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 🙂

Hell month, meet the week of epic . . . stuff

A.K.A. Where the hell has Mel been?

To preface this, admittedly lengthy, post, I have to admit that my “problems” are all of the first world variety. Also, as with all problems, I’m generally the author of my own misery. Even with events over which I have no control, I can still control my reaction to them. While I’m usually good at this, occasionally things stack up in such a way that I end up overwhelmed and unable to function. Then, I simply have to reposition, admit that the universe is trying to tell me something, and adjust my attitude appropriately.

Sometimes that means letting a few things go for a bit.

That’s the short version.

The long version follows.

What I thought I Mothers’ Day weekend would look like

At the beginning of this month, all I knew about Mothers’ Day weekend was that a friend was doing a Twitterview on Saturday at noon, and that I would be heading out to my sister-in-law’s for Mothers’ Day supper Sunday afternoon.

Outside my house

Outside my house

The city has started to work on Regent Street, the main traffic artery that borders the west side of my property. This has been a minor inconvenience, but since they’ve been tearing up a different part of the street every day, it’s been difficult to know which detour will actually get me and Phil home after work.

This municipal project will be ongoing until the snow flies and the ground frost shuts things down. I’d accepted the inconvenience. This work has to be done. All the catch basins, storm drains, and water supply lines will be replaced. The traffic and street lights will be replaced. It’s just going to be very dusty and noisy in the interim.

Construction panoramic

Google’s auto-awesome is so cool. It made a panoramic shot out of my pictures!

My mother is getting some work done at her house. The roof of the carport, upon which a deck had been built years ago, was leaking, and in a driving rain, water would run down the wall in her entry and on two occasions, it has trickled through to the light fixture in the hall and burst the bulb.

Construction at Mom's

Construction at Mom’s

She got several quotes and settled on a solution which involved removing the wooden deck and the gravel and tar beneath, sloping the surface for drainage purposes, installing cement backer board, new membrane, a thin layer of concrete, a non-slip surface, and new, aluminium railings. All of the new materials will be water-tight, up-to-code, and weigh much less than the layers of tar, gravel, and the substantial wooden deck that was there.

On May first, I signed up for an introductory month with myoga.ca. Having thrown my back out last month, it was important that I start doing something to get back into shape. Though I haven’t attended a tonne of classes and have had to rearrange my schedule a few times, I’ve already seen the benefits with regard to the way I feel. I’m strengthening my core and stretching my joints. It’s a good thing.

Early in the month, I had also looked into changing insurance providers (house and automobile). I found a quote that Phil and I were happy with, and had planned to call on May 10 to finalize things.

So I expected a busy weekend. I just wasn’t prepared for a confluence of events to derail my plans.

Complications arise

At the end of last month, I applied for membership in, and was accepted into, SF Canada. I soon learned through the listserv that the online annual general meeting (AGM) would be held on the afternoon of May 10, starting at 2 pm. No problem, I thought, there will be ample time for me to attend both the Twitterview and the AGM and still get the insurance finalized.

Then a friend’s spouse died and the viewing/funeral was also scheduled for Saturday, at 1 pm. At that point, I knew I’d have to miss the Twitterview, but I had to go support my friend. I also set aside the insurance. Though there might have been time, I didn’t want to cram too many things into one day.

The final straw was good thing. The weekend previous, I finally ordered the adjustable desk I’ve been thinking about for a long time. The company, Candesk, is Canadian and offered the best value for the quality and price. I had only paid for standard ground shipping, but shortly received a notification from FedEx indicating that they were handling the shipping.

I can only think that the Guy Viner, the man behind Candesk, upgraded my shipping. Many thanks for that grace.

I got the call on Friday from my mom. The desk had arrived. I emailed Phil and suggested that we not spend all of what was already promising to be a busy weekend dealing with the deskage, but Phil wanted to get to it, he said, so we wouldn’t be tied up beyond the weekend.

Plans change

Upon arriving home, I promptly cancelled my yoga class, and got to work emptying out my existing desk. The plan was for Phil to set it up in his office space downstairs. He needed the real estate, he said. Phil also got to work emptying out his old desk, dismantling it, and taking the bits out to the pick up for a future trip to the dump.

Then, he took a nap.

After a brief break, I continued the emptiage, storing the contents of my desk in tubs and boxes and in stacks on the dining room table and coffee table.

I decided that I wouldn’t go online that night.

Out of the box

Out of the box

Mom was going out for brunch with friends and cancelled our Saturday morning breakfast date. So that morning, after a breakfast of bacon and eggs (there have to be some compensations), Phil and I got to work dismantling my big desk and moving its parts into the basement. We started to put my new desk together, but I then had to get ready to go to the viewing.

Upon my return, I promptly fired up my computer, temporarily relocated to the dining room table, and joined the SF Canada AGM. It was three hours. It was also very interesting, and I may have gotten myself noted for a committee or two. No word yet on when said committees will be struck, who will be on them, or what work will be required.

The desk assembled

The desk assembled

Phil had, in the meantime, finished assembling the desk, and after the AGM, we relocated it in its destined position.

I then started working on rearranging the remainder of the office, moving book shelves, dusting, and emptying out the wooden filing cabinet I got from Kim last year.

That jewel has been sitting in the living room, serving as storage for CDs, DVDs, and board games. Now it would be moving into its proper place, in my office.

I determined that blogging was probably not going to happen that weekend.

Checking email, I noticed that I’d received a request from the editor of Bastion Magazine for further revisions to my short story. I made a note and hoped not to forget.

On Sunday, after French toast with Mom, I resumed the work. I attached the computer cradle and cable minder to the desk and set up my computer. Phil had to help me move the filing cabinet into the office. Then came the work of trying to get all the stuff I’d unpacked from the old desk into the filing cabinet.

The desk at sitting height

The desk at sitting height

The desk at standing height

The desk at standing height

My old/Phil's new desk

My old/Phil’s new desk

I didn’t get it all done before leaving for my sister-in-law’s.

Mothers’ Day dinner was lovely and the day was so pleasant that we ended up sitting outside until the sun had almost set. We also got a bucket of potatoes and some eggs. My sister-in-law’s partner is a farmer 🙂

We got home in time to watch Game of Thrones, and then I set to on the revisions to my story.

Off to the races

The week at worked promised to be a hectic one: meetings, overviews of the new performance management process and program, training, the onset of monitoring, and working group meetings.

Hectic might be an understatement.

It was also raining. All week long.

When we got home from work, I went into the basement to put a couple of winter coats in storage and find Phil’s spring jacket. I also found an inch of water on the floor.

I later confirmed with my mother, who had lived in the house since she and my father bought it from my grandparents when I was two years old, that it was the first flood she’d ever known about. The first flood in 42 years.

I grabbed a mop and bucket while Phil got the sump pump in order. Though we’d had it for 15 or 16 years (since a basement repair required its installation), we’d never had to use it. The pipe expelled into the garden, and Phil had to dig it up and extend it to the driveway.

He temporarily rigged up an old vacuum cleaner hose, ran across to the hardware store, and got the tubing and clamps he required.

Phil later explained that with our unusually long, cold, and snowy winter, the ground frost was high enough to prevent the water from running through as it normally would.

Monday night, work on my office resumed at a much slower pace, I went to yoga, and then revised my story one last time for Bastion.

On Tuesday, we had a vet appointment for Nuala. Good news there. Nu is on a reduction plan for her prednisone, and her ears have continued in fair health.

The contract for Bastion arrived and I filled it out and returned it.

By Thursday night, I had almost everything sorted, but by then, the week of epic stuff had taken so much out of me, I got sick. Go figure.

I made good use of my day at home and finalized the insurance arrangements.

And today, I was ready to get back on the social media horse and resume blogging.

So that’s the story of my epic week of stuff, a week that wore me out more than hell month. Some of it was good, and some of it was bad, but all of it was epic. It’s always a mixed bag here at writerly goodness.

The next chapter: April 2014 update

The Next ChapterIf March was a little weird, April was a whole lot weird.

Lemme ‘splain.

I abandoned the thought of keeping to any kind of “schedule” with regard to my writing. At the end of last month, I had drafts for Apprentice of Wind and Figments completed, or so I thought.

So you’ll understand my surprise when I went to print off Figments, that I hadn’t, in fact, finished it. A few hundred words fixed that up, but boy was I embarrassed.

Then, once I had AoW and Figments printed, I heard Initiate of Stone calling my name. Even though I haven’t heard back from all my betas yet, I needed to do a little work on IoS.

I just finished reading Roz Morris’s first Nail Your Novel, and before that, I read Victoria Mixon’s Art and Craft of Story. I wanted to do a combination approach with each draft, using Roz’s form of beat sheet and Victoria’s holographic structure.

With IoS, I had previously eliminated a POV character. Now I’ve decided to remove her entirely and give the specifics of her plotline to other POV characters. It was something others had recommended and I resisted. I guess I just needed time and space away from the ms to realize the truth.

And it wasn’t half so difficult (read fraught) as I thought it would be.

So I knew that I would not be doing a lot with regard to “new words” in April because I’d mostly be focusing on working with my printed drafts and most of the new work would be on my blog.

Then I edited a couple of stories for submission, but the net new words for that was just over three hundred.

Once again, I find myself surprised.

April's word count

I am still eternally grateful to Jamie Raintree for this fabulous tool

Total word count for the month: 11, 612 (!), 10,930 of that from blogging alone.

Amaze-face.

Mind you, I have been blogging all those juicy sessions from Ad Astra. It’s transcription, but it counts.

Here’s the round up for the year so far:

Month Total Blog Initiate of Stone Apprentice of Wind Figments Gerod and the Lions Short Stories
January 11,532 7,114 0 2,781 207 821 609
February 9,789 6,303 0 47 308 1,296 1,835
March 10,781 8,193 0 333 1,488 312 455
April 11,612 10,930 0 0 381 0 301

So this has been an interesting month, and the next few promise to be as well.

I won’t be actively querying until I have revisions done on IoS, so that’s on hold, again, too.

I did receive my contributors’ copy of Sulphur IV, the literary journal of Laurentian University. I have three poems in there. The CV has been updated.

The Sudbury Writers’ Guild, with its slick new web site, is moving forward with its anthology, so I’ve set aside some work for that.

I made a decision at the end of March. I’d been an associate member of the League of Canadian Poets since 1999, but I’d never gone to its annual conference or AGM. So I decided this year not to renew my membership and instead invest in SF Canada and the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association (home of the Auroras).

It’s been interesting so far.

As far as what’s coming up, Baen Books has a short fiction contest, and I’ve just become aware that Lightspeed has an open reading period for Women Destroy Fantasy.

So there you are.

Progress continues to be made.

How is your writing life going?