J.C. McKenzie (aka my daughter) and I went to Word Vancouver to interact with readers and writers of all stripes. We got soaked to the gills, frozen to the bone and exhausted beyond the redemption capabilities of a Pumpkin Spice late, but we had fun. PJ came along as security and kept us out of trouble.
We covered everything but ourselves in plastic and we sold a few books, but please don’t ask about ROI.
We left the event early and made a hasty retreat to the ferry terminal to get back to our island. Amazed at our good fortune of being able to drive right onto the ferry (which happens only in fairy, ferry tales) we hunkered down in our soggy van to a one and half hour delay. The engines weren’t working. The captain said we were lucky. It could have happened out at sea.
It was one of those days, when all you could do was laugh, and the laughter was made richer by sharing it with people you love.
Well the good news is I haven’t worn my shirt inside out all week. Mind you, that’s only because it’s one of the three things I focus on every morning.
Launching my podcast, Blood, Sweat and Words, is frazzling. When I complete one task, five more appear. Some items are easy. Others , not so much. Imagine editing the sound of paper turning. That’s my life right now.
My First Recording Goes Wrong
It was the first day of recording for me. My very first. I had everything set for 9 a.m. my time. I went on Skype early and stared at the screen, willing it to be kind to me. I had my notes ready and a glass of water.
What could go wrong?
I thought about that. We had over 500 wild fires raging in the province so the air quality was deteriorating by the moment, but I figured I could handle that. It would only be a ten to twenty minute discussion and I had cough drops.
My nerves were frayed, but I had picked my daughter (aka J.C. McKenzie) for my first interview, so I expected it to be okay. Not only would she forgive me for whatever mistakes I made, she would make me laugh about them later.
So … what could go wrong?
At five to 9 I dialed J.C. on Skype. It rang once, twice and then …
Skype boot me out and told me to go see Microsoft. What the heck! The house phone rang. It never rings. I picked it up. My husband told me a new hose wouldn’t do, the mechanic said we need a thousand-dollar radiator. My cell phone rang. J.C. asked me why I hadn’t called her.
It’s now 9:00 a.m. I have my landline phone in one hand, my cell phone in the other and I’m staring at my computer screen which said — go talk to Microsoft. How could the universe deal me so many things at one precise moment?
I wanted to scream, but I had no time.
If I wrote this scene in a book my beta-readers would wince. No one would believe it. Too many aliens, as they say. It lacks believability. But yes, it happened to me.
End of story. The radiator is in the van. It took me twenty minutes to make Microsoft happy. And J.C. and I did record that day. As usual, she was funny, entertaining and informative. It’s the Sept. 28th episode: Science Geek to Author, btw.
What have I learned from this? To stop asking myself what could go wrong.
15 days … and counting.
My Mystery Weekend
On Friday I went to Victoria with two writing friends, Judy Hudson and Jodie Esche, to attend a “Summer Retreat” hosted by the western Canadian chapter of Sisters in Crime (SINC).
It was fantastic.
The night before the event we met downtown for a casual get-together at the famous pub, Swans. The room that was booked wasn’t available due to renovations so our group was cast out into the main pub with the blaring music. I nodded my head a lot:) as it was difficult to even get people’s names, in the noise. But we still had a good time.
We stayed at the Chateau Victoria.
We travelled by car, not horse, but I had to take a picture of this scene.
Our room was amazing! As I drank my morning coffee on our fourteenth floor balcony, I watched cruise ships in the harbor and people strolling around downtown. In the distance I could see Washington.
Here’s a bunch of us having a final breakfast together at the restaurant “Vista 18” at the top of the hotel, which overlooks all of Victoria.
The one day SINC retreat was held in the plush-beyond-words Magnolia Hotel. There were five sessions and they were all good. I’ll tell you about my favorite three:
“Inclusion Rider: Populating the 21st Century Novel”
A mystery novelist with an academic background, MacDonald gave us a lot to think about. She talked about the history of the genre, the slow acceptance of it in academic circles and the dynamics of the basic structure. While there is a well-worn mystery formula, it is constantly evolving. The writer needs to play with the conventions and inventions. The reader knows the conventions well and expects them. She waits to see what the writer will do with them. The world within the mystery story is defined and inclusive. It gives the reader a feeling of belonging and promotes: integration, inclusion and tolerance.
Things to avoid: tokenism, bandwagon tailgating, painful dialect, stereotyping, product placement and virtue signaling.
An Arthur Eliis Awards finalist, crime and speculative fiction novelist and speaker, S.G. Wong, fearlessly took on the beast in the room: marketing. She talked about targeting “the reader,” not a demographic group or “everyone,” but “the reader” who will love your book. She discussed strategies and tactics for effective marketing. I appreciated her calm, practical advice to develop your own strategy that fits you and your career goals
“Laurie R. King is the New York Times bestselling author of 27 novels and other works, including the Mary Russell-Sherlock Holmes stories. She is probably the only writer to have both an Edgar and an honorary doctorate in theology.” (from her website)
King is an amazing speaker. I could listen to her talk about anything. She told us about her mystery series and how she sustains the reader’s and her own interest in the stories as they go along.
It was an honor to hear her speak, and I’m downloading her books right now.
rock! This was the first time they had a conference in Canada and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The organizers and one volunteer were friendly and helpful, and the sessions were informative and inspiring. I hope they’ll do it again.
I got the pin. Needless to say I’m thinking of becoming a member.
That’s my Monday chatter. I hope it reaches you in good spirits and health.
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.
One – 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)
Two – 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.
What’s not on the page is as important as what is. (Diana Gabaldon, Writing Sex Scenes, Master Class)
Four – 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
Jilted 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.
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.
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)
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. 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.
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).
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!
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.