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Thursday, August 25, 2016


INSTEAD OF PENNING A LETTER to writers who shall remain anonymous, I thought I'd create a list of some of the things I've seen in the On Spec slush pile that make me reluctant to support publication. These flaws don't necessarily mean a rejection. If the story is good and the problem fixable, I'm as likely to suggest a rewrite. I should also point out that these are my particular pet peeves. At On Specwe don't always agree on what's good and what's not (which is a good thing.) So, in no particular order:

Ten Things That Make Me Less Than Enthusiastic About Publishing a Short Story:

1).  An unsympathetic protagonist. I'm especially not keen on protagonists who prey on children, even if they get their comeuppance. An unsympathetic protagonist is a hard sell. There needs to be something I like about him. If I don't, why should I care?
2). A Mary Sue protagonist, in no matter what guise she might appear. If she's always good, she's dull. For me, innocence and naivety also tend to be boring. This character isn't so shallow, as she lacks depth. (There is a difference.) Victimisation is also a turn-off, unless there's some kind of gain to be made.
3). Sexual stereotypes, particularly of women. Prostitutes are a hard sell unless I get a glimpse of their interior life, their humanity, and even then I might question, 'Why does she have to be a prostitute? Is the writer trying to be provocative or titillating?' (Don't try to be glib, worldly, or sensational. We editors are a jaded lot.)
4). Openings that introduce the main character(s) as 'he', 'she', or some other undefined term. Give them a name from the get-go. For me, this is almost always a give-away that the writer is still working on their craft. Usually, the rest of the story proves me right.
5). Details in the opening that have little (or nothing) to do with the plot later on. It's important to flesh out a story, but everything needs to be there for a reason - details should be pertinent to plot or character.
6). Anachronisms - in particular, modern slang in an historical story (unless time travel is involved). If you're not sure, don't use it.
7). Lack of a definitive ending. If the story doesn't go anywhere, what's the point? Day-in-the-life stories often have this problem. It takes solid writing to pull these off, and in good ones, there is always a point to be made.
8). Conflicting mythos - when a story fails to explain why it differs from the traditionally held ideas about setting or character. For example, fairies who tolerate iron. The common myth is - they don't.
9). Too much exposition. This usually involves back story - how characters met, their history, etc. Sometimes, the back story is more interesting than the plot. It's the story you wish the writer would have told.
10). Not SF Enough: sometimes, we get stories that are well written, but the science fiction or fantastic elements aren't strong enough. I always feel bad about turning these down, but On Spec is a science fiction and fantasy magazine, after all.

I'm only half-way through reading the slush, so there could well be another list forthcoming. As I said earlier, if you think you're even the slightest bit guilty of these, don't worry too much. There might be enough good stuff in your work for us to ask for a revision.

- Susan.

Sunday, August 21, 2016


Dear ----------

Re: Memo #3

I just want to start off by way of an apology. I was hard on you in Memo #3, and that wasn't fair. We all start out by writing what we think is pretty good stuff, and it takes a while to develop an eye to see the flaws. I think back to some of the earliest stuff I sent out, and I either cringe or laugh.

That said, I thought it might be much more helpful if I told you why I was so put off by your story.

You opened with telling me your protagonist had just lost a limb - her hand - to a monster. You didn't elaborate on what kind of monster, and quickly reassured me that your protagonist was all right, if a little inconvenienced by the loss of her hand.

You realise this could have made a pretty gripping opening? Setting it aside so quickly turns it into back story - never a good way to start a short story, or a novel for that matter. But even more to the point is the fact that your protagonist shrugs off losing her hand as if it's no biggie. She even goes so far as to clean herself up and hide her missing part beneath a fold in her skirt so her boyfriend won't notice.

Okay - a few issues here. Either she's a superhero or you're taking us into comic territory reminiscent of the Black Knight in Monty Python's The Holy Grail. I'm pretty sure this isn't what you intended. Even if your protagonist is a superhero, the loss of a limb should cost her something. When our protagonists suffer, we empathise with them, we see their struggles and how they deal with them as a kind of character depth. Think about it - if you were to lose an arm, how would you feel about it? I doubt very much you'd shrug it off as your protagonist did. We want your interior story, we want to see your struggle, gain an insight from your pain. You gave me none of that.

Then we head into some sexual territory with your protagonist planning on obtaining semen from her boyfriend to create a magical spell. I suspect you've done some research and found some old superstitions involving semen, menstrual blood, etc. If you want to use these old techniques, you really need to think about how you present the scene. As you've written it, your protagonist comes across not only as shallow (because the loss of a hand hardly makes her blink), but also as manipulative because she intends to obtain the necessary ingredients under false pretences. Furthermore, if she's strong enough to suck it up over losing a hand, why would you objectify her with planning a hand job? Sorry, but this just raises my feminist ire. It also fills my head with some weird visuals. So far, there is nothing about your protagonist that appeals to me. Maybe if I understood her reasoning, why she needs to do such things, I would like her better, but as she is, you've made her unsympathetic, a role better played by your antagonist.

I hope this clears things up a bit. I also wish you all the best with your future writing.

- Susan.

Friday, August 19, 2016


To: ---------------

Re: ---------------

When your protagonist loses a limb to a monster, she doesn't go home, clean herself up, and put on a pretty dress AS IF NOTHING HAPPENED, EVEN WHEN IT DOESN'T HURT. And she certainly doesn't plan on JERKING OFF HER BOYFRIEND later.

God help me. Why am I even reading this?

- S.


Dear -------,

In your opening first paragraph, you were off to a great start. Your premise and description were dark and foreboding and they grabbed me. I found myself looking forward to reading the rest of your story with anticipation. Which is why I found paragraph two a bit of a disappointment (yes, I know - I'm already coming off as being annoyingly picky. 'Wow - she got stopped in paragraph two?'You're a good writer. I know this because we've published you before. So what stopped me in my tracks in paragraph two?

You start out with your first sentence describing your protagonist's action - a very specific one that draws my attention to an important object in the setting. The second sentence pulls my attention (and your protagonist's) from that to a description of the sky. The third sentence shows what a group is doing near the important object. The fourth sentence covers more action by a secondary character. The fifth sentence has the secondary character moving the group along. Then we come to the end of the paragraph.

It was a little confusing to keep track of all that was happening. Your sentences were short, and I felt jerked around, like I was being forced to dance a literary version of the polka. A little fleshing out would help, with a stronger focus on your protagonist's point of view. I also suspect you write as I do - the ideas flow from your imagination onto the page, but as they come, they aren't necessarily arriving in a smooth or logical order. You need to take a little more time to rearrange things so they hang together better. Let setting sentences support each other. Let action bits do the same. When you mix them as you've done, it's harder for the reader to keep things straight. I suspect you already know this. (I'm sure you do.) So often, we're blind to our own work. I'm already imagining you smacking your forehead and saying to yourself, 'yeah, damn it, she's right.'

I'm returning to read the rest of your story, now. If On Spec decides to buy it, I'll be making these suggestions to whomever works with you as your editor. (Who knows? That might even be me.)

All the best --------. I hope you found this letter helpful.

- Susan.

P.S. Okay, I finished reading the entire story. I liked it, but your opening has little to do with what happens. I get the feeling this piece is from a much larger work. You need to tailor this so that it reads like a self-contained short story. - S.

Thursday, August 04, 2016


Datura Stramonium
THERE ARE A LOT OF ZOMBIE STORIES OUT THERE. In the past ten years (give or take), they've resurfaced and recaptured the public's attention as brain-eating, mindless (or not so mindless) monsters. In previous decades, movies such as I Walked With A Zombie (1943) and Night of the Living Dead (1968) contributed to the popular culture; character origins might have been as early as the 1800's. Theories abound as to why zombie stories are so popular today - anything from a general belief in an inevitable and future dystopia, to a common need for more control in a society where people don't feel they have any. (What better way to experience a sense of control, than to vicariously kill something?)

Truth be told, I don't particularly enjoy zombie-themed stories unless they're well written, and even then, I insist on seeing something authentic (Nalo Hopkinson's Brown Girl in the Ring), or funny (as in Shaun of the Dead). I'll also give a shout-out here to Kristi Charish's Voodoo Killings: A Kincaid Strange Novel, a contemporary fantasy/detective tale, which I also enjoyed. But as for the 'we gotta kill them before they kill us' theme, I can do without the mindless violence that has little in the way of depth. In the minds of many writers and readers, it's become a given that 'zombies eating brains' are what zombies do. It's become a cliché, unless handled with a twist.

So what are zombies really about? An excellent resource is Wade Davis's, The Serpent and the Rainbow, a book to which I referred (among others) to properly depict zombification in The Tattooed Queen. The word zombie (in French, zombi) comes from the Kongo term nzambi, which means 'spirit of the dead'. The process involves a bokor (a sorcerer - one who practices 'with the left hand' or who is willing to commit an evil deed, 'evil' depending upon one's point of view. Many of those who are zombified are actually malefactors themselves, having committed wrongs against members of their own community). To create a zombi, a bokor composes and administers a combination of powdered poisons (coupe poudre) to his victim. Every bokor has his particular recipe, but generally, these powders originate from toxic sources, including the bufo marinus or marine toad, several varieties of puffer or blowfish, millipedes, tarantulas, and noxious plants. The toad and puffers, in particular, are loaded with tetrodotoxins that contribute to paralysis, cyanosis, and, if the victim ingests too much, death. There are several ways to administer the coupe poudre; generally, the poison is rubbed into a wound or inhaled with the target unaware. If the bokor has administered a proper dose, his victim will be pronounced dead, then awaken in his coffin days later, where he'll be given a psychoactive antidote which renders him submissive. He becomes enslaved to the bokor's will.

One incident of synchronicity (that pleased me to no end) while doing this research, was discovering that the antidote to the coupe poudre is Datura (also known as Devil's Snare, Hell's Bells, Jimson Weed, etc. I've depicted it in the upper left-hand corner of this post.) In Haiti, a variety of it (Datura Stramonium) is called the Zombi Cucumber. It causes delirium and counteracts some of the effects caused by the coupe poudre. In the first book of my trilogy, The Tattooed Witch, I introduce Datura as Dartura, a goddess herb which, in small doses heals, but in larger ones causes paralysis. Dartura also plays a role in the second book, The Tattooed Seer, and an even greater one in The Tattooed Queen. I had no idea it would become so important, but sometimes, that's just how the writing goes. (If you're wondering when The Tattooed Queen is going to be released, I've been told by Five Rivers that it will be out this December. Right now, I'm awaiting the galleys.)

I hope you've found these posts about voodoo and zombies interesting. For those of you who are attending the When Words Collide Festival in Calgary, this August 12-14, I'll be reading from The Tattooed Queen on Saturday, 1:00 p.m. in Kananaskis 1, Atrium Building. I'll also be discussing similar topics of interest to the audience (more on zombies, gypsy culture, psychic abilities, etc.), some of which I've covered on this blog. Hope to see you there!

- Susan.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


DEAR REVIEWER, I HAPPENED TO COME BY YOUR luke-warm review today. Your comments came as somewhat of a surprise. In terms of your tastes (or tropes, which was one of your quibbles), you're entitled to your opinion. I'm also entitled to mine.

I was curious about you, so I looked you up - thanks for leaving your name and making it easy for me to do that. The thing is, I may not agree with your assessment, but I do like to know with whom I'm dealing. Let's be clear - I wanted to see if you had any 'cred'. I see you're also a writer, and you have several of your books for sale. I took a look at the first few pages of Chapter One of one of your novels. I've been an SF & F editor for over twenty years, so I can tell pretty quickly if a writer knows her stuff.

I felt somewhat better after reading your work. You see, I debated writing this post. I know it will make me look like I have this huge ego and that I can't take a little criticism (actually, I can. My editor can attest to that, as I've just been through a lengthy revision of the last book in my trilogy. It took months, but the book is so much better as a result). I have to admit, your comment did annoy me initially. And damn it, it's just too tempting not to respond to you, so I will! I hope you find the following comments helpful.

Your opening in ------------ doesn't work. It's clunky. You need to smooth out your prose and not be so obvious. As for tropes, the slick guy with pointy teeth is one. Don't even get me started on eyes 'boring into your soul'. In your first two pages, you  point out his curling lips twice. His hands also seem to wander - to the desk, to the book, he takes off his gloves, etc. Think about your own logic - if you're confronted with someone who seems dangerous, do you close your eyes to try to remember where you've seen them before? (No, you don't. Not even for a 'brief' second, and a second is already pretty brief.) Then we get into a big swath of exposition and back story where you 'tell' us who your protagonist is. Telling is so much easier than showing, isn't it?

I'll stop now, because I'm well into passive aggressive territory (a uniquely Canadian trait). Might I point you to my ABC's of How NOT to Write Speculative Fiction, which I feature here on my blog? It's just chock-a-block full of helpful hints from A to Zee. If you read and apply them, your writing will improve tremendously.

YOU'RE WELCOME. Happy writing. (No need to thank me.)

- Susan.

Monday, July 25, 2016


Vévé for La Sirene and Agwe
I ENDED MY LAST POST ON VOODOO with a mention of Damballa, the great serpent vodouisants consider to be the creator of the universe. I also said that the lwa/orisha (also orixa) are Voodoo gods, but I should clarify that. Today, most vodouisants have faith in only one god and creator - Bondye (from the French Bon Dieu or Good God). Bondye is Damballa (or Damballah Wedo); all the other lwa/orisha are considered his servants in the same way angels and saints are servants of God in the Catholic church. I don't make this 'only one god' distinction in The Tattooed Queen, because in doing so, I would have had to slip into exposition. It's always a judgement call about how much to explain. There's a point where too much exposition will take the reader out of the story. My wild girl, Ekua, simply refers to the lwa as 'gods'. If any vodouisants come across this once the book is released, I beg their indulgence.

Voodoo is a syncretized religion. Due in a large part to the Atlantic slave trade, those slaves from west and central Africa came into forced contact. An amalgamated faith was the result, where gods from different nations (nachons) were honoured. Forced yet again to embrace their owners' religion (Roman Catholicism), it was safer to find similarities between their own African gods and the Catholic saints. Therefore, when a vodouisant honours Damballa (the universal serpent), he might also show his devotion by honouring St. Patrick who emptied Ireland of snakes (a metaphor for stamping out the so-called evil of pagan religion).

In general, the lwa/orisha fall into a number of groups. The Rada lwa are the Fon/Ewe spirits of the Dahomey and are considered 'cool' or sweet tempered. The Nago lwa stem from the Yoruba of Nagoland. The Petwo lwa (more hot tempered) come from war-torn Kongo, although some claim they rose from those slaves who died under harsh conditions in Haiti. The Ghede lwa are servants of Bawon and Brigitte, the king and queen of the graveyard. The Ghede are also ancestral spirits and 'the dead'. In The Tattooed Queen, Papa Kodjo refers to Alonso, Miriam's ghostly love, as Ghede. There are also djabs, or personal working spirits that assist their hosts. Djab stems from the French term diable or devil. Some djabs are benevolent while others are not. It depends on whether or not the houngoun or bokor (priest or sorcerer) works with the right or left hand, the right meaning good works and the left referring to evil ones (like zombification). Even a houngoun worth his ashe (the power to make things happen) will know how to work with the left hand, even if he never does.

There are many lwa/orisha. What follows are the few I mention in The Tattooed Queen. I delineate their names as follows - first, the Haitian name (because in Queen, Papa Kodjo, my vodou priest originates from Esbañiola/Hispaniola - modern-day Haiti and the D.R.), second, by the Obeah/Jamaican name or the name of a similar orisha, followed by one of their affiliated Catholic saints:

1). Damballa/Obatala/St. Patrick: the universal serpent, the Sky God, the Creator of All. In The Tattooed Queen, Miriam is put to the test with Damballa in his guise as a Jamaican yellow boa constrictor. (I'm hoping the cover art will feature this scene.) Yellow boas are endemic to Jamaica and found (in the wild) nowhere else in the world.

2). Ayida Wedo/Oya/St. Patrick: lwa of the rainbow and fertility, Ayido Wedo is peaceful and serene and rules the skies with her husband Damballa. She is also associated with St. Patrick.

3).  La Sirene/Yemaya/St. Martha, Our Lady, Star of the Sea: depicted as a siren or a mermaid who can bring both good luck and bad. La Sirene is comparable to Miriam's own goddess, Lys. When I started writing The Tattooed Witch years ago, I based the Diaphani religion on the pagan idea of both male and female aspects of diety. I decided to represent the female aspect with symbols of water and air (the male aspect being earth and fire, symbolic of male dominated religions and the Inquisition, in particular). Discovering La Sirene as a strong vodou counterpart for Lys was a nice moment of synchronicity. The vévé, above left, depicts La Sirene as a mermaid, along with the vévé for her husband, Agwe, king of the ocean.

4). Ogou/Ogun/St James: lwa of war, blood, iron, and machines, Ogou is hot tempered and ready to fight. He is also a great protector and loyal. In Queen, Ekua, my wild girl character, honours Ogun, claiming he 'rules her head'. She hates all whites and would use her machete to kill every last one them. (She doesn't.)

5). Gran Bwa/St. Sebastian/St. Isadore: ruler of the forests, plants and animals, Taciturn yet benevolent, Gran Bwa is the lwa of herbal medicine and charms. Represented by St. Sebastian, the Christian martyr who was pierced through with arrows while tied to a tree, Gran Bwa also suffers the loss of his forests throughout the world. In Queen, Papa Kodjo tells Miriam he will appeal to Gran Bwa for a herbal cure.

I've only depicted a few of the lwa/orisha here. If you're interested in further reading, I recommend The Haitian Vodou Handbook, Protocols for Riding with the Lwa by Kenaz Filan, Mysteries and Secrets of Voodoo, Santeria, and Obeah, by Lionel and Patricia Fanthorpe, and Haitian Voudou, by Mambo Chita Tann.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016


Vévé for Damballa
BECAUSE I'LL BE READING from my forthcoming book, The Tattooed Queen at the When Words Collide Festival in Calgary (August 12-14), as well as covering some of my research for it, I thought it might be interesting to post some of my findings, here. Especially in light of zombie popularity, I thought I'd start off with voodoo, or vodou as it's also known in Haiti, being the French term. Voodoo plays a big part in The Tattooed Queen.

But first - a little background about some of the choices I made for the book as a preliminary, before we get to the religion and the magic.

I had always planned for Miriam, my protagonist, to cross the Great Ocean Sea (the Atlantic, as it was first called) in order to settle in the Caribbean or New World. In book two, The Tattooed Seer, one of her love interests - Joachín - is shown a map of a gold mine on Xaymaca (Jamaica, being the island's present-day name.) Xaymaca was an Arawak term meaning 'land of wood and water', the Arawak being the indigenous people of the Caribbean and parts of South America. They were also known as the Taino. (In Queen, I refer to them as the Tain. Interesting how one small thread of research leads to another, isn't it?) Anyway, I decided on Xaymaca (or Jamaica) for book two, because Jamaica actually does have gold which is mined in the Blue Mountains today.

Voodoo isn't just about zombies, and it certainly isn't about 'zombies eating your brain', although that's how it's often portrayed in popular culture. The term vodun from which voodoo derives comes from the Yoruba, a west African tribe, and means 'spirit'. Today, it's a syncretized Afro-Christian faith, or set of faiths. There are different varieties, depending upon where it is practised: Santeria in Cuba, Candomblé in Brazil, Voodoo in New Orleans and America, Vodou in Haiti, and Obeah in Jamaica, where it tends to include more magic.

One of the things I had to consider was what voodoo on Jamaica might have been like back in 1550, when the book is set, and before it melded with Christianity to the extent it has. Because the slave trade was active throughout the Caribbean, with slaves bought and sold, and many escaping horrific conditions, I decided to incorporate both the French and Jamaican versions of voodoo - Voudou and Obeah, to better reflect a melding of African cultures. I used a little creative license in allowing a French presence on Jamaica. One of my key characters, Papa Kodjo, is an escapee from Esbañiola (Hispaniola being the original place name for present-day Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Papa K is also a houngoun or voodoo priest, and honours the lwa or voodoo gods. Another of my characters, a wild girl named Ekua, worships the Obeah pantheon, and Ogun, a machete-wielding warrior orisha, in particular. I hesitate to say the terms lwa and orisha are interchangeable, but they have similar meanings. On her arrival to Xaymaca, Miriam unexpectedly encounters Ekua, who claims that Ogun 'rules her head'. When a lwa 'rules your head' it means that a particular god has chosen you, and that he or she rides or possesses you as and when they choose. This possession is seen as a great blessing by the vodouisants who are ridden. Miriam finds the similarities between Ekua's religion and her own striking (as did I, when I was writing and doing research for the book. Both vévés and tattoos can be magical symbols, opening doors for spirit to enter.)

The vévé, above left, represents Damballa or Damballah Wedo, one of the most important lwa in the pantheon. Damballah is the Sky God, the great serpent who encircles the universe, and who is the creator of all life. Next post, I'll talk a little more about voodoo in general, as well as describe some of the lwa/orisha pantheon.

And yes, eventually we're going to talk about zombies. :-)

Friday, May 27, 2016


TWO OF THE REASONS I'VE BEEN POSTING about writing schedules and hiatuses, is I wanted to see how my fellow writers are the same and different from me (do you need to take breaks after each book or do you keep on going?) and because I'll be sharing a panel with Gerald and Chadwick on Writing Trilogies - The Benefits and Challenges, at the When Words Collide convention, this August 12 - 14, in Calgary. I was hoping Karen Dudley, who I featured here, could also join us (unfortunately, she can't. Fingers crossed for next year, Karen). Ryan McFadden, nominated for an Aurora for his debut novel, Cursed: Black Swan will also be one of our panelists, and I'll be featuring him in a future post.


Chadwick's Thunder Road Trilogy (Thunder Road, Tombstone Blues, and Too Far Gone), is a great read - gritty, vivid, and real. Norse blood and thunder (with a little romance tossed in, for fun. :-) I've also had the pleasure of editing some of Chad's short stories for On Spec Magazine. After reading what he wrote below, the energy he puts into his writing makes me want to forget the whole writing thing and go for coffee. Chad, you're a writing machine. Kudos, my friend! We all want to be like you when we grow up. Here's what Chad has to say:

"I don’t mind celebrating the completion of a project: a glass of my victory bourbon after finishing a draft or turning in a final manuscript. But I don’t like to take very long, maybe a weekend away at the most until I’m back at the keyboard. I am very much a creature of momentum, and so I don’t stop writing when I’ve finished a project. If I stop for too long, it is really hard to find my stride again. I already have more books I want to write than I’m likely to have time to finish, so taking too much of a pause? No thanks. By the time I’ve reached “the end” I’m usually sick of the current project and ready to dive into drafting the next book. Sometimes I’ll do a quick NaNoWriMo “discovery draft” in between rounds of edits to be able to give the old book a breather and come at it fresh for revisions. If I’m not ready to start a whole new novel, I work on a short story.

To encourage that momentum, I always have multiple projects on the go. I’m usually brainstorming another novel alongside drafting the current one; whatever creative fancies don’t fit in with the plan have to go somewhere. When I’m not thinking of two books concurrently, I’ve got short stories, comic scripts, book reviews, blog posts or articles I want (or need) to write. I keep a list of everything I’ve started working on, everything I’m noodling with, and everything that needs doing on both the creative side and the business side of writing by my desk. If I feel I’m floundering on the main project (usually a novel, but whatever has the nearest deadline) this allows me to keep writing something to keep my momentum topped up.

When I started my writing career, I didn’t have much spare money to devote to it, and so book reviews were a necessity, I scrambled for enough of them to pay my way to one out of town conference a year or replace/repair an ailing computer. I felt it was necessary, but it was a disruption to my fiction momentum. A good disruption, I feel in the end, and a good lesson for the value of paid work and obligations versus passion projects. I’ve gotten used to switching gears, because I realized I had to. While I was waiting for edits to come in on my first novel, I didn’t want to start anything big, worried if I’d put it aside, I wouldn’t be able to pick it up again, but in the end, I spent most of the year surrounding the release of my first book doing nothing, when I could’ve been polishing up the draft on my second book, or drafting the third and final book in the trilogy.

The longest I take away from writing is when the book actually comes out, when I have to be more present: writing blogs, doing interviews, going on tour for readings and events. I’m training myself to work on the road. That skill isn’t where I’d like it to be (yet), but I do write on the plane and on the bus. I try to do a bit of work in the mornings before conventions get rolling. I don’t want to duck away to HAVE to do work, but I need for the work to be done, and so I do some every day.
There’s always the next book waiting to be written."

Thanks, Chad. Both your work and your work ethic are amazing.

Chadwick Ginther is the Prix Aurora Award nominated author of the Thunder Road Trilogy (Ravenstone Books). His short fiction has appeared recently in Tesseracts, The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, and Grimdark Magazine. He lives and writes in Winnipeg, Canada, spinning sagas set in the wild spaces of Canada's western wilderness where surely monsters must exist.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


IN KEEPING WITH THE THEME of what writers do after they've finished a book, I've been asking a few of my friends if they take a break or move on to their next project. Gerald Brandt, who's debut novel The Courier through DAW Books (and which I thought was terrific), has this to say:

"When I'm in the middle of writing a novel, I can't think of anything else. When I'm finished a novel, I want to think about anything but. I've been away from the real world and my family for so long, especially near the end of the writing process, that all I want to do is relax and just be for a while. I'll avoid going into my office, and if I do, I just do Facebook and email, maybe some Twitter.

Eventually I'll notice my six foot by four foot white board is still covered in sticky notes. My office floor is layered in paper. I've got a box in the corner that has every printed copy of the novel in it, complete with edit marks. I start to go crazy.

The first thing to go is the sticky notes. They've all been transcribed into a spreadsheet months ago anyway. Then the place gets a general tidying. Almost everything goes except the box in the corner. It's waiting for copy edits from my editor, maybe an ARC, and the finished book before it gets put away.

For book two of the San Angeles Series, The Operative, I didn't have time to unwind. My schedule was tight, and I had to get book three started right away. My body found ways to enforce the required time I needed to unwind, and in doing so, actually made the down time longer than what I was used to. I'll know better next time."

Thanks, Gerald. His next book in his San Angeles series, The Operative, through Penguin Group USA, will be available November, 2016. If it's as action-packed and thrilling a read as his debut novel, The Courier, it's going to be a fantastic book.

Gerald's Bio: Gerald Brandt is an international best-selling author of Science Fiction and Fantasy. By day, he's an IT professional and coding guru. In his limited spare time, he enjoys riding his motorcycle, rock climbing, camping, and spending time with his family. You can find Gerald online at