Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 22-28, 2016

Another wonderful week of writerly goodness!

Roz Morris helps writers avoid this plotting pitfall when writing drafts at speed. Nail Your Novel.

Everyone’s getting into video. Should you? Jane Friedman on Writer Unboxed.

Barbara O’Neal makes the case for journaling. Writer Unboxed.

Dan Blank advises you to invest in yourself. Writer Unboxed.

John Vorhaus tells us how to write like the Buddha. You guessed it. Another great post from Writer Unboxed.

Lawrence MacNaughton guest posts on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. Five questions you need to ask if your story is stuck. Later in the week, Janice is back with how to keep your characters compelling beyond the first draft.

Angela Ackerman explains how to deepen your protagonist by challenging her moral beliefs. Writers helping writers.

Sara Letourneau offers part six of the developing themes in your stories series: the inciting incident. DIYMFA. Later in the week Amy Bearce shares five marketing tips for introverts.

K.M. Weiland also wrote about theme this week: how to create a complex moral argument for your story’s theme. Helping writers become authors.

Chris Winkle shares seven great sources of conflict for romances. Mythcreants.

Steven Pressfield offers his advice on drafting: cover the canvas.

Nina Munteanu shares part two of her writer-editor relationship series: five things writers wished editors knew—and followed.

Marcy Kennedy guest posts on Christine Frazier’s Better Novel Project: five times Katniss nailed deep point of view.

Kameron Hurley confesses that she’s thought about quitting . . . but, don’t quit.

Over on, she shares an excerpt from the recently released Geek Feminist Revolution. It’s awesome. You should read the post. And then you should buy the book 🙂

All of us toilers need reminders like this: Rick Riordan on his ‘overnight’ success. It’s from 2007, to give context.

Emma Straub was born to be an author. Alexandra Alter for The New York Times.

Kim Vandels shares the secret to writing great science fiction. The spinning pen.

Airship Ambassador interviews Kate Heartfield about her story “The Seven O’Clock Man” in the Clockwork Canada anthology.

BookBaby offers some tips on how to promote your science fiction on social media.

Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls is an Indigogo success story. The Guardian.

Mental Floss explains why reading makes you a better person with an infographic 🙂

Leila Fadel reports on the delicate task of restoring one of the world’s oldest libraries. NPR.

Louisa Young grew up in J.M. Barrie’s house: we longed for Peter Pan to come for us. The Guardian.

Judith Shulevitz reveals the Bröntes’ secret for The Atlantic.

The teaser trailer for Disney’s live action version of Beauty and the Beast. I’m looking forward to seeing what Emma Watson does with Belle 🙂


Here’s the Ghostbusters UK trailer.


The Little Prince is coming to Netflix August 8 🙂


Laura Prudom explains how Outlander created its most powerful and devastating episode yet. Variety.

And that was Tipsday.

See you Thursday. *waves*


Ad Astra 2016, day 1: Do’s and don’ts of writing erotica

Disclaimer: My notes are not perfect and neither am I. If you see something that needs correction or clarification, please email me at melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

Panellists: Sèphera Girón, J.M. Frey, Matt Bin

JMF: How did you get into writing erotica?

MB: I just wanted to try it out because a friend said that I could make some money writing erotica while I got my other work into shape. I posted short stories on Amazon. I didn’t do any promotion, but I got some sales.

SG: I wanted to send a story to Penthouse letters about giving my boyfriend a blow job, but I didn’t go through with it at my boyfriend’s insistence. Laurie Perkins, an agent and publisher, was asked to bid on a Kama Sutra project. I did not get the contract for that. They wanted to make it into Kama Sutra flash cards, though. I was brought in to help pose the models because the publisher wouldn’t. They were afraid to make a mistake/be accused of harassment. I got a flat rate for that even though the book has been printed in two editions and the cards sell consistently.

JMF: I entered into erotica through fan fiction (1991-1995). I was always interested in the sexuality of characters. I was called by the editor of an anthology—we don’t have enough good porn. My story ended up headlining the anthology. I got another call—I have this gap in my anthology. I don’t have any  . . . alien porn. So I write the story to fill the gap. J.M. Frey can’t be writing erotica, though. I have a YA steam punk novel coming out. So I write erotica under Peggy Barnet. Now the rights for most of those stories have returned to me and I’m putting together an anthology. I’ve also written an erotica novel. Kindle is the place to sell erotica. Exclusive (through KDP Select) makes sense for erotica.

Q: How much should you reveal? How explicit should you get?

JMF: It depends on the character and the story. My alien erotica isn’t explicit. I have a medieval fantasy erotica and the euphemisms are appropriate to the genre. Even in erotica, you have to think about why you’re writing the scene. Are you furthering the plot or revealing character?

SG: I have an astrology-based series. Readers complain that there’s too little sex, and other readers complain that there’s too much. You can’t please everybody.

MB: I’m working in a different arena. I short pieces, two thirds of the story is set up and one third is hard core sex. Do you use penis/vagina or purple helmet/blooming flower? There are only so many ways you can refer to genitalia. Approach the sex from a sensual or emotional perspective. Get into the sensations. How are the characters feeling?

JMF: That’s how you write good erotica. You engage the reader. In The Order of the Phoenix, who didn’t weep when Sirius Black died?

Q: What’s selling the best?

SG: I’ll answer the question I thought you were asking. Before ebooks, it used to be really hard to be an erotica writer in Canada.

JMF: Harlequin has gay and lesbian lines. Fanfic feeds into erotica. People write to fill a void. I’m not interested in writing vanilla boning.

MB: It tends to be the edge fetishes that sell the best. Vampires used to be big. Then, using the word Billionaire in the title was big. Every once in a while Amazon wipes out what it thinks is too taboo.

JMF: It’s hard to make a kink that’s not yours attractive to the reader, though.

MB: Military-based homosexual erotica (army, navy, etc.) and sports homosexual erotica are really hot now.

JMF: If a reader is into something, they’ll buy all of it. You have to remember this with your marketing. My tagline for Peggy Barnet is: tickles your nethers without leaving your brain behind. I write think pieces that are smexy.

MB: Reader in the genre. See what’s out there.

JMF: Ask yourself why you want to write in the genre?

Q: What’s the limit for sex in non-erotica?

JMF: It’s whatever your publisher will tolerate.

SG: I got a Vivid Video contract. I was told to write anything I wanted. I wrote erotic horror. I asked the president of Vivid if anything was off the table and she said, anything but black guys. Savannah doesn’t touch black guys. I was like, there are rules?

JMF: With respect to Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series. I loved the first three novels. Now, the sex feels self-indulgent. Yes, everybody loves Jamie. Go as far as you want to. If you’re comfortable with your drunk uncle reading it to your grandmother at a family gathering, go for it. My parents have a brag shelf and all my erotica is on it.

Q: Do you get sex writer’s block?

SG: Yes. Sometimes it gets boring.

JMF: I go to the deepest, darkest parts of the internet.

MB: Burnout is a real thing. The motivation of the character is what engages the reader. The trouble is forcing it.

And that was time.

Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend.

See you Tipsday!

Resistance and where it leads

The DIYMFA QotW for week 8:

“Share an example of a time when resistance has pointed you toward a writing project that was juicy and high-stakes . . . and maybe even a little bit scary. Did you face that fear and overcome your resistance? What was the result of pursuing (or not pursuing) that project?”

To be honest, I don’t feel a lot of resistance as far as pursuing a writing project. I tend to follow my instincts, or my muse, if you prefer, and write what the heck I want.

You may see this as a naive attitude, but enough published authors, experienced editors and agents have pointed out the futility of trying to write to the market, that I’ve taken at least that much to heart.

I have an idea file that’s about fifteen novel ideas backlogged. Sometimes it’s hard to decide which one to pursue, but once I’ve decided, I generally stick with it until the draft is done . . . and revised . . . and critiqued . . . and revised . . . and edited . . . and revised . . . and beta read . . . and revised . . . and queried . . . but that’s as far as I’ve gotten (with novels).

I’ve had a couple of science fiction short stories published (for paying markets, even), but even with my short fiction, if I have a suitable idea, I write the piece until it’s done. Substitute submitting for querying in the above novel equation, and I’ve been accepted, worked with the publication’s editors to refine the piece, and been published.

When an editor suggests changes with a piece of short fiction, I’ve been very accommodating. I’ve generally accepted the suggested changes or made clarifications in the particular story elements so the changes are no longer necessary.

I can see pretty clearly and quickly with a piece of short fiction what makes sense to change and what does not.

Where I feel resistance is when, whether a critique partner, editor, or beta reader, someone suggests a major change to a novel I’ve written.

I generally have to sit with the suggested changes for a while, until I can see clearly the reasons why the changes were suggested. Then I can (more) objectively judge whether to adopt them or not.

Case in point: the editor for my first novel suggested eliminating a character. It took me a long time to realize she was right. She’d also suggested eliminating a couple of extraneous point of view characters, which I accepted and changed right away. A critique partner for the same novel didn’t like the number and types of POV I was using, and, initially, I changed everything. Later, however, I realized that my original choices made sense for the story I was telling and after I have eliminated the extraneous POV’s and the extraneous character, I changed everything back.

So, it works both ways for me. Some things I should change but am slow to act on the advice. Other things I change, but then realize there were compelling reasons why I made the decision in the first place.

Really, I’m still working through the whole process, developing my sense as a creator regarding which suggestions and advice to act on and which not to. As things progress, I find myself making better initial creative choices (I think).

I added the ‘I think’ in parentheses because I’m still not sure whether I’ve done this to avoid the criticism and/or potential conflict that results. I avoid conflict in life, generally. I kind of hate it. And really, that’s not a good reason, on its own, to change a creative work.

Ultimately, I’m always open to learning anything about my craft from anyone. I just get reluctant when I’m not sure of the motivation behind the advice I’m given.

Professional or experienced editors, I trust.

Unfortunately, it’s possible to be an excellent writer and not know a thing about editing, or critiquing, or beta reading. Telling me how you would have written the story doesn’t help me. Giving me your reasoning or thought process along with the suggestion allows me to assess your advice and accept it in the spirit it was offered, whether I choose to act upon it or not.

I think this all stems from my experience during my MA, which I’ve written about enough that you’re probably all sick of hearing about it by now 😛

So, Gabriela’s question didn’t really take me in the expected direction, but this is where I experience resistance.

Where do you experience resistance?


Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 15-21, 2016

A small, but interesting assortment of goodies.

So this happened: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accidentally elbowed an NDP MP in the process of trying to escort a Conservative MP to his seat. Yes, he shouldn’t have done it. He apologized three times. Gabrielle Gallant explains why associating ‘elbowgate’ with violence against women is an insult to victims. The Globe and Mail.

Aboriginal children express their pain through art and story. Peggy MacDonald for CBC news.

Why we live in an age of anxiety. A special feature by The Guardian including pieces by Paula Cocozza, Lindy West, Chitra Ramaswamy, and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslet.

Anna Lovind searches for a simpler life.

Ruth Whippman says people with more money are less lonely. The Guardian.

The record-breaking temperature trend continues. Phil Plait for Slate.

Portugal runs for four days on renewable energy alone. Arthur Nelson for The Guardian.

Recyclable six pack rings could save a lot of turtles. Popular Mechanics.

What hiking does for the brain is pretty amazing. Michael Pirrone for

Yuval Harari’s latest book predicts the rise of the useless class. CNet.

From ‘little people’ to shape shifters, Lucy Tulugarjuk shares the encounters she’s had with some of the North’s most fascinating otherworldly entities. Edge North.

Dancing with the devil: the history of satanic burlesque. Dirge Magazine.

The Presets: Epic Fail. Shared by a friend following the previous week’s DIYMFA post 🙂


And that was your thoughty for the week.

On Saturday, I’ll be tackling the topic of resistance for DIYMFA.

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 15-21, 2016

Fact and fun, all rolled into one . . . curation post 😉

K.M. Weiland shares strategies for writing faster (and why maybe you shouldn’t). Helping writers become authors. Later in the week she shares her number one tip for writing books readers can’t put down.

Chuck Wendig explodes more writing myths as he invites us to crotch-punch the creative yeti. Terribleminds.

Kristan Hoffman puts forth an argument for letting your creativity rest. Writer Unboxed.

Kameron Hurley writes about fame, publishing, and breakout books: dancing for dinner.

Jami Gold helps us understand how plot obstacles affect character agency.

Dave King continues to explore historical fiction pitfalls with this post for Writer Unboxed: sympathetic characters in unsympathetic worlds.

Carly Watters shares five secrets to publishing your debut novel.

Porter Anderson looks at book prices and writing value. Should we have been careful what we wished for? Writer Unboxed.

Five signs your novel may be sexist – against men. Chris Winkle brings a little balance to the table for Mythcreants.

The establishment has always hated the new kids. Kameron Hurley.

Monica Alverado Frazier wonders, do you know how to use a curandera?

Modern witches are so much more than Maiden/Mother/Crone. Natalie Zutter for

Daniel José Older reads from Half Resurrection Blues. This man reads like a poet. I could listen to him all day 🙂


John Mullan explores how plots grip us, from Dickens to Line of Duty. The Guardian.

Women swept the 2015 Nebula Awards. Andrew Liptak for i09.

Five science fiction and fantasy novels that treat mental illness with compassion. Barnes & Noble.

This is COOL. Boston’s sidewalks are covered in secret poems. Atlas Obscura.

Lincoln Michel explains why fairy tales are magic for modern fiction. The Guardian.

Dig at the Curtain theatre unearths a Shakespearean surprise. Jill Lawless for

Do overused words lose their meaning? Jonathon Sturgeon for Flavorwire.

CBS passes on Nancy Drew adaptation for testing “too female” for line-up (whatever that means). Carly Lane for The Mary Sue.

The BBC shares nine life lessons from Doctor Who.

Two of the shows I liked got cancelled. Fortunately, the end is only the beginning for Supergirl and Marvel’s Agent Carter. Alisdair Stuart for

Honest trailers – Game of Thrones, vol. 1 Bewbs!


Come back Thursday for your weekly dose of thoughty!


Ad Astra 2016, day 1: The influence of Shakespeare on science fiction and fantasy

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please let me know: melanie (dot) marttila (at) gmail (dot) com and I fix things post-hasty.

Panellists: Kate Heartfield, Arlene F. Marks, Kate Story


AFM: Shakespeare’s plays were, in his time, entertainment and education. They’re lessons in history, then and now. They also were some of the earliest examples of genre. Hamlet is, in part, a ghost story. MacBeth can be seen as urban legend. A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream is fantasy.

KS: Shakespeare needed to make a living. That’s why he wrote. He was a great enabler of public discourse.

KH: You don’t have to go far to find gender queer characters in Shakespeare.

AFM: The Hogarth Shakespeare series from Penguin Random House is asking well-known authors, like Margaret Atwood, to re-imagine his plays. That’s the brilliance of Shakespeare. You can put any one of his plays into any era or milleu.

KH: A lot of adaptations of his work are coming out because it’s the 400th anniversary of his death.

KS: My father was a scholar in Newfoundland. We had a cultural renaissance in the 60’s and 70’s and we started to make some connections. Maybe we have something to offer to the tradition. I think the spirit of Shakespeare’s time was close to Newfoundland’s now. Shakespeare has always been there and has always been an influence. Shakespeare’s women were far more realistic than the women characters of many modern playwrights.

[Kate then performed the monologue from her story in Carbide Tipped Pens, edited by Ben Bova and Eric Choi. It was a variation of Romeo and Juliet, set in space. She’s currently working on the stage play. I just sat back and enjoyed 🙂 ]

Ian McKellan said in an interview, “Where in the modern world would it be so wrong for two people to fall in love?” It resulted in a 70’s production of Romeo and Juliet set in Belfast.

AFM: In Shakespearean times, it was forbidden for women to go in stage. All women’s roles were played by men, or, more often, boys. The audience was very demanding. If they didn’t like a play, or the actors, they brought rotten vegetables to throw.

KS: He was asking the audience to be clever, to know it’s a man playing a women, pretending to be a man. It engaged the audience, drew them in.

AFM: It’s the fiction of the people. The only publisher that approaches this today is Harlequin, who would hold regular “reader appreciation” luncheons to meet their most popular authors. In Shakespeare’s day, there would be nobles and prostitutes in the same audience. It was whoever had the money to pay.

KS: It was nuts for the theatre. A sixth of the population of London would attend the performances.

KH: The culture of fandom/fanfic has a lot in common with the culture of Shakespeare. There’s nothing more Shakespearean than fanfic. Most of Shakespeare’s plays were drawn from earlier works. He borrowed liberally from Ovid.

Q: Shakespeare’s plays address universal themes. The more popular ones get done. Some might say overdone, but the historical plays are ignored.

KS: My theatre did a gender-swapped Taming of the Shrew.

KH: The film industry has done a better job. My Own Private Idaho, The Hollow Ground series, Looking for Richard.

AFM: A Thousand Acres was the story of King Lear. Shakespeare was brilliant of using every member of the company. There were often comic actors. Characters like Falstaff were written for them. If there were acrobats, he’d give them something to do. They had to be very practical in terms of costuming for these reasons.

KH: Titus Andronicus and Troilus and Cressida were essentially horror. Shakespeare was a great worldbuilder. He was consistent in terms of how fairies, spirits, and witches behaved. His idea of Titania was dark, but comic. Fairies had an alien sense of good and evil.

AFM: He built on the motivations of all his characters.

And that was time.

Next week: The do’s and don’ts of writing erotica (oh, my!).

Debunking creative myths for DIYMFA

This week’s QotW prompt is this:

Today we’re shifting gears a bit. In chapter 6 of DIY MFA, I debunk five myths about creativity. These myths are:

  1. Creativity is an exclusive club, and you can’t be part of it.
  2. Creativity is innate–you either have it or you don’t.
  3. Creativity is driven by chaos, so there’s no way to control it.
  4. Creativity is all about getting that one “Big Idea.”
  5. Creativity is focusing on an idea until it’s perfect.

We were to choose one and run with it.

Gabriela, however, wrote about her struggles with numbers three to five.

So . . . I’m going to tackle one and two.

I’m firmly of the opinion that everyone is creative in their own way and in their own realm of expertise. Just because my creativity expresses itself in the invention of stories doesn’t mean that everyone’s will work the same way.

My husband, for example, is, as I have mentioned before on this blog, Mr. Science. His first career was as a medical laboratory technologist. Now, he’s a network administrator, but he is also a programmer, and technical wizard. His hobbies include geology, astronomy, and cosmology.

Since he works for a charity, he has to find ways to do things economically. This means doing a lot of the work himself. He’s developed the registration system for his employer’s summer camp program. He’s put together their passcard system for the enhanced change rooms. He created their web page (someone else was responsible for the graphics and content) and has it set up so that the other employees in various departments can update content themselves.

Now, he’s working on a new program which will focus on finding work placements for autistic youth. His role is to develop his employer’s documentation and reporting system for the program.

He is so creative in his realm of expertise.

Creativity isn’t just about making art. It’s about making an art out of the work you do.

To shift gears a bit, my weekly curation posts are all about fostering the creativity of my followers.

I long ago realised that I’m not in a place in my career where I feel comfortable imparting writing advice. There’s so much of it out there on the interwebz and it’s shared by people who are far more articulate that I can be at this point.

I follow a lot of these people and so, when I come across a writing post or article that really speaks to me as a writer, I share it. A few years ago, I collected these posts into a weekly curation I call Tipsday. It’s kind of like an informal learning opportunity for writers. I’ve learned so much from the people I follow, I just want to share the wealth of their knowledge.

Other things pop my mental corn. Yes, just sit with that image for a minute. Your skull is a big pan, full of popcorn, apply heat (interesting posts and articles), shake it around, and pop! Pop-pop-pop-pop-pop!

This used to happen all the time in university. I’d see connections between all the seemingly random things I was learning and the ideas would go zinging around inside my head. That’s when I started journaling, and when I started working on my first novel.

I also think about the movie Working Girl in this context. The protagonist, Tess, gets great business ideas from reading the society column and business articles in the paper. Disparate ideas coming together to make awesome.

That’s what Thoughty Thursday is all about.

While Tipsday is pretty much focused on writing, Thoughty Thursday could help anyone be creative in any endeavour. I just hope that the things that interest me might have some kind of positive impact on others.

And so there you have it. My take on creativity. It’s not en exclusive club and it’s not something you have to be born with. It just takes a few juicy ideas to get things going.

I’ll be back tomorrow with more Ad Astra reportage.



Thoughty Thursday: Things that made me go hmmmm on the interwebz, May 8-14, 2016

Lots of thoughty for your big squishy brains this week!

The Jian Gomeshi case was in the news again this week. Another complainant came forward, but chose not to go to court and accept a peace bond. The agreement? Gomeshi would admit his wrongdoing and apologize publically. Kathryn Borel released this statement outside court after the unsatisfying apology. The Toronto Star.

Sandy Garossino reports that Borel’s counterpunch blindsides Henein and knocks out Gomeshi. National Observer.

The UN champions essential services for survivors of violence against women and girls.


Here are a couple of fabulous articles by Lindy West. First, the ‘perfect body’ is a lie. Then, break the period taboo. The Guardian.

Are you a cool girl? ASAP Thought wants you to help dismantle the patriarchy 🙂


Latinos are now the largest ethnic group in California. The Los Angeles Times.

You may remember that I’ve mentioned in the past how careful we need to be with media reports of scientific studies. This explains why. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Scientific Studies.


How World War II changed Walt Disney. Time.

Clint Edwards gleans lessons from The Goonies, and from the loss of unsupervised time for kids. The Washington Post.

John Reed tells a tale almost too creepy to believe: my grandma, the poisoner. Vice.

The CDC releases new statistics on suicide in the US.

And on the other side of the death coin: when patients and doctors disagree about end-of-life care. The Washington Post.

Sarah Kurchak shares depression-busting exercise tips for people too depressed to exercise. The Establishment.

Not to be facetious, but Emily Hartridge lists 10 reasons why . . . she’s grateful to have anxiety.


BigThink offers proven tools for lifting a bad mood.

IndiHope lists 51 Dr. Seuss quotes on happiness.

This is just cool. The brain dictionary, on AmpLIFEied.

Kepler reveals a new bounty of exoplanets, including nine in the ‘Goldilocks’ zone. Phil Plait for Slate.

It’s okay to be smart. The cosmic afterglow:


William Gadoury discovers a link between the constellations and the locations of Mayan cities.

And this is just funny. Ken Ham tried to disprove science using . . . science. Epic fail. Slate.

It’s okay to be smart: the most important moment in the history of life:


Weird science: can corpses turn to stone?


David Bowie on being authentic:


The Buddha Weekly focuses on the consciousness of non-human beings. I’m really sorry. I enjoy the meats 😦

Have a happy Friday, and we’ll see you on the weekend!

Thoughty Thursday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 8-14, 2016

All kinds of writerly goodness for you this week!

K.M. Weiland has made no secret of her disappointment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy. In classic Kate fashion, she gleans writerly goodness from the experience. Planning your story: what George Lucas can teach you (not) to do. Helping writers become authors.

Later in the week, she offered eight tips for writing child characters.

Jessi Rita Hoffman explains how to write a thrilling action scene for Writer Unboxed.

Sophie Masson shares the building blocks of great young adult fiction. Writer Unboxed.

Lisa Cron advises: don’t accidentally give your characters a time out. Writer Unboxed.

Margaret Dilloway explores overcoming impostor syndrome for Writer Unboxed.

Christine Frazier shows you why your hero should eavesdrop and make a bad assumption (in four steps). The Better Novel Project.

Janice Hardy looks at writing a character with a gender not your own. Fiction University.

Dan Koboldt offers some tips for creating fundamentalist religions in fantasy.

Chris Winkle offers strategies for defeating the contrivance boogeyman. Mythcreants.

Jami Gold wonders if your plot obstacles are too easy, too difficult, or just right?

Jennie Nash studies great opening lines. The Book Designer.

Chuck Wendig advises us to defy reality and become artists. Terribleminds.

Jami Gold explores how to reach your potential through writing feedback.

Angela Ackerman offers six rules that will keep your critique partnerships golden. Writers helping writers.

Gabriela Pereira interviews Charlaine Harris for the DIYMFA podcast.

Annie Neugebauer says, don’t hate the query—master it! Writer Unboxed.

Janet Reid shares a checklist of things you need to be thinking about between offer and acceptance.

Susan Spann offered some advice on royalty clauses in publishing deals and how authors get paid. Writers in the Storm.

Karina Sumner-Smith guest posts on Janice Hardy’s Fiction University: is a quick release schedule right for you and your books?

My friend, Kim, is back on the road. This time, she spends an afternoon with Margaret Atwood.

Micah Solomon offers three books that will help you to radically improve your writing. BookBaby

Cory Doctorow shares his vision of how publishers, libraries, and writers could work together. BoingBoing.

Delilah S. Dawson wrote this beautiful post on writing and grieving: someday this pain will be useful to you.

Natalie Zutter shares Nnedi Okorafor and N.K. Jemesin in conversation: masquerade, initiation, and science fiction and fantasy.

Bustle wants you to diversify your reading list with these 23 LGBTQ books with a person of colour as a protagonist.

What Bustle says your to-be-read list says about your personality.

Ferris Jabr revisits the lost gardens of Emily Dickinson. The New York Times.

Kathryn Hughes looks at the dystopian world of Beatrix Potter. The Guardian.

Shakespeare and death:


Women swept the Nebulas! i09.

Jo Walton reviews Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning for

A Ken Liu short story will be made into a movie. i09.

John Marcotte reports that Marvel is committing to a Black Widow movie (at some unknown point in the future). Heroic Girls.

And, speaking of Marvel, the next X-Men movie is due out May 27th: X-Men Apocalypse.

Here’s the teaser:


And the official trailer:


Buzzfeed shared what was a sneak peek of Outlander’s next episode (I saw it Sunday) but I thought I’d post it anyway. “Ovaries explode!” – funnee.

See you Thursday for some thoughty stuff 🙂


Ad Astra 2016, day 1: The relationship between self-publishers and editors

Disclaimer: I am not perfect and neither are my notes. If you notice anything that needs correction or clarification, please let me know and I’ll fix it post-hasty.

Panellists: Rob Howell, Jennifer Jaquith, Charlotte Ashley, Beverly Bambury (moderator), Vanessa Ricci-Thode


VRT: There are three types of editing: the substantive edit, line editing, and copy editing. The substantive edit is also called a comprehensive edit, or a structural edit. It’s big picture stuff. Does the story make sense, is it compelling, are characters distinct, are story events consistent, are there too many or too few characters? Line editing looks at the story on a paragraph/sentence level. Given your style/voice, is each sentence written well, does each paragraph make sense, do your transitions flow? Copy editing is the nitty, gritty stuff: spelling, punctuation, and so on. There are places where the various editing tasks might overlap. In doing a line edit, some spelling and punctuation might be addressed.

RH: My editor works with me in stages. She’ll address global concerns first, then move on to more detailed editing. My mom’s a professional copy editor, so I have that covered.

BB: I don’t work with a self-publisher who hasn’t had at least one professional edit done on their book. What are the common issues editors see?

JJ: I have a list of hit words. Seems, felt, just, started to, etc.

CA: People who come to me at the wrong stage are a challenge. I love writers who come to be expecting the cost and work involved. Writing is a process of drafting and resting, but some people are on deadlines and they can’t do that.

NRT: Writers make the same mistakes over and over. Mixing tenses, head-hopping, showing versus telling. If you enter into a relationship with your editor, we get to know your particular weaknesses and look out for them.

BB: I look for the crutch words . . . actually, as I see it. Filler words that don’t really add anything to the work.

RH: I am guilty of overusing the shrug. I use it a lot. My editor points it out so I can fix it. You need an editor who can see your faults.

BB: How did your relationship with your editor evolve?

RH: When I was writing academically, I had my ego knocked out through editing. We’d debate the amount of white space on the page.

BB: Editors, how is it from your perspective?

VRT: I use beta readers for structural editing, but otherwise, I depend on my editor.

CA: I write short stories. You don’t get edited until the story is accepted for publication.

JJ: I’m a possessive writer. In technical writing, you hand everything over to the editor. I don’t argue and nine times out of ten, I’ll make the requested changes. Sometimes I don’t know how to improve the piece.

BB: I wrote a piece for Dirge. A friend of mine turned out to be a sexual predator. It was very internal. The editors helped me turn it into a personal essay. You have to trust the process.

CA: I write a lot of non-fiction as well. I once wrote a book review and the editors cut it up. I didn’t know until I saw it in print and at the time, I thought they hadn’t liked it. It turns out it was a matter of the space they had to devote to the review.

RH: If you’re a writer, the most terrifying moment is when you have to send your work off. I know I have someone on my side. It’s still terrifying, but it’s better.

BB: Do you have a success story you’d like to share? What constitutes a successful relationship?

RH: I’m the driver of the race car, the jockey on the horse, what have you. We all do our parts, everything comes together, I read the manuscript one last time, and if I think “I like this,” it’s a job well done.

JJ: You have to understand that the editor wants to like your work. They want to make it better. You have to be open to questions and discussions. You have to make a connection.

CA: A successful client is one who comes back to me. Some don’t come back, or they come back years later and say “you were right.”

VRT: Authors who come back, who are happy with the results, who are willing to do the work.

BB: The editor is rooting for the writer. Everyone needs an editor.

Q: How much time does a substantive edit take?

VRT: It varies, but I can review an 80 to 100 thousand word manuscript in 30 to 40 hours. Sometimes I might recommend a manuscript evaluation. It’s focused on overall strengths and weaknesses.

RH: Scheduling is important. I create a schedule so I can produce consistently. I try to write three books a year. My business model works because I produce. I have 2016 all planned out.

BB: That’s a good point. How far in advance should a writer make contact with the editor?

AC: I like two months lead time.

Q: What’s better proofreading or beta readers? And if you have betas, do you still need a developmental editor?

CA: An editor will be able to tell if your work needs a developmental edit.

VRT: A good editor will be honest.

RH: I chose my beta readers for specific reasons. I have a friend in martial arts who looks specifically at my fight scenes. I have a horse person who looks at logistics and whether I’m treating my fictional horses right or not.

Q: When you’re doing a developmental edit and you hate the story, what do you say?

VRT: I can tell the author that I’m not the right editor for this piece. I’m a member of the Editors’ Association of Canada (EAC) and we make referrals to one another.

CA: When someone says to me they’ve sent the manuscript to 500 agents and 1000 publishers and nobody wants to take it on, I know I have to be cruel to be kind. An editor can’t sell your novel for you.

JJ: I can’t edit horror. I can’t sleep.

CA: There are some issues I can’t handle in a manuscript. Racism or sexism is a definite “no” for me.

BB: As a publicist, I see some things that bother me. People of colour who are stereotypes, pedophilia.

Q: How do you generate a client list?

VRT: I work through the EAC and referrals mostly, but I get some clients through social media and networking.

RH: I have an embarrassing story for you. My editor Kelly and I have known each other forever through the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). The first two editors fell through and only after I was working with the third and had my first book out did I find out that Kelly was an editor.

CA: I get most of my clients through word of mouth.

Q: How much should I expect to spend?

CA: A substantive edit usually runs about $2000. Proofreading can be $300. Expect to spend between $500 and $1000 on average.

And that was time.

Next week, one of my favourite sessions from this year’s Ad Astra: The influence of Shakespeare on  science fiction and fantasy.