Tag Archives: budding writers

Fun at the Signing Table – The Contract!

My Big, Cool Contract


I just signed the contract for my 17th novel  which gave me the idea. My first contact as a budding writer, years ago, was a not such a good one, and I was saved only because the publisher went bankrupt.  This contract is my third with this publisher and their conditions are fair.

There’s a lot more than the  traps told by the snakes. CAVEAT: I’m not a lawyer.  In case of problems, the best is to consult an IP specialist.

The Writer’s Union of Canada offers sound advice too.   More precisions on the US Copyright Office. The website Writers Beware presents a good overview of rights vs copyrights. For those of you pondering about indie publishing, I do recommand the very well-organized series of articles The Business Rusch by the poly-genres author Kris Rusch.

My husband often wears a Marillion T shirt in the comics, a group that he likes.

The page is my hidden homage to  Andre Franquin, the creator of the pesky “laughing” Gull featuring in the Gaston Lagaffe series. And in this comic. As for my own signature, it figures in the middle of the page for a change…

And, about the copy…

The Big, Cool Contract: Epilogue

Fun at the Signing Table – Territorial Dispute

Territorial DisputeAt any event, signing tables are at a premium… It’s the only time we can meet face to face and, may be, win over new readers. Ugly fights might erupt, especially with schedule errors getting more common! Fortunately, the friendly  stand manager is present!

PS: and, yes, I changed the title in English for this series.

Friendly advice on the Clarion blog

The Clarion foundation helps budding writers of genre (SF, fantasy, fantastique, horror) to develop and mature their style. I had the joy of being invited by Lynda Williams (the author of the Okal Rel saga)  to write a few posts from my own perspective of a SF writer with comic artist.

So my first post was about extending our writing roots to achieve a deeper connection with the reader. The illustrations are my own.

The last one is an  account of my big, fat, first novel and its endless incarnations!

Carrying a heavy novel project!

I am working on four more writing posts. Coming soon: The secret well of ideas, a another take at the well-known fan question: where do you get your ideas? 

The Research Iceberg… a hidden danger for writers and readers alike!

As a SF writer, research is an essential part of my work. But I sometimes do too much of it!

Too much research for that novel?

If the finished product is burdened with heavy lumps of exposition, those annoying scattered blocks will slow down the story  – and the reader’s interest.

Many people saying “You know, I don’t like science-fiction” are often more afraid of those lumps, than they would be  of a gripping story with warm-hearted characters affected by  loyalty conflicts.

Even for fantasy world-builders, the internal logic of the magic-or-supernatural workings requires a fair amount of thinking. And, as magical as the world is, the story must be well grounded in reality. How many fantasy novels, for instance, demonstrate a total lack of knowledge about equine biology and maintenance? One of my friends, who raises horses and loves fantasy, is appalled by what she reads.

And some SF or fantasy authors, too proud of their word-building, dump large exposition blocks on the unsuspecting reader! “I suffered for my art, and so must you!

Research is like an iceberg.
The Research Iceberg - a conundrum for the writer... and the reader!

There is the emerged part, the novel that you enjoy. But whatever the number of pages, there is a larger, hidden part underwater.

Not enough research under it and your story collapses under the contradictions, impossibilities, logical errors and paper-thin characters.

But when the universes and societies are lovingly built, the strong foundation even allows other writers to participate in it! Two examples: The Darkover series by Marion Zimmer Bradley and the Honor Harrington series by David Weber have spawned many paper children.

According to the readers’ ages or familiarity with the concepts, the submerged part of the iceberg is around 90%. For a simpler story, you may choose to tone down the emerged part. A story aimed at children will be a smaller icebeerg. A vast work, like the Martian trilogy of Kim S. Robinson will be a huge iceberg!

Hal Clement, in my view,  left more of his research over the waterline… But that was the good ol-days of science-fiction writing! I found Needle, aimed at young adults, captivating, even when the concept of “teen” and “young adult” did not exist at the time!

In my latest SF novel, La spirale de Lar Jubal, aimed at YA, I set aside about 99%  of my painstaking research and physics calculations for the space station, to concentrate on the visual  and dynamic aspects, and on the character’s conflicts.

Nevertheless, I put some visual information at the beginning of the novel.

An example of world-building... with a floating garden!

In my upcoming SF novel, aimed at the “Oh, I don’t like science fiction” crowd,  there are very few numbers, but more active descriptions of stunning settings and actions. The planet and science aspects are explained only by their impact on the characters’ lives.

And I must manage, of course, the sense of wonder…as this Winds of Tammerlan novel cover suggests.

The SOW cover by the artist

Another time, I will explain why science-fiction is like chocolate…

Random pics from the last Spec Fic colloquium

The format of the Toronto Spec Fic colloquium, (one day, one track of presentations, then one evening of readings) was perfect for my busy schedule. The setting was very Gothic, at the Hart House, in the center of Toronto.

Inner Court of the Hart house

There, I finally met Peter Watts. I read his fiction via Nimbus, a story he published in a Solaris (issue 143), then later came in contact with his online fiction, which prompted me to buy the books!

Sunday artist with Peter Watts

The Sunday artist meets Peter Watts.
Nooo, don’t look below!


I used a prop for the photo, but reaching his level of SF writing will take a lot more time and efforts! Peter Watts is a specialist in marine biology, and is not afraid to consult and do extensive research for his novels. And he is also a proud squid overlord! (The squid term now refer to us SF writers, from a rather disparaging comment made about Science Fiction by Margaret Atwood. And I was in the room in 2003 when she uttered a similar comment!)

Julie Czerneda and Michele

Julie Czerneda, another Science-fiction writer who does not forget the science in Science-fiction. We look so nice from my arm’s length (and it did not need  climbing on a chair) !  I came back from the Spec Fic with her cool Trade Pact Universe trilogy.

Tony Burgess and Brett Savory at the Chizine table

Tony Burgess (He gave an ominous talk about raising young children while writing horrible things. We were treated to his recent horror novel trailer ) and to the right, Brett Savory, at the Chizine table. I also met David Nickle, whose dark fiction I discovered this year.

Karl Schroeder, Brett Savory and friends

Karl Schroeder with Brett Savory and friends.

Claude Lalumière gave a challenging speech, on when too much researching and science conformity can deter the creative sparks. Ahem. I myself tend to sink in the research for my SF novels… so as a budding writer, I was sensible to the arguments. But, as a former mad scientist, I like my science to be as up to date as possible in my novels

I bought his Object of Worship collection, and discovered a new and rich voice in the weird and fantastic. (More on my Goodread thread later!)


I took a few hours to walk at the Tightrope books office to assist to a very useful workshop on writing for children (and young adults), given by Marina Cohen. Her last novel, Ghost ride, is on the shortlist for the Red Maple Award given by the Ontario Library Association. She gave us tips on the craft, and also the business aspects of writing for a younger audience.

Tightrope Books office

Then, I walked back to the Hart House, on this fine autumn afternoon.

Election Boards

Or did I mention “on this fine municipal election day”?


A nice mural on the way.

Weeping willow

A weeping willow…

cats in their vantage  look out

And cute cats in a window, yaay!! Spying on the passer-by…

The nice hostel where I took the dozen or books from the Spec Fic for the night (as the event lasted until around midnight)! I began reading Maelstrom, by Peter Watts, then Object of Worship.

Pembroke Hostel

One hour at the signing table

Here is the photographic adaptation of the comics in the previous post, by an enthusiastic fan.

The one hour signing session at  a literature event

Réalisation by Christ Oliver, with Jean-Louis Trudel, a fellow science fiction author.

Now we are hoping for the movie adaptation.  It would not be a big-budget feature, but it would certainly echo with the many writers almost drowning in a sea of publications traveled by big corporate ships chasing the elusive best-sellers…

A tribute to all of you, artists able to create without the pressure of success!

The secret well of ideas

The secret well of ideas !If there is one question that every published author hears at other events, it is this one : But where do you get all those ideas ?

Secret well of ideasMany people who dream of becoming a (famous) writer are scratching their head to find this mysterious well of ideas. Most are under the impression that writers form a tight circle around a secret lair of the golden-egg-laying hen. The secret well of inspiration, teeming with ideas!

This belief joins another one : all writers signing at the events are filthy rich!  Or if they are not, it must be because they don’t have access to a good well.

This in nonsense, as chance and fashion are the capricious ingredients that make or unmake successes. Also, many are convinced that once this idea has been fished out of the well, the main work is done, the book will write itself! Hence this ubiquitous anguished question : will someone steal my idea?

Relax, it is rather the opposite. Ideas are like dandelion seeds, easy to blow : pfffffuit!

Chaaas blowing dandelion seeds

They are blown in the sky half-formed, and many budding writers try to capture them with  clumsy fingers ! When they manage to catch one, they notice that there is still a long way  between the seed and the grown tree, between the idea and the completed book!

About ideas, the following scene happens often at a signing table (preferably when the writer is alone). A fan walks by, telling of his wonderful idea for a novel, an idea so genial that the writer should leave all his current projects to do the hard work on it! It happens especially with the SF writers…

An idea may be a very small seed at the beginning, so we must not try to pull from it a completed 600-page spy novel !

Imagine if the writers worked like that!

(Who is this author?)

Les Nuages de Phoenix (The Clouds of Phoenix) was my first SF novel aimed at YA. The novel idea took a long time to grow.

It began with a simple mental picture, a girl looking at the clouds. One of my favorites activities when I was a child. I happened to like meteorology (and I later followed climatology courses when studying Geography). The place took form, Phoenix is another planet with a green sky. Why green? Ah, enter the airborne particles size, and many other explorations.

In that special environment, I found out that the little girl, Blanche,  was handicapped, a consequence of a grave accident, and she wears an exosqueleton that gives her legs the capability of running at 80 km/h (a fun fact when I mention it in classrooms). New characters appear : Blanche has a family: an big sister in love , a father worrying about the oxygen production plant, etc.  Those characters grow and eventually become like friends of the writer. This is a very nice step in the creative process, and I will come back to it in a future blog entry.

Cover of Les nuages de Phoenix

The clouds of Phœnix‘s seed idea took about one year to grow discreetly, before I was ready to write the full-length manuscript. Afterwards, there has been the long rewriting and edition process under my editor’s eye. All in all, the novel took almost two years (working on it part-time) between the seed and the finished work.

I wrote about the challenge of growing a story in my French blog. A story begins as a tiny seed, which we put in soil and water, leaving it for a time. But the idea grows in silence. And nothing prohibits us to have more than one idea growing! Certain will get ripe earlier than the others.

So, our inspiration tree must be fed, in three ways. We draw first from our own life experience, that help to get empathy with what our characters are living through. Then by our readings, any kind of reading: for researching our subject, for fun, for exploring different genres and ways of storytelling.. and last but not least, our imagination, always creating bridges.

The inspiration Tree

Many of those links may be absurd, but some will prove fecund.

A writer cannot get into an ivory tower and tell himself that his fertile imagination will be enough. Our plant needs watering, fertilizer, care: the three inspiration sources interact between themselves. And when the story gets too profuse, the care will later include pruning

(to be continued…)