Author: ilanderz (page 1 of 23)

CANCON 2018

This past Friday I headed up to Ottawa to attend CANCON 2018, an annual convention devoted to readers, writers and fans of speculative fiction with an emphasis on the writing part of it all. It’s the only such convention I attend regularly, having attending three times now in four years. It’s the kind of convention a person can really feel at home at, for a lot of reasons. It’s inclusive and welcoming, attended by a lot of friendly, like-minded people. Importantly, it’s got a well-thought out Code of Conduct designed to protect attendees, a Code of Conduct that’s enforced and taken seriously. It’s got great programming on everything from “Advice to Aspiring Writers on the Craft” to “Rules of Writing: Are They Really Rules?” to “Swiping Right on the Monster”. There are pitch sessions during which you can pitch to various publishers and Meet the Agent sessions with big-time New York Agents and Meet the Editor Sessions with Big-Time New York Editors. It’s attended by newbies and professionals and famous folk in the field and everybody in between.

The first time I ever attended CANCON I got offered my book deal for A Time and a Place. Which as you can imagine was really exciting and has resulted in a lot of good things. So there’s a special place in my heart for CANCON.

So, bottom line, it’s a con that’s got a lot to offer. I attend for all those reasons, but I also attend because I have never failed to find it a rejuvenating weekend, a weekend that leaves me better off than when it found me.

This year was a particularly striking example of that.

I landed at the Con Friday afternoon after driving up with my friends Tanah Haney and Tonya Liburd. I always drive up and like to take a few other people with me, because that’s more fun, and also it’s helping others out who might find it a bit pricey to get up to Ottawa.  On this particular day I was really exhausted for some reason, coming off a busy stretch of wearing myself a little too thin physically and mentally. Tanah and I met up with our good friend Jenn Delagran (second year in a row we’ve done the con together), and I socialized a bit into Friday night, but I was feeling really fried. By the end of the night I was seriously wondering how I was going to make it through the con. I imagined feeling this way the entire con, having to fake smiles and pretend that I wasn’t about to completely fall apart, and I did not find that prospect the least bit appealing. So I made it a point to hit the sack early Friday night, hoping that the Power of CANCON would work its magic through the night and restore me to something resembling my usual self.

Con Pals Tanah Haney and Jenn Delagran

And it did.

I felt so much better Saturday morning. And it just got better from there.

I headed down for breakfast around 8am and got a table by myself. It never fails that someone interesting comes along when I do that. This time it was Ira Nayman, novelist and editor of Amazing Stories magazine. We had a great chat about a wide range of subjects. Discussing dogs, Ira observed that, “In a worst case scenario, they will eat your face,” which struck me as unnerving but amusing.

From there it was off to the Dealer’s Room, where Myth Hawker, the (fabulous) Travelling Book Store had graciously consented to sell A Time and a Place, which they have been doing successfully for a few weeks now, having sold copies to a trucker in Vancouver and to a cat lover in Ottawa and others that I have failed to obtain biographical information on. I was their “featured author” for an hour and a half, during which the Myth Hawker crew (mainly Lisa Toohey and Diogo Castelhano) tried to teach me how to sell my wares better (“don’t cross your arms!” “Work on your pitch!” “Seek out cat people!” and so on). We did manage to successfully sell one copy while I was the featured author, though me and another writer also managed to frighten one potential customer away by inadvertently ganging up on her. It continues to be a learning process.

Kurestin Armada speaking at CANCON 2018 (photo by Lisa Michelle Toohey)

I attended a few panels and readings. I like to support people I know, so I often eschew more popular panels to attend book launches and readings from friends and acquaintances. I attended a launch for Maaja Wentz’s new book Feeding Frenzy and a panel on writing for themed anthologies that featured my travelling companion Tonya Liburd. I actually abandoned the programming list, trusting the opinions of my con pals Tanah and Jenn to lead me to interesting programming of their choice. I was glad I did, following them to a talk by Guest Editor Kurestin Armada of PS Literary Agency, who spoke of her Manuscript Wish List, and walked us through the first few pages of several successful recent novels, explaining where and how they fit in and why they worked. Afterward I chatted briefly with Kurestin about what kind of space opera she liked, as I happen to be polishing up a space opera right now, which I hope will become my second published novel.

Myth Hawker, the fabulous Travelling Bookstore, run by the equally fabulous Pat Flewwelling

And the day continued in that positive vein.

You know how they say extroverts draw energy from people, and introverts expend energy that they must re-acquire in privacy afterward? I expend energy with some people, and draw energy from others. I don’t know what that makes me. An ambivert, or freak, or something. Anyway, I was drawing energy from the people at this con, friends and strangers alike. By the end of Saturday I was feeling pretty good. This despite some adventure Saturday afternoon when, to my horror, Tanah and Jenn got stuck in an elevator for an hour! I spent that hour at the front desk on my cellphone texting Tanah, reassuring her that help was on its way. There were ten people trapped in that elevator, but they did a pretty good job of keeping themselves cheery and calm. I was terribly afraid that Jenn and Tanah (and the others) would find the experience deeply troubling, and that it would ruin the con for them, but it wasn’t the case. Although not a lot of fun while they were trapped, they managed to forge some new acquaintances in that elevator, and treated it as an adventure afterward. For my part, I got to know one of the con co-chairs, Marie Bilodeau, as we worked together at the front desk to relay info and try to keep those trapped calm. If I ever get stuck in an elevator, I want Marie on the outside working to free me (I actually was stuck in one once in the middle of the night on my birthday, but that’s a story for another blog post).

Tonya Liburd on one of her panels.

Sunday morning I woke up even more refreshed, having slept in a bit. Waiting for the elevator to head down for some breakfast, who should step out of the room next to mine but Special Guest Kurestin Armada, the New York Literary Agent. “I’m so sorry,” she said as we waited for the elevator. “I was watching television late last night, and only too late realized that I might be keeping you awake.”

“That’s okay, whatever you were watching was very entertaining,” I said, attempting to be funny, and then hastened to assure her that I was just joking, I hadn’t heard a thing.

Before we parted, I said, “I’m gonna pitch you later, if that’s okay,” meaning that in a few months I would send her a query letter and a pitch for my new novel.

She said, “Oh, come and find me after eleven, I’ll be hanging around the second floor and would be happy to hear your pitch,” or words to that effect.

I hadn’t been clear. “Uh, okay,” I said. “I would be a fool not to accept that invitation. I’ll see you later!”

And then over breakfast became afraid that I’d come off like a jerk, threatening to buttonhole her later, and that she’d only said to come and see her to be polite. I resolved to look her up afterward to explain that I hadn’t meant to obnoxiously pitch her at the con, but to do so later via email.

Looking her up at the appointed hour, I found her about to talk to someone else, and asked if I could have a moment afterward, which she readily agreed to. And felt even more like an obnoxious jerk, because in my attempt to reassure her that I was not some obnoxious, self-serving pitch-wielding asshole, I felt like I was ironically beginning to appear as exactly that. So I decided to forget the whole thing, and just enjoy the rest of the con, and email her my query in a few months as I originally intended.

I attended a few more panels, chatted in the dealer’s room, bought my quota of three books (including my colleague David Demchuk’s The Bone Mother, whose panel I had attended the day before, during which he related a quite amusing account of the publication of The Bone Mother with Chizine Press), had a lovely lunch with Tanah and Jenn, and shortly afterward gathered my belongings from my room, intending to leave this yet again excellent, rejuvenating con.

On the way out, I ventured into the Dealer’s Room one last time. Kurestin Armada was sitting by the door behind Chizine’s table. She smiled and waved me over. I awkwardly set all my belongings down somewhere hoping that people wouldn’t trip over them and grabbed a chair next to her.

I tried to explain to Kurestin that I hadn’t actually meant to pitch her just then…

Kurestin Armada of PS Literary Agency

“Shut up and pitch me,” she said, except not in those words, she was much more polite than that, explaining that she was in fact there to seek out new talent.

So I shut up and pitched her.

Maybe it helped that we were sitting right next to Myth Hawker, where my first novel was prominently displayed. I showed it to her. I don’t know what she thought of that, but maybe it helped that she saw I’d already successfully completed one novel that a famous, fabulous travelling bookstore felt comfortable carrying.

“Send me the first fifty pages of your new novel,” Kurestin suggested.

“Uh, okay,” I stammered.

And that’s how you end a wildly successful con.

The Awkwardness of Having a Book Out There

I’ve only written one book. That makes me pretty much a novice at the whole book writing thing. So I imagine there’s a lot I still don’t know about writing and publishing.

But I know this.

It’s awesome to have published a book.

It’s also kind of awkward.

It’s great because getting a book out there is the culmination of a lot of time and effort. It’s the realization of a dream. People are happy for you. Some even like the book, and that makes you feel good. You think, I wrote one, I can write another. So you’re hopeful, positive, optimistic.

But it’s also awkward.

It’s awkward because you’re expected to sell the book. Selling things is awkward when you’re not a salesman, when you don’t own a store, when you don’t have a lot of experience at selling, when you’re not even really interested in selling, you’re just interested in writing, and not-so-secretly wish the damn thing would sell itself.

It’s awkward when you rent a table at some event and sit there for one, two, three days in a row with copies of your only book artfully arranged in front of you, trying to make it look appealing (which would be a lot easier if it were made of chocolate), trying to make eye contact with people walking by who are just as fervently trying NOT to make eye contact with you so that they don’t get roped into buying a book they don’t want. And you’re trying to strike a balance between being too nonchalant and too eager, trying not to appear too desperate, never quite getting the balance right, because let’s face it, you ARE desperate. You want to sell enough copies to at least pay for your table, to make the days you’re sitting there feel at least a tiny bit worth it.

And it’s awkward because once you do sell a few copies, you inevitably sell some to people you know. And that’s terrific because it means your colleagues are supporting you, and sometimes it’s really great because they come to you after they’ve finished the book to tell you how much they liked it. Sometimes they come to you afterward to tell you that they liked the book and ask if you wouldn’t mind a bit of constructive criticism, to which I always reply, “No,” because there isn’t actually much I can do about it now, but we laugh, because of course I’m joking (sort of) and then they give me the constructive criticism, and I really don’t mind because I’d like to make the next book even better, and I have a pretty thick skin by this point in the game.

What’s particularly awkward is the people who’ve bought the book who you see around but who kind of avoid eye contact or head in the other direction when they see you, and you’re not entirely sure why or whether you’re just imagining it. Sometimes I assume it’s because they simply haven’t got around to reading it yet, which is absolutely fine. I always tell friends when they buy the book, “You have ten years to read it, and I’m very good about extensions,” because I know what it’s like to have piles of books at your bedside, many of them written by friends. We all have enough stress in our lives that the last thing we need is people bugging us to read their books. We’ll read them when we have the time and the interest, thank you very much, a philosophy that certainly extends to any books written by me.

And then there’s that rather more exquisite awkwardness. The one you experience with those who have started your book (you know this because they told you they did), but who have never mentioned it since. And this (you suspect) is because they simply couldn’t get through it. Or worse, they did suffer their way through it, but didn’t like it, maybe even hated it. You don’t know because you’ve never actually discussed it with them. It’s never come up in conversation because they’ve always successfully avoided you, or skillfully danced around it in conversation the one time they failed to avoid you.

But that’s okay too. There’s no law that says everyone has to like your book.

Maybe they’ll like the next one.

And I would tell them that if I could ever figure out a way to bring it up that isn’t painfully awkward.

Joe News

The latest in Joe Mahoney news…

A few bits of news to share:

This coming Tuesday, Sept 25th, I’ve been invited to participate in an open mic at the Parliament Street Library branch in Toronto.

The event starts at 6:30pm and goes until 8pm

I’ll be reading from my novel A Time and a Place. It looks like I’ll have time to read up to an entire chapter. I’ll try to pick a particularly interesting one…

And if that isn’t enough to entice you, fellow writer (and editor of the newly re-launched Amazing Stories magazine) Ira Nayman will also be present. His material is very funny, so if you don’t show up for me, at least show up for him!

I do believe there’ll be some other writers present to read as well.

In other terrifically exciting news, A Time and a Place is now available for your listening pleasure on Audible.  But you know that already because of my last post.  (Two posts in one day… haven’t done that in a while!)

I should also mention that my recent interview with Christine Cowley of Storylines on Hunters Bay Radio is now available online. You can check it out here.

Probably worth mentioning as well that  my interview with Jessica Sanders of Jessie’s Coffee Shop is still available online here.

And that’s quite enough news for one day…

 

A Time and a Place Available on Audible!

Lot of work went into this puppy…

I cannot tell you how pleased, relieved and excited I am that A Time and a Place is finally available on Audible.

Those of you who have read about my adventures turning ATAAP into an audiobook know that it was a lengthy, educational experience that took a lot longer than I expected.

But now it’s done, my publisher Five Rivers is pleased with it, and Audible’s giving it prominent billing in their SF/Time Travel New Releases.

Now to see what everyone else thinks of it!

Further Thoughts on Audio Book Production

Cover Art by Jeff Minkevics
A Time and a Place

I thought I had finished the production of the audio book of A Time and a Place.

I had submitted the files to my publisher, who had forwarded them to Audible (ACX), only to have them rejected because they were less than 192 kbps. This didn’t make any sense to me as I was sure that I’d exported them from Audacity properly. When I checked the files out, though, I discovered that I’d actually accidentally exported a couple of files at 32 bit sample rate. It’s weird this only happened to a couple of files; why would the settings change for just a couple of files?

Anyway, I figured this was the problem, so I corrected those files and resubmitted them.

Audible still rejected the files.

Embarrassing.

So I went back and had another look. I thought I had the settings in Audible correct, but my mistake (well, one of my mistakes) was that I hadn’t actually checked the files themselves. This was really sloppy on my part. The reason I hadn’t checked the files themselves was because, well, I had checked the files, but I’d done so on a Mac, which doesn’t tell you the bit rate. It tells you a lot of other stuff, but not the bit rate, unless you jump through a few hoops, which I hadn’t done. I’d simply assumed that Audacity was doing what it said it was doing:

It says it’s exporting 220-280 kbps. So isn’t it? Nope!

Turns out I should have selected “Constant” Bit Rate Mode, which would have resulted in a guaranteed Bit Rate of 192 kbps.

Live and learn.

Because of this mistake, I had to re-export all my files at the correct bit rate of 192 kbps.

This meant finding the original sessions of each chapter. Doing so, I discovered another bit of sloppiness on my part: poor file management. I’d carefully saved each session using a specific naming convention, but I hadn’t paid much attention to where I saved the files, other than ensuring they were saved on a hard drive somewhere in, say, my house.

Well, at least I knew all the sessions were saved on a hard drive attached to my MacBook Pro. Fortunately, my searches usually managed to locate the required sessions. Unfortunately, they didn’t  always do so. I could not find the final sessions for about four chapters. The good news was that I was able to find and re-open at least the penultimate session for each chapter. This resulted in a bit more work than I would have liked. And I became paranoid that I wasn’t re-exporting the absolute final version of each chapter. Because of this paranoia, I decided I needed to re-listen to every second of every chapter to ensure that they were in fact the absolute final, pristine product.

This cut into the writing time of my second novel, which I usually worked on during my commute, and so was a bit of a drag, but it had to be done. Fortunately, I was able to download the files from Dropbox onto my Smartphone, which meant that I could listen just about anywhere I went. Unfortunately, this usually wound up being in rather noisy environments, which meant that I could confirm the proper pacing of the sound files, and that there were no missed edits, and what the chapters would sound like in the real world, but I couldn’t really tell if there were any little clicks or pops or mouth noise etc.

So I listened to all twenty-seven chapters this way, and during the course of this exercise discovered several chapters that weren’t quite up to snuff. In the case of some chapters, it was because I hadn’t been able to find and export the absolute final version, but in the case of other chapters it was because the absolute final versions themselves just weren’t quite up to snuff.

By “up to snuff” I mean mostly that the pacing was off. The way I had read and edited them had resulted in readings that were way too fast. My brain couldn’t keep up listening to them. They threatened to ruin the entire product. Even if listeners couldn’t tell exactly what was wrong, what was irritating about the product, I was pretty sure that it would still bother them. All of these chapters needed to be re-edited. There were a few other minor issues too that I took the opportunity to correct, mostly sloppy enunciation, and some minor issues with the levels.

If I hadn’t exported the files at the wrong bit rate to begin with, I probably wouldn’t have discovered these other issues until it was too late, so I was glad about that.

Looking back, the single biggest hurdles I encountered during the production of this audiobook was the fact that I performed it myself, and did the whole thing all alone. There was nobody to tell me I was reading too fast, and I was too close to the product to realize myself where I was going wrong. I didn’t actually even clue in that there was a problem until after I’d finished recording the entire novel and completed the initial edit of the first chapter. Listening back to that initial edit, I was horrified at the pace of my read. So I re-edited the entire chapter and it was STILL too fast. It wasn’t actually until a few weeks went by and I listened to the chapter again with completely fresh ears that I was able to tell what the proper pace should be. So I edited it AGAIN and finally got it in the ballpark (I hope!).

I made the same mistake with several other chapters, thinking as I was going along that I was getting the pacing right, but again I didn’t have sufficient distance to be able to tell for sure. It was several chapters before I acquired enough experience to know to insert far more space than I thought I needed. Doing so made it  far easier on subsequent passes to edit the material correctly, tightening it up a bit.

Had I been a seasoned performer, I would have been able to get the pacing right in the performance, which would have resulted in one heck of a lot less editing.

At least one chapter (Chapter Four) was so bad that I was forced to re-record the entire chapter. But by then I had a much better idea what I was doing, resulting in a performance  that was much closer to the mark, and that required only a light edit.

Bottom line: it’s mostly about the performance. If you get the performance right, post-production becomes infinitely easier.

I’m not saying that writers shouldn’t read and record their own novels. But I am saying that if you do, have a second set of ears present—preferably, somebody who knows what they’re doing—so that they can set you straight during the recording, which will result in a whole lot less post-production time.

If you can’t have someone else present, maybe just do one section or chapter at a time. This should reduce the learning curve, and maybe by the end of the book your performance which be much closer to what it needs to be.

Still, despite having created a whole lot extra work for myself on this audiobook production, I’m fairly happy with the final product. I did not release it into the wild until I was satisfied with it. I’m also really happy to have this one under my belt. With what I know now, if I ever have to do this again, it should (theoretically!) go one heck of a lot faster.

But then, I have always been an optimist.

A Time and a Place, published by Five Rivers Publishing, is now available on Audible.

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