Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, March 26-April 1, 2017

Holy cow, lookit all the informal writerly learnings 🙂

K.M. Weiland covers seven stages of being a writer. Helping Writers Become Authors

Later in the week, Kate helps you notch up your scene conflict.

Fred Johnson guest posts on Jane Friedman’s blog: how to get violence right in your fiction.

Grace Wynter joins Writer Unboxed as a contributor: Look! Up in the sky! It’s a … writer?

Catherine McKenzie: are you tired of writing? Writer Unboxed

Tracy Hahn-Burkett helps you have patience over the long, long haul. Writer Unboxed

Jo Eberhardt unpacks the relationship between envy, perfectionism, and the work of writing. Writer Unboxed

Susan Spann: how to avoid pay to play publishing contracts. Writer Unboxed

Jenna Moreci: Show vs. Tell, part 2. When to tell.

 

Kimberly Brock has the blank page blues. Writers in the Storm

Kathryn Craft says we can do it all—but should we? Writers in the Storm

Ruth Harris shares some stress busters and burnout beaters. Anne R. Allen’s blog

Leanne Sowul: how one skeptic became a meditation convert. DIY MFA

Gabriela Pereira interviews Jessica Strawser for DIY MFA radio.

G. Myrthil explains why kid lit matters. DIY MFA

Linda Bernadette Burgess shares five ways to manage multiple creative passions. DIY MFA

Emily Temple says that if any literature is going to change the world, it’s going to be young adult. Literary Hub

Fantasy Faction explores sieges and siegecraft. Part one: attackers.

Jeff Lyons returns to Jami Gold’s blog: what is high concept and how can I create it?

Lilith Saint Crow stops by Terribleminds: when a short story won’t stay short for long.

Nina Munteanu: the power of myth in storytelling.

Bonnie Randall wonders, do sensitivity readers hurt or help our novels? Fiction University

Nathan Bransford says that the key to a great query letter is summarizing through specificity.

Barbara Kyle shares ten query letter tips.

Pamela Hodges explains how to edit your novel like a New York publisher. The Write Practice

John Koenig makes another entry in the Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows: morii.

 

S.B. Divya reveals the seed of her novel Runtime. Tor.com

Malka Older’s not predicting the future, she’s just observing the present. Tor.com

Sunny Moraine: resistance through speculative fiction. Tor.com

Leah Schnelbach revisits Nausicaä of the Valley of the Winds, twenty years on. Tor.com

Am I pathetic because I still love Buffy? I guess I’m not alone: Katharine Trendacosta shares pics from the Entertainment Weekly Buffy reunion photo shoot. i09

Three translators respond to Arrival. Susannah Greenblatt for Words without Borders.

Adam Frank explains how great science fiction shows like The Expanse prepare us for the future. NPR

Evan Narcisse shows us the Valerian trailer. i09

Hope you enjoyed the writerly goodness.

See you Thursday for some thoughty 🙂

Be well until then.

tipsday2016

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The next chapter: January 2016 update

First, a note about the non-writing parts of my life

Well, the new year has gotten off to a bit of a shaky start, not with respect to my writing and revision goals, but with respect to other stuff.

In the last week of December, Phil got sick enough he had to go see a doctor. He hadn’t been in a very long time and in the process of diagnosing the illness he went to see the doctor for in the first place, the doctor diagnosed him with two other, fairly serious, illnesses. Three for the price of one. Yay?

I won’t go into the details, because it’s not my story to tell, but he’s on several medications, we’ve had to change our diet (not significantly, but still), and we’ll have to commit to several more lifestyle changes in the coming months. It’s going to be a good thing, ultimately, but I’m a creature of habit. Change is stressful.

Phil’s been told not to tackle everything at once, and so we’re dealing with things one issue, and one day, at a time.

I’ve gotten a cold for the first time in about three years. Since I don’t get them often, I tend to get doozies. I’m also in the process of seeing whether I’m anaemic or not, and my gall bladder is acting up.

I guess this is my reaction to the stress of everything else.

Which includes learning that I’ve been screened out of the consultant process at work. We’ve had a general information session, because many of the over three hundred people who applied were screened out, but I’m still getting an informal discussion of the specific reasons I was screened out. That happens Tuesday.

I’ve really been trying not to get upset. Work is work and I’ve tried to prioritize my creative work over the day job, but having been successful in the last three processes and had four acting assignments in as many years, I can’t help but feel that I’ve been kicked in the teeth. They still have testing and interviews to go, and if the eventual pool ends up being as small at I suspect it will be, there will be another process in the future. I have to question the point of putting myself through the wringer again, though.

My current acting assignment ends next Friday and at that point, so far as I know, I’m heading back to the training and advice & guidance team, but everyone keeps saying that I’m not going back and even managers aren’t including me in the training plan and no one is telling me anything. I’m kind of suffering from mushroom syndrome.

I’m trying to be Zen, but I’m not very good at that, in all honesty. I am a lot more laid back than some people, but I internalize a lot. Hence, the illen.

Now, onto the Writerly Goodness 🙂

I took some time over the holidays to plan out my writing year. Using Jamie Raintree’s amazing new Writing and Revision Tracker, I set writing and revision goals for the year, and for each month.

As I mentioned in my last Next chapter update, 2016 will be the year of revision. As I return to the querying process with Initiate of Stone, I realize I want to have some of my other five finished novels revised and edited and ready to go so that I can keep working toward my dream of a traditional deal.

What I did was to add up the current word totals of all my drafts and divided them up according to what I figure will be my productive months. I also estimated what my blogging totals would be per month and add in my NaNo 2016 writing goals.

What that worked out to was 37,550 words of revision each month (except November and December), between five and seven thousand words of blogging each month (except November), and 50k words drafted in November and December (NaNo this year will be book three of the Ascension series I figure it will take me two months to complete the draft).

So this is what January looked like.

JanuaryProgress

And I even took a few days off (!)

The month started with a couple of days devoted to reading through my draft of Apprentice of Wind, and then I set to. I’ll probably have the first run through done within the next couple of weeks, and then I’m probably going to go through it at least one more time.

So at 9,274 words, I wrote 141% of my writing goal and at 69,774 words, I almost doubled my revision goal (186%).

I also revised and sent out two short stories, and heard that another short story is still under consideration from a submission last year. So that’s awesome.

I also sent out IoS packages to open submission periods for a couple of publishers. As of the end of last year, the three Canadian small publishers I’d pitched last fall had either declined or failed to respond.

We’ll see where all of that gets me.

Other excitement

I’ve attended a few events this past month. The first was Last Stop at the Sudbury Theatre Centre, in which a couple of writer friends had their plays in progress workshopped in front of a live audience (us). It was awesome.

Then, I attended a Skype workshop with Barbara Kyle through the Sudbury Writers’ Guild on adding magic and verve to your first thirty pages. Barbara is an excellent presenter and so knowledgeable about her craft. It’s a pleasure to learn from her.

Finally, I attended a lecture by singer/songwriter Steven Page at Laurentian University on ending the stigma around mental illness. He sang a couple of songs from his new album and discussed his struggles with mental illness.

I’m also currently enrolled in two online courses.

First, I couldn’t resist signing up for Story Genius with Lisa Cron and Jennie Nash. It’s based on Lisa’s new book (of the same name) and is eight weeks long. I’m working on my week four submission this weekend. It’s hard (like, it hurts my poor, tender head hard), especially negotiating the day job and health issues Phil and I are facing right now, but I can see how it’s going to improve my ability to write a novel that will hook readers and keep them reading.

Second, I signed up for Jamie Raintree’s Design a writing career you love workshop. I’m trying to keep one foot in the business side of things. Jamie’s an excellent instructor and I always enjoy her courses.

I’ve booked my hotel for both Ad Astra in April and WorldCon in August and am still waiting for the registration information for The Canadian Writers’ Summit to emerge.

So, I guess it’s no wonder I’m under the weather at the moment.

By and large, though, I love my life. The creative part of it anyway 😉

Next week, the CanCon 2015 reportage continues.

Hope your creative endeavours are moving full steam ahead and that you’re all well on your ways to meeting your goals. Feel free to share your trials and triumphs in the comments below.

The Next Chapter

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, September 20-26, 2015

One day left in September? Where did the time go?

It’s another tasty week of Writerly Goodness 🙂

K.M. Weiland invites you into her process as she corrects her story on her blog. Listen to the podcast and follow along with the screen shots on the blog.

Then, Katie shares what this past year preparing for publication has been like.

And for the hat trick: Foreshadowing and misdirection. Two sides of the same writerly skill best used in concert. Find out how in Katie’s Friday vlog.

Bonnie Randall returns to Janice Hardy’s Fiction University to explore the lessons writers can learn from The Killing. Phil and I are watching this on Netflix now. Just started season two. It’s definitely well-written.

Barbara Kyle shares five tips for writing a series on Chryssa Bazos’s blog.

Jane Friedman discusses the evolution of the literary agent. Writer’s Digest.

Porter Anderson digs deeper into the Authors Guild survey and what it means on Thought Catalog.

You may be surprised at what counts as a success in terms of book sales. Lynn Neary for NPR.

Ebook sales slip and the rumours of print book death are greatly exaggerated. The New York Times.

Summary judgement motions filed in ebook price fixing suit. Publishers Weekly.

How Oyster’s shut down (and movement of its employees to Google) is affecting attempts to create a “Netflix” for ebooks. Forbes.

Forbes’s Edmund Ingham interviews Reedsy founder, Emmanuel Nataf, about how his service is disrupting publishing.

Last week, I shared a post about a banned book in New Zealand. This week, the author speaks out. The Observer.

Messages to the future. Vsauce. I’ve chosen to put this in Tipsday because it’s about the stories we tell.

J.K. Rowling gets into the Potter family history on Pottermore.

Watch this fairy tale love story with a twist. i09.

Kate Beaton shares her top ten warrior princesses from Elizabeth I to Boudicca. The Guardian.

This. Is. Brilliant. #15secondShakespeare Radio Times.

Come back for Thoughty Thursday, y’all!

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, July 19-25, 2015

As I post this, I am MELTING. Today it was 36 degrees Celsius (with humidex, it was over 40). For my American friends, that’s about 100 Fahrenheit. We have no air conditioning. This is not a complaint, just a statement of fact. We haven’t had weather like this in the Sudz for a number of years.

Now the sun has set, we have all the windows open and all the fans on.

And now, back to your regular programming.


This is just . . . read it and beware of strangers bearing option deals! Tess Gerritsen explains why she dropped her Gravity lawsuit and now advocates for authors in Hollywood. The Mary Sue.

Who should you be writing for, your readers, or yourself? Helping writers become authors. K.M. Weiland.

Katie shares the key to writing good action scenes in her Wednesday vlog.

Writer Unboxed begins a new series on diverse voices in writing and publishing. Their first guest was Grace Wynters: Why diversity in publishing matters.

Steven Pressfield makes the distinction between the craft of writing, and your craft of writing.

How to write with confidence. MythicScribes.

The anatomy of a page turner with Barbara Kyle.

This is incredible fun: Atlas Obscura presents their obsessively detailed map of American literature’s most epic road trips.

Here’s a lovely Tumblr: Where do you write, my lovely? They just featured my friend Kim Fahner and her wonderful writing space 🙂

Buzzfeed offers their list of 51 books for animal lovers.

Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land is one of my favourite classic SF novels. So, of course I was attracted to this post on MentalFloss on 15 things you might not know about the Heinlein classic.

Buzzfeed shares 29 pictures that only booklovers will relate to. Regarding #20: I can do this just fine, thankyouverymuch.

If you’re of the techie persuasion, Bustle presents seven gadgets for booklovers.

Isaac Asimov predicted social media and knowledge bases. Fusion.

Here’s a fun interview with Sam Heughan: My acting teacher once told me I couldn’t act. My Fox LA.

TV After Dark shares their chat with the Outlander cast and crew about season two from San Diego Comic Con.

Just for fun, here’s Kirby Krackle’s “Villain Song.”

See you Thursday!

Tipsday

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, May 24-30, 2015

It’s writer-palooza, er, um. Tipsday. Yeah.

Make sure you include these five factors in your story if you want it to make an impact on your readers. K. M. Weiland.

What’s the trick to creating vivid descriptions? Focus on the obscure details. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Harrison Demchick guest posts on Katie’s blog about what to do with your very long manuscript.

Scars and shame: the secrets of female characters. Barbara O’Neal nails this post for Writer Unboxed.

John Vorhaus gets into something deeper on Writer Unboxed.

Heather Webb asks, As writers, what are we worth? Writer Unboxed.

Jane Friedman writes about the age-old cynicism surrounding the book writing dream.

Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman debate “genre fiction” on BBC Radio 4.

Phoenix Sullivan digs deeper into the latest Author Earnings report for David Gaughran.

The Authors Guild dumps Author Solutions (yay!). David Gaughran.

Use these five steps to write a killer elevator pitch for your book. Jennie Nash for BookBub.

Bryan Collins posts the ultimate how-to guide to blogging with Scrivener.

Terrorism in Elizabethan England, a post by Barbara Kyle for English Historical Fiction Authors.

Lauren Carter, whom I’ve featured here on the blog for a workshop she delivered in Sudbury, won the 2014 Room Poetry Contest. Here’s their interview with her.

Ten books that will change the way you think about fairytales. i09.

The horrifying origins of your favourite Disney films. Diply.

Mental Floss presents ten Old English words you should be using.

What do you think of this list of 24 brilliant portmanteaus? Ima start using some of them 🙂 Earthporm.

This little bit of awesome is courtesy of Addicting Info: J.K. Rowling slams Westboro Baptist Church’s hate-tweet.

John Doyle writes about Outlander and the triumph of the true female superhero. The Globe and Mail.

Caitriona Balfe’s serves up an insider’s view of Outlander. LA Times.

How Outlander broke the mold with their two-part finale. MTV.

Cute writing comic from The New Yorker.

Have a good week until Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Why is shifting point of view (POV) problematic?

For the second time in as many weeks, a writer friend has suggested a post to me. This time, it was about POV. In a short story I recently critiqued, the POV (third person, past tense) shifted from a mother to her daughter. I recommended either sticking with one POV, or marking the change with more than just textual cues.

My writer friend indicated that she had a film background and asked if the omniscient POV wouldn’t allow her to shift her focus between characters in a scene.

What follows is my response.

A wee caveat: this is based on my own craft learning to date. I’m happy to lay the burden of expertise at the feet of others 🙂


 

First, you should check out CS Lakin’s blog: LiveWriteThrive

You may have to go fairly far back in her archives, but she did a series on writing based on film techniques last year. She turned this into a book, Shoot your novel, which you can find on Amazon.

This might appeal to your filmic aesthetic.

Now, having said that, film techniques aren’t the same as POV in writing. Parallels can be drawn, but really, they’re two different things.

POV in writing is about who’s telling the story. Whomever the story belongs to is generally the POV you use.

Why is a shifting POV problematic?
I’ll let you do a little research on this yourself. So many people have written about it. It’s called “head hopping.”

Here’s a starter from our friend Google: https://www.google.com/search?q=head+hopping&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

My recommendations? The Write Practice, Marcy Kennedy (she’s Canadian), the Editor’s Blog (Head-Hopping Gives Readers Whiplash), and The Write Editor (The Difference Between Omniscient POV and Head Hopping). Jami Gold and WriterUnboxed are awesome too.

Go ahead. Check them out. I’ll wait while you scan a few of the articles 🙂

In a visual medium, the POV is omniscient, or at most limited third simulated by a voice over. You can’t really “show” the inner thoughts and feelings of a character on screen. So in film, the POV is the camera’s and by extension, the director, producer, and/or editor may have a hand in influencing the final product.

There is such a thing as an omniscient POV in writing, and it used to be used, but it’s not really popular anymore. Further, it’s hard to do well.

In cinematic terms, omniscient translates to the page as a wide shot, interspersed with close ups on various characters, but it’s all external observation. Visually, you have the zoom or cut to give you a clue as to which character or characters are the focus of the scene.

In writing, you have to do something that simulates the zoom to cue the reader that the focus of the scene is now changing. Otherwise, you could end up confusing your reader (who’s talking now? why do I have to hear from this character? why is this important to the scene/story?).

Readers have changed over the last century. This is primarily due to movies and television (where a complete story is told in 30 minutes, an hour, or two hours), video games (complete action smorgasbord), and the internet (e.g. Twitter: describe your day in 140 characters anyone?). Flash fiction and micro fiction now have journals devoted to them. Books have been written in Tweets.

Readers like shorter forms of fiction because they can read a complete story in a limited period of time (think CommuterLit.com).

If the story isn’t short, then the author must continually hook the reader and keep them interested in the story. Part of this is engaging the reader in the story (what’s at stake?) and the character (why should I care?).

Omniscient POV requires readers to pay attention and do a little more work than they might otherwise be inclined to do. It’s not personal. You don’t stick with any one character long enough for the reader to become invested in that character and you’re observing like a camera, never delving into a character’s thoughts or feelings.

A limited third POV focuses intimately on one character: She ran to his side and thought, Is he dead? Oh, please, no.

Some writers, for example George R. R. Martin in Game of Thrones, shift between characters in the limited third POV, but you will find, generally, that an entire chapter will be from one character’s POV.

If an author changes POV characters in the middle of a chapter, the POV will change when the scene changes (therefore one POV per scene) and there will often be a visual cue such as an extra line between the paragraphs, or a symbol like # or * set off in the middle of its own line. Barbara Kyle, Canadian author of historical thrillers set in the Tudor era, uses this latter technique.

A lot of young adult fiction uses first person POV (I, me, my) because it sinks the reader immediately into the thoughts and feelings of the character. This can either cement the relationship (he’s just like me!) or alienate the reader (why won’t he stop whining?). Most first person narratives stick with one character through the entire story.

Then you have the experimental authors who will mix third and first person POVs. Deborah Harkness does this in A Discovery of Witches. Diana Gabaldon did it first, however, in her Outlander series. The protagonist is written in first person and all other POV characters are written in third.

Hardly anyone can write well in the second person POV (you look in the closet and find a boy huddling in the corner). It has been done, but it requires a deft hand and mind. If any form is going to use second person POV, it’s likely a short, flash, or micro fiction story.

This gets even more complicated when you add tenses to your POV. Past and present are the usual choices. I can’t think of a novel written in the future tense in any POV. Again shorter forms may take the pressure of future tense but it feels awkward to read no matter what.

For short fiction, I’d recommend figuring out whose story you’re telling and sticking with that character throughout. If you lose the reader, they’ll put your story down.

If that reader is an editor or a contest judge, your chances of publication may be shot.

I’m just saying 🙂


 

Was this post helpful to anyone else? Please let me know in the comments. Also, as I mentioned last week, if you have any burning writing questions, I’ll be happy to do my best to answer them. Or refer you to the experts who answer them better than I ever could 😀

And that’s a wrap for this weekend!

Muse-inks

Six questions with Barbara Kyle

Barbara KyleBarbara Kyle is the author of the acclaimed “Thornleigh” novels Blood Between Queens, The Queen’s Gamble, The Queen’s Captive, The King’s Daughter and The Queen’s Lady which follow a rising middle-class English family through three tumultuous Tudor reigns. She also writes contemporary thrillers, including B.R.A.G. Medallion winner Entrapped. Over 425,000 copies of her books have been sold in seven countries. Barbara has taught writers at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies and is known for her dynamic workshops for many writers organizations and conferences. Before becoming an author Barbara enjoyed a twenty-year acting career in television, film, and stage productions in Canada and the U.S. Visit www.barbarakyle.com

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I met Barbara a couple of years ago at the Canadian Authors Association’s CanWrite! Conference.  Not only was she an excellent presenter and full of writerly goodness, but she was also generous with her time.  Her critique of what was then my first 20 pages was an eye-opener and she sent me off with a new direction for my novel (which has shifted twice more since, but we don’t need to talk about that here).

Then I started reading her Thornleigh saga and became a fan.

We met up again at the Algonkian conference in Niagara Falls last year, and I’m thrilled Barbara accepted my proposal for an interview.

Her latest novel in the Thornleigh saga, Blood Between Queens is available now.  I would, of course, suggest that you read the rest of the series too.  You’ll be hooked before the end of the first chapter of The Queen’s Lady, I promise.

Welcome, Barbara!

BK: Thanks for inviting me, Melanie, and for your very kind words.

WG: Before The Queen’s Lady was published, you wrote and published three thrillers under a pseudonym.  More recently, your novel entrapped, another thriller, was honoured with the B.R.A.G. Medallion.  You’ve also written screen plays.  What do you enjoy most about writing each genre or form?

BK: The glory of the novel is that the author can get inside a character’s head and heart, can write exactly what the character is thinking and feeling, so the reader gets that precise, deeply-felt emotion, whereas in writing a screenplay you’re limited to just action and dialogue; you’re totally dependent on the actor to convey the layers of emotion. So that’s a huge difference. The wise screenwriter resists the urge to overburden the dialogue with these layers, and leave room for the actor to supply them. (It’s why we pray to have fine actors cast!) On the other hand, when it comes to describing a setting or a character’s appearance, the screenwriter doesn’t have to do a thing, because one second of screen time shows what the novelist must work painstakingly to convey, slaving over paragraphs of description that film shows in a blink. As for what I enjoy about writing historical novels and thrillers respectively, my historicals actually are thrillers. If we define the thriller as having life-and-death stakes, a ticking clock (a crucial deadline), and the protagonist pitted against a powerful antagonist, then all my Thornleigh Saga books are thrillers. Seem it’s my métier.

WG: You are meticulous in your research, something I admire greatly.  When you begin to work on a new novel, do you start with an idea and plot firmly in mind and fill in the blanks with your research, or is your idea/plot general to begin with and informed and shaped by the research you do?

BK: When I start a book I have no plot firmly in mind; usually I have just a character who’s bent on doing something. My new release Blood Between Queens is Book #5 in my Thornleigh Saga, which follows a middle-class family through three Tudor reigns. My plots in these novels are quite complex, and I develop them through several drafts of an outline, which I work on for several months while concurrently doing research,  before I start writing the first draft of the book. When I talk to writers I call the outline a “storyline” because as writers we must never forget that we’re telling a story. For me, the outline is where all the heavy lifting of creation gets done: creating the characters and plot. As for research, I appreciate your compliment about mine being meticulous, because it’s so important to get the bedrock facts right, whether it’s the gate at the Tower of London through which Princess Elizabeth (later Elizabeth I) entered when her half-sister Queen Mary imprisoned her in The Queen’s Captive, or the technical aspects of an Alberta oil company drilling for “sour gas” in Entrapped. Readers love learning when they read fiction, and I love giving them the details.

WG: Owing in part to your extensive research, you’re considered an expert on the Tudors.  You’ve spoken at the University of Toronto and will appear at the Stratford Festival this summer speaking on the subject of the rival queens.  How did these opportunities emerge for you and how are you enjoying this evolution of your career?

BK: I developed my talk “Elizabeth and Mary, Rival Queens: Leadership Lost and Won” for the University of Toronto Lecture Series last winter. It’s about Elizabeth I and her cousin Mary, Queen of Scots, whom Elizabeth beheaded. They are the focus of my new release, Blood Between Queens. I told Vida Engstrand, the wonderful publicist with my publisher, Kensington Books in New York, about the U of T lecture, and she immediately contacted the Stratford Festival, because they were scheduling a production of Schiller’s play “Mary Stuart,” which is about these two famous queens, for their 2013 season. They loved the idea of my talk and invited me to give it as part of their Forum, and to also do a book signing of Blood Between Queens. So, I’ll be doing that on July 10th. I really enjoy speaking about these two queens, whose lives are the stuff of opera. Admission to the talk is free, so if any of your readers would like to attend I’d love to see them. Here’s the link:  https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/forum/speakers.aspx?id=20473

WG: You also conduct workshops and master classes on writing at various conferences and other venues as well as making time for manuscript evaluations.  How do you structure your professional life to make room for everything and still have time to write?

BK: Very carefully! It’s a juggling act. Mostly, I do manuscript evaluations when I’m between books – but that window doesn’t last long because my current three-book contract with Kensington requires me to deliver a new book each year. Still, I truly enjoy teaching emerging writers. Having been one myself, I know how hungry new writers are for guidance from someone who has helpful knowledge about the process. And I love seeing a writer experience a “light bulb” moment from something I’ve taught. That satisfaction is priceless.

WG: You’ve just completed a blog tour in celebration of Blood Between Queens.  How do you find social media has changed the way books are published and promoted?

BK: Social media has become crucial. For one thing, publishers want and expect their authors to be fully engaged with readers and potential readers on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest etc. and even to blog, if they’re good at it (as you are, Melanie). Readers expect it too. For the author, it requires another chunk of time to maintain these networks, but most of us enjoy doing it. I love Twitter and have “met” many fascinating people there. My Twitter handle, if your readers would like to connect with me there, is @BKyleAuthor. I’ve learned three important lessons about using social media: 1) be yourself; 2) don’t constantly sell your book; 3) give: that is, share information that people truly want and can use, such as writing tips or links to author interviews. The blog tour I’ve just done with Blood Between Queens was beautifully organized by Amy Bruno of Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours. Here’s the link: http://hfvirtualbooktours.com/bloodbetweenqueensvirtualtour/

Amy lined up fifteen blog hosts who asked for guest posts from me and/or interviews. Several of them also offered a giveaway of the book. The tour lasted three weeks and was a great success, with over 700 people entering one of the giveaways.

WG: Now that the blog tour is over, what is next for you and Blood Between Queens?

BK: Well, it’s only been out for five weeks, so I hope many more readers will be intrigued to pick it up! And I’ve just finished writing the next book in the Thornleigh Saga (Book #6) which carries on Adam Thornleigh’s story where Blood Between Queens left it. I won’t give any spoilers, but I can say that it’s set in 1572 and Adam joins the Dutch rebels who called themselves the Sea Beggars in their real-life fight against their Spanish occupiers. (I liken them to the Resistance in World War II fighting the Nazis.) Now, I’m deep into the research for Book #7. So there are lots more adventures of the Thornleigh family ahead. By the way, each “Thornleigh” story stands alone. To enjoy one book, a reader doesn’t have to have read any of the previous ones.

Thank you for a fascinating interview, Barbara!  All the best in your future writing endeavours 🙂

BK: Thank you, Melanie. I sincerely wish you the same.

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Blood Between Queens Synopsis:Blood Between Queens by Barbara Kyle

Following her perilous fall from a throne she’d scarcely owned to begin with, Mary, Queen of Scots, has fled to England, hoping her cousin, Queen Elizabeth, will grant her asylum. But now Mary has her sights on the English crown, and Elizabeth enlists her most trusted subjects to protect it.

Justine Thornleigh is delighting in the thrill of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to her family’s estate when the festivities are cut short by Mary’s arrival. To Justine’s surprise, the Thornleighs appoint her to serve as a spy in Mary’s court. But bearing the guise of a lady-in-waiting is not Justine’s only secret. The weight of her task is doubled by fears of revealing to her fiancé that she is in truth the daughter of his family’s greatest enemy.

Duty-bound, Justine must sacrifice love as she navigates a deadly labyrinth of betrayal that could lead to the end of Elizabeth’s fledgling reign . . .

Praise for Blood Between Queens:

“Fact and fiction are expertly interwoven in this fast-paced saga…exudes authenticity.” – Historical Novel Society

Kyle illuminates the world of queens Mary and Elizabeth, exploring their rivalry from its beginning through the eyes of a young woman torn between loyalty to her queen and a growing friendship with the enemy . . .Kyle knows what historical fiction readers crave.” RT Book Reviews

“A  beautifully written and compelling novel. Again, Barbara Kyle reigns!” – New York Times bestselling author Karen Harper.

The Next Chapter: Overwhelmed or underwhelmed?

You may have noticed that I have been a little quiet here on Writerly Goodness lately.  What’s the deal? you ask. Fair question.

One piece of the puzzle is that I am a little overwhelmed right now.  I’ve taken on a submission challenge that I probably won’t meet, and several courses, that while excellent, have also eaten up a good chunk of my creative time.

I’m trying to prepare two short stories for submission at the end of the week, and one of them has yet to be finished.  I know.  I’m stressed. 😦

I’m also working through the next revision of my work in progress and this coming week, I’m on the road for work again.  I rarely finish the things I need to get done while I’m travelling.

The other piece is that I haven’t been taking advantage of all the interesting creative things coming my way.  I haven’t been motivated.  The time issue may be part of it, but I suspect that the overwhelm and stress has left me a bit down in the last bit.

This is about to change.  I’m going to make contact with a few people this weekend to see if I can arrange for some interviews, and in a couple of weeks, my creative event schedule is getting underway, starting with Sudbury Wordstock, June 7 and 8, 2013.

Then I’m off to the Canadian Authors Association CanWrite! Conference in Orillia, June

English: Waterfront of Orillia, Ontario, Canada

English: Waterfront of Orillia, Ontario, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

12-16.  I’d like to catch a Chi Series reading on the 12th as well, because one of my all-time favourite writers, Guy Gavriel Kay, will be reading that night.  I just don’t know if I can do both in such a short turn-around.

Other writerly goodness on deck: an interview with Barbara Kyle (which I’m very pleased about), and possibly something of a departure that I don’t want to spill the beans about in case it doesn’t pan out.  I’ll also be blogging my experience in Margie Lawson’s course, and, on the learning mutt side of things, my first training for trainers experience (where I’m headed this week).

When I get my outdoor office set up, I’ll probably show that off too, with the new view sans birches.

Later in the summer, I’m hoping to head to When Worlds Collide in Calgary (might be

Chinook arch over the city of Calgary, Alberta...

Chinook arch over the city of Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

hooking up with an editor/writer friend for this and meeting a couple of other writerly friends on site), and in the fall, I’ll be taking off to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference where a whole pile of authors, agents, and editors I follow will be.

Having put off the migration to WordPress.org and a self-hosted site, I’ve turned my attention to adding video or podcast elements to my blog.  Not sure how soon that might happen.  I have to put my techie hat on for that.  And the site revamp is still lurking.  Once again, I just need the time to spend a day or two and dedicate myself to the changes.

There’s a lot of exciting stuff happening, I’ve just yet to get excited about it 😉  It’s kind of creeping up on me, though.  I just wish I had more time off to get everything done (!)

So I’m not really underwhelmed, I’m just under-invested at the moment.

Summer will be here before I know it!

One Sundog Snippet yet to come this week.  See y’all soon!

Three bits of Writerly Goodness in October 2012

I’ve been on the road quite a bit this month.  Specifically, from Oct. 16-18, 24-28, and 29-31.  So I hope you’ll forgive the lack of posting.  I did warn you 🙂 Normally, blogging while I’m away isn’t a huge problem, but recently, I’ve been travelling so much that I’m plain exhausted.

I think the cold I caught Thanksgiving Day (here in Canada) is finally going away, but the fact that I got sick at all (first virus in two years) tells me that I’m overdoing it.

So here is the first of two catch-up posts for the month of October.  Tomorrow, I’ll blog on various things that have been happening on the learning mutt side of my life.

We Grow Media’s “Build Your Author Platform” course

I signed up for this in September, having missed the course earlier in the year.  Knowing what a busy few months I’d have ahead of me, I probably should have waited until the next one, but it doesn’t look like things will get much better at work, so ultimately, there was no time like the present … then.

Dan Blank’s course was enlightening with respect to narrowing focus, targeting our ideal audience, and making use of tools like Google Analytics.  The weekly insider calls were productive and encouraged community building within the course.  Unfortunately, these and the specialist calls took place during the day and I couldn’t take part in most of them.

They were recorded, however, and so even though I couldn’t participate in them, I could still reap the benefits of the calls with Joanna Penn, Joel Friedlander, Jeff Goins, and Jane Friedman.  Those calls were worth the cost of the course alone.

I can’t really give much more away without starting to discus the materials in depth and those belong to Dan.  Suffice it to say that while I wasn’t able to participate in October as much as I wanted to, I have the course materials on hand and will make use of them often in the months to come.

Having said that, I think the course is best suited to those with some technical savvy but just getting going, and who also have a product to promote (novel, non-fiction, poetry collection, etc.).  The participants who had no background in social media or blogging whatsoever tended to have greater difficulty, and those like myself, who do not have a recently published work to promote couldn’t necessarily narrow down our focus sufficiently to make the most of Dan’s lessons.

For the former group, I might recommend Dan’s Social Media 101 and Blogging 101 courses offered through Writer’s Digest University.  Links to these can also be found on the We Grow Media site (linked above).

Khara House’s October Submit-O-Rama

I intended to get some submissions done over the course of October anyway, so I thought I’d join in the fun of Khara House’s October submit-o-rama.

The challenges varied from three submissions per week, through to a submission every day of the month, to the alpha-challenge in which you’d do the same but submit to magazines, contests, and journals in alphabetical order.  There was also a name game challenge to submit to publishers according to the letters of your name, and a create your own challenge.

I chose the last and settled on one submission a week.  I cheaped out, I know, but I honestly couldn’t manage more.  Anticipating the travelling I’d have to do in the latter half of the month, I submitted twice in the first two weeks and then decided I’d try, but not kill myself, for the remainder of the month.  That way, I met my challenge and didn’t overwhelm myself further.

I’ve received one rejection so far and the remaining ones are still up in the air.  Fortunately, my rejection included a request for other material, so I’m looking at it as a positive.

Khara had forums up on her site: Our Lost Jungle (linked above) as well as an event page on Facebook.  There were a handful of dedicated but insane writers (my opinion only) who managed 31 submissions in the month through various challenges.  Kudos to them!  They worked so hard and I’m sure they’ll be reaping the rewards for some time to come.

Now most of them are onto the November challenges of NaNoWriMo (national novel writers month) and PAD (poem a day).  I wish them the best and am sure that they will do smashingly!  And of course, our dear Khara deserves praise for putting everything together and giving everyone the kick in the pants they needed to get their work out there!

New York Comes to Niagara

I wanted to attend this conference last year, but ended up not being able to due to work commitments.  So when the conference Web site announced that applications were being accepted, I jumped on board.

NYCtN is an Algonkian pitch conference and writers first have to apply, submitting a short synopsis and writing sample before they are accepted and able to register.  When I made it through that stage, I immediately registered and booked my hotel room. 

Then came the 88-page guide and half a dozen emails with accompanying assignments.  My work was set out for me.

Now I have to make something clear.  My goal in going the conference was just to find out what the heck a pitch conference was, how it worked.  I’m an experiential learner and sometimes reading about something just doesn’t cut it.  So again, to be clear: I had no expectations.  I fully expected to have every agent and editor in the place reject me out of hand.

And I went prepared for that outcome.  This is not to say that I wrote anything but the best pitch I was capable of or that I blew off any of the assignments.  I’m a keener.  That would be impossible.  I just wasn’t pinning my hopes or self worth on the result of the conference.

Until it started.

Once the first pitch panel took place, which I, keener that I am, volunteered for, I was caught up in the hype.  I forgot about my humble goal and suddenly, I felt the pressure to sell.  It didn’t help that I was told in no uncertain terms that my novel was dead in the water and that traditional fantasy of any variety wouldn’t sell to anyone.

Nor was it particularly useful that I was advised to either throw out my created world and place the story in a historical setting (not my novel), or failing that, that I should set aside Initiate of Stone and focus on a more commercial project until my money-making capacity could be well-established and that I could then bring out the snoozer and rely on my reputation to coast me through what would surely be a slump in my writing career.

Please note: this was my interpretation of the advice, not the actual advice given.  You’ll understand if I wasn’t particularly clear-headed about it.

I lived in that illusory and completely self-induced angst for two days until, thanks to a friend, I remembered why I came to the pitch conference in the first place.

I revised my pitch but did not alter my project and I was true to my original intention and to IoS.  I pitched it and received some positive response.  Then I had to disappoint (seriously, the worst thing I can do to anyone in my book and pure torture for me) the person who had done everything in his power to guide me in the direction of success.

Here’s what I learned:

  • A pitch conference is all about the commercial viability of the pitch and its ability to obtain the interest of an agent or editor.  You have to back your pitch up of course, but the only thing that anyone will hear at the conference is your pitch.  For all intents and purposes, your novel might as well not exist.
  • It’s best not to bring only one idea/pitch, and if for one reason or another you only have one, you can’t be invested in it.  If you are, then a pitch conference may not be your best bet.  There are often opportunities to have your pitch critiqued before the pitch session opens.  If one idea doesn’t pass muster, keep pulling them out and throwing them against the wall until something sticks.
  • It’s common to pitch an idea for a novel that you haven’t written yet.  So long as you have the time and dedication to bang it out, this is acceptable, even expected.  I might go so far as to suggest that it’s a good idea to have your novel ideas plotted out and maybe even a few key scenes written, but that you may need to be flexible enough to accept suggestions that will drastically alter your novel.  This is harder to do with a project that you’ve invested months or years in writing.
  • If you’re like me, and reading these pieces of advice isn’t really enough, if you have to experience a pitch conference for yourself and you only have one project, one you’ve invested time in and are attached to, then stay true to your intent and be prepared to hear some things that you won’t want to accept.  Keep in mind that these things are going to be said to you with the best of intentions: to make you a viable career author.  If you’re not ready for that, so long as you understand that and keep all the excellent advice you receive in mind, you’ll be fine.

One way or the other, you and your work will emerge stronger on the other side.

Algonkian conferences have helped many writers achieve success.  Just visit their site and read the testimonials.  It’s a great opportunity that if you’re ready for, you shouldn’t pass up.

Besides, you usually get excellent advice outside the pitch panels and sessions as well.  In this case, Barbara Kyle delivered several sessions on plot and structure and Amy and Duncan McKenzie delivered an informative and entertaining session on improvisational techniques.

I even got some sight-seeing in 🙂

I highly recommend attending an Algonkian conference, or any pitch conference, and found it had the potential to be profoundly life-changing.

Writerly Goodness, signing off 🙂

Challenges become opportunities: The Author Salon Experience

Back in December, I joined Author Salon on the advice of one of the people I consider to be my writing mentors, Barbara Kyle.

Initially, I had no clue what I was getting myself into.

My first mistake was not reading anything before I signed up, so when I was presented with a profile to fill out, I dove right in.  Little did I know that there was an art to this …  I did read the AS step-by-step guide, belatedly, but I still had no clue what I was doing.

I set up my profile to the best of my ability, sounded off in the Shout Out Forum, and then posted a call for peers in the In Production I Forum group that seemed to suit me best: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Horror, and Speculative Fiction.

The initial group that formed was small, but dedicated.  We started off by critiquing each other’s profiles.

Now, this may not seem particularly important work, but part of the AS process is that professional editors and agents peruse the site from time to time.  Ultimately, the author’s profile will be a marketing tool to those same agents and editors, so it is a critical piece of the AS puzzle.

It’s as important as perfecting your “pitch” or logline, as important as writing a knock-their-socks-off query letter, in short, the AS profile is as important as it gets.

I’ve been at a bit of a disadvantage because I’ve not yet attended a conference where I’ve had the opportunity to “pitch” my concept to agents.  I haven’t started shopping my novel yet, and so I really don’t have any experience crafting a query or synopsis.  I really don’t have an idea about what a hook line should be and how it differs from a conflict statement.  But I’m learning …  and I have to learn fast.

I thought I knew at least one thing going in: even if you have a series planned, the novel must function as a stand-alone, but it seems that everyone else in my critique group is using the fact that they have a series planned as a selling point.  So now I’m fairly convinced that I know nothing, and am approaching the whole process tabula rasa.

One question posed to me was, “why mention your day-job?”  The point was that the information should only be included in the event that it lends to the topic you write about, like a retired police officer writing mysteries/police procedurals.  I’d like to address that here.

As a learning and development professional, I write courses.  Certainly, it’s a completely different beast than a novel, but writing is writing and any practice reinforces skill.  It develops my rhetorical skills to direct my writing to a particular audience with a particular purpose in mind.

Also, as a corporate trainer, I have presentation skills.  It’s a good marketing point and while it may not be on the top of every agent’s list of skills an author must have, it may be an asset that tips the scales in my favour.

I’m more likely to be comfortable in an interview situation, doing public readings, and participating in workshops or conferences on a panel.  I’m tech-friendly, if not tech-savvy, as the result of my work.  I could easily put out YouTube videos or podcasts regarding craft, or reading of my work (in fact, it’s something on my list of things to do for my platform).  I could even parlay my skills into delivering Webinars or tutorials.

Finally, it was my learning and development day-job that got me back into learning-as-lifestyle.  Mutant learning, social learning, independent research, call it what you want, it’s what I need to ramp up my profile and my writing as presented on AS and attract the attention of agents and editors.  I started developing my online platform as a writer thanks to my work in L&D.

What I learned about Initiate of Stone in the first go-round:

  • It was too long;
  • It was too complex:
  • I’m too wordy; and
  • I’m not very good at seeing the redundancies in my own work.

Then, in January, all of my critique partners left In Production I and were promoted to Editor Suite.  Most of them had attended an Algonkian Conference which acted as their respective invitations to AS.  They all received personal notification to move along.  I thought I was left behind.

So I started over with a new call for peers and waited.  Eventually the administrators realized that there was some kind of miscommunication and offered a clarification.  I was promoted to Editor Suite after all!  My relief was immense.

My new critique group in Editor Suite included all of my old friends, plus a couple new ones.

The first order of business was to start over with the profile critiques, and when that was done, we moved onto critique our first acts.  AS calls them the first 50 pages, but I prefer to call it the first act because it’s actually the first 50 -100 pp, depending on where your first major plot point falls.

What I’ve learned from the critique of the first act:

  • My first major plot point takes too long to arrive;
  • The story line for my protagonist needs to be seriously amped up;
  • I still suck at the profile stuff (that’s part of what I’m working on next);
  • I may be wordy, but given my chosen genre, epic fantasy, it works, overall.

Along the way, there was this thing called the Showcase.  AS reps would be showing a foreshortened version of our profile to industry experts and seeing if they could get any interest.  The call went out about the time that the former version of this blog was hacked and there was a little confusion while I reordered my electronic life.  The server on which my blog was hosted at the time was also my email server …

Got that mess sorted, but even though the Showcase went on until May, IoS did not get a single nod.  Almost everyone else in my critique group, however, got at least one, and many received multiple expressions of interest.  I’m very happy for my peers, but really disappointed in/for myself.  This just speaks, once again, to the importance of the AS profile in the overall process.

What I’ve done or am doing as a result of all this:

  1. Cut my novel in half.  The former mid-way point is now the climax and I still have to cut about 40k words.  I don’t know how this will turn out, but I’m willing to work at it until it’s fabulous 🙂 ;
  2. Rewriting Ferathainn’s story/plot line;
  3. Revamping my profile;
  4. I’ve applied for, was accepted to, and have registered for Algonkian’s New York Comes to Niagara conference in October.  If nothing else, I’ll learn how to get my profile together there.

So we’ll see where this all takes me.  The AS journey has been fraught and fun and incredibly hard work so far.

That’s it for this week bubbies!  Gotta get working on my WIP!

For my science fiction writer friends, I want to post links to Robert Sawyer’s two-part January interview with William Gibson:

Also check out Robert’s TedXManitoba lecture:

Are you part of an online critique group?  What have you learned from the process?  How is it changing your creative life?