Sunday, 26 July 2015

Five Rivers 5-Book Launch in Victoria, BC

On the hot summer’s day of  June 27th, authors Paula Johanson, Dave Duncan and Nowick Gray held a collaborative book launch for:

  • Nowick Gray's quintessential Northern mystery, Hunter's Daughter

  • Paula Johanson's biography, King Kwong: the China Clipper who broke the NHL colour barrier, released May 1st; and the newly revised and expanded edition of her fantasy, Tower in the Crooked Wood, released June 1st.
  • Dave Duncan's 50th book, the fantasy mystery, The Eye of Strife ; and the omnibus edition of Ivor the Runner series, The Adventures of Ivor. 

The readings started with Paula talking about King Kwong, a biography that addresses the two very Canadian themes of hockey and diversity.

Paula Johanson reading from King Kwong

Dave read from The Eye of Strife a fantasy novel in which 'the usual suspects' are questioned about a missing religious relic. Dave talked about the importance of making fantasy accessible to readers.

Dave Duncan, center, reads from Eye of Strife

Nowick read last. Audience member (and fellow writer), Susan Mayse, complimented Hunter’s Daughter particularly for its rich Northern settings, as she was familiar with many of the locations in the book.
Nowick Gray about to read.

The event was pronounced a success.

Five Rivers would like to extend our thanks to our authors, Paula and Dave, for organizing the event and securing the venue. We would also like to thank Fay Johanson for being our liaison with Britannia Branch of the RC Legion, and to Karl Johanson for hosting the event and for the above photos, and most of all, much gratitude to the attendees.

For any questions about our books, authors or other book events, please reach us at

Monday, 20 July 2015

Day in the Life of an Editor

From the Desk of Robert Runté, Senior Editor: 11 year-old is having trouble getting to sleep one night, so I offer to sit with her until she is asleep. I bring my computer so I won't be bored and so she can't talk to me when she should be trying to get to sleep. And I'm doing my email, because that's the sort of not-having-to-concentrate work you do when you're in a dark room waiting for your 11 year-old to finally fall asleep, when I get an email from horror writer JW Schnarr...which I open to see this:

...which not something you want your 11 year-old to see last thing before she goes to sleep, particularly since you're there because of the potential monsters under the bed. I yank the computer screen to face the other way before she sees it, and of course that motion causes her to sit up and ask what is wrong and etc., and I'm trying to think of how to explain why there is a man eating a leg on my computer screen, when I realize she has a sleep mask on and couldn't have seen anything anyway.


I calm her down again, and then turn to replying to Schnarr's email. My problem is, I had asked Schnarr to send me a photo for a poster I was doing for Five Rivers Publishing featuring a number of authors, Schnarr included, because he had objected to my using this photo:

Now, I had assumed he vetoed this one because it was too aggressive, particularly in a poster featuring the smiling, approachable head-and-shoulder photos of the other authors. But apparently I was completely wrong, and he had objected because it was too tame. I forgot that horror writers do not see the world quite like you or I.

So, I wrote back saying that he had perhaps misunderstood the purpose of the poster, which was to help attendees at the When Words Collide Festival recognize Five River authors to make them more approachable, and not, as he apparently believed, a wanted poster to scare people away. I further explained that sending me such photos as I sat with my afraid-of-the-dark 11 year-old was counter-productive, vis-a-vis getting her to sleep. To which he replied:

    Definitely not "calm down and go to sleep, there are no monsters" material.

    My daughter was brought up on a slightly different strategy. The "Yes there are monsters, and they are hiding under your bed waiting for you to get up or make some noise, so they can drag you away into the darkness..." strategy.

    Worked like a charm! My kid NEVER got out of bed!

Did I mention horror writers see things very differently?

I should clarify that Schnarr is in reality one of the nicest guys I ever met, and I've met his daughter who seems a well-adjusted, creative teenager.

JW Schnarr will be at When Words Collide Festival, Calgary, August 14-16, 2015, along with six other Five Rivers Publishing authors and two 5R staff. JW Schnarr is the author of Things Falling Apart and A Quiet Place.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Five Rivers at When Words Collide Festival

From the Desk of Robert Runte:

Five Rivers will have seven authors and two staff attending the When Words Collide Festival in Calgary, August 14-16, 2015. It's my favorite writers convention because of the high proportion of writers, the cross-genre orientation/cross-pollination, and the high quality of the programming.

I missed that Susan MacGregor (pictured below) was going to WWC this year until after I'd already done the poster, but she'll be there too, and doing a reading from book 3 of the Tattooed Witch series, a historical fantasy set in a world reminiscent of 16th century Spain and the New World. Her other books include The ABC’s of How Not to Write Speculative Fiction is based on her 20+ years’ experience as a fiction editor with On Spec Magazine. She has edited two anthologies, Tesseracts Fifteen: A Case of Quite Curious Tales (Edge Books) and Divine Realms (Ravenstone Books). (I liked Tesseracts 15 better because it included on of my stories!) Her blog, Suzenyms, talks about writing and editing.

And I get a lot of business done there. Of the seven 5R authors who have so far confirmed they are going this year, I signed five of them to book deals with Five Rivers after meeting/hearing them read/talking to them at WWC. (The two exceptions are Nowick, who submitted through the publisher; and Susan MacGregor who I had first heard read at another convention, and I merely badgered her for her series at WWC. Still....WWC represents a great networking opportunity for writers, editors, publishers, and fans.)

For Five Rivers annual book session at WWC, this year we are doing a DOUBLE book launch on Saturday at 1PM (in Fireside Room): Marie Powell's Hawk and Nowick Gray's Hunter's Daughter. Hawk is a young adult fantasy set in 1282 Wales, with a brother-sister team trying to save their family and the royal baby from the English invaders; Hunter's Daughter is a murder mystery, and definitely not young adult. Nowick's book has been available for a couple of months, but have to admit it's touch and go whether Hawk will arrive in time from the printer's--I caught a glitch with the chapter headings just as it was about to go to print, which put us a week or so behind schedule. Still, reasonably confident there will be copies to show and sell at the launch.

Five Rivers will also be doing a pitch session (come and try to sell your novel to Five Rivers and join the likes of the above, Dave Duncan, Ann Marston, Matt Hughes, and a host of others...; a blue pencil café where editors critique something you've written (for free!); and a number of panels.

I also recommend the pre-conference workshops, for which I understand there are still some openings, which I have found in the past to have been outstanding. Well worth the very low--deliberately accessible rates--charge. Last year I think I paid $40 each to listen to Adrianne Kerr--Penguin Canada's editor for commercial fiction--and Mark Leslie Lefebvre, head of Kobo's Writing Life arm, either of whom could easily command 10 times that for a workshop. (I can't be there myself again this year, because I'll be in New York until just the day before WWC Festival, otherwise would love to attend this year's workshops.)

Try to catch our Five River author's readings and panel appearances, and talk to our authors and staff at the various parties over the weekend. WWC doesn't end when the programming is over--various publishers and organizations host open parties to which everyone is invited; and there is also the convention 'consuite', a low keyed, continuous party hosted by the con. Lots of opportunities for networking.

If you are going to WWC this year, I'd love it if you could get some pics of 5R people for me to post on the blog, Facebook, Pinterest and so on. Hey, maybe I should organize a scavenger hunt, with the first person/group to get pictures of all 9 5R authors/staff at WWC this year to get a free book? Well, we'll see.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Are Canadians Boring?

From the desk of Senior Editor, Robert Runté

Jeet This Week (June 23, 2015) on CBC's Q gave a fascinating rant entitled, "Canada hides behind the myth of boringness". It's worth the nine minutes and 3 seconds it takes to listen, though I'm most interested in what he has to say in the last half: his theories of why Canadian history is (portrayed as) so boring.

He's not wrong when he says "Canada has constructed a mask of boringness...a facade...." (7.28) It's not that interesting things don't happen here, it's that we don't want to acknowledge anything negative or controversial in our history. Jeet's explanation is, in my view, right on. Worth a listen.

I can't even refute Jeet's statement (8:23) that

    "If I'm working with a Canadian editor, and there's anything that's quirky or funny, that gets taken out right away. Whereas, if I hand the same piece to an American editor, they'll like, again, just circle it and say, 'put that in the first paragraph'."

I would love to say that never actually happens, but...that's been my experience as a writer too. When my co-editor and I turned in our first textbook (Thinking About Teaching: An Introduction) I was really proud of the fact it had a lot of funny bits in it--which the publisher's editors promptly made us take out. The problem was that when the publisher sent the text out to instructors in similar courses across Canada--that is, the book's potential buyers--they all complained that we weren't 'serious' enough about the various topics covered. That made no sense to me: since when did 'serious' equate with 'dull'? But I needed tenure, which meant I needed to get the book published, so what could we do? We took the funny bits out.

I did manage to retain one extended Star Trek reference, and I fought to keep one chapter that was clearly outrageous (because it was an article I had written, and therefore, again something I needed for tenure), but that was the best we could salvage. (Well, it was still a decent textbook, just not what you'd call entertaining.) Significantly, while the text went out of print relatively quickly, that one 'outrageous' chapter has been reprinted in course readers in Education courses across Canada every year since for the last 25 years--because, I suspect, it's really hard to find readings on Canadian education that aren't boring.

The point, of course, is that it doesn't have to be this way. Now that I am Senior Editor with a publisher, I'm finally in a position to say 'no' to boring textbooks. Our series on the Prime Ministers of Canada does not shy away from the controversial, from the negative, or from engaging writing.

Nor have we committed the other crime against history that Jeet didn't get into: textbooks that condescend to their readers. Have you looked at your kid's text lately? These days, most K-12 texts seem to strip out substance for pages of colorful but questionably relevant pictures; include cute cartoon characters to cajole students to read the next paragraph; include 'review questions' that send students on a 'scavenger hunt' to find facts they can pluck out of context to fit in the blanks of meaningless worksheets. Head::Desk. As if students could never find their own history interesting, could never voluntarily read a biography of their Prime Minster(s); could never actually read a block of text without pictures. Perhaps there are students so overwhelmed by hypertext and visual media that they can no longer tolerate actual books, but if those hypothetical kids actually exist anywhere, they are not our target audience. We publish books for readers, and believe that given half a chance, kids, like adults, prefer books that don't talk down to them.

And that aren't boring.

See also:

  • Runté on the Prime Ministers of Canada series
  • Author interviews: The Prime Ministers of Canada series
  • Wednesday, 17 June 2015

    Shadow Song, by Lorina Stephens, called haunting and beautiful

    This reader review recently appeared at Read and Blog.

    Thursday, June 4, 2015

    Shadow Song by Lorina Stephens

    Published by Five Rivers

    Haunting and beautiful, I couldn't put this book down. Partly historical, partly supernatural yet grounded, and always in tune with nature. This is a child's journey to adulthood through very different lifestyles. Beginning in pre-Victorian England, only child to moderately wealthy parents, Danielle sees her world crumble as her uncle, the older son who had inherited from his parents, proceeds to bankrupt his younger brother, Danielle's father. As a result, it isn't long before the family is reduced to living on the streets. The deaths of her parents through starvation, disease and depression leave her an orphan and she is sent to live with her only living relative, the uncle who caused their demise.

    Arriving in Upper Canada, she is amazed at so much living nature...tall forests everywhere, the world feels alive. But she fears her uncle, and apparently rightly so, as kind people are worried for her welfare and do their best to protect her on the long journey she must take before reaching her uncle's hovel. Based upon a true tragedy that occurred in the village of Hornings Mills, Ontario, Canada, what follows is a terrifying escape and run for her life. Her uncle is so ruthless he will hunt her down forever.

    Meeting Shadow Song, an Ojibwa shaman, the story becomes beautiful amidst the horror she will soon face. She has a self-appointed protector in Shadow Song, and he is always watching out for her. I loved this wonderful lyrical story. It will linger with me for a long time. Lorina Stephens is a mesmerizing writer, combining historical settings with mystical story-telling. No matter the horrors that may appear in the story, there is beauty as well. This is a coming-of-age story and an adventure story unveiling itself exquisitely. I am now definitely a fan of Lorina Stephens.

    Posted by nightreader at 9:52 AM No comments: Links to this post
    Labels: Canadian, fiction, historical, Ojibwa, orphan, pre-Victorian England, shaman


    Monday, 15 June 2015

    Eye of Strife 'a page-turner' says Goodreads reviewer

    Tony King's Reviews > The Eye of Strife

    's review
    May 16, 15

    Read in May, 2015

    The Eye of Strife is not a long book, but it is brimming with everything Dave Duncan fans love and have come to expect. The religious and political systems ring true. There's intrigue, romance, action (yes, more swordfighting), gods who take an active interest in the lives of their worshippers, a mysterious, possibly powerful, talisman, and a strong sense of justice. His voice is engaging, devious, sly and humourous.

    It's a book that will appeal especially to those who like the Omar books and The Alchemist's Apprentice series. In some ways, it's a cross between Agatha Christie's gathering of the suspects and Tolkien's quests.

    That this is his 50th book had escaped my notice until today; it's an accomplishment worthy of applause. The Eye of Strife is a page-turner from start to the all-too-soon climax.
     ∙ flag


    Friday, 12 June 2015

    5 stars for Hunter's Daughter at LibraryThing

    Great review in from a Early Reviewer at LibraryThing for Nowick Gray's crime drama set in 1960s Ungava.

    This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
    I received this through the Early Reviewers' program.

    This is by far the best book I have received through Library Thing's Early Reviewers' program.
    A tense crime story, this is not the usual sort of police procedural (a genre I read often and enjoy). The difference was that this is placed in a particular culture clash: between Inuit people of northern Canada and the (mainly and dominant) white Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
    This made for a fascinating story. The police officer, working against incredible cultural odds in northern Quebec, trying to solve a murder mystery in really remote parts of that province. The native people, some of whom have had no contact with 'western' people, have a very different way of dealing with the issues that arise.
    I enjoyed this story from the very start to the end. The setting was just so different from my personal experience that I was in thrall. The culture clash, while set in this story in the 1960s is just as real today in places where native peoples have no way of understanding the ways of the ruling culture.
    For a complete outsider, this was great story-telling. Thank you Nowick. I'll be looking for other books of yours.  )
    1 vote   flagbuttsy1 | May 29, 2015 | 
    Hunter's Daughter is available in print and eBook formats directly from Five Rivers, or from your favourite online bookseller.