk.

Lake Nipissing

There was a beautiful ray of sun shining down on the water, but by the time I got my phone out for a picture, this was all that was left. Still, Lake Nipissing is wonderful.

Back at the hotel, we settled into our lovely suite, watched Orphan Black, read, and chatted until we fell asleep. It was an adult sleepover :)

This morning, after a tasty breakfast at the hotel, we returned to town briefly to capture a daylight picture of the most amazing house.

Crazy collectible house

The house Kim had to go back to see.

Turns out, the Canadian Pickers (the Canadian edition of the US franchise) had visited. I’m sure they found a lot of interesting stuff. As we drove away, we had to turn and drive around the block. The entire property, yard, and garage were similarly festooned with collectibles.

The drive back was uneventful and we continued our discussion of the world’s troubles and how to solve them.

Sometimes you just have to get away and have some fun. Though I’ll admit, our fun may be tame in the eyes of others, but we had a blast.

Poetic road trips ROCK!

Have you gotten away for a fun weekend with friends lately?

Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

I’ve been blogging this puppy for a month and a half now (!)

There was so much more to Ad Astra than the awesome sessions, though. There was so much that I couldn’t take part in.

I mentioned waaaaay back in my first post that there was Klingon Karaoke (not karaoke in Klingon, though that might be cool …). There was an anime lounge with various series and movies running all three days of the convention, an art room, a Lego room, the book store, author readings, and signings.

Also, for every session I attended, there were, like six others. There was astronomy in the parking lot at night, the masquerade, gaming sessions, Consuite events, and book launches by various SF/F publishers.

And there was the Guest of Honour brunch, which I foolishly chose not to purchase a ticket for (hey, it was my first time, I didn’t know it would be so awesome).

If I thought it was possible, I could have stayed up for the entire three days and done something different every hour.

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

I attended readings by Patricia Briggs, Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau, Matt Moore, and Dennis Lee.

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

I bought (way too many) books and got some of them signed by the authors.

I bought a couple pieces of jewellery and a t-shirt.

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year :)

The book haul

The book haul

What about you? Have you attended any conventions or conferences recently?