Top 10 Takeaways from #SiWC16 (Surrey International Writers’ Conference)

Just back from my first foray into the world of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. I could never encapsulate everything I learned, so I’m giving you my top ten takeaways, the top statements/comments/ pieces of information that really “stuck” with me. They are all paraphrased.

sawyerOne – Books that Endure

The books that endure are the ones that get talked about. The ones that make you think. (Robert J. Sawyer, Books with Buzz presentation)



dugoniTwo – Describing Characters

You will never be able to describe a character as well as your reader can imagine it. (Robert Dugoni, 7 Deadly Sins presentation)



Three – Paint Sex Scenes Clearly

A sex scene is a strong emotional scene, which needs to be painted as simply as possible.diana

What’s not on the page is as important as what is. (Diana GabaldonWriting Sex Scenes, Master Class)




sussanaFour – It’s All About Family Ties

Give auxiliary roles to members of the character’s family. It makes it easy for the reader to relate to them. (Susanna Kearsley, Family Ties)

Five – There are Interesting Advantages to Writing Short

Short forms of fiction don’t have to have a beginning, middle and end. (Darren Groth, Literature’s Little Brother presentation)

Six – What is the Story About?

In a sense the story isn’t about what you write in the back blurb. It’s about what people will talk about after they read it. It’s about the controversy. (Robert J. Sawyer)

Seven – Our Interest in Sex is Hard-Wired

We are hard-wired to be interested in sex. It’s part of who we are. So sex is an important part of a story. (Diana Gabaldon)

Eight – Avoid Bland Writing

The problem with modern writer critique groups is that we tend to whitewash(my word) our manuscripts to please everyone in the group. The result is that we write a bland manuscript that offends no one. But our job as writers is not to write something blandly acceptable to everyone. Our job is to write something that a small segment of people will love. (Robert J. Sawyer)

Nine – Red Herrings Can be Added

Red Herrings can be put into the story during revisions (Owen Laukkanen, Chekhov’s Gun Panel)

Ten – Orphans can be Limiting

You can create a character who is an orphan, but you lose a lot of opportunities when you do. (Susanna Kearsley)

One part Halloween, One part Christmas, All parts funny …

A Highland Ghost for Christmas

highlandghost_cvr_medJilted by her fiancé, librarian Maddy Jacobson is nursing a broken heart, when her best friend gives her an early Christmas present. Intended to be a fun, psychic reading in a spooky, tea house, the gift turns out to be life changing. Maddy becomes haunted by a mischievous, Highland ghost.

Ruggedly handsome, Cullen Macfie, the Highlander, has been dead for over three centuries, and never in all those years has he been so attracted to a woman, as he is to Maddy. He falls hopelessly in love and decides to woo her.

Can there be a future for a librarian and a naughty, Highland ghost?

A Highland Ghost for Christmas is a sweet, romantic comedy guaranteed to warm the cockles of your heart, make you laugh out loud and leave you craving a man in a kilt … and shortbread, of course.

Click on the cover for the buy link.

An African Steampunk Set in the Future? Why Not? Creative Ink – Day Two

I’ve been meeting lots of writers here, mostly working in  speculative fiction, science fiction, fantasy and urban fantasy. But I did chat with E.R Brown the mystery writer as well.

It’s a friendly and comfortable event. People are dressed down and the vibe is enthusiastic. Everyone has a story. Sandra Wickham organized the whole event and it’s run entirely by volunteers. Impressive.

I’ve attended two workshops so far and they were both excellent.

  1. Carrie Vaughn – Writing Series

“Carrie Vaughn is the New York Time Bestselling author of close to twenty novels and over seventy short stories. She’s best known for the Kitty Norville urban fantasy series about a werewolf who hosts a talk radio advice show for supernatural beings — the series currently includes thirteen novels and a collection of short stories — and the superhero novels in the Golden Age saga. She also writes the Harry and Marlowe steampunk short stories about an alternate nineteenth century that makes use of alien technology. “(from her website)

51CUbn1eVOL._AC_US160_ She suggested studying what we like and don’t like about series. By doing that, she came up with seven main points:

1) summarize as little as possible,

2) the main character needs to grow and change in every book,

3) the main character has to be the kind of person who “stuff” happens to,

4) don’t write the same book every time,

5) the stories  need to be true to the characters,

6) create a strong supporting cast (strong enough that the reader imagines them having their own stories some day)

7) the stories need goals and a series arc.

2.  Panel Interactive Discussion on Building Empires – with Kevin Harkness, Brenda Carre, Krista Wallace and Setsu Usume

There were about twenty people in the audience and four in the panel. Together we created an empire.61v9nK04MmL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_ The process was not only fun but educational. One idea would lead to another. There were only two rules adopted from improv: no blocking and no wimping. Within a couple minutes we had an African, Steampunk  empire set in the future. And we went from there.


@Creative Ink Festival – Day One #CIFest16

Having a great time at the Creative Ink Festival. Meeting a lot of writers, artists and small publishers.


Other tables in my room:








Find me @Creative Ink Festival – Fri-Sun (May 6-8)

I’ll be attending the Creative Ink Festival for Writers, Readers and Artists in Vancouver this weekend (May 6-8th – in Vancouver). I’d love to see you there.

The Venue

TheDelta Burnaby Hotel and Conference Centre,  4331 Dominion Street in Burnaby (off Highway 1 at the Willingdon exit).

My Table

I’ll be at my table Friday, Saturday and Sunday in the Dealer Room located behind the registration desk. The room is open to the public. You don’t need to buy a conference pass. Just come on in and visit with me.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ Reading

I’m scheduled to do a reading on Friday night at 9pm in the Venezia Room. You need to buy a conference pass for this ($80.00).

The Conference

From the website:

“Who is running this thing?

My name is Sandra Wickham and I’m a writer. For eleven years I promoted one of the biggest bodybuilding and fitness competition in the country because I was passionate about competing and the sport and wanted to share that passion with others while helping the sport to grow. I’m just as passionate about the literary and arts world and want to promote an event to share that passion. I’ll do my best to produce a great event that people will love. I’m not doing it all on my own, however. I have to thank Randy McCharles of When Words Collide for his help and inspiration in getting this festival started. There is such great support in the community for which I am grateful and many people have been helping me behind the scenes. I’ll also be recruiting volunteers to help the festival run as smoothly as possible!

What should I expect to see at the festival?

The festival will be a mix of what you’d find at a conference and a convention. There will be panels with several people discussing topics, as well as single person presentations. We will also have readings by authors, displays by artists, an expo of people selling their goodies (books, art, etc), as well as Blue Pencil sessions where writers can get feedback on their writing from professionals. Expect to come into a warm, welcoming and fun environment, while you learn more about your craft, network with people in the industry and make new connections!”

I’m nervous. Always am before a conference. And this is the first one I’ve attended alone. Wish me luck.

In honor of the festival, I’m putting my first Vancouver Blues e-book on sale. Only 99 cents for three days!

Buy Link


Saying Goodbye to Palm Springs

Proudly standing beside my daughter, urban fantasy writer and Rone award nominee J.C. McKenzie

Final Notes:

There is a Rat Pack feel to downtown Palm Springs. Hollywood stars mark the sidewalk. Palm Trees sway in the desert wind. The hot dry desert air scented by the Salton Sea. An eclectic mix of restaurants dominate the scene: Italian tratorrias, Beligian Pomme Frites, Mexican and all-American Steakhouses to name a few. The area is small, but truly distinct and memorable.

I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel, which would be a great setting for a murder mystery. It had a thin-and-worn upper class feel to it. The pool was divine. The daytime temps were over a hundred.

I met lots of people at the conference and learned new things, which is always good. It was the first InD’scribe big event, so it had a few glitches, but I’m sure they’ll iron them out by next year. They are a dynamic company dedicated to promoting Indie and Small press published authors.

More pictures for the memory book:

It was great meeting Stevie, one of my reviewers who loves books. Great lady.
It was great meeting Stephanie Lodes, one of my reviewers. A great lady who loves reading and went back and read my first book after reviewing my second. She wisely said Sadie (my heroine) should stay out of Venice as she keeps getting in trouble there:)




#InD’Scribe Conference-Time with Readers and Writers

IMG_4021Judy, my first visitor loves Romantic Suspense. Yay!!!!

 IMG_20150918_112257More visitors.

3 Photos – #InD’Scribe Conference Set Up Day

Getting organized.
Getting organized.
J.C. McKenzie (aka my daughter)'s side of the table
J.C. McKenzie (aka my daughter)’s side of the table
We give kisses away free. Hershey kisses that is.
We give kisses away free. Hershey kisses that is.