Chad Ginther’s Thunder Road Launch

Last night was Chadwick Ginther’s book launch for his debut novel, Thunder Road. His post on it is here, complete with pictures: http://chadwickginther.com/2012/09/07/thunder-road-winnipeg-launch-roundup-part-the-first/

Now, I know people who have had book launches, where there’s a couple people show up. I know one who did a book launch, and nobody showed up. When Chadwick took the stage, a packed crowd of people cheered him like a rock star. It was awesome to behold.

And I’m not a bit jealous. You know why? Because seeing a fellow Winnipegger succeed means that I could do that too. More than anything, it was inspiring to see such support for a local author. From the social networking I’d seen him up to, I figured it was going to be a success, but it was more than I think he dreamed. It looked like there must have been two or three hundred people packed into the store. It’s nice to see that the effort put into networking has paid off for him – I know those people with small book launch turnouts didn’t really do much research into the marketing side of things. (ie; it helps, if you’re sending out emails about your book launch, to, you know, tell people what your book is about.)

Anyway, here’s me, hugely excited and inspired and motivated by another’s success, and I should get back to revisions!

P.S.: Review to come.

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Report on Keycon 29

I had a great time this year at Keycon. I had my awesome aviator goggles, and blue/purple bangs and I made the most of it. Apparently goggles and dyed bangs are enough to convince people at the con that my jeans and a t-shirt constitute a costume. People asked me what character I was dressed up to be, so I told them I was an airship pirate.

This year might have been a little ad-hoc, but I realize that was because multiple con organizers, including one of the con chairs, had to step down for various reasons beyond their control. Those stepping in did their best to pull it together last minute.

It was great to see the hospitality floor full this year. Lots of suites serving food and drink – alcoholic and non-alcoholic, with the suites done up beautifully. With more of the suites open late in the evening, there was less crowding in the hallways, especially during the dead dog on Sunday night.

Programming was also improved, IMHO, this year, there was less trying to figure out which of two or three panels I wanted to attend – they seemed to have been more careful to schedule writing related panels so that they didn’t compete with one another, and I got to attend everything I wanted to.

The guests of honour of course were interesting, especially Jonathan Mayberry. He could just keep talking and he had so many interesting things to ramble on about, that when he asked if anyone had any questions, people just wanted him to keep going on whatever he wanted to talk about.

Author Idol was disappointingly poorly attended – there were about seven people in a massive room, and two submissions, mine and a friend’s. I suspect that was largely due to the lack of notice – I only heard about it a few days before the con, and had to scramble to get a synopsis ready and critiqued. On the other hand, the editor and author on the judging panel both very much liked the synopsis and thought it was well put together. The editor, Ellen Smith of Champagne Books said she would likely request the manuscript based on it.

So it was pretty cool that Ellen Smith was also in on my panel on how to write a query letter and synopsis. That was fairly well attended, fifteen people or so, lots of questions and conversation. I was nervous, but not as bad as I might have been – it was lovely to have Ellen there with me.

Outside of official Keycon activities, I also got to hang out with Chadwick Ginther, who has an Urban Fantasy coming out in September, and get to know him a bit better, along with a bunch of other fellow authors over supper at Moxies on Saturday night, including Erika Holt, Marie Bilodeau, Sherry Peters, Eileen Bell, Gerald Brandt, and Robert J. Sawyer. Great conversation made it easier to overcome my Aspergers Syndrome tendency to be the quiet one in a group. In fact, I did a lot of fighting the Aspergers Syndrome over the weekend, reminding myself that hiding away in a corner and not saying hi to new acquaintances when I see them is not how Lindsay makes friends. I still expect rejection, in the back of my mind, and it’s hard to overcome years of assuming that people don’t like me and trying to protect myself from being hurt by not trying. And it was worth every bit of fighting it.

So, overall, I had an awesome weekend, and I very much look forward to next year, when I expect things will be much better prepared. I know the people running it next year, and they have done a great job in the past. Thanks to all to Con staff who put things together this year, and I’ll see you all again in 2013!

Why I Unfollowed You on Twitter

A friend dragged me onto twitter, and I’m now finding I like it better than facebook – it’s simpler – facebook has so many bells and whistles, and it’s constantly changing it’s policies and auto-unsecuring things that you wanted to not be public. I’m at the point where I just don’t believe that anything you put up on facebook is not public. The only place I dare put anything that I don’t want public is my dropbox account – they seem to know what they’re doing, and they publish their TOS in fairly simple layman’s terms. (I don’t get legalese, and I don’t think I should have to or have to hire a lawyer to interpret it, but that’s another rant.)

I’ve found some cool people on twitter – I keep up with some of my favourite authors there, and I’ve discovered some new ones, or been convinced to try new ones I was uncertain of. I also keep up with political stuff on there – my more informed friends post things and keep me up to date.

Then there’s the more random people – people who aren’t published yet, or who are self publishing and using twitter to publicize. I’ve followed a few of those and noticed a rather annoying practice. People using twitter to self-promote will follow you, and expect you to follow them back. They dutifully retweet any blog post that anyone on their list posts tweets, and often have little or no content of their own. And if I don’t follow them – say, I glance at their feed and don’t see anything but retweets of someone more interesting (that I already follow) and lists of people this person is recommending I follow – then they un-follow me a week or so later.

Then there’s the ones I’ve followed, who are self promoting, but aren’t being all that subtle about it. Tweets that are basically, “Hey check out my book if you like (insert selling points)” are fine…the day your book is released. Maybe even another “for the evening crowd in case you missed it,” later in the day – that wouldn’t bother me. Twice a day for the entire week, and then once a week afterward, is just annoying. Seriously.I don’t need to see the same tweet over and over.

I mean come on, entice me to your website – write a post that I might find interesting, and I’ll click on it. Make it relevant to your novel, and have a link to info on your novel easy to find, and I might buy your book. But spamming your twitter feed with please-buy-my-book is shooting yourself in the foot. There’s too many people doing it, and a twitter post isn’t enough room to make yourself stand out.

And the whole, you follow me and I’ll follow you thing? I don’t get what you’re trying to accomplish there. That’s no different than two authors agreeing to buy one anothers’ books thinking that’s going to keep one another afloat. The math doesn’t work out. You need to generate content that is going to draw interest in your own work – content that will attract your intended audience, and that audience is not other authors desperate to market their own books. That tactic is terribly limiting.

It’s just my two cents, but this is how I use twitter, and while it’s a great platform for author promotion, I don’t think it helps to look desperate.

Bradley P. Beaulieu The Straits of Galahesh Giveaway

This one’s been on my TBR list for a while, and I might not get to it until next year, but the cover of book one, The Winds of Khalakovo caught my eye as soon as I saw it. Anything that is clearly not standard hack and slash swords and sorcery or medieval epic fantasy draws my interest, and airships are awesome, so here’s my plug for extra points to win free copies.

Anyway, he’s got a draw for free copies here, so if you’re interested, enter. This is an author from the Online Writing Workshop, so it should be awesome.

The Art of Bad Titles or Words I Swear Never to Use in a Title

There are certain words that make catchy titles, and certain words that make my eyes glaze over if I see them in the title of a book. Basically, if one of the following words is in the title of the book, you’ve got one strike against you in convincing me to read it:

  • Heart
  • Moon
  • Star
  • Crystal
  • Blade
  • Shadow
  • Quest
  • Dream
  • Dark/Darkness

If I ever am tempted to use two of the before mentioned words in a title, somebody please shoot me.

I mean, I’m not the best at titles, but skimming over a list of amateur fiction titles in a workshop, I found at least four to seven titles containing each of those words. I read a couple out to my husband, and he said, “I think I’ve read that book. Like, five times.”

Really, if the best title I can come up with for a story is The Crystal of Dreams, or The Moonblade, or Heart of the Whatever the Hell, then maybe you need to rethink your story. If that really, honestly is the most appropriate title, then, well, I don’t know what to say.

But chances are, it isn’t. Chances are, there’s something more unique and intriguing to your story than the name of the object of power that’s going to save the day when your hero acquires/uses/destroys it. What titles like that tell me, is that this story is about a thing, that’s probably some kind of gimmick that makes the story go, and little more than that. Doesn’t tell me about characters, or anything like that.

Titles that attract me are ones that have more, you know, unique words. Actually, I think the word I’m looking for is specific. Words that refer to something specific, rather than vague ideas. The first thing that comes to mind is the one I keep looking at, and I’m not sure if I’ll read, but the title grabs me, is “Whitechapel Gods.” Whitechapel is a district in London. It has meaning to me. It gives a lot of context to the word “Gods.” The words in my list, they could mean a hundred million things, in context, and paired with another one of the words in the list, it’s even worse, because then you have no context provided by the second word.

Which reminds me, there’s a clause in my vow never to use those words that states that those words may be used freely if they are being used literally. Peter S. Beagle’s story “Two Hearts” refers to the two hearts that a Griffin has, in the world of the story, because both must be pierced to kill it. If a character’s actual heart has been replaced with clockwork, then I’m good with a title like “Clockwork Heart.” I reserve the right to use “Moon” in my title, if the characters are actually traveling to the moon. “Star” and “Dream” would be reserved for sci fi only. The rest, I can’t really think of a good excuse for.

Just my two cents, and just my opinion. Anyone else have anything that makes their eyes glaze over when they see it in a title?

Why I Have Never Bought a Self Published Book

I’ve been busy with the revision, but a discussion on a forum I watch has brought up some thoughts.

I have never been able to bring myself to buy a self published book. It’s not because I don’t think that there are good books out there – I’m sure there are. I’m sure there are authors out there who are just too adventurous or unorthodox for traditional publishers to take a chance on them, or some other reason they’ve chosen to self publish rather than go the traditional route.

Self publishing doesn’t mean someone’s a bad writer, but it does mean that there’s been no quality control involved in the publication of the book aside from what is under the author’s control. There’s been no one read over it and decide that yes, this is good enough that it won’t ruin our reputation if we publish it, aside from the author. The reader has no guarantee that the author can string two sentences together. Or for that matter, that it’s not a recipe for chili copied and pasted three hundred times.

Again, a self-pubbed book might be a great book, and I think the odds have been getting a little better, that it will be decent, in light of the fact that more authors are getting frustrated with the traditional publishing world, and self-pubbing rather that waste their time with trying to sell to the traditional publishers. The bigger publishers have become less and less willing to take a chance on something (which is why they ended up going wtf when small press book “The Windup Girl” won the Hugo and the Nebula a few years ago.) But it’s that lack of some minimal quality assurance that is the reason I have yet to purchase a self published book.

Apparently there seems to be some people who think that books that are only available in e-book format, are the same thing as self published books. E-pubbed books may be self published, but not necessarily – there’s lots of small presses out there that are taking advantage of the e-book to get books out there. As far as I’m aware, self-pubbed books are not eligible to even be nominated for the hugo awards, but e-pubbed books are. In my mind, that’s a huge jump, but the main thing is that there’s been an editor who’s agreed to put their reputation on the line by putting their brand on that book.

This is the value of brand, in my opinion. Not just the money put into formatting the book and finding an artist to do cover art, and whatever else goes into a book. It’s the same as I tell my customers at work at the day job (internet tech support) – buy Toshiba or Asus if possible, if you’re looking for a good machine that will last, but whatever you do, dear lord, don’t buy a Dell, you’ll be sending it back for repairs before the warranty is out. What a publisher, even a small press offers me, as a reader, is that guarantee of quality, and if I read one book by them and like it, then there’s the promise of similar quality in other books by the same press. That’s valuable, and as a reader, I’m willing to pay more for that, or, for that matter, willing to pay at all.

See, as a reader, that editor is doing me a service aside from the formatting and commissioning a cover artist, and whatever else is involved in putting out an e-book, and that’s possibly more valuable to me than any of the rest. That editor is going through hundreds of manuscripts and picking out the ones that he or she thinks are worth anyone’s time. My time is valuable to me; with the writing I do, most of the time I spend reading is time I could be spending writing, so I’m loathe to waste it on a book that’s not worth reading. And I don’t want to spend hours and hours reading to find out that the ending sucks. I don’t care if it’s free, if I’ve wasted my time not enjoying a book, I’m pissed. It’s not even about the money, it’s about my time. I’ll do that for another writer, if I’m critiquing their work, but the point of that is to get it ready for publication, I’m not reading for enjoyment then. And sure, I’m willing to pay more for that service – for an editor to read sluch for me so I don’t have to sift through hundreds of self published books and go over reviews hoping that the reviews aren’t just posts from the author’s friends and family patting them on the head.

So that’s my reservations as a reader. Next week I’ll do up a post on my reservations as a writer.

Book Review: Who Fears Death, by Nnedi Okorafor

This is one that caught my eye a long time ago, I think though a blog, and I’ve been meaning to read it. The setting intrigued me, and the book has not disappointed. I bought it  from the Sony Reader Store over my uncle’s wifi, because I was amused at the convenience of being able to buy a book with my new e-reader without having to go home and hook it up to a computer, even to set it up. So, I got it on Christmas Day, when I got the reader, and finished it exactly a week later, on new year’s eve, at a party, huddled in a corner, going OMG there’s only 20 pages left, I can’t stop! Best book I’ve read since The Windup Girl.

What follows may be triggering – the setting is post apocalyptic africa, where the genocides and other activities related to genocides in africa have not stopped. Given that, I should not have to explain what sort of topics this review may contain that may be triggery.

Ok, that’s out of the way.

The story centers around the genocide of an entire people, and how rape is used as a weapon to destroy their spirit. It’s a heartbreaking story, but inspiring, because the main character is so driven. I was interested to see non-erocentric fantasy, and it’s a rich and ugly world that these characters live in. A world where a woman can scream for help to a crowd of onlookers as she’s dragged into an alley to be raped, and the onlookers stand there and watch. They are different people than we are. When Onyesonwu sets out to find her biological father who raped her mother, to stop his bringing his soldiers to rape her people, her mother doesn’t try to stop her, doesn’t try to make her stay home to protect her. No, she looks at her daughter and says, when you find him, kill him.

After some of the recent blog posts complaining about authors dealing with rape poorly, it was good to see it treated as it should be. The author never refers to it as sex, and doesn’t shy away from using the word rape to describe it.

The main character herself is sympathetic, and yet never wallows in sorrow, or if she does, the narrative doesn’t dwell on it. She’s a woman of action, and doesn’t allow herself to indulge in self pity, however lousy her lot. She fights to change it, and I find that the most engaging of character traits.

Onyesonwu also has a relationship with a young man, and it’s a rare one – a healthy one. It’s not that there is never any conflict between the two – not at all, there’s plenty of angst. It’s just not angst that tears them apart. They may argue passionately, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t need each other, or that they aren’t right for each other. It’s refreshing to see such a believable couple.

As for the main conflict, nothing is black and white there. As I said, it’s an ugly world, and an ugly war. There can be no victor in such a war. Neither side is innocent, and the story goes into child soldiers, even.

And it will take a miracle to stop it. That’s the sad thing. Much as I liked the book, it makes me sad to think that even in fiction, the author couldn’t find a way to end such atrocities without resorting to magic, which is something that we can’t hope for in real life.

It’s a book that really goes there. It’s very dark, but it’s beautifully written, and paced precisely. I feel like I’ve learned something about being human, that I’m ashamed to know.