Author Archives: Sarah

How Pregnancy Changed My Writing

In early March I experienced a very strange moment. My breasts had been hurting for a couple days, and when I mentioned it to a friend her immediate response had been to ask, “Are you pregnant?”

Well, I stared at the computer screen for awhile with this dulled, blank look on my face as the consequences of potentially being pregnant washed over me. There were the sort of concerns and fears most people have about being able to afford having a child, health insurance, and (selfishly) how it would change my life if my life wasn’t about me anymore. Would I even be a good mother? I’m a great mom to fur babies, but a human baby is completely different. I’d be responsible for raising a child who would have to interact with society. No pressure.

I’d never felt so many emotions as we drove to the store to stock up on pregnancy tests. Excitement. Fear. The purest of both that I’ve ever felt. We talked about names, jokingly, because joking is how we both deal with stress. I barricaded myself in the bathroom and drank glass after glass of water, and then I called him to the door. I didn’t say a word as he opened it, but he lit up when he said, “Are we having a baby? Oh my God, we’re having a baby, aren’t we?”

I told him I wanted more cold water. Yes, I survived that moment.

I didn’t call him to the door, however, when my bladder was so full I had almost no choice except to pee on the stick. I instead had a private little meltdown by myself that involved a few tears, lots of smiling, and borderline hyperventilating. I had a freaking tiny human growing in me who was utterly reliant on me. I was pregnant.

Before I became pregnant, it seemed like the half-assed way to add drama to a story. Dare I say…the easy way out? PREGNANT would always illicit an eye roll from me, even when it came from the best authors. Gwen in The Kiss of the Highlander by KMM? Blech. The mention of Xhex possibly being pregnant after being raped by Lash was marginally better, although (SPOILER ALERT) she wasn’t. It was with some (many) reservations that I decided to incorporate pregnancy into one of my upcoming novels. I loathe to be a  hypocrite, but was convinced that the end justified the means when it came to moving the development of the character forward. My understanding of pregnancy itself had been shallow and superficial. I greatly underestimated the experience. Perhaps that’s part of why it’s been sitting on my shelf, untouched, while people clamor for this sequel.

I’ve met a version of myself I never knew existed. One who swings through phases of eating all-organic and dotes on onesies before catapulting to the nearest Cinnabon, and laments her misery over a caramel pecanbon to whoever will listen. I’ve become multifaceted to the point of almost multiple personalities. My pregnancy hasn’t been terrible, although neither has it been smooth. My normally dormant Tietze Syndrome has become the bane of my existence and I endure pain 24/7, and my IBD is at war with most of my pregnancy cravings. Being pregnant had never been a viable “excuse” before in regard to how people acted. Now I’m riding a roller coaster where censoring myself into staying well-behaved is…hard. Just today, as I sat trying on my first ever pair of Crocs, some kids walked by and shouted into the store at me. It took almost more self-control than I could muster to not go running after them and berate them. I’m six months pregnant, my feet hurt, and you think it’s smart to mock me trying on Crocs? I’ll show you, you little whippersnappers! In fact, the only thing I think stopping me was the fact that my feet hurt too much to chase after them.

The Red Wedding in Game of Thrones is my worst nightmare. In my head I’m already reacting to situations with the sole interests of protecting the unborn young who is brutally hiccuping and kicking me when I’m trying to sleep. A car accident is my most immediate concern, and it’s constantly on my mind. I’d like to say I’m driving like a grandma, except I think we all know old folk are rather…reckless when they’re on the road. My own grandmother could drive blocker for a truck of illegal Coors. I was reading a book a week ago where the female MC learned she was pregnant, and didn’t tell the father on the basis that his previous (and likewise pregnant) fiancee had been shot dead by the mob. Before pregnancy I would’ve just rolled my eyes until they spun right out of my head. How cliche, how ridiculous. But now? It hit me right in the fucking feels. While I might not be pregnant with the spawn of a mobster (I try to take what blessings I find), I could understand. Or, perhaps a better way to phrase it, I finally understood.

I still intend for my character to be pregnant. I intend it more than ever now because instead of thinking it will change her a certain way, I know for a fact it will. And it will make my story fantastic.

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My writing habits

Greetings once again all,

Summer is coming to close (for me in NL we’ve had maybe 4 weeks of summer weather but such is life here) and like when any season ends I get a little reflective. This month I thought I’d talk about my writing habits/process. Every writer has their own way of being creative, here’s my story (and details.)

For me writing is a time to relax, to dream, to fantasize about mythical creatures and imagine how my life could have turned differently if I had made different choices. I know some people can write in public places with all sorts of noise and people around but for me I need quiet, solitude and something to look at. I also find that generally I am at my most creative in the morning. My best writing occurs when I’ve had a good night’s sleep, get up at 6 or 6:30 and start writing by 7 or 7:30 AM. (Unless I’m on vacation, then it could certainly be later.)

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I also find that I need an outline. I like to have a clear idea of where I’m headed in a story so I always plan a novel at least two or three chapters ahead of time. (For book 3 “The Gathering Dark” it was the whole book, now for book 4 “War of the Fangs” about 12 chapters). Before I write I have a look at my outline (especially if I’m at the end of a chapter). Also at least once a month I look over the tips my esteemed editor, Kathy, gave me from book 2 ( and I try to keep in mind all I’ve learned from Karyn as well). I find that generally I only write in short bursts, 30-45 minutes tops then I’ll look out the window, possibly check my e-mail or pet one of my cats if they happen to be on the table with me. Generally I do most of my writing at home but sometimes I use my iPad for on the go. As I mentioned above if I have the time (and my laptop) I have also been known to write on vacation, in airports, at conventions and on weekend trips around the province (I live in Newfoundland, if you want to visit somewhere different, you should come . . .  in August or September only!).

LaptopWriting

With my first book published (by the wonderful people at Distinguished Press), I also find it useful to keep a copy of “The Newfoundland Vampire” nearby, it serves as both an inspiration and a guide as I work on further installments (there will be at least 4, after that, we’ll see). For me I try to write about places that I’ve been (or wish I’d been) and either way I like to look at pictures of that place before I write the scene, sometimes I read histories of a building or a town (for me info about my research methods for writing go here). As the main character, Joseph, is about 90% me, it is always a lot of fun to revisit these places in my mind and see how I would act differently in my imaginary world. For some scenes I try to imagine the whole thing in my head and then get it down on the screen as accurately as possible.

WritingStruggle

When it comes to personal preference, I find I enjoy writing the sex, action and humor scenes the most. Action scenes in particular get me excited and then they writing comes faster. A friend of mine gave me a tip to just set a simple goal, write one page a day every day. I found this very helpful as even one page, single spaced, means a chapter done in a week and of course some days I get inspired and do more Thumbs up.

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The best scenes for me just fly out of my brain and I worry about cleaning up dialogue, punctuation and grammar at later time. While I’m certain writing could be taken with a scientific approach for me its artistic expression and the best way I have to communicate my ideas and feelings to the world. I read once you should write drunk and edit sober, I’m certainly not going to encourage drinking but writing drunk can be fun 😉  I hope you do something creative today and let me know you thoughts. What writing habits do you have? What scenes are the most fun to do? Do write better at certain times of the day? Inquiring minds want to know! Have a good one all, talk to you next month.

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In Defense of Bess Marvin

As I’ve said many times before, I was a huge Nancy Drew fan when I was a middle-school reader. Nancy had it all and could do it all. This summer, since I own the first 55 of the originals, I re-read this precious and well-loved series.

And I came away disappointed. Not so much because of Nancy, although she can be a bit cloying to my adult sensibilities, but because of a character I have absolutely come to loathe: George Fayne. George, often touted by modern feminist writers for her traditional boys’ name and her bravery and athleticism, is, in short, a mean and horrible person. And she’s especially a mean and horrible person to her cousin, Bess Marvin.

So let’s talk about Bess for a bit. Bess is the girly-girl femme friend of the intrepid sleuth. She’s the one who is slightly plump, not as athletic as the others, and much more cautious. Let’s look at each of these traits, as they are depicted in the stories.

Bess is cautious. She’s also usually right about the danger. And yet her loving cousin, George, scorns her, scoffs at her, sneers at her, and shames her into doing things she doesn’t think are safe (and they usually aren’t.) If they’d just listen to Bess once in a while, they’d solve the mystery with a lot less danger.

Bess isn’t as athletic as George the Jock and Nancy the Exceptional at Everything, either. But you know what? Whenever they go swimming, or boating, or skiing, or horseback riding, or playing tennis, Bess is right there with them, keeping up. Does she live for it with the same competitive spirit the other two do? No. But she’s quite a competent athlete in her own right, if the story lines are anything to go by.

And, finally and most importantly, Bess is slightly overweight. The books always state that she’s trying to “lose a few pounds.” Get that: a FEW. Three? Five? The illustrations in the books show her to be just as slender as Nancy and George, so it can’t be more than that. But so what? What if it were fifty? Would that in any way justify the cruel teasing and fat-shaming her “loving” cousin inflicts upon her? I don’t think so.

Let’s take the 44th book of the series, The Clue in the Crossword Cipher, by way of an egregious example. On page 41, Bess remarks that she’s so very excited about their being in South America that she could burst. George, predictably, gets her dig in with this non sequitur: “Well, my dear fat cousin, that might be one way to lose some weight!” Again, towards the middle of the story, when the girls are sharing a meal with a Quechua elder, George admonishes her cousin, in front of others, not to eat so much in the thin mountain air, and according to story, gives her a “withering look.” Why not just a friendly reminder to the group in general? No, George intentionally shames Bess.

The worst, though, happens on page 57. The girls are out sleuthing and stop at a hotel for a lunch that includes slices of homemade bread. That’s when this happens:

As Bess reached for her third piece, George grabbed her cousin’s arm. “No, you don’t,” she said. Meekly, Bess put the slice of the bread back into the basket and finished her salad. (Emphasis mine.)

Honestly, that’s the point at which I wished Bess had taken her free hand, punched George right in the face, and said, “Shut it, jerkface. I’ll eat what I want, and you’ll have nothing whatsoever so say about it, or there’s more where that came from. Got it? Good. Now pass me the damn bread.” Alas, it never happens.

So here’s to Bess Marvin, the concerned, loyal, and kind friend of Nancy Drew. She doesn’t get enough credit for being capable and competent in her own right, and it’s all because her cousin George belittles her and treats her like dirt. Jerkface.

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The Trouble With Love

It’s a well-known fact that I don’t write much in the way of romance. When I was writing the short story “Space in the Fall” for Persephone’s Song, I brought in my friend Jadeleath to help me out with the parts that were supposed to sizzle. When the Gloves Come Off is an exercise in growth, but still very much plot driven. There’s action. Boxing! Mobsters! Drama! I’ve realized in my ‘old age’ that I’m an author who doesn’t mind including romance…so long as it furthers the plot. So long as it fits the situation and the characters, and wasn’t thrown in for the sake of having a sex scene.

Even though I don’t write much romance, I love reading it. Some of my library staples are Karen Marie Moning and J.R. Ward. Many of my favorite books are love stories. I watch promoters online like a hawk, looking for romances to go on .99 cent promotions or — even better — free! I hoard them and go on reading binges when I am running out of steam for my own writing. Sometimes it’s nice to step out of the worlds I’m building and just live in someone else’s for awhile. The problem I’ve been encountering lately, however, is that everyone else’s worlds…kind of suck.

I have been suffering a drought of love stories. My Kindle, brimming with them, contained only about three or four who deserved even a four star review on Amazon. The consistent problem I found was that the story itself was taking a backseat for the smut.

I don’t mind characters having sex. That’s what people do! My problem is when authors bend characters into doing things that people don’t do. Mob boss kidnaps a girl as collateral for her father’s unpaid debts? Makes sense. Girl immediately hops into bed with said mob boss? Not so much. Or–and this one killed me–girl studying abroad is making eye contact with this handsome, debonaire stranger from across the museum gallery. He approaches her and has the mouth of a pig and is a complete dick. Naturally she’s going to just go for it! Right? Because isn’t that was people do? I can’t speak for anyone else, but not any people I know.

Authors are coming up with great, vibrant ideas. Mobsters might be fading out, but motorcycle clubs and Russians are all the rage right now. I love it! But when your leading lady falls in love after knowing your hero for only a day (generally immediately after having sex, no less), you lose the romance. Part of what I love about authors like KMM and the Warden are that they BUILD the relationship. It doesn’t happen in an instant. They let the characters banter and sizzle and get to know one another. They let the characters fall in love with each other because of who they are. Not because their leading lady needs to sleep with the leader of the MC to guarantee her safety and she lays there after thinking he’s the One. Let your leading lady sleep with him for whatever the reasons might be, but let the lovebuild. Let the love happen naturally. And don’t let that love be overshadowed by the sex.

Dear romance authors around the world, please stop forcing the love through physical encounters and please, please, please stop letting the plot take a backseat to that forced love. If you really want to leave your audience truly hot and bothered and begging for more, #romanceyourreaders

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The Long Road to Publication

Cat Moon Final CoverThere are a couple of things that I don’t talk about much when I discuss my upcoming book Cat Moon, Book One of The Were-Children series. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to trot out my lack of success as an author. Maybe I don’t really want to admit that I turned 55 years old this past month. I’m not sure. So here I go. True confessions.

The first is that I wrote it ten years ago. Ten years. An entire decade. My daughters were 11 and 17, just children, and now they are grown women living their own successful adult lives.I was teaching at a different school in a different district. The students who were sitting in my classroom then are grown and having their own children, some of whom are approaching school age themselves. I probably owe them an apology for having assigned so much Silent Sustained Reading so I could scribble furiously on a yellow legal pad by longhand. They know me better, though, than to think I will ever apologize for giving them time to read. But if they ever wondered what I was doing while they were reading, this was it. I was writing this book. It was a long, long time ago.

The second is, I think, connected to the first. Author Stephen King once said he got “dozens” of rejection slips for his first published novel Carrie. I don’t know how many that actually is, but I do know that Mr. King has nothing on me. I have kept all of those rejection slips in a folder, even printing out the many that came via email. Some are from agents; others are from the few publishers who consider un-agented work. I’m pretty sure I could wallpaper my bathroom with them. That, of course, doesn’t count the ones for which I got no response whatsoever. Any author who has queried a novel will tell you that it is absolutely soul-crushing. Oh, most them are so sweetly polite they set your teeth on edge, and they tell you that your work is probably quite good. It’s just not right for them. They let you down easy like that, but inside, you know. You know they thought your manuscript was stinking up their office and that you better not be quitting your day job. You know.

Then came the magical moment when I got a phone call from a reader at a publisher I will not name. (I will, however, tell you that this same publisher’s predecessor company was the original publisher of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, a fact which absolutely delighted me.) The reader loved it and was passing it on to an editor. A few months later, she called back and said that editor was going to pass it on to another editor she thought better suited for it. A few more months passed, and yes, I got another rejection slip. She said it had some good points, but she just didn’t have the time for the work it would take to make it publication-ready. In other words, my manuscript was stinking up her office. I did not quit my day job.

You know what, though? A few more years went by, and the industry started changing. I toyed with the idea of self-publishing, but it was so overwhelming to consider, I just never did much that direction. Technology also changed, and that I felt I had a better handle on. So at the end of 2014, I participated in one of the literary pitch events on Twitter. Distinguished Press “starred” my short pitch, requesting that I query. I queried, fully expecting another rejection slip. This time, though, that didn’t happen. They accepted the manuscript. They love the story. They believe in me as a writer.

Here we are, just a few days after release. Shortly after release, my book–MY book–was in the Amazon Top 100 for three separate categories. For a brief, shining moment, I had higher book sales than the legendary C. S. Lewis. Unprecedented! Many, many thanks to Catrina for taking a chance on my work, to Karyn for the edits, to Vanessa for the gorgeous cover of my dreams, and to Kristina for getting the word out to folks that the book is there to be read. Now I just need to get cracking on the rewrites for the second book!

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Writing and the internet, a marriage made in heaven

Greetings all,

It’s what passes for summer here (I won’t get much into it, I’ll just say the average temperature for the month of  July here is 11C that’s just 52F!) and time for another monthly post. I’ve been slowly working on book 4 of my Newfoundland Vampire series (as book 3 won’t be out until sometime in 2016 I’m certainly not in a rush) and I was thinking how wonderful a tool the internet is for a writer.

I’m a slow reader and I can remember the days when doing research meant going to the library (or in high school digging through my parents encyclopedias/National Geographic magazines) and spending time first searching for a book that might be related to the topic, getting the book, the trying to quickly determine if it was any good for your research before too much time was wasted. It was a treasure hunt and I know for untold hours I would look through journals, textbooks, newspapers, microfilm or even taking the step of ordering the book from the library and waiting for it to come  in.  Sure I got better at it, more efficient and I certainly had help from other students and asked librarians often. Don’t get me wrong I love libraries and enjoyed 90% or more of the time I spent there but still I was thrilled when I did my masters so much material was available on the internet. At that point I had an office (well I shared it with other students but eventually it was just me) and reading stuff on my laptop was just so much easier and convenient but I’m starting to stray.

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When I started to write my first novel “The Newfoundland Vampire” (what, you didn’t think I’d put in a plug?), available now with Distinguished Press, I wanted a main character that was based on a real person from history. Catherine Mandeville Snow was the last woman hanged in Newfoundland in 1834 and seemed like a figure I could really work with. My idea was to get someone from Newfoundland who had a significant/unusual death and she popped up. If I had wrote this book 20 years ago who knows how many hours just discovering that fact may have taken me. In seconds I read a brief bio of Catherine’s life and after a few minutes discovered there was a local author who had written a book on her, I sent him an e-mail and he agreed to meet with me (I did have to leave the house to do that of course).

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To be clear  I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with going to the library and doing research, it’s a great thing if you live nearby and have the time but I find the older I get the more time becomes precious to me. I’m also aware that it is certainly possible to find information on the internet that is exaggerated/half-true or complete lies. Just as you would with a book you check your sources and see if the same info can be found from various sources. It would slow my writing down tremendously if I decided to read a book on a subject I didn’t know about and makes you admire authors like J.R.R. Tolkien or Bram Stoker for the incredible amount of time and effort they put into researching a story. Fortunately for writers past and present (to be precise a those with a publisher) you also have the invaluable tool of your editor to double-check your facts. Ultimately if you’re writing fiction and changing characters (my Catherine is quite different from the real one in many ways) you don’t need to get everything 100% accurate and wouldn’t want to but still do your best.

I’ll finish with another example. This week I was writing a chapter set in New Orleans during Mardi Gras. I have not been to Mardi Gras and so I did a Google image search (if you’re a very young author make sure you have safe search on!) and within a seconds I had dozens of great pictures. I did a little more checking on interesting bars on Bourbon Street, thought about the chapter and I was ready to start. While most of the images have nudity, here is one I can share.

epa03580945 (left to right) A Christian Street preachers yells at a group hanging outside of a bar whiledrag queen Charles Loraine Wendell yells back on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter during Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, 12 February, 2013.  Fat Tuesday is the final day of Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans.  EPA/DAN ANDERSON

How great is that? One extreme to the other right in this picture and it’s real. I could right several pages on what these two could say to each other but for me it was just a nice tidbit of what happens at Mardi Gras (besides the obvious beads/drinking/flashing everyone knows about). If Google didn’t exist I never would have thought to write about these two guys and my scene would have been lacking something.

So what do you think? Is the internet a great tool for writers? Should we instead spend untold hours in libraries and more time becoming experts on topics/history? Is there some combination/happy medium I’m missing out on? I’d love to see your thoughts, until next month everyone!

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Paper or digital?

Hi all,

So it’s me, Charles, back for my monthly installment.  I’ve been around a while (I’m 39) and I thought the other day of how much technology has affected what way we ingest our favorite writers. When I was young (up until I was 17), the only way to read was with paper (at least for me, PDFs did exist in 1993 but were only used then for academic papers). Aside from novels (which I have been obsessed with, even now I only have about one-hundred) I had a huge collection of comic books, probably around 3000 of them. I love comics (I still read them) and I thought my collection would be worth something someday . . . well it was worth something but not nearly as much as I hoped. Around 15 years later I started to sell it off piece by piece but I digress. My point here is that whether it was a comic book, a magazine (I used to collection Dungeons and Dragons magazines) or a novel, it was paper and it usually meant just carrying 1 or 2 with you.

ComicBookLongboxes

That changed back in 1996 when the first Palm Pilot came out and since I’ve always loved gadgets, I had one that year. With a palm pilot I was able to read books, e-mails and do some other convenient things whenever I wanted to. PDFs were only just gaining popularity any virtually any you found were ones you created yourself or looked high and low for on the Internet. Still though the idea that I could carry around more than one or two things to read and I was intrigued. Sure the display was crappy (it was not even in color but this weird monochrome LCD screen. It was a touch screen though and the ability to tab it with a stylus pen was neat, I had one with me 5 days a week for years, I found them reliable and fairly easy to use (though I went through two in four years).

PalmPilot

Before we go further I know that Laptops were available in 1981 and those with color screens were around by 1991 but they were expensive then and I didn’t carry one around me most of the time. I will add though while comic book subscriptions (or the Comixology app) weren’t around, there were many PDF and CBR (comic book reader) versions to be found, so by 1997 I was reading comics and PDFs on my laptop as well. By the way if you ever think about buying a laptop on Ebay with no warranty (and it’s as strange brand name) don’t do it! I had constant trouble with mine and in the end had to give to my friend for spare parts.

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For me I reached the point when I found that I was still printing stuff off of the internet and buying novels (though I found I could save a ton of cash by never buying hardcover and waiting for sales/going to used book stores). I used to go on binges and once while on vacation in Florida I bought 15 Star Trek books and read them all (most of them were crap if you’re curious. There is something about holding a book in your hands, no matter how cheap/convenient/easy eBooks get, I’ll never be able to give up print entirely.

Move forward some more, this time to April of 2010. My first book was released, “The Newfoundland Vampire” (you knew I was getting a plug in here somewhere! 😉 Oh it’s currently available from the great folks at Distinguished Press and is better than ever with a new cover and touched-up story. I gained a new perspective on books, comics, ebooks and audio books. I could see then that it hurt me when someone downloaded my book for free and I made a point to pay for everything I got from the internet. More relevant to this post, however, is that I got an iPad (it still works fine too!).

AppleIpad

The iPad changed a lot for me. Now I could carry around hundreds of books, the ability to download any comic I had purchased and of course with the internet purchase any book (that was available as an ebook) I liked and read it instantly. With this lightweight, handy device I found myself buy paper books much less, the same went for comics. I did also (just for completeness sake) also buy a Kindle. The reasoning is lost on me (I suppose it was an impulse buy) but I was impressed by the devotion of this device to books and it’s simple connection to Amazon (for free at the time as well) was a great piece of marketing.

Kindle

Now let’s bring it up to present day. I find that I listen to an audio book and I’m reading a novel on my iPad but yet I still buy my D&D books in print format and I have a good dozen print books waiting to be read on my bookshelf. For comics I still buy them at Flea Markets/conventions/comic book stores when I see a good deal (or something I can’t get in digital format) and I’m subscribed to four digital titles. So I would say I’m about 60% digital and 40% print. There’s something about the feel of paper and the ease of flipping through pages that I haven’t found a digital book able to replicate, until that day I’ll continue to support both.

How about you, do you think ebooks have print on the ropes? Is there room for both? Which one will win? Is it even a contest? I’m getting tired! Talk to you all next month.

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A CONventional Experience, Part 2

Happy Monday all,

It was a long weekend for me (Victoria Day, or as we call it 24th of May) so I’m happy to have a shorter work week and am feeling fairly rested but onto the post! Last month I told you all about my experience attending conventions, this month will be my experience being a guest/vendor/author at conventions over the years.

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My first time as a guest at a convention was at Sci-Fi on the Rock about 6 years ago. Back then I wasn’t an author but I was a huge geek and developed an interest in Klingons, more particularly how to speak Klingon. In high school I used to be really shy, while I had no problem speaking in front of a class (I knew all them after all), giving a talk in front of strangers terrified me. It took a whole degree and diploma at university and my girlfriend (who is now my wife) to finally get me out of my shell. Talking in front of a crowd still makes me nervous and have to rehearse for at least a week ahead of time. Being a teacher for a few years helped me a lot in this regard (I also have a Masters in Education) and I have observed plenty of other speeches by friends, strangers and acquaintances at conventions. I also got involved with this fan made Star Trek show called Star Trek Reliant, a friend of mine asked me to be in an episode and speak some Klingon. I did so and enjoyed it, I was in a few more episodes but eventually didn’t want to give up my Sunday’s, especially in the summer. It did lead me into an idea about turning my lines into a panel on how to speak basic Klingon.

After my Star Trek Reliant time ended I gave a little talk on how to speak basic Klingon phrases, it was fun and it got me into the convention for free. I changed my talk over the years and eventually included some audio clips and handouts. For those who don’t know me I am a lifelong Star Trek fan, I was president of a Star Trek society in University and even have a Star Trek tattoo, so it was a natural step for me. After doing this speech for a while (and having the experience of people walk out of my talk, always annoying) I got tired of it and moved onto my writing talk, “Adventures with Vampires and Publishing”.

The first year  I was a vendor/artist at SFOTR I was very excited and happy. It was April of 2012 and my first book “The Newfoundland Vampire” had just been released and I had my first chance to interact with the public as an author. I gave out candy to get people at my table (I still do that now), had a gift basket (people could put their names down for free) and some bookmarks to hand out along with many copies of my book. I think I sold about 36 copies over the whole weekend and while I was happy with sales, I immediately learned a few things. I wasn’t charging enough for books (they cost me about $10 and I was selling them for $10!) and there was no good trying to push for a sale.

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The following year book two hadn’t been released by I expanded my table with Magic cards and comic books for sale (and upped my prices). During that second year I had some wonderful experiences, people who had read my book came up to me to talk about it. Some young women asked me to sign them and even wanted a picture taken with me! My ego was through the roof and I had a great time, I don’t remember my exact sales, at this point I started to see that being an author wasn’t about the money but the memories and the people. I gave my talk again (changing the name to “Writing, vampires, and publishing oh my!”) and gave a sneak peek of book two (which came out in September of 2013, also from Penumbra Publishing).

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You can see my table in the above picture. Being at a convention where you have a table does have its downsides though, I don’t get to see most of the guest, or go to any panels (besides my own). While Friday and Saturday are usually the busy days, by Sunday you can be sitting around for hours with no one coming to your table. I’ve also seen that any time you give something out for free there are always people who take advantage. As it’s just me (aside from family and friends who occasionally stop by), you have to get to know the people around you so you can leave your table for bathroom/food/water breaks. Since then I’m not with Distinguished Press (and I couldn’t be happier! They’re a great bunch of people) and for the sake of length you can read about my latest convention experience here.

Moving on another thing I really enjoyed was being invited to conventions in other places. First it was Atlanti-Con in Corner Brook (about 6 hours from where I live). The main guy, Jeff, knew me from Sci-fi on the Rock and invited me to come to his convention. This meant a free table and a great opportunity to promote my book and meet some new geeky people.

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Sadly I couldn’t find a picture from that first year but the above gives you an idea. My book sold well the first two years (and I already knew some people who travel from St. John’s to Corner Brook as I do) and by year three my sales of comic books made up for declining book sales (I know places to get them cheap and had a large collection up to a few years ago). I also had the unique experience of doing a panel with another author (to increase attendance for both of us). I really, enjoyed that as it took pressure off me and let me have some fun with the other author (whom I’ve known for many years). Corner Brook is on the west coast of Newfoundland and has some amazing scenery here’s some of my favorite pics from nearby Gros Morne.

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Yes in case you’re wondering the above is a moose, they are featured in my books (for reasons you’ll have to read to find out!), the others are several places around Gros Morne, a wonderful place to visit if you ever get a chance. As if being at a convention isn’t enough fun I found that as I drove people there (I believe in carpooling) I would get to know them and even hung out with one women during the convention (Jana, who is really nice and helped me do my book reading later in 2013). I went to a party at a bar where vendors,guests and organizers at Altanti-Con went and I have a wonderful time chatting with one of the actors. I was lucky enough to be staying in the same hotel as the guest and got a chance to have breakfast with one and drinks with another on other nights. The person I’ve really had a chance to connect with at Altanti-Con though is the always hilarious (and really nice) Fat Apollo. Who is he you may be wondering? You’ll have to check on the link to find out. Moving on (I’m nearing the end, promise!)

Everything to (what I thought) a climax in November of 2013, as I was an invited guest to a convention outside the province, in particular Nova Scotia and the city of Halifax. Hal-Con is a much larger convention that Sci-Fi on the Rock or Atlanti-con (I’d say actually bigger than both combined). For first convention my wife came with me and she also experienced the madness of that con. I’m not going to dwell on it but this was probably the worst convention I attended, they didn’t have a author badge for me, a table and it took several people to even find me on the list! Once I was set up I discovered almost no one wanted to buy a book from me and due to a mistake with tickets the fire marshal and even the police had to show up to stop too many people from coming on Saturday. (They sold tickets as any day, not expecting almost everyone to try and come on Saturday). I look on the bright side of things though and I did have some wonderful talks with the other vendors around me and I won some money at a casino nearby.

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As you can see there were some amazing costumes and I always enjoy seeing those. I did also sell some of my more valuable comics (worth $50 each) and get to spend some time in Halifax (which is a cool city with some great restaurants and lovely hotels). I did also get to give my talk with the highest number of attendees (some of them asked some excellent questions that I had to work on for the following year) and had people buy my books right on the spot (which is always a feel good moment).

In the end I’m not sure what I enjoy more, attending conventions or being a guest. I certainly get to see and do more just attending, meet people I’ve admired for years, attend great panels but I don’t get the interaction with people and of course only spend money, not make any. They are both rewarding experiences and I’m certainly looking forward to another two conventions this year. Until next month everyone!

 

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A CONventional Experience, Part I

Happy Monday everyone,

I’m soon off for work but beforehand I thought I would do up my monthly post here at IWAssocation. This month I thought I’d focus on conventions and attending them (next month will be as a guest/vendor) and how great it is to meet actors/writers you admire (at least it has been for me).

My earliest convention experience was here in Newfoundland, it was a small one in a hotel (it’s 20+ years ago, so I can’t remember much more). It didn’t have any guests, just people selling stuff and societies/groups giving out information.  What I took away from it was a connection to a larger world of geekdom and meeting more people who had the same interests as me. Back then I was huge into Star Trek (I still enjoy it but don’t spend 10+ hours a week watching the various series). The Star Trek club I discovered at that convention was called the USS-Avalon. I used to love going to Sunday meetings, playing board games, watching the show and eventually I got more involved. I started out holding onto the records, then I contributed to the newsletter, than ran it and eventually the whole club. The newsletter was the first opportunity I had to write and see it published, I later enjoyed the control of picking articles I like and of course publishing segments of my first attempt at a novel (it was a Star Trek one of course and probably terrible). I experienced what it is was like to have my writing/editing/organizing skills criticized and I improved a little,  but I’m getting  off topic.

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Move forward in time, the club becomes the Avalon Society and eventually ceases to exist (I got tired of running it and most of the people I liked in the club were gone). I decided to go to a convention in Halifax (Nova Scotia), while they now have Hal-Con, I think it was called something else back then. Here I got to meet a Star Trek writer, Marc Okrand (he also created the Klingon language).

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I was a little star struck to be sure but I had a great time at the convention and felt once again the warmth and friendliness that geeky people have for each other. At this point, however, I’d moved from writing Star Trek to Star Wars and had begun to show the first few chapters to my friends (once more I don’t think it was very good.) I didn’t forget Marc Okrand though and later I would do a panel at conventions on the Klingon language, for now though, moving on again.

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Sci-Fi on the Rock became the first serious convention here in Newfoundland (now in it’s 9th year) and I finally got to meet local authors, Darren Hann (who also ran the convention for several years) and a book company owner (and author) Matthew Ledrew (who owns Engen books). Here I saw people who did it, who wrote books, put them out (Darren is self-published) and promoted them. I was intrigued, I talked with the both of them and purchased their books.

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I was a very shy person growing up, all throughout high school and into my early 20s, going to conventions and meeting outgoing people was a turning point for me. I saw that if they could do it, why couldn’t I? Eventually I got back to writing (this time a vampire book, which I had started in 2002 and finally finished in 2010) and by November of 2010 sent it off to various local publishers (including Engen) books. I’ve detailed my publishing history elsewhere so let’s continue with the convention theme.

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Once my book was published (two technically) I started to go to larger conventions. This time one in Florida called Megacon in 2014. This was the biggest convention I had been to yet and had some people I really wanted to meet. Two of them being writers, first there was Wil Wheaton, who many of you may know from Star Trek: The Next Generation and more recently The Big Bang Theory, he’s a big geek like me and he’s written several non-fiction books. I really enjoyed talking to him and I gave him a copy of my first book. I once did journal/autobiographical novella type thing but I lost the only copy (it’s just as well, I’m sure it was terrible). None the less it was great to see a geek guy be successful and remain so friendly an down to earth, a genuine pleasure to meet him.

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The biggest thrill for me was meeting Stan “The Man” Lee. As you may know he co-created so many Marvel characters, Hulk, Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Ant Man, Daredevil, Dr. Strange, X-Men and Thor just to name a few. He was always the face of comics for Marvel and a personal hero of mine, he make comics fun and (in recent years) even cool (and most certainly successful). It’s not often I’m genuinely excited to meet someone but I was here, it was a nice moment in my life. As with Wil I gave him a copy of my book. I also thanked him for all the great characters he’s created. While his writing may now by dated, in the 60s to the 80s he was certainly one of the great comic book writers and certainly an inspiration to me.

So that brings me to now, I’ll be at a convention this weekend (Sci-Fi on the Rock April 24-26) as a guest. I’ll tell you about my experiences selling and talking a t convention, at another time.

So have you been to conventions? Did you meet any great writers? Was it everything you hoped for? Let us know!

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Judge a book by it’s cover

Hi again all,

I’ve had a fair amount of experience with book covers. Two different companies and a bunch of artists/cover designers. I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings and I don’t believe in spreading negativity, so for that reasons some names will be left out. As they say a picture is worth a thousand words and in this case I think the covers can speak for themselves.

NewfoundlandVampire-coverFRONT700.jpg Here’s the cover for the first book (published in 2012 by Penumbra Publishing). There are parts of it I’m happy with (the blood red sunset, the water, Cassandra and the obvious vampire traits.) I’m not much pleased with Joseph or what he’s wearing. Newfoundland is an island so the water is fine (and some important scenes do take place on a rocky beach). After hearing lots of comments on it (and people who said it was terrible) I came to see that it gives an impression. It often makes people think of a romance novel (and a cheesy one) and all the things that go along with it. While there is romance present in the story, I don’t like people to get the wrong idea and not take my work seriously. Let’s move on to the cover for book 2.

 

 

 

NewfoundlandVampire2-coverFRONT  This time I took a much different approach, I paid a guy to make a cover for me (and I don’t mind saying it cost almost $300). He did many versions of this (at least 30) until the cover had to be sent it or the publishing would have been delayed. This came out in September of 2013, also by Penumbra Publishing. I’ll just call the designer Alex, he was agreeable and made many changes as I asked him to and tried lots of different things. He thought I should pick out a scene from the book that was important and created a creepy atmosphere (I picked an abandoned amusement park in New Orleans). I found some real pictures of it from a website (there was no one I could ask permission from) and he incorporated them to my satisfaction. What didn’t occur to me at the time was that the title “Killer on the Road” has nothing do with the cover. I also never thought about how much is going on, looking back I can see it looks jumbled. I do like the eyes above and I thought Cassandra looked even better than book 1 (these are both real people after all). I thought he did her fangs and the blood well, I liked Joseph face hidden almost completely in shadow. I also thought the splashes of blood were cool. The moon above was a nice touch a subtle nod to time passing (as book 1 was a sunset). Still though I wanted something different, which brings us to an attempt I made getting a cover done for book 3.

 

NFLVthumbnail  Here’s the rough draft I got for what could have been the cover to book 3 (tentatively called) “The Gathering Dark.” This time I wanted to try hiring an artist to do something with no stock images and nothing computerized (aside from scanning and minor alterations of course). I’ve been told this looks terrible and while I think it needs work, it has potential. He incorporated what I wanted, each character ready to fight at an airport (St. John’s in particular) in the background, the moon large in the sky (and it would have been blood red), and different characters reflected in each sword. Casandra’s hair is different and their looks are meant to convey that events have taken a dark turn in the story. The artist was a nice guy but ultimately he just said he was too busy to go any further (he never asked for any money in advance.) At this point I decided to leave Penumbra Publishing so this brings us full circle for a look at the new cover for book 1.

NLVampireDPCoverRough Vanessa (Armada West) has been working diligently on a new cover for me now that I’m with Distinguished Press (and I love it here by the way, everyone is great!) What you see here is just a rough mock-up but I like the direction it’s going. Once again I wanted a red sunset and this time I choose a university building (it was a dorm in the book) as the backdrop (several important scenes happen on campus). Cassandra looks great (no vampire traits here) and Joseph is fine but I’m looking for a better model to choose from. This is a return to photo stock images but it’s not costing me $300 and Vanessa has been very accommodating. I’ll be sure to share a more finished version of the cover when it is ready. I still may one day pay an artist for something really different but not for the re-issue of book 1 or 2. Oh I should say book 1 will be out April24th and book 2 will be July 24th (of 2015) and of course from the fine folks at Distinguished Press.

 

 

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Here’s another version of the cover for book 1, this time I choose a different male model, I like him better as he looks more like me (and a regular guy). You’ll notice Cassandra also has fangs and some blood about her lips. It’s an ongoing process but I’m excited for the final version.

So what do you all think? They say don’t judge a book by it’s cover but I think most people do. You can’t help it, a cover is your best form of advertising for anyone browsing in a store or on a website (or app). Talk to you all next month!

 

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