Sound and Video Editing by the awesome S.M. Carriere!
Sound and Video Editing by the awesome S.M. Carriere!
Those who read the blog regularly may remember my announcement that Distant Early Warning, my Canadian cli-fi survival horror epic, would be published by Renaissance Press this Fall.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upheaval and uncertainty it has brought to nearly every industry, including publishing, my publisher and I have made the mutual decision to push back the Distant Early Warning launch to Spring of 2021. I initiated this change because I wanted to give the book the best chance possible, and because I hoped that by moving the launch date I might have the chance to celebrate with my fans in person at some point when it is safe to do so.
I know that this announcement is long overdue, and I apologize to anyone that was waiting for more news. I always strive to keep readers in the loop, however all of the chaos happening in the world right now made me forget that this detail was crucial to communicate to others outside of my publishing and marketing team. D’oh! This was another great learning experience on my publishing path, and I look forward to providing more news about Distant Early Warning soon.
Love and good vibes!
About two years ago, I embarked on a journey to keep developing as a writer, and to become the best that I can be. My slogan for this journey has been be so good they can’t say no. To me, this means that it’s not okay to stop at my best. It’s not okay to stop at adequate, good, or even great. I’m working hard, I’m seeking out critique, and I’m not stopping until my work sparkles. Because ultimately, I want to be a huge success story in publishing and the only way to do that is to wow people consistently and thoroughly, both in my professional interactions and in the quality of my work.
I think all of the work I have been doing is paying off, because a lot of my old patterns are falling away. For a long time, I have written very clean drafts that went straight into working with an editor, and no matter where I thought they were going to land word count-wise, they always seemed to end perfectly at around 90k words.
Not so with my new, whale-sized fantasy manuscript. Not only did it require a full rewrite with a completely different ending, the new draft is also topping out at around 120k. I know this isn’t unheard-of for fantasy, but it’s nearly unheard-of for me. I am also planning at least one more draft before seeking out an editor.
Some might see these changes as a struggle, but I am invigorated by the fact that I can see new opportunities in my work where before I would have seen ‘the best I can do’. I am leveling up, taking chances and challenging myself.
July has also been a good month for word count, and although I haven’t always hit my aspirational count of 1000+ words per day, I’ve been getting my butt in the seat every day and there have only been 4-5 days where I’ve been running on empty and had to take a break. After the creative wasteland that was February through May, I am grateful to have freed up some brainpower to devote to my writing.
Unfortunately, my little COVID-19 detour means that I will probably not finish three manuscripts this year, but I will most likely finish two and a bit. I really wanted to put my Alien-style rogue AI thriller up first on the docket, but given the timing of everything now it looks like I will be finishing the third and final instalment of the Distant Early Warning series first. That’s okay though, because I am very blessed to have far more ideas that I love than I can write in five years with three manuscripts a year. I’m like a tree that won’t stop dropping apples.
I just want to close by sending out love and encouragement to all of the precious and unique human beings that are out there in this difficult time, still making their art and striving to inspire others, shed light on the human condition, and give people burdened with stress some peace and fun. You are beautiful, you are valued, and you’re making a difference! ❤
Some of you who frequent the blog may have noticed the new section I have added on the navigation bar. I am happy to confirm that I am now offering full-service editing for both fiction and non-fiction projects.
As an introductory special, I am offering a limit of five 50-page critiques for $200 each, a $500 value. You will get in-depth notes page by page, plus 5-10 pages of critique which will help focus your next draft.
My rates for other forms of editing start at $20 per hour, with a minimum of $50. Please get in touch via the contact form, or find me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram for a free sample edit and personalized quote.
Turns out, I’m showing up a lot lately on the YouTubes.
Not only did Amazing Stories put on a rich, varied and totally free online convention experience this summer with AmazingCon, but they are also releasing the panel discussions as free videos to YouTube so that people can enjoy and learn from them in the future. Here’s one of my panels below, where I and the other slush readers for the magazine talk about our process, what it takes to be a slushie, and of course, what kind of story catches our eye and makes it to the next round.
If you care about high-quality programming like this, and about having a fun, positive, pro-paying venue in science fiction like Amazing Stories, please consider giving to our Kickstarter. We would love to keep bringing this high-quality content to the science fiction community, and there are only a few days left to make our goal.
Phew! My whirlwind two weeks of conventions has come and gone, and I would just like to thank the Renaissance Virtual Conference and AmazingCon for putting on such great shows. Both conventions found a creative solution to social distancing and brought us all together as fans and creators, and for that, they deserve a hearty round of applause.
I will never stop hoping for a return to in-person conventions as soon as it’s safe to do so, because conventions are a part of me and where I get to see my friends, but if we still had virtual conventions after social distancing is no longer needed, I would still attend them. It’s nice to be able to show friends that I normally see at a hotel or a bookstore the little things in my house that I show guests, and introduce them to my cat. It’s nice to be able to attend a convention without having to take time off work and to be able to get other things done while listening to panels and throwing my two cents’ worth in now and again. And above all, it is very nice to meet new friends from around the world who otherwise would not be able to travel to our local conventions. So, let’s keep it up! There can be room for both formats. For us Canucks, there is also the added advantage that winter won’t get in the way if some of the cons start happening between November and March. An uninterrupted convention season appeals to me, just a bit.
In the last few days, I’ve had some exciting announcements come my way, so read on for more of what’s new and interesting!
As you may know, I’ve been an Assistant Editor for Amazing Stories for a couple of years now, and I want to invite all of my followers to go and have a look at their Kickstarter and consider supporting the magazine. If you’re serious about genre fiction, especially science fiction, so are we, and we’re working really hard to bring something unique and special to the conversation. I don’t know if you’ve seen the magazine yet, but the stories are fabulous, the design and interior are gorgeous with tons of illustrations, and it is a pro-paying venue, which there aren’t enough of these days. Plus, our focus is on a more hopeful future and how humanity is going to get there, which, given our circumstances right now, is something that needs to get promoted.
Last year at TNEO, I brainstormed a little flash piece that would later be called ‘It’s All in the Sauce’. It’s a tale of heartbreak, Ribfest and mystical BBQ nomads that so far has left several reading audiences hungry for more. I am so pleased to announce that it will be appearing, along with twelve other gentle speculative fiction stories, in the lo-fi anthology A Quiet Afternoon. On July 1, we’ll all be able to curl up with some comfort food, hunker down for a rainy day, and enjoy this delightful little tome on our e-readers.
The videos for both conventions should be up shortly, so I’ll be sharing those soon for those who couldn’t make it. 🙂
AmazingCon is this weekend, and I think it’s going to be such a fun event. There are workshops, panels, readings and musical performances, all celebrating the best in science fiction. Here is my schedule below. I will be reading from a recent flash fiction piece, and generally speaking about being an assistant editor and how to get out of the slush pile.
Friday 12:00 pm- Readers Summit
Friday 2:00 pm- How To Get Out of the Slush
Saturday 11:00 am- Reading- It’s All In the Sauce
Hello Everyone! It’s been a chaotic week, hasn’t it? Before I go on, I just want to acknowledge the horrible violence that befell George Floyd, and the protests that are happening in North America right now advocating for justice. This post is not meant to distract in any way from the more serious news items happening right now, but at the same time, I feel I have a responsibility to the conventions that have been kind enough to have me as a guest to make people aware that their events are going on. I also want to say that if you need a break from the news cycle with some open-minded and inclusive folks, that can be a form of self-care and you are welcome to come and join us. Participation in the conference is free to all.
The Renaissance Virtual Conference is happening this weekend, and there is an excellent line-up of readings panels and workshops, as well as free space on Discord for people to chat and browse the virtual dealers’ room. I will be in and out of the conference space all weekend, but I will also be moderating two panels on topics that are near and dear to my heart. Please find my personal schedule below.
Our panelists discuss bringing queerness into science fiction, and the ways that authors can examine queerness and bring queer characters into narratives of the future. Why is it important to imagine ourselves in the worlds of the future?
Jennifer Lee Rossman, Stephen Graham King, SL Huang, Brian McNett, Elizabeth Hirst, Derek Newman-Stille
From what we’ve seen over the last few weeks, people in apocalyptic-like times are still just people, not characters out of an exaggerated and highly individualistic vision of the future often touted in post-apocalyptic literature and video games. Our panelists discuss other visions for apocalyptic times.
Elizabeth Hirst, Madona Skaff, Shannon Barnsley, SL Huang, Kaitlin Caul
Since my last post, more developments have happened on both the Renaissance Virtual Conference and AmazingCon, and I would encourage people to register and stay engaged via the links. I will talk about my panels in more detail in another post, but I’ve got a really great lineup doing readings and talking about Queer Futurisms, how the pandemic has rendered our apocalyptic tropes outdated, and the all-important How To Get Out of The Slush Pile. After a lot of years reading slush in university, for my own company and for Amazing Stories, I think I will have a lot to contribute to that last topic, and I hope that it will be helpful for folks trying to get their foot in the door.
That’s not what the title of this post is about, though. I’ve been doing conferences for so long at this point that it’s easy. What’s not easy for me… is a manuscript that I love, but which needs significant revisions to the tune of (close to) a full rewrite. I had posted about this a bit on Twitter, but I thought it merited more space on the blog in case it could be useful to anyone else out there in their writing journey.
These past few years, since just before I was picked up by Renaissance Press, I have been on a journey of professional development, and my mission has been simple: Be so good they can’t say no. That’s it. That’s the mission, and that’s my mantra. I want to always stay humble, to keep working on my craft and making my work the best it can be, moving past being ‘good enough’ and into honing the advanced skills that turn journeymen (journeypeople?) into Masters.
To that end, I have taken several concrete steps to keep improving. I have worked with a publicist, trying to understand how my current published works are performing, and how to improve my books’ appeal. I have hired editors to look over my work after the first draft, because I find the whole beta reader/writing group thing tricky with mixed results. I also invested in going back to Odyssey‘s alumni workshop, TNEO.
Through collecting all of this feedback, I have identified a couple of things, but the main one that is pertinent to this blog post is that I have problems with protagonist likeability. The funny thing is, once I went through the intensive workshopping process at TNEO and teased some of this out, it’s not that my characters and their motivations lack what it takes to inspire empathy in the reader. Most of my characters, at least the way I see them in my head, are very likeable. But that’s because I know all of their backstory. The challenge that I face in terms of plotting is actually one of where to begin the story and how to pace so that readers feel like they’ve gotten ‘enough’ to make a judgment on the character.
Another challenge to my characters is that I like, let’s say, unconventional protagonists that reflect new ways of looking at the world. I like exploring alternate family structures, including but not limited to polyamorous and chosen families, and creating characters that challenge the reader in some way. In my current WIPs, I am grappling with, respectively, an undead princess who wants to find a way to be a good person and reclaim her dignity after her transformation, and an animal-loving misfit who has fled into space to escape a tech-phobic cult but still wants to keep her religion. As you can probably tell, these are nuanced characters who could easily draw in or alienate your Average Reader (TM).
I don’t want to get into too many details, but I also got a lot of static from some quarters for Kenzie in The Face in the Marsh, and I feel this was due to some readers not accepting her as bisexual and polyamorous and instead reading that as ‘immature’. I know some level of criticism is natural for all books, and it’s part of being a public figure, and part of me is proud that I affected people enough to get them that pissed. At least they felt something. And absolutely homo/biphobia and prejudice against non-monogamous people probably played a role in some people’s opinions about the book. But I also hope, perhaps in vain, that my future works will be that much better, that they might give a more normative person a look into the brain of someone different and have them leave the experience with more empathy. As such, I think a longer tail in developing the characters before rolling out their idiosyncrasies may be the key.
The manuscript I am working on right now that is giving me all the trouble is Undead Princess WIP. Normally I write an extremely clean first draft. Not so with this one. I’ve never written anything with heavy romance elements before, and I’d never attempted a pure, unabashed secondary-world fantasy before, despite my intense affection for both genres. What came out was something strange, wonderful and exploratory, combining elements of erotica, romance, epic fantasy and horror.
Once I got the draft to an editor I trust, she helped me realize that it was a cool concept but in this case, the muddling of genres was hurting rather than helping the story. After working with her to envision what the story might look like with certain genre conventions dialed up and others dialed back, I realized that it would perform best, and showcase my vision for it best, as an epic fantasy romance. This meant that most of the erotica elements had to go, which was painful for me because there was the potential for some really pulpy Anne Rice-style action in there that I still liked. This also meant that I had to do a nearly full rewrite to dial up the fantasy and romance conventions.
I am about three quarters of the way through the rewrite now, and I am not too humble to say I do love it this way. In my opinion and based on my (admittedly biased) tastes, it has the best of classic fantasy updated for today, and feels like reading one of those amazing heavy metal songs from the 70’s or 80’s that tells an outlandish story. I maaaaay have been listening to a lot of Iron Maiden and Greta Van Fleet while writing it. Now that I see what the carefully-pruned narrative can do, I am amazed at how it is standing on its own two feet.
It was all great, until I gained momentum with this version of the story, reached the third act, and realized that the few elements of the old erotica plot that I had left in had to go, and I had to make the same-sex romance plot line a slower burn than previously imagined, because due to the circumstances I didn’t want Undead Princess to come off as a cheater. The result is a book that pushes most of the non-monogamy and LGBT themes to the second book (although any romance reader is going to guess that there is tension between these two characters and they obviously like each other!).
Don’t get me wrong: I like this change. I think it fits the new aesthetic for the series better, and I think it will be easier for your average reader to ‘get hooked’ and start to like the characters, giving it a more mainstream appeal and (hopefully) better sales if and when it goes to print. But there is still a little nagging part of me that claims I am caving to my critics by slowing things down a bit. I am also concerned that the book may still suffer with romance readers because non-monogamy figures into the plot, a little in the first book and more in the later books.
If you’ve read this far, what do you think? Does it sound like the right change for the story, or are the haters winning? Conversely, should I dial back the non-traditional elements even more? Let me know in the comments, or on Twitter.
In my last post, I mentioned that I had been invited to two new online conferences that have stepped up to provide entertainment and fellowship to the reading and writing community during COVID-19. I am deeply grateful to both of these events for giving a platform to creative professionals and fans who rely on the summer convention season for visibility, and I am looking forward to what discoveries this new format may bring us.
So, without further ado, it’s time to announce the first of what I hope will be more than a few online appearances in 2020.
I am so proud to report that my own publisher has announced that they will be running a virtual conference later this month, and I am sure that with the smart, interesting and diverse people who work with Renaissance Press, and their friends, there will be some really engaging panels. And, there is still time to join in if you’re an author or publisher.
For the past few years, I have had the pleasure of working with Amazing Stories, and it has been so exciting to be able to contribute to a classic magazine’s future. Now, Amazing Stories is planning a brand-new online conference with readings from some of speculative fiction’s best and brightest. Attendees can register on the website.