Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Yesterday, Feeding Frenzy launched at my favorite Science Fiction and Fantasy book store. Bakka is one of the most unique book stores in North America, family-owned and delightfully supportive of SF&F writers. I was invited, along with seven other  authors, to take part in the store’s first Indie Literary Market.

I was a bit nervous, since my throat was very sore that morning and I didn’t want to lose my voice before it was my time to read. In my haste to get boxes of books and my sign packed up, I forgot to gargle with salt water. As my time to present approached, I imagined dire scenarios where disappointed listeners who couldn’t hear would try to be kind about the fiasco. “Well, she held the book professionally…”

Fortunately, after an emergency dose of salty French onion soup from the cafe next door, the reading went well. People laughed in the right places but, because of my throat, I shortened my talk on the fly. Here’s part of the story attendees missed.

Autographing Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Autographing Feeding Frenzy

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. The first story she wrote in school started, “that was the day the barn burned down.” She didn’t know it yet, but that was when her mother suspected she might become a writer. Later, this little girl’s very first book report was rejected by the teacher, because it was based on a science fiction comic book she had written, illustrated, and stapled together herself.

You could say my first attempt at self-publishing wasn’t much appreciated!

Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Feeding Frenzy Launched at Bakka-Phoenix

Award-Winning Serial Fiction

As a kid, I read mystery novels and science fiction and fantasy novels of all kinds. In University, I studied literature in English and in French, while devouring everything written by writers like William Gibson.

In my twenties, I kept my love of books, but lost my nerve. Despite winning a prize in a short story contest at University of Toronto, I was afraid to become a writer without income.

After a Masters degree in comparative literature, I left grad school to get a teaching degree. After that, life streaked by in a blur. Teaching at a private school, marriage, teaching at a tough inner-city school, motherhood, teaching ESL, French, Library, and finally, taking up writing again.

Sandra Kasturi at the reading Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Sandra Kasturi (standing, right) at Bakka

I joined critique groups, and wrote lots of short stories, but didn’t submit them. They were never perfect enough. Or, if I had a story I liked, I would send it to one market or one contest and if it didn’t win, that was it. I retired the story and wrote a new one. My audience was the critique groups which were great for making friends, and improving , but I wasn’t getting much published.

Meanwhile, I was getting older. Time was running out. I was going to die with filing cabinets of stories and novels that would never be read!

I was suffering from fear of submission. (The literary kind!)

An Artistic Dare

Out of desperation, I made an artistic dare with myself. I would write 2000 words a day and draft a new novel in a month. At the same time, I would polish one chapter a week and post it on Wattpad. If anything could get me over fear of submission, this should do it. Once something’s out on the internet, you can’t take it back.

The Prologue went up on Halloween, 2015, with chapters dropping weekly until the story was finished. It never occurred to me Feeding Frenzy would catch on with readers. Wattpad was just supposed to help me over my psychological block, and make it  easier to submit short stories to magazines.

It worked, by the way. I’m delighted to say, “Inside of a Dog,” will be published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine. This is a life goal for me, since I’m a longtime fan of Ellery Queen.

Maaja Wentz, Feeding Frenzy Launched March 2018
Maaja Wentz signing Feeding Frenzy at Bakka-Phoenix, Toronto

Dare and Do

Perhaps the moral of the story is to dare. Don’t worry that it’s too late, or that you’re too old. Don’t worry that your thing isn’t yet perfect. You can make it better when you know better. Don’t worry about being rejected and having to try again. Dare and do. The world of creativity–and life–belongs to the doers. It feels great to have finally joined them.

It took a lot of editing to make Feeding Frenzy good enough for me to publish. Winning a Watty award and accumulating 141 000 reads on Wattpad convinced me the story had legs, but that was just the beginning of a long and fruitful editing process. I’m grateful to brilliant editor, Sandra Kasturi, for agreeing to take on the project and help me make it shine.

Happy reading, happy writing, happy life! I wish you courage to overcome perfectionism, make mistakes, and learn from them in all your pursuits.

T’was the Night Before Pitch Night

 

The Night Before Pitch Night…  A Christmas Spoof for Writers

By Maaja Wentz (after Clement C. Moore)

 

‘Twas the night before pitch night, like inside a dream,

The writers were trying their best not to scream;

They drafted their log lines concisely with flair,

In the hopes that big contracts soon would be theirs.

 

While spouses and children lay snug in their bed,

The writers all tapped at their keyboards with dread;

For dawn’s early light and the coming deadline;

When revising a mess, there can’t be enough time!

 

Then deep in the basement, a sound like a gong,

You rush down to answer it’s siren-like song;

And behind all the boxes and cobwebs and junk,

Excavate a first draft, from the era of Funk.

 

The dull yellow bulb swinging from a bare wire,

Gave a lustre of newness that burned like a fire;

To abandoned old novels that had long been discarded,

When the author was still young enough to get carded.

 

One novel was brilliant and charming and slick.

You knew in a moment it could still do the trick!

Faster than spellcheck the visions they came,

Of agents and publishers calling your name.

 

Now Penguin Random House! Scholastic and Pearson!

Now Simon & Schuster! Bloomsbury in Britain!

On Hachette and Oxford! On Raincoast, Macmillan!

To the desk in the office! At the end of the hall!

Now submit away, submit away, submit to them all!

 

As pages tossed out of a window may fly,

You leap over obstacles for one last try;

And over the internet cover letters flew,

With your hopes and your dreams, and your best pitches too.

 

Then in more than a twinkling—but in less than a year,

Came the flutter of answers you’ve long learned to fear;

But with sherry in hand, for a bit of wet courage,

You crack the last envelope, already discouraged.

 

It was typed in Times Roman from header to footer,

Its surface all tarnished with coffee and sugar;

A cluster of legalese in bafflegab style,

Unbundled a treasure that drew a fat smile.

 

The clauses they twinkled, sub clauses how merry!

The Canadian Rights, like a deal-topping cherry;

The droll legal terms tied it up in a bow,

They would print up your pages as white as the snow!

 

The advance was so plump you could buy a Mercedes!

Did this deal go to auction like books in the 80s?

You pinch your arm hard to see if it’s a dream,

Then shriek with delight as you hear yourself scream.

 

As you spring to your laptop to draft an epistle,

You try not to wake up the kids with your whistle;

You give them a yes and hit send with delight.

Happy writing to all, and to all a good night!

 

 

Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy 2016

Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept 9-11, 2016
Meet me at Can-Con Conference, Ottawa, Sept. 9-11, 2016

Appearing at Can-Con Conference and World Fantasy Convention

I love meeting and speaking to readers, writers, and editors. That’s why I’m so excited about my upcoming participation at Can-Con Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature. I am equally looking forward to participating in the World Fantasy Convention at the end of October. This year’s theme is “Flights of Fantasy.”

One of the best things about reading and writing science fiction and fantasy is the chance to meet like-minded people. The creativity, thoughtfulness, and intellect of writers in these areas never ceases to impress me. When I get a chance to read my work or speak on panels at these events, it makes me feel like the luckiest little fish in a great big pond of wonder.

 

Can-Con Conference, Sept. 9-11, 2016

 

Can-Con, The Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature takes place September 9 to 11, 2016 at the Novotel Hotel, Ottawa, Canada. I am very pleased that both my time slots at Can-Con this year are on Saturday afternoon since I will be arriving late Friday night. Here is the link to the tentative schedule. My appearances are below.

 

Readings at Can-Con Conference:

On Saturday I will be reading from Feeding Frenzy at the Guildhall Con Suite, 3rd floor with a couple of other fantasy authors. Here are the times:

13:00 – Metamorphosis by Jennifer Carole Lewis

13:20 – Ungloved by Rebecca Simkin, who is also on Wattpad

13:40 – Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

 

Writers’ Groups Panel Discussion:

At 4:00 p.m. I will be speaking on a panel of interest to writers. Here’s the blurb:

Want to Dominate the World, but Don’t Have a Writers’ Group? Want to make one? Come hear how these other successful minionless writers formed their own critiquing groups so you can found your own! Totally not a pyramid scheme. You may have to sign up for a time-share though…  Maaja Wentz, Su Sokol, Mike Rimar, James K Moran, Ryan McFadden.

 

World Fantasy Convention, 2016
Meet me at World Fantasy, Oct. 27-30,  2016

 

World Fantasy Convention, Oct. 27-30, 2016

World Fantasy Convention takes place just before Halloween. I am told I will participate in at least one panel but details are to be confirmed. I am definitely taking part in the open mic poetry reading for fun. I have a couple of poems suited to Fantasy readers. “When Johnny Mars Turns Five,” “Fallow God,” “Twilight Romance,” and of course, my poetry slam-winning spoken word piece “Flimflam.” This piece sees our lives through the history of advertising. It was inspired partly by Under the Influence, Terry O’Reilly’s wonderful advertising podcast, but also by the brash new world of content marketers selling non-fiction ebooks. It’s a world I sometimes find repellent for artistic reasons, and yet self-publishing is strangely appealing to my geeky side. Audiences at World Fantasy are laaaaarge, so getting in front of a really big room will be a good stretch for me, terrifying but exciting.

 

Would you benefit from attending a Conference like Can-Con?

Can’t make it in person? Deciding whether to attend your first convention? The bios of the panelists for both conventions make interesting reading, and contain a trove of suggestions for new books to read. Start at the home page for each event and don’t forget to read up on the panelists and the guests of honour. Click on the links below for more info about programming. As for the parties, to experience those you will have to attend. Hope to see you there!

Can-Con

World Fantasy

 

Bookapalooza Draw for Mystery Thriller Books

I’m going to participate in Bookapalooza, a book sale/launch/reading taking place Nov 21, 2015.
Book Fair & Readings
Book Fair & Readings
Since my novel, Feeding Frenzy, won’t be launched until the spring, I’m going to run a giveaway for published books in the supernatural thriller & comic mystery genres. Visitors to my table will also get a Q-code card which takes them directly to the Wattpad version of Feeding Frenzy online, and a chance to win a copy of the published version. By the way, readers of this website have free access to Feeding Frenzy on Wattpad by clicking the “Maaja’s Writing,” tab on this website. It isn’t the final version but it was chosen by Wattpad as a “featured story,” with 48 000+ reads. You may find interacting with the book-loving Wattpad community interesting.
Feeding Frenzy by Maaja Wentz

This coming-of-age romp combines thriller, mystery, horror and comic elements:

Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller which explores our obsession with food. Sweet but chubby Tonya isn’t privy to deep family secrets, but when campus is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, only she can resist a hidden mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the mystery of its power before it’s too late?

It’s a witch’s brew of intrigue with a dollop of comedy, a teaspoon of romance, and a pinch of horror.

—  # 11 in Mystery/ Thriller on Wattpad.

“This is such an awesome story, and it’ll be a crime if it doesn’t win a Watty award this year.”
— Watty award winner @JoanneWeaver

Cliffhanger Castle – Contest Launch!

cliffhanger Secret Special Project 2_edited-3
Secret Special Project: Cliffhanger Castle

This is a writing experiment with its heart in community. Expect chills, thrills, and breathtaking plot twists…

Do you love chapters that end on a cliffhanger? One part contest, one part serial anthology, one part battle of writerly of wits; talented writers compete for the chance to captivate your attention. This story is inspired by a real abandoned hotel and artist’s colony, overlooking lakeside cliffs.

 

Set around modern day Lake Ontario, Austen and Tiffany are two teens thrown into a nail-biting search for Austen's little sister, Rhea, and her pet dog Ciggaro. The trail leadsto a condemned hotel in the beautiful but perilous grounds of Cliff Park, an old estate with a chequered past and it's fair share of ghost stories.

-- Joanne Weaver

 

Chapters are are posted as they are accepted on Wattpad. If you aren’t yet on Wattpad, you can read Chapter One here. You can also follow the project for email updates, and to enter the contest.

I’m editing this project, but even I don’t know what will happen next. Maybe the next chapter will be yours…

*** Update: Cliffhanger Castle is on hold until after the publication of Feeding Frenzy *** 

For updates, sign up for the newsletter: [wysija_form id=”3″]

 

What is a Serial Thriller Anthology?

Cliffhanger Castle, an innovative serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz
Cliffhanger Castle. A paranormal serial anthology created by Maaja Wentz

Is this Wattpad’s First Serial Anthology?

This project is a paranormal thriller with a twist – author collaboration in a serial anthology. If you have ever wanted to read a suspense novel that combines mystery with lots of surprises, this innovative novel, the first of its kind on Wattpad.

Exciting writers compete to display their unique style, in conjunction with other talented authors. The idea is to combine a gentle game of writerly one-upmanship, with a chance for like-minded writers (and readers) to find each other. Only the most talented contributors will have their chapters included in the story.

Is a Serial Anthology Right for You?

Written by various authors in styles ranging from sweet to suspenseful, there is a lot of variety for the reader. If you don’t want to miss out, consider following the project on Wattpad. Here is the link to my Wattpad Profile: @MaajaWentz (on Wattpad)

There you will also find my Watty-Award-Winning mystery/thriller, Feeding Frenzy,as well as virtual shelves of reading recommendations in different genres. There is a lot of free fiction available every day on Wattpad. As a platform, Wattpad has a monthly audience of 45 million to whom it is committed to provide all its stories for free.

Note: Wattpad is for members only but all you need is an email address. Join Wattpad for full access, or get Cliffhanger Castle updates outside Wattpad by joining the Loon Lake Reading Club.

 

*** Update ***

 

After putting Cliffhanger Castle on hiatus while I concentrated on editing Feeding Frenzy for publication, Cliffhanger Castle is relaunched and looking for contributors. If you are on Wattpad and you would like to contribute, feel free to pitch me with a chapter idea. If I like your idea, and the samples of your work posted on Wattpad, you may just be our newest featured author.

Richard Scrimger Interview

I was lucky enough to interview the witty, award-winning Canadian author, Richard Scrimger. Versatile, he writes for small children, middle grade, young adult, and adult categories. My current favorite is his YA novel Zomboy, in which a new student turns out to be undead, and unwanted, by unenlightened members of his community. Zomboy provokes thought but still delivers suspense and laughs. It has been nominated for a Red Maple award by the Ontario Library Association.

This year I am running a Silver Birch book club and a Red Maple book club. I’m looking forward to what my grade seven and eight club members have to say about Zomboy.

Enjoy the interview:

 

 

Linda Poitevin Interview

Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitvin on Wattpad.
Interview with traditionally published author, Linda Poitevin on Wattpad.

Could Wattpad be for you?

Are you a traditionally published author, looking to open up new markets? Do you have an idea for a book that would make good serial fiction? This interview with Linda Poitevin is partly about writing, partly about marketing, but mostly about how Wattpad can help you find new fans.

Since doing this interview in December 2014, many things have changed for me. I have completed my first Wattpad novel, Feeding Frenzy, which went on to be featured and then win a Watty award. Unlike Poitevin’s novel, mine is going to be independently published after its world debut on Wattpad but I did benefit from her advice. One of her biggest suggestions was to post regularly and following this tip my story went to #11 in Mystery/Thriller. I’m certain it never would have done so well if I hadn’t been disciplined about posting every week.

Wattpad works for Linda Poitevin

Wattpad is a fast-growing platform for reading free serial fiction. I interviewed dark urban fantasy and contemporary romance author, Linda Poitevin about using Wattpad to reach a wider audience. She has a lovely personality and a good grip on the business of writing. It’s clear that she and her fans enjoy falling in love with her romantic lead characters, but there are takeaways here for all kinds of writers.

Art versus Commerce?

I recently checked out Linda’s Twitter page @lindapoitevin with its new tagline: Evocative Romance/Unexpected Evil. It’s a good way to express the different genres she writes in. I think this is a challenge many creative people face. How do you write your truth, or write the stories you would most want to read, without confusing potential readers? When I sit down to write, I never know if I’m going to come up with a poetic serial killer story or a play, or a quirky kid’s book. It probably comes from working as a teacher-librarian. Where once I was almost a literary snob in my twenties (a hazard of doing an M.A. in comparative literature), now I read a lot of kid’s books, Y.A., and genre fiction of all kinds. None of this will make my writing easy to market or clear a straight path to a writing career, but I’ve never needed writing to pay the bills. Working full time allows me to indulge in art for art’s sake, for which I am grateful.

That said, I am still fascinated by the business of writing and the breakout indie authors. Success stories like The Martian or Wool, come easily to mind. While I honestly think few writers get into this business for the money, writing is only rewarding with an audience. Let’s hope that Poitevin’s insights and encouraging experiences will help you find an audience for your work on Wattpad and beyond. 

If you are looking for content that is actionable and focused on converting Wattpad readers to book buyers, Poitevin’s advice is as relevant as ever.

Video Interview with Linda Poitevin

Click on the link to enjoy the full interview: Linda Poitevin Interview

SFContario Wattpad and Feeding Frenzy Serial

SFContario is a convention which offers over 50 panelists, covering science fiction, fantasy, science, costuming, art, writing, genre television, and movies, as well as other topics of interest to fans. It runs from the evening of November 14 to Sunday November 16, at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis St, Toronto. I have been invited to moderate a few panels, including a couple that are education-related. The plan is for me to run a flash fiction contest as well. For more information or to join in the fun, check out SFContario.

Sunday I attended a meetup at Wattpad in Toronto, arranged by Takatsu. It was an opportunity to meet readers and writers who are eager converts to this new medium. We toured the Wattpad offices which feature magic marker signatures on the walls, top flight tech, commissioned Graffiti, a vault, the employee ping-pong ladder, a giant light fixture bedecked in Wattpad novel covers, and a tree-sized, tree-shaped bookcase. After the tour, and a brief-but-shocking game of Cards Against Humanity, we headed to C’est What? for dinner. My great pleasure was in meeting Gavin (‘The Orangutan’ on Wattpad) who was in town from the UK. We talked Science Fiction, family life and culture. Takatsu emphasizes philosophy, and there was plenty of that too. I also met a brilliant teen who talked Romanian history and politics.

Feeding Frenzy launches on Wattpad tomorrow. For more about this serial writing experiment, check out the previous blog post. The status report, as of tonight, is that half the novel is planned, a provisional ending is decided, and chapter one is written in draft. Tomorrow I get up at 5:00 am and proofread before I post it and leave for work. Terrifying as it is to post as I write, Wattpad provides an opportunity to interact with readers I can’t pass up. Who knows, maybe the second half of the story will surprise me as much as them.

I Wish My Teacher Knew, a non-fiction book I started to collect testimony from teens and adults about their school experiences, has surpassed 1000 reads on Wattpad. I’m very happy about this as the more people read it, the more will be likely to let me add their stories. There is nothing like first-person testimony to help define a problem, or measure success as I continue gathering information on creative teaching.

Enough! It’s time to lay out the Halloween costume (mine is a lady bug – complete with feelers, wings, and pearls for the visual pun).

Best wishes for a creepy, crawly, creative Halloween!

Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!
Conan the Librarian celebrates all books returned!

 

Reading at Can-Con

Authors getting dramatic at Ad Astra.
Authors and actors getting dramatic at Ad Astra.

I will be doing a reading of short fiction and poetry at Can-Con in Ottawa, Saturday October 4, 2014. My co-reader will be novelist S.M. Carriere. One of the best things about conventions is meeting and discovering new authors and making new friends. Conventions are magnets for creative people in the arts and multimedia.

Can-Con is an Ottawa convention which brings together Canadian authors and content creators in science fiction, fantasy and horror. I attended last year for the first time and was impressed by the warmth and welcoming atmosphere. I spoke on the NaNoWriMo panel which brought together a variety of writers. The highlight for me was going out to lunch together and trading stories.

According to their website:

CAN-CON is Ottawa’s premiere Science Fiction and Fantasy gathering celebrating the written word. This yearly event brings together readers, writers, artists, scientists, and publishing professionals for panel discussions, workshops, presentations, readings, book launches, networking opportunities and to have fun. CAN-CON is a function of The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.

2011 11 20_Thomas Camera_0049
Aurora Award Winners, 2013.

The 2014 Can-Con guest of honour is author Jo Walton, winner of the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the John W. Campbell Award, and the World Fantasy Award. The editor guest of honour is Gabrielle Harbowy of Dragon Moon Press. Also check out the panelists.

Why Attend a Convention?

Conventions are fun if you like science fiction and fantasy novels, and/or speculative movies and shows. There are even conventions dedicated to comic books.

Much more casual than conferences, ‘cons’ run on volunteer power. Organized by and for fans, at a convention it’s easy to meet a favorite author. He or she will probably attend the same parties as you.

If half the convention action is at the parties, the rest is split between concerts, award ceremonies, panel discussions and special events. At some cons there are workshops and fashion shows for fans who build and wear costumes inspired by anime, books and movies. There might be an improv show, fire works or even a star gazing workshop. It depends on what the organizers and participants decide.

The panelists at conventions discuss topics as far-ranging as politics, art, science, technology, genre conventions, cultural diversity in literature, and music. My favorite panels are about writing, including workshops, publishing panels, flash fiction contests, author readings and small reader-author meetups called “coffee klatches.”

Fans in costume.
Fans in costume.

Conventions for Creativity

My very first convention was AD Astra, in Toronto. The experience was so creatively stimulating, I went home afterward and wrote my first (unpublished) novel in a six-week streak. If you are into speculative fiction and appreciate geek culture, attending a local convention might be your ideal creativity boost.

A few recommended conventions:

World Con (location changes annually)

World Fantasy Convention (location changes annually)

Can-Con 2014 (Ottawa)

Ad Astra (Toronto)

SFContario (Toronto)

My list is limited to conventions I have attended in Ontario and Quebec. Wikipedia offers a much longer list of conventions where you can find something local to you.

 

Have a great con!