Girl Cyborg: YA SF Action Adventure

Girl Cyborg: My latest YA novel is launched on Wattpad

October was such an exciting month for me with my visit to World Fantasy Convention in Columbus, Ohio — but that didn’t mean I forgot to plan Girl Cyborg: A Science Fiction Action Adventure. This year for NaNoWriMo I will be running a repeat of the experiment that saw Feeding Frenzy become a featured story on Wattpad. It later went on to win a Watty HQ love award and garner over 107 000 reads on Wattpad. What is unique about this approach is that the first chapter was posted on Halloween , and the rest of the book will be posted a chapter at a time each Friday (just like Feeding Frenzy was). So far not so unusual, except that I will also be writing the first draft at the same time in daily 2000 word bursts during the month of November. It’s kind of like writing as performance art — with no safety net.

While I’m perfectly aware that awards and high rankings might not happen for this project the way they did for Feeding Frenzy, I’m hoping  the experience of writing page-turning suspense for Wattpad has made me a better writer. So far people are starting to find the story and initial comments have been positive, but only time will tell if readers like it as much as Feeding Frenzy. This story is not a supernatural thriller but a survival tale set in the near future.

Girl Cyborg

Girl Cyborg is the story of Bess, a genetically and cybernetically enhanced search and rescue specialist at the Academy, an elite training school. While not strictly considered military, the grads and undergrads of the Academy carry out missions to protect citizens of the allied country they have been supporting — not occupying — during an armed conflict that has been going on for ten years.

Bess’s super strength and augmented senses could just as easily make her a super assassin as a rescue worker but when peace is declared, her greatest wish is to become a firefighter and continue saving lives. The book opens on the day Bess commands her very first mission as an Academy grad, rescuing civilians from a bombed building.

 

Girl Cyborg by Maaja Wentz
A science fiction action adventure of dystopian survival.

Blurb

Cyborgs aren’t made to last…

Eighteen-year-old Bess is a search-and-rescue specialist that the government wants to search-and-destroy. Created to pull survivors from bombed buildings, her superhuman strength, sight, and hearing make her a high-value target. The military wants to contain her. Organized crime bosses want to enslave her. Helping her is almost as big a crime as being her.

To escape detection, she must go dark, cut off from the signal that tells her body to heal. If the bounty hunters don’t get her, cellular degeneration will. Out of options and out of time, she teams up with a young rebel who rekindles her humanity. While searching for the mysterious doctor who can restore her body, she tries to unite a baby with its family against Academy protocol. The child will grow up an orphan like Bess and be transformed into a cyborg if Bess doesn’t intervene.

Will she have time to save the child and herself?

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

 

Robert J. Sawyer — Quantum Night

Robert J. Sawyer at book launch for Quantum Night in Toronto
Robert J. Sawyer at the jam packed Toronto launch of Quantum Night with David and Maaja Wentz

Book Launch

There was such a snowstorm March first for the Toronto launch of Quantum Night, that some feared attendance would be sparse, but Canadians are hardy. Returning home afterward I saw one cyclist on the road, riding through blowing snow.

 

Despite the blanket of flurries, Lansdowne Brewery was packed, even before the advertised start time. Rob offered up his seat so my husband and I could eat sitting down at the bar. Meanwhile, Rob Sawyer stood to sign autographs. A scholar and a gentleman indeed!

Quantum Night

Quantum Night is a suspenseful read, although the plot is based in philosophy and theories of consciousness. For some reason this book hits all the right notes for me, right down to the David Chalmers quote that prefaces the story:

It may be a requirement for a theory of consciousness that it contains at least one crazy idea.

 

I found I could relate to the realistic characters, but it’s ideas that make science fiction interesting. Perhaps it’s pure coincidence that I read a stack of books on psychopathy this summer, or perhaps it’s just the zeitgeist and Rob Sawyer is reflecting what preoccupies people right now.

 

The book is topical and political. At the launch, Sawyer told us he had to make last-minute changes to the manuscript to reflect the results of the Canadian federal elections. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was considered a long shot for much of his campaign.

 

The other topic of fascination for me, so crucial to the plot of this book, is consciousness/ free will. Any book in which a character references The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, is my kind of story. The question of when and how our prehistoric ancestors started to develop conscious thought is fascinating and contentious. Sawyer’s story dives right into this controversy.

 

Sheep or Individuals?

The premise contends that the majority of people aren’t conscious, but follow the lead of others like sheep, and that psychopathic leaders delight in manipulating the herd. For Sawyer there is another group he calls the quick, who are both conscious and ruled by their conscience. I bet all Science Fiction readers assume that they, of course, cannot belong to the unconscious “philosopher’s zombie” group.

 

By the way, the sheep people who make up the majority are perfectly capable of holding down jobs, marrying and having children, and going out on Friday night like everyone else. To an outside observer it is impossible to prove whether a person who goes along with the crowd is making conscious choices or not.

 

It’s perhaps the hardest part of the book to swallow, but also what makes it so much fun. What’s the point of fiction if you can’t suspend disbelief?

(I am experimenting with this affiliate links to Amazon Canada. The other links are to the publisher.)

 

Near Future Thriller

It’s a convention of the thriller genre that there will be unbelievable feats or technology or events. The fact I remain skeptical of some speculative elements of the premise didn’t make the story any less exciting. There is even a guilty geekish pleasure to be had in speculating that the in-crowd from high school to Hollywood might actually be made up of brainless zombies.

 

The intrigue centres around blind followers, psychopaths, and persons of conscience. The premise is that a device is invented which can change a person’s makeup from one type to another. You can just imagine what might happen if this device were to fall into the hands of psychopaths, and of the difficult choices that must be made when it is discovered that the transformation is along a continuum. There is no way to use this power without plunging some conscious people into a state of sheepy unconsciousness.

 

In a world where one individual could press the reset button and change the makeup of humanity, will the result be our salvation or damnation? I leave you to read this very enjoyable book and conclude for yourself.

 

Shared Writing and the Classroom Novel

The popularity of fantasy adventure novels hasn’t dwindled since Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Teachers capitalizing on this popularity can inspire student writing, without marking more pages than Lord of the Rings. Today, I’m going to talk about shared-world ‘novel’ writing. This is something I did with a class of gifted grade four students, but the format easily adapts to older students, all the way up to high school.

Design the architecture of the story a bit like a video game or a treasure hunt. The protagonists are searching for a special item, or group of special items that are keys to solve a puzzle, or which give magical powers to defeat an opponent. Each chapter depicts the protagonists’ search through a different world.

In the case of our student novel, World Pool, it began when a magic rock and a runaway science experiment tumbled our heroes into a series of water portals. The protagonists, a boy and a girl invented by the class in a chalkboard brainstorming session, moved from world to world having adventures. Don’t ask me how it worked scientifically. It was magic, and as long as the rules of magic are consistent in the story, your students can do just about anything.

Our intrepid heroes visited the soccer world, the stone age, the bronze age, the land of hockey, Formula 1 racing world, the magical jungle, a planet with heart-shaped people, and finished off by visiting the Wonderful Lizard of Paws…

When the chapters were edited, we collated them, photocopied, added a student-designed cover, and bound and distributed the finished product. If I were to do it again today, I would produce an ebook on Smashwords, and give the families a coupon code for unlimited free copies. That way there could be a colour cover, and the young authors’ families and friends could access their book worldwide, at no cost to the school.

If this idea inspires you, try holding a few shared-writing brainstorm sessions with your students. This is a fruitful process but it can’t be rushed. Every student needs to feel implicated in the planning, writing, and peer-editing. The process is as important as the final product, and helps create team spirit.

Suggested procedure:

  • Set aside a daily time for work on this intense project
  • Set behaviour guidelines which allow only constructive criticism, and limit brainstorming to positive comments
  • Discuss the format, story genre, and types of characters students want for their story
  • Collaborate on a story architecture that will allow each chapter to be written by a pair of writers, inspired by a topic of personal interest to them
  • Dividing into pairs also keeps the number of chapters down to 15 or so
  • set chapter length limits (word count or page limits)
  • The class will need to collectively map out the book’s outline, including how it ends before writing begins (I like to use chart paper to keep and display our decisions)
  • One pair will write the first chapter, in which the protagonists are drawn into the first portal
  • One pair will write the final chapter where the protagonists return, victorious!
  • Make it fun! Creativity can ‘turn turtle’ under pressure
  • You may want to discuss writing characters of the opposite sex in a realistic way, and use mixed writing pairs, to avoid sexist clichés
  • Have groups ‘sign up’ for topics to avoid repeats (ex. there shouldn’t be two candy world or vampire world chapters in the same book)
  • Pairs should be given plenty of class time to write, peer-edit, and revise their chapters before the teacher edits them
  • Good copies need to be typed by each pair and submitted to the teacher as a digital file (for printing or ebook conversion)

For more information on formatting ebooks for distribution on a variety of devices, you might like to look at the Smashwords website, or the Kobo Writing Life website. Kindle Direct Publishing sets limits on what you are allowed to publish for free. If creating an ebook for Kindle interests you, check out Amazon’s fine print, or produce your .mobi (Kindle) files via Smashwords.

 

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

Spies are From Mars – The Horse can see the barn!

Have you ever had a feeling of regret as you finished reading a book? You knew you would miss the characters and their stories, as if they were old friends. Well, it’s a little different when you are writing the book. Sure, I’m a little sorry to finish rewriting Spies are from Mars, but I’m happy about it too. Today I reached page 223 of my manuscript, which adds up to 66 700 words out of  between 70 000 and 90 000, depending on the editing process.

It’s exhilarating when you get close to the end and the writing goes faster, like taking a trail ride when the horse suddenly sees the barn and gallops towards it. Nothing can stop it or slow it, especially not a newbie like me, hanging on with arms and legs any way I can.

Note: In my metaphorical version of this story, the horse does not stop fast when it reaches the barn and send me flying over its head.

Update: Aug. 14, 2013. The new draft is done. Stats: 74 100 words/ 247 pages.

Ark of the Convenient — I don’t get ‘writer’s block’

I never have writer’s block in the pure sense. Ideas are easy to come by and if I sit down to write, I can always write story, character, scenario, scenes. What slows progress, is feeling my story is going down the wrong path. It means reevaluating, making changes, rewriting. Until all the problems are resolved, it is both painful and pointless to move forward. I have to be patient with the process.

Another problem is research. In a story set on Mars, there is a lot of world-building and speculation to do. For enrichment, I’m reading The Princess of Mars, inspiration for the recent film. It’s a fun tale but it isn’t really helping me research terraforming and Mars settlement scenarios. I could read web articles, non-fiction books and novels about Mars every day for the rest of the summer and I’d never run out of material, just writing time.

If “Ark of the Convenient,” finishes around my approximate goal of 80 000 words, I’m halfway through the rough draft. I also know how it ends. Now, if I could just figure out the details between here and there…

Progress as of 8/03/2012

40400 / 80000 (50.50%)

Ark of the Convenient: A new novel inspired by Douglas Adams, Red Dwarf and Doctor Who

Progress Update 7/27/2012

34180 / 80000 (42.73%)

I reached page 90 today. It’s take stock time and, although I can see myself making progress, I am simultaneously discouraged. My writing will never be brilliantly scientific and philosophical in the way that Douglas Adams’ novels are.

Instead of getting blocked, I spent a few hours on Mars research, which helped the flow of ideas. Reading Princess of Mars at the same time as researching Martian Rover missions and theories of terraforming yields strange combinations of ideas…

Progress Update 7/26/2012

32000 / 80000 (40.00%)

Progress today brings me to page 83 of my manuscript-in-progress “Ark of the Convenient.”

Progress Update 7/24/2012

29000 / 80000 (36.25%)

This progress bar represents 75 pages of my new manuscript-in-progress “Ark of the Convenient.”


Yesterday I also took the current draft of “Marmalade Cat Detective,” and created a new outline for rewriting it using cards. I’m taking it in a slightly different direction, closer to my original vision for this piece which was always intended to be satirical and written for adults. It’s an experiment…

Progress Update 7/18/2012

18408 / 80000 (23.01%)

Progress Update 7/16/2012

I took some time to put my outline onto cards and I’ve written a little more.

15162 / 80000 (18.95%)

Progress Update 7/12/2012

11229 / 80000 (14.04%)

Are you a compulsive writer? I’m one of those people who always believe their newest project is their best. On summer mornings, whether or not I have guests, I like to get up early and do some free writing. The result this July is the first chapter and outline for a brand new novel called “Ark of the Convenient.” You could accuse me of procrastination. I already have Marmalade Cat Detective to edit for submissions and I did write the 50 000 word draft of a novel tentatively called “Wild Caving,” which got positive feedback at an agent pitch session at the Ontario Writers’ Conference. Both are worthy projects, but they can’t compete with writing something new and funny over the summer.

One reason I’m dropping everything else to write “Ark of the Convenient” is I miss Douglas Adams. I miss reading new things from the author of Last Chance to See, The Long Dark Teatime of the Soul and, of course, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books. It’s such a shame that Douglas Adams is no longer with us. I yearn for the zany fun of his humour, as well as his satirical views on environmental issues.

Inspired by my love of Douglas Adams, Monty Python, Red Dwarf and Doctor Who, my story is about a failed grant writer, embroiled in civil war between humans, cyborgs and Martian Rovers ‘gone wild.’

Rob Nohap is shanghaied aboard a colony ship where he is expected to promote Mars via social marketing campaigns. This Science Fiction romp involves a pet psychologist with fossil Martian DNA, a ship’s computer who thinks she is Pipi Longstocking and the Wyms, an ancient dragon-like race who control wormholes through space. Can Rob can save an Ark of kidnapped humans and survive to impress the woman who was his high school obsession? I’m writing to find out…

Follow me for updates on my newest project. I still intend to podcast “Marmalade Cat Detective,” but not until I have this hot new idea down as a first draft.

Positive Rejection

I had a very positive rejection for a poem I submitted to Strange Horizons recently. The editor suggested two other markets I could try and invited me to submit to Strange Horizons again. Yeah!