Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dee Tales: Sky Water


Dee Tales are whimsical stories inspired by photographs taken with my i-phone. A tiny story for you, a wee sense of accomplishment for me. Enjoy.

It took them three years to build. Part machine, part magic, the device loomed over all of us.

They flipped the switch, they said their spells, and we waited.

At first there are only wisps in the sky. Soon they expand and form round, fluffy shapes. Our cracked lips are spreading wide, smiling.

It won’t be long now.

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Word On The Street – Book and Magazine Festival Extraordinaire!

I’ve attended Word On The Street’s annual book and magazine festival for several years now (I even volunteered one year. Still have the tee-shirt) and it’s been wonderful every year.

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This is a small section of the festival. There really are so many beautiful books! Not to mention fantastic authors who read their work and give advice to emerging writers.

And did I mention that this festival is free? FREE!

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I totally want to drive this…

In addition to exploring the book vendors tents, I also ventured into The Humber School for Writers Workshop Marquee.

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They had an excellent line up of panels and talks. I attended Close Your Eyes and Think of Book Sales facilitated by Humber School for Writers faculty members Kim Moritsugu and Antanas Sileika with participants literary agent Monica Packeco and author Elizabeth Ruth

Monica had some good tips but the two biggest take-aways for me were from Elizabeth:

1) Bring people with you. What does that mean? Well, why have an event just starring you? Why not partner with another author who can bring their audience and contacts with them. Sending out e-blasts? Why not mention other authors who can do the same for you? Scratch some backs. They might scratch yours.

2) Saying yes to something small can lead to something big. You never know who knows who, what they do for a living or how they can help you. Say yes – to everything. Readings, book club appearances, whenever opportunity comes knocking – answer. You never know what it might lead to.

If you are a reader, a writer, an all-around lover of books, I highly recommend you attend next year. If you don’t live in Toronto, Word On The Street also takes place in Lethbridge, Saskatoon, Kitchener and Halifax. (…And if you don’t live in any of those places, I say you should lobby for your city!)

I want to thank all of the dedicated staff and volunteers who make this event happen. The festival is amazing. You’re amazing. Thank you.

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Pick Up Artist #4 – First Line

What does it take for a reader to pick up your book? We’ve talked about covers, titles and your back of book description. Now we come to our last article – the first line.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen. – 1984

The island of Gont, a single mountain that lifts its peak a mile above the storm-racked Northeast Sea, is a land famous for wizards. – A Wizard of Earthsea

There was a hand in the darkness and it held a knife. – The Graveyard Book

It was a pleasure to burn. – Fahrenheit 451

It’s not hard to see why these are excellent first lines. They’re enticing. They make you ask questions. They create tension. It might be easier to talk about what doesn’t work for your first line.

If you open with where the character was born, how old they are, how many siblings they have, it’s not exactly going to keep your reader turning pages. Better to open with why this story is being told now. What’s going on that affects your character is a good or bad way?

Geographical Descriptions
If you are describing mountains, rivers, fields without any emotional attachment your reader is not going to be invested. Instead show the reader why the world is important to the characters. The mountains are too high for your character to climb. The river has run dry. The fields have been burnt.

Too Many Specifics
Fantasy can be a challenging genre since you will have to introduce your readers to a brand new world and all the creatures in it. If you start off with too many specifics, your reader may feel confused or lost. Ease them into your world. Make them feel at home.

Description without Action
Yes, yes, the old “show, don’t tell.” But it’s true. And describing what someone is doing (even if they are wielding a sword) is not action. Action is conflict. Don’t tell us what they’re doing. Tell us why they’re doing it.

For more on opening lines, check out this Atlantic article featuring Stephen King.

Next up – I visit the Toronto’s The Word on the Street book and magazine festival! Can’t wait!

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Pick Up Artist #3 – Back of Book Description

What does it take for someone to pick up your book? After the cover design and the title comes the back of book description.

I’ll admit it. I haven’t read or watched A Game of Thrones (but I will! Soon!) What I have read is the back of the book which starts out like this:

Long ago, in a time forgotten, a preternatural event threw the seasons out of balance. In a land where summers can last decades and winters a lifetime, trouble is brewing. The cold is returning, and in the frozen wastes to the north of Winterfell, sinister and supernatural forces are massing beyond the kingdom’s protective Wall.

How could you not be interested when the author uses words like sinister and supernatural?

The Traveler’s back of book description is a bit long so I thought I would show an excerpt:

…Maya is hiding in plain sight in London. She has abandoned the dangerous obligations pressed upon her by her father, and chosen instead to live a normal life. But Maya comes from a long line up people who call themselves Harlequins – a fierce group of warriors willing to sacrifice their lives to protect a select few known as Travelers.

Warriors? Travelers? Very cool. (Disclaimer – I loved the first book, but the sequels did not hold up for me)

As a reader, what are you interested in? Which descriptions make you want to open the book and read the first line? Which ones make you put the book back down?

Looking for tips? The following blogs have excellent suggestions for writing your back of book copy:

The Creative Pen
Allie Brennan
Jami Gold

My last Pick Up Artist post will be on what many of you may be struggling with right now – your first line.

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September as the New Year

Happy New Year! Am I Jewish? No, but I think Rosh Hashanah’s got it goin’ on.

I never felt that January 1st was the beginning of anything. In January everyone is hibernating and praying for spring. How can you start fresh when the world is frozen? Not to mention that Dec 31st falls awfully close to Christmas. Who has energy to reflect on the year past/year ahead when you’ve visited all your family members and been stuffed with turkey?

Another argument for September as the New Year is the start of classes. I attended school for 18 years. It’s hard not to relate to all of those kids with their brand new back packs rushing off to see their friends and meet their teachers. It’s also the start of a new theatre season. Big musicals, small indie productions, in the fall there’s a plethora of stage magic to partake in.

So September definitely feels like a time to start over. To look back at what I’ve accomplish in the last year and to make new resolutions for this one.

What is your fall New Year’s writing resolution? What do you want to accomplish by the end of the year?

I will be getting back to the Pick Up Artist series with article #3: Back of Book Description next post.

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