28 March 2016

How life leaks into art and fiction

Every writer faces the challenge of filtering inspiration and ideas to weed out characters and events which hit too close to home. There are obvious things to avoid. Don't use names from your personal life. Don't use descriptions of characters that match people from your personal life. Not unless you have a very specific (and important!) reason for doing so.

Someone who says, "Sure, model your character after me!" today might change his or her mind tomorrow, or a year from now, or ten years from now. You might unwittingly insult someone through the actions and/or dialogue given to that modeled character. Yet, no matter how hard we try, life leaks in.

Skimming through old sketches and paintings in my deviantART account, two images jumped out at me. I wrote a picture book in my mid-twenties, back when my publishing aspirations were more along the lines of writing and illustrating for a younger crowd. I look at the one completed illustration from that project and all I see now is my son. Bizarre? Who knows. My son was born in 2011 and I created the painting below in 2006.

Likewise, I painted a random portrait of a girl at the seaside (meant to be Parksville, BC) and I now see an old friend's daughter in my random girl. Neither of these portraits were intended to represent a real person. But I can now lay fresh experiences over these works and see people that were never there.

I think fiction is very much like this. Everything comes from something, and if you look hard enough, you can draw lines connecting things that were never intended to be linked.

Illustration from Monster in The Lake

Craig Bay, Parksville, BC

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21 March 2016

5 Pointers for Finding a Publisher

Source: freeimages.com

I'll start with a mild disclaimer; this post is directed at writers who want to work with a publisher as soon as possible, and become novel authors again and again. If you've written one novel and will be broken-hearted if it doesn't find a home at the Big Five, these pointers won't help you.

However, if you've got a story to share - the first of many - and you're happy to let fame and fortune come later (actually for fortune-seeking folks, I'd recommend switching to lottery tickets) this list might help you put one foot in front of the other.

  1. Start Local

    I have yet to sign a contract with a publisher in my area code. However, when considering the global market, a domestic publisher can be a huge win. Through sheer coincidence, one of the managing editors at my first publisher was in Victoria at the time of my launch. She was able to attend and I could finally put a face to one of the names I'd dealt with in connection to the culmination of my publishing dreams. I would wish that on every author.

  2. Check Your Bookshelf

    If you have books from publishers outside the Big Five (and please tell me you do!) this is a great place to start in looking for like-minded editors. A book you loved and influenced you as an artist is an excellent place to start. I've met writers too intimidated to submit to the publisher who worked with their author crush. If you can get over that, you're halfway to participating in the publishing world as a professional.

  3. Network (in person and online)

    Comment on author blogs in your genre or area of interest. Go to writer events in your community. If you're networking effectively, you'll realize how many, many, many other writers are around you. Some of them are more experienced, some are more talented. Some have achieved milestones that are only on your wish list. Deal with it and get out there anyway.

  4. Tap Into Resources

    Join professional organizations and subscribe to mailing lists. I'm a member of the Federation of BC Writers and Speculative Fiction Writers of Canada. I subscribe to Authors Publish, Aerogramme Writers' Studio, and Quick Brown Fox. There are many more groups, organizations, blogs, and newsletters to help writers. Find a few that work for you and plunge in.

  5. Use the Internet

    This might sound basic and cheeky, but a few well placed keywords can connect you to independent publishers you've never considered - maybe never even heard of. I'm a YA (aka young adult) and NA or new adult author and I prefer plot lines of the speculative nature. I like to craft stories with a strong element of magic realism. It's my core strength as a writer. I also aspire to create narratives that blur the line between fantasy and science fiction. So you can see my keywords jumping off the screen. What are yours?

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14 March 2016

The case of the disappearing comments

Source: reactiongifs.com
Ever since I made the personal commitment to post on my blog every Monday for the foreseeable future, I've also starting reading more blogs - and commenting on them. If I want blog enthusiasts to find me one day, I can think of no other strategy (apart from social media sharing) to earn those readers.

I know blogging is a tough slog through the enormous sea of content that is the Internet. It's a lot like writing fiction. You're talking. Probably nobody is listening. But you do it anyway.

Now I don't expect every random comment to generate meaningful connections. But I do expect those comments to appear on the bloody posts! I've found an article that sounds interesting. I read it through. I think of an insightful, funny, or appreciative sentiment. I type it out and hit 'Publish' with a small amount of trepidation. And then my carefully crafted little snippet disappears! Not with a message about moderation or an error. Just totally gone for no reason!

I've taken to copying comments into a notepad file so that when the comment disappears - as so often happens these days - I can try again with another sign-in method. Google Account didn't work? Okay, lets try WordPress. Nope? How about the Name and URL option? No, this blog doesn't want my comment. Too bad for both of us. I even went as far as to uninstall my browser's pop-up blocker to facilitate more commenting success.

Are any other bloggers/readers having this problem? I'd love to hear about it. If my comment form actually works. Who knows.

If you've commented on this blog only to have the text disappear into digital smoke, come over to Facebook and tell me about it. I'd love to hear someone else rant about this maddening problem.

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07 March 2016

Win a signed copy of Watching July

Watching July was my first novel - my first 'book baby' if you'll pardon the term. And I look back on my first adventure in publishing with many fond memories, especially as I'm closing in on the release of a new novel (the start of my first trilogy!) later this spring.

Since I'm also in the midst of a revival of this blog, I thought why not simultaneously bathe in nostalgia while marching forward and give away a copy to a blog reader?

I haven't used Rafflecopter in years either, so here goes. I'll draw and announce a winner this time next Monday. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway