The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Iiiiiiiitttttt's Heeeeeereeee!

Hey folks! Wicked Initiations has landed!

Pick up your copy at:

The Book Depository

"Wicked Initiations is a book that shows a craftsman's touch. The characters are wonderfully realized and develop throughout the story in a setting that is both strange and familiar at the same time. The plot twists and turns and kept me spellbound. I was sorry to see it end."

~ Michell Plested, GET PUBLISHED Podcast.

“Wicked Initiations is an original take on vampire mythology, plucked from a magical desert that will bewitch you and make you one of its own.”

~Emerian Rich, author of NIGHT'S KNIGHTS

"Jennifer Rahn is not only gifted with a wonderful imagination, but also a great talent for writing about the worlds that teem within that imagination."

~Mike Bennett, UNDERWOOD & FLINCH Podcast.

"Jennifer Rahn has created a unique fantastic word full of complex magic and environments, and has let loose interesting characters to follow through this world."

~Karl Johanson, Editor of NEO-OPSIS Science Fiction Magazine

“Smart and well-written, Wicked Initiations, is deliciously dark and totally captivating. I was hooked. A daring and vibrant new voice on the female literary frontier, Jennifer Rahn demonstrates a solid talent for conjuring up fully realized characters and detailed worlds. She’s a writer to watch.”

~Nathalie Mallet, author of THE PRINCES OF THE GOLDEN CAGE

"[Jennifer Rahn is] one sick puppy."

~Barb Galler-Smith, author of DRUIDS

Saturday, March 20, 2010

A Dragon Moon PODTHOLOGY: The Pod Complex

It's almost here! The Podthology POD Complex from Dragon Moon Press.

ElectroFunkSeppuku, Baby!

From publisher Gwen Gades:

A Dragon Moon Press Podthology: The Pod Complex – is an anthology of some of the best stories ever podcast. Since podcasters are some of our most beloved authors, we thought we should celebrate their achievements in book form. So we’ve collected together some of the best of the medium, and included a few about podcasting to jazz it up a bit, and put on one of my favorite all time covers (that we’ve done) and here you have it! Coming to you in April.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Tim Reynolds: Renaissance Man of Calgary

The very first time I attended ConVersion, Calgary’s annual science fiction and fantasy convention, I was fortunate to meet my publisher Gwen Gades (Dragon Moon Press), who subsequently introduced me to a soft-spoken man named Tim. He was wearing a brown vest over a dress shirt, and carried a leather portfolio with him, looking very much a school teacher. Not coincidentally, one of Tim’s degrees is in Education. The other degree is in History. So . . . naturally he must be a history teacher, right?

Tim Reynolds is – are you ready for this? - a Calgary Transit bus driver, an Independent (self) publisher (Cometcatcher Press), under which imprint he has released (or will release) unto the world Stand Up and Succeed (2nd edition 2008), The Cynglish Beat (April 2010), How the Beluga Lost Its Colour (Illustrated children's book coming 2011, Winner of The First Annual Great Canadian Fable Contest,), When Anastasia Laughs (currently being novelized from original screenplay), Made in Heaven: semi-autobiographical fiction (TBA. Tim’s note: Needing a serious edit before submission), and A Stable Full of Loons (written on a manual typewriter over a Labour Day long weekend as part of International 3-Day Novel Contest). He has also recently completed edits on the novel The Psilent One, which he has submitted to a publisher for consideration. When not writing and editing his own manuscripts, Tim is a freelance editor and/or slush pile reader for Dragon Moon Press, for whom he has selected and edited Nina Munteanu’s Darwin's Paradox, and has just finished coordinating the assembly of Podthology - Dark, Light & Twisted Tales from the Podosphere, an anthology in which all stories have been podcast previously or are about podcasting, and to which he has contributed the short stories Uncle Julius and From Anna to Yousef.

His current projects include finishing layout and submission of The Cynglish Beat, planning a comedy-based fundraiser called "Beat Cancer With a Shtick", novelizing one of his original screenplays (a ghost story), planning a unique space-travel anthology, and plotting the sequel to The Psilent One.

In addition to all that, Tim is also an active stand up comic, having performed at Yuk Yuk’s in Calgary & Toronto, as well as The Laugh Shop and The Comedy Cave in Calgary, an international travel photographer with contributions to the Conde Nast Traveler (calendar), the National Geographic Traveler (Room With a View page), and has published 20 postcards, 2 posters, 2 covers on Alive Magazine, as well as photos in 7 books. He also paints and received an honourable mention in L. Ron Hubbard's Illustrators of the Future Contest. Tim can also claim ascendancy to the monikers of Editorial Cartoonist - St. Marys Journal Argus, 1985-1987, Graphic Designer, Canoe Wrangler, and Grandfather.

Barbara Budd, on CBC Radio's As It Happens has called Tim “Canada's modern-day Aesop."

I call Tim the man who changed my life. He also picked my baby out of the slush pile, The Longevity Thesis.

Is there anything left to know about Calgary’s Renaissance Man? He agreed to answer a few questions for me so that I could find out.

JR: Why do you write?

TR: For me, to not write, would be to die. That may sound a bit melodramatic, but I`m brimming with stories to tell and if I don`t tell them I might just bust wide open.

JR: What would be the best thing that could happen to you?

TR: To win the lottery. For the obvious reasons, but also:

i. So I can concentrate on writing and editing where I want (around the world)

ii. To further my education and foster links in the publishing and Hollywood for my works.

iii. So I can set up a science education/experience foundation where sci-fi writers

of all ages and levels can be exposed to CERN, NASA, JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory), radio telescopes, observatories.

JR: Your opinion: agent or no agent?

TR: I would love one. I lucked into my meagre publishing contacts. I'm lousy at sales, so an agent would really help, though. A writer's job is to write. Let the agent do the dealing. Once the book is published, then the writer becomes a sales person. Having an agent would simplify this process, I would think, especially with the various electronic rights to be negotiated these days. I think every writer should familiarize themselves with the standard contract and clauses, but if I could get a good agent/manager (and needed one) I'd do it.

JR: Which do you prefer: publishing under your own imprint, or that of a separate publishing house?

TR: Any idiot with cash or credit can publish under their own imprint, but to write something that a reputable publisher likes and is willing to publish is an achievement to be proud of. Now, if you self-publish and get a distributor AND make sales, then that's terrific, but it takes a lot of energy that could be used for writing.

JR: How do you go about setting up your own in-store signings?

TR: i. Scope out the store. Does it seem like the kind of store your readers would frequent?

Would your steam-punk-biker mystery readers shop for books at Everyone-is-Beautiful Book Shop?

ii. Introduce yourself to the person in charge of consignments. Make sure you have a

fresh copy of your book you can let him or her have for consideration. Don't worry, it'll probably end up part of the shelf on the stock, not being a free hand-out.

iii.Once my book is on the shelves in the store I will either email or drop by to set up a

signing. Carry your date-book, calendar, PDA with you so you can book your signing right there on the spot. Being prepared makes you look more professional. Also make sure to give yourself enough time before the signing to have any materials you'll need done. Materials? Banners, signs, bookmarks, postcards, giveaways...

JR: How is Stand Up and Succeed doing? How do you keep up interest in the book and promote sales?

TR: It's not doing well, but sales reflect my efforts. Realizing that it has a very specific (small) readership, I'm now using it more as a calling-card and appreciation gift. Because it espouses my philosophy on just about everything, I once used it as a resume and it actually got me the job. I will still do a signing every few months, just to keep my face in front of the public and the booksellers.

JR: What advice would you give to someone wanting to sell their books through their own website?

TR: Don't print a lot of stock, unless you're going to go all out with marketing/advertising. And don't spend more on advertising etc. than the book will bring in sales. Have another outlet for your books, like Amazon. Now, if your book is tied directly to your business (Investment Broker/"The Ten Best Investments of the 21st Century"), then have excerpts from the book on your website, any testimonials you've received and, of course, a secure way for readers to either purchase the book directly on the website or to at least order them by email. For a start, study the websites of publishers who are selling on the web and model your site after the best parts of theirs.

JR: What inspires you to write?

TR: The world around me. Really. Dreams, books/articles I've read, shows watched, life experienced. It all comes into play along the way.

JR: How do you get around writers' block?

TR: I have many (many many) projects on the go and all in different stages of development, so if I'm not in a writing place, maybe I'm able to work on a cover design, or a book layout, or the interior artwork for a children's book. And if that doesn't work, get out, take a walk, go to a movie, have dinner away from your in-home office. But remember to take a notebook or voice recorder just in case inspiration hits suddenly. Writer's block for me really only comes when I try to remember something I thought of earlier but can't, and get hung up on it because I didn't write it down.

JR: What are five things on your bucket list?

TR: (in no particular order)

i. Ride in a hot air balloon.

ii. Have a publisher like one of my stories enough to buy it and first look at the sequel.

iii. To spend a few weeks/months writing and sketching in and around Paris & Venice.

iv. Swim with dolphins & pet a tiger (and live to tell about it!)

v. Take flying lessons.

vi. A book signing in San Francisco.

JR: In one sentence, what impact has your life had on the world?

TR: I like to think I've made a few more people smile, laugh and think.

Thanks, Tim, for a wonderful interview and for being THE BEST SLUSH PILE READER EVAR!!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Big Heart, Big Smile, Big Voice: An Interview with Emerian Rich, Dark Mistress of the Podosphere

At a diminutive 5-foot-nothing, Emerian Rich remains a force of nature not to be trifled with. This amazing lady is one of the friendliest, most enthusiastic podcasters on the 'net, and she spins the meanest vampire story out there. In addition to being the hostess of the wildly popular Horror Addicts podcast, she is also an accomplished artist and novelist. Her current offerings include the recent Night's Knights publication, Artistic License, Dusk's Warriors (the sequel to Night's Knights), as well as Star Struck and Sweet Dreams, which she presents under the author name of Emmy Z. Madrigal. One of her short stories will also be included in an upcoming anthology to be released by Dragon Moon Press.

I met Emerian through, and was delighted to find someone so talented and encouraging of her fellow podcasters. She recently agreed to be featured on this here blog, and answered a few questions for those of us curious about the Dark Mistress of the Podosphere.

JR: How long have you been podcasting?

ER: Since June 2007.

JR: How did you get into podcasting?

ER: I had been recording my books for some time for my husband and me. I didn’t know other people might like to listen as well. When my husband told me other people were doing it online, I jumped at the chance to get my work out there.

JR: What attracts you to the gothic and vampiric?

ER: Darkness and the creatures of darkness have always intrigued me. The beauty of the full moon casting light onto a savage sea... The power of black wings against the moonlit sky… The serenity of a graveyard just before dark… These things make me happy! There’s also a sort of freedom that these powerful beings have that I envy. To be able to go anywhere on the globe, to meet whomever you choose, to sleep in!

JR: What were you like as a kid?

ER: I was a total tomboy. I beat all the boys at arm wrestling and sports. I grew up poor, in mostly rich neighborhoods, so I had to do something that would make me valuable to them. Don’t ask me about sports today, I don’t follow them at all.

JR: The cover art for Night's Knights is kickass. How was the image generated?

ER: Yes, that cover is awesome! I was very lucky to run into the artist, Christen Kojnok, right before I went to print. She is the photographer and the model. You can find out all about her at: I’d like to say it was created by magic, but I’m sure it had something to do with photoshop. Christen has a lot of beautiful art. I just wish I had projects enough to use them all!

JR: Tell us about the print version of NK. Are you satisfied with your publishing experience? What has been wonderful about it? What would you change?

ER: I love my book Night’s Knights. It was really hard work and a learning experience, but I wouldn’t change any of the hurdles I went through because they taught me to persevere. Next time I will know how to format correctly the first time and will understand the steps I must go through. The most awesome part is seeing my name on a beautiful book like that. Sometimes I just stare at it. Is that really my book?

JR: How long does it take you to generate one show? What software program(s) would you recommend to someone who was just starting? What kind of podcasting rig would you suggest?

ER: I led a whole panel on this in Second Life and it can been seen on line here: I would recommend anyone serious about podcasting to watch these videos because we take the beginner through 5 steps that will let them understand and determine if it’s right for them to pursue. My show takes about 4 hours prep, 2 hours taping, 4 hours editing, and 2 hours posting/promoting. So that’s about 12 hours for every episode, and that is only because I have been doing it so long. This is not something one would take on unless they love it! Novel chapters can take more or less time depending on which way I will be podcasting it and if I am having anyone else do voices.

JR: Do you do public appearances? Are any coming up?

ER: Yes, I do. I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, so if you have an event you’d like me to come to, please let me know. I’ve done cons, readings, I’ve even sold my books at concerts! The next con I will attend is Baycon. You can find out more about that at For those who can not see me in person, I am on Second Life regularly. I just finished reading my book chapter by chapter there and I record Horror Addicts there every other Sunday at 9:30am PST. Come to my shop Quills to see the schedule of dates and featured authors! My shop is located in beautiful downtown Book Island.

JR: What are your fans like?

ER: It’s strange because you would think that my fans are just all a bunch of goth kids like me. But, I actually have a wide range of listeners/readers that include every age, every walk of life, and every religion. Most people are confused when I tell them I have Christians listening to my book. Yes, it is a horror book about vampires, but I think the heavenly theme draws them to it. I was raised by ministers, so it’s not a stretch that the ritual of religious life bleeds into my writing. I’ve been told, that’s what they find appealing. For the horror fans, they love the vampire battles and the bloody gorey stuff. You could say there’s something for everyone.

JR: How do you find time to do it all?

ER: I have no clue. I have a full time job, a four year old, and this big writing career that comes at me 24-7, 100 miles an hour. I use my time wisely, try to budget time for every project I have going and hope that my emails don’t get too piled up. Thank goodness for holidays and weekends or I would never catch up!

JR: What projects are you working on now?

ER: Season 4 is in full swing. I’m finishing up my sequel to Night’s Knights, Dusk’s Warriors, and hope to have that podcasted later this year. I also have a third book to my Sweet Dreams Series which is a musical romance based on seniors in high school and their dreams for the future. That will be coming very soon. I’ve got a short coming out in April in an anthology from Dragon Moon Press, and another short will be airing soon in an Asia-inspired anthology. I just started a short I could not get out of my head based on the San Francisco 1906 earthquake. Waiting in the wings is Artistic License, a horror romance which combines modern life with a group Edwardian people trapped in a house. Geez… I’m tired already!

JR: What is the origin of your name (which is also kickass)?

ER: Thank you. Emerian is a derivative of my grandfather’s name Emerson, who I loved dearly. He was the one who inspired my imagination and he taught me how to tell stories.

JR: If you could learn anything, what would it be?

ER: Everything! I am a knowledge addict! I love researching and finding out little tidbits I can add to my writing. As far as things I’ll never be… I’d love to be able to play piano (my short fingers aren’t the best start!) or a linguist (my memory is really bad when it comes to remembering languages!).

JR: If you could be anything, what would it be?

ER: A writer. Just a writer. Not an employee of anyone else, not a two or three jobs at a time person… Just a writer, with time to write everything that’s in my head before I forget it!


Emerian Rich
Writer, Artist, Podcaster Hostess Staff Author
Sweet Dreams Series / Office Angst
Night's Knights print novel - October 2009

Sunday, February 28, 2010

TimeStream: An Interview with J.D. Williams

If everything you believed was a lie, could the truth kill you?

Nick Grant doesn't know what to think when a mystery woman warns him that he's in danger from the future. 100,000 years in the future to be exact. Suddenly, this small town college kid finds the fate of the world rests on his shoulders. If he doesn't solve the secret of the TimeStream, everyone he's ever known will be lost forever.

TimeStream is a science fiction novel available from Lyrical Press, Inc.

Here it is! I've finally gotten my hands on a spanky new copy of my buddy J.D. Williams' novel, TimeStream!!! It was recently released as an ebook, which is really cool, since that means I can read it in the dark with one hand while looking like I'm doing something technologically important in addition to feeling good that no trees were harmed in the making of this product and knowing that it is immediately available to everyone on the planet without shipping costs. Awesomeness all round.

I remembered the opening chapters of the novel from when I offered up a critique or two way back when J.D. and I were both members of the Critters group. And then – something new! I will finally get more information on that mystery woman who is tantalizingly mentioned in the book teaser posted on J.D.'s website!!

With renowned authors like Dave Duncan extolling the value of POD publishing, the New York Times being emailed daily to people's Kindles, the formation of the Space Puppet Books "consortium" and my own publisher ranting on the general lack of appreciation of ebooks as being a lot of hard work and just as worthy of respect as traditional print, it seems that J.D. is striking out into relatively new territory that is slowly but surely earning its place in the contemporary mainstream.

Being a new author myself, and still establishing my own presence, such topics interest me greatly, so I had a few questions for J.D. on his publishing experience.

1) Tell us about TimeStream.

TimeStream is a science fiction novel that doesn’t really start out clearly as science fiction. It’s a mystery at first. What’s going on? Why do strange coincidences happen around college student Nick Grant? Why does he believe he’s been seeing the same woman pop into his life every six and a half years, and why doesn’t she seem to be aging?

There’s a logical explanation to what’s going on — “logical” given that this is a science fiction novel, and anything plausible is possible. The fact the book is labelled “science fiction” gives a little away right up front. Hopefully I keep the reader guessing, and hopefully the reader is happy with the revelation of what’s going on. And that’s only part of the story. Once Nick learns what’s going on, he still has to save himself and everyone he’s ever known.

2) How long did it take you to write?

Oh, this one took way too long, years and years, but it’s an aberration. I was trying to write this one when there was too much going on in my life.

3) Were there any blocks that you had to get past? If so, how did you manage?

Blocks? Oh yeah. Life. Marriage. New job. Kids. I don’t think there were many of the normal writing blocks involved in TimeStream. And the only way to manage Real Life and writing is to persevere. Finding times to write far outnumbered the times I had any kind of writer’s block. Like I said, this one took way too long to write.

4) Describe for us your journey in finding TimeStream a home.

I first submitted the manuscript to traditional publishers in the 90s. This was so long ago, there were like nine major science fiction publishers that would look at sample chapters to unsolicited manuscripts. Some of these publishers aren’t even around anymore. The rejection was disappointing, but out of nine submissions, I received four personal rejection letters, which I eventually learned was a big deal. All four personal letters had a common theme: The idea didn’t grab them.

I worked on the opening more and submitted to a few smaller publishers and several agents, still with no success. During all this, the length of the manuscript went from 171,000 words down to about half of that. By 2000, I decided it would be better to take what I’d learned and apply that to my next novel, rather than keep reworking TimeStream.

So while I was writing novel five, and then six, and then seven, other things happened. Things like Lost the TV show and the novel The DaVinci Code became big hits, and people got into stories revolving around a big central mystery. People wanted to be patient and enjoy the process of investigation and discovery. Did that help TimeStream? I’m not sure, but, hey, the novel is published now. Coincidence? I dunno.

The best factor for me was in 2008. Renee and Frank Rocco launched Lyrical Press in New York. In 2009, a good writer-friend of mine suggested I submit something to Lyrical. Looking over their mostly romance catalog, I selected TimeStream because, in the end, it’s a love story, so I gave it one more quick polish and submitted. This was all done by email. I got a confirmation of submission receipt after a day or so, and a “we’ll get back to you in about two weeks.” I think it was two days later, maybe three, that I received their offer of publication. I was so busy emailing friends, I forgot to reply to Renee and say oh yeah, thank you, I accept the offer of publication.

5) What was the biggest thing you edited out of TimeStream?

The biggest thing was a subplot about illegal drug use. Nick’s friends, worried about his strange behaviour, wonder if he might be using drugs. So they go to talk to a student who’s supposed to be the biggest drug user on campus, always shows up stoned for classes, doesn’t socialize with anyone supposedly because he’s doing drugs all night. Turns out it’s all an act in case he can’t handle college. He doesn’t use drugs at all. If he fails, he wants to be viewed as a failure because of drug use, not because he wasn’t smart enough.

So now I have a novel set right after the wild and crazy 60s, and there’s no drug use mentioned whatsoever anywhere in it.

6) Would you have preferred a traditional publisher?

Traditional publishing is evolving, and I think I prefer being on the wave of innovation than on the shelf of stagnation. The way things worked out, TimeStream going ebook, is perfect. Print books don’t have the shelf life they used to. I remember as a kid seeing the same titles again and again on the shelves. At some point I would like to see TimeStream in print, but right now an ebook is just fine. And I think the price being less than a standard mass market paperback is more inviting to readers to take a chance on an unknown author.

That being said, a lot of Lyrical’s behind the scenes business is just like a traditional publisher. TimeStream had a copyeditor and a line editor, and there were responsibilities I had to get my manuscript as close to perfect as possible, all just like at a traditional publisher. So the front part of my publishing experience with Lyrical was just like a traditional publisher.

The end result, though, is an ebook that gets listed at set sites, such as Fictionwise and, unlike in traditional print publishing, where bookstore chains can choose how few, if any, copies to purchase for their stores. So to me, this is a better way these days for a new author to start building a readership.

7) How are you marketing TimeStream? Are there tactics which you find more effective than others? What do you find does not work?

Wow, I’m afraid I’m under-marketing TimeStream so far. One friend keeps chiding me to update my website and create a TimeStream page and do a TimeStream book trailer. I guess once TimeStream was picked up, my mind switched to “write the next book” mode instead.

I might be taking a too analytical approach to marketing an ebook, but I’m looking for things that will put my book title or my name in front of potential readers. It’s vital to have an author’s website, but who’s going to come by that by chance? So I’m concentrating on things that will find potential readers, not just sit there hoping readers will find it.

(Jen's Note: Despite "under-marketing", TimeStream has been in the top 25 recent science fiction bestsellers on for the last three weeks, including hitting as high as number 9 for one week!)

Posting on message boards is good. And I’m doing interviews like this!

One marketing idea I’m pursuing is writing short story tie-ins.

I have a short story coming up in an anthology from Dragon Moon Press that concerns a future technology called Remote Eyes, where computer connections are placed inside people’s eyes to take the place of conventional monitors, so that they can see data displayed seemingly before their eyes. The short story is a crime drama, but the concept of Remote Eyes is the basis for my sixth novel, which I will have re-edited soon. The theory is, readers will see this story and hopefully that will spark interest in the novel.

For an upcoming novel, tentatively titled Dilation’s Ripples, I already have plotted out several related short stories. One is already written, and another is nearly finished. I’m going to send those around as I work on the novel itself.

Of course, each story published gives me the chance to add a short bio, which will include “author of the novel TimeStream” and “please visit my website.”

Now, because TimeStream depends a lot on what its secret is, it’s just about impossible to write a related short story without giving away the secret of the TimeStream. But if I should ever do a sequel to the novel, that would open up all kinds of TimeStream short story possibilities.

So short story tie-ins are good, but the obvious problem is, you can’t simply say, “I’m going to write a short story” and it’ll be published.

8) Did you have an agent for this sale? What are your views on agents in general?

I did not have an agent for this sale. Will I want an agent down the line? Possibly.

This may actually be a good time to be a beginning author, because small publishers are doing innovative things, getting ebooks on the market and in front of a lot of potential readers, and you don’t need an agent to approach small publishers.

One thing I would want to consider down the line are international sales in foreign languages. This is one area an experienced agent can really help you out.

9) I love the cover art. How much input did you have into the design?

The cover is by the wonderfully talented Renee Rocco. Lyrical asks for general author input, what you would like to see incorporated into the cover, and from there Renee generates something that takes into consideration the author’s preferences and marketing realities. I mentioned the Ascendant, a key character in the novel, and I got an Ascendant on the cover. The pose, layout and type design were all Renee’s.

After seeing the cover the first time, I asked for a couple of tweaks, all of which diminished the cover’s effect, so I had to send Renee an email that began, “Renee is always right, Renee is always right.” We went back to almost the same design as what she had first sent me.

10) Is there anything you would have done differently?

Nope, not on TimeStream.

Like I said, the stars just seemed to align on this one. I wrote a book that I couldn’t manage to sell previously, tastes may have changed, Lyrical Press came into existence, a friend urged me to submit to Lyrical (thank you again, Manda!!) and now TimeStream is published. I can’t complain.

11) What's next for J.D. Williams?

Well, in between short stories here and there, and book trailers, Remote Eyes is the next big project. After that, it’s Dilation’s Ripples, my first project to be intended as a trilogy. It’s sort of Firefly meets Battlestar Galactica. I had started it once, but put it aside when I thought it was too much Battlestar Galactica. But after a little plot tinkering, it’s now an adventure with some serious underlying themes that show what I hope are some new wrinkles to time dilation, in addition to delving into some troubling aspects of human nature.

Also somewhere in here I hope to complete a heroic fantasy novel I started a while ago. Being mainly a science fiction writer, I couldn’t get myself to accept magic as ever happening, but once I came up with a science-based system of how magic might occur — and I’ll admit, it’s farfetched — I came up with a story I liked. But so far it’s really long, and it’s not even completed yet. Why do fantasy novels always run long? That’ll get worked on sooner than later.

And who knows? Maybe there’s a sequel to TimeStream down the road too.

Jennifer, thank you for taking the time to interview me! I plan to return the favor soon!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Man Behind the Scenes: An Interview with Michell Plested

I first met Michell Plested (call him "Mike", if you want to avoid making him cringe) at ConVersion 2009, where I had been on a book marketing panel with a group of friends. We had included podcasting as an essential tool for reaching our target audiences. The name of a particularly useful website had escaped me and I was about to start turning beet red when someone in the audience supplied me with the answer.

"Podiobooks!" came the kind voice. That had been Mike, who came up to the panel afterwards to introduce himself. I realised then, that I had seen him before, this quiet presence at earlier cons, usually engaged in conversation somewhere in the dealers' room. It turned out that Mike knew much more about podcasting than I did, and probably should have been on the panel himself. He is the 'caster and author behind the Irreverent Muse website and the Get Published podcast, wherein he looks "at writing from an amateur's perspective". In my view, Mike seems to be anything but irreverent. When asked what sort of mythical creature or hero he'd be, I found his answers to accurately reflect how he came across in real life: either a griffin or Wesley from the Princess Bride. A computer technologist and self-described perfectionist, he regularly interviews published authors about their craft and serves it up bi-weekly. In his spare time he writes and releases episodes of the comedic Galaxybillies. Like many of us before (and still to come!) he would also like to see his fiction in print.

I decided to ask Mike a few questions, to give him a chance to distil his own perspective on the writing world, and be the interviewee for a change. As can be seen below, his views are sage, well-balanced, and in my opinion, very useful for a beginning writer trying to establish a foothold in the publishing world.

JR: What is at the core of your inspiration/reasons to write?

MP: Writing is my escape and my hope. I love creating and telling stories. Writing lets me do both.

JR: What hobby/volunteer activities are you engaged in with the Calgary writing community? How did you get into those?

MP: NanoWriMo every year (since 2006), writing my blog, writing [and producing] my podcast. All of these activities started with the group blogging site "StartingWriteNow" which I was invited to join in 2005. I’ve also been involved as a volunteer at the Calgary Young Writer’s Conference for the past five years. I got into that through my daughter. I volunteered the first year she attended and I’ve gone every year since.

JR: Agent or no agent? What are your views?

MP: I think an agent is essential if you really want to make a career (or a well-paying hobby) out of writing. The first book or two probably doesn't need to be agented just so you, the writer, can get exposure to the entire process.

JR: Favourite book/comic as a kid? What made it special?

MP: Favorite books - too many to list, but everything by Anne McCaffery (especially the Dragon Riders of Pern). Comic books: Green Lantern, Legion of Super Heros, Iron Man, Teen Titans (I could go on like this for a while).

JR: Critiques: how do you perceive them? What advice do you have for people writing them or receiving them?

MP: Critiques are necessary both from a writing and a receiving perspective. I would suggest that people writing critiques not focus on the nitty gritty rules of writing so much as the story itself and always try to be positive. When receiving them, remember that the person who wrote the critique is giving you his/her time to provide the feedback. And feedback is GOLDEN! You can never get too much. You don't have to follow the critique, but it helps to understand how others see your work. Treat it as a positive thing.

JR: What sorts of things do you like to see/not see in a novel?

MP: Good characterization and dialogue are more important to me than extensive description of setting although I am working to buff that up too.

JR: What is your philosophy in approaching a publisher?

MP: Treat a publisher as a professional, learn what they are looking for and try to create a friendly relationship with him or her. Help the publisher if you can.

JR: How long does it take you to write a novel? Do you have a particular process that you go through?

MP: Tough question. My first novel (90K words) took 7 years. My second (50K) took three weeks . The biggest difference between the two (other than the amount of time) was I had the confidence I could do it with the second one. I like to come up with a story idea, decide who the characters need to be and work out how they would do particular things. Once I have that, I have my outline and I can write it. The characters usually deviate from the outline (they take me places I didn't expect) but come back to the approximate ending I expected. I try to write a little every day.

JR: Is there anyone in the Canadian writing community that you admire or would like to emulate for a particular reason?

MP: Robert J Sawyer because he has absolute confidence in his own abilities and is a HUGE promoter of new writers.

JR: Is your creativity inherited or are you a "first gener"?

MP: Inherited, I think although my ancestors expressed their creativity in different ways.

JR: How many of your works are currently sitting with publishers? Any good leads yet?

MP: I have a couple books out there right now. I just received a rejection but the best rejection one can get. It came complete with a page and a half of comments and suggestions with the added bonus that the publisher wants to see the revised manuscript.

JR: How is your podcast doing? Have you noticed any particular demographic picking it up?

MP: I've gone from 20 downloads in the first month (probably half were me) to where I've got well over 150 regular listeners (month 12). It's a slow process but it is coming. The demographic is aspiring authors for the most part. The GalaxyBillies story already has more than 50 listeners after the first month and I haven’t even started promoting it yet.

Good Luck to you, Mike, and I'm looking forward to seeing you in print!!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Con-Version 25

My membership badge. Idn't it gonna look cool hanging from my lab coat?-------------------------------------------------------------->

One of the reasons I was happy to move to Calgary (aside from landing an awesome postdoc position) was the constant activity in the writers' community, especially for SF & F. Calgary is home to IFWA (the Imaginitive Fiction Writers' Association), EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy, and for a time my own publisher, Dragon Moon Press (a partner of EDGE). Each August, the Calgary Science Fiction and Fantasy Society hosts Con-Version, which as you may have surmised from the title of this posting, is now in it's 25th year.

This year, the theme of the convention was SteamPunk, which as you can imagine, brought out some very intricate costumes, and was also heavily geared towards the craft of writing. The guests of honour included Tanya Huff (Blood Books), Terry Brooks (Sword of Shannara), and Robert J. Sawyer (Neanderthal Parallax).

I'm not familiar with Tanya Huff's work, but was encouraged to see that a writer as prolific as she is has a book out from EDGE, which will also be releasing one by Dave Duncan (The Alchemist's Code). One can't help but be encouraged by seeing one's own publisher going up in the ranks!

Robert J. Sawyer has always been a prolific speaker and teacher, and this year he really impressed me with what I consider to be as great a contribution to Canadian speculative writing as his own works: the way he encourages and nurtures others. In one of his Saturday morning panels, he bolstered the confidence of many budding authors by pointing out in the audience all the new/undiscovered talents sitting there; he knew them all by name and could easily recite their successes from memory. The message was that all of us could make it happen.

He also confirmed something I've been futilely insisting on for years. According to him, too much detail can detract from a story. In his words, the more you over-direct, the less interactive the reading experience is. For example, if a woman is described as beautiful, the reader will fill in his own image of that beauty. If the author gets carried away with the detail, the reader may not find those details in line with his or her own ideals and the impression is ruined. (Thank you!!!)

It was also quite the thrill to actually see Terry Brooks in person - how many of us went nuts over the Shannara series in junior high?

As for us little people, I was very happy to read for the first time in public, an excerpt from my upcoming novel (from Dragon Moon Press), Wicked Initiations. I had a small audience, but considering I'm relatively unknown, it was very encouraging that some complete strangers showed up. When I was done, I received the best compliment I've ever gotten in my life, when Barb Galler-Smith (Druids) said to me, "Jen, you are one sick puppy!" (That was exactly the reaction I was going for!)

My friend Tim Reynolds (Stand Up and Succeed) started off Sunday morning with "Your Con-Version wake-up with Bongo Boy Tim Reynolds: Performance Reading and Live Recording of The Cynglish Beat". Immediately after that, we sat on a panel with childrens' author Simon Rose (The Heretic's Tomb), where we discussed "Promoting your work in the 21st century".

I was also pleased to see several Canuck writers, including Nathalie Mallet (The King's Daughters), Hayden Trenholm (Steel Whispers), Lynda Williams (Okal Rel Universe) and up-and-coming novelist and podcaster Michell Plested.

If all goes well, next year should be even more interesting. I'm hoping to have 4 or 5 things out to promote, so keep your fingers and toes crossed for me!