Tag Archives: Writing about writing

Why snow days are the best days (for writing)

Amanda LabonteAs a writer, I think there is something magical about a day when you can stay inside and block out the real world – both figuratively and literally if the snow is halfway up your front door.

Before going further, I do have to confess that I am a winter grinch. When the first hint of frost hits the air, I heartily join in the chorus of ‘not yet’. I refuse to pull out my heavy coat and boots until the snow sticks to the ground. I curse when I am already running ten minutes late and I go outside to find the car needs to be scraped. Again.

But then a day comes when everything closes. When the police ask all cars to stay off the roads. When the convenience stores run out of chips. And, if you are a writer like me and not one of those brave souls who has to work in an ER or 24-hour gas station, those days can be creative perfection. Continue reading Why snow days are the best days (for writing)

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Coming Feb 22: Writer’s Circle – Presented by the Arts & Culture Center

Join Amanda Labonté, Ellen Curtis, Matthew LeDrew, and Erin Vance as they discuss writing, the process of getting published, and being small press in Newfoundland as a part of the Arts & Culture Center’s “LOLA: love Our Loal Authors” month! 🙂 Come and get answers to your questions, meet the authors of some of the province’s most thrilling genre fiction, gets books signed and learn the different avenues to success with writing! Admittance is free, although Arts & Culture encourages calling ahead to reserve seats at: 709-737-3950. The event will be 6:30pm-8pm on Feb 22 2017 at the Arts and Culture Center, 95 Allandale Rd, St. John’s, NL A1B 3A3. To join the Facebook event and get more information, click here.

Continue reading Coming Feb 22: Writer’s Circle – Presented by the Arts & Culture Center

Sci-Fi from the Rock welcomes Matthew Daniels!

Also joining the Sci-Fi from the Rock 2016 team is newcomer (and incredible author) Matthew Daniels!

If you attended the open-source book launch for Scott Bartlett’s Finished with Life But Unable to Die, you’re sure to remember Matthew Daniels’s short story about a woman buried alive that brought down the whole house! Writing events are great places to meet other writers and network, and we asked if he’d pen a story for our April 2016 collection right then and there!

Matthew Daniels was hatched in St. John’s, and spent many years stretching his wings between there and Labrador. Once old enough to hunt on his own, he ventured into the realm of the nerd, where he encountered such delights as Sci Fi on the Rock, Magic: The Gathering, and cake pops shaped like piranha plants set in cupcakes coloured like warp pipes. Though he cannot yet breathe fire, he did join the illustrious Sandbox Gaming. Check them out at http://www.sandboxgaming.org.

Matthew brings with him his new short story, Healer’s Hoards.

To delete, or not to delete

Ellen CurtisSometimes the hardest thing to do is to take your own advice. Part of my job as an author on the convention circuit means I am constantly asked for writing advice. Sometimes, people want help figuring out how to develop characters, how to plot out a novel, or just what my general writing process is like. A lot of times though, people come to writing panels because they’re suffering a bigger problem, such as the dreaded writer’s block.

Some people –cough cough- Matt –cough cough- don’t believe in writer’s block. In fact, Matt’s gone so far as to call it writer’s laze, saying that people just aren’t focusing enough on their work, etc. etc. I don’t buy into this at all.

I’ve struggled with writer’s block in the past in some pretty severe ways. The Tourniquet Reprisal was challenging for me to write, not just because of my busy personal schedule at the time, but because I was struggling with the direction we were taking with the series. Looking back, there are lots of things I would have liked to do differently with my contributions to the novel. That said, this view stems from where I am now, years removed from the project and after having completed a degree that trained me to analyze fiction. The old adage, that you are your own worst critic, holds true for me I think, and it is entirely to Matt’s credit as ‘show runner’ for Reprisal that it turned out so well despite my struggles with it.

The Tourniquet ReprisalGiven the hardships I had with Reprisal, I faced a daunting task heading into Exodus of Angels. I very much wanted to redeem myself for what I viewed as a failure to my partner. I dropped the ball; as I said in the last blog, I wasn’t prioritizing my creative endeavors the way I wanted to due to the workload I was dealing with. Exodus presented me with my turn to be show runner though, which meant I needed bring my A game.

I went into Exodus excited. The plot had mostly been hammered out since Matt and I first sat down to discuss Infinity. I knew what I wanted to do, I felt I had some really strong characters, and I felt that the plot was exciting and hearkened back to some of the aspects of Infinity that were missing in Reprisal. Talking it out with Matt, both of us were pretty excited to start in on writing. Thematically, we were hoping to tackle some pretty big issues that we were really excited to bring to the series.

Cinders (Xander Drew, #1)Matt, as the writing powerhouse he is (you guys have seen how many Black Womb/Xander Drew books he’s got out, right?), hammered out the majority of his portion of the novel fairly quickly. I have to say, it is honestly one of the most emotionally mature pieces I think he has written, and I am so proud of what he accomplished with it. His success with the ‘B’ plot of the novel didn’t translate to my success with the ‘A’ or ‘C’ plots though.

The first few scenes came out easily, but my writer’s block from The Tourniquet Reprisal was sticking around like a stubborn cold. Something wasn’t adding up for me, and I wasn’t sure what it was.

I didn’t think it was my new character. I had been so excited to write her for so long, and my idea of her was so concrete that it felt very natural to translate her experiences. She was a fully formed person in my mind, and seemed to have a life of her own that could carry an interesting story.

Continue reading To delete, or not to delete

Cathy drinks Coke: Native Advertising, Product Placement, and K-Mart Realism in fiction.

Cathy drinks Cherry Coke
Cathy drinks Cherry Coke

I was asked once at a convention by a fan of the Black Womb series if I had accepted any money from the Coca-Cola company to feature their product in my novels. This was in response to that reader noticing — quite astutely — that one of that series’s protagonists, Cathy Kennessy, is exclusively seen drinking Coca-Cola. Cherry Coke, to be exact.

The short answer to the question of “Do I accept money from Coca-Cola to feature their product?” Is an easy-to-give no, but rather than leave it at that, I think the question deserves a little unpacking, because there was a time (years ago) when this really wouldn’t have been a question. But now media saturation of product placement has gotten to the point that any time we see a product in our art of in our fiction, we have to ask ourselves: is this Product Placement, Native Advertising, or K-Mart Realism?

Let’s start by looking at each of these, respectfully.

Product Placement is something we’ve all become familiar with, as it is in our face all the time. Sometimes, it’s more egregious than others. I remember seeing a movie (and I honestly can’t recall what it was, sorry) recently where a couple was getting into a car to escape someone, inciting a high-speed chase. I’m assuming this was an action movie, but it may have been a horror film. In any event, the characters get in and we cut away from them as the door closes to a shot a the car’s tail lights and them speeding away. Well that’s fine, that’s a pretty standard way of telling a story. But, at the last second, the camera tilted jarringly downward to get the silver-lettered brand name of the vehicle into center frame before the car sped off. As someone who studied cinematography (albeit briefly) this is a blatant product placement. The camera shifted in such a way that no professional cameraman would do it accidentally: he’s be fired. It was intentional product placement, and worse, it’s to the detriment of the shot and the story that shot should be telling.

I think for me that’s the line between acceptable product placement for me personally: does it take me out of the story? And that line is going to be different for different people. For example, the Transformers movies have reportedly been some of the most lucrative product placement deals in history, as the main characters of the films themselves are in fact GM vehicles. But that never takes me out of the movies, even the glamor shots of the cars when they first show up: it doesn’t say to me: look how cool GM is, it says: look how cool Bumblebee is. Some will have a different experience, of course. I find the product placement in the later seasons of Dexter to be some of the most damning, as they will frame the brand name on his stool while the action is almost happening off-panel.

But this has been quite a long digression. The point of product placement is that (or should be) that products will be needed to move the story along and make it so the character’s world seems like our world. This is K-Mart realism, which we’ll get to in a second. What changes this to product placement is that, instead of making up your own product (like Friends did with its “Big Brown Bags”) or just going with whatever feels right, the creators basically open up the bidding: whichever car company places the highest bid, that is the company that gets their car driven by the characters.

Continue reading Cathy drinks Coke: Native Advertising, Product Placement, and K-Mart Realism in fiction.