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?

Dragon Dictation: for Creative Writing

Should you use Dragon Dictation for your Creative Writing?

Many people say that the main benefit of Dragon Dictation for creative writing is speed. While it’s true that dictation fans rave about the increased productivity using dictation software, I have a much more serious reason to prefer dictating my stories and novels.

Typing at a laptop is worse than Dragon Dictation for repetitive strain injuries.
Laptops hurt me but Dragon Dictation helps my wrists heal.

Typing can cause wrist pain and repetitive strain injuries

This blog has slowed down for a while, partly because I have been putting my efforts into writing a serial novel on Wattpad, but also because I have been resting my overworked wrists. Since April 2014, I have drafted two novels from scratch, written short stories and a grant application, critiqued chapters for my writing partners, and blogged. Since Halloween, I have also edited and posted weekly chapters of Feeding FrenzyOf these, drafting a novel in the month of November (for NaNoWriMo) was probably hardest on my wrists. This alone might be enough to convince me to use Dragon Dictate for my creative writing, but that isn’t all the typing I do.

At school, I do a lot of keyboarding as a teacher librarian, in addition to demonstrating various applications to students using a digital projector. Some of this work involves typing standing up. If you have ever done any significant writing in a short period of time, such as participating in writing marathons, you may feel my pain. Years ago, when I got my first librarian job, it was up to me and a a few volunteers to automate an entire school library. This was data entry pure and simple, and by the end my wrists burned and ached. With the rest, the problem resolved itself, but these days I want to write more with less pain.

Dragon Dictation to reduce wrist pain

Have you heard of Dragon 13? This software allows you to dictate your writing instead of typing it. I purchased an earlier version years ago and realized the time necessary to train it to recognize speech in a Canadian accent, wasn’t worth the bother. This new version of Dragon works straight out of the box. Users can choose between British, American, Canadian, and specific regional accents. I am dictating this blog post without touching the keyboard to do more than make corrections.

The program is not cheap, and there are limitations. For example, I was not allowed to install the software on a laptop as well as my desktop computer, and my Surface Pro didn’t have enough memory to run it. On the upside, the premium edition transcribes recordings, so I could take a digital recorder with me on a walk, and let Dragon transcribe notes for me later. Maybe I’ll use it on the stationary bike.

Dragon 13 should suit those who don’t type, or who need to reduce their typing. Although I still find myself using the keyboard for unusual words, or to correct punctuation, it is possible to train the program to recognize just about any word. For most people dictating, even with the inevitable corrections that must still be made with the keyboard, is still quicker than typing. The training which launches with the program encourages users to choose the mouse and keyboard over the microphone where this saves time.

Compatibility with Dragon Dictation

Dragon works with many programs, including Gmail, although I wish it worked with the PC version of Scrivener. When Dragon encounters an incompatible program, it automatically opens a text box. Once you’re satisfied with what you have typed, you insert the dictated text with one click.

Another excellent Dragon feature allows you to highlight text and let the program read it back to you. When editing a piece, reading it aloud is one of the best ways to perceive errors. Having a program read it back saves your voice, and prevents you from skimming over extra words, or missed words. On Wattpad, where I am posting chapters no other person has proofread, I like to use every tool available. Reading aloud, spell check, and having Dragon read aloud, is a helpful combination.

Perhaps the biggest drawback, is that working with Dragon feels so easy and conversational, it could lead to chatty blog posts that go on too long.

 

NaNoWriMo Wattpad Experiment

October 31, I posted the teaser for a writing experiment on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy is a Supernatural Thriller, and a great big narrative sandbox for me to play in. The nature of the Wattpad community is friendly, so it’s a good place to find readers who appreciate humour and creative fun in their fiction.

Over the course of 30 days, the goal of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), is to write 50 000 words. Rough draft writing, random plot elements, and writing by the seat of one’s pants are encouraged. Anything to get up to the word count. Since I have done NaNoWriMo before, I added the new challenge of editing and posting at least one chapter to Wattpad weekly.

The experiment yielded some interesting results, including encouraging listings on Wattpad: #53 in Thriller/ Mystery and #69 in Paranormal. Not too bad for a book that isn’t finished yet. Of course the rankings in Wattpad change almost daily so from #53 the story fell out of the listing (out of the top 1000 novels), bounced back to 600-something when I posted chapter six, then dropped out of the top thousand again.

That’s not the important thing. This is:

NaNo Win

Last weekend I was so behind on my word count, making quota seemed impossible. I wrote most of the day for two days, producing 12 000 words to catch up. With December here, it’s time to relax with the 50 000 word goal reached. The finished novel will be quite a bit longer. I’m spending a chunk of today sketching out the ending so I can keep putting my 5:00 a.m. writing sessions towards finishing the novel, as well as editing and posting to Wattpad.

The only way to upload something of quality, in my experience, is to make sure the writing of first draft stays well ahead of my Wattpad postings. That means I can go back and forth editing and changing the manuscript for readability and continuity.

Thanks to those of you on Wattpad, Twitter, FaceBook etc. who have encouraged me to keep going. I hope you will be inspired to take on your own fun creative projects, and that you will enjoy reading Feeding Frenzy. Here’s the link to read it for free on Wattpad.

NaNoWriMo Statistics

Will it be possible to write 50 000 words of Feeding Frenzy in one month, while still posting a chapter to Wattpad at least once a week? This goal seemed a little impossible after getting so far behind on my word count last weekend. This weekend I tried to make up for it by writing 6000 words per day. Here are the new statistics.

Nov. 23, 2014
Nov. 23, 2014

Feeding Frenzy Wins Best Blurb Award

Feeding Frenzy is a supernatural thriller with humour and magic.
Feeding Frenzy hits #53 in Mytery/ Thriller and Update: #69 in Paranormal rankings on Wattpad: Update:

 

I recently won a fan-run Best Blurb Award on Wattpad. This may be a big reason why Feeding Frenzy is climbing the rankings. I can’t believe it has risen to #53 in Mystery/ Thriller and #69 in Paranormal. That’s a lot of progress in a short time. I’m going to use it as motivation to keep adding chapters.

The clock is set for 5:00 a.m. Monday morning so I can get right back onto my write-teach-write schedule. Watch for chapter updates weekly on Fridays or twice weekly on Wednesdays and Fridays.

Join in the fun here:

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.

 

 

 

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!

 

Feeding Frenzy – Serial Novel Experiment

Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014
Read it on Wattpad. Feeding Frenzy debut: Oct 31, 2014

Starting October 31, I will be combining my love of experiment with Wattpad and NaNoWrimo to do something new. As a result I will not be blogging much about creativity. I’ll be too busy getting up at 5:00 am every day to write fiction. If we want students to experiment and create, we mustn’t be afraid to do the same.

Feeding Frenzy is my newest project and a creative sandbox to explore Wattpad and serial writing. Mexican telenovelas, Ugly Betty, Being HumanSherlock and The Vampire Diaries are inspiring my approach to serial fiction, since I’m trying to teach this medium to myself.

Feeding Frenzy will be posted online, chapter-by-chapter as I write it. The germ for this idea as a science fiction story came to me a few years ago, but finding the right approach has been difficult. This problem fell away recently when I realized I already invented just the right setting for my last novel.

Loon Lake is a mythical, woodsy Canadian anytown which attracts the supernatural like a hockey net attracts the puck. Now, while I’m gathering reader feedback on the first Loon Lake novel, is the ideal time to explore Loon Lake University on the opposite shore. Here’s the blurb:

Feeding Frenzy is a paranormal thriller which explores our obsession with thinness. Imagine a supernatural mash-up between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Stephanie Meyer’s The Host.

Sweet but chubby Tonya never gets the guy, the grades or the glory. When Loon Lake is overrun by a deadly obesity epidemic, years of dieting allow her to resist a mysterious mind-controlling entity. Can Tonya uncover the source of this evil before she too succumbs?

Follow this blog or, better yet, follow me on Wattpad to read it. It takes moments to set up a Wattpad account which gives you access to 75 million free stories, including novels by well-known authors.

It’s uncertain how long it will take to write and post a novel at the rate of one or two chapters per week, but my goal is to draft most of it during the month of November. So far I have character sketches, a few funny-looking diagrams on rolls of  paper, and sets of plot cards written, discarded and done over. Outlines are hard to write from since story often veers from the original plan. My newest idea is to plot out the main points using sticky notes on a tri-fold science fair board. (Think table top cardboard study carrel.) Normally I’d just write the thing and edit later, but knowing I can’t go back and make changes is a unique challenge, and planning is my secret weapon.

 

NaNoWriMo

The month of November means a lot of things for different people. For Americans it means Thanksgiving. For Canadians it means colder weather. For writing enthusiasts all over the globe it means NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month is a fantastic kick in the pants for those of us who have always thought we had a novel in us, but never found the time. Why wait until the kids are grown, until you retire, or until your jobs stops being so crazy? Do it now, in one month. Write that novel and bask in the glow of accomplishment.

I have done NaNoWrimo a couple of times now. Writing 50 000 words in a month is something I would normally only do during the summer, but in November there is the extra incentive of knowing ‘everyone’s doing it.’ Feeding Frenzy is going to be my NaNo novel for 2014. What about yours?

If you are interested in NaNo for yourself or as inspiration for young people, here are some useful links:

http://nanowrimo.org/

Inspiration

Young Writers Program

For Educators

Me on the NaNoWriMo site (Feel free to friend me and message me there. You may need to create an account.)

The Snowflake Method (Novel planning.)

Coffitivity (This one might help you write your report cards.)

Feeding Frenzy on Wattpad (Read the story or leave a comment. If you’re new let me show you around.)

 

Happy writing!

Camp NaNoWriMo

I’ve set a goal to write the first draft of my new comedy in the month of April. It features an ensemble cast with earthy magic at the core of the premise and enough fun and games to call it screwball. “Hot Old Ladies Club,” is about a ladies book club where a deal is made, a wish is granted, and that is why everything goes horribly wrong. I hope reading it will be as much fun as I’m having writing it.

Here are my stats so far:

Average Words Per Day 2,453
Words Written Today 3,346
Target Word Count 60,000
Total Words Written 34,342
Words Remaining 25,658
Current Day 14
Days Remaining 17
At This Rate You Will Finish On April 25, 2014
Words Per Day To Finish On Time 1,510

I have purposely set my target low. The story is more likely to be a bit over 70 000 words but if I have 60 000 by April 25, I should have a few extra days get it done by month’s end.

Why set this kind of output goal? If it seems arbitrary, it’s not. Professional fiction writers often write over 2000 words a day, in addition to editing and other writing-related work. I’m teaching myself to work more and write better, and with a story as funny as this one, I’m having lots of fun doing it.

NANOWRIMO novel drafted in time

This year I participated in National Novel Writing Month. It was great fun. I wrote a complete, short novel draft, mostly in the mornings between 5:00 am and 6:15, that is to say, before work. The information about my novel is on their site http://www.nanowrimo.org/en/participants/cerealboxreader but it will expire eventually. For archival purposes, here’s what I wrote…

Author bio:

 For Halloween this year, I went to school dressed as “Conan the Librarian.” I speak fluent Hockey Mom. I’ve taught everything from Gifted grades 1-8 to French to Remedial Math. I prefer to hang with people who don’t take themselves too seriously. I have completed the 3-Day Novel Contest and JulNoWrimo. This is my second NanoWrimo. Best of luck all! I’m going to have a lot of fun with this.

 Synopsis:

An anthropology grad student finds love and breakthroughs, caving in southern France, but must defeat a prehistoric doppelganger who assumes her identity.

I do speed-writing experiments like Nano to try out new things, including new genres. This time I can’t decide whether it’s literary or horror, but for once I am writing a story in which two humans experience romantic longing. That does not mean I’ve written a Paranormal Romance 🙂

Excerpt:

When she could extricate herself, Jade wanted a bath and a change of clothes, absolutely, but her desire for knowledge was stronger. She’d spent years studying cave paintings, bone remnants and tools, theorizing about paleolithic humans. She didn’t care how evil this thing was. She would give anything to find out what it knew.

 My statistics:

 Average Words Per Day: 1,698
 Target Average Words Per Day: 1,667
 Target Final Word Count: 50,000

I have completed the 50 000 words with about four scenes to go. I am estimating a word count of 60 000 for the next draft.