Category Archives: Books

Diversity Is For The Next Generation

Lately I’ve been asked a lot about why I do what I do by other writers and random people I deliver talks to.

Recently I participated in a panel about The Ghost In The Shell Controversy at Anime North and had originally written initial thoughts here – comparing the movie to a sub-par hamburger. Before the panel started, a fellow panelist whispered, “I’m glad that we have a token Asian on this panel!” Yup, I was the only non-white person on a panel which was about diversity.

Originally I wasn’t sure if we had enough material to fill an hour criticizing this Japanese manga based movie, but the audience filled the air with questions. The audience was very respectful and really wanted to understand why there was a controversy. A few panelists believed that nothing should change and things were fine. It was a bit disappointing, but I thought it was good that they had a forum to voice their opinions.

I was impressed that another panelist said that their issue was that the movie was about an Asian girl who grew up to become a white female robot and they found this horrifying as well as sad. That being Asian was not perfect and the worst! After they said this, black girls in the audience started snapping their fingers in the air!

We were asked again and again why there was a diversity problem in this movie. Finally I blurted out, “The issue is that the Asians in Asia don’t care about the Asians in North America!” An Asian girl approached me at the end and thanked me for that.

The Asian culture has been well established in Asia. But Asians in North America that don’t consider themselves Asians from Asia. This is a new phenomenon. Well, not that new, given the railroads were built in the 1800s and all. The new generations of Asians or “bananas/coconuts” (white on inside, yellow/brown on outside) grew up in a different culture and are outsiders in North America and in Asia. We are discriminated by our ancestors’ culture and in the culture we live in. We aren’t good enough for either sides.

The diversity issue is important to us because we know we don’t want to go back to Asia and want to contribute to the society we live in currently, outside of Asia. We want to share our insights and add to the arts. However, when you are told over and over again that you are not good enough to contribute anything; while being told that yes, you are an equal in society (since you pay taxes), you become angry at the hypocrisy.

“You’ll never be seen as a Canadian,” my father told me once. “People think you are from China.” He was telling me to stop believing that I fit into Canadian society and to accept that there was no equality here. He always thought that I was a naive optimist who dreamed too much. If there is no change, he is correct, we will never be able to fit into society we live in.

The other day I met with some famous Asian Canadian writers to invite them as guests to speak at a future Asian literature conference in Toronto. I had to bring my toddler with me because my husband couldn’t babysit last minute. Anyhow, these two men (both had no kids) were asking me why I was planning a conference when I had a child to take care of. What was my motive? 

I do what I do for the next generation, was my answer, as I held my wiggly toddler who was kicking me in the shin the whole time. He’s half Asian and half Caucasian – he’s not going to fit in anywhere as a halfie (or hybrid as some people tell me). Sometimes I feel guilty because I think life would have been easier for him if he was fully Caucasian. That somehow my Asian blood contaminated his future. I know this stems from an inferiority complex, of being told everyday that you aren’t good enough…Fighting for equality is draining and there are days when I just want to give up.

But, I can’t give up, I don’t have a choice. By bringing more Asian literature and diversity debates into the world, the next generation will not have to fight as much to have their voices heard and perhaps live in a better world we envisioned for ourselves when we were younger.

Heck, to be honest, I don’t want to waste my time debating about being Asian or what not either. Until everyone is on equal footing, these conversations will continue. As I mentioned in one of my talks at Anime North, there are more robots and aliens on book covers than Asian people! Somehow, that doesn’t sit well with me, which is why I speak up as much as I can.

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Trump Kickstarter & 5 Tips on Successful Submissions

Whoopee! The Kickstarter Campaign for Trump: Utopia or Dystopia? Anthology is now live! Press release is also live in which we talk to two writers (Chris McGrane & Mathias Jansson) about why they sent in stories.

The Kickstarter is more for PR than anything else. We really, really, really want to find readers for our books and this is one way of finding them as well as pre-selling some copies. Although the submission deadline is June 4, 2017 we have started signing contracts with some writers and doing editing rounds in preparation to deliver Kickstarter goods.

So far we have signed 7 contracts. Our book aims to publish at least 20 pieces. We actually hope to publish closer to 25-30 if we receive more submissions that are too fantastic to resist.

Editing is super subjective and for this anthology I’m working with another editor, so there are two of us. Sometimes our schedules don’t match, but I think we will be ok as we haven’t gotten into any real fights over editing…yet…

I am dreading the task of sending out rejection letters but it will happen eventually. I’ll have to remind people that sometimes it’s really us and not them because another editor might have snapped their story up immediately. This did happen with one story that was sent in and 3 weeks later we were informed that it had been sold. That’s why we are fine with simultaneous submissions, heck, why delay a person a chance to sell to another publisher?

Today I received a really nice email from a writer who was super hyped that their story was chosen. I totally understood how they felt because I have gotten more rejection letters than acceptance ones myself! Out of so many stories, why did we chose their story?

  1. The writing was tight – this person did a lot of editing and they took out a lot of unnecessary words. Grammar, punctuation, spelling was pretty good – not perfect – but editors need something to clean up!
  2. The story had a limited number of characters – there was only one main character in the story and everything was focused on them. When there are too many characters, things get confusing super fast. Also, the writer can’t concentrate on writing a lot about each person and there is shallow character development.
  3. There was a clear arc (beginning, middle, end) – in the beginning the reader didn’t know what was going on, then things got a bit clearer through flashbacks with the main character describing what happened before the ending hit. In some stories too many things are happening, such as too many flashbacks, which makes timing of sequences confusing. Or the ending is too ambiguous and the editor isn’t sure if the story really ended or is missing a page.
  4. Surprise twists are great – in this case, the editor (me) is also a writer, so I can see a lot of plot devices coming. When something happens that surprises me I get really excited.
  5. They built a credible world – the world built had a set of rules which was explained as the story went on and had enough logic that the reader was able to buy in. The main character explained why things were a certain way in the story. Sometimes in other stories there is a librarian or a mentor figure that can do this as well.

One good reference guide is “The Hero’s Journey” which describes how to write a story describing a hero/main character, their adventures and finally the end. The link is to a condensed version, the book is longer than one webpage!

Style guides are also useful if you are writing a story which cites titles or has irregular dialogue, such as the character listening to the radio. The Canadian government has a free style guide and Writer’s Digest also has free resources. The Chicago Manual is one of the gold standards and a great reference.

We just edited a story in which the style/formatting drove us crazy. But we did it because the story was fantastic. Otherwise, we would have said forget it, since it cost us so many hours to clean us! Bottom line, write a great story and the editors can forgive you for everything else!

 

 

 

 

Live Radio Interview, Friday, June 13, 9-11pm

This coming Friday I’ve been invited onto the “Beyond the Mundane” radio show to talk about my Undead Sorceress book and other stuff. We’ll be giving out copies of my book to some lucky callers as well!

I’ll be on from 9-11pm and here is the link.

A  bit nervous as I’m not sure what will happen since it’s live and I know there will be a few callers phoning in. I’m not very good at improve, so random questions do scare me! But I guess I have to practice or I’ll never get over my fear over answering things on the fly!

 

June 7, 2014 Sat Book Signing at Artscape Wychwood Barns

If you are free this upcoming Sat morning in Toronto, I’m doing a book signing/selling thing at a farmer’s market at Artscape Wychwood Barns. A bookstore called Accents located there will stock my book on a consignment basis. 

This time coincides with a Farmer’s market and live music, so come by for the festivities!

My Viking husband will around of course!  Stop by and say hi if you have time!

 SATURDAY, June 7/2014 from 10:00am to 12:30pm

VENUE: The Stop Farmers’ Market, 601 Christie Street, Artscape Wychwood Barns, Toronto.

Book Signing, Reading and Sale “Undead Sorceress, Book 1 of The International House of Vampires Series” by JF Garrard (Author of Multicultural Fantasy Fiction & Non Fiction)

“Ever since Tamara became a vampire, things have gone downhill. Her grandma runs off with her daughter’s soul and then her husband thinks she’s gone crazy. The only thing certain right now is that she has to save her daughter, no matter what the cost. Caught in the middle of a war between vampires, sorceresses and warlocks, she discovers an alternative history to the world she thought she knew”

Hitting No. 1 in Asian Fantasy & Asian Fiction on Amazon Kindle

Today is the first day I’m doing a quick promo to give away a few e-books for free in exchange for reviews. Also, I’m at a Japanese Animation convention, Anime North, doing a few panels on publishing and Asian vampires.

After a long day of chatting with friendly people dressed as Sailormoon, Naruto and other fabulous creatures; I came home to do a quick check to see how the downloads were going. Surprisingly I hit number one in Fiction/Asian American and Fantasy/Asian!

Admittedly these are very niche categories,  but hey, No. 1 is better than No. 100 at the moment! Here’s hoping that I’ll find a great audience who likes to read things from a different perspective!

Meanwhile, greetings from me and a plant lady at Anime North (pic below)!

Kindle May 24 14

 

AN plant lady s

Cover reveal for The Literary Elephant!

Another book I have on the go is The Literary Elephant: The Beginner’s Guide to Indie Publishing. This book was started way back in November as part of National Novel Writing Month. People have been asking me where to buy this and alas, I have to tell them that it’s not done yet!

theliteraryelephant

This cover was completed by a fabulous graphics company based in Bosnia I found on Fiverr.com. They also helped me with the “How To Make a Munchkin” cover. I have to kick myself in the butt to keep going on finishing the manuscript for both the Munchkin and Elephant book as I have been so distracted by marketing activities for The Undead Sorceress.

However, I’ve learned a lot since launching one book and I predict things will be easier for me to release my other books.

One of my friends said I was getting too ambitious in wanting to release two more books by the end of the year, but what the heck, the manuscripts are 70% complete at this point! As an author, I don’t think you can survive on one book, so I need to keep going! Another thing I’ve been busy with is trying to write short stories as those are easier to sell than novels…yes, there aren’t enough hours in the day for me!

Paperback of The Undead Sorceress Released!

The paperback version of The Undead Sorceress was just released yesterday on April 24, 2014 ahead of the May 8 schedule. I don’t think this will ever happen again! I am maximizing the number 4 it seems with an April 24, 2014 release date. The number 4 sounds the same as “death” in the Chinese language and is typically avoided. Well, this book is about vampires who are undead so perhaps they are a lucky bunch and having so many 4s around this book is ok!

Retail list price is $15.99 USD and it is available on Amazon for now. In the near future it will be uploaded to other distributors to make it available at Barnes & Noble, etc.

Meanwhile, I’ve been prepping for book launches and Anime North, so I’ve ordered a stack of 300 books to carry with me everywhere. The book is damn heavy at 500 pages! The matte cover is beautiful though and the colors translate well from digital to print. And I’m a picky person when it comes to books! After going through 12 proofs, I’m finally happy, so I hope you will like how the book turned out too!

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Ebook and Print Book Publishing on Amazon

Over the last month I have been uploading my Kindle and Print version of the book onto Amazon for sale. The Kindle version was uploaded onto the KDP site and the Print version onto the Createspace site. Although both sites belong to Amazon, the structure of each site is different as they are considered separate entities.

Generally, the KDP site was much easier to work with, as you can upload your tax information digitally, obtain real time sales data and chose to be paid via direct deposit. Sadly, the Createspace site had only the option of mailing in your tax information, monthly sales data and only cheque payment options for Canadians. No cheques are mailed until you hit $100USD in royalties, so that might be a few years from now!

The 3D cover software on Createspace also impressed me as you can spin your cover around to make sure you “covered” the template you built your cover on. Alas, I still need to see the book in my hands to make sure the cover and pages printed properly.

3d cover 3 ides

For both sites after you upload, there is a 12-24 hour wait period as an Amazon staff needs to make sure that the file is properly formatted. For my Createspace cover I kept getting messages about the file not being big enough although I used their template. Of course, I have the option of not selling the book until I make sure the cover is perfect, which is great.

Amazon does tend to listen to their customers, which in this case, are the self-publishing authors. There was a demand for matte covers for print books versus glossy, so now there is an option for matte covers. People wanted real time sales data for kindle ebooks, so that is now available. When I had issues with uploading my cover to Createspace, I had the option of having someone contact me “now” or in 5 minutes. I chose “now” and my phone rang right away, connecting me to a service representative immediately.

Over the next few months I’ll be uploading onto other platforms, but Amazon is a good place to start. The software for uploading may not be as user friendly on other sites and there are extra fees if you need to re-upload again due to any mistakes in the file (free on Amazon to take down and upload again). Amazon has set a very high bar for self-publishing services and they can’t be beat at the moment. They are just so good! It’s only a matter of time before they take over the world with their other plans!