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!