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

 

Would you click on this book cover?

Should a writer create her own book cover?

Most artists would recommend leaving cover creation to the professionals and I will. The cover to my self-published ebook, Feeding Frenzy, will be professionally designed. It’s my most popular work yet, garnering a Watty award on Wattpad and ranking #11 in mystery/thriller. Currently, I’m working with an exceptionally talented editor to take the book to the next level. It would be foolish to put the finished book out under a bad cover. Nobody would want to read it. My hope is that the finished cover will include the best elements of the cover I had made for Wattpad, but with professional graphic design.

Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.
Feeding Frenzy wins a Watty Award.

What about free books?

That said, there is the question of freebies. I would like to reward visitors to this blog with free stories. So far I only have one freebie readymade. The Fiendish Plot of Doctor Cyclone is a screenplay based on my middle grade novel of the same name. I adapted the story for media club because I love putting on a show with kids. A drama club is nothing like the dreaded classroom play in which stage-shy students must force themselves to perform.

The movie includes ‘green screen’ key effects which allowed me to place my actors on a space station and inside a mine on the moon. Although I’m proud of the project — proud enough to create a souvenir ebook and give it to the participants — I know most people don’t read screenplays. Cyclone should make fun reading for kids, parents, or educators, but it lampoons science fiction cliches — not everybody’s cup of plasma. I need a better freebie to offer readers.

Do you have an extra $1000.00 lying around?

You can spend pots of money on a good cover but I choose not to spend $1000.00 on the book cover for a thank-you gift. “Wild Caving,” appeared in a print anthology. I am reserving the ebook version as a gift for members of the Loon Lake Reading Club. I’d rather save the cover money and spend it on lavishly editing and producing my next Loon Lake novel. Right now it’s sitting in a drawer, waiting patiently for Feeding Frenzy to come out first, but in some ways I think it’s the better novel.

Have your say

With Photoshop, I made a book cover for my literary suspense story “Wild Caving.” It’s a creepy tale that was short listed for a contest and has been published in the Amprosia anthology.

Since it is not available as an ebook I thought I’d make it available for free to anybody who signs up for the Loon Lake Reading Club. Everybody likes to receive a free book, right?

What I am less sure of are my skills as a cover designer. Please take a look at the test covers below and tell me what you think. Wild Caving, unlike most of my writing, displays no sense of humour. It’s creepy and more literary, written in the voice of a uniquely nasty narrator. Judging by audience feedback at readings, I think people will like it, but they won’t ever read it if the cover stinks.

Please look at the covers below and, even better, share them on social media. I need your help! 🙂

Book Cover Feedback

If you have a moment, I’d love to hear your opinions.

  • Which cover is best?
  • Is either cover good enough to catch your attention and make you want to click?

Cover A versus cover B versus cover C…

Wild Caving Test Cover
In a Mediterranean cave, a man’s prehistoric obsession turns deadly.

 

Wild Caving Test Cover
Ley lines and primitive desires.

 

Wild Caving Cover
In the hills overlooking Cassis, spindly pines form a forest of matches.

 

Thank you for your input!

Today should be WCDR gratitude day!

WCDR LOGO

 

Phoenix Short Story Contest

The finalists in the WCDR Phoenix short story contest have been announced and I’m on the list! Congratulations to all finalists.

 

After School Steve Lloyd
Birds of a Feather Derek Mascarenhas
Bittergreen My Life Sarah Van Goethem
Burnout Linda Kingston
Constellations Bill Zaget
Eternity Elizabeth Girard
Full Time Steve Lloyd
How Merrill Got Her Groove Back Maaja Wentz
Mahkenuk Maureen Curry
Out of the Ashes Lynda Allison
Phoenix Elaine Jackson
Salvage Ken McBeath
Seven Ravens Jessica Moore
Summer Apples Sally Moore
The Fortunate Man Ann Rocchi
The High Way Sally Moore
The House from Turk’s Cove Alison Dyer
The Steps You Take Vera Constantineau
U-Bahn Sylvia Chiang
You Lift Me Up Margaret Alexander

Gratitude

I recently wrote a letter to the Writers’ Circle of Durham Region, thanking them for a grant they awarded to me last year to help fund the professional editing of Feeding Frenzy. As a supportive writing community and dynamic volunteer organization, I can’t thank them enough for the encouragement and the opportunities they provide for writers at all stages of their careers. Here is the letter:

I would like to express my gratitude to the WCDR for its generous grant. Recognition in the form of a grant is not just monetary assistance to achieve the goal, but a of reflection of confidence in a writer’s work. Deciding to self-publish my novel, Feeding Frenzy, was not easy. The novel started in the form of chapters posted weekly to Wattpad, a free online reading platform with over 40 million members.

When Wattpad chose to feature Feeding Frenzy, and then later when it won a Watty award, it became clear that the story was of interest to readers. That said, spending the money to properly edit it for publication in e-book and paperback forms was a different matter. When the WCDR decided to provide a grant to help pay for editing, this vote of confidence made it seem both feasible and sensible.

Thank you once again for your confidence in my work, and for your financial support to help bring it to publication. Feeding Frenzy received editorial input from award-winning Canadian writer Richard Srimger, and the manuscript is currently in the hands of award-winning editor Sandra Kasturi. I will be sure to let you know when the publication date is set.

Please feel free to forward this letter to any of your sponsors. I am indebted to the WCDR for the many opportunities it has given me to network with other writers, attend workshops, enjoy guest speakers, read in public, participate in competitions, publish newsletter articles, and attend special events like Bookapaloosa. The local writing scene would be much poorer without the WCDR and its many generous volunteers.

With gratitude,​

Maaja ​Wentz​

Why your chapter book makes me angry

Kids minds are precious

 

I read a lot of books as a teacher-librarian, and I’m no literary snob when it comes to children’s fiction. I’m delighted to see children reading series fiction, and the kind of stories that will be called genre fiction when they are older: adventure, fantasy, mystery, science fiction. I’m happy to see them devour cookbooks, sports books, record books, joke books, how-to books, graphic novels, comic books, books that describe pranks, YA novels about the lives of teens from the wrong side of the tracks, non-fiction, and magazines on everything from science to movie stars. Anything that inspires a love reading in kids is a good read.

When I’m not at school, I write stories and novels and think about publishing them, either traditionally or independently. To learn how, I watch online videos, and read e-books by self-publishing gurus and independently published best-selling authors. Some of these videos are also made by entrepreneurs who aren’t interested in writing, so much as in creating a mailing list of people to whom they can sell courses, coaching, and digital ‘content.’ I’m sure some of these marketers create useful products while others are complete flim-flam artists. That’s okay. Everyone knows that when you buy something, it’s ‘buyer beware.’ We’re all adults here on the internet.

Except we’re not. Recently, I watched a free webinar on writing books for children and publishing them independently. I was horrified by how cynically the author of the course recommended that we create titles based on the kind of keywords parents and children would be looking for inside the top-selling categories for children’s fiction on Amazon.com. Next, we were supposed to combine these keywords with the latest trends such as Minecraft, or recent hit toys or Hollywood movies to create a sure winner. Once a bestselling concept was created by combining a fad, some popular keywords, and concepts from pre-existing best-selling books, the work of actually writing the book was so unimportant that this guru suggested hiring an unknown to do it on a cheap work-for-hire site such as Fiverr. With this sales method, quantity and discoverability are everything. Good writing is beside the point. How offensive to assume children don’t know quality when they read it!

I looked up some of the books created this way on Amazon to see if they were any good. The first couple I looked at were, predictably, terrible. I used to take a George Brown children’s writing class with well-known children’s editor Peter Carver. Not one of the students in that class ever turned in anything as flawed as the first page of this self-published book. It’s the difference between caring about writing as an art, and trying to rip off as many suckers as possible for money.

I am in favour of self-publishing, and I have no problem with the existence of books that are imperfect, tacky, or not to my taste. Adults are welcome to write and sell any kind of erotica the law allows, without it becoming my concern. It’s when crass marketers try to make a buck by methods which will put boring books into the hands of children that I get upset. Very young children work hard to learn to read, some of them very hard. When they reach the early stage of independent reading and can finally choose their own material, they deserve to read something hilarious, or intriguing, or imaginative, or exciting, or thoughtful, or better yet, all these things at once. They should never be exposed to something which is wilfully awful and boring, created just to have great SEO.

What’s to be done? Censorship is out of the question. Amazon.com does not and should not decide which books get published through its Kindle self-publishing platform. I suppose I could badmouth every disciple of this cynical hack meister, except some of his acolytes might write good books despite their commercial intentions. It can’t be any other way. In the hands of someone with talent and the intention of entertaining children, someone could follow his shallow advice and produce a compelling book that motivates children to read. So if censorship is out, but letting awful books fall into the hands of children is still a tragedy, what is the remedy?

I just spent this Saturday at TDSB Google Camp, a daylong conference for educators wanting to use Google applications in education. Something George Couros said in a workshop about digital footprint resonated with me. He said not to worry about students who might post a bad comment on digital platforms. The essential is to bury the bad in an overwhelming quantity of good.

Putting my anger at the creators of bad chapter books together with Couros’s advice then, I spent much of Sunday writing my very first kid’s chapter book. It involves magic, comedy, adventure, and a plucky heroine who doesn’t let a bully or a mad scientist’s cursed elixir ruin her life. A tentative title might be: Darling Jackie and Missy Hyde.

May it be the first of many, since I really enjoyed writing something that wasn’t too ‘adult’ to read to my students for a change. Ideally, I’ll get feedback from children and my writers’ group to make the story better. I’ll polish it and work at it until the story is something I would be proud to have young children read. And if I publish it or get it published someday, may it serve partly to bury those terrible, cynically concocted e-books that made me so mad.

Feeding Frenzy Featured on Wattpad

Feeding Frenzy named a 'featured story,' on Wattpad.
Feeding Frenzy named a ‘featured story,’ on Wattpad.

 

#11 in Mystery/Thriller Sept. 7, 2015 with 25 000 reads on Wattpad

Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller about our obsession with food. It was inspired by the madcap pacing of Jan Evanovitch’s Stephanie Plum mysteries and the over-the-top imagination of Christopher Moore’s comic fantasy novels.

— Maaja

Featured on Wattpad

Wattpad has officially chosen Feeding Frenzy as a ‘featured story.’ You can read it on Wattpad for free anytime. Wattpad members access an almost unlimited supply of stories, in many popular genres. Wattpad is a social network as much as a reading site, and half the fun is connecting with people all over the world.

Those who do not wish to join Wattpad can wait for the definitive paper and ebook versions of Feeding Frenzy, slated for publication late fall/ early winter. The release date will depend on the availability of editors. It’s too soon to name names but I am very excited about the industry professionals I have spoken to so far.

At the moment, the story is in the hands of an award-winning author with a fantastic sense of humour. His notes will help me do a rewrite which I will then hand over to an experienced editor for further feedback. Readers deserve nothing less than professional work.

After Feeding Frenzy is fully edited and covers are made, the book will be ready to launch. Join the Loon Lake reading club to receive notification of publication, pre-order deals, and time-sensitive discounts.

Blasted Bloomers: a new story in the works!

Discover Helene's mysterious past in this Feeding Frenzy prequel.
Discover Helene’s mysterious past in this Feeding Frenzy prequel.

In Feeding Frenzy, Tonya must pay the price for her Aunt Helene’s past mistakes among the magical families of Loon Lake.

Young Helene is an ambitious teen who charms animals and people without trying. In Blasted Bloomers, she tries to ‘be good’ until she meets Jack Waldock, the devilish rebel who tempts her with a seemingly unlimited source of power.

This prequel to Feeding Frenzy will be free for members of the Loon Lake reading club when it’s completed. Join today and be first to receive your Blasted Bloomers ebook.

08/20/2015 Note: I am currently editing Feeding Frenzy with professional input. Blasted Bloomers is a new project which will not be finished until edits on Feeding Frenzy are complete.

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″]

 

Feeding Frenzy

I celebrated the New Year by posting chapter 11 of my serial thriller, Feeding Frenzy.

Click here for the direct link…

Slide1Join me on Wattpad to read it for free on all digital platforms.

 

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

November Creative Updates

Creative Teaching Update

I Wish My Teacher Knew, the non-fiction online book I made to collect first-person stories about education and creativity, has received over 1050 reads on Wattpad. This is exciting because the more people read it, the more will contribute. The hope is that these stories will inform Creative Teacher Librarian with fresh ideas for renewing education. Find out more about it by clicking on the story below. Drop me a line if you have a story of your own to add. It would be great to hear from you.
 

 

Creative Writing Update

As of October 31, the new serial novel, Feeding Frenzy, is underway. Over a hundred readers have perused the first three chapters. As it grows, the hope is many more people will read it. Serial fiction is a great motivator and antidote for writers’ block. Since making a promise to update weekly, there is real pressure to follow through. Last week I posted chapters on Wednesday and Friday. Reader comments have been encouraging. Writing Feeding Frenzy is a nostalgia rush too, as it forces me to reflect on my first year of university, although mythical Loon Lake University is nothing like my alma mater, University of Toronto. If you like fiction with a little humour, mystery and paranormal suspense, this one may be for you.
 

 
The Wattpad experience has been stimulating in a lot of ways. I attended a second Toronto meetup at the Wattpad offices in October, which resulted in a new Halloween Story compilation. This platform makes it easy to engage online with writers and readers in their late teens and twenties. Who better to discuss creativity and new ideas in fiction?

Convention Update

My schedule for http://sfcontario.ca/ has firmed up. If you are in Toronto next weekend, and you are interested in speculative fiction, attending a convention is worth doing. I’m moderating three discussion panels and I’ll be running a flash fiction contest, open to attendees. If you are at the convention, be sure to say hello. Here is my schedule:

Reviews and Critiques – Saturday 11 AM
Tricorders in the Classroom – Saturday 12PM
Flash Fiction Slam  – Saturday 7PM
Sherlock vs Elementary – Sunday 1pm

In case you are wondering what a Flash Fiction Slam is, I admit I made it up. The idea is to have writers perform their own 500-1000 word stories, and have the audience choose the winners. In a traditional poetry slam, a couple of volunteers are chosen from the crowd who give each slammer a score of 0-10 for his or her performance. No props or costumes are allowed, and only 20% of the offering may be sung. Beyond that, there are few rules. Whatever the reader does to make the performance exciting is allowed. My idea is to take this format and apply it to flash fiction, all in aide of engaging entertainment.

 

 

 

An Evening with Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay is known for his fantasy novels, starting with the Fionavar Tapestry trilogy, set at my alma mater, University of Toronto. He has written twelve novels, a book of poetry and numerous reviews and articles for Canadian and English newspapers. His internationally bestselling works have been translated into over twenty-five language. Among others, he has won the International Goliardos Prize for contributions to literature of the fantastic. Along with astronaut Chris Hadfield, in 2014 he was named to the Order of Canada, the country’s highest civilian honour.

In September, I attended a ceremony recognizing 30 years of the Fionavar Tapestry at Bakka Phoenix bookstore in Toronto. Kay is a witty speaker, who underlined how lucky he was to have collaborated with such ‘tolerant’ and wonderful people over the years, many of whom he met during the writing and production of his first novel, The Summer Tree.

The store was packed with fans who lined up to have their books autographed by Kay, and also Martin Springett who created the iconic Summer Tree cover back in 1984. In his speech, Kay also recognized writer Sue Reynolds, creator of the first published map of Fionavar. It was fascinating to hear how the bay she drew on the map, based on Kay’s writing, inspired him to ask for a tower to be drawn there, and how that tower became essential in book three, The Darkest Road.

The ceremony began with original music performed by Martin Springett. It ended with three fabulous Dufflet cakes, each sporting a cover from the Fionavar trilogy. It didn’t surprise me at all when hungry fans ate their way around the outside, but refused to cut into the photographic decorations. As part of the Sunburst award group, who awarded him a Copper Cylinder Award for River of Stars, I was invited to the after party.

While I’ve met Kay before, this was an intimate gathering. He even bought us a round. Guy Kay is personable and generous with his observations. Speaking to a small group of bibliophiles and writers, he commented candidly on his current work-in-progress. In his remarks, there were lessons for creative types of all stripes:

At 100 000 words, the point where most novelists are finished, he is halfway through his epic novels and said he ‘hates himself’ because what he is writing never measures up to his artistic intention. Quoting T.S. Eliot, Kay compared this artistic disconnect to the ‘desire versus the spasm’

Kay is an international bestseller with a reputation for literary prowess. How inspiring to hear such an accomplished writer admit to ongoing artistic struggle. It encourages me to keep going and finish projects, since you never know when the project you are working on right now will be the one to change your life.

The other lesson was how important people and friends are to creative work. Gathering a group of creative people who understand your vision and can help you express that to an audience is crucial, especially for word artists. It takes a team of people to put out a book and for me, since I am researching indie publishing, it was a good reminder that any publishing project depends not just on the appeal of the author’s work, but also on the talents of the team who edits, formats, prepares and distributes it.

At Bakka, Kay said author tours used to be common and joked that in October, you couldn’t go through a Canadian airport without bumping into an author. How things have changed! Publishers no longer have money to publicize new authors but an established publisher like Kay’s (Penguin) represents more than prestige and publicity. It’s also about working with a publishing team of the highest quality.

Kay’s most recent work, River of Stars, continues the story begun in Under Heaven, which is inspired by Tang Dynasty China in the eighth century. Kay is known for creating epic novels set in well-researched fantasy realms that resemble real places and times. From fictionalized Ancient China to Byzantium and beyond, if epic drama, exotic realms and history pique your interest, visit his author page to discover Kay’s unique worlds.