CanCon 2015 day 1: How to pitch

Panellists: Hayden Trenholm, Gabrielle Harbowy, Robert Runte, Elizabeth Hirst, Marie Bilodeau

PitchPanel

Q: What do you want to see/hear in a pitch?

EH: Enthusiasm. If the author loves their book and believes in it, that’s a good sign. Make sure the book you pitch is finished.

HT: Don’t lie. If the book isn’t finished, be up front about it. If the finished book comes in nine months later, that ship has sailed, though.

GH: First impressions count. Don’t ignore the guidelines. One guy wiped his nose before he shook my hand. It didn’t matter what he did after that.

EH: Presentation is key.

HT: I have to know I can send you to a high-end book store. Publishers don’t buy books. We buy authors.

RR: Different editors look for different things. You want to get rejected as quickly as possible. If you’re not a fit for the editor, you have to feel good about that and move on. You’ll find the editor who’s as passionate about your work as you are. I polled my SF Canada colleagues and asked them, ‘what’s the longest you’ve waited for a response?’ Eight years was the longest. That’s a huge chunk of your life.

HT: Pitching is like a job interview. Treat it like that.

EH: I wish the authors well. If it’s not for me, I might suggest someone else.

GH: Don’t argue. All decisions are final.

HT: Some people try to tell me why I’m wrong. It’s like asking for a second date after a failed first one.

EH: You should ask as many questions as they ask you.

HT: You have to make sure it’s the right fit.

EH: I might recommend self-publishing to some pitchers.

GH: But I can’t take a book that’s already been published.

RR: You have to make sure you match your capabilities. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver.

HT: We don’t know everything. We all do what we can. Self-published books are a tough sell. 55% of Americans won’t read an ebook. Think about what you want. Your expectations should be clear. A bestseller in Canada is about 5000 books. When you choose a small publisher, you have a personal relationship. Our goal is to make the best book we can. If that’s what you want, pitch to a small press.

GH: Bigger presses look at Dragon Moon’s catalogue. We’re happy to send authors on to bigger and better things.

RR: If you’re asked for a synopsis, it’s a blow by blow of everything that happens in the novel, including the end. I need to know the ending. You have to tell me what your book is about.

EH: The ending is not as important to me as the main conflict. What’s interesting about the book? What’s the intrigue? That’s the reason people read.

GH: Premise and plot are not the same thing, though.

HT: People think the book has to be perfect. No. The book has to be interesting. If the book is a shambles in terms of spelling and grammar, we can fix it.

RR: I have to love your book to put the four- to five hundred comments on it that I do on most books. I’ve been giving these talks forever, but I finished my first book and went to pitch it . . . and blew it.

HT: The last person who knows what the book is about is the author.

Q&A ensued.

And that’s the end of day 1. Between Nina’s workshop and this panel, the opening ceremonies took place and after this panel, I went to the Bundoran Press book launch and SF Canada party, where I got to hear GoH Ed Willett read from his latest novel and network with my writerly peeps.

So that was all I did on Friday.

Next week: Asteroids.

Note: I’m not sure if I’ll be able to post on Saturday or if it will have to be pushed to Sunday. Family shenanigans. You know the holiday drill 🙂

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Muse-inks: The dream vs. reality (check)

On my way to London in August, I was listening to the radio when I heard Beck’s “Dreams.” It’s been on my playlist since.

I don’t know if it’s the driving foot-drum or the grunge-y guitar. I love this song.

Dreams have always been a BIG part of my process. I get ideas from them. I percolate writing ideas into concepts through daydreaming. I studied shamanism for a few years wherein the primary mystic delivery system is dream.

Not incidentally, my characters often receive insight from dreams.

I have dreams for my writing career, too. I may have mentioned them a few times on this blog.

Particularly since “winning” NaNoWriMo my first time out in 2013 and subsequently joining the (some would say) cult of word count tracking, I’ve learned that I’m capable of more than I thought in terms of writing productivity.

I share my productivity, or lack thereof, with you each month on my Next chapter updates.

If you look closely, though. I don’t write a heck of a lot.

My daily drafting would probably average about 250-300 words, or around a page. Sometimes I have a good day and I write 500 or a 1000 words, but some days I don’t write at all. I fit it in where I can around work, blogging, television, and the stuff of life like laundry, gardening, family dinners, and housework.

I’d like to think that if I had the opportunity to write “full time” I’d jump at it. But I *know* I wouldn’t be writing for 7.5 hours a day, five days a week. I’d probably write in the afternoons, primarily. I could still get a shit-load of writing done in that time, though.

I think.

A friend of mine shared that she’d written a thousand words in an hour on her current work in progress. That’s impressive. Other authors I follow report similar results, or better. Several of them with much more demanding lives than I have.

Catherine Ryan Howard recently blogged about her year of amazing productivity (watch Tipsday for that post) and I’ve shared a past post by Kameron Hurley, in which she wrote marathon 10k weekends because that was the only time her day job and life allowed her to have uninterrupted writing time.

Can I do that? I honestly don’t know. I’ve never had to.

A couple of other authors I follow (Marie Bilodeau and Jim C. Hines) have recently made the brave leap into full time writing. It takes more dedication than you think it will to make the writing life work.

I’ve been thinking about this again because I’m querying Initiate of Stone right now. If an agent decided to offer me representation at this point, I wouldn’t be able to leave the day job and focus on writing. If my agent was so lucky as to get me a deal contingent on additional novels, I’d have to find a way to bull my way through everything, including my resistance, to get the work done.

Right now, I make the choice to spend Saturday (and sometimes Sunday) mornings with my mom. On my days off, I generally do that, too. It’s not a duty. It’s something I want to do. Tomorrow, I’ll be taking her out shopping. She’s my best bud as well as my mom.

All the social media stuff that backs up during the week falls into the weekend as well. And preparing my weekly curation posts.

I let this happen.

Part of me says this is the way it is. Another part of me says that the day job gives me the excuse/luxury/lack of urgency to be lazy. I don’t need to grind out words to meet a deadline and pay this month’s (or heaven forbid, last month’s) bills.

I’m also thinking about my potential productivity as I head into another NaNoWriMo while I’m working, and travelling for work, during November. My only goal for this year is to beat last year’s 28,355 word effort.

In August, due to my two and a half week trip delivering training, I gave up posting on the weekends. I think I’m going to do that in November, too, even though I’ll have Can-Con sessions to report on. Y’all will just have to be patient 🙂

I continue to discover that I can do more than I think I can when I have the proper motivation.

If nothing else, I’ll try and see what happens.

The dream is still alive despite the reality check.

What about you, dear reader? Will your dreams survive the reality check?

Until next week! *waves*

Muse-inks

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, August 2-8, 2015

This was the big controversy this week: Homme de Plume (now in convenient hashtag #hommedeplume). One woman author queries using a male name and gets more requests for partials and fulls than when using her name.

Canadian author, Marie Bilodeau responds.

Kameron Hurley offers a reality check on the necessity and nature of writing with a day job.

Then Chuck Wendig posted this: Starving is a terrible condition for making art.

Most common writing mistakes, part 43: Too many exclamation points! K.M. Weiland, Helping writers become authors.

Show, don’t tell, matters in foreshadowing, too. Katie’s Wednesday vlog.

Christine Frazier looks at five kinds of societies for your novel on The Better Novel Project.

Donald Maass discusses how to write about unnameable emotions on Writer Unboxed.

Elizabeth Stephens introduces us to the #weneeddiversebooks hashtag on Writer Unboxed.

Veronica Sicoe writes about how perfectionism is murdering your muse.

Stephen King shares 22 lessons on how to be a great writer on The Business Insider.

John Scalzi shares his creative process on lifehacker.

Catherine Ryan Howard answers the question, how many drafts did you do?

Chris Winkle discusses the process of troubleshooting when you’re stuck. Mythcreants.

Can a virtuous character be interesting? The New York Times.

22 authors, including K.M. Weiland and Roz Morris, share their greatest writing challenges. Become a Writer Today.

A genre takes flight: Science Fiction. The Library Journal. The good news: epic fantasy still sells. The bad news: the dark stuff, not so much . . .

Tor.com shares 20 time travel classics.

Ten Old English insults that could be band names. Anglophenia.

Geekster Ink Shares twenty images of women in practical armour.

Tipsday

The Red Band Deadpool trailer is def NSFW.

Tipsday will be beck next Tuesday with more Writerly Goodness.

Tipsday: Writerly Goodness found on the interwebz, Feb 1-7, 2015

Most common writing mistakes, number 38: Irrelevant endings. K.M. Weiland. Helping Writers Become Authors.

Katie helps you create a more compelling backstory in three minutes 🙂

Roz Morris posts about what to do when feedback leads you astray.

Then Roz visited Jane Friedman’s blog to offer tips on how to recognize when backstory is sabotaging your novel.

Chuck Wendig shares the emotional milestones of writing a novel. Don’t think I ever left the sphincter-clenching panic stage 😛

How and why Marie Bilodeau made the leap to full time writer.

How Kameron Hurley hacked her writing process with 10,000 word-a-day marathons. I don’t think I could do this, but I find process to be endlessly fascinating.

Kameron, again, on how we can build a more pragmatic SF&F dialogue.

Why J.J. Marsh doesn’t want your free book.

Open Minds Quarterly answers the question, what makes a writing contest legitimate?

How Harper Lee’s long-lost sequel was found. The Atlantic.

15 thought-provoking SF films that are worth your time. Taste of cinema.

George R.R. Martin explains why The Winds of War isn’t on HarperCollins’ 2015 list (yet). The Daily Dot.

And here is the season 5 trailer for Game of Thrones:

 

I’m putting this in Tipsday because. My favourite song from the Fifth Element soundtrack. I had no idea it could be sung without electronic assistance O.O

 

See you on Thoughty Thursday!

Tipsday

Ad Astra 2014: It’s a wrap!

Doctor Who Welcomes You

The TARDIS and a Dalek formed the welcoming committee

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

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

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

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

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

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

What I did do (aside from the sessions)

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

Patricia Briggs

Patricia Briggs

Julie Czerneda

Julie Czerneda

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

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

Had a tonne of fun.

Not bad.

Think I’m going back next year 🙂

The book haul

The book haul

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

Ad Astra, Day 1: Writing when you have a day job

Panelists: Marie Bilodeau; Karen Danylak; Ada Hoffman; Joel Sutherland

AH: Scheduling your writing is like another job in itself.

JS: Now that I have kids, I use my time more efficiently. I writer on my lunch hour at work.

KD: I’m in a similar situation, but I can’t write at work. I have to carve out time elsewhere. I can’t write every day either. How many of you manage to write every day?

JS: It’s not always a possibility.

AH: Some authors say that you must write everyday, but I find that advice can’t apply equally to everyone.

JS: I get depressed if I can’t, though.

AH: I think the advice might be meant to counteract the people who claim to be writers but never actually write.

JS: I commonly do what I can do. I ignore everyone else while I’m writing. I once attended a reading by a single mom with seven kids who wrote her first book on her bus commute. [Mel’s note: Joel later supplied the author’s name: Martine Leavitt.]

MB: You do what you have to, especially when your publisher has a contract for two books with six month deadlines. I did my research. I used to write in the morning. Life changed and now I write in the evenings. I do write every day. It may not be much, but I write something every day.

AH: If I’ve been away from writing for a couple of days, it takes a while for me to get back into it. I try to write every day and I find I miss it when I can’t.

KD: I beat myself up for a while. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for your choices.

MB: I burned out after Heirs of a Broken Land was complete. I couldn’t write for a while after.

JS: Full time writers often have a rich spouse or some other financial supports to rely on. A friend of mine got a $25,000 advance and I was jealous until I realized how far $25,000 goes.

AH: And what about health insurance?

KD: So the plan is to marry rich. Bose noise cancelling headphones really help me to focus. I put them on while my three kids are in gymnastics. Yes I’m that person. You have to learn to write anywhere. Don’t let Mom Guilt get you. That’s the worst. I have to leave the house sometimes, or before you know it, I’m doing laundry. I made up a Tuesday night course so I could get out of the house and write.

AH: I set myself a goal. I have to write so many words before I get to do the laundry.

MB: Writing in the evenings is more difficult than writing in the morning.

KD: “Who dropped you on your head and broke your ‘NO’ button?” You have to learn to say no.

JS: It helps if you don’t have friends.

KD: What’s your Kyrptonite (outside the day job)?

MB: Zombie novels. Netflix. Anything shiny. I write by candlelight so I don’t get distracted.

AH: I’m in a long distance relationship. When my boyfriend comes over nothing gets done.

JS: Relationships. Kids, I love reality TV.

KD: Sometimes I binge-watch something, but I have given up TV in general.

MB: What about binge writing? I’ve written for three days straight before. You get ridiculous word counts. I go to a convent, a silent retreat. They provide you with meals but otherwise leave you alone. I talk to Giant Jesus. And one time, one of the nuns scratched my ass.

KD: Sometimes I binge write, like when I’m away a cons. I’d recommend Sherry Peters, author and coach. She has an ebook: Silencing your inner saboteur. Stay off social media.

[Mel’s note: After the session, I approached Marie, whom I’d met years earlier when she came to Sudbury. We reconnected and she said the nicest thing, that she was fascinated by my journey (!) Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to meet up with her again before the convention was over. Online stalkage begins!]

Ad Astra Day 1: Myth-information in modern fantasy

Friday night session: Myth-information in modern fantasy.

Panel: Marie Bilodeau; Chadwick Ginther; Jen Frankel; Stephen B. Pearl; Katrina Guy

How do authors incorporate traditional lore and myths into their modern-day fantasy settings? Is it possible to make a witch burning pertinent in the twenty-first century? Discuss these, and other inflammatory questions, in this panel.

Sadly, I entered this session a bit late because of my travel turnarounds and check-in delays (and the fact that my room was possibly the furthest removed from the convention centre it could have been :P).

But here’s what I caught:

CG: Manitoba is the province in which there have been the most reported sasquatch sightings.

JF: Native legends are such a rich source of material. The Six Nations Reserve. Hoodoos.

SBP: In Europe and specifically the British Isles, the legends are equally rich. Take the stories of the Bogart.

MB: Why do we, as writers, depend so heavily on mythology? Are we lazy?

SBP: We’re tapping into something universal. Joseph Campbell was a smart man. Think what you will, but look at Robert Jordan’s work, particularly Dragon Reborn. The protagonist is comprised of bits and pieces of multiple mythologies, including Christianity and modern (Superman).

KG: In Simcoe County, there is this swamp which is reported to be haunted. The story goes that a monstrous baby was abandoned there. His spirit now haunts the swamp.

SBP: From the European tradition again, the trope of the unbaptised child recurs. In one instance, the person he haunts names him “Billy Bones,” and it turns out that was all he wanted: a name. Once he was named, his spirit became content and he disappeared.

JF: Where does urban legend cross the line into folktale? When does folktale become myth?

CG: In Winnipeg, there is the urban legend of “the hanging tree” out back of one of the courthouses. This was supposedly where the criminals were hung, but it’s really just a tree where an old tire swing was hung. The rope burn in the trunk was all it took for another, darker story to take hold in the imagination.

Q: There are real figures, such as the Black Donnelleys, that have become legend, tantamount to myth. What is it about these figures that attracts us? Is it the drama of their stories?

SBP: You have to be careful when you draw from myth or legend to stick to the principle, but make the situation suit the world of your novel. For example, I used a Japanese legend, rokurokubi, a demon which is a disembodied flying head. My work is paranormal, and I changed the flying head into the astral projection of a flying head, sent out to terrorize victims.

Q: What about the prevalence of mash-ups in Canadian horror and fantasy? For example, Jesuit priests and vampires?

MB: Myth informs our stories. My educational background is in religious and cultural studies.

SBP: To look at a modern interpretation of classical myth, look at The Almighty Johnsons.

CG: Also the current storyline in Thor comics.

JF: Drawing on myth is about the impact is has on us. For example, “everything comes in threes.” The supernatural tells us something deep about human nature. Mine those lessons for impact.

Q: Is it a challenge to be “boxed in” by mythology?

JF: The traditional, Voudoun zombie has been totally lost in the more modern “plague” zombie, or Romero’s zombies. Authors writing zombie stories now are somewhat constrained by what other authors have done with the trope.

MB: With fantasy, some people say it’s tame. It’s not a political genre. Science fiction is supposedly the avant garde genre, but if you dig down, it still draws on the same material.

CG: Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey is cannon, if sexist.

SBP: The foundational myths go back as far as Aristotle.

KG: Fairy tales aren’t just Disney. I’ve visited a church where they have plaques from their sister church, half-way around the world, and stones from an ancient basilica. These are talismans as much as they are artefacts. We’re in touch with the fantastic every day. We walk past it and fail to recognize it.

JF: We can look back to connect the dots. The historical record. Why is “such and such” considered true? The writer translates this. What makes your character who they are? What makes us (humans) what we are?

SBF: The gift of perspective. Does the rabbit think the fox is “evil”? Extend that into your story’s mythology: is Dracula “evil”?

Q: What do you think of the trend of rewriting the classics with modern horror tropes? For example, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies?

CG: It’s a fun premise, but at the moment, it’s overdone.

MB: Let’s each give examples of our favourite authors who use mythology to finish off.

KG: Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and the Kane chronicles. Tanya Huff.

SBP: Jim Butcher. The Time Life Enchanted Worlds series of books.

JF: 30 Indian Legends; Grimm’s Fairytales; Arthurian Legend.

CG: Gaiman’s American Gods; The Eddas; Song of the Vikings.

MB: The storytelling tradition, in all its variations.

Ad Astra 2014: The journey there (back again comes later!)

It’s been a challenging week. Having thrown my back out last Sunday, I was bed-bound Monday, but there was work to be done and I decided to go into work Tuesday through Thursday, hobbling like Quasimodo. I’ve blogged those lessons separately.

All week, I’ve been worried that I wouldn’t be able to make it to Ad Astra at all. But here I am, and I’m having a great time.

I had booked Friday off work so I could travel down. The opening sessions weren’t until 7 pm, so I figured that I wouldn’t have to leave until 1 or 2 pm to get here in time. I’d be able to have breakfast with Mom to make up for missing our standing date on Saturdays.

Friday morning, we had a power outage. It’s important that you know this. It has an impact. Later.

At noon, after breakfast and puzzling, I returned home and was going to call the car rental place to come pick me up, and pack while I waited. Unfortunately, I had to wait out some physical discomfort first.

I ended up calling them at 1 pm and was told that they’d be able to pick me up in a half an hour. I packed, as I had planned, and waited.

Turns out the driver went to the wrong residence (we have a couple of apartments up the hill and everyone goes there first).

So I finally got the car, signed the rental agreement, and got it home. It did not have heated seats as I’d hoped. My back would have appreciated a little heat for the drive.
The only things I had left to do were to check the weather for the weekend and to print out my Google maps route.

The problem was that the internet was out. I went into the basement and tried to reset the cable modem. I gave it the magic three tries, in fact, before I gave up. By this time, it was 2 pm and it was starting to rain.

Since the temperature was hovering around zero degrees, the rain was supposed to turn into freezing rain before long. I did not want to be driving in that.

So I called Mom and her internet was fine, so I packed the car, went over, and printed out what I needed. Unfortunately, her printer was out of colour ink and wouldn’t print the maps in grey scale. Plus, Google kept giving me instructions that included pulling several U-turns. A map wouldn’t help very much with that.

At 2:35, I was off, and it rained steadily all the way down.

I’d never actually been in this area of Toronto, well Richmond Hill, before, and so I just trusted that the U-turns were errors on Google’s part and tried to follow the directions otherwise.

Turns out that if a turn is greater than 90 degrees, Google calls it a U-turn. Still, I made the journey in four hours and found the hotel largely without incident

It took me about an hour to search fruitlessly for a parking space (there was also a medical conference, a tennis tournament, and at least one hockey tournament here), check in, finally find a parking spot (next to the bin), and make my way to the registration area.

nicebutsmall1The room here is small, and set a half-floor down, but it has a heated bathroom floor and really, for one person, it’s all I need. I’ve just been spoiled travelling for my employer where upgrades are de rigueur.

I basically dropped everything at the room and hobbled.

 

nicebutsmall2nicebutsmall3

Registration was easy and I got a lovely little package of gifts including a book, Flashpoint trading cards (I think – it could be a booster pack for a game), and some consuite drink vouchers.

By then, I’d missed the opening ceremonies and the walking tour of the facilities. I attended two panels that night, saw, but did not approach Robert J. Sawyer (he was often talking with someone and I didn’t want to intrude), reconnected with Marie Bilodeau, who gave me an awesome compliment, and then had a very late supper while I listened to Klingon karaoke.

Just to be clear, people were not singing karaoke in Klingon, that was just the name of the event.

When I got back to my room, I discovered the microwave did not work. Another point against my sore back as I’d have to do without a warm wheat bag for the night. I got that fixed up this morning.

I’m going to begin blogging the sessions I attended, but only on the weekends. I have to go back to work next week, so I will not be spending my writing time with further bloggage. I’ve had to pace myself because of the back, so I shouldn’t be blogging Ad Astra forever. Just a few weeks. Probably enough to see me through to the next conference 😉

So that’s how I got here.

More fun to come.

Words in the Wilderness

July 23-29, 2010.

This conference was the darling of the Sudbury Hypergraphic Society.  While I did not attend all the events, the workshop with Marie Bilodeau and Jennifer Rouse Barbeau was great.  Hosted at Music and Film in Motion, the session was an intimate affair with wonderful insights into process and what it takes to get published.  Jennifer was about to have her first novel, Swampy Jo, published through Your Scrivener Press.

Marie in particular intrigued me with how she broke into publishing and how hard she had to work to get there.  Starting off with success in e-books, Marie’s first novel, Princess of Light, was so successful that the publisher decided to move it to their print line.  The only condition was that she had to have the remaining two novels in her trilogy written and ready for editing ASAP.

Princess was published February 29, 2009 and the second novel, Warrior of Darkness, was released in July of the same year.  Sorceress of Shadows came out in April of 2010, which will give you an idea of how quickly the work had to be done.  Marie front-loaded the work and still managed to write a phenomenally successful series.  One of her secrets: when necessary, she retreated to a local convent to focus on the task of writing.

I’ve since “friended” Marie on Facebook and follow her blog and adventures.  She’s published two more novels, Destiny’s Blood and Destiny’s Fall.  The latter is just out in March (see Amazon for details) from Dragon Moon Press.

Recently, she wrote that she had another date with “giant Jesus.”  This was a reference to another personal writing retreat she had planned at the convent.

When she got there though, she discovered the convent secularized, and dubbed it the no-longer-convent convent.

Have you discovered anyone through a conference or workshop who inspired you?