Monday, December 21, 2015

In which the holidays eat my blog posts...

I'm missing Artemis, and so I'm posting a picture of her in order to ease the pain. (She's with a friend while the husband and I are off visiting family in the states.)

Well, this will likely be the last post in December, and it's really a token post to mark the winter solstice. I am with family and have been traveling and visiting folks since the 14th. That has been rather all consuming, so I am not getting much else done. Which is fine really, and I'm truly enjoying getting a chance to relax and spend time with my folks. (And I'm still squeaking in some writing on the side, have no fear.)

I am about to get back to doing all of that, but first just a quick note to wish everyone happy solstice, happy winter holidays, and a Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah, and Happy Kwanzaa if you're into those kinds of things. :-)

Also, for those who are interested, the sales on Blade's Edge ebook and paperback versions will continue through the 26th. So if you still need to do any holiday shopping for the readers in your life, please consider it. 

I am off to eat food and socialize with family and I hope that everyone else is able to do the same. Warm wishes to all!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Travels and Some Random Facts...

Did you know that penguins have knees? True story. They're just tucked inside their little bodies. Either that, or someone on the internet has been having fun with photoshop. But there are lots of images supporting this, so people have really been making an effort if that's the case.

This information brought to you by a delayed airline departure during holiday travels. 
Thanks, interwebs.

In other, related news the husband and I are off to visit family in the US. Yay! I'm very much looking forward to seeing my family and eating lots of food. Let, the festivities begin!

For those of you who missed it, I posted some new videos to my youtube channel. And you can check them out at any time by clicking that link or the link that sits in the left hand bar on over there. Just a reminder that those videos are probably only entertaining if you're interested in the publishing process, but if you just like watching me be goofy on camera you might enjoy some of them anyway. ;-) 

As the holidays are upon us, I've joined the rest of the entrepreneurs around the world in discounting some things that you can buy. Namely, the Blade's Edge ebook (for kindle) is down to $2.99 (normally $4.99) from now until December 26th. If you have a reader in your life who enjoys women with swords, fantasy, and anything related to samurai or feudal Japan please consider getting them a copy as a gift. You can gift kindle ebooks to people, and the trade paperback is only $11.99* (normally $15.99), plus amazon is offering a one time 25% discount on paperback book orders! 

*ETA: My price change for the paperback went through faster than I thought, so the paperback is on sale too! (Also 'til the 26th)

Just FYI if you're looking for other formats of ebook you might notice that I no longer have the book for sale via kobo, nook, or bookbaby. There's a long story behind that, but the short version is that bookbaby was not an effective distributor and I have canceled my business dealings with them in order to manage all versions of the ebook myself. I will be trying out KDP Select with Blade's Edge for a bit, and then you may see it go back to other retailers in the future. In the meantime, you can still buy the print book from just about anywhere. (If you are a Nook owner and would like an epub copy of Blade's Edge please contact me! I would be happy to get you an epub copy for the same price as the current kindle edition pricing, and you can pay via paypal.) 

Ok. That's enough commercialism. I'm excited to go visit family for the next two weeks and I hope everyone out there is able to do the same whether it requires traveling or not. Happy Winter, folks! May your days be full of good food, good company, and interesting conversation!

Thursday, December 10, 2015

New Videos Are Up!

Well, it took a lot more editing than I had anticipated, and it turns out that it made more sense to split the original footage into two videos rather than three, but here they are!

Monday, December 7, 2015

Welcome to December!

Well, I'm back from my travels in the southwest, but am poised to head off on more adventures on the east coast for a bit of family midwinter celebrations. I laugh at the term midwinter, as midwinter in Winnipeg is generally sometime in February, but hey, if we're just talking shortest day of the year, we're almost there.

Sorry I didn't get any blogging done last week. Between travel and recovering from travel, it was not a very productive time. This week I'm back at work, which for me means blogging, making videos, and, of course, writing.

I'm happy to announce that I managed to squeak out 50,000 words in November despite how busy I was on my trip. Unfortunately for me, I was so bad about keeping up with writing that I wrote just over 12,000 words in the first two weeks and then nothing until the final four days where I suddenly knocked out about 38,000. I don't recommend that. At all.

But it worked.

So my new total for both manuscripts is the following:

Traitor's Hope: 61,578 words
Victoria Marmot: 25,031 words

Total words for both projects: 86,609

Is that the 150,000 words I was shooting for back in September when I started this project? No. No, it isn't. But it's still a lot and I hope to finish off both manuscripts in the remainder of December. Big plans, folks. BIG PLANS.

I had to take a brief writing break after the huge amount of output in the last few days of November. I actually, with no exaggeration, made myself feel exhausted and hungover for a few days from just the sheer volume of creative output in those days. And before you ask, no, no actual alcohol was involved in that hangover. Though I would not have turned it down had it been offered.

So... December. A month I'm generally quite fond of, but this year is likely to look like a toned down version of November, or rather a month in which I plan to actually write every day at a reasonable pace instead of doing the stupid break-neck of the end of November that I did once already. Did I mention what a bad idea that was? Terrible. Awful. Seriously... don't do that if you can avoid it.

Ok, enough of that. So, coming soon there will be a series of not one, not two, but THREE new youtube videos. The reason for that is that I made one huge video and realized it was probably better to cut it up into smaller, more digestible pieces. It's a video made to help folks who are trying decide whether or not to go indie or trad when it comes to publishing. I've tried to make it as unbiased as I can, but I think it's possible a bit of bias crept in there.

Anyway, I actually need to get going in order to go edit the aforementioned videos, and maybe go for a run. I'm trying not to let the colder weather stop me from running... we'll see how my lungs feel about that. Luckily I have a pull-up bar now in order to keep me from getting zero exercise at all. (Have I told you about the pull-up toll? It's my favorite game. Every time you walk under the pull up bar you have to pay the pull up toll. Exercising has never been so short format.)

I will leave you with a few photos of Artemis enjoying our new apartment (did I mention my husband moved us between two apartments by himself while I was down in the US?) and the colder weather which, of course, appeals to her.

Take a look at these shadows... this photo was taken at noon.

As was this one

Artemis has a tough life.

And here's a shot of our midwinter flare! 

Friday, November 27, 2015


I am grateful for so many things at this time in my life. I can't believe how fortunate I am on most days, let alone on a day dedicated to being grateful. I'm grateful to have a place to live and food in my belly, I'm grateful to have a loving family and supportive friends. I'm grateful to have my health. I'm grateful for the health and happiness of the people I love.

So, on the final Thursday of November, I tend to feel pretty good about life, and my place in the world. And this year in particular it was lovely to celebrate with friends and to meet new people.

I could go on about gratitude, but I think you all might prefer a shorter summary: I am grateful for my life.

Not everyone enjoys Thanksgiving...

So, this is a short post, as I am woefully behind on my NaNoWriMo word count (but still hopeful that I might catch up before the end of the 30th) and I also have to go edit the new youtube video I will be sharing next week. In other words, I need to get to work.

But, as I do, I will continue to be grateful for the feast I had last night, the fire that's warming my back as I type, and the friends who continue to love and support me even when I only pass through their lives once in a while. 

I hope everyone out there is warm, safe and healthy. Happy (slightly belated) Thanksgiving to folks in the US. And a happy late fall day to everyone else. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Don't Miss... guest post over on If These Books Could Talk. It's about how life looks one year after running a successful Kickstarter campaign. It endeavors to be both entertaining and informative. Does it succeed? You be the judge.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Return to Civilization...

Things I have accomplished since returning to "civilization" (keeping in mind I'm still in the middle of this trip with high school students, just no longer in the middle of the wilderness):

  • taken a shower
  • used a toilet that flushes
  • sifted through 74 unread emails
  • written to friends and family to let them know I'm alive
  • eaten food I didn't cook myself
  • taken a shower
I haven't actually showered twice yet. We've only been out of the wilderness for a handful of hours. But showering was so glorious I felt it deserved to be mentioned twice.

Catching up with the news has not been pleasant... Civilization does not seem so civilized when the news is full of death and violence. I am so deeply saddened to hear about the attacks on Paris. I may be a writer, but I don't have words to express the sorrow, anger, and grief I feel on behalf of the people of Paris. 

I wish I had more to say on the subject or could happily switch to a lighter topic, but I find I can't. My thoughts are with Paris, the victims, and their families. 

I hope everyone I know is well at this moment and able to hold their loved ones close. 

Monday, November 9, 2015

I'm in the desert and writing to you from the past...

Well folks,

Today's blog post is coming to you from last Friday night. I have safely made it to Arizona and am (at the time of writing this) among friends and preparing for a two week excursion with ten high school students and one other faculty member. However, by the time you read this (yay for scheduling posts on blogger, facebook, and twitter) I will be in the desert, camping, not using a watch, rock climbing during the day, and scribbling furiously at night.

This post then, exists as a strange marker in time. To let you know that on Friday night I was contemplating the fact I wouldn't be able to write a blog post next week, but that I wanted you all to know what I was up to...

But, as I can't really give you any details on a future that hasn't happened yet, here are some things to keep an eye out for later in November.
  • a more detailed post about how ComiCon went
  • a video about the pros and cons of both publishing routes (traditional and independent)
  • an update on my ever increasing word counts for both of my works in progress (teaser: I'm at around 45,000 combined right now)
  • pictures of the southwest
  • long silences
You'll note that the last one in the list suggests that there may be some waiting involved in this month's updates. This post will go out into the interwebs even though I'll be away from technology for a week. However, subsequent posts are... not yet written. Nor are the videos recorded. So, those will be created in the future, and posted when I have internet again. In other words... sporadically.

Also, in case you missed it, I was featured on a NaNoWriMo spotlight last week over on The Kelworth Files. So have a look at that:

Hope this missive finds everyone well. I'll post again with some photos and details when I return to the land of internet in a week and a half. Happy Fall!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Brief ComiCon Report and New YouTube Video!

Hey folks!

Well, I am happy to report that ComiCon was a great success, and a wonderful experience. I hope to write up a longer review of the experience in the not too distant future, but for now some highlights:

  • amazing cosplay
  • tons of enthusiasm
  • kind and interesting people
  • meeting lots of local artists
  • meeting the creators of LFG (one of my all time favorite webcomics)
  • having someone who bought Blade's Edge on Friday come tell me that he'd stayed up until 4 am reading it on Saturday night
  • making new friends
  • meeting someone whose sister in law is from the same town we lived in when we lived in Japan
  • meeting amazing people in general

Ok. Many more details to come in a future post, but for now here is what was meant to be the official first post of the youtube channel. It got supplanted by the NaNoWriMo video due to timing decisions.

I will post another video in the future that discusses the pros and cons of indie vs. trad publishing later on this month. I hope this is useful to some folks in the meantime. 

I may fall off the blog for a bit this week as I am prepping not only to go on my trip on Wednesday, but also to move from one apartment to another before that. (Long story, but we're not going far, just moving into a larger place. And I say "we" but the husband is going to wind up doing most of the moving on his own as I will be in Arizona.)

On that note, I'm off to get a few words of NaNoWriMo down on paper before I have to dive into all the prep for departure. Hope everyone is well. Happy fall! 

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Bonus Video About NaNoWriMo!

Hey folks,

Well, as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) starts on Sunday* I thought it made the most sense to throw up this video all about NaNoWriMo today rather than sometime in November. So, even though the "first" video will go up on Sunday or Monday and be about writer vs. indie author, this one is going up first.

I hope you enjoy it, and maybe a few of you will choose to join me in the insanity that is National Novel Writing Month.

*Note I attempted multiple times to post this on Saturday the 30th but was thwarted repeatedly by circumstance and youtube troubles. The good news is you can sign up for NaNoWriMo at the very last second and still win (even well into November)! So, hesitate no longer! 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

News! Plans! And my Pending Disappearance...

First off, big last minute news! I was signed up on the waitlist for an Artist table at C4 Winnipeg (Central Canada ComiCon) and they got in touch with me last night to say that I could have a table! Yay!! So if you are in Winnipeg you should come to ComiCon (Dr. Beverly Crusher from Star Trek TNG and Spike from Buffy will both be there along with a bunch of other awesome guests) and you should swing by booth number 510 (my booth) and chat with me about whatever you feel like, or just show me how fantastic your costume is, or tell me how much you love Gates Mcfadden, or whatever. The point is, you should drop by!

Here's a map of the 2nd floor layout so you can find me with ease:

So, that's pretty exciting. Of course I will also have books available should you wish to buy them. But really, I'm just hoping people will come talk to me. :-)

Next up, you may have noticed that earlier this week I shared a sneak peak at the YouTube channel I'm launching in November. More on that will be coming soon! But in the meantime, here is a list of topics I plan to cover with those videos:

  • Writer vs. Indie author - job description
  • NaNoWriMo - and why you should embrace it
  • Tools of the trade - or Why scrivener is the bomb diggity
  • Kickstarter - why?
  • Kickstarter - how?
  • Kickstarter - the aftermath
  • Goodreads - why you need an account
  • NetGalley - how to, and how not to
  • DIY Graphic Design - 1. resources - free stock images, gimp, canva, etc.
  • DIY Graphic Design - 2. things to avoid - low res, color clash, too much text
  • DIY Graphic Design - 3. when to hire someone else - covers!, posters, things that will cost you money if you mess up
  • Trad vs Indie pros and cons
  • Mildest and BookBub things to know
  • Marketing and Promotion 101
  • Facebook dos and don’ts
  • Twitter dos and don’ts
  • Pinterest - how does this even work?
  • Blogging - tips and tricks
  • Amazon - createspace, KDP, and KDP select
  • Other distributors - should you bother?
  • Reviews - why they’re important and how to get them
  • Why I chose to go indie - a personal story
  • Planning vs. Pantsing
  • My revision process - and a plug for Holly Lisle
  • Mailing Lists - Why and how
  • Personal reflections series 
  • Audio books - why and how
*Please forgive the lack of order to these, they are just copied from my notes.

Please feel free to let me know if there's a topic you'd like me to cover that isn't already up there. If I have any useful information about it I will be happy to share!

And finally, we are coming up on that time of year when I disappear from the internet for a while. Though I am sad to leave you all, it is generally a blissful time for me as I disconnect from technology and go play outside for month. Yet again I will be headed to Arizona to lead a climbing trip for VVS and also going on adventures with friends for the latter part of the month. I will attempt to schedule both blog posts and videos to pop up here while I'm gone, but if I seem quiet for most of November it's because I won't have much actual internet access throughout. 

On that note, I leave you with this image of the desert to which I will be returning:

Happy Halloween, and happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Coming Soon: Indie Authoring with Virginia McClain

Yes, I'm aware that "Indie Authoring" isn't really a thing. But, hey, let's make it one, shall we?

I've been considering starting a Youtube channel for quite a while and now I've finally gone ahead and done it. Well, I've started to anyway.

Here is the introductory video for the series, just as a teaser. The full series will launch in November (though there may be a bonus NaNoWriMo video just before that). Anyway, this little intro video is just to give you a sneak peak. The first real episode won't launch until November 1st.*

The purpose of this channel you ask? To share advice on being an indie author in a format that is approachable, and hopefully at least mildly entertaining, and to give me an outlet to be goofy in front of a camera.

Check it out for yourself! The intro video is only three and a half minutes long. Let me know what you think...

If you have questions you'd like answered you can put them in the comments here or on youtube. I'll get them either way.

Alright, I'm off to work on that whole writing thing. I will post videos here whenever they are released, but subscribe on youtube if you want to be sure you never miss an episode! 

*November 1st is a soft deadline. The first full video may go up slightly before or after that date.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oh Canada

Well, Canada succeeded in ousting it's conservative government (led by the insufferable Steven Harper) yesterday. It was pretty fun to watch. Here are some highlights from my perspective (that perspective being one of a non-Canadian living in Canada):

  • The campaign was only 78 days long. That's the longest Canada's ever had, and yet is blissfully short by US standards.
  • Thanks to Canada's parliamentary system no one votes for the party leaders, folks just vote for their local MP. Of course, this year, everyone was so determined to get rid of the Conservatives that lots of people voted for whatever non-conservative party was most likely to win in their riding rather than who they thought was the best representative. This is a bit sad, but had the desired effect.
  • Last night we went to a local bar, had pizza and beer, and listened to people actually cheer and boo the election results as they appeared on television. Each riding lost or won got a reaction. It was pretty fun to see.
  • Everyone was surprised that the liberals actually pulled off a majority government. (This is one of the fun things about watching a multi-party election and a parliamentary system, there are many variations of government that can result from an election and even though people wanted to kick out the conservatives folks were still shocked that the Liberals had enough seats for a majority.) 
  • The new prime minister is young and attractive. This is probably a non-issue politically, but it amuses me for some reason. (Someone on twitter referred to him as a grown up former Hogwarts student. I look forward to more such jokes.)
But it's not all sunshine, beaver tails, maple candies and unicorn farts....

Of course, I didn't get to vote in the election since I'm not a citizen, which is frustrating because of course, since I live here, I care how the country is governed. Meanwhile, I still have to sort out absentee voting for my own country and am unsure if I can get an absentee ballot for the primaries (especially as I'm a registered independent). 

In the meantime, Canada has ushered in a new era of "not conservatives" and I can only hope that the liberals will be willing to listen to some of the other parties and compromise despite their overwhelming majority. Should be interesting to see.

So, that's my very light nod to Canadian politics this week. If you don't know anything about the Canadian system and would like to, I recommend this useful Wikipedia article. And if you'd like more details about the election and a break down on the voting you can find out lots over on Also, if you'd like more information about why lots of folks in Canada voted strategically this year, and what that meant, I recommend this website. And finally, for a good laugh about the whole thing courtesy of John Oliver I leave you with this:

Saturday, October 17, 2015

What to post about when you really should be writing...

Well, thank goodness I wrote a Guest Post over at Maureen's Book Blog for Sunday, otherwise this would have been a very sad week for the blog. If you're wondering about the content of that post, here's a teaser:

The reason for my radio silence? I've been working on my WIPs. Of course, if you've been checking the word meters you'll notice that they haven't moved a ton since last week (thought they have moved), but that's only because I had to take a break to do some plotting and planning and a little bit of graphic design work to keep things moving. (Ok, technically I didn't have to do the graphic design work to help me write... but it was a pleasant distraction that helped to keep me motivated. Yay temporary covers, YAY!)

(This is my first attempt at a cover for the Victoria Marmot series. Just for funzies. Although, I kind of like it, so who knows... Maybe I'll keep it. Might want to add my name though...)

The other thing I've been doing is catching up on my NetGalley reads for review, and if you are curious about what I've been reading lately you should check out my Goodreads Reviews page.  I have been reading some entertaining stuff lately.

And finally, I've been looking into more events where I can show up, meet readers, and sell some books. I just today found out about C4 Winnipeg thanks to someone who tipped me off via Facebook. And, sadly, I'm far too late to sign up with them for this year (the event is in two weeks), but I will be signing up for their 2016 event and I am also looking into signing up for KeyCon in Winnipeg in May of 2016. I will be sure to let folks know as soon as I have confirmation for any of those events.

And with that, I think I should get back to the actual writing bit. I'm enjoying both books still, though I've reached a couple plotting challenges with both of them. Think I have them sorted out now though, so it should be all good for a while. We shall see. Back to the grindstone! Happy fall everyone! Artemis has been enjoying the cooler weather:

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A day in the life...

This week we get an extra post and it is a guest post that I've written for the wonderful author spotlight over on Maureen's Book Blog!

Here's a sneak peak of the post:

A day in the life of a writer

Well, alright, a day in the life of this writer, because I honestly cannot speak for how anyone else’s days go. That said, it has come to my attention that how people tend to assume my days go and how they actually go, are two very distinct things. So, let’s compare them, shall we?

On the left: how people expect my days to go, and on the right: reality.*
*Note: some items on either side may have been exaggerated or fictionalized for humor’s sake.

What the world thinks my day looks like:

7:00am The writer awakes bright eyed and refreshed after a revivifying eight hours of sleep, ready to dive into her latest creative masterpiece.

7:30am The writer enjoys a small but healthy repast of her favorite breakfast items in order to fuel the brain for her upcoming creative endeavors.
What my day actually looks like:

9:00am I roll groggily from bed and slump downstairs to take the dog out to pee whilst still bleary eyed and in my pajamas. I wear a hoodie in the desperate hope that the neighbors won't see me while my hair still looks like it's frantically hailing a cab in five different directions at once.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Fall Nostalgia

Why does fall always make me miss my family? It has been years since I've lived in the same state as any of them, and out of the past six years I've spent three not even being in the same country. 

Despite what you might guess, I actually love my family a lot and get along well with them. I've been incredibly fortunate in the family I was born into; they are loving supportive people who are always there for me. The distance isn't because I don't want to be near them (in fact every time I move somewhere else I first question how I could move closer to some of them) but we're all spread out anyway, so there's no way to get close to the whole family at once, and since I can't be near all of them I tend to just move where life takes me so... distance. 

Physical distance at least, but we manage to take up where we last left off as though no time has passed whenever we get together. We're still very close. Close enough that periodically, throughout the year, I miss them and wish that we were all in one place.

Yet for some reason autumn sharpens this wish to an almost painful desire. Why autumn? What does the changing of the leaves and the chilling of the breeze have to do with me wanting to see my brothers and sister, my parents?

Could it be because the rest of the year is so full of adventure that I don't have as much time to reflect on the long ago times spent with my family? As we all return from summer adventures and the weather cools do we spend more time thinking about the way things were than the way things are? Or perhaps it's because most of my family's birthdays are in autumn. Two brothers and both parents, all born between October and December. Maybe it's because of Thanksgiving and all the traditions that surround it. Or is it because, for a very brief window in time in my childhood, we were all together and would bake pies, drink cider, and play in piles of raked leaves in our yard?

It's probably all of those things. 

Whatever the reason is, today, I curl up under a blanket, laptop ready to write, tea at my side, dog curled at my feet, and I raise my steaming mug and say, "To family! May we be together soon."

Monday, October 5, 2015

Guest Post by Nick Bryan: author of the delightful Hobson & Choi series

Well, folks, this week in the blogosphere we have a guest. The talented Nick Bryan, who I'm certain you will remember from our Interviews With Indie Authors series, is visiting us again from across the pond (okay, he hasn't actually travelled anywhere--such is the magic of the interwebs). This time, he's launching his third novel in the darkly comic, Hobson & Choi series: Trapped in the Bargain Basement. It goes on sale tomorrow, and I thoroughly recommend it if you enjoy dark humor, unlikely detective pairings, finding the sinister in the mundane, or large, friendly canines that chase down pickpockets. My full review is posted on Goodreads, will be posted on Amazon as soon as is allowed (they're so picky about the book actually being published first... sheesh), and of course, for you, dear readers, is at the bottom of this guest post.

So read on! Nick has some solid and entertaining advice about how to turn a webserial into an honest to goodness, on the shelf book. (As this post is already full length on it's own, if you're curious about Nick and his writing please check out his previous interview with me here, and his own website here.)

Over to you, Nick! (What follows is an original guest post written by Nick Bryan.)

Novel approach to webserials - How to turn them into books
Since generous blog host Virginia is a fellow Jukepop-Serial-into-indie-book butterfly, I thought I’d talk a little about the broad changes needed to transform my mismatched-detectives London crime webserial Hobson & Choi into the three books – The Girl Who Tweeted Wolf, Rush Jobs and Trapped In The Bargain Basement – it has become.

Because, yes, it was mostly general editing, but after three releases, I’ve noticed some processes specific to this format-morph. Here they are, in no particular order, just in case they’re helpful to anyone else.

As you know, Bob, back in Episode Seventeen…
In many ways, this first one is a restatement of old classic writing advice SHOW DON’T TELL, but in serials, a certain amount of re-telling can be good. You’re reminding readers of something they hypothetically read months ago, whereas most consumers of your amazing novel only read it in the last week at worst.

So reams of recent-recap aren’t necessary. Yes, even if you did it in a clever way wherein the heroes restate the plot to a new character who genuinely needs to know – it’s still a boring level of repetition and can likely be cut.

Get off that cliff, you stupid child!
The original H&C webserial was one-hundred chapters long, requiring some kind of cliffhanger every 1500-2000 words. Some were big melodramatic notes (OH NO HE’S GOT A GUN) and others more downbeat ones (HOLY CRAP WHO COULD IT BE AT THE DOOR?) but either way, it spikes the pacing to build up to and hit a cliffhanger, the rhythm of the story mounts.

When reading a whole novel in fewer sittings, feeling the narrative peak and sink and peak and sink every five minutes may get tiring. You want this to read like a novel rather than a collection of episodes, so some of the big OMG moments need to go, or the way they’re presented needs to change. This is an immediate, easy improvement in some places, because you kinda jerked the momentum to get a cliffhanger in, and harder in others because dammit, you liked that twist.

Should I fire this canon?
The broader question, really, is what kind of product you’re trying to end up with. If you’re entirely presenting the resultant book as a collection of your serial, you might feel okay just punching up the prose, removing a bit of redundancy and going with it. Especially if your serial is still ongoing for the foreseeable future - you don’t wanna mess up the canon, after all.

However, if you’re aiming to transform your webserial into full-on novels like myself (and Virginia and fellow JukePop vet C.A. Sanders and many more besides….) then you may need to take a few breaths and fully absorb the oft-repeated Kill Your Darlings lesson.

Which can mean cutting huge chunks or accepting that maybe a certain part doesn’t work with where you want to go, feels out of place or perhaps relied too heavily on creating cliffhangers for the serial format, and now seems like a runny, shouty, stabby mess.

I deleted the entire ending to the third H&C arc and wrote a new one for its publication as Trapped In The Bargain Basement, and I do not regret it. It reads a lot better and although there was a part of me wanting desperately to adhere to canon, I’ve got a second chance here and would be foolish not to use it. That’s a big part of the mindset really - it’s an opportunity to take in any feedback you’ve had and improve.

Of course, now I move on to the upcoming fourth Hobson & Choi book, hopefully coming in 2016, straight to book format without any serialisation first, so all these lessons become redundant. No more second chances. Damn.

And back to Virginia...

Well, I don't know about the rest of you, but I thoroughly enjoyed that. So here's my review of Trapped in the Bargain Basement, along with the cover and links to purchase the book. Don't forget that Nick is also offering the first book in the series for FREE this week. In case you didn't pick it up the last time I recommended it. ;-)

Virginia's Review: This third installment of the Hobson & Choi mysteries delivers just as much fun and whimsy as the first two books, but with the delightful addition of more wolfhound. My favorite thing about all three books is the characters and their engagement with each other. Bryan's character development is such that even secondary and tertiary characters come to life on the page and make you recognize them as people beyond the tropes they may or may not represent. 

The mystery isn't that mysterious in this episode, however it is more layered and multifaceted than one might initially suspect, and is sufficiently intriguing to keep one engaged to the end of the book. In addition, there are two romantic threads that are brought further to the forefront in this book add some additional anticipation to the story.

"Choi, try not to look at the human beings like they're zoo animals, yeah?" - John Hobson

Bryan seems ever willing to take a good hard look at how humans treat each other, be that through the lens of a teenager thrown suddenly into the world of organized crime, a middle aged man so used to atrocities he used to turn a blind eye to them and is only recently asking himself whether or not that was ok, or a dog that isn't sure why it used to be forced to swallow all the 'little suns' and then poop them out across town but is very happy to be with this new human who just lets him be 'dog.' Whoever's perspective we're following, there's a good chance that we are going to be forced to take a good look at our own privilege, even if we aren't forced to stare at it too long, and can safely return to pinning things on the 'bad guys' a few pages later. It's this odd but compelling mixture of dark humor and introspection that keeps me returning to Bryan's books.

Overall, I enjoyed the third H&C book quite thoroughly and recommend it as wholeheartedly as I recommended the first two. I'm eagerly awaiting the next tome as it will be an episode I am entirely unfamiliar with. Brand new, and never before published in any way!

Well what are you waiting for? Go buy it! 

And for my regular readers, please note that next week I will be guest posting on the lovely Maureen's Book Blog. I'll be relating a day in the life of a writer as compared to what the world thinks that looks like. Meant to be both humorous and educational. So do keep an eye out for that.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Word On The Street Report

Well, I'm back from Toronto and the lovely Word On The Street book fair. I meant to write this post on Wednesday (in fact I started it then) but it turns out it took two days for my brain to recover well enough from all that driving to be able to write coherently. Go figure.

So now it's Friday and I've had some time to reflect on the whole experience and give a summary:

  1. Road trips with friends are fantastic. I always love road trips. If you follow this blog consistently you'll know that I do a few of them a year. They're always long and I generally do them alone. This one was extra crazy because it was just as long as usual, but the turnaround time was ridiculous. We drove for two days in each direction for only one day in our destination. For a trip like this it's important that the journey be just as fun as the destination and in this case we succeeded beautifully. The scenery was gorgeous, the company was top tier, and all three of us were enjoying the whole experience at every moment. We stopped to check out waterfalls, beaches, and monuments. We had deep philosophical discussions. And, miraculously, we also managed to find amazing food for the whole drive out. 
  2. Book fairs are a whole lot of fun. I suppose it shouldn't be surprising that spending the whole day talking and interacting with people who love books as much as I do would be entertaining, but I was a delighted with our time at the book fair. We met some fantastic people, and had some wonderful conversations about everything from our own books, to sword fights, to how impressive it is to be able to tie one's own bowtie. Book fair people are my kind of people.
  3. People love free candy and business cards. We didn't sell as many books as we had hoped we would, but we sure gave away a lot of free candy. We also gave away a lot of business cards. So hopefully some of the people who grabbed them are reading this right now, and if so: hi! Welcome! Nice to see you here.
  4. People still like newsletters (or at least free short stories). I made an old school, on paper, sign up sheet for my mailing list and set it out near the candy. I was delighted to find at the end of the day I had almost as many sign ups for the sheet as I had sold copies of books, and in all but a couple of cases they were not the same people. I have big plans for my mailing list (the occasional free short story not being the least of it) so that's exciting. 
  5. People who love books don't always have enough money for the books they love. We had lots of people come by our tables who were very interested in our books but unable to afford buying them along with all the other books they wanted to buy. This is perhaps one of the only downsides of a book fair this large. There were hundreds of exhibitors in place selling one or more books. Large publishers were there with whole swathes of titles for sale. It was wonderful, and probably a bit overwhelming for book buyers. And, as small independent authors, it felt like an honor every time someone wanted to throw down $20 for a copy of my book. After all, with all that selection and a limited budget folks had to really want to read Blade's Edge to decide they were going to buy it over the other options around. Lots of people took cards, and my hope is that some of those folks will take another look at Blade's Edge when their budgets allow. 
  6. People enjoy funny posters. My bio posters were a bit silly. I was trying to prod people into talking to me instead of just walking by.
    This elicited a number of small smiles as people wandered past, and occasionally it did it's job and people would ask me a question. It was at the far edge of my table, just when people would have walked past altogether if they didn't stop to read the poster and it made a number of people stop and reassess my table, and maybe talk to me. So I call that a win. 
  7. The street in front of the Harbor Front Center is terribly planned/designed. Don't get me wrong, the whole thing is a great place to have a book fair, and seemed like a wonderful spot. But there's a crazy mix of pedestrian crossings, bike lanes, tramways, and roads that is so poorly marked/designated I'm amazed we only saw one accident while we were there. Yes, that's right, as we were setting up for the day we witnessed a car get t-boned by a tram. The car was at fault, but everything is so poorly marked I couldn't blame the driver for being confused. We saw many near misses after that and spent the day jumping in our seats whenever we heard horns honking as we expected another accident at any moment. The Harbor Front Center is beautiful and I think everyone should go check it out, but if you can avoid driving there, do so.
  8. It's lovely to see old friends even when it's only for a split second. The trip was so short, and the day so busy, that we barely got to spend time with the wonderful folks who housed us in Toronto. However, the few hours we did manage to spend in each other's company were lovely and would have been worth the trip on their own. So that was a major bonus. 
So, a number of people have asked me if I would do it again. The answer is that I'm not sure. The experience this time was wonderful, due in large part to how much fun we had with the road trip itself, along with how much fun it was to talk to everyone at the fair. However, financially it was not the most practical expense, so doing it again would, in large part, depend on how I'm doing with overall book sales the next time registration rolls around for WOTS 2016. It was certainly a lot of fun, and I don't in the least regret doing it. It has made me want to participate in a number of other events where authors get to set up booths and meet readers. But perhaps more locally. Or, alternatively, if I were able to roll the whole thing into a longer visit in Toronto and thus write the whole thing off as a vacation that might be preferable too. 

For now, I'll simply say, "I'm thinking about it."

Now then, please note that come Monday of next week we will have the talented Nick Bryan by the blog for a guest post about turning serial fiction into novels, in preparation of the launch of his third Hobson & Choi book Trapped in the Bargain Basement (currently available for preorder).

In the meantime, I'll be spending the weekend catching up on the writing and promotion I fell behind on for the trip. See you Monday! Happy fall!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Busy busy, but 10%!!

Hey folks!

I'm dashing around madly prepping for this trip to Toronto (we leave Friday morning to drive for two days, then spend all of Sunday at the Word On The Street book fair --booth #101, come say hi-- and then drive back all Monday and Tuesday) and so I don't have much time to update the blog.

But I've been more or less staying on top of my writing goals. I'm up to over 15,000 words in total (spread over both WIPs) so that means I'm 10% of the way to my end goal! Woohoo! 10% may not sound like a lot, and yes, it's a little bit behind schedule, but it's still momentous and I'm pretty happy.

Anyway, here's a look at some of the promotional materials we're taking with us to Toronto. Don't forget to come say hi if you're in town! (Word On The Street, Toronto, booth #101, 11am to 6pm)

My graphic design skills are mediocre at best, but hopefully they will at least serve as conversation starters. 

Sunday, September 20, 2015


Well, folks! Things have been busy, and I don't have anything all that interesting to say except to give some updates on how things are going.
I'm working on some behind the scenes web stuff that should be useful including setting up a newsletter that will deliver a free short story to all subscribers as well as announcements of new releases and discounts on already published works. You can sign up for it right now by clicking here, or by clicking the link that says "Virginia's Newsletter" in the left hand column.  
I'm also working on consolidating my web addresses to make everything more streamlined. But I will let you know when that's happening for good.
I've also been getting lots of promotional materials ready for this book fair in Toronto, including some banners and posters and such. (If you're going to be in Toronto on the 27th make sure you swing by the Harbor Front Center and come say hi, we'll be at booth #101 -Word On The Street, TO
And, I have also been keeping up with my write 2,000 words a day challenge! Check out my word count bar for both WIPs:
Total words written since Sept. 15th
For the breakdown on each story
click here
It feels really good to be writing new material consistently, and I'm really starting to get into both of these stories. I can't wait to finish the rough drafts so that I can start the revision process and get them on track to publication. 
I'm also writing a fun guest blog post for a book blogger that will go up on October 11 (a little ways off yet) but keep an eye out for that in a few weeks. I'll post a link to it from this site on the day it goes up. Let's see... what else.... 
That may be it for now. Life continues to be busy, wonderful, and full of beautiful moments. My days have been greatly improved by this commitment to write more new words everyday. I was definitely starting to feel a bit stifled by doing only revision. Once I finish off these first drafts there's another big revision project that I might get started on just to give me some space from these new stories before I look at them with an editing eye. So much to do, so little time. 
And when the next book is ready to launch, I've got some brand new (to me) techniques that I'll be using to make an even bigger splash than Blade's Edge did. :-) (I have also been spending some time lately learning new marketing strategies, but that's not really something I want to bore you guys with the details of.)
The weather this week has been lovely, and Artemis and I have managed to get a couple of days in at the outdoor office, oh, and we 'opened a new branch' of the outdoor office at a local cafe too. Check out the two views:

And that's it, I was mostly just excited about my progress with new writing. I'll try to make sure the next blog post is way more exciting! Hope everyone is having a lovely fall.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


Plans... I'm not very good at them.

Depending on what they are, I can make up a whole intricate plan that I boldly declare I will follow and then... I let life get in the way. Don't get me wrong, sometimes my excuses are really good, but you know... they're still excuses.

Take that one woman triathlon I vowed to do. I'm still planning on doing it, but... my training hasn't been nearly as strict as I had intended for it to be. And, of course, I have 'good' reasons for this. The day after I declared that I would start training for the triathlon I got hired to work on this big movie and promptly failed to do any training at all for a week. Then, I would train a couple of days out of the week, but then get hired for a few more days of movie work off and on and find myself falling off of my schedule... then I was super busy getting a friends novel ready for a reprint, then I was getting promotional supplies ready for this book fair at the end of September...

It wouldn't be impossible to keep to my training regimen even while I scramble to do all of these things, but sadly I have a tendency to have only two modes of operation: ALL IN! GO GO GO! or "Yes... I could go for a swim today... or I could read another 10 chapters of this very interesting book..."

Anyway, that isn't to say I haven't been training at all, but just that it's been a tad half-assed.

But you know what? That has never stopped me from MAKING MORE PLANS!

So, here's the other new goal I've set for myself recently:

Inspired by the intrepid Nick Bryan, I am going to write 2000 words of new material every day from now until the end of November. I've set up word counters for myself and everything. I am currently working on two new works, one a novel, one a serial. I have very different plans for each of them, but I hope to release one this fall and the next this coming Spring.

For now, here's where you can check out my word count bars:

Just a heads up, one of these two works is... the sequel to Blade's Edge. I've been waiting for the story to solidify and it's finally come together well enough to put out a first draft, so that's what I'm starting on right now.

The other project is a humorous fantasy parody tentatively titled, The (Mis)Adventures of Victoria Marmot.

Also, for anyone interested, note that I've been doing a lot of work to move everything from this blog over to my other website (but still keeping the blog portion of this blog embedded on that site - allowing it to remain here in its current blogger address) so that I can merge all of my websites into For now, points to this blog. However, if you go to you'll see the website I'm in the process of migrating to. It's still not finished, so feel free to keep coming back here, but I'll post a big announcement when it's ready.

Also, I'm putting together a mailing list for all the folks who want to receive an e-mail whenever I release a new book, or put an old one on sale. (Plus signing up gets you a free short story.) So be sure to check that out.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Why Reviews Are Important

You may have heard it before. Heck, I've even said it before here on the blog. But it certainly bears repeating so I'll just go ahead:

Reviews are extremely important for authors.

Why, you ask? Excellent question, and even though I've blogged about the fact that they are important before, I've never really gotten into the why of it. So let's address that now, shall we?

First of all, we'll start with the obvious: Reviews attract new readers. Whether it's because they actually read the reviews to form an idea of whether or not they would like the book, or simply because they check to see what the average rating is and how many reviews generated it, the more reviews a book has the more likely it is to be read by someone new. This is true for many things purchased on the internet these days, and it is true for books as well. (And in case you were wondering, LOTS of books are purchased on the internet.)

Now let's move on to the stuff that you're not likely to have heard unless you're involved in publishing directly:

This meme has been floating around a number of author and book blogger facebook pages over the past few weeks and, as I'm not sure of its origins, it's accuracy may be suspect. However, I have read a number of articles from legitimate sources that confirm that some version of these numbers is correct. Whether it's 25 or 35 and 50 or 100, it is true that there are amazon algorithms that at a certain point push your book in front of more new potential readers when you reach a certain number of reviews. This is huge for an author looking to increase book sales. Amazon is something like 60% of the online market for books.

In addition, there are a number of promotional services for which books can qualify that require a minimum number of reviews (and an average rating above a certain number) and that number is often over 20 (and the rating is generally above a 4/5). Some of these promotional services are paid, and some are free, but the bottom line is they are trying to maintain a certain standard of quality for the readers who subscribe to their lists/websites and to do so they require a certain number of reviews. 

In other words: reviews are becoming the lifeblood of authors these days, and not just indie authors. Traditionally published authors are finding success or failure based on reviews too. 

Having a high number of reviews on amazon can be as effective in leading to sales as thousands of dollars worth of advertising. Yes, reviews are that crucial these days. 

So, now you're thinking, "Ok, Virginia, I get. You want everyone you know to go give you five stars on amazon and say your book was the best book they've ever read."

NO. I don't. In fact, please, please, please, DON'T do that.

Fake reviews--reviews written by people who haven't read the book, or who are obviously just friends and family of the author gushing over the book--will be taken down by amazon, and don't help an author in the long run at all. 

What I'm actually hoping comes of this blog post is that people will take the time to give their HONEST opinion about books that they have read on Amazon and other sites (like Goodreads) whether that opinion is good or bad (preferably a mix of both).

Here's the thing, the reviews that are most helpful to new readers (and consequently to authors) are reviews that are honest and thoughtful. They don't have to be long, they just have to be sincere. It's honestly in the author's best interest to have a mix of reviews that are good and bad, because then it seems like real humans are reading the books and having actual personal reactions to the book. Not everyone loves the same thing. This should show in the reviews.

I have read rave reviews for books that have made it quite clear that I wouldn't like said book, and scathing reviews of other books that have made me sure that I would enjoy them. How? If the reader gushed about how much they loved X in a particular book, and X is a thing I know I don't like, I'm unlikely to enjoy that book. The opposite is also true, "Oh I hated ____ because of all the ___" could make it very clear to me that I will enjoy that book. 

Until my first book was released into the world I never thought much about what constituted a well written review, or why it would be important to anyone. I'm generally of the type that doesn't care what anyone else thinks about the things that I like so it never occurred to me to write reviews for anything but the products that I thought either amazingly good or amazingly bad. 

There is no one way to write a review, and honestly it's more important that one writes them than that one writes them well, but I will say this again and I can't stress it enough: It's far more useful to the author that your review be thoughtful rather than a gushing 5 stars.

How to craft a well written review:

Note: ONLY WRITE REVIEWS FOR BOOKS YOU HAVE ACTUALLY READ and make sure they contain your honest opinion.

Now that's settled...

First, let's consider some examples of what not do.

1/5 stars: I hated this book. It's the worst book in the world.


5/5 stars: I loved this book. It's the best book in the world.  

Both of those reviews are completely useless to the author and anyone who might be interested in reading that book. Why you ask? Because they don't actually convey any useful information, or even a useful opinion. 

There are useful 5 star reviews, and there are useful 1 star reviews too. Examples? There are lots of them in the world, but I'll go ahead and make up a couple of short ones so that you can see that it shouldn't take a huge investment of time to get the job done.

We'll start with a useful 5 star review:

5/5 stars: I enjoyed every moment of the Black Jewels trilogy by Anne Bishop. From the well developed characters (many of whom are badass women and girls), to the compelling pace, and intricate plot line, all three books kept me turning pages from start to finish. The world that Anne Bishop builds is detailed and engaging and fully transported me throughout the story. This is a book that I love so much I reread it when I'm feeling sick, or even merely homesick. There is some repetitive wording in the books that I've noticed more on rereads than I ever did when I read them for the first time as I was too engaged in the plot to be distracted. Also, if you do not appreciate dark fantasy these books will not be a good match for you. They contain lots of sex and violence and the antagonists are truly horrible people who do terrible things. 

So, five star reviews seem easier because after all, it's easy to say more when you like something. Still, that's a mere 154 words* to gush about what is ultimately one of my favorite fantasy series of all time. If I were actually going to write that review I would probably spend closer to 500 words on each of the three books because I struggle to contain myself when it comes to that series, and because I like to explain things. However, the review would be useful to anyone, including people who shouldn't read those books. Note the last two lines address problems/warnings. 

It's important to include either a criticism about something you didn't like, or at least a warning about things you think someone else may not appreciate in the books in order to give a well rounded review. 

There is some repetitive wording in the Black Jewels trilogy and if you don't like dark fantasy (fantasy containing a fair bit of violence, sex, and really messed up bad guys/good guys who are toeing the line of becoming bad guys) you really would hate those books.

Which brings me to... how to write a good 1 star review (yes, they exist).

1/5 Stars: The Black Jewels trilogy takes place in an interesting world with an imaginative premise, but after that the author lost me. Everyone in the book is constantly on the verge of violence and everyone's "hackles" are constantly going up. The repetition drove me crazy. There is too much violence in this book for me to enjoy and the antagonists get away with doing a ton of horrible things to perfectly innocent people. It was more than I could stomach, and I gave up after the first book in the series. I suppose that people who don't mind that much violence might enjoy the series, but I couldn't get into the characters even though I enjoyed some of the dialogue and world building. Lots of people rave about this series, but it simply wasn't for me.

So, I put myself in the place of someone who can't stomach any violence on the page and tried to imagine how they would have experienced the truly dark things that happen in the Black Jewels trilogy. I think they would hate it, and I think they would be so put off by the bad things happening that they wouldn't be able to enjoy a number of things that I did enjoy about the books. I found the characters well developed and engaging, but if I couldn't get past the violence of the books I don't think I would have been able to identify with those characters as even the protagonists are all pretty violent (it's one of the interesting premises of the Black Jewels world). 

That one star review is incredibly useful to readers, and consequently is useful to the author. It should keep away the readers that won't enjoy the story and thus reduce the overall number of 1 and 2 star reviews. It is thoughtful and considered. It isn't a rant. It doesn't insult the author or the author's writing, and it doesn't insult people who enjoy the books. It simply and clearly states the reasons that the reader didn't enjoy the series.

*Note that either of these reviews can be written in one or two sentences instead of a full paragraph: 

5/5 stars: I enjoyed everything about these books from the characters, to the plot, to the pacing. Not for those who are squeamish about violence.

1/5 stars: Interesting premise, but too much violence for me; the antagonists were heinous. Also too much repetition of certain phrases was distracting.

More difficult to write is a review in which the writing really did turn you off the book, but it's still possible to do. Sometimes it's helpful to break things into categories: plot, pacing, character development, quality of prose, editing, formatting etc. I have written some 2 and 3 star reviews in which I tried to find one positive thing for each category and then list the things that bothered me. Alternatively if you can at least find one category to gush about it's ok to say negative things about the rest. Here are some basic guidelines for writing useful reviews of any star rating:

And since this has morphed into a giant essay on review writing, I am going to go ahead and wrap things up here. But I will add two quick notes: 1. If you share the same last name as an author (because you're actually related to them) you probably shouldn't leave a review. Amazon is likely to take it down. 

And 2. A huge thank you to every single person who has left a review of any kind for any of my work and to everyone who takes the time to review any of the books that they read. YOU ROCK! Here, have a cute dog staring perplexedly at a river for your troubles: