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Category Archives: young adult

The 1st Page Critique Offer

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slademail

Let me read your writing!
The first page of your writing project is the most important. It’s where you hook the readers. This is the same truth whether it’s a short story, novel, or non-fiction piece. So I’m offering to do a critique of the first page of your piece of writing for anyone who’s a subscriber to my newsletter. The actual offer will be in my next newsletter (to come out on June 16th) and will be available until June 30th, 2015.

Hmmm. The word critique bothers me. It implies criticism. Instead I should call it here-are-my-humble-suggestions-take-them-or-leave them. I’ve been doing this sort of work for over twenty years. In fact I just finished spending nine months as a writer in residence. The most important part of my job was to go over the writing of other writers, mark the work up line by line, then have a one on one discussion (we talked out heads off).  I read everything from memoirs, to poetry, to fantastical fiction. Oh, and one engineering paper.

So this is my way of offering a similar virtual experience to you. You can even submit the 1st page on behalf of someone else (a student, your offspring, an elf…even literary pets). Just sign up by visiting the link here: My Newsletter Signup Page

The newsletter itself is monthly-ish and has lots of goodies for fans, readers, teachers and other humans. And there’s often a prize and competitions. I have so much fun putting the newsletters together–it’s the perfect way to procrastinate.

So, please hop on board. And if there’s anyone else you think might enjoy this offer (and the newsletter) just click and share on the links below.

Keep on rocking!

Art

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A Createspace Experiment–Print on Demand

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I’ve been curious about Createspace’s print on demand book publishing options for some time now (It’s just one of the many arms of the Amazon). Since my novel Megiddo’s Shadow was out of print in the US, I decided to use it to try out Createspace. It is a relatively easy way to self publish a book. All you need is a word file. They provide a template that I just copied and pasted my novel into (there were a few hours of fussing a fidgeting to get things right, but I expected this).  The actual book cover design system is also very easy to use. They have a variety of covers and styles that you can use. Since the novel is inspired by my grandfather’s experiences in WW1, I decided to use his picture. Again this took me at least an hour of fussing–if I had better design skills it probably would have gone faster. And finally I submitted all the files and ordered my proof. It arrived a month later (there was some odd delay and when I informed them that it had been a month Createspace immediately sent new copies of the books to me).

Here’s what it looked like when I got the books:

Overall I was quite happy with how the book turned out. The font is perhaps a little small for my ancient eyes, but the whole process cost me less than $30.00 and now people in the US & UK can order physical copies of the books for $8.99. Which means I still make $2.41 for each copy sold. I don’t expect to sell many copies, this was just an experiment to see how it worked. I also hope that it will actually help sell more ebook copies of the book because the ePrice looks better by comparison.

Am curious to hear anyone else’s experiences with Createspace or other print on demand systems.

Art

1000 Words a Day or Else!

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Why do I have a picture of me digging a hole in my backyard (it’s for the fish pond, you DEXTER fans, it’s for the fish pond)? Well, sometimes when I’m writing I feel like I’m stuck in a rut that’s inside a deep hole. Or that I’m treading water without waterwings. I’ve found that all the other “demands” of being a writer (clever Facebook updates, amazingly insightful tweets, googling my own name) do tend to distract from my main goal of writing. So I wanted to change that. Or…to redirect my distraction.

Recently, I was re-reading Stephen King’s On Writing and he mentioned that he works every day except for Christmas and his birthday. What a lazy bum! Just think about how much more he’d get done if he worked those extra days. His goal is to write 2000 words a day (thankfully, he didn’t say whether or not they had to be clever, perfect words). 2000 words! I can do that easily. Just as soon as I get around to it. I have to put the finishing touches on a tweet. Oh, and check my Amazon rankings and…oh, wait…there I go again.

It suddenly occurred to me that I could do half the work of Stephen King in the same amount of time. So I set up a little goal for myself and made up my own rules. I must write 1000 words of new work every day.  Yes, new is the important part. No matter what rewriting is needed, no matter whether I have a reading at a school, a deadline or a dentist appointment, the very first thing I must do is write 1000 new words. No tweets. No checking the hockey score on my virtual hockey team (Authored Destruction). Those words must be written. All of my rewriting, redrafting, pretending to plot, are all on hold until the new words are done. The reason I want to write new words is that I do believe those brand new, sparkly words and sentences that come flowing out of your mind in that first draft are as close to the subconscious as we get as writers. And I think it’s important to be in touch with your subconscious first thing in the morning (right after waking). There is a caveat to the rule. I can stockpile words. So if I’m going on a holiday, I will actually take a holiday, as long as I’ve written my quota for the time that I’m away. But I’m gonna work on my birthday and Christmas (take that Mr. King).

Heck, I made a splendid chart to keep track of it all. And to motivate myself. As you can see I’m ten days into my schedule and I’ve written 11,000 new words. I’m 1000 words ahead! And I even took last Sunday off.

I have found that the buzz I get from creating that new storyline carries on to my rewriting that I do 2nd thing in the morning. It’s like jumpstarting my mind. It crackles. It sparks. Then the creative engine roars into verbtacular life.

So if you see me tweeting early in the morning you have full writes…err…rights to say, “What’s up, Dude? Didja get your 1000 new words done yet?” And, I encourage you to do 1000 new a day words, too. Just think about how much brighter the world will be…

At the end of the year I hope to have 365, 000 new words to play with, to bat around, juggle and rewrite and turn into something other people might want to read. Until then I’ll keep on plugging (or treadmilldesking) away…


Art

Dark Endeavours: Interview with Kenneth Oppel

Ladies, non-ladies, gents and non-gents, 
Herewith is my interview with Kenneth Oppel. It previously appeared on the brilliant Cynsations blog.
Kenneth Oppel's first novel Colin's Fantastic Video Adventure was published when he was seventeen and he hasn't slowed down one iota since. He is the author of the Silverwing series (which has sold over a million copies), the Airborn series (winner of the Governor General's Award for Children's Literature and the Michael L. Printz Honor Book award), and the highly acclaimed Half Brother. He lives in Toronto, Canada.
A: Congrats on the release of This Dark Endeavor: The Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. The idea of doing a prequel to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is very inspired and I'm certain there are many authors shouting, "why didn't I think of that?" Has anyone accused you of stealing their idea?
K: Amazingly, no, especially since there have been plenty of other classics rebooted with young heroes lately. You yourself may be familiar with the fabulous Hunchback series; there’s also young Sherlock Homes, young James Bond, among others. But Frankenstein was still unclaimed! I was making a presentation to a group of booksellers in the US a few months ago, and someone in the audience asked me if I was planning on ripping off any other literary classics. She didn’t actually say “ripping off” but you get the idea. I said I didn’t have any immediate plans, but asked if she had any suggestions. “Moby Dick,” she said, “focusing on Captain Ahab.” It’s not a bad idea. But I don’t think I’ll take the bait.
A: Hmm. Steampunked Moby Dick! Just let me write that down…anyway, back to the interview. Can you pinpoint when you first had that aha moment?
K: I love Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I’d just re-read it a couple of years ago, and the mentions of his childhood were brief but evocative. There were mentions of seeking out the Elixir of Life, raising ghosts and demons – you know, pretty typical teenaged stuff, right up there with rep soccer and hot yoga. But I saw these things as the seeds of possible gothic adventure stories. I spent a lot of time wondering about what might happen on such adventures, and what would motivate them in a powerful way. I sat on the idea for quite a while, almost a full year, before I shared it with my agent and approached publishers, because I wanted to make sure the idea was well formed; I really didn’t want it to be seen as a gratuitous attempt to cash in on the Frankenstein myth.
A: Did you channel Mary Shelley while you were writing? By that I mean did you want to imitate the style of the original book? Shelley's Frankenstein is a rather slow and dreamy novel at times, yet you manage to keep that dreaminess but also the plot moves along at a good clip. 
K: I’m a pretty good mimic, so yes, I did try to capture the linguistic flavour of the original, but without making it inaccessible to contemporary readers. I quite enjoy the richness of period fiction, so the language in Dark Endeavor might be a little more formal, but I made sure it’s effortless to read. I read all my books aloud during the writing/editing process, and if the prose sounds too constipated, or unnatural, or the pace is slack, I know about it, and change it. The book combines gothic adventure and horror and romance, and I wanted it to belt along. I’m not sure I could write a book that didn’t have a fairly powerful plot as its internal combustion engine.
A: How much leeway did you give yourself to play around with the backstory from the original novel?
K: Well, once I invented a twin brother for Victor, I was making a pretty clean break from the world of the original. I like to think of it as an alternative backstory to the Frankenstein myth. A search for the elixir of life is a great idea for an adventure, but I thought it would be even more powerful, and personal, if Victor needed the elixir to heal someone he loved. It could’ve been any family member, but I decided a brother – a twin! – would have the richest emotional possibilities. As for the cast of characters, I made the love interest, Elizabeth Lavenza a distant relation (as opposed to first cousin). Their best friend Henry Clerval was transformed into a slightly comic Woody Allen-like character who’s riddled with phobias and fears, making him the least likely person to enjoy a Frankenstein-style banquet of horror. Victor’s parents I actually based on Mary Shelley’s real parents, the radical writers William Godwin and Mary Wollestonecraft, so my Frankenstein household is very liberal for its time. Mrs. Frankenstein writes pamphlets on the rights and education of women; Mr Frankenstein is a fair magistrate who insists on his own family making the servants their Sunday dinner as a gesture of egalitarianism (a concept that was sweeping through Europe in the late 1700’s). And my Victor himself certainly shares traits of both Percy Shelley and Lord Byron (as did Mary Shelley’s Victor)..So I tried to work in lots of insider Frankenstein information.
A: Giving Victor Frankenstein a twin certainly upped the "interest" factor of the novel. The fact is, I liked "steady" Konrad more than the "impetuous" Victor, the narrator of the story. And yet, I was somehow cheering for Victor, too. Was that your intention?
K: Anti-heroes can be incredibly charismatic and exciting. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call Victor an anti-hero. He has some dislikeable traits, but he’s never truly wicked (not in this first book anyway). You cheer for Victor, I think, because he has so much life and drive and passion in him; and you never forget he loves his brother, even though he’s ragingly jealous of him, and wants to steal his girlfriend. So yes, I wanted Victor to be complicated – but that makes him a much more interesting character I think.
A: It must have been rather exciting to have the book optioned before it was published. What was the process for that?
K: It was very exciting. My literary agent Steven Malk thought the book had strong movie potential, and showed the manuscript to an amazing pair of agents in Hollywood, Nick Harris and Josie Freedman at ICM, who specialise in book-to-film rights. They really liked it, and sent it out to a dozen top producers and within a couple days we had three offers from major studios. This doesn’t happen often. I know. I used to write screenplays, and I’ve had many books and scripts optioned over the years and usually you’re lucky if you get one offer amidst the tsunami of “passes”. Our decision was pretty easy: we sold the rights to producer Karen Rosenfelt and Summit Entertainment, the producer and studio who made Twilight movies.
A: The book ties up the ending nicely, yet there is still room for a sequel. What's next for Victor? 
K: At the end of Book One, Victor promises himself he’ll unlock every secret law of the earth to achieve his goals – let’s just say he honours his promise.
A: You've gone from the rich "bat" fantasy world of the Silverwing series, to the post-Victorian atmosphere of the Airborn series, to the modern reality of Half Brother. And now Frankenstein. Where will you be taking us next?
K: Straight to hell, in the second instalment of the Apprenticeship of Victor Frankenstein. It’s called Such Wicked Intent, and should be published August 2012. After that, who knows. I’ve got a couple of ideas I’m very excited about and now that I’ve just finished revisions on Such Wicked Intent, I have the wonderful luxury of daydreaming them into existence.
Thanks for the interview, Ken.
I hereby request readers to visit his website at http://www.kennethoppel.ca/
Art

A Decade of Dust

I apologize for the maudlin post but Dust has been out for ten years now. I launched the book on September 21st, 2001 in Saskatoon’s Western Development Museum: 1910 Boomtown. It was the first time I’d launched in such a big and perfectly-themed venue (I wish I could find the pics but they are in storage somewhere). Here’s a pic of the museum interior.

I honestly had no idea how successful the book would become and am still surprised by its reception. It went on to win several awards including:

*The 2001 Governor General’s Award for Children’s Literature
*The 2001 Saskatchewan Book Award for Children’s Literature
*The 2002 Mr. Christie’s Book Award (this came with $ and cookies. Mmm)
*Nominated for a 2004 Edgar Award.

Here I am with Adrienne Clarkson, once the Governor General of Canada. She’s presenting me with a leather-bound copy of DUST.

There are a few things you may not know about the novel. Here’s the first draft of the Canadian cover:

And here’s the original American cover:

The American version is about 5 pages longer. Because it came out in 2003 I was able to have one more crack at the book and I fine tuned it a bit more and added a few smaller scenes, including one at the end that helped explain the townspeople’s reaction to their “forgetfulness” about their children disappearing. It’s a particularly poignant scene.

There have now been 13 movie companies that have shown interest in the rights, including 4 major Hollywood studios. So far no one has come up with the money to make the movie (or pay off my mortgage).

Work on a graphic novel was started with Christopher Steininger but, as of yet, it has not been picked up by a publisher.

The book continues to be popular in Canada and I’ve received hundreds of emails and letters about it. It eventually went out of print in the U.S. and was never sold to any other countries.

With the advent of ebooks I was able to re-release the book in the US as an ebook (and in the U.K., too).

So it is good to have the book come back to life. It was briefly the #12 bestselling horror novel on Amazon U.S. and the #2 bestselling horror novel on Amazon UK. If only it would stay in those positions I could finance my own movie! : ) It has been rather fun for me to see the book gain a new readership.

So there you have it. A decade of Dust. Happy birthday! Here’s to another ten years….

Art

How I Sold More Ebooks Than Stephen King (for 48 hours)

We interrupt regularly scheduled blogging for an ebook update. To my surprise and delight my epubbed novel

has shot up the Kindle charts in the US and UK and is outselling Stephen King. Yes, that Stephen King!

I blame him and Ray Bradbury for turning me into a writer (and Tolkien and Frank Herbert and…). I’ll explain how the sales jump came about in a second, first a few braggardly details: Currently the book is #680 on the Kindle US store and #158 on Kindle UK. It has made several bestseller charts including #15 overall on the Kindle US  Horror charts and #4 in Children’s Spine-Chilling Horror (who doesn’t love chilling the spines of those children?). In the UK the numbers are even higher (it’s a smaller market): #1 in Children’s Horror and #2 in Horror overall.

Actually, that #1 spot deserves a graphic:

Now let me attempt to explain how it was achieved:

I sacrificed an organic carrot to the god of ebooks.

Oh, wait that’s not it.  Dust has been for sale as an ebook since February and has once before briefly cracked the top 1000. At the start of September I priced the book at free (who can refuse free?) on iBooks as a brief promotion. This was discovered by Amazon (okay, I told them) and since they have a price matching clause in their epub agreement they matched the price. On iBooks I had given away about 5 free copies. Amazon Kindle beat that in the first five minutes.  In the course of a week I gave away about 8000 books on Amazon UK and 11000 on Amazon US (that’s a swack load of free books). The book reached #32 on the US free charts and #5 on the UK free charts. For me it was free advertising (the vast majority who have downloaded a free book likely won’t read it…assuming they’re hoarders like me). More reviews began to appear within days on both websites. I changed the price of Dust to 1.49 on KindleUS (Dust had previously been .99 cents and not doing well, so I chose 1.49 because…well…because Seth Godin’s book was 1.49 and it was in the top 10). Then I chose .99 for the UK price (I chose the .99 pence for the UK because most of their top 20 bestsellers were in that price range…I have to sell 2 ebooks to equal the royalty I receive on a paperback). I changed the price to $1.99 on iBooks (anyone bored of all these geeky details yet?) and emailed Amazon to let them know that the book was no longer free on their competition’s website. They changed the book back to the prices I had chosen.

And, blammo (that’s an official epub word for wow), it shot up the charts. A real chart? Sure, I’ve got a chart for you:

This is Dust’s kindle sales in the US over the last month. The lower the number the better the sales. Like golf. But more literary. Dust started at #849 on AmazonUS paid 48 hours ago and #736 on Amazon UK and has been climbing ever since (warning here are even more geeky details: it takes about 67 copies sold in the space of 24 hours to climb from #849 to #700. To add more perspective Dust sold 48 copies last month…so that’s more sales in a day than the book had all month). I don’t know exactly why when it switched from free to paid status it ended up in such a good position on the charts. Is it because several people downloaded it accidentally thinking that it was free (Amazon does warn when a books price is changing)? Or is it some kind of magical algorithmic kindly thing? That part is beyond my limited IQ.

I don’t expect this to last. I think Dust is successful because it has been on Amazon for over ten years in one format or another and has 20 reviews that average 4 stars. This lets prospective buyers know that it’s a good gamble. I think that the fact that it’s for young adults and doesn’t have a romance angle or vampires, will limit the audience in the long run. I just want it to find its happy “sales” place.

And I’m enjoying the ebook ride right now. Go Dust go!

Best,

Art

>Cool Hunchback Book Trailer

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I was so pleased when Harpercollins sent the link to this. What a great bunch of readers!

Art