Coming Second (after W.B. Yeats)

Turning and turning in a plastic gyre

The Garbage Patch grows silently.

Things fall apart, degrading into plastic pills and

Floating Barbie heads are loosed upon the world.

The plastic-dimmed tide concentrates in filter feeders.

The innocence of tossing bone over shoulder

Should have died with the Neanderthals.

The best want more stuff, while the worst

Slave hopelessly, for the same petroleum dreams.

Surely this thing should make the papers?

It’s bigger than the Second Coming!

But the Second Coming is fodder for series novels,

Televangelists, and lame excuses.

When I close my eyes to sleep, the ocean pours in and

My head fills with bleached coral, flotsam, and decay.

Headless, eyeless and without pity for seabirds,

Trash vortexes are here to stay.

The darkness should be my refuge but,

Hundreds of years of industry

Have born this nightmare, hid from us

By Commerce, who puts Nature second,

That rough beast performing miracles

Daily, of air and water and sustenance.

Who could sustain the guilt we should feel?

Who, but the Greens, gives a flying dodo?

When in hot water, Flat Screen Man will ‘reset,’

Invoking some planetary cheat code

Like easy-peasy carbon sequestration.

We play with Earth as if any day,

A new one could be born.

By Maaja Wentz

I wrote this poem years ago for my critique group buddies but when I saw it fit the latest of Chuck Wendig’s weekly writing challenges, I couldn’t resist posting it here.

Live Reading of Second Coming plus speculative fiction stories and poems

If you would like to see me read this and other poems and stories on video, watch this clip of my reading at Can-Con, one of my favorite annual events.  Beware, may contain horror, and Dionysus.

Can-Con is the Conference on Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature, a literary and scientifically-minded science fiction and fantasy convention in Ottawa held annually by The Society for Canadian Content in Speculative Arts and Literature.

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​

1, 2, 4, 6: A System for Writing Success

Writers: Experiment with 1, 2, 4, 6, and Increase Productivity

This article is inspired by Scott Meyer’s blog post about writing success for screenwriters. In it he advocates “1, 2, 7, 14,” as a structure for becoming a more productive writer. Under his plan you would read one screenplay per week, watch two movies per week, write seven pages per week, and work fourteen hours per week preparing story ideas for new projects. The payoff is that in a year’s time you would have read fifty-two screenplays, viewed 104 movies, and written two feature-length screenplays.

Mad Scientist
Writers: experiment on yourselves for maximum productivity and creativity.

How do you measure writing success. Publication may be difficult but there are many ways to measure progress in writing craft. Here’s my twist on Meyer’s productivity experiment for fiction writers: 1, 2, 4, 6. Make it a routine to:

 

1: Read one novel or collection of short stories per week

If you are spending less time reading than fooling around on social media and watching TV, writing might not be your calling. Reading a book per week should be the easiest item on the list.

 

2: Read an average of two book reviews or writing craft articles per week

Scan book reviews to inspire future reading and keep up with the zeitgeist, and study craft articles to explore new techniques and forms you haven’t tried. Personally, I find reading writing craft books addictive. The challenge is to prevent writing advice from becoming a distraction in itself. Publishing trade magazines and websites provide marketing information and inspiration in article-sized bites.

 

4: Write four pages per day (1200 words)

Many authors average from 1500 to 5000 words per day, although figures vary wildly. That means it should be easy to write an average of 1200 words a day, even taking off two days a week. If this goal is too high to meet regularly, set your goal at two pages. An easier goal that can be made consistently helps build a steady writing habit. Binge writing has its rewards but can’t compete with a steady, regular writing habit for productivity.

 

6: Edit six pages per day (1800 words)

Many writers are perfectionists with drawer novels, abandoned short stories, and ideas for articles and editorial pieces they never get around to revising. By giving yourself an editing quota, you will be forced to look at your best abandoned pieces and decide what to revise and send out.

 

That sounded very authoritative, didn’t it? But my writing buddies will recognize this as advice directed squarely at myself. I have a filing cabinet stuffed with abandoned stories, and there are at least five drawer novels with my name on them. Are any of them salvageable? Perhaps. My skills have improved over the years. If I can force myself to look at abandoned pieces, instead of always chasing the next new idea, maybe some of those discarded premises will prove worth developing …

 

The Payoff: Writing Success

Writing success is reading, writing and studying the works of others.
Imagine how many books, articles and short stories you could write in a year. Publication isn’t guaranteed but I measure writing success by output and improvement

If you follow this system, at the end of the year you will have:

  • read fifty-two novels
  • read a combination of 104 book reviews and writing craft articles
  • written 1460 pages (438 000 words) of rough draft – a number which could represent 3-7 novels, 88-400 short stories, or 10 novellas, or some combination thereof
  • you will have edited those pages and made them ready for submission to editors

 

Will anybody run this creative experiment? I hope so. When I am writing well, the routine is to get up at 5:00 a.m., shower and dress, then write while I eat breakfast until 7:30 when I leave for work. Maintaining that pace, I have written a novel in a month more than once. Naturally, not everything written so quickly is going to be good, unless you put the time into thoroughly developing the ideas, plot, themes, characters and setting first.

A large part of Scott Meyer’s proposition is weekly idea development. For me, when an idea takes hold, I don’t need to schedule thinking about it. Researching, developing characters and setting, and then planning story beats are things I prefer to do in big blocks of time. All other writing comes to a stop as I mull over ideas, think about plot points, and anticipate creating dramatic scenes. I can’t imagine making the conceptualization stage into something methodical that could be divided into bite-sized chunks, but Myers asserts working on multiple projects simultaneously is necessary for working screenwriters.

If you are a screenwriter, or you are interested in reading the original article, find Scott Meyer’s brilliant advice here, on the Go into the Story blog.

Happy reading and here’s to your writing success….

 

Loon Lake Reading Club
Loon Lake Reading Club

Exclusive Report for Loon Lake Readers

The latest edition of the Loon Lake Reading Club newsletter is out. Access is for members only. This time content includes personal perspectives on travelling in Peru, photos, a recipe for Valentine’s Day, Feeding Frenzy novel updates and more. Don’t miss out. Sign up below….

 

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.

 

 

 

Urban Green Man Online Book Launch, Can-Con Readings and NaNoWriMo Panel

I will be reading a published story “Wild Caving” and my poem “Fallow God” from the Urban Green Man Anthology at Can-Con (Spec Fic Convention) in Ottawa, Canada on Oct 5-6. If you plan to attend, I will also be involved in the NaNoWriMo panel. I hope to see you there!

 EDGE is holding an online book launch for the Urban Green Man Anthology starting October 2 at noon (CST). Go to www.bittenbybooks.com Oct. 2-3 and interact with the authors online. I’m going to try to log in around 3 pm CST each day. What time is that in your city? Here is a link to a time and date converter

This should be great fun for readers who can interact with authors from all over. If you have always wanted to try an online book launch, I think it would be interesting to drop in and see how it’s done. 

Take care and happy reading,

Maaja

Lena Coakley’s Witchlanders & WCDR Contest update

Witchlanders
I attended the WCDR breakfast meeting this morning. Speaker Lena Coakley was excellent, laying out the seven things she wished she had known about story, before she published her first novel. Lena is the author of Witchlanders, a high fantasy YA novel.
Some of her tips were:
  1. Learn about plot from screenwriters
  2. Know what your protagonist wants before you start to write
  3. Yearning must escalate in the protagonist as the story progresses
  4. Stories need to have different but linked character arcs and plot arcs
  5. Have your protagonist ‘save the bunny’ early in the story (perform some action to make readers like him or her)
  6. Mind the gap, ensuring reader expectations and character challenges are always worse and more interesting than they originally appear
  7. Use the objective correlative like a screen writer (the environment mirrors inner feelings)
This list is just a glimpse of Lena’s ideas which were supported by anecdotes and examples from authors as varied as Charlotte Bronte, Garth Nix, Aristotle and Terry Pratchett. If you get a chance to hear Lena speak, you won’t regret it.


Breakfast, with a side of suspense

While waiting for Lena to speak, we were served smoked salmon eggs Benedict, a delicious combination I could not eat. Why? They started naming finalists in the WCDR Amprosia contest. As my breakfast cooled, they called the final eight names, very slowly. I was sure I was ‘out’ when they said one last name, at the end of the alphabet: Maaja Wentz.
My story, “Wild Caving,” moves on to the final round, judged by acclaimed novelist Terry Fallis. Honourable mentions as well as prize winners will be announced at the March 16 breakfast meeting. I wonder if I can stand the suspense?

Clockwork by Philip Pullman

There’s been a pattern to my recent reviews. The books are tending to be YA more than adult. That’s because I’m starting to think about fall.

I’ve just been notified that I’ll have an Intermediate class next year. In the special program where I teach, many of my students will be reading at the high school level or higher.

This means as well as swotting up on the Intermediate curriculum (I haven’t taught Intermediate before, excluding Library and French); I will be looking for challenging YA reading material. During the summer, I like to read around and have a few novel studies in mind to integrate with the themes of the curriculum.

Philip Pullman’s Clockwork is an odd tale. It’s halfway between fairy tale and ghost story with a ‘telltale heart’ beating at it’s core. The strands of Pullman’s, seemingly, unrelated stories mesh like the gears of a clock. Once the device (his story) is wound up, the events follow inevitably, chilling us with suspense. Junior grade kid should like this one. The language is simple (reading level is listed as grade 4) but the ideas should interest an older audience.

Mythspring and Seasonal Merrymaking

My friend Roben Goodfellow just got a story published in her very first book! It’s a collection of short stories called Mythspring.

The anthology is inspired by Canadian songs and explores myths and legends across several genres. I have to buy it before I can review it, so watch this space for further developments.

In the meantime, here is a link to an MP3 interview, from the editor’s website: Mythspring Mp3. The collection is introduced by SF writer Julie E. Czerneda with stories by:

Daniel Archambault
Alison Baird
Charles de Lint
James Alan Gardner
Roben Goodfellow
Tanya Huff
Lorne Kates
Genevieve Kierans
Mark Ladouceur
Claude Lalumière
Karin Lowachee
Derryl Murphy
Fiona Patton
Karina Sumner-Smith
Lynda Williams

Holidays are for face-to-face

I don’t know how much I’ll be posting in the next little while. The great Canadian YA dystopia is beckoning me and too much procrastination might kill it. Plus, at this time of year there are more important considerations.

The shortest days of the year should be spent with friends and family. While my little guy is off school I will definitely be spending all the time I can with him. Childhood only feels long to children and this may be the last year he believes in Santa Claus.

If you’re stuck on Christmas presents, buy someone you love a book. Midlist or Canadian or environmentally friendly would be extremely virtuous, of course, but a book is a good in itself. Besides, as my buddy bluebuddhabead says, they’re dead easy to wrap.

My modest recipie for a new year of happiness? Read, think, share and love together.

Happy reading, and happy holidays.