Wednesday, October 8, 2014

More Effective Use of Social Media

I was just handed a lesson on social media by my Faculty's communications officer, so I thought I would share it with readers.

Saturday, I received an Aurora Award (see previous post). Here's what I (re)-tweeted at the time about getting an Aurora Award:

@Runte scores an Aurora Award at #vcon

I retweeted someone else's live tweet partly because I was in a hurry (I was on a panel right after the awards ceremony) and but mostly because retweeting someone else's tweet felt somehow (i.e., irrationally) less braggy.

There was not a lot of response to this tweet, but tweeting about the award again seemed, you know, worse than braggy. I don't like Twitter streams where people keep repeating announcements about their upcoming books or whatever, so didn't want to be that guy. But on the other hand, really DID want to adveritze that I had received the award, and no one seemed to have noticed my first (re)tweet.

When I got to work Monday, I thought I should mention to the Faculty's communications officer that I had received an award on the weekend, because we're supposed to, and because I thought there was a chance she would put that in the Faculty Twitter feed. And she did, but here's how she tweeted about it:

ULethbridgeEducation @ULethbridgeEdu · Congrats Dr Robert Runté! Recipient @PrixAuroraAward for work on speculative fiction #uleth

Thinking her version might be slightly more effective.....

So, deconstructing here, she grabbed a picture of me from her files, slapped that onto a powerpoint slide; looked up the paper to grab a suitable quote for the target audience (i.e., Faculty of Ed students and faculty), used a couple of different typefaces, and ta-da! Since she had this out within an hour of my telling her, that's that max time she could have spent on it, but I'm guessing she had other more important stuff to do at the same time, so probably a lot less.

I've tweeted text I have thought worth quoting, and announcements, and I've tweeted photos, but um...feeling bit stupid that it never before occurred to me to make a custom slide to combine the interesting quote with the announcement on a strong visual.

Well, duh! This is freaking awesome!

And the result of her tweeting this on Faculty stream was a wave of new twitter followers on my twitter feed....

So from now on, any time I send out an announcement, I'm figuring out some kind of interesting tag line, and putting it out as a visual.

My apologies if this is obvious to everyone else, but thought I would share a lesson learned.

P.S.: My faculty's communication expert is Darcy Tamayose who is herself a published author

Monday, October 6, 2014

Aurora Award

Surprised and delighted to have won an Aurora Award this year [for “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto and subsequently published in Recent Perspectives on the Canadian Fantastic: Selected Papers from ACCSFF. Allan Weiss, ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland, 2014 (in press).]
All this year's winners (front) and presenters (backrow).
My turn to present: Rich Leblanc accepting on behalf of On Spec Magazine

Legendary author William Gibson, who was inducted into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association Hall of Fame (along with Spider and Jeanne Robinson; Spider is second from right in first photo) and me, showing off my Aurora Award.

Another highlight of the Aurora Awards ceremony (presented this year at V-Con 39 in Vancouver) was when Al Harlow (Lead singer for Prism) presented the Aurora Award for Music, which went to Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity — in, you know, space. Thought getting Al Harlow as presenter was pretty cool.

Also glad to see Frank Johnson (in tux in middle of first photo) receive recognition for his trophy design and 23 years of making them for the Association. I often felt that the trophy's unique design significantly added to how seriously people take these awards —makes it really worth getting one.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Estate Planning for Authors

Got my copy of Writing After Retirement: Tips by Successful Retired Writers [edited by Christine Redman-Waldeyer and Carole Smallwood. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press (Imprint of Rowman & Littlefield)] with my chapter, "Estate Planning for Authors" in the mail yesterday. My suggestions are pretty basic, and come with the disclaimer that I am no lawyer, but hopefully get people thinking about how they want their literary legacy handled after they're gone....

The other 26 chapters in the collection are filled with tips on how to write by successful authors from across a variety of genres and communities. Together, they provide a pretty realistic portrayal of the challenges / obstacles aspiring writers face. This collection is aimed at writers starting after retirement, but most of the advice would be applicable to everyone.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Finding your voice.

This New York Times article by Lev Grossman, "Finding my Voice in Fantasy" is a good example of what I have been arguing for years: that trying to write "literature" is a sure way to fail as a writer.

It's not that I have anything against literature, even though I do sometimes mock CanLit for its depressive tendencies and for its literary pretensions. When I was a judge for a major literary award a couple of years ago, I was shocked how all 33 nominees seemed to be the exact same story. The story I thought should win was brilliant-- moving but with an undercurrent of self-deprecating humour, and it used (what I now think of as) the CanLit story structure perfectly. It wove flashbacks seamlessly into the ongoing narrative so that the reader finally put all the pieces together for an actually meaningful insight right at the climax. But the problem with the rest of the entries was that, reading all 33 stories in a week, I realized they were all using the exact same formula, the exact same structure. The other authors were all trying to write that one story, but for the most part, failing miserably. It was as if they had all completed the same classroom exercise, but only one of them actually 'got' the assignment.

Which is, I believe, almost what happened. I bet each of those small lit mag authors had attended the same university courses--I don't mean the same campus or at the same time, just that they all, as English majors, probably read the same general cannon. The implicit theme of every English course is, "This — this set of stories right here in this syllabus — is literature!". Maybe "Literature" with a capital "L". The problem is, if you tell a bunch of aspiring young writers that this is literature, than that's what they are going to try to write. Which is fine for the one out of a hundred for whom that particular structure/ content/ approach is appropriate, the one percent for whom it comes naturally, for whom it reflects their vision and voice. But for everybody else, it is a distraction, a mistake.

For a decade I worked for the Student Evaluation Branch of Alberta Education; that is, the people who designed, wrote, and supervised the marking of the provincial exams. One of my jobs was on the team researching why some students scored better than others. One of the research findings was that students who scored 5 out of 5 on the English essays had a strong voice, that they said what they actually thought; whereas those who did badly tended to write what they believed their markers wanted to hear. These students never did better than 3/5, but when faced with the need to improve, doubled down on sucking up to the markers, rather than taking the risks they needed to actually succeed. Similarly, the weaker papers often went for convoluted sentence structures and a horribly inflated diction in the hopes of impressing the markers, though these characteristics were the very things undermining their score. The bottom line is that, in attempting imitate the style of the writers and critics they were reading, they gave up whatever voice they might have had, whatever command of language, style and content that might otherwise have been at their disposal.*

I frequently see the same thing with manuscripts from adult clients: English majors who have a fixed idea of what 'literature' ought to be like, even when writing genre fiction; who try to be Margaret Atwood rather than who they are. The thing they don't seem to get is that we already have Margaret Atwood and have little need for another. Trying to be Atwood, they will never be anything other than a pale imitation; better they be a first class, original them. What this country — what this world needs — is more original voices: more original literature, more breakthrough books — not more imitations of existing tropes and authors. By all means read all the literature there is, but never ever try to write like that; or like anything. Just write. What one reads undoubtedly influences one's own style and ideas. That's fine. Read widely and let it all settle into your subconscious. But do not consciously imitate someone else, whether someone identified as a 'literary giant' or someone 'commercially successful'. Never listen to anyone tell you what or how you should write, whether it is to be literary or to get rich. That way lies mediocrity, frustration, and failure.

(*See, for example, Runté, Robert, Barry Jonas and Tom Dunn. "Falling Through the Hoops: Student Construction of the Demands of Academic Writing," in Andrew Stubbs and Judy Chapman, eds., Rhetoric, Uncertainty, and the Unversity as Text: How Students Construct the Academic Experience. Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, 2007.)

Friday, August 22, 2014

They Have To Take You In

Sept 11 is the launch of the anthology, They Have To Take You In, in which my story, "The Missing Elephant" appears. The anthology is edited by Ursula Pflug and is a fund raiser for the Dana Fund:

    The Dana Fund was created in July of 2010 at the Canadian Mental Health Agency (CMHA HKPR) in Peterborough Ontario, at the suggestion of friends and family who wished to make donations in her memory. Dana Tkachenko inspired many people through her own experiences of struggling against tremendous obstacles and succeeding in creating a stable and fulfilling life for herself and her family. Dana’s memory is honoured through the Dana Fund, by dedicating donations to the cause of supporting young women and families in transition, experiencing similar challenges, who could benefit from some help along the way." - Gordon Langill

Launch: Thursday Sept 11 7-9PM
The Theatre on King
159 King Street, Suite 120
Peterborough, On.
K9J 2R8

Saturday, August 16, 2014

When Words Collide Festival, 2014

Once again, I really enjoyed When Words Collide writers/readers convention. I always love the convention itself, but this year I also took in the pre-conference workshops. The first day-long workshop was presented by Adrienne Kerr (Senior Editor at Penguin Canada) followed the next day by two half-day workshops by Mark Leslie Lefebvre (Director of Self-Publishing and Author Relations at Kobo). Both sets of workshops were insider looks at the publishing industry. What I absolutely could not believe was that the workshops were only $40 a day, for speakers that could easily command ten times that much. Randy McCharles and the WWC Board are committed to keeping things affordable for writers, so only charged enough to cover the costs of the conference space for the workshops and the hotel expenses for the speakers; both speakers donated their workshops for free. Hats off to everyone concerned!

At a break in Adrienne Kerr's (Senior Acquisition Editor, Commercial Fiction, Penguin Canada) day-long workshop at When Words Collide Festival, Calgary, Aug, 2014. L to R: Ron Freidman, Calgary SF author; Connie Penner, Lethbridge author who recently signed with Five Rivers; editor and author Elizabeth McLachlan; Robert Runté; Five Rivers author Susan Forest; Canadian SF author Robert Sawyer; and WWC convention chair, Randy McCharles.

The actual convention was similarly affordable and wonderful. I was on a bunch of panels, ran a blue pencil workshop, a Five Rivers pitch session (the convention is one of the few places we look at submissions outside our Feb reading period), was one of four judges for the Robyn Herrington Memorial Short Story Contest; and Five Rivers held a seven-book launch Sunday afternoon. So a full working weekend for me, but a very rewarding one.

One sign of how productive WWC has been for me over the years is that one of the books launched at the Five Rivers launch session this year was "My Life as a Troll", first pitched to me at the very first WWC.

I also enjoyed the keynote speakers and their various presentations. Most impressive was Brandon Sanderson. I frankly had no idea who he was prior to WWC, but I sat with him on the first panel of the convention and I thought, "Hey, this guy is really good! I'm going to have to look up this guy's books." Well, he just seemed like a regular guy; if anything, a bit nicer than usual, the sort of guy you'd really like as a neighbour. No pretensions at all. And then I heard him talk, and well, he'd be a totally awesome neighbour. Am definitely going to have to pay more attention to his books, if his public speaking is any indication of his talent.

I also had opportunity to hang with some of the Five River authors, author/editor friends from across the West, and so on. What makes WWC better than most other similar conventions is the cross-genre nature of the programming. I met so many other interesting writers, including for example, Sarah Kades, a romance writer who I would never have encountered in my normal work week since Romance is one of the genres neither Five Rivers nor I take on. What a positive, upbeat person: she actually convinced me to take a copy of her novel. And similarly, I connected with a bunch of mystery writers (great for Five Rivers new mystery line) and a couple of CanLit people...just marvelous networking opportunities at every turn.

I've already registered for next year, though the dates may conflict with a family obligation that would take priority. Well, the $45 advance membership is worth the risk because the convention sold out well ahead this year, and is likely to again next year in spite of its again moving to a larger venue. I will certainly go if I have any opportunity to do so.

Next up: I'm planning on going to V-Con (Vancouver) in October, the gods willing.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Marketing / Self-Promotion

Fascinating convention event at a mystery-writers' convention described HERE by Canadian mystery author, Melissa Yi, in her blog.

The key element, for me, is the idea of getting a sandwich board made up of one's book cover and walking around a convention with that--or just, you know, standing around on street corners. I mean, if you're going to want to tell people about your current release, might as well be up front about it, and just be right up in their face with a sandwich board.

Five Rivers has been experimenting with business-sized cards with bookcover and description on one side, download code and instructions on the other, as an easy way to carry around large number of copies rather than lugging a stack of print books to events. (In theory, stores could also display a large number of covers in a more limited space using these cards, but it's hard to see how the economics of that work out for the store/consumer when it is obviously cheaper to cut out the middle man.) So the sandwich board thing could work out great with a handful of the ebook cards. You stand on the corner, and if you catch someone's eye with the cover (front) or description (rear), you offer to sell them the ebook for $5 or whatever, collect the money, and hand over the business card download code. Easy-peasey!

Similarly, I see my kids jump up and run out of the house every time they hear the distinctive music of the ice cream truck. So an author with four or five "summer read" books could buy a used van, plaster cover posters on the side of the van, choose an appropriately themed but simple music loop, and drive slowly through suburbia looking for book buyers. I'd get off the couch and go buy a book if it came to my street!

Well, an author has to do something now that bookstore distribution is reduced to just the best seller racks....

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Aurora Award Nomination (2014)

My keynote address at Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy June 8, 2013: "Why I Read Canadian SF: The Social dimension of Reading" has been shortlisted for an Aurora Award. (an abstract is available at

Also pleased to see Susan MacGregor's The Tattooed Witch, a book I acquired and edited for Five Rivers Publishing, nominated for Best Novel! (Other novel nominees are Robert Sawyer, Gay Kay, Julie Czerneda and Chadwick Ginther, so one hell of an impressive crowd).

So that's the second year in a row that one of the books for which I was editor has made it to the Aurora ballot. (Mik Murdoch: Boy Superhero was nominated last year in the Young Adult Novel category, but lost out to YA giant, Charles DeLint.)

And although not one of the books I edited, I was also pleased to see another Five Rivers book on the Young Adult Novel short list: David Ladroute's Out of Time.

And Susan Forest, another Five Rivers' author, is nominated for short story category.

So four nominations in four categories for Five Rivers. Not a bad year at all (and that's only the SF line!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

When Words Collide, Aug 8-10, 2014

I will be going to When Words Collide in Calgary again this August. I'll post my schedule at the convention closer to the dates when times have been confirmed, but it looks like I'll be doing close to 10 sessions. Key among those will be the Book Social for Five Rivers Publishing (in my other hat as 5R Senior Editor) where we will be launching all six of Five River's spring releases.

I will also be doing a 'pitch' session where people can pitch their books to Five Rivers, and I'll provide feedback on how to improve their pitch, in addition to screening for manuscripts 5R might be interested in. Interestingly, one of the books being launched at WWC this year is indeed a book that was pitched to me three years ago at the first WWC.

I highly recommend When Words Collide to any writer (or serious readers) who can get there -- I consider it the finest writers convention in Western Canada, certainly the best for anyone working in commercial genres of SF/Fantasy, Romance, Mystery, etc., but even poetry, canlit and screen plays have been well represented in the past.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Writing Process Blog Hop

I have been tagged by Joe Mahoney in a Blog Hop.

This means that I was interviewed about my writing process by Joe Mahoney here on my blog, because he was tagged and interviewed on his writing process on his blog by author/film-maker Susan Rodgers, who was interviewed about her writing process on her blog by Beryl Belsky who...well, you get the idea.

As a recording engineer for CBC Radio, Joe has recorded, mixed, and created sound effects for more than one hundred radio plays ranging from The Muckraker to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale to Mordecai Richler’s Barney’s Version. Joe has also written radio plays (The Cold Equations, Captain’s Away!), produced them (Steve the Second), directed them (Canadia: 2056) and story-edited entire series (Steve the First, Steve the Second, Canadia: 2056.)

As a writer/producer, Joe has been a finalist twice for the Aurora Award, Canada’s top science fiction award (for Faster Than Light with Robert J. Sawyer and Six Impossible Things with Nalo Hopkinson) and won a Mark Time Silver Award for Best Science Fiction Audio Production of the Year 2005 (for Steve the Second). Joe is also a published author with several plays and short stories under his belt. He is also darned near finished his first novel.

These days when he's not writing he works as Manager of Digital Production Maintenance for CBC Radio & Television and lives in Whitby, Ontario with his wife and two children.

These are Joe's questions to me:

  • Joe: You wear many hats. You're recently retired from the University of Lethbridge, where you had a successful career as a sociology professor. You're also a writer of speculative fiction, an editor, an essayist, a reviewer, and a family man. How have you found the time to write? How do all of your activities and interests inform your writing, fiction and otherwise?

    Robert: The short answer would be that I mostly can't find the time to write.

    Writers like to have blocks of free time to just think / write, and I haven't had that anytime in the last 30 years. The reality is that almost no one makes a living writing fiction these days, so most of us have to devote time and effort to our day jobs, and I chose a career that places a lot of demands on one's time. That lesson plan has to be ready when the class is scheduled to start, so lesson planning and marking and advising students have to take precedence over one's own writing. And publish or perish is a reality in my line of work, so research necessarily took much of my after hours time. You can't say to your students, or to your Dean, or to your own kids, "I'm sorry, I can't do that right now, I'm working on my novel." Even taking early retirement to free up time for writing hasn't been entirely successful because my editing work just expanded to fill that time, and because there is always more you should be doing for family—the work expands to fill the time available.

    I tried using NaNoWriMo to get down on paper one of several novels that had been floating around my head for years. I would think my way through stories while walking the dog or washing the dishes or otherwise having a quiet moment, but that's just daydreaming unless you can get it down on paper. But November is a busy month for anyone in academia, so NaNoWriMo is not entirely suitable. So my wife started organizing writing retreats at other times of the year for me. I usually can only get away for ten days or so, but that's been enough to allow me to get out a story a year and to have made real progress on my first novel.

    I take my inspiration here from H. A. Hargreaves, whose collection of short stories was the first ever marketed as Canadian SF (North by 2000; reprinted in expanded edition in 2012 as North by 2000+).

    Hargreaves could only budget one or two weeks a year to write, but over the course of his lifetime he produced a significant body of work and was a major influence on other Canadian SF writers. The idea that one has to write full-time to be taken seriously is a mistake. It's quality not quantity that should matter. I wish I had more time to write, but I also love editing and teaching and researching and parenting, and so on. I write when I can find time, and that just has to be enough.

    As for the second question, I think all writing, if it is any good, is influenced by the author's daily activities. My most recent short story, for example, is about a teacher talking to students as they line up to leave the classroom. It's right out of my daily experience as both a parent waiting to collect my child and as a teacher-trainer. Similarly, even though my novel is old-fashioned SF and I've never lived on a spaceship, the characters and relationships are pretty much right out of my life.

    Of course, my writing is heavily influenced by life as a reviewer, critic and editor. I've been very conscious in my writing of not making the mistakes I see in other SF. For example, it's always driven me crazy when the hero breaks into the alien space ship and simply announces, "these must be the warp drive controls", or looks at a couple of buildings and immediately deduces correctly that the aliens are part of a hive mind, or solves the central mystery of the book on the first try. So I made sure my characters get things wrong all the time and make the sort of mistakes people actually make when confronted with new information. And so on. Of course, in avoiding the usual clichés I have undoubtedly invented a whole new range of mistakes of my own....

  • Joe: You're currently putting the finishing touches on your science fiction novel, The Flight of the Illynov. At the same time you're editing for Five Rivers Publishing. How does the editing part of you get along with the writing part of you? How does it help or hurt the writing process having that editing experience and knowledge?

    Robert: Having experience as an editor, I can edit my work as I go, so that allows me to avoid a lot of the usual errors, but I also have to be careful to turn my own editor off from time to time, particularly in the early stages of writing when a book or story is still relatively fragile. As an editor, one has to be able to look past a manuscript as it is and see what it might be. That's even more true for one's own work. There's a temptation to say, "this isn't that good" and give up on it rather than to try to make it better, but the truth is, no first draft is any good; it's always about the rewriting. Being too critical too early is always a mistake.

    I wrote a column last year on what it was like to send my manuscript off to an editor, both knowing that every manuscript needs to be edited, and secretly hoping that my manuscript would be the exception. It wasn't!

  • Joe: What have been your biggest challenges writing The Flight of the Illynov?

    Robert: Besides the ever-present problem of finding the time to work on it, the fundamental problem with my novel is that after the first 70 pages or so of action, I stuck my characters on a spaceship for a year and a half. I don't know what I was thinking. Because sitting around talking in the ship's mess for 200 pages does not leave a lot of room for action. All my characters ever want to do is talk. I tried blowing up their world, having them arrested, blowing up their ship, having them arrested by the other side, blowing up their ship again, starting a war, but whatever I did, the protagonists just tries to talk his way out of it. So I worry that it's too much talking heads, that it drags in places. But I'm working on that.

  • Joe: What is your writing process? Do you have a set time and place to write, or any writing rituals that need to be in place? Do you ever find yourself procrastinating and if so, what do you do about it?

    Robert: I used to procrastinate a lot, but I don't have time for that anymore. If my wife books a retreat for me, that's a lot of family time and money riding on my being productive, and it's my one shot at writing uninterrupted for the year. So I pretty much have to get on with it.

    In terms of place, what happened was I wanted to go to a retreat at the Banff Center that Robert Sawyer was leading, but there was a death in the family that year, so that just didn't happen for me. The next year the retreat leader was a wonderful poet, but frankly, my novel is about story and humour, not poetical language, so I wasn't sure that would be the right retreat for my manuscript. And my wife looked at the fees and said, "That's a lot of money if you're not sure about the workshop aspect. Hell, I could put you on a cruise for a quarter of price, if you just want time to write." And we looked at each other, and I said, "Um, okay." So ever since I go on a cruise by myself each year. I take an inside cabin so it's both cheap and dark—I want dark so I can sleep whenever I run out of steam, and write as late as a like. I frequently work round the clock. When I was writing the scenes on the spaceship, my wife booked me into the cabin next to the engine room—the unceasing beat of the engines made for appropriate atmosphere for my writing about life on a spaceship! But the best thing is, there is great food available around the clock, much better than at any retreat. And when I want to stretch my legs, there is the track on the deck or a quick walk around whatever port we happen to be in that day. So that works pretty well.

    My biggest problem with writing rituals is that when I pause to work out some problem in a scene, whether I am on a cruise or stealing an hour at work, I take that break by going for a snack. That's never a good idea, healthwise. So I am trying to substitute either a jog around the deck or a mug of tea. My favorite tea is David's Chocolate Chili Chai or Mighty Leaf Vanilla. That's almost as good as a snack.

    At work I have a treadmill desk, so I am walking all the time I am writing. That's working really well for keeping energy up.

  • Joe: As an editor, you know that professional writers, although skilled in their trade, still require editors. In your experience, what do professional writers typically get wrong that editors like you can help them with?

    Robert:I've tried writing about the most common errors I encounter in my blog here, so I've already covered some of that: starting the story too early; forgetting that "less is more"; mistaking physical descriptions for characterization; and so on. But the truth is, every author has particular strengths and weaknesses, so all the advice columns in the world can only help so much. You see some manuscripts where the author is totally abusing adverbs, and so you get some American editors/writers (e.g., Stephen King) making the ridiculous pronouncement that, "adverbs are always bad". And then I get manuscripts where the writing fails because the writer has lost what is actually an important part of speech—that manuscript could actually have benefited from the insertion of a couple of adverbs. Practically any advice I have given to one author turns out to be the exact opposite of what I need say to another. You need to actually have an editor to tell you whether your problem is that you are too verbose or overly concise; too much description or too sparse; too much explanation or too little. It's hard to judge these things for oneself, to tell whether the pacing is working or the mystery is too obvious or whatever. For beginning writers, some general do's and don'ts might be helpful— The Turkey City Lexicon is still the best resource for beginning SF writers—but for professional writers it's hard to suggest one-size-fits-all advice. With published authors, it's largely either a question of identifying some logical loophole they've missed or a matter of refinement. Either way, the problems are going to be specific to that author or manuscript, rather than something that can be generalized.

  • Joe: When do you anticipate finishing The Flight of the Illynov? And what's next after that?

    Robert:It's hard to say when. There are probably only a couple of week's work left on Flight of the Illynov, but depends when I can free up two weeks to do it. I would really like to be done, but I feel guilty how far behind I am on my editing. I can't stand the thought that other people's careers are on hold until I finish with their manuscripts, so I always priorize editing responsibilities over my own writing. (I know that Lorina Stephens, the publisher at Five Rivers, suffers from the same problem, so that her own writing ends up at the bottom of the to do list.) But I have long suspected that I am a better editor than I am a writer, so that's probably just as well.

    Nevertheless, I have two new novels on the go now. The one I intended to do next, on which I made a start while awaiting feedback from my editor; and a completely new idea that just popped into my head two weeks ago but which I was inspired to start on right away. The later is tentatively titled, Semi-Posthumously and would be loosely based on my observations visiting my mom in an old age home, so it's not SF at all. And I have three or four short stories in various stages of completion. And a 'how to' book on examination construction based on my career as a test development specialist...and a book on Canadian SF, and... well you get the idea. Too many projects, too little time.

  • Here are the two bloggers I've tagged:

    Mike Plested

    Michell (Mike) Plested is an author, editor, blogger and podcaster living in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. He is the host of several podcasts including Get Published, (2009, 2011 and 2013 Parsec Finalist), the SciFi/Comedy GalaxyBillies (Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy meets Beverley Hillbillies) and Boyscouts of the Apocalypse (Zombie horror meets boyscouts), a part of the Action Pack Podcast.

    His debut novel, Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero was published August 1, 2012 and was shortlisted for the Prix Aurora Award for Best YA Novel. The sequel, Mik Murdoch: The Power Within, is due out August of 2014.

    * * * * * * * * * *

    Michael Matheson

    Michael Matheson is a gender-fluid Toronto (the Canadian one) writer, poet, editor, anthologist, and book reviewer. A Managing Editor (CZP eBooks) with ChiZine Publications, and a Submissions Editor with Apex Magazine, Michael is editing three anthologies for 2015 (Start a Revolution, Exile Editions, Spring 2015; This Patchwork Flesh, Exile Editions, Fall 2015; The Humanity of Monsters, ChiZine Publications, Fall 2015). Michael's own fiction and poetry are published or forthcoming in a number of venues, including Ideomancer, and the anthologies Chilling Tales 2, Dead North, Fractured, Future Lovecraft, Masked Mosaic, and more. The in depth interview on Michael's writing process raises a number of significant issues for readers and writers.

    Wednesday, February 12, 2014

    The Importance of Contracts

    March 1st sees the long-awaited release of the mystery novel, Old Growth, by Matt Hughes.It’s the sequel to Downshift, Hughes 1997 mystery, published originally by Doubleday Canada and rereleased last year by Five Rivers Publishing.
    In announcing the release of Old Growth, Matt tells the following story:

      Both novels follow the trials and tribulations of Sid Rafferty, who is kind of an alter ego of mine — a freelance speechwriter living on Vancouver Island in the 1990s, though he gets into more trouble than I usually did.

      Official publication date is March 1, but the ebook version is already available on Amazon.

      Here's the may-be-interesting part: in the 1990s, I was on my way to becoming established as a Canadian crime writer. The late and wonderful Bunny Wright (L.R. Wright on covers) one of our best mystery authors, had introduced me to her editor at Doubleday, and the editor wanted to buy a mystery novel from me. The problem was, the marketing department wanted Doubleday to go more literary and not sign another genre author. After a five-month argument, the editor won and bought Downshift. It was to be first of a series and she told me to start writing the sequel, which I did.

      But three months before Downshift's release, the editor left Doubleday and went to Macmillan, which was a nonfiction house. Immediately, my printrun was cut and whatever promotional budget there was went to some other book. I was let to understand that the sequel, then four-fifths written, would not be welcome. And, of course, as a trusting newbie, I had never asked the editor for a contract. Downshift got good reviews, but most of the sales were to libraries. When I asked, a year later, to buy the remainders, they told me they hadn't bothered to do that -- as the returns came in, they went straight to the pulper.

      Now Five Rivers has republished Downshift and the belatedly completed sequel, Old Growth. The lesson: no matter how friendly and enthusiastic your editor may be, don't write a word until you've signed the contract.

    The first chapter of Old Growth, is now available for a free read: