The Longevity Thesis Book Video

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Book Signing #3: The Official Launch

(Reading at The Sentry Box -- Look at all 'em books!)
Many, many thanks to Justyn from EDGE and The Sentry Box for hosting the official launch of The Longevity Thesis! This was my very first public reading from the novel. Most of the audience were "in the industry" and some of them had helpful comments for me afterwards.

I was pretty nervous going in, and I think my voice shook a bit at the beginning, but after a few moments, I hit my stride and got lost in the story, which really helped. Other writers have told me it gets easier with time. They also gave me a few pointers on giving public readings, which I'll try to incorporate the next time I do this. It's great to plan things, but I found once I was up there, so much of my attention went into not falling over or otherwise doing something dumb, that it was hard to do much else. Regardless, I learned how to write a novel from other writers, and I think they remain a valuable resource for learning other things, like how to publicly speak. Turns out, reading fantasy is quite a bit different from giving a lecture on tumour biology! (Gee, who would have thought?)

(Here I am signing a copy for Randy McCharles, one of the World Fantasy 2008 organizers.)

I met a few new people, most I had connected with previously, especially at ConVersion 23, which I had attended in August. It was nice to see them again.

I was also interviewed afterwards by some of the organizers of World Fantasy 2008. They intend to air the podcast of the interview and my reading next Sunday. I hope I don't sound too dorky. I'm not fond of my voice.

Brian Hades, the EDGE publisher, also told me that 50 copies of The Longevity Thesis had been sent out for review. I was floored. This is all really happening, and it's hard to believe. Not so long ago, just getting published seemed so far away.

I also had a Twilight Zone moment, as we accidentally photographed some "orbs" when figuring out the camera settings. Some people believe that these funny little things are conscious beings from alternate dimensions that can act as guides or angels. I'm not kidding. Try doing a Google search on them. Anyway, I can only hope that was a good sign for the book.

(Yeah, I know, it just looks like a camera glitch, but it's more fun to think they were cute little aliens or something.)

Friday, October 26, 2007

Book Signing #2

(I just love the sign in the background.)

Well, this time it wasn't so exciting. I took the C-Train downtown to the lower level Coles store in the T.D. Square shopping complex, and spent and extended lunch hour there, watching the world go by. Once again, the store manager and staff were very nice, professional, polite people, and I thank them for having me.

While I did get to meet several interesting folks, many of them writers themselves, nobody seemed to be in a buying mood. It was still a nice session, and I swapped a few myspace addys with fellow wordsmiths.

Here are transcripts (as I remember them) of a couple interesting conversations I had:

Cute little 4 year old girl: "Hi!"
Me: "Hi. How are you?"
Cutie: "I'm fine. What are you doing?"
Me: "I'm signing books."
Cutie: "Can I have one?" (Mother calling her away.)
Me: "Well, how about I give you a bookmark?"
Cutie: "Thanks!" (She runs off, bookmark held aloft in triumph. Mother relieved.)

For the record, I gave her the Alaindra bookmark, which was the least creepy one I had.

Chinese Gentleman: "You wrote this book?"
Me: "Yes. I did."
CG: "You?"
Me: "Yes. It was me."
CG: "You are Jennifer? How do you say your last name? Ruan?"
Me: "It's Rahn."
CG: "Ah?"
Me: "My Dad is German. It's a German name."
CG: "How is that?"
Me: "My Mum is Chinese."
CG: "Ooooohhhh. Now you make sense!"

And that was my lunchtime adventure.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

My First Book Signing!

I started today off with a coffee-bag-related injury. How, Jen, you may ask, does one sustain a coffee-bag-related injury? Unfortunately, I can't tell you since I was half asleep when I did it, and I don't actually know. A coffee can would make sense, but somehow I managed this with a half empty bag. The only reason this is of note, is because it happened on the index finger of my right hand, almost exactly where my finger might rest on the paper when I am writing. For a time there, I was afraid all my books would be signed in blood. Well, that was the only unpleasant thing that happened today, thank goodness.

I spent the afternoon at Chapters in Calgary's Chinook Centre. I have to say, the staff and manager there were fantastic. They are all, without exception, nice, helpful people. My thanks go out to them for being so great.

I was somewhat worried that no one would talk to me, however, within half an hour of being there a gentleman called Layton asked me to sign a book! My hand was shaking so much I made the worst signature I've ever done in my life, and misspelled "reading". (As in "happy reading!") I was surprised and encouraged that most of the people who were interested in the book were my age or more, when I was expecting more the early university crowd. I do hope they won't be disappointed. I also had a few conversations with people who were in the business and wanted to know what my publishing experience was like. On two separate occasions, a little girl came by and snatched up a copy and asked her parents to buy it. Of course one look at the cover, and their parents said "no". One of them pleaded, "but the skeletons are cool!" I signed six books in all, which is nowhere near comparable to J.K. Rowling, but amazingly good for me. The manager of the store told me that was pretty much average for a new author. The last book I signed was bought by a fellow named Doug (who's already emailed me to ask about the book!) and the session ended on a positive note.

The questions I got asked most frequently were if the book was part of a series and if it was any good. It had occurred to me that morning to print up a copy of the reviews I had from other authors, since the book was virtually unknown, so those came in handy for letting people know what some other readers thought.

And of course, I have to give a big thank you to my friends Laura and Mary who came out to give me some support.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Enter: Proteomics

If you keep up on nerd news, you might have heard the bewildering reports on what James Watson has said about race and genetics. Apparently, 'He was quoted in the Oct. 14 issue of The Sunday Times saying he feels "inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa" since "all our social policies are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours - whereas all the testing says not really."'

This is a case of someone believing their own hype.

Assuming he did say this, I can't help but think that James Watson knows piddly squat. First of all, the completed sequence of the human genome doesn't tell us much. So we know the code. Big deal. There are approximately 25 - 35000 genes, but guess what? There are >500000 proteins that are encoded by these genes (the sum of which are referred to as the human proteome) and an unestimated number of possible metabolites produced from the enzymes within the proteome, to form the human metabolome. All of these factors put together can impact the performance, health and abilities of a human being. Genetics are the tip of the iceberg, and really don't tell you much about the end product, which is the person. There are at least two higher orders of complexity to a human being. Maybe more.

Point number two: What you're born with is merely the starting material. Just as none of us are born with rippling muscles, if any of us care to put in the time and work to get the body of Arnold Schwarzenegger, we most likely can. The same thing goes for the human brain. Learning requires time and work. Anyone who plays video games knows that with practice and constantly challenging a current skill level, pattern recognition abilities and the rapidity of problem solving increase. It's the same when you go through grad studies and get your Ph.D. Looking back, I was so hopelessly green and, quite frankly, not very smart when I finished undergrad, which was one of the reasons why I left after a Masters; I knew I didn't have what it took to be a scientist. However, not being one chaffed, and so I went back, did the work, put in the time, and developed what it took to do the job. I most certainly was not born with the abilities I have now.

Genetics and/or race determines intellectual ability? That view is painfully simplistic.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Mini Book Tour

Thanks to Justyn, the marketing manager at Dragon Moon Press' new partner EDGE Science Fiction & Fantasy, I've got a little book tour set up. The official book launch will be at Calgary's Gamer Central -- The Sentry Box, on October 27th. However, there are two signings before that at Chapters and Coles on the 20th and 26th. The specific dates,times and locations are listed on (check out the widget off to the right).

I'm looking forward to seeing The Longevity Thesis in print form for the very first time! Hope to see you there!

P.S. If you're an online shopper, Amazon and Chapters have both dropped their prices.

$10.85 on
$12.37 on
$12.88 on

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Michael Leadingham, cover artist for The Longevity Thesis

Michael Leadingham is a freelance artist based in Las Vegas, who specialises in illustrations for fantasy publications. He is also the founder of the online gallery called Painters Block.

We've all heard the cliché, "never judge a book by its cover" and we all know that's exactly what we do. Cover art is not only essential to the completion of a book, but it's the first thing anyone sees, and thus, must have a significant impact on a potential reader.When it came time to find an artist for The Longevity Thesis, Dragon Moon Press publisher Gwen Gades asked me how I felt about having Michael Leadingham paint the cover. She referred me to the painting Michael had done for Connie Ward's book, The Gryphon Highlord, to see if I liked it. I thought it was fantastic, and enthusiastically agreed. When presented with the draft of the cover, there were very few changes that I requested (different eye colour, slightly longer hair, and some dust around the skeletons' feet) and then . . . it was perfect!

Aside from promoting his own work online, Michael also tries to help his peers, by posting their work collectively on a site called Painters Block. When asked about it, Michael says, "Heh well, that's my new baby. Painters Block is an artists' community dedicated to promoting up and coming illustrators. We have a juried gallery with 3 editors that critique submitted art. We of course accept only the best works. When we do reject a piece we of course explain in detail to the artists why it wasn't accepted. Our hopes are that the rejection critiques will help the artist grow and reach their fullest potential. Our hopes are that Painters Block becomes a respected community where new and upcoming artists will be able to grow and give back in the form of teaching others. That's a real goal is teaching others, and bringing them business prospects."

"Concrete Jungle" by Michael Leadingham.

Michael himself studied illustrating technique on his own, building up his abilities ever "since [he] could hold a pencil". True to his vision of Painters Block, he got most of his professional training through critiques and advice given by other artists, and by studying their methods. He lists Keith Parkinson, Todd Lockwood, J.P. Targete, Frank Frazzetta, and Michael Whelan as major inspirational influences, and was also impressed enough by the movie "300" to consider picking up Frank Miller's graphic novel version.When painting with traditional media, Michael prefers watercolour, however most of his professional work is now done digitally. "I actually use a PC for most of my work, but recently I have been exploring the idea of using a Mac. Mostly I use Windows because for the longest time that was the only operating system that offered the paint programs I use (Photoshop and Corel Painter). A Mac is definitely better for artwork though, as far as power [goes]," he said. "I use a Wacom tablet with an Intous stylus. It's the best I have found so far. Works particularly well with Painter."

"Castle Falls" by Michael Leadingham.

The biggest challenge facing artists today is being taken for granted. Michael says, "Many people feel artists are merely hobbyists, and should give artwork away for free. Once upon a time artists were revered much like movie stars of today. Not anymore though. The competition is so fierce, and instant gratification has become the norm. Hard work, time taken
to complete real works of art is no longer respected I'm afraid." Looking at his paintings, it seems hard to not appreciate the skill and effort required to produce such images. How many of us would be able to generate our own book covers with the speed and accuracy provided by a professional artist? It's a task that certainly any author would find intimidating.

Michael's actual hobbies include building model ships, "especially the Pirateology series of games and models", and he is an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction. His interest in all things oceanic extends to an unfulfilled wish to become a marine biologist . . . if only it weren't for the required math! When not painting book covers, he also illustrates for posters and magazines. "Right now I'm working on a commission for a custom truck builder who wants to show his truck at a truck show. It will be called 'First Knight' so he wants a King Arthur theme painted on the truck. I am also the Senior Artist for Virtual Tales Publishing."

So there you have it, the man behind the cover painting for The Longevity Thesis. Michael Leadingham's paintings appear on the Conceptual Design Works webpage, as well as on Painters Block. Inspiration for All!

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Small press, big heart

(This is a repost of an article that appeared in the University of Calgary Alumni Newspaper, On Campus.)

Being a science fiction and fantasy publisher was—literally—a dream of University of Calgary alumna Gwen Gades. Now, with her upstart imprint Dragon Moon Press, she’s making that dream a reality.

It used to be that serious Canadian science fiction and fantasy authors had very few choices for getting into print. For years, the only noticeable Alberta publication was Edmonton’s On-Spec magazine.

Since the early -’90s, however, the genre is finding a home out west, with Edmonton’s Tessaract Books merging with Calgary publisher EDGE, and Canadian science fiction guru Robert Sawyer choosing this province for his own imprint—Robert J. Sawyer Books—in collaboration with Red Deer Press. Thus, Gades now finds herself in good company.

Dragon Moon Press came into being in 1993, when Gades opted against law school after finishing her BA in history. At the suggestion of one of her professors, she decided to incorporate her love for science fiction and fantasy into a career as a publisher.

The name for her publishing company came in a dream. Gades recalls being struck by inspiration in the middle of the night, by the image of a dragon—an archetype of fantasy—and the moon—a standard of science fiction—coming together as one.

She started off by attending a publishing workshop at the Banff Centre for the Arts and it was then that she realized Calgary had little employment to offer a fledgling publisher. While developing the Dragon Moon vision, she paid the bills and honed her management skills by progressing from a clerk at an independent bookstore, to one at a chain bookstore. She worked her way up from being an assistant manager, to a manager and then a regional buyer.

Eventually, Gades found herself buying books and magazines for a national chain and thus developing a very clear idea of what was popular in the current market.

Things really took off when, after printing some book covers at Two Printers, she was offered an opportunity to help them get into the short-run book printing business.

Together, they started Blitzprint, which provides Gades with the printing expertise and facilities she needs, in return for her knowledge on how to publish a really fantastic book. She refers to their synergy as “a form of divine intervention.”

The next big boost for Dragon Moon Press was the arrival of author Tee Morris on the scene. Gades refers to him as one of the best things that has happened to Dragon Moon since it was launched.

Morris has authored three of Dragon Moon’s 19 novels, including MOREVI, Legacy of Morevi, and Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword. He has also co-authored Dragon Moon’s The Complete Guide to Writing Fantasy, and The Fantasy Writer’s Companion.

“He’s been a nagging—I mean, driving—force behind Dragon Moon Press since he came on board,” Gades laughs. “He brings energy, talent and a determination that makes him an unstoppable force of nature.”

Morris refers to Gades as a woman bent on world domination. Gades says her goal is somewhat smaller—to capture enough of the market to expand to a mid-sized press. Finances remain one of her biggest challenges.

In the short term, “I’d like to walk into any bookstore and find our books on the shelves, have a few breakout authors make the leap to big presses and be able to say ‘Oh, I discovered him/her’!” she says. As for the future, Gades remains realistic.

“Some of the things we have going on right now, I think may help us to make becoming a larger press a reality. We’ve teamed up with Lumos Publishing to release a whole line of Dragon Moon Audio Productions.

“We’ve got one of the strongest lineups of podcasting authors. We are looking at some foreign right sales and are starting to feel like we’re being noticed. We don’t really need to be a big press, just a small press with a big heart.”