Have Twitter, Will Tweet

Apologies to anyone who is a fan of blogs. Turns out that I am not one of them. I’m happy to meet with writers in person at my office. I’ll happily reply to tweets, Facebook messages or email, but I just can’t get the handle of blogging.

If you want to see what’s coming up for my programs, I often tweet about library events through my account @Marty_Chan. You can catch up on all the latest developments there, or you can check the Programs and Events link on this website to see what is coming up.

Happy writing to everyone.

Marty Chan

A Writer’s Dreams versus a Writer’s Reality

The dreams:

My publisher tells me the first draft I’ve submitted will be printed exactly as is.

My novel sells millions of copies.

The reality:

My publisher tells me the draft I’ve submitted needs a lot of revision.

My novel sells enough copies that I can buy a McHappy meal.


We all want the dream but if you can live with the reality, you’ll succeed as a full-time writer.

The Writer in Residence is open for business

Thank you to everyone who made their way out on a chilly Saturday afternoon to help me kick off my year as regional writer in residence. I’m thrilled to have met so many writers, and I look forward to helping as many people as I can.

To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out how to use this blog. Part of me wants to use it to promote events. Another part wants to incorporate writing advice. The Luddite in me fears I may break the Internet if I post.

I’ll try my best to figure out how to best use this blog function. Right now, I’m going to use it to pass on information about how to get a hold of me and what you can expect.

I’m happy to meet and talk to you about the business and craft of writing. I’m also happy to review your manuscript submissions and give feedback. Before you send me your 500-page manuscript, I have to be fair to everyone. I’m limiting the submissions to 5 – 10 pages (12 point font, double-spaced and single-sided). Please send me an email about meeting, and I can let you know when I’m available. Other clients have already been in touch and my schedule is starting to fill up.

In January, I’m setting my hours as follows:

Tuesdays 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Wednesdays 6:00 – 9:00 pm (except Jan. 20)

Fridays 6:00 – 9:00 pm

Saturdays Noon – 5:00 pm

Shoot me an email at regionalwir@gmail.com to set up a meeting. I’m looking forward to meeting you all.


Local comic book creativity a novel idea

By Trent Wilkie, Sherwood Park News
Monday, June 17, 2013

One of the perks of being a community journalist is that you get to meet people who, like yourself, are doing things because they love to.

It isn’t like people doing things they love is a rarity, but every once in a while an opportunity to work with like-minded people rears its head.

Such an occasion has happened recently with the Strathcona County Library, its writer in residence and a local comic book illustrator whose business attire is “cowboy casual.”

Sally Neal, the communications assistant at the library, and writer in residence Natasha Dean have constructed an idea where a local writer, namely me, and a local artist, namely Daniel Schneider of Smashed Head, combine our wiles in creating a comic book that is relevant to the community.

Read the full article here.

Guest Post – Alicia Dean

Horror…Gothic Mystery…Paranormal…Suspense…Thrillers –
How to distinguish between all the ‘creepy’ genres

I love the dark, spooky, edge of your seat creepy stuff. Love writing it, love reading it. But there are so many different categories and sub genres out there, it’s hard to keep track of what’s what. I am not an expert, and I do not have an official definition of each, but in my experience of reading/writing, I have come to some conclusions.

Horror – Normally involves monsters of all types, as far as the imagination can stretch. These stories are often gory, extremely frightening, and they definitely do not guarantee a Happily Ever After. They do not guarantee that the Protagonist will survive, but most of the time the monsters are defeated. Even if the MC (Main Character) has to sacrifice himself or herself in order to ‘win.’

Paranormal – Usually associated with a basic group of Supernatural creatures, i.e, Vampires, Werewolves, Shape Shifters, Demons, Zombies, Grim Reapers, etc. Most of the time, these stories have a romance element and usually, Good trumps Evil in the end. Although Good can often be the creatures themselves. (More often than not, a Supernatural creature is the MC).

Gothic Mystery – Are almost always set in a remote town, usually but not always a coastal town. They normally feature a young woman as the MC, one who is away from her family, or has no family (which is actually more common), and this MC travels to this spooky, faraway place. She always has a compelling reason to visit this strange land and always becomes involved in a mystery which puts her at risk. Oftentimes, she ends up having a connection to the town or a resident of the town. Sometimes, that is why she journeys there in the first place. Usually, she finds love, but that’s not a ‘must.’

Suspense – These stories are fast-paced and danger of some kind is normally the theme. Usually, the danger is personal, and it is to the MC and/or someone they love, rather than on the broader scope of a thriller. Oftentimes, the villain is known, it’s just a matter of catching them and/or surviving. Suspense stories can have romance, which would put them in the Romantic Suspense category, but it is not required.

Mystery – These are your basic ‘Whodunits.’ They are necessarily fast-paced but should be intriguing, compelling. Readers typically like to solve the mystery along with—or preferably before–the MC. A well-written mystery will not allow the reader to unravel the mystery/identify the bad guy with certainty, but the person who is ultimately the villain should probably have been one of the reader’s guesses. Not necessarily, but sometimes if the bad guy wasn’t on the reader’s radar, then the author is ‘cheating’ the reader by making the villain someone too unlikely. Enough clues should have been dropped along the way that, even if a reader doesn’t solve the mystery, once they learn the truth, they can say, “Ah, yeah. I should have figured that one out.” Again, romance can be a part of the story, but it’s not a must.

Thriller – These are basically like a suspense but are usually more fast-paced with higher stakes. They involve a broader scope of danger, such as to an entire community, or even an entire country. Thrillers are often International, and can take the MC, along with the reader, to all sorts of foreign, exotic places. Sometimes a relationship is a part of the story, but romance isn’t usually a focus. (Under the Thriller heading, there are various sub headings, such as, Crime thrillers, political, legal, psychological, etc.)

That is my interpretation of all these exciting and dangerous genres. I might not be 100 percent accurate, but it’s not all that important what you call them, as long as they keep you turning pages and make your heart beat just a little faster.

What is your favorite of the above genres? What is it that keeps you coming back to these kinds of stories?

Alicia Dean Tin Man ColorAlicia Dean lives in Edmond, Oklahoma and is the mother of three grown children. Alicia loves creating spine-chilling stories that keep readers on the edge of their seats. She writes paranormal and romantic suspense for several different publishers and is excited to be a launch author for Amazon’s Kindle Worlds with two Vampire Diaries stories and one Gossip Girl story.


Guest Post – Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail

 The Romance of Research, The Marriage of Writing

I’m known as a writer, but here’s my secret: I often like research more.

Research can feel like a series of romantic crushes – all exciting and new and full of dopamine hits of discovery.

Writing, especially on big book-length projects, is a marriage. There are days when it flows and you feel all lovey-dovey, but there are also slogs when you feel like all you talk about is the mortgage.

But eventually in the writing process, as in life, you want to move from the casual to the committed. That’s when you have to step away from Google, say goodbye to your librarian and archivist friends, and stop chasing down interviews.

When does that day come? Every project – like every relationship – is different, but usually when you start finding the same information repeating itself, it’s time to stop researching and sit down to write. A looming deadline or an irate editor is also a very good reason.

And if, like me, you love the gathering stage, take heart: as in many good marriages, you still get date nights. There are usually times while you pound out your article or manuscript that you realize you need to fact check something, or delve deeper, or find one more piece of evidence to support a statement.

Once you find that information, though, pry yourself away from the stacks and the search engines, and get back to that draft. Until the next project…

1. The Craft of Research by Wayne C. Booth. A great place to start if you’re new to research, or want a refresher.

2. The Joy of Writing by Pierre Berton. This memoir/how-to book by one of Canada’s most popular historical writers is sure to give you the inside story on tips and pitfalls, as well as inspiration to keep going.

3. Doing Oral History: A Practical Guide by Donald A. Ritchie. If you’re doing interviews or oral histories, this could be useful.

DMC headshot_croppedDanielle Metcalfe-Chenail is a writer and historian who loves to tell stories connected to Canada’s past. She is the author of For the Love of Flying and Polar Winds (forthcoming), and was Writer-in-Residence at Berton House Retreat in Dawson City. She also regularly publishes articles and essays, and currently writes columns for Homes&Living (Calgary) and What’s Up Yukon. She lives in Edmonton. Get in touch at www.daniellemc.com or @danicanuck



Guest Post – Publicist Rachel Sentes

What the heck is publicity!

When someone asks me what a publicist does I think for a moment about my elevator speech. You know, that situation where you have 30 seconds to explain what you do before you get to the next floor.

In simplest terms I will reply “ I put people on T.V”  It’s short, it’s sweet and it’s essentially what I do.

These days it’s becoming easier and easier for writers to publish their work. On the positive side, it’s giving writers, who might never have had a shot in the traditional publishing realm to publish their work and release it to the public in under 6 months.

On the negative side is that in the rush to publish, authors are missing key components in the process of selling their books. And the result is that they are getting lost midst the millions of books released daily online and in the stores. So an author needs to be aware of all aspects of selling. It is a business.

There are 3 main aspects in the business of book promotion ( and they can overlap a little)

1) Marketing

2) Advertising

3) Publicity

1) Book marketing is generally defined as implementing and utilizing tactics to promote, sell, and distribute your book. This can involve using direct selling emails, newsletters, gathering endorsements, and testimonials, and utilizing social media postings (facebook and tweets). The emphasis is on finding lucrative sales funnels and channels using websites, retailers, online stores, and libraries. It is usually paired up with the word promotions.

2) Advertising (or a media buy)  is paying for a spot in print, on television or a radio spot, and can be delivered via direct mail or emails, as well as positioned online where results are measured by a specific call to action- something is redeemed or followed through to track results. Usually an advertisement sends the audience member to one sales funnel- perhaps a specific page on a website or to a sales page.

3) Publicity builds awareness of a product utilizing media. It builds name recognition and awareness about your product because media has the power to influence buying trends and spreads the word about an author or book. The tactics and strategies include creating and utilizing media kits, approaching press for reviews, creating personal pitches, news releases and direct calls to members of the media that can persuade audiences to check out your product. It is different than the term press relations ( and often confused with) which is managing an organization, stakeholders and employees to maintain a particular point of view about their product. So a publicist is not necessarily a PR (press relations) person. While they work with the press, it’s in a different capacity. It’s important to know the difference between the two.

What a publicist does.

Every publicist is going to have a different style of working with the press, but for the most part they will all approach the press via the writing of news releases, personal pitches, phone calls, and social media ( tweets/facebook) to gain interviews and reviews for their clients. In my case, because my background was book selling, I also offer tips for contacting retailers and distributors, and consult in the process of publishing, but it’s rare that you’ll see that with other publicists. The focus is strictly spending time in direct contact with reporters, producers, freelance writers, and bloggers. A publicist will contact the media, and if the result is favourable they will then set up a time for the interview with the client, send over a booking sheet, then a reminder of the date for the interview and then follow up after to garner clips of the interview ( gathering MP3’s for radio/print/articles etc). If they do a news release they will either distribute it via their own database of personal contacts, or utilize paid distribution services such as PR Web, or CNW group, depending on the scope of the project. They will spend a great deal of time reading requests from reporters for clients that fit their stories, reading the papers and online magazines for trends, and writing hooks and ledes that are going to capture the eye of the media. The average reporter/producer receives upwards of 300 news releases a day. A publicist’s job is to cut through those and make their client’s work stand out to get the booking.

Publicists write news angles that will pique the interest of the public and their strength is in understanding the nuances of selling the story behind the book. Not direct selling- that’s marketing and advertising. They are always looking for what the audience will want to know about.

So how do I find the right publicist?

The first step is to start researching freelancers, agencies, and firms online, and talking to other authors about their experiences. Forget about everything you read that tells you publicists only charge huge sums of money. Yes there are many that do, but there are all kinds of publicists out there, so do your due diligence and spend some time on this.  Publicists build their business on referrals, so feel free to check out their sites thoroughly, see what books the represent, and then send them some questions. For an example of questions you can visit this site: http://www.get-your-message-out.com/questions-for-book-publicists.html   or this one http://www.beneaththecover.com/2010/06/15/questions-to-ask-your-publicist/ . Put a list of questions together that you feel are relevant to your plan for your book.

It’s a good idea to request their rates to see if it will align with your budget, and if it does, set up a phone meeting to discuss it further. But remember that publicists are not going to give you free advice. They are happy to discuss the possibilities for your book, but they are experts in their field, and they need to get paid for that. Not every author or book will be a right fit for their style and process. So even if you want them to work with you, there is a chance that they pass on the project for whatever reason. Don’t take that personally, it’s simply because that publicist doesn’t feel they can reach your goals. And you want a publicist to be up front and honest. When looking for a publicist you want someone who is going to kick down the doors to the media, not quietly knock and slink away.

The best advice I can give to finding a publicist is to take your time, outline your goals and talk to them. You’ll know when you find someone that you relate well with who can get excited about your project.

And when you do, then it can be a long and fruitful arrangement.

Rachel-and-DogRachel Sentes is a professional writer and full-time publicist/CEO of gal-friday publicity, based in Vancouver, B.C. Her clients include actors, sports figures, publishers, top tier businesses and dog rescue associations. She specializes in building publicity platforms and garnering media bookings for authors,helping them negotiate their way through the ever-changing maze of the publishing world. Rachel has booked clients on CTV National, BNN, The Seattle Times, Global, Shaw, City TV, The Toronto Star, The Globe and Mail, NewsTalk 1010, TSN, Bloomberg Radio and The Vancouver Sun, to name a few. Rachel helps authors who are planning to publish (or have just published), and need help with everything from deciding the right publishing path to e-book conversion, to ghostwriting and getting your book on store or virtual shelves. www.gal-fridaypublicity.com

Guest Post – Lauren Nguyen

How do you know when to walk away from a writing project?

It’s natural to want to see something to the end. But sometimes an ending doesn’t emerge the way we’ve imagined it. Sometimes we have to learn when to throw in the proverbial towel and move on.

In my case, I had been ghost-writing as a style journalist for a fashion website for about 4 years. Landing the role was incredibly exciting, probably the closest I would ever get to being a part of the fashion industry. I was grateful for the chance to hone my writing skills in this dramatic context.

Time, however, has a funny way of eroding things. Each assignment began to feel like the last and adjectives were being reused. It felt like I was writing the same piece over and over again. The world of fashion eventually lost its dynamic allure for me.

It gradually felt like my post-secondary days, pulling all-nighters to finish essays at the last minute. My initial excitement was replaced by a sense of dread with yet another assignment and deadline. Balancing the role with a full-time job, there wasn’t much free time, although it was more about a lack of challenge and passion than stress. I wondered

“Why am I still doing this if I’m not fully enjoying it anymore?”

I knew then that it was time to move on. I feared the negative feelings which replaced my enthusiasm for fashion writing would spread to my love for writing overall. After all, writing should lift you up, not drag you down. Occasionally it sucks and causes us to question our own intelligence, but writing should ultimately bring us joy.

I also firmly believe that everything we do contributes to our individual growth. If the challenge is gone and you are no longer learning, it’s time to move on. Sometimes we need to walk away from a writing project to find another, one with new challenges and fresh opportunities. It’s not giving up, but rather taking the chance to find something new to develop our skills. And after that, the sky’s the limit.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERALauren Nguyen graduated from UBC with a Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology and Sociology. After writing as a style journalist for 4 years, she decided it was time to look for a new adventure. When not pursuing new interests or battling writer’s block, she works as an administrator in the energy sector. She lives in Edmonton, Alberta.

Guest Post – Pauline Holyoak

Pauline1I grew in Southeast England, in a coal mining village lovingly nicknamed, “The place that time forgot.” Go to my website, click on ‘Articles’ and find out why.  I immigrated to Canada when I was 21 in search of adventure and a new life.  I currently live in Alberta with my sports crazy husband, adorable sheltie dog and cantankerous ginger cat. I am the proud mother of two grown children and one adorable grandchild.

Natasha has asked me to write a post on what defines my genre. I remember struggling with this before I started to look for a publisher for my first book. My story contained elements of romance, lust, fantasy, horror, suspense and humor. How was I going to choose a genre for a story that fit into so many categories? Since the publishing industry is segmented by genre, I knew it was essential for me to find my niche before I offered my manuscript to a publisher.

After much research, I decided that my trilogy fit the thriller/suspense genre, with a paranormal subgenre.

This is what defines my genre.

Pauline2The dramatic conflicts of thrillers/suspense are fraught with peril; a life-threatening danger that jeopardizes the protagonist, his or her loved ones, or even the whole world. The stakes are often large—death and destruction to lives, the downfall of an entire nation, an ecological disaster. However, thrillers can also simply portray riveting psychological tension between two opposing characters. Thrillers and suspense fiction are paired together because thrillers often utilize suspense elements in the development of the story—evil lurking just around the corner that motivates the protagonist to hunt down and capture the villain-at-large.

Although both thrillers and mysteries often involve the protagonist solving a crime and bringing bad guys to justice, the central conflict of thrillers/suspense focuses on developing an urgent sense of imminent jeopardy rather than solving a mystery or the detection of a crime. Thriller/suspense protagonists must win at all costs against a menacing, pernicious threat—or else things are going from bad to worse, and fast. Thriller/suspense is also included in the general grouping of “genre fiction,” “category fiction,” “mainstream” fiction,” or “mass market fiction.”

Paranormal stories are set in the real world, the world as we know it…with a little extra thrown in. Vampires, shape-shifters, fairies, elves, witches, demons, gargoyles, ghosts, psychics, mediums, telepaths, time travelers…these all belong in the paranormal world.

The pros and cons of writing a trilogy.

Pauline4Writing a trilogy or series is not an easy task. You have to keep your story line alive, long enough, to warrant three or more full length novels, and make sure that your characters do not perish from exhaustion, before they arrive at their destination. Each book must stand alone for readers who haven’t followed the previous books yet and you can’t bore those who have, with repetitive details of earlier events. You have to make your first book so compelling, that your readers will be anxious for the next one, and get the second one finished, published and out there, while the first one is still fresh in their minds….Writing a trilogy or series does have it’s advantages though. One already knows the characters, has done the research, established tone, point of view and motivation. ‘And’ if your first book is successful it’s almost a guarantee that your publisher will accept the next one.

Merryweather Lodge – A quaint little cottage, steeped in history, shrouded in secrets, its aura a paradoxical essence of heaven and hell. Come with me to the West Country in England and experience my protagonist’s strange and eerie journey there.

PaulineMy books are available in print or eBook format at http://www.whiskeycreekpress.com  or  www.amazon.com Book three of my trilogy will be released on July 1st.

Please come visit me at http://www.paulineholoak.com  read about my fascinating life and view my videos.

Guest Post – Tracy Cooper-Posey

Please welcome best-selling author Tracy Cooper-Posey and her thoughts on indie-publishing…

Just What IS All The Fuss About Indie, Anyway?

As a writer, you must surely be a little bit curious about indie publishing:

  • Barry Eisler, New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling author, turned down a $1M+ deal to go indie.
  • Edmonton’s own Cheryl K. Tardiff made $42,000 in one month, then wrote a book about how she made that $42K…and that hit best-sellerdom, too.
  • Dozens of authors have made $1 million dollars.
  • There are so many indie titles populating the best-seller lists now, picking individual titles is no longer germane.

But these are the outliers, the super-success stories the media drools over.

What you don’t read about is the hundreds of indie authors selling well enough to write full time – a much higher percentage than ever get to quit their day jobs in the legacy world.

Indies are making a comfortable to a very nice living.  Romance author Tina Folsom reports a steady 30,000+ book sales every month.  Indies earn around 70% of the cover price of each book…the math lifts your pulse, doesn’t it?

The biggest reason most authors shift to partial or full indie status, though, is control.  As an indie author, you get to approve the cover, not just say thank you; say when the book is released (next week, not next year); you control the cover price and can change it as market forces deem it necessary, or you feel the need to promote or push a title…everything is up to you, including your income and ultimate success.

It’s hard to resist that freedom.


Tracey 2Tracy Cooper-Posey writes erotic vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award.  She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published 21 indie titles to date.  Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated three times for Book Of The Year.  Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University.  She writes a monthly indie publishing column for the Night Owl Reviews Magazine.  An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a retired professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line.  Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com