Crafting the contemporary genre novel with Jane Ann McLachlan

It’s been a busy weekend for Jane Ann.

After a reading and book signing in southern Ontario Friday night, Jane Ann drove up to Sudbury for a book signing at Chapters.

I went out to visit her, say hi, and meet her daughter, Amanda.

Attracting a new reader

Of course, I have to buy some books as well <chagrin face>.

Jane Ann did well signing and selling 11 copies of The Occasional Diamond Thief, and practicing her schmooze 🙂

Today, she delivered a workshop on crafting the contemporary genre novel.

She started off with some resources.

Her top five blogs for writers:

Her top five writing craft books:

Her top five pieces of advice for beginning writers:

  1. Try writing poetry as well as prose,
  2. Read across genres and analyse what you read (the same goes for movies),
  3. Learn grammar and spelling; these are the tools of your trade,
  4. Join a critique group, and
  5. Think beyond the cliché.

Then, she asked us to provide the top five elements of a good story:

  • Conflict
  • Character
  • Goals
  • Stakes
  • Difficult obstacles

Then, Jane Ann discussed the story idea, which must contain,

  1. a universal theme
  2. an inherent conflict
  3. a perennial premise, which you have twisted to make it unique to your story
  4. gut-level emotional appeal

It should be stated in the following form: What if (protagonist) in (setting/situation) had (problem)?

The discussion progressed to world building and the inevitable research that must take place to make the story world believable, even if the setting is contemporary.

The caveat is that, having done all this research, the writer must then resist the temptation to display all this knowledge in the text of the novel. It’s called info-dumping.

Every story has to have compelling characters who have strong, clear wants and desires. We did another writing exercise, in which we defined our protagonists. Jane Ann advised that this process should be repeated with each of the main characters in the novel, including the antagonist.

We then looked at point of view (POV) and tense, and the considerations writers need to take into account when deciding whether their stories should be told in first person, present tense, as many young adult novels are written, or in deep third person, past, as many adult novels are written.

There was another exercise in identifying lapses in POV that was quite interesting.

Finally, Jane Ann shared with us her outline for novel writing, as well as a couple of other templates that could be used. She confessed to being on the pantsing side of writing, but that she’s never started writing a novel unless she had a clear idea of what the main plot points were.

At the workshop

Then, there was a drawing for two bottles of The Occasional Diamond Thief wine, books were bought, and a brief Q&A ensued where other issues were discussed as time allowed.

Unfortunately, I was so wrapped up in the activities and making notes . . . I forgot to take more pictures 😦

Overall, it was a great afternoon, but I think Jane Ann will be happy to get home and put her feet up 🙂 She’s one busy writer, promoting the heck out of her novel.

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Ad Astra 2015 day 2: After acceptance, the fun begins

Panellists: Suzanne Church, Arlene F. Marks, Kelley Armstrong, Monica Pacheco, Charles de Lint

After acceptance panel

KA: I was reading at the University of Waterloo, and a question came up that really caught me off guard. That was my biggest challenge: getting used to answering scary questions about my stories.

AFM: I started on the editorial side of the business. When it came to working that process with my own book, what surprised me was the number of times I had to read my book. It’s a test. If you don’t get sick of your book after reading it 20 or 30 times, it’s a good sign.

SC: I’m a rule-follower. When I heard back from my first editor, I got to work making all the requested changes. What I had to learn was that editors aren’t infallible. You have to learn to fight for your work, when necessary. When you hear from an editor for the first time, read a comment, and then take a drink of tequila.

AFM: My first published novel was with Harlequin, the publisher for whom I edited. A fellow editor suggested I write my book, but when I submitted it, an editor was assigned who was a frustrated author. I went through four rewrites without a contract. Eventually, I went over the editor’s head, but that was only possible because I had a 12-year working relationship with Harlequin.

KA: My Canadian publisher sent out advanced reader copies (ARCs) and wanted me to write a couple of articles. I did, but what stuck out was my stance that what I had written was not horror. There was a terrific backlash from other writers of horror.

MP: I was working with an author under contract. Three days before the book was due, her computer crashed. We had to come forward, explain what happened, and ask for an extension.

CdL: The original cover for The Riddle of the Wren was a collage. I thought it was crappy. My editor, Terry Windling, advocated for me and ended up doing the cover for free.

SC: The promotional piece is challenging, too. Start three months before the release.

KA: Just realizing that I had to promote my own book was a shock. I don’t have what it takes for event planning and blogging. The most important thing I learned, though, is to thank your readers.

MP: Publicists are not magicians. Promotional materials can be as much work as writing the novel.

CdL: I agree with Kelley. Connect with your readers. Find common ground. Recommend the books of other authors that they would enjoy.

SC: I talk about hockey more than I talk about writing. One of my surprises was that you have to convince the library database to feature your books so that libraries will pick it up.

AFM: Never underestimate the value of friendships. Come up with cool swag ideas for your supporters.

MP: At one party, we handed out LED flashlights.

KA: Chocolates are bad promotional tools. They get eaten. Give out screen cleaning cloths, bags, pens, useful things. Every time someone picks up the pen you gave them, they’ll be reminded.

AFM: Bookmarks. Leave that shit everywhere.

SC: Wine is expensive, but cool. Everybody loves cake.

CdL: Giving stuff to kids is fun. The more creative you can get, the better. I’ve written songs to go with my books. I had an artist draw pictures of the characters, sign them, and leave them for the fans.


And that was time.

Tomorrow: I’ll be transcribing my notes from Jane Ann McLachlan’s workshop.

Next week: Ad Astra gets uncanny . . . and my Next Chapter update 🙂

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May17-23, 2015

Thoughty Thursday has rallied this week 🙂

Two grade eight students explain why parents’ objections to the new Ontario sex-ed program are bogus. LOVE these girls! The Huffington Post.

The sad truth about college and getting a job. Will you think less of me if I say that this was my exact experience? Tickld.

Andrew Solomon speaks on the subject of depression: the secret we share. “The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality.” TED Talks.

How to brainstorm with introverts. TED blog.

I love this documentary (Embrace) and the movement behind it. Meet Taryn Brumfitt and the Body Image Movement.

Breathing is the key to falling asleep in under a minute. Higher Perspectives.

Watch this melanoma video, and then share it, for yourself, or someone you love. I’ve had malignant melanoma and I have the scar to prove it. Wear sunscreen and watch your moles! In all love.

The Paris Review presents a brief history of spacefarers.

The Washington Post’s Sarah Kaplan asks, could a trip to Mars fry astronauts’ brains?

I wasn’t sure where to put this! Mathematical modelling provides insight into the origins and evolution of folk tales. Seriously. Is this Writerly Goodness, or Thoughty stuff? Phys.org.

How America’s first female Pinkerton detective helped to foil an assassination plot. i09’s True Crime.

Look at these pictures of the ten most beautiful places to visit in Ireland. Irish Central.

And, just for some balance, here are 30 pictures that prove northeastern Ontario is the most beautiful place in the world.

The Huffington Post offers these pictures of America’s most stunning waterfalls.

Come back on Saturday for my next post of Ad Astra session notes and as I’m helping to organize a workshop for Jane Ann McLachlan on Sunday, I’ll probably report on that, too!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 17-23, 2015

Seems like I’m all about the Writerly Goodness lately 🙂

Not all hybrid publishers are created equal. Jane Friedman in Publishers Weekly.

Here’s K.M. Weiland’s post and podcast on the perfect midpoint.

Avoid false suspense unless you want to ruin your climax. Katie’s Wednesday post.

How to silence your inner critic and defeat your writing demons. The Write Life.

Jules Feiffer in conversation with Neil Gaiman. Publishers Weekly.

The Publishers Weekly podcast: Rose Fox and Mark Rotella interview Naomi Novik.

Two Kurt Vonnegut articles from Open Culture: Eight tips on how to write a good short story, and how to write with style.

For Lois. Shane Koyczan’s poem from Superman to Lois. LOVE.

Female literati pick summer’s best books. Harper’s Bazaar.

Nine great science fiction books for people who don’t like science fiction. i09.

20 obscure English words that should make a comeback. Matador Network.

For balance: Fifteen words you should eliminate from your vocabulary if you want to sound smarter. The Business Insider.

Ballagàrraidh: The knowledge that you have been domesticated. The dictionary of obscure sorrows.

Is this what Shakespeare really looked like? BBC News.

This artist combined different cats and birds to create a whole new class of gryphons 🙂 Tumblr.

Check out these gender flipped Disney characters from Yue “Sakimi Chan” and then check out the links to Yue’s work on Deviant Art and Tumblr. UpRoxx.

How about these historically accurate Disney princesses? Buzzfeed.

The Huffington Post shares this list of ten things you may not know about Sailor Moon.

Who’s the best new superhero, The Flash, or Marvel’s latest incarnation of Daredevil? Salon.

Ok. So there was this big thing on the interwebz last week about the latest rape scene in Game of Thrones. I don’t want to get into the controversy, but I will present a number of posts on both GoT and Outlander and how the sexual violence portrayed in them differs.

As ever, you’ll have to decide for yourselves.

George R. R. Martin responds to criticism of Sansa’s rape scene in Game of Thrones. The Huffington Post.

Tobias Menzies shares his experience playing Black Jack Randall on Outlander. He’s terrifying in the role, by the way. Such an amazing actor. The Vulture.

Scotland Now recaps Outlander, episode 15.

How Outlander got it right and how Game of Thrones got it wrong. Playboy.

IndieWire weighs in on Outlander vs. Game of Thrones.

And a bonus: Never go anywhere without a Murtaugh! Q&A with Duncan Lacroix on playing Murtaugh. Access Hollywood.

See you on Thursday 🙂

Tipsday

Sundog snippet: Miscellaneous stuff

‘Cause we all need miscellaneous stuff. Am I right?

The acting consultant position ended, I returned to my substantive position for two blissful weeks, and now I’m on leave.

My main writing-related goal was to prepare and send off my query package, but I’m behind (no surprise there). I’m still finishing up the latest round of revisions, but I hope to have them done soon(ish).

I’ve also offered to help a couple of visiting writers set up workshops while they’re in town over the next several weeks.

Jane Ann McLachlan will be up for the weekend of May 30 and 31. She’ll be doing a book signing at Chapters from 2-4 pm on the Saturday afternoon and then, on the Sunday, from 1:30-3:30 pm at the Older Adult Centre (in the YMCA on Durham), she’ll be delivering a workshop on Crafting the Contemporary Genre Novel.

JAMcLachlan

I’ll save the second workshop and event details for my monthly update.

Other than that, I’m going to conduct a bit of spring cleaning around the house, and hopefully get a couple of long-outstanding projects done.

The rainbows!Not as impressive as the real thing

I’ve cleaned up my office, including the windows and my variety of prisms in the window. Though the pictures don’t do it justice, I now have rainbows dancing about the room as soon as the sun comes around. They even shine down the hall and into the kitchen 🙂

Guardians of the DeskMy druid

Just thought I’d show you the few things I have on my desk. The gargoyle is there to chase away distractions. The miniature is a hold over from my gaming days. This was my druid. I painted her myself, replete with ink washes, dry-brushing, and enough lacquer to protect her for over twenty years 😉

HeartShapedStone

Phil and I found this heart shaped rock in the back yard. I don’t know why, but I like it. So it’s on my desk.

I also have to have plants. My African violets appear to be happy. This year, I’ve added an orchid to the mix and it seems to like the spot, too.

violetsorchid

I’ve decided not to travel for this batch of leave, since the true purpose of it is to rest and rejuvenate so I can return to work and not feel that it’s the last place I want to be.

The driveway and yard are still a mess. The remediation of Regent Street has begun (soil and sod, prepping the storm drains for the final layer of pavement) but since our property requires some extensive work, a few things have had to be organized first.

We’re supposed to have a sewer line inspection done in the near future. The city engineer visited and suggested that in might be more economical to insert a “sleeve” into the old sewer pipe than to dig it up and replace it. We’re hoping that’s possible, but will have to wait on the results of the video inspection.

The retaining wall has to be finished, the railing erected, and our front entry rebuilt. Even though they’d taken the old set of stairs and moved them into the back yard, we can’t use them again. The bottom step would lead people off the end of the retaining wall (!)

The new steps will run around the corner of the house and into what is now a garden. I’ll have to find a new place for all my plants.

Depending on whether we can get away with an insert into the sewer pipe, or have to dig up and replace the line, we my have enough money to ask the sub-contractor who builds the front stairs to build the side entry as well. If not, we may rebuild it ourselves, but we wouldn’t be looking forward to the work.

The drive will be repaved when the retaining wall is finished.

So there are a number of dominoes that have to fall into place for things to actually proceed.

In the back yard, Phil has dismantled the old front steps and, along with the pressure-treated lumber salvaged from my mom’s deck replacement last year, he’ll be using the bits and pieces to enclose our patio, back fill with stone and gravel, and we’ll finally get to use the space again.

I’m so looking forward to having my summer office again. I didn’t get to use it at all last year.

I’ll be moving the plants from the garden by the house into the gardens around the patio. Now that the birches have been removed, there’s enough sun for the plants to thrive.

Bucket has now . . . kicked the bucket. The repairs necessary to keep her on the road were beyond Phil and we made the decision to count his purchase as a poor investment and cut our losses.

A farewell to bucketBuh-bye, la!

He is, of course, on the hunt for a new(er) truck, but will wait to see how much we might be investing in the sewer pipe lining/replacement before we commit to spending more.

Nuala is doing well. We continue to take her in for the occasional glucose curve, but her diabetes seems to be managed, and her other health issues well in hand. She just turned 10 this year.

NualaMay

And that’s about all I can tell you about this writer’s life at the moment.

Sundog snippet

Wordsmith Studio Homecoming 2015: What are you reading?

For the best effect, please read the headline of this post with an incredulous tone 😉

WSS Homecoming 2015

1) What are you reading?

Just like I work on multiple project in my writing, I read multiple books, both ebooks and print, cause I kind of have this problem. I can’t stop buying books of any variety (!)

So here’s my current reading list:

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami. Although I’m sure it suffers in translation, I’m enjoying this novel immensely.
  • InFusion by Scott Overton. I’m beta reading this SF novel for an author friend. I’ll save my specific feedback for him, but, just so you know, I think it’s great 🙂
  • The Art of Work by Jeff Goins. On finding your calling. It’s kind of serendipitous that I found out about this book back in January.
  • Moon Called by Patricia Briggs. I picked this up last year after seeing Patricia at Ad Astra. I figured I should get off my butt and read it . . .
  • Pain, Porn, and Complicity by Kathleen McConnell. An academic work on SF&F movies and television series. It’s been a while since I dipped my toes in that particular non-fiction pool.
  • Lock In by John Scalzi. I’m listening to this on Audible. Narrated by the inimitable Wil Wheaton.

2) What was your favorite read in the last year (or month, or…)?

My favourite reading of recent recall is A Turn of Light by Julie Czerneda. I rated it five stars, though I haven’t written a proper review. Yet. This is the kind of fantasy novel I love to read. It’s also the kind I write and there were a lot of similarities between Czerneda’s Jenn Nalynn and Ferrathainn Devlin, the protagonist from my WIP. I was enthralled to the end 🙂

3) Do you have a favorite genre?

Yes and no. I favour fantasy novels of any age range, but I also read science fiction, historical fiction, the classics, mysteries, and romance novels (though I must say I haven’t read many of those recently). I try to alternate fiction and non-fiction reading, as well. Again, most on my non-fiction reads tend to be writing craft books, but I also read as a form of research for my various works in progress, and sometimes, stuff that I’m just interested in. I learn something from everything I read, even if I don’t particularly enjoy the book. In other words, I read as a writer.

4) Bend one step further: are there alternative forms of writing or art that you have found inspiring or even dabbled in?

In my “searching” phase of university (the undeclared years) I majored in music and art at different times. Performance anxiety put the brakes on my music career, though I still love to sing. I was summarily drummed out of art class when my professor called me nothing more than an “illustrator.” From time to time, I still sketch, but I’ve honestly never been very good. I’ve sunk all my creativity into my writing for a number of years now. In 2000, I did the crazy, being in between jobs, and auditioned for a Theatre Cambrian production of Hair (Y2K). I sang and danced in that, for what it’s worth 😉

6) Back to your main inspiration: Do you have “mentor” titles for the writing you are working on?

I’ll reframe this in terms of “comps,” or comparative works. As I mentioned above, I learn something from every book I read, so I don’t have any “mentor” titles, per se, though I would identify several novels/authors whose work I aspire to.

  • The above-mentioned Julie Czerneda and her A Turn of Light. I’ve committed to read more by Julie.
  • Juliet Marillier’s Celtic legend inspired Seven Waters series.
  • Guy Gavriel Kay’s novels. Though he writes in a created world, it is based on painstaking historical research. I’m not that dedicated, but I love the stories he writes. He’s actually made me cry in the reading.
  • Sherri S. Tepper. Just anything she writes. I love her ideas. Or should I say lurve?

6) If you didn’t already do this for #4, what music inspires your writing?

Okay, now you’re going crazy. Or you will if I offer up all 963 songs on my iPod (!) Suffice it to say that any music I like is generally something I’ll add to my playlist. I have music from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and the new millennium. I like some pop, a lot of alternative, celtic, and world music. I also have more eclectic selections on CD: The Rites of Spring, Satie’s gymnopedies, The Symphonie Fantastique, Carmina Burana, Gregorian chant, a number of Sequentia recordings (including the Eddas), gamelan music, Tibetan singing bells, shakuhachi flute music . . .

My favourite artists (I’ll pick up just about anything they release):

  • Imogen Heap
  • Tori Amos
  • Sarah Slean
  • Florence + the Machine

7) Have you ever thought of this: what book is your main character reading?

Interesting question. I’ll even answer it.

  • Ferathainn Devlin: Sadly, all of Fer’s reading would be studying for her forthcoming initiation, so all of it would be history, scholarly works on magic, or non-fiction works on herbs and simples, astronomy, and the like.
  • Charlene Kalveras: School textbooks, and, because of what’s happened to her father, true crime.
  • Gerod: Owing to his impoverished upbringing in an environment of medieval feudalism, Gerod doesn’t know how to read. He learns, though.
  • Marushka: She hasn’t had any formal schooling, hopping around the world in a magical hut, so she’s had to teach herself everything. She steals books from libraries and reads omnivorously.

8) Do you have a favorite book, article or magazine for writing advice?

Again, I have several 🙂

  • Writing the 21st Century Novel, Donald Maass. Currently on loan to a member of my critique group. Actually all of Maass’s books have helped me immensely.
  • Any of K.M. Weiland’s writing craft books.
  • Any of Roz Morris’s Nail Your Novel series.
  • And the books that have helped me find my way to the writing life: Natalie Goldberg’s Wild Mind and Writing Down the Bones; Julia Cameron’s The Right to Write; Heather Sellers’ Page After Page and Chapter After Chapter; Stephen King’s On Writing; Terry Brooks’s Sometimes the Magic Works; Jane Yolen’s Take Joy; and Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Wave in the Mind.

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Alrightie, then!

I’ll have a wee Sundog snippet tomorrow about miscellaneous stuff, ‘cause sometimes you need miscellaneous stuff, you know?

Muse-inks

Ad Astra 2015, day 2: An agent and a publisher walk into a bar . . . who do you approach first?

Yes, day 2 has finally arrived!

First, a reminder of my 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.


Panellists: Monica Pacheco, Ryan McFadden, Kelley Armstrong, Karen Dales, Mark Leslie

Agent or publisher panel

MP: By the time a book hits the shelves, it’s already 1-2 years old, so to speak. Don’t follow trends. What’s selling now won’t be what’s selling when your novel comes to market.

ML: Is it fair to say that trends are what’s currently selling, plus some kind of twist?

KA: I’ll reiterate: don’t write to trends. There’s no point.

KD: If you focus on what’s hot rather than what you’re passionate about, your readers will detect it. Readers can tell when you’re being disingenuous.

ML: I was at a conference and I pitched my idea for a book without having written it. Dundurn said yes, so I started writing in April. The book was published in October, so that will give you some idea how quickly things can come together.

RM: If I was at the “bar,” I think I’d hit on the other writers. Craft is more important than your ability to sell yourself. Writers will introduce you to their people. Those people can be some very valuable contacts.

KD: I’m working as a freelance editor right now and the way I came by the job was through pitching a publisher. I was talking to an author and asking where I should send my work in progress. The author suggested her publisher. I pitched, and not only was I able to get a contract for my WIP, but I also became an editor for them.

ML: Sometimes I might consider a market inappropriate for me, or a piece inappropriate for the project I’m working on, but for someone else, it may be a perfect fit. I remember working as an editor and having to turn down a great story because it wasn’t suited to the anthology. I recommended that the author submit his story to Writers of the Future. He did, and he won.

MP: We read everything in our slush pile. We’re looking for that gem, and we won’t overlook any submissions.

RM: Networking is everything.

KD: If you’re working with a freelance editor, research them. Develop a relationship. If you’re working with an editor who works with a traditional publisher, it’s different. The money the publisher is willing to invest can change the dynamic.

KA: When you work with an editor for one of the big five houses or their imprints, it’s more important to be aware of what the publisher’s guidelines and preferences are. The individual editor may be gone by the time your book is printed.

ML: What are the differences between Canadian, UK, and US markets?

KD: Canadian and UK publishers are more consistent. In the US, I’m all over the place.

ML: In one instance, the managing editor gave me notes before I even started writing.

KD: The editor has to be an advocate for the author.

KA: Networking, as mentioned, is great, but don’t get sneaky about it. Don’t invite me out to coffee just to get a recommendation, or to ask me to read your manuscript.

KD: Don’t go fishing. Go make friends.

ML: Look at the long game.

MP: So much of the industry is based on relationships.

KA: Don’t do anything electronically that you wouldn’t do in person. Having said that, if someone asks you what you’re working on, be honest. Talk about it positively.

MP: The bottom line is to be professional. Don’t self-denigrate. No scented paper or bribes, please.

Q: Do different publishing houses have different quirks?

ML: Dundurn loves Canadian authors. In fact, you have to be Canadian to be published by Dundurn.

KD: Dark Dragon is interested in good storytelling. They like unique stories and voices.

KA: HarperCollins does amazing covers for their young adult books. Penguin random House is all around great. There was a poll in The Bookseller. Are authors happy with their publishers? The overwhelming response was that they wanted more communication from their publishers. 37% said that if they got an equivalent—not better—offer from another publisher, they’d switch. Subterranean Press is good.

RM: Smaller publishers are better at communicating with their authors. ChiZine, Dragon Moon, and Dark Dragon are like that.

MP: Tor is a dream to work with. Skyhorse Publishing is a good mid-sized, non-fiction publisher. Talos Press is interested in SFF. Simon & Schuster Canada has been very good to Andrew Pyper. They’ve sent him on a national reading tour.


And that was that.

Next week: What happens after acceptance?

Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 10-16, 2015

This week’s a little light on the thoughty, but I hope it will still inspire some writerly ideas.

Thoughts on the creative life and well-being. The Creativity Post.

The Conversation illuminates the connection between bullying and suicide.

Victoria Weldon of the Herald Scotland writes about stamping out sexism in movies and television.

Tess Holliday is the biggest thing to hit modelling. BuzzFeed.

Breathtaking photos from the 2015 National Geographic Traveler Photo Contest. Quartz.

This time-lapse video of a thunderstorm supercell is awesome. IFLS.

Scientists discover anti-matter storms on Earth. IFLS.

I shared this lovely video about our solar system being a vortex. Then, it was pointed out to me that it’s a crap theory. So disappointed.

Fearful memories haunt mouse descendants. Nature.

And now for a little fun from from Tumblr: Before and after pictures of pets with their favourite toys.

Come back on Saturday for more Ad Astra 2015 reportage.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 10-16, 2015

Another great week for writerly goodness 🙂

The Canada Council for the Arts is changing its funding programs and simplifying its applications. This prompted a discussion on one of my professional association’s listserv. The ultimate recommendation: apply often. Persistence wins out. I’m going to have to give this some serious thought.

Roz Morris offers five tips for writers whose characters are too similar.

MJ Bush presents her usual thoughtful, and resource-full post on how to rock your first chapter.

Why your novel’s protagonist should fight a good guy. Christine Frazier’s Better Novel Project.

Chuck Wendig confesses: None of us know what the fuck we’re doing. Ultimately, process is unique to the writer. It’s good to keep in mind.

Vaughan Roycroft shares how reframing can help us keep a positive frame of mind. Writer Unboxed.

Anna Lovind posts on Anna Purna Living about needing to slow down to get more done.

“When I feel stress and, instead, take it as a sign I need to slow down and reconnect with myself, something wonderfully strange happens. Time bends and stretches around my needs. I find there actually is enough time, where a moment ago there was none.”

Then, Anna visited Elephant Journal to share her thoughts on dreams, dreaming, and having a dream-worthy life.

Alex J. Cavanaugh guests at C.S. Lakin’s Live, Write, Thrive, on the subject of writer insecurity. Alex hosts the Insecure Writers’ Support Group on her blog and Facebook group.

David Gaughran pulls back the curtain on Author Solutions. Which otherwise legitimate publishers have associated themselves with this questionable service?

The frog that jump-started Mark Twain’s career. LA Times.

Lifehack presents 30 words that are often mispronounced.

Electric Lit presents an infographic about the history of pen names.

Find out what books inspired which famous authors. The Guardian.

BuzzFeed shares 13 perfect literary descriptions of heartache.

12 reasons to date a woman who reads, from The Huffington Post.

Mental Floss shares 11 things you may not know about Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Just watch the movie on Sunday. I certainly liked it 🙂

It’s a long post, but it’s probably the best analyses I’ve seen of why Avengers: Age of Ultron fails its audience. Wired. I’m still going to watch it . . . when it comes out on demand, and I’m probably going to enjoy it, for what it is, but I will be able to appreciate it’s technical construction better, and understand why I may feel dissatisfied in the end.

Sunday night (in Canada) Outlander reached the pivotal Wentworth episode. Why it was both difficult to watch and critical to the story.

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

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.