The 4th Pocono Writers Conference

It seems like just yesterday that I organized the first Pocono Writers Conference, and now we will soon have the 4th.

This year’s conference will be held on January 21, 2017, at the Hughes Library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania.  Admission is free — however, as I write this, we are full!

But there is an exception.

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Besides their regular lecture, each of the panelists will have a critique where you can send them a writing sample in advance by email and they will go over it with you there at the Conference. This is only $20. Come on, where else can you get a good critique from  established writers (including a New York Times bestselling author) as well as a New York literary agent? If you sign up for at least one of the critiques, we will find a space for you to attend the rest of the Conference.

Here’s the schedule:

9:00: Introductions

9:15: TEE MORRIS: The Physics of Fighting: Swords, Sidearms, and All-Too-Common Slip-Ups: Hollywood does two things for writers: They make fight scenes look incredibly cool, and make a writer’s job to capture that kind of excitement increasingly difficult. How do you get it right?

10:30: ALIA HANNA HABIB: Know Your Genre: Knowing the language of publishers’ book categories is essential in pitching your book to agents and editors. This workshop will teach you how to market your book by properly categorizing its genre and potential readers.

11:45: MEGAN HART: Point of View: Getting Inside the Right Character’s Head and Staying There. Figure out how to write in first or third person and which character needs to be telling the story by diving deep into point of view.

12:45: Lunch

1:45: PHILIPPA BALLANTINE: World Building: The basics of creating a world that lives and breathes around your characters, and how to use our world to inspire you

3:00: MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: Biggest Mistakes Made by New Authors: A short presentation of things to look out for

3:15: Panel Discussion and Question and Answer session with all panelists

Click here to read bios of all the participants and to sign up for the Conference. Don’t wait, because there are a limited number of critique spaces available and once they’re all filled, you won’t be able to attend.

The Writers Conference is sponsored by the Pocono Liars Club.

 

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The Mummy of Barnsley

Hey! Want to hear me read one of my stories for free?

The Mummy of Barnsley” takes place in the world of Philippa Ballentine and Tee Morris‘ “Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences” steampunk novels. They asked me to contribute a story to their “archives” podcast and as I am big fan of those books, I could not refuse. Plus they paid me.Diamond-Conspiracy_small

Here’s the story blurb: “Agent Ernest Throckmorton is called to Barnsley to investigate reports of a mummy terrifying the town. Throckmorton soon finds himself thrown together with an all too eager assistant desperate to be part of the Ministry, as they hunt down the meaning of the mummy’s ominous threat. All shall pay for the desecration of the tomb!”

I had a lot of fun writing this and hopefully, you will have a lot of fun listening to it. Try not to laugh when I attempt British accents.

I have had requests from people to get my books into audio, so here’s the next best thing. The entire story runs about 30 minutes and you can listen to it from your computer or download it for later. And then leave a comment to let Pip and Tee know you liked it!

Here’s the link. 

The 2nd Pocono Writers’ Conference

The 2nd Pocono Writers Conference is scheduled for January 11, 2015. We have some wonderful guest authors who will be making presentations and answering questions. Our Main Guest is novelist and screenwriter Chuck Wendig, who has written many advice books for authors.

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(Click on the poster for a bigger version.  Then print it out and post it everywhere!)

Last year, we did a day-long panel discussion over a number of topics. This year, each author will give an hour long presentation and at the end of the day we will have all of them together for a question-and-answer period.

I will be the host and emcee but will participate in the final question-and-answer period.

We’re discussing among ourselves what the topics will be but are abiding by the Pocono Writers Group’s desire to concentrate on writing skills as opposed to the kind of issues that come up after the work is done (such as getting an agent, whether to self-publish, and so on). The Q&A section will address anything though.

Registration is free but space is limited. You can reserve by calling the library at 570-421-0800 x 316 or by emailing reference@monroepl.org

This will be held at the Hughes Public Library in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, about 80 miles from New York city, just over the border from New Jersey. It will start around 9 am and run till 5 or so. Lunch is not provided but there are plenty of places nearby, you can bring a lunch, and the library may be selling sandwiches.

To learn more about our guests, check out their web pages:

Chuck Wendig
Tee Morris
Dennis Tafoya
Kathryn Craft
Michael A. Ventrella

Interview with Philippa Ballantine

MICHAEL A. VENTRELLA: I’m pleased to be interviewing author Philippa Ballantine today! New Zealand born fantasy writer and podcaster Philippa (Pip) Ballantine is the author of the “Books of the Order” and the “Shifted World” series. She is also the co-author with her husband Tee Morris of the “Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences” novels. avatar_hatHer awards include an Airship, a Parsec, the Steampunk Chronicle Reader’s Choice, and a Sir Julius Vogel. She currently resides in Manassas, Virginia with her husband, daughter, and a furry clowder of cats. Her web page is here and her twitter page is here!

Philippa, you have two new books coming out shortly. Let’s talk about HARBINGER first, which is the fourth in the “Book of the Order” series. Tell us about this.

PHILIPPA BALLANTINE: HARBINGER is the culmination of the previous three books, and I am actually rather sad to be leaving the world. Sorcha, Merrick and Raed have all been driven to literally the ends of the world. They discover that the Circle of Stars Order have plans to break the gap between the Otherside and the realm of humanity. Without their runes, Sorcha and her Deacons must take dangerous step to save their world, and all the time the Rossin, the great pard, is planning his own escape.

VENTRELLA: Then, a few weeks later, KINDRED AND WINGS, the second book in the “Shifted World” series is released. What is this series about?

BALLANTINE: The Shifted World series is all about chaos, and how people deal with it. In a world that cannot be trusted, with people warring amongst themselves, the endgame is coming quickly. The dragon Wahirangi and Finn the storyteller search for answers, while Talyn must decide her role in the world; destroyer or savior. Secrets will be revealed, time travelled through, and dragons will battle.

VENTRELLA: With your husband Tee Morris, you’ve also created the successful steampunk series “Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences”. harbingerHow did that creative process begin?

BALLANTINE: It actually began with a creative idea from Tee that was supposed to be set in current days. Then I wanted to experiment with a podcast for pay, so I suggested with do a prequel novel set in Victorian times. There was early interest from our agent in the series as novels, so the podcast idea morphed in that direction. It was a strange and delightfully circuitous path to publication!

VENTRELLA: How do you two split the writing on this? What’s your process? (Tee gave me his version a while ago when I interviewed him; I want to see how you saw the collaboration.)

BALLANTINE: We do a lot of brain storming of where we want to go, and sketch out a series of scenes. Tee does the Wellington scenes, I do Eliza’s, and we put our hands up for the other characters. Then once it is written, we swap and edit each other. We’ve got a pretty good grasp now, after three books, on how we do these things. It was tricky at first though!

VENTRELLA: The next Peculiar Occurrences book is scheduled to be out in the fall – that’s three in one year. You’ve been busy! How do you do it?

BALLANTINE: Lots and lots of marking calendars, and sharing them with Tee. I’ve also got better at prioritizing which projects come before others.

VENTRELLA: What is it about steampunk that interests you?

BALLANTINE: I love the creativity of the genre, and the heady mix of history. I’ve messed around with history before, but steampunk gives that freedom wings. Also the aesthetics are beautiful, and airships are just plain cool.

VENTRELLA: What makes your steampunk novels stand out among the others?

BALLANTINE: Tee and I have fun with our steampunk, but I think the real difference about our steampunk is the scope of the world view. Kindred and Wings_finalWe’ve not only done novels, but also short stories and podcasts, which have taken our readers and listeners all over the globe. Also, people seem to love our characters.

VENTRELLA: Why did you decide to move from New Zealand? (And given our politics here, do you regret the move?)

BALLANTINE: I moved from New Zealand to marry Tee, and I don’t regret it. One day we’ll probably move back to live, but right now with the writing I have the chance to go to New York to meet publishers, and the convention circuit in America provides a lot more opportunities to meet readers.

VENTRELLA: Speaking of conventions (where we’ve met numerous times), … do you find that is important for authors to do? What are the benefits of doing so?

BALLANTINE: I don’t know what the Return on Investment would be in monetary terms, but in terms of meeting fellow writers, and readers, it really can’t be measured. Writing is a solitary profession in most cases, and those kind of interactions are really needed. Tee and I have met readers who have cos-played our characters, people who have jumped up and down with delight (which I am still stunned about), and made innumerable contacts with other writers. There has to be a balance however, because you also have to write, but I would encourage new writers to try out at least a small local con.

VENTRELLA: What is it about science fiction and fantasy that attracts you?

BALLANTINE: The sheer scope of it. The speculative fiction genre imposes no limits on the imagination, and that is something that no other genre can offer. If you can imagine it, you can write it. From dragons to airships, from cyber-intelligences to minds of clockwork, all are possible.

VENTRELLA: The publishing industry is in tremendous flux right now. Editors and agents are so uncertain they are not taking risks on new authors, and small publishing houses are jumping in to fill the void. Given this, what sort of advice would you give an un-agented author with a manuscript? (Purely hypothetical, mind you …)

BALLANTINE: There are good agents out there. Laurie McLean of Foreword Literary is my agent, but also my partner in this business. dawnsearlylightI know that I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without her assistance and guidance.

So I think if you can find an agent like her that wants to be a true partner, then you should go that route. However, if you cannot, then a small publishing house is a great way to start, you can learn so much about editing, marketing, and the process of putting a book together.

If that route doesn’t work, then I don’t think self-publishing is a bad idea at all. The only caveat I would add is make sure you produce the best professional product possible. Hire editors and cover artists. If you take short cuts, don’t expect to get results.

VENTRELLA: Do you think the SFWA and other organizations will eventually have to consider small publishing houses and self-publishing?

BALLANTINE: I was actually on a panel recently where I heard that it is not beyond the realms of possibility that SFWA might go that way. It’s just a matter of working out how they decide on membership levels. Like the publishing industry trade organizations need to be flexible and move with the changing landscape.

VENTRELLA: What book have you read recently that you loved?

BALLANTINE: I was lucky enough to get a chance to blurb A STUDY IN SILKS by Emma Jane Holloway. It’s not coming out until September this year, but is worth the wait!

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