Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 31-Sept 6, 2014

Egad, another month has come and gone. How in the hell did that happen?

Now that we know all about character arcs from K.M. Weiland’s various series on the topic, should every character in your novel have an arc? Hmmmm . . . That way lies madness, methinks.

On her weekly vlog, Katie cites Sunshine Cleaners as an example of how you can use your characters’ professions to make your story more interesting.

Do all of your characters have the same voice, and is that voice yours? Roz Morris shares some tips on how to recognize the problem, and how to fix it.

Donald Maass offers metaphorical writing advice by way of gems and necklaces.

Janice Hardy offers some advice on how to recognize episodic scenes and how to fix them on Fiction University.

A bit of authorial humour, from the New Yorker.

An anatomy of endings, from The New Yorker.

Jim C. Hines guests on Magical Words on the topic of despair.

Here’s to creatives who work a day job, from The Artist’s Road.

A writer’s guide to Canadian Literary Magazines and Journals, from the Magazine Awards blog.

Haruki Murakami lists three essential qualities all novelists and runners share. Open Culture.

The Press Enterprise reports: UC Riverside’s science fiction collection gets a 3.5 million gift.

It’s a bit brief this week, but that’s all that tickled my fancy.

Be back on Thoughty Thursday!

Good words at ya, until then.


Mel’s movie madness

First, a confession: I don’t watch a lot of movies. When I do, it’s an occasion of some variety.

In the case of the first movie I’ll be discussing, Phil and I both had the day off, I was departing for Calgary the next day, and we decided to see it as a “date.” I’ll let you decide what kind of commentary that makes on my life.

I’ll see more movies during the spring and summer because we subscribe to the movie package with our cable so we can watch Game of Thrones.

You may not be surprised to learn that besides Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ve seen a sum total of three not-on-network-TV-yet movies.

Without further self-deprecation, here’s what I learned from these movies:

Guardians of the Galaxy

This movie, in keeping with Marvel’s other recent offerings, was enjoyable. It had no pretensions and knew exactly what it was and what it promised the audience. Further, it delivered on the promise. Always a good thing.

There was an appropriate amount of backstory and it left some healthy gaps for the audience to fill in on their own. I really appreciate it when a movie doesn’t spoon-feed.

I loved the Awesome Mix Vol. 1 and the purpose it served for Peter Quill, A.K.A Star Lord, and his story arc.

When we first see Peter as an adult, dancing to his music as he perpetrates a crime, we learn so much about him. It’s a brilliant bit of visual storytelling.

Similarly, when we meet Gamora and Rocket, and, even Groot, within a very short period of time, we know exactly whom we are dealing with.

Drax, however, was surprisingly one-dimensional. It’s not a great thing when a humanoid tree with a one-word vocabulary has more character than a walking, talking, red-skinned muscle man. ‘Nuff said.

The one thing I didn’t appreciate was how, though wonderful and capable, Gamora fades into the background to let the frankly bumbling Peter take centre stage.

Key writerly takeaways: How to craft backstory; Creating convincing characterization with minimal “screen time.”

Looking forward to a future Inhumans movie from Marvel.

Catching Fire

I watched this one on the way to Calgary courtesy of Air Canada.

Frankly, I was disappointed in this movie. I haven’t read the second in the series, but I have to assume that there’s more to Katniss’s story this time than a weary rehash of The Hunger Games.

Katniss seemed amazingly passive. I expected more.

It really didn’t grip me at all, and I actually struggled to remember what movie I had watched on the plane. That’s bad.

Key writerly takeaways: The second book in a series has to be at least as awesome as the first. Don’t let your reader down. To borrow a phrase from Brandon Sanderson and the Writing Excuses podcast, your protagonist must protag. That is, he or she must ACT.

Oz the Great and Powerful

I’d actually watched part of this on my way out to Vancouver last year for the Surrey International Writers’ Conference (which I’m too poor to attend two years in a row).

I actually caught the whole movie on one of the movie channels a few weeks ago.

I thought it was an interesting take on the Wizard of Oz, but I have to say that this one was a little disappointing too.

Another bumbling, if not bordering on irredeemable, male character surrounded by powerful, dynamic women, all of whom he betrays in some fashion, and yet, he merits the title of great and powerful by the end.

I didn’t buy it and the monkey’s loyalty to Oscar made my ass twitch.

I’m sorry, but blind faith and blind luck just don’t propel a plot in a satisfying way. For me.

Key writerly takeaways: Redemption must be earned and it must ring true. Take extra care with the antihero.

Thor: The Dark World

This movie was okay for me. I enjoyed it, but I’m glad I didn’t pay to see it in a theatre.

The dark elves were physically interesting and I would have liked to see a little more development there, but unfortunately, I got a one-note villain.

While I found Thor to be the usually satisfying eye candy, I was far more interested in Loki. None of the characters received much further characterization or development, except for Selvig. I loved his insanity and his new penchant for nudity.

The biggest disappointment was the relationship between Thor and Jane. She’s supposed to be the love of his life, but he doesn’t even drop her a line when he helps the Avengers save New York.

And they never talk about it. Yes, she gives him a smack, but the implication is that the Bifrost was repaired even before the events of the Avengers movie.

I think playing the whole thing out on the screen would have bored viewers to death, but there has to be some kind of verisimilitude. People in relationships, if they are as committed as they claim, talk about these things.

Even some kind of cut scene where the two emerge from a hallway still arguing and one or the other says something particularly touching that does not drop the issue, but defers it until a more appropriate time. There is, after all, a war to fight and a multiverse to save.

And then there’s Jane herself. She’s brilliant, capable, and relegated to the role of the woman in jeopardy until she becomes empowered by gadget at the end.

Key writerly takeaways: If a secondary character becomes more compelling than your protagonist, you either have to make the secondary character your protagonist, or examine your protagonist’s arc to see how you can make it stronger. A token character of any kind is a bad thing. A good villain needs a motivation and a backstory to come alive.

And that’s what I learned watching movies.

Have you seen any movies recently from which you’ve gleaned some writerly goodness? Let me know in the comments below.

I’ll be deferring my Series Discoveries post until a little later in the television season. At the moment I have a total of three series to discuss, and for one of them, I’ve only seen one episode. Not much to work with.

Coming up: Tipsday and Thoughty Thursday as usual, and more WWC reportage on Saturday.

In the next couple of weeks, an author friend of mine will be coming to town for a couple of speaking engagements, and I might have more work-related posts coming up as I’m heading into training for the next two weeks as well.

By the end of the month, I might have an idea about the relative stability of my team, as well.

There have been gaggles of workers taking pictures of the rock in my front yard and they’ve moved a trailer into the empty lot across the street. Though they have until mid-November to do it, I might have some developments on the road construction saga to report as well.

Mel's Movie Madness

WWC2014 Day 1: Successful self-publishing with Jodi MacIsaac

Jodi MacIsaacAbout Jodi MacIsaac:

She grew up in New Brunswick, Canada. After stints as a short-track speed skater, a speechwriter, and fundraising and marketing executive in the non-profit sector, she started a boutique copywriting agency and began writing novels in the wee hours of the morning. She currently lives with her husband and two feisty daughters in Calgary, Alberta.

Find out about her books.



The current state of the publishing industry is both fascinating and depressing.

The first thing you should do is research. Victoria Strauss’s Writer Beware is a great resource. You’ll be kept aware of all the scams and less-than-reputable publishing services.

The debate about traditional publishing vs. self-publishing is polarized and getting more so every day. The big self-publishing success stories are flukes and outriders, but it is possible to make a living publishing your novels independently.

Indie or self-published books make up:

  • 31% of daily ebook sales;
  • 40% of ebook royalties (greater than Big 5 authors’ ebook royalties);
  • 30% of ebook revenue.

Most self-published books sell fewer than 200 copies.

You have to be professional, patient, and treat your self-publishing as a business—because it is.

Regarding patience, Hugh Howey’s Wool was his eighth book.

Backlist sales are important, but in order to have backlist sales, you have to have a backlist.

You have to be talented, hard working, and obsessive.

If that’s you, self-publishing may be for you.

The pros:

  • 70% royalties;
  • Complete control; and
  • Greater speed to market.

The cons:

  • Little/no bookstore presence;
  • No advance;
  • Up front costs; and
  • No support.

Questions to ask yourself:

  1. Do you enjoy learning?
  2. Are you proactive?
  3. Can you multi-task?
  4. Are you entrepreneurial?
  5. Are you willing to develop a business and marketing plan?
  6. Can you organize and work with a team?
  7. Are you willing to work HARD?

Writing is an art. Publishing is a business.

Roles of the self-publisher:

  • Author;
  • Editor;
  • Copyeditor;
  • Proofreader;
  • Cover designer;
  • Layout and formatting;
  • Scheduling;
  • Marketing;
  • Public relations;
  • Webmaster;
  • Distribution; and
  • Bookkeeper.

These roles can be farmed out, but you have to be able to afford to pay other people to fill them. If you don’t have a lot of money, this may be a problem.

If nothing else, you need to pay for the “big three.”

  1. Editing—substantive, copyediting, and line editing. Yes, you may have to pay three people, or one person three times.
  2. Cover design.
  3. Formatting.


  • Substantive edit               $2,000 to $10,000
  • Copyediting                      $1,000 to $5,000
  • Proofreading                    $500 to $1,000
  • Cover design                    $150 to $3,500
  • Formatting                        $100 to $500
  • ISBN                                 Free in Canada/$125 in the US
  • Net Galley                         $399
  • Audiobook narrator           $1200 (or royalty share)
  • Marketing                          $100 to $5,000 (or ??? more)
  • Website                            $100 (hosting and domain registration)

Where to sell


  • Amazon
  • KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing, Amazon’s exclusive ebook service.)
  • Barnes & Noble
  • Kobo
  • iBookstore
  • Smashwords (distribution to everyone but Amazon until you reach $5,000 in sales)
  • Draft 2 Digital, Bookbaby, etc.

Publish on demand (POD)

  • Lightning Source
  • CreateSpace
  • Lulu
  • Trafford
  • iUniverse
  • Xlibris
  • Author Solutions

Check Writer Beware and Editors & Preditors before you commit. I’ve listed all services here for thoroughness.


  • $2.99-$9.99         author receives 70% of every unit sold.
  • Under $2.99        author receives 35% of every unit sold.
  • Over $9.99          author receives 35% of every unit sold.

The best way to sell backlist is to write more books.

Aim for 80% writing/20% business.

Q: What is metadata?

Metadata is data about data. Keywords, categories, etc. You have to be strategic.

Q: What are your best marketing and communications strategies?

Reviews are the number one way to generate sales and word of mouth.

FaceBook ads, in my experience, don’t translate to sales.

Giveaways on Goodreads are a good tactic, especially if you ask for an honest review.

Blog tours are not worth it. It’s a lot of work to generate content for all the blogs, and there’s no evidence that anyone will be encouraged to buy.

Next week: Jacqueline Guest on Preparing the Perfect Pitch Package.

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, Aug 24-30, 2014

Anita Sarkeesian is trying to change the way women are depicted in popular media. The trollish reaction to her efforts has driven her out of her home. Shameful. Maybe #NotAllMen but #YesAllWomen. Polygon.

The Huffington Post shares nine things that only depressed people can understand.

I’m pretty sure this is what sent my dad into the hospital. Psychotic depression: under recognized, under treated, and dangerous. Psychiatry Today.

Julian Treasure discusses five ways you can listen better in this TED talk.

Slate Science looks at the similarities between dogs and their humans. It’s all in the eyes.

Imagine what they can build with this kind of scaffold. Maybe a new spine? Skull? Hip? IFLS.

Ten persistent cancer myths debunked courtesy of IFLS.

A mammoth find in Texas, courtesy of CNN. I couldn’t resist. I had to have a little pun.

Meghalaya may be the wettest place in the world, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. In Focus – The Atlantic.

About Imogen Heap’s Entanglement:

Entanglement was originally written “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn,” but the song was rejected by the film makers who thought it was too raunchy for their teenage audience.

Undeterred, Imogen recorded the song for Sparks and filmed what is her most intimate video to date. #sparksfacts

Here’s what Imogen’s boyfriend, director Michael Lebor had to say about it:

“Andy Carne, the art director for the Sparks box set shot some beautiful stills for the front of the Entanglement single and so Imogen and I discussed shooting something that tied in with that.

The picture on the cover looked like a loving embrace, perhaps after a steamy moment and so I wanted to work back from that. The end frame in the video is as close as I could get to the angle and lighting of the still that Andy took.

Imogen has lovely, big floor to ceiling 10ft windows in the house and so I wanted to shoot just using the natural light that flooded in. I had recently been testing a camera (Sony FS700) that had excellent quality slow motion and because we didn’t have a huge amount of time, I thought this would be a great way of shooting a simple video in an emotional and beautiful way. Imogen has great bone structure, great skin and a model like figure so I knew that if we got the right light, the rest would fall into place.

It’s essentially a love story but I wanted it to be unclear as to whether it was imagined or not. The video starts with Imogen on her own and perhaps she is remembering a moment with her lover or waiting for him to arrive, either way, it’s ambiguous as to who this person is, if he is really there or if this happened in the past.

I wanted to build a narrative around the scene but because of time constraints and Imogen’s desire to keep it simple, we stayed within the confines of her bedroom and shot it in a few hours. It is difficult to sustain such a simple music video for five minutes, but that was the length of the song so we had to make it work.

It was a very intimate shoot and I didn’t want anyone else in the room, so it’s just me and Imogen. This of course created a challenge when I was needed for the scene. I used a tripod for those moments but an extra difficulty was that the camera only recorded 10 seconds of ‘super slow motion’ at a time. This meant that after every take I would have to jump up and run across the room to press ‘end record’ on the camera, not wearing very much…

One of my favourite moments in the video is when Imogen looks at the camera and she looks truly in love. It’s something that can’t be captured on a busy set, so it was a magical moment for me.”

And here’s the video (can you tell how much I love Imie?):


Open Culture on Patti Smith’s cover of Nirvana’s “Smells like Teen Spirit.”

Kate Bush’s Before the Dawn live blog from The Guardian.

Baby talks to dog. Too cute for words.


And now for something completely different, watch this kid’s reaction to the ALS bucket challenge. Jezebel.

Back-to-school fun with “Baby’s got class.”


Entertainment Weekly compiles their list of 55 movies your kids need to see before they turn 13. Do you agree?

The CBC’s Terry O’Reilly interviews George Takei about his new documentary. Listen to the podcast.

Diana Gabaldon gets a cameo in the series based on her books. Entertainment Weekly. See? All you have to do is write a mega million bestselling series of books . . .

BuzzFeed Geeky’s definitive ranking of “Firefly” episodes.

The San Diego ComiCon Game of Thrones panel.


What did you think of “Deep Breath,” the first episode of the new Doctor Who series? Well, here’s what Kyle Anderson of the Nerdist thought.

And last, but not least, a little back-to-school Whovian fun with Catherine Tate and David Tenant.


Hope you enjoyed this cornucopia of . . . stuff.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Aug 24-30, 2014

The impact character: Why every character arc needs one, by K.M. Weiland.

Then Katie moves on to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s blog to write about how you can use backstory to keep readers reading.

Katie’s Wednesday vlog on creating marvellous characters with minimal effort. Last week, she was a little rough on The Monuments Men. See why she loves John Ford’s She Wore a Yellow Ribbon.

Roz Morris explores how Jose Saramago crafted his novel Blindness in a deliberate way and what that might mean for you as a writer.

Dan Blank posted this bit of awesome on Writer Unboxed.

Later in the week, John Vorhaus wrote about how to feel good and fail big.

Chase Jarvis shares twelve secrets for unlocking your most creative work.

Part two of Mona Alvarado Frazier’s lessons learned from the Writer’s Digest Conference: Fifteen strategies to use before you publish.

Agent Carly Watters show you how you can show an agent you’re a career author.

Jami Gold shares her new worksheet: The business plan for writers. Stop that groaning. You know you need one.

A great find this week: The heroine’s journey part one and part two from Flutiebear on Tumblr.

Mythcreants share five rules for retelling old stories. Thinking of a fairy tale retelling?

Gemma Hawdon went away for a five week vacation . . . and didn’t write a word. Find out what she discovered: Are you a ‘true’ writer, or a happy writer?

In his self-effacing and irreverent style, Chuck Wendig shares his thoughts on the writer and depression.

The psychology of writing and the cognitive science of the perfect daily routine on Brainpickings.

What if white characters were described like characters of colour in novels? Buzzfeed books.

The full George R.R. Martin and Robin Hobb discussion video from Fantasy Faction.

Jeff Goins interviews Margaret Roach on how she navigated the maze to become a full-time writer. Podcast.

The creative teacher librarian, Maaja Wentz, interviews Jennifer Lott.


Edge interviews Jonathan Gottschall on how we live our lives in stories.

Flavorwire presents ten stunning writing studios.

From The Atlantic’s archives: The childhood homes of twenty famous authors.

And now, a little writer tech for you. ALLi shares how writers can use voice recognition software for more than just writing.

What the internet of things means for the indie author. Ebook Bargains UK Blog.

Aaaaand . . . we’re done. For this week.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!