I’m pretty excited about hosting a writing marathon in the St. John’s region this coming June. But while this is an easy sell for me, it may seem a little daunting for some. That’s why I decided to do an interview with writer Kaarina Stiff about her experiences with novel writing marathons.
Kaarina is a full-time writer and editor living in Ottawa, ON. She has participated in three novel writing marathons and was the Young Adult category winner in the Toronto Novel Marathon in both 2015 and 2016. She was gracious enough to answer a couple of questions about the process so that I could share her experiences with potential participants. Continue reading Writing marathons: Don’t take my word for it
When it comes to distractions (and that is the name of this blog after all) nothing eats up more of my time than anticipation: that time spent waiting for the next novel in a series or the next season of a show of the next movie in a franchise. Follow my train of thought here: if the next movie in my favorite franchise was out I could just watch it, a distraction from my work of no more than 3 hours. But waiting for it, wondering about it, watching trailers, reading predictions, fixating on it, and then watching it: that’s a much heavier time commitment that I should be using to write and edit.
With that in mind, here are my Top 5 most anticipated book releases of 2016. These are the books that have left me sitting in my chair wondering rather than sitting in my chair working, and time can’t tick by fast enough for them to arrive!
Atlanti-Con 4 swept through the city of Corner Brook this past weekend, September 25-27 at the Corner Brook Convention Center and was once again wildly successful. It is to my deep regret that I missed this event in its first two years: it’s a great con run by amazing people, and always a ton of fun that is also — somehow — quite relaxing. There’s something of a very chill vibe that I get from Atlanti-Con that I do not get at other conventions on my standard circuit: Atlanti-Con is the cool surfer-brother of the Atlantic Provinces Convention family.
While many Engen authors, including Steve Lake (author of the Full Moon series of short stories), Darren Hann (author of Time Diamond, Holy Troll, and The Imagination Journals) and Tara Murphy (author of HagRidden) all came out together along with other members of the Sci-Fi on the Rock community, myself and fellow Infinity author Ellen Curtis came out a few days earlier on September 23, carpooling with award-winning author Scott Bartlett (author of Royal Flush, Taking Stock, and Finished with Life) to stay with friend and co-author Sarah Thompson and her wife Erica Green on the west coast of the province for a few days before the convention really geared up.
Sarah and Erica are some of my very best friends. Their wedding last year was an amazing night with laughter and friends and fun that will be remembered for years to come, and they are wonderful hosts. Sarah herself is a person of many talents, not only working as an Employee-of-the-Year-winning announcer on K-Rock and helping at the Engen booth with sales, but also penning an amazing short story for the Engen light|dark anthology, Reamers.
After a few days of fun in the surprising amount of sun, with good food and lots late nights, Atlanti-Con took full affect in its new venue, with guests that included Michael McCluskey (also known by his stage name, Fat Apollo), voice-actor Erin Fitzgerald (most famously of the Monster High series), and comic-artist/author Richard Comely.
Now I don’t fan-gush much at conventions. It is very rare that I meet a celebrity that flusters me: I tend to be of the mind that we’re all people, and that getting excited over meeting a celebrity is a little silly: your life-partner, that’s someone to get excited about meeting. But while I don’t think I was nerding too badly at Atlanti-Con, I will say that meeting Richard Comely was a big moment for me.
For anyone who isn’t familiar with the name, Richard Comely was the creator and main creative influence on the Captain Canuck series of comic books that ran from 1975 to 1981 and formed a large part of the cultural and pop-cultural heritage and history of Canadians in that time and to the present day. The first issue of Captain Canuck sold over 200,000 copies in 1975, and was one of the first Canadian super-hero comic success stories.
To put it into perspective: that was the same year that Giant-Sized X-Men #1 came out and relaunched the X-Men with Wolverine, Nightcrawler, and the like. And even then, many mainstream comics were not hitting the numbers that Comely’s comics were.
For me personally, I remember finding back-issues of Captain Canuck in a longbox in St. Johns. I didn’t know it then in those pre-internet days of 1990, but I had found almost the entire 14-issue series in one sitting. I remember reading through each issue, and Comely editorials at the end of each one, feverishly. I’d read superhero comics for some time, but even those set in Canada had been written and produced south of the border. Something about reading Comely’s evocative stories gave me, as a Canadian, permission to write and imagine writing in that genre. The series is available now in an Omnibus (called a Compendium) that collects all 14 issues, an previously unrepresented 15th issue, and several one-shot issues leading up to the recent relaunch. Everyone should check it out.
I picked up the 1975-1981 Compendium immediately, and later Richard was interested in what he was seeing across the hall at the Engen booth and proposed a swap: the first three issues of the new series for the anthology title light/dark, which highlights many of the Engen authors. A very good trade. Artist Kevin Kendall and I ended up getting in a bit of a nerd-off competition for who could get more Captain Canuck merchandise, as we’re both big fans.
Speaking of Kevin Kendall, Atlanti-Con also was host to some of the best artists in the province, including Kevin’s Kendallight Studios and Kyle Callahan from Kyle Callahan Photography. Both do amazingly detailed work in very different ways, and the body of their work is often stunning. Atlanti-Con is always great for building connections and relationships: I met Kevin at a Convention on the West Coast in 2009, and he ended up doing the cover art for the revamped international edition of Black Womb for us. Keep your ears open for more collaborations between Engen and Kendallight Studios in the future, as well as with Kyle Callahan Photography.
Engen Books sold well as always, with the new-to-the-West-Coast Cinders and Infinity being the best sellers. We can’t wait to start getting feedback from the wonderful, creative people we met at Atlanti-Con this year: art isn’t art without input from the viewer!
Here’s to another great year at Atlanti-Con next year! Special shout-out to Scott Bartlett for driving this year and getting the three of us there (and back) safe and sound in an environmentally-friendly way! 🙂
Never Look Back!
Longtime readers of Engen Books might remember when, in the early days of ashcan-like editions published in Pocket Paperback editions by Calgary-based printer Blitzprint, the back covers of the first five books in the Black Womb series looked like this one, on the left.
The covers were simple: plain black background with white text, title above. Sometimes issues with the printer made them faded and illegible — such are the woes of starting out in publishing. But while we’ve improved immensely, there are some things that have been lost along the way as we’ve gotten more polished: avant-garde ideas that traditional publishers wouldn’t try that made us stand out on the bookshelf. And that was, ironically enough, the back cover.
We had the interesting idea of not wasting the back cover with a hook or synopsis or out-of-context trailer to try and force the reader to buy: we wanted to bring them in with our storytelling ability and our sharp, witty dialog. So we did something very few other novels have done: we made the back cover a part of the story.
Instead of touting reviews or plots or spoilers, Engen back covers were short stories in and of themselves: short monologues written from the first-person (sometimes second-person) perspective of the characters within the story, as though they were being interviewed after-the-fact. Engen back covers didn’t waste space: we were given a venue to tell stories with, and we wanted to use every page and surface available to us to tell a story.
You may have noticed a new face at the Engen Books booth at Avalon Expo this year and in the photos that found their way online after it. You may have also noticed that Cinders, the latest Engen title and first title in the Xander Drew series, was by far one of the best quality-wise that Engen Books has produced, on par with Infinity even. All these things have one thing in common: Erin Vance, Editor.
Erin Vance is a graduate of the Memorial University of Newfoundland English Honors Program who has, recently, accepted the position of the main editor for all Engen titles: both new titles coming through the Engen machine, and new editions of existing titles.
Erin wrote her Honors thesis paper, The Song of the Mockingjay, explored the nature of Katniss Everdeen’s agency in Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games series. She is creative, spiritual, and loves reading, writing, and anything to do with words.
“Erin is one of the most fiercely intelligent people working in literature today,” said Engen founder Matthew LeDrew. “She takes the time to understand each character in a novel and understand their voice. She’s not just checking for errors: when you hire Erin, you’re hiring one of the best writing partners you could ever have. She’ll remove your flaws and make all your good parts better. I like to think I have a sixth sense for creatively brilliant people. I scooped her up immediately.”
But who is Erin Vance? Get to know her better with her first Engen Interview!
- What is your favorite word?
Erin: “Befuddle – because I like it at this moment. Ask me again tomorrow – I’ll have a different one.”
**Please comment with more questions, they will be added**
So right now we’re in the midst of preparing for Ten Years of Sci-Fi from the Rock, or so it’s tentatively titled in my head, and it occurs to me we might want to have a list of guidelines — really a kind of FAQ — that we can add to as time goes on and more questions come up.
What is the target audience?
For this specific collection, we’re going for an equivalent of PG to PG-13. That’s mainly because this book, more than the previous three, will be linked to the convention itself in that it’s celebrating 10 years of the Sci-Fi on the Rock convention.
So there will be acceptable levels of violence, gore, sexual content that will be judged on a per-story basis.
As an author, I’d very much encourage potential authors to not to take this restriction into account when drafting. Write what you want to write, fine-points of content can be debated during editing.
What genres will be accepted?
Fantasy, Science-Fiction, Hard Sci-Fi, Horror, Speculative Fiction… Anything “Generally Geeky,” as one fan said when I struggled to list all the possibilities. Generally Geeky is a good term.
Fan Fiction or anything involving copyright-protected characters will not be accepted. If you’re writing something that involves legal-to-use previously-created public-domain entities, like Sherlock Holmes or something, make that clear in your opening email to us so that it doesn’t get flagged.
Who can submit?
Almost anyone with any connection to the convention, no matter how tenuous.
This includes: convention staff, guests, attendees, friends of the convention, and people the convention or Engen invites to submit.