Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Aerin Caley joins Five Rivers' publishing team

It is with great pleasure we welcome Aerin Caley to the good ship Five Rivers in the capacity of copy-editor.
Aerin Caley
Aerin Caley has had a varied career: working as a writer, a technical writer, a shiatsu therapist, an editor and a reviewer. One uniting theme is her ongoing interest in communication of all types and a love affair with the eccentricities of the English language.

Working as an editor and proof-reader is a dream job for her, since it gives early access to a wide array of reading material, and license to point out all the errors she finds. She’s very pleased to have the opportunity to work with Five Rivers Publishing.

She may also be able to help you with your project.

We look forward to a long and rewarding voyage together.

Saturday, 29 August 2015

Senior Editor, Robert Runté chosen as Editor GoH

From the Desk of Senior Editor, Robert Runté:

I am deeply honoured to have been chosen as the Editor Guest of Honour for the When Words Collide Festival (Calgary), August 12-14, 2016; which is also that year's Canvention, the Canadian national SF&F convention at which the Aurora Awards are presented. Previous Editor GoHs at WWC have included Adrien Kerr (Editor of Commercial Fiction at Penguin Canada) and super literary agent, Sally Harding, so I feel I am in very distinguished company.

I'm excited but a little intimidated by the opportunity-- Sally Harding's GoH speech at this year's WWC was wonderful: funny, insightful, and uplifting. Tough act to follow!

I'll do my best.

Friday, 21 August 2015

WWC: Book Launch (Part 2)

At the Five Rivers book launch of Marie Powell's book, Hawk, Barbara Tomporowski buys the first copy to roll out from printers. The book launch was at When Words Collide festival, Calgary, last weekend. (Photo by Elizabeth Lang)

Monday, 17 August 2015

When Words Collide Festival Report

From the Desk of Senior Editor, Robert Runté

When Words Collide (Calgary) convention was once again wildly successful, with great programming, wonderful Guest of Honour speeches, and 650 wonderful-to-meet-and-talk-with attendees. Small enough convention to feel 'intimate', but large and diverse enough that one constantly learns new things. The cross-genre format of WWC leads to a lot of cross-pollination. (For example, the launch of Sleuth at WWC this year, a new mystery magazine from the people who have put out On Spec SF&F magazine for the last 25 years. Would that have happened if there hadn't been a WWC to bring those folks together?

Five Rivers author, Susan Bohnet, reading from My Life as a Troll at WWC.

Highlights for me of 2015 edition were:

  • Robert Sawyer presentation: I've always made a point of getting to Rob's sessions and have heard him many times at various conventions over the years, but every time he manages to deliver something completely new and insightful. This time he talked about lessons learned over his 25 year career, and aside from some wonderful anecdotes, he drew out a half dozen extremely useful morals for any writer, including:
    • Don’t try to write for everyone; write for that narrow section of the market for which you are their favorite author. The example he gave was that every writer's workshop tells you to avoid 'info dump'. But Rob's fans love information, so info dumps in Rob's writing is not a mistake, something he and his editor missed, but a requirement. (Kind of a revelation for me. It's not a bug, it's a feature! Sorry for ever doubting you man!)
    • Avoid Parawriting Activities. Rob gave several examples of how writers get so wrapped up in being writers--volunteering for writing organizations, giving talks on writing, tweeting out writerly tweets--that they forget to write. You're a writer when you're writing; everything else is distraction. [I'll add the industry standard here is that writers should schedule 10% of their time for community development to give back, and to develop the community of readers necessary to sustain the industry (e.g., school readings.) I don't think Rob was talking about that (since he does more to help new writers than most people I know) but was saying not to get carried away.]
    • Closely related, stay off line. Okay to tweet when one has a new book release, but otherwise it is a trap. Good advice, but like dieting, difficult to follow.
    • Sawyer has done 350 TV and 350 radio interviews so far (and he noted that it was interesting both media were neck and neck here.) What publishers look for is someone who can get "off the book-page coverage". Appearing on book review page is not that helpful because nobody is actually reading that page. So, to get off the bookpage onto the news, you need to write about the hot topics so can be interviewed about that topic every time it comes up. The strategy obviously works for Sawyer, not sure it would work for me. It also helps if you have some journalistic/media background and a good voice like Rob.
    He had more to say, but those were the highlights for me personally.

    Marie Powell reading from Hawk at Random Readings session.

  • Mark Leslie Lefebvre Director of Kobo's Writing Life program: Again, I always seek out his sessions because he has access to current insider data on publishing trends. Where the rest of us try to guess what's hot, he can tell you down to the nickel (or yen, or Euro) what's selling and what's not; how different price points affect sales; whether "free first in series" promotions work; where books sell—with the very clear message that we have to stop just looking to the US in a global market; and so on. I also greatly appreciate his honesty in weighing out the relative benefits of traditional/smallpress/self-publishing, and similarly, the relative merits of Kobo/Kindle/Amazon etc. But really, it you're going to self-publish, Kobo's Writing Life is the place to start. (I had known of Lefebvre before Kobo recruited him, and I said to anyone who would listen, that was the smartest hiring decision ever made by any corporation. A writer and booknerd of the first order, he is on the authors' side, and as a former Chapters manager and former manager of the McMaster University bookstore, the guy understands authors, booksellers and consumers better than anyone else in the country –including 'Heather'. When I finally met him in person at an early WWC, I discovered he is also a really great guy.)

  • Marie brought cookies!

  • Five Rivers Book Launch: Marie Powell's Hawk and Nowick Gray's Hunter's Daughter. I had ten copies of Nowick's book, and a bunch of other recent 5R titles, but only 3 copies of Marie's Hawk made it to the conference. Disappointed, but at least we had a copy to hold up and one for a photo-op of "first copy sold". Attendance was down from last year, but not unexpected given that the new WWC venue allowed for several additional streams of programming with which launches had to compete. I understand the other publishers had a similar decline in launch attendance. We might want to move to a different format for next year. But we can hardly fault WWC for being too interesting....
  • 5R Book Launch: Robert Runté (left); Nowick Gray (center); Marie Powell (right)

  • Meeting Jill Cabrera, Five Rivers Social Media / Promotions staffer, in person. In this day and age of virtual corporations, we have staff members in four different cities, so pretty great to actually spend time at same event. Jill came down from Edmonton to help out with the 5R book launch and other 5R promotions.
  • Similarly, great to welcome Kim Greyson to 5R editorial team. Kim is taking over editing of the PM of Canada series. I met Kim at a previous WWC, and through those conversations realized he was perfect candidate for our new editor position. Kim has previously been a first reader for authors such as Dave Duncan as long as I have, and done some freelance editing for Tor.
  • Seeing Sandra Kusturi and Brett Savory from CZP press again and getting to have breakfast with them and CZP author GMB Chomichuk. I bought Chomichuk's graphic novel, and he kindly drew original cartoon on the flyleaf of his interpretation of CZP logoguy. Sooo coooool!

    Photo by Brett Savory

  • I was on the publishers panel along with Mark Lefebvre (who moderated), Sally Harding (this year's editor guest of honour and super agent!), and Romance acquisitions editor,Danielle Rayner, from the Southern California. Nice diverse group there, but best moment for me was when Stacey Kondla spoke up from the audience to challenge something I had said. I love it when I learn something new, and clearly what I 'knew' was out-of-date. (In my defence, everything any of us knows about publishing is out of date by the time we say it a second time, so, yeah: why one needs to attend WWC to stay current.) But such a collegial environment,
  • I did two bluepencil café sessions and was impressed by overall quality of what I was seeing. Told two of those attending to send me manuscripts if they were interested, they were that good. My experience has been that the quality of writing of those attending WWC improves every year, either because in attracting more out-of-province writers, those tend to be more experienced writers; or because, the regular attendees are getting to be better writers thanks to what they're learning at WWC.
  • I sat on the Early Bird Live Action Slush session, wherein authors anonymously submit first page of a story/novel, and a reader (in this case the fabulous voice of author Edward Willett) reads out the page while the panel of editors listens. Each editor then raises their hand when they would have stopped reading because the number of problems had reached critical mass to move the manuscript to the 'reject' pile. The reader stops reading when 3 of the 4 hands goes up. (Sort of like the gong show if you're old enough to remember that.) Of course, the object is for one's page to get through with no hands up, at which point author has option of claiming ownership and taking a bow. The point of the panel, of course, is to show authors common mistakes they're making and the sorts of things that drive editors crazy; but also to see that what one editor hates, the next might be fine with (so pick carefully to whom you are submitting your manuscripts.)

  • Five River's author, Candas Jane Dorsey, was at WWC, but everyone was focused on her too cute dog.

  • Had a pitch session. Five minutes is too short to really make a decision, so have asked these be lengthened to 12 minutes in future; Randy said he may give publishers the choice in future of 12 or 5 minute format, since others have expressed preference for 5 minutes. Again, high quality pitches, with me asking to see several manuscripts. Several others who had been on the waiting list and not made the session pitched to me in the hallway to same effect.
  • Attended several readings, particularly of new writers so I can monitor who is being published by whom, and to scout possible authors I might want to work with. Really love the 15 minute "random readings" session, because cram a lot of newly published writers into 3 hour slot.
  • I love WWC because I get a lot of work done there. In addition to the 15 or so pitches from authors, I sought out five other authors and asked for them to pitch. (I had asked to see a sixth, but stupidly forgot to hit 'send', so found my email still sitting there that evening when I got back to my room—wondered why she hadn't responded.) I look to get four to five book deals out of the weekend, plus some tentative discussions about setting up an audiobook cooperative; plus talking to two of my authors about how their books were coming; plus sitting down with the coeditors of an anthology to which I've submitted to talk about the changes they wanted to my story; and taking to two other editors about my submitting to their respective magazine/anthology. So yeah, very productive weekend. I calculate that I get about six months worth of deals/work every WWC. And that's all on top of how much I enjoy the conference personally.

  • Five Rivers author, Susan MacGregor, at When Words Collide 2015.

    There were also the panels I hated to miss but had to, either because I was myself on a panel/giving a workshop, or because I didn't know how great it was going to be until after I heard other people rave. An example of the latter was workshop on "How to do a Chapters/Indigo book signing session" by Chapters manager, Stacey Kondla. Talk about useful!

    So all in all, WWC was and is a fabulous convention I cannot praise too highly.

    Robert Runté talking to WWC Board Member, Cliff Samuels, at Dead Dog party (i.e., after convention party, last night of festival.) Photo by Kirstin Morrell.

    Friday, 7 August 2015

    Dutch Schultz, by Nate Hendley, receives high praise from former Ithaca Journal reporter

    I thoroughly enjoyed your book, “Dutch Schultz: the Brazen Beer Baron of New York.” You deftly blended the story of Arthur Flegenheimer with the history — and zeitgeist — of the prohibition era. Here are two of your stand-out sentences:
      “The urge to drink proved stronger than the will to obey the law. Almost overnight, an enormous black market in spirits sprang up, serviced by young, enterprising criminals.”
      “Against this backdrop of social engineering, Arthur was released.”
    We’re lucky to have writers like you, Selwyn Rabbb and T.J. English in the canon of crime literature. You and others give readers a path through the forest of facts.

    ---Raymond Drumsta (former Police and Courts Reporter at Ithaca Journal)

    Wednesday, 5 August 2015

    Stephen Hume at Vancouver Sun reviews King Kwong, by Paula Johanson

    There's an excellent review by Stephen Hume of Paula Johanson's fascinating biography of hockey legend Larry Kwong in the August 4 edition of the Vancouver Sun. 

    King Kwong, book by Paula Johanson. 

    Photograph by: Handout

    Mention the China Clipper and football fans think of Calgary-born Normie Kwong, the hall-of-famer who won three consecutive Grey Cups with the Edmonton Eskimos.

    But for all his deserved accolades in football, in business and as Alberta’s lieutenant-governor — fellow footballers Peter Lougheed and Don Getty served as premiers — he was still the China Clipper, Second Edition.

    The First Edition was Larry Kwong — no relation — born in Vernon and an ace on the ice not the gridiron. Larry’s credited with breaking the colour bar in the National Hockey League a scant 11 months after Jackie Robinson did it for major league baseball.

    B.C. writer and self-described lifelong hockey fan Paula Johanson reminds us of the ephemeral nature of sports history in King Kwong, her marvellous little biography of the whirlwind on skates who blew out of the dusty interior 75 years ago.

    Johanson even tracks down the source of that now-politically incorrect nickname. It first appears in Vernon newspapers in 1940. And explains its migration across the Rockies to be repurposed for the football player who took the Calgary Stampeders to a Grey Cup in 1948 before being traded to Edmonton where he won three more.

    The B.C. nickname was “adopted” by a Calgary broadcaster when two southern Alberta teams joined the West Kootenay Hockey League in which Larry Kwong played.

    The broadcaster called play-by-play for both hockey and football, so when another Kwong showed up as the first player of Chinese descent to play pro football in the CFL, he began using the catchy hockey nickname in his football broadcasts.

    Interestingly, Johanson reports, in 1884 Kwong’s father came to B.C. aboard a clipper ship — one of those swift three-masters that put up more than a hectare of canvas and with a steady trade wind on the quarter could outrun a steamship, as the famous Thermopylae once did to the cheering passengers of the Empress of China.

    Like many a pilgrim to Gold Mountain, Larry’s dad, Ng Shu Kwong, discovered there was wealth in the ground other than nuggets. He went farming at Vernon, worked in the mill, started a grocery business and became prosperous.

    Larry was born in 1923, the same year that Canada’s racist Chinese Exclusion Act imposed restrictions on immigration.

    But, just as many Canadian kids before and since, Larry discovered the pleasures of playing shinny with a frozen horse apple. One of the most charming hockey photos of the many Johanson unearthed for her book is one of Larry, his sister Betty and a couple of neighbour kids playing shinny outside the Vernon family store.

    Like many another hockey kid, he wheedled skates out of his mom with a promise that when he was a real hockey player, he’d buy her a house.

    Mom wasn’t convinced. She thought the game too rough. Still, she bought him the skates — one size too big so he could grow into them.

    Her son turned out, as they say, to be a phenom. He led the Vernon Hydrophones to B.C. Midget and B.C. Juvenile championships.

    In Game 1 of the 1939 Midget championship against Nelson, Larry scored four unassisted goals in the first period. In Game2, he bagged a hat trick. End of series.

    In the 1941 Juvenile championship series, he scored four of the Hydrophones’ eight goals in the championship final.

    Then he signed with the Trail Smoke Eaters, which had won the Allan Cup — the senior men’s equivalent to the Stanley Cup — in 1938 and a world championship in 1939. And that led to the New York Rovers, farm team for the New York Rangers.

    On March 13, 1948, he was called up by the Rangers for a game against Montreal Canadiens. They only played him for one shift — less than a minute — but the China Clipper had ended the era of whites-only hockey in the NHL.

    Johanson’s book with Five Rivers Publishing is aimed at young adults but I doubt there’s a hockey fan who will be put off any more than Larry Kwong was by his nickname as he dashed up the ice to score the winning goal for the Smoke Eaters in that long-forgotten B.C. Championship of 1946.

    Read more:

    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