When Words Collide – a recap


Calgary was the place to be Aug. 14-16, if you had any interest in books, whether reading or writing or publishing them – and you’d had the forethought and good fortune to register well in advance. The 5th edition of the When Words Collide Conference had sold out almost two months before, proving once again that this is one of the hottest Reader Cons in Canada.

I did not attend this year, but was there for the first two conferences, as part of the vendors’ market place (displaying books for authors I was promoting through Alberta Books Canada) and as a presenter. I could tell from the very beginning that this particular reader con would catch on. There was a certain energy I had not felt at other conferences in which I’d participated. And what I enjoyed most was that this was an all-inclusive con, so all genres were represented, and self-published books were just as welcome as those traditionally published.

Speaking with author, Richard Harrison, at the first WWC.

Speaking with author, Richard Harrison, at the first WWC.

Last week, I went back to look at the blog posts I’d written when I was preparing to attend those first two conferences, and I discovered the list of authors I had planned on promoting in 2011. I was delighted to discover that many of these authors have since been promoted on my new-ish blog, Reading Recommendations! And some of those RR– promoted authors were also going to be taking part in this year’s WWC. So I decided to write this blog post about When Words Collide and ask a few of the authors who I have promoted on my blog to tell us something about what this conference means to them.

Receiving some "tropical" support for my own novel at the second WWC.

Receiving some “tropical” support for my own novel at the second WWC.

Also, at that second WWC I attended, I met a Klingon who subsequently read and enjoyed my novel … so you just never know who is going to show up at When Words Collide!

(All authors’ names are linked back to their original promotion on RR.)

Axel Howerton, Author and Publisher – I have attended, and been a participant in, many conventions, festivals and author/creator events in my time–When Words Collide is, hands down, the most edifying, most inclusive, and most enjoyable one that I have ever been a part of. It is my personal most-wonderful time of the year.

Adria Laycraft, Author – Often dubbed the Canadian Readercon, WWC continues to up its game each year. It’s a fine mix of lecture and panel, workshop and pitch session, launch and special guest interaction, with quite literally something for every book lover in every genre.

Dr. Robert Runté, Author and Editor at Five Rivers Publishing – Robert has written a recap of the highlights of this year’s WWC in a blog post he wrote for Five Rivers Publishing.

Brian Hades, Publisher at EDGE Science Fiction and FantasyWWC has turned out to be one of the most important meetups for genre writers and publishers in Canada. It is an absolute ‘must’ for the calendar and better than some of the bigger and more expensive writer conferences out there. The community is strong and supportive with a crossover of genre writers gleening insight and experience from each other – not only in the art of writing but also within the business of writing. It is the conference/festival/meetup that I look forward to attending every year (and I attend quite a few). May both writers and readers continue to come.
(Many authors published by EDGE have been promoted on Reading Recommendations since the beginning, thanks to Brian’s support of the blog.)

Marie Powell, Author – WWC is the best conference for working writers that I’ve attended. It offers lots of opportunities to hear and participate in inspiring panels and workshops, catch up with old friends, meet new ones, and talk writing with so many talented writers. I gained confidence in my writing through the Live Action Slush events and Blue Pencils with skilled editors, and had the chance to practice pitching with supportive writers (like you, Susan.) Last August, I pitched Hawk four times, three in formal pitching sessions and once on the trade show floor, and had invitations to send the manuscript from each one. The result was a contract with the supportive and incredible Naomi Davis of Inklings Literary Agency, a two-book contract with Five Rivers Publishing, and the expert editing of Dr.Robert Runte. We came full circle by launching Hawk at WWC this year, and I took the opportunity to give back by participating in panels on pitching and research. I can’t say enough about this conference. Thanks again to Randy McCharles and all the WWC volunteers!
(I met Marie at the first WWC and have followed her efforts to publish her manuscripts over the time since. I was thrilled that Marie launched her published novel at this year’s conference! Watch for her promotion coming up soon on Reading Recommendations.)

And, finally, a word from Fearless Leader, the man responsible for coming up with the idea of When Words Collide in the first place!

Randy McCharles, Author and Director of WWC – I attend social events for the people. Chatting with old friends. Meeting new ones. Literary events are no different. Yes, I get to discover new authors and top up my reading list. And I get to listen to panel discussions and presentations on topics as diverse as how to kill fictional people with undetectable poisons to the latest trends in fiction. And I can attend workshops on how to use a microphone properly or put on a successful autograph signing at Chapters/Indigo. And pitch a manuscript to an agent or acquisitions editor. Or… There is no end of things to do at literary events, especially at the When Words Collide Festival for Readers and Writers where there are 10 concurrent tracks of programming. 10 choices of what to see or do each and every hour over the entire weekend. But, really, I do go to see people. My people. People who love books. Some of my people I see regularly; they live in town or nearby. But the mood and atmosphere are so much better while at a well-attended literary event. Others I see less often except on Facebook. When Words Collide is often my best chance to catch up.

When Words Collide was conceived in the fall of 2010 when I was chatting with some friends at the final year of one of Calgary’s annual genre events. “Now where are we going to hang out and talk books?” someone asked. “Let’s start our own event,” I said. “And let’s make it just about books. All kinds of books.” It took us very little time to come up with a name, and 10 months later saw the first annual When Words Collide festival. We’d hoped 150 people would be interested in our rather unusual event, a multi-genre festival set in a hotel. Over 250 people came out, many from across Canada and even the US. The best attended sessions were “Festival Guest Keynotes”, “Turning History into Fiction”, and “Dead Men Do Talk”. Word spread, sending attendance skyrocketing each year.

This, our 5th year, saw a sold out festival with 650 people attending. While being sold out means we have to turn away some who would like to attend, getting too large would make our event impersonal. I said at the start that I attend social events for the people. Large events, like the Calgary Comic Expo and the World Science Fiction Convention (which is taking place even as I write these words) are great, but I no longer attend them. Why? Too many people. While it is possible to find your peeps in a zoo-like crowd and hang out, it is simply that much easier at a smaller event. If you check out my NEWS page on my website, you’ll see a list of literary events I am hosting or attending (so far) over the next year. When Words Collide is the largest of them, and it won’t get much larger. 2016 will see the same attendance cap of 650.

What makes When Words Collide so popular? You can guess my answer: the people. That’s right. This year over 200 attending authors, editors, and experts in various fields volunteered their time and experience to share with the literary community. Dozens of volunteers also put in their time and skills to make the festival happen. Unlike many charitable and non-profit organizations, no one working to make our festival a success is paid. Everyone contributes as a member of the community because they love books and people who read books.

I also feel that I must make special mention of the staff of the Delta Calgary South Hotel. I have worked with a number of hotels over the years to put on events, and had long discussions with organizers working with other hotels, and never have I seen such helpful and cheerful staff. The hotel is a joy to work with and I have to admit that I spent big chunks of time chatting with staff rather than festival goers. So shoot me. It’s all about the people.

And there it is. I love books. And I love book people. You can find both at When Words Collide.

Thank you to all the Reading Recommendations Authors who contributed to this blog post. And a special thanks to Randy McCharles for continuing to present everyone with such a dynamic and successful event every year.

This all has me thinking I’d be wise to join in again next year and set up a display at When Words Collide of some of the many Alberta, Canadian and international Reading Recommendations Authors I’ve promoted. Hmmm … definitely worth considering!

Beware the Experts


Very good advice from Tricia Drammeh at Authors to Watch!

Originally posted on Tricia Drammeh:

Experts. They’re everywhere. Self-publishing experts, social media experts, writing experts… the list goes on and on.

How can you tell if someone is an expert in their field? Anyone can claim to be an expert. Not everyone who claims to be an expert is an expert. They lack credentials, experience, and sometimes integrity. They sell services to unsuspecting authors and pad their own pockets by destroying a writer’s dreams.

I know an author who paid a “professional” to edit and format her book. When she tried to upload the book, it looked a mess on Kindle. It wouldn’t pass Createspace’s review. Her “formatted” file was useless. When she asked for help in a writer’s group we both belong to, I offered to look at her file. Wow. Not only was the formatting horrible, the editing was a mess too. When I skimmed the document in an attempt to clean up…

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On another option for reviewing books …

A number of years ago, I had the opportunity of a 3-hour-long drive to an event with a Canadian author I’ve known for decades (but who will remain nameless here) during which we discussed many issues to do with promoting authors, publishing, and finding readers for books in general.

This particular author is a voracious reader and does write many in-depth reviews of books for newspapers and magazines in Canada and abroad. For which she is paid by the magazines and newspapers. She is also a tireless champion for authors whose work she truly believes in, and constantly helps those she deems to be deserving to get a leg up in the business. For which she is not paid. She does so because she has always been a contributing member to this writing community.

What we discussed for the most part was the dwindling number of places where readers can turn to find a good, honest review of new books, and where authors can expect to receive an even-handed opinion that will, hopefully, lead to attracting new readers. She was more concerned with finding sites that posted legitimate reviews for all books and authors than finding places where she would be paid to write reviews. That’s where she was coming from. And it was the same direction I was approaching the issue – to find sites dedicated to reviewing, and bringing to our attention, good books.

We tossed around the idea of me developing a website that solely reviewed books … and then we arrived at our destination. I haven’t discussed this idea any further with her since that time.

I did, however, create the site Reading Recommendations in Nov. 2013, with this earlier conversation still lingering in my mind. I wasn’t interested in reading and reviewing books myself, but I did want to promote authors who I felt deserved international attention that this site has since provided them. They don’t pay me for this exposure* and, while I don’t review the books myself (or, at least not all of them), the authors are asked to provide links to promotion sites so that my readers may read reviews of these books in addition to my promotion. This site has worked well and I have promoted more than 250 authors of various nationalities, both traditionally and self-published, writing in every genre, format, and for all age groups. I don’t intend to change the format of Reading Recommendations now. Why fix what ain’t broke?

I’ve been giving a great deal of thought though to the problem of authors receiving legitimate reviews for their work, especially in light of what’s been going on lately with reviews posted to online sales sites and book listing services. And I’ve been thinking about the conversation I had several years ago with my friend. What if I were to set up another sister-site to RR that focuses only on reviews from readers of the books I promote? There would be no anonymity allowed and any connection to the author, including having received a free copy for review, would need to be divulged. In all fairness, I would like readers to know exactly where the reviewer is coming from – no star ratings, no negative reviews, just a good discussion as to why they enjoyed and now recommend that particular book. Reviews may be lengthy, if the reviewer feels they have a lot to say about a book, but will preferably be short and sweet, with no spoilers included, and no personal comments made about the author. Since I will be editing these reviews before posting them to the site, I can delete any trolls who try to spoil this party. (Oh, the power!) It is my hope that readers who normally wouldn’t leave a review on one of those other sites will consider writing something, however brief it may be, to let other readers know they enjoyed a book by one of the authors I’ve promoted on Reading Recommendations. Because, as I’ve said before, If you like a book, tell a friend … and we’re all friends here, right?

I will also link back to the original promotion on Reading Recommendations for each author who is reviewed on this new site. And I will create a list of other review sites (and there are many out there) that provide thoughtful, intelligent reviews for all books.

So, what do you think? Is this a good idea? Will you write reviews to be posted to this site? But, more importantly, as a reader – will your read and take note of reviews on a site like this? Reviewers, this will give you the opportunity to share your passion about particular authors and books with my readers. Readers, this will give you an idea of new books and authors you could be reading.

Would you be interested in providing reviews for this site? Are you interested in reading reviews on a site such as I’ve described? Please post your comments, yay or nay, below. I’m all eyes!

*The authors are asked, in lieu of payment, to promote the site, me, and my books in return – an agreement which has worked to a certain, only middling, extent, I’m sorry to say …

It’s not all in the numbers …

Sally Cronin, the blogger behind Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life, reblogged a post from Hugh’s Views and News, titled Is Your Blog Living By Numbers? Very good post, and I urge you to read both Sally’s intro and Hugh’s post itself.

This reminded me of a post I had previously written about being fixated on always checking the numbers, so I dug back into the archives and am including the link here as a reminder or, as I say in the post, a revelation. It never hurts to repeat yourself on these subjects, I find.

There are no Write-By-Numbers kits …

When I was a kid, we spent our summers at the family cottage, north of Toronto. Two entire months to amuse ourselves – preferably, according to my mother, out-of-doors. But there were often rainy days we’d be forced to spend inside, and one of the “hobbies” I got into was Paint-By-Numbers. My parents would buy a kit and I’d create a work of art (in my mother’s eyes only, of course) that would then be framed to hang on a nail. But eventually, over the years, that painting would either fall behind the furniture, or be replaced by a genuine work of art. I prided myself on those “paintings” because I managed to keep inside the lines and always used the recommended colours of paint.

So much for encouraging any creativity or originality.

Read the complete blog post

What’s wrong with getting an eBook for nothing?


Fom Jack Eason, on the pricing of eBooks and why we should never expect to buy them cheap or receive them for free.

Originally posted on Have We Had Help?:

Free Books.001

Everything, that’s what!!!

The fact that today’s readers of eBooks demand it must be free or on offer as part of an all you can read for x number of dollars per month package deal, is just so wrong!

Face it people, when you go to your supermarket to get your groceries, or to any other retail outlet you care to name, do you get what you want for nothing? No of course not. So why should you expect to get a book for free? I’ve heard some people claim it should be free because an eBook isn’t a real book, only an electronic file. Good grief morons, try engaging your brains for once in your lives! These same idiots argue that they should be able to download their favourite music for free as well. I have just two words on that subject – Taylor Swift!!!

Thanks to Amazon belabouring…

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On reviews and reviewing – an update

On Aug. 9, I posted to this blog about having received a review of my novel that contained spoilers. I asked what you thought I should do and many of you responded with a great deal of information about your own experiences dealing with reviewers and suggestions on how to handle this situation.

My editor sent the reviewer an email asking her to consider removing the spoilers or at least to warn readers from the outset that her review contained spoilers. The reviewer immediately replied that she would amend the review.

I learned a great deal from working through this situation – mainly due to your very considered comments on the post. I thank you all for reading and for your support. I hope my blog post and the links I included have also been instructive and helpful to others.

If you like an artist …

Aside from the suggestion in the box below, if you truly cannot afford to purchase an author’s work, you may always recommend to your local library that they consider adding either the print or eBook version (or both!) to their collection. Then you, and other patrons, may read the book and the author makes at least one sale. And every bit of exposure like this helps us immensely!


On reviews and reviewing

My novel, Island in the Clouds, recently received a second 2-star review on a book review site. I’m okay with the rating, because I know not everyone will enjoy my writing so this was a little jolt of reality to counter all those 4-and-5-stars I had been receiving since I first published the book in February of 2012.

WARNING – SPOILER: This story has a happy ending …

What caused me to take exception with the reviewer was that she had listed my novel in the “Thriller” category – which it is not – then complained that it had not been “thriller” enough. Worse though was that she recounted much of the plot line, right down to the ending, taking away any potential suspense readers may have discovered for themselves, had they a mind to read my book, in spite of the low rating and this reviewer’s comments. She did not include a “May Contain Spoilers” warning.

I know I can’t, or shouldn’t, say anything to the reviewer, nor do I think I should complain to the site where this was posted. I have to hope this particular review remains buried within the 31 other very-positive text reviews my book has received, as well as the many blog visits, reviews and interviews I’ve enjoyed over these past three-and-a-half-years promoting this book. (And I just know you’re all going to rush over to that site now to read the review for yourselves! Go ahead. I don’t mind, because I’d like you to give me more feedback on this subject below, in the comments section, after you finish reading the rest of this blog post.)

What bothered me most about this particular reviewer, though, was that she really does not know how to write a review. While some of the points she made about my book did strike me as logical (and I do take any criticism under consideration as I write further books in this series), she was kind of all over the map, so I’m not sure how she came up with 2 stars instead of 3 or even 1; she did seem to generally like reading the book, and there were apparently a few redeeming features. Anyway, about the “Thriller” categorization confusion … I’ve now discussed with my editor, Rachel Small, the idea to list the next novel as “Literary Fiction with a dash of Mystery” and hope that disspells any confusion as to my intentions in writing this series. (The next novel definitely is more LitFic, while Island was more Mystery. Neither is a “Thriller”, however.)

So I thought this was as good a time as any to write a blog post about Reviews and Reviewing – how to write a review (how to read a book to write a comprehensive review), how to read a review (as an author) to always get the most from it that will help improve your writing, whether we need reviews in the first place, and what reviews mean to potential readers. About a year ago, I had compiled a list of interesting links to do with these topics, so I present these to you now. Also, I have been discussing this topic with roughseasinthemed, a professional editor, journalist, and reviewer of books. She will have more to say on her own blog, but I’ve listed links to two blog posts she wrote previously that I remembered when the problem of this particular review came to my attention.

And now, here’s how you may become involved in the discussion … Please read through the links I’ve posted below then add to the conversation – especially if you are yourself a book reviewer (either professional [i.e. you are paid to review] or as a blogger). What advice would you give to anyone wishing to review our books? Has an author ever contacted you about a review you’ve posted asking that you edit the content? And, Authors, have you ever had to complain about a review for its content? For those of you who have read this particular review of Island in the Clouds, do you think I’m being too sensitive or do you think the reviewer revealed too much of the plot?

(NB. I’m not talking about malicious reviews or trolls or bullies here. Those reviewers deserve their own particular corner of Hell! I don’t believe my reviewer was being at all malicious – she just did not know how to write a book review. So please focus on this type of review and reviewer in your comments. Thanks!)

roughseasinthemed on Reviewing
I’m reviewing …
Views and reviews

Do We Really Need Book Reviews?
What’s a Book Review Really Worth? from BookMarketingBuzzBlog
When reviews really matter … from Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo
Do Read-and-Review Programs Really Work? from Indies Unlimited

On how to write a book review
How to Write a Book Review from Susan Finlay Writes

Get in on the planning stages and learn how you may help an author before their book is published
Pay it Forward – Beta Reading from Dylan Hearn’s Suffolk Scribblings

Authors, how you may want to deal with your readers … or perhaps not
Authors, Please Stop Complaining from Barbara Vey
What If Authors Behaved In Real Life Like They Behaved Online? from Tara Sparling Writes

Learn something about the publishing business so you know why your book is not receiving reviews, or being badly reviewed …
Publishing Facts You Probably Don’t Know from BookMarketingBuzzBlog

And specifically for Self-Published Authors …
From Tara Sparling Writes:
What Makes Me Buy A Self-Published Book?
What Makes People Buy Self-Published Books?
What Puts Readers Off Self-Published Books?

For those of you who base your reading selections on what sells best …
The 100 Bestselling Used Books Since 2000 from AbeBooks.com (Presumably, these books were well-reviewed when they were released.)

Straight to the Heart


And here’s another mention from Susan Holmes on her Waterside Kennels Mysteries blog!

Originally posted on Waterside Kennels Mysteries:

Maya Angelou Quote

Following up on my last post: the dogs of Bequia and the people who love them have gone straight to my heart, courtesy of the gifted author Susan Toy in her novel One Woman’s Island. 

“I must return to my boat,” she said, pointing out towards the water. “But why not come with me? I can make some tea and you could meet all my other little doggies.” She flashed me that same kind smile she had given the dog earlier, her eyes crinkling around the sides.

“Oh, no. I don’t want to put you out at all. We can make it another time.”

But Solfrid assured me she would enjoy having human company onboard her boat for a change.

She repacked her bag then said, “Come!” in a rather forceful command, almost as though I was one of her “little doggies.” So I heeled, following Solfrid to the jetty where…

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Live From The Annex … and hummus

11745693_933504273372754_3745782050129536680_n Paul Wensley and I attended the same school, Malvern Collegiate in Toronto, several decades ago, although we weren’t in the same class. We met up again on Facebook, where Paul was constantly posting great videos of his cats! I also discovered that Paul is an accomplished musician/singer/songwriter/actor/film maker/editor/producer/etc … so I promoted him on the Listening Recommendations segment of my blog, hoping to give his career some more exposure to my friends and blog readers. It’s also through Paul that I learned of this terrific evening of entertainment held monthly in Toronto …

Live from the Annex – Comedy, Music, Booze, and Hummus
is a live Cabaret held the first Tuesday evening of every month. I had the great pleasure to attend my first LFTA in July, as part of what turned out to be their largest attendance since the Cabaret began a few months before. We were treated to a terrific lineup of music, comedy, sketches, a magician, card tricks, the Brunswick Stew Improv group, and an exceptionally good MC, Ron Pederson.11700879_933504050039443_8367397717109774221_n

Chris Funk, the magician who prefers to call himself a Wonderist, still has us wondering (and arguing about …) how he managed to do what he did on that stage! My friend and I particularly enjoyed the card tricks that were wrapped in an intricate story told by Tim Motley, who plays a character called Dirk Darrow in a show, 2 Ruby Knockers, 1 Jaded Dick, about a hard-boiled detective working on a case. 11755152_933505540039294_3699339451665568498_n

The Two Juliets performed several sketches, but particularly good was their song about Starbucks. There was a bit of a technical glitch (this is LIVE theatre, folks!) in the performance of a song from the Everyone Loves Marineland Musical, so we were treated to an a capella version instead. (The troupe later came back to perform once again when the glitch was fixed.) Gavin Crawford did a brilliant one-man sketch about Facebook.
11760078_933525866703928_6933795519207977984_nThe Brunswick Stew Improv Group were on stage a number of times throughout the evening and improvised sketches out of words we’d been asked to write on pieces of paper and other words shouted from the audience. (Paul Wensley performed as a part of this group.) And that terrific MC I mentioned earlier, Ron Pederson, kept us laughing throughout with his delivery of introductions and one-liners, as well as the drawing of door prizes.

What a great evening of entertainment! No end of laughs – and wonderment … and hummus! Thanks to co-producers Laurie Murphy, Sasha Wentges and Brian G. Smith for bringing such a great Cabaret to The Annex!

And, if you require any further convincing, here’s the new promotional video Paul has just created for Live From The Annex.

If you’re in Toronto the first Tuesday in any month, head on down to 720 Bathurst St., to “The Garage” inside the CSI Annex. For more information and videos of past shows, click on their webpage, Live From The Annex.

And, if you can’t be in Toronto on the first Tuesday of every month, you are still in luck, because each show is now being broadcast live online! Check out the Daily Motion site for more information on that.


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