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?

Bookapalooza Book Fair

Bookapalooza Book Fair

It’s been a week since this Durham book fair. Standing behind my table all day, my only regret is missing some of the readings. The organizers at WCDR encouraged us to take time before doors to the Bookapalooza book fair opened to the public so we could visit other vendors. I also took time out during the day to buy autographed books by WCDR members, and to join the Toronto branch of Sisters in Crime. I felt like it was a successful day, despite my having nothing for sale.

 Giving Away Free Books is Part of the Fun.

Maaja Wentz, posing with free book prizes for the Bookapalooza book fair
Posing with prizes for the Bookapalooza book fair in Durham Region. This book fair, run by the WCDR is an annual fair for book lovers with sales and readings.

Many people visited the Feeding Frenzy booth and turned the spinning wheel to win free paperbacks, or free ebooks of Feeding Frenzy to be delivered once it is released. The wheel drew a lot of interest, as did the treasure hunt card implemented by Heather O’Conner. To fill the card and be eligible to win a basket of books, visitors had to visit booths, collecting signatures from the vendors. If I return next year to sell Feeding Frenzy in paperback, I’ll be sure to run another spinning wheel game because people really seemed to enjoy it. Better yet, I can only hope to be placed next to Heather again. Her upbeat manner made for a fun day.

 

Giving Away Free Books at the Book Fair

I’m not going to release the names of winners without their permission but here are some stats from my spinning wheel experiment:

  • 15 people specifically signed up for the Loon Lake Readers’ Club
  • 22 in total gave their email addresses (some in order to receive their free ebook without checking either yes or no in the Readers’ Club opt-in box.)
  • 11 people won the ebook version of Feeding Frenzy
  • Mostly women stopped at my booth and only women spun the wheel, which fits perfectly with the majority of my readers on Wattpad
  • Everyone who didn’t win a prize was given a ‘quick access card,’ with a Q-code and a short URL for the free, Wattpad version of Feeding Frenzy
Maaja Wentz gives away free book prizes at Bookapalooza book fair.
Feeding Frenzy previews at Bookapalooza. Maaja Wentz standing in her vendor’s booth at Bookapalooza book fair, run by the WCDR.

 

Reading at the Bookapalooza Book Fair

In addition to the booth, I was also granted a space during the readings. This was an interesting opportunity by itself as reading to a live audience is a great way to see if your chapter is working. An interested audience is a still audience and I am happy to report that listeners seemed very attentive during my chapter. One of my friends, David Talon, turned up to hear the readings, sporting a fabulous ‘Movember’ moustache. What a lovely surprise!

Cthulhu spotted at Bookapalooza!
Cthulhu spotted at Bookapalooza!
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Readers visit Bookapalooza book fair

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Bookapalooza Draw for Mystery Thriller Books

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

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

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

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

—  # 11 in Mystery/ Thriller on Wattpad.

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

Richard Scrimger Interview

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

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

Enjoy the interview:

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Takatsu Cell Phone Novelist

Takatsu wrote the first North American cell phone novel. I met with him to speak about creativity, multimedia art, writing, and education reform. His current project, Espresso Love, is a Wattpad novel. You can look at the video trailer, which he produced himself using Animoto to add mysterious signs to the urban landscape. His multimedia productions include songwriting, stories, video and graphic arts.

Takatsu praised the rigour of the Japanese school system and the close relationships and teamwork inherent in Japanese culture. Paradoxically, the strictness and high expectations bring out students’ talents and develop their abilities. Takatsu says that by working inside such a strong box, students learn to think outside it.

The same students who work together on a rigorous curriculum during school, and then clean their classrooms together, must participate in one club after school. These clubs involve many hours of daily practice in one area chosen by the student according to interest and talent. Choices include music, sports, visual arts and drama. The creative or athletic skills developed last a lifetime. Takatsu laments that in North America, although many people have a passion for the arts, many forget their talents once they enter the workforce.

There is a place for teachers on platforms like Wattpad, according to Takatsu. Educators are needed for collaboration, to teach net etiquette and also to mentor and teach writing skills.

I hope you enjoy this interview in which Takatsu speaks passionately about art and education. You can find his multimedia projects at Takatsu.tk.

 

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?

Drama Blog and Cat Detective Blog

I’m busy promoting book fair at my school and with Word on the Street Toronto coming up, this fall it’s all about the books. I’ve even started a couple of new blogs recently.

This funny blog, for kids and imaginative adults, is inspired by the protagonist of my novel-in-progress.

http://marmaladecatdetective.com/

As a teacher, with experience writing and producing stage plays and videos, I want to swap inspiration with others who do the same.

http://dramafun.wordpress.com/

There is no Dog — And his name is Bob

I found Meg Rosoff’s There Is No Dog in the YA section of a Chapters store. Teens should find the book funny for its irreverent philosophy but I wouldn’t expect every adolescent boy to appreciate it. The premise is that God is incompetent and apathetic because he is a teenage boy. The job is foisted on Bob when his goddess mother loses a poker game.

Bob has a middle-aged adviser, Mr. B., whom he mistreats as only a spoiled teen can. Bob is too selfish, easily distracted and sex-obsessed to be bothered to look after Earth. He even flubs Creation because he rushes it in six days. Bob’s genius consists of creating humans with a built-in desire to worship him, so he’ll always be adored. It also gives him a whole planet of girls to chase.
Mr. B, who feels slighted to be passed over for the top job, does his best to alleviate some human suffering. In the end, he also fails, overwhelmed by a paperwork tower of prayers and problems.
This clever novel reads very quickly at 240 pages. It’s one of those ‘candy’ books that affords simple pleasure but leaves little aftertaste. I don’t recommend it to the extremely devout, unless they can tolerate a lot of playfulness in the premise. Reader know thyself.
Happy reading!