(Very Tardy) World Horror Con and Keycon 31 Roundups

These roundups are coming a bit late, aren’t they? Like-”holy shit, really? It’s been two months”-kind-of-late. Between prepping for World Horror and traveling and then prepping for Keycon a week later, I managed to fall pretty far behind on a number of things. Having mostly dug myself out of the catch-up hole, it’s a long one, but here you are:

It’s hard for me to separate my impressions of these two cons, they happened so closely together, for one, and I hung out with a few of the same awesome people at both. In fact, World Horror Con (or the reconvening of the Illuminaughty) all spun out of last year’s Keycon 30. I had a great time with a bunch of awesome folks and we got to reminiscing on Twitter and missing each other and tried to find a convention where we could all meet up. Lee Moyer and Venetia Charles kindly offered to host those of us who made it down to Portland for World Horror and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Ann Aguirre, GMB Chomichuk and I leapt at the offer.

The first leg of my trip to Portland for World Horror Con was Winnipeg to Minneapolis. The Minneapolis airport was nice enough, although I found actually boarding my next flight to be a part of crazy hodge-podge of too many gates too close together and an unending series of boarding announcements. Boarding feels considerably more higgledy piggledy (to quote Bloom County “Higgledy Piggledy means a big mess”) in the U.S. than it does in Canada. Also, a shoutout goes to the guy wearing the “You’ll Take My Guns From My Cold Dead Hands” T-shirt in the terminal. Way to represent, fella.

Another peculiarity of being south of the border was that there was Wi-Fi on my plane. I was very excited about being able to tweet during my flight, not that it was particularly dramatic, but c’mon, living in the future. Then I saw that I had to pay for the privilege and my cheap inner Winnipegger took over and decided to read instead. But I did see the mountains, sure I saw them from 30000 feet up, but that’s the closest I’ve come to them yet. I’ve seen them in the distance from Calgary but I couldn’t really make anything out. Next time I’m in Alberta, I’ll have to get closer, I guess.

When I left Winnipeg, the snow had been gone for about a week, all the trees were bare, all the grass was dead. Imagine how refreshing it was to see this when I landed:

Portland Green

In Bloom

At World Horror, I took in a few panels. Gregory crashed the comics panel at the insistence of Silvia and myself. He ended up moderating and rocked it.  Seriously, if you ever need to keep a panel lively, get that GMB fellow up there.

I also spent a lot of time watching GMB sketch. I always carry a notebook, he always carries a sketchbook, and both of us were scribbling words and pictures all weekend.

GMB Sketching 1

We came up with Secret Plans. (More on that in the future, hopefully.)

I also got to watch Lee Moyer work, seriously, check out his portfolio. He is amazing.

I’ve said this before, but it remains true, one of my favourite things about attending conventions is meeting people who I’ve so far only chatted online with. World Horror was a great con for that, and I finally got to meet Folly Blaine, Minerva Zimmerman, Wendy Wagner, Claude Lalumière, Camille Alexa, and Jennifer Brozek (Jennifer was my editor for my first Steampunk story, “A Taste of the Other Side”, forthcoming in Beast Within 4, Gears & Growls).

I can usually avoid con-crud, but I got sick the day after I arrived in Portland. I don’t think it was a bug, so I’m blaming the two hour time change. Fortunately, I was able to rally. (Thanks for looking out for me, guys!)

My only programming at World Horror was offering a critique to an aspiring writer. It was supposed to be a shared critique with another pro, and done in the Clarion Style. All good. Except I was still feeling like ass, and the other pro didn’t show up, so I had an hour of critiquing to fill instead of thirty minutes. Something good spun out of it though. That aspiring writer had gone through the trouble of making a submission and so I was determined to be “on” for him. Being forced to show up and not stay home wallowing in self-pity also pushed me through the wall of my headache and nausea, and I felt a lot better when the critique session was over. I hope the aspiring writer did too. He took my suggestions well, and was an affable, fun guy. I really hope he’s successful.

We managed a bit of time for sightseeing:

We had lunch at Zeus Cafe (food was great), which had a great basement club, called Al’s Den (very sweet art on the walls).

Essence of Manly Beauty

Lemmy! The essence of manly beauty.

Black Keys Poster

The Black Keys!

We also visited the legendary Powell’s Books, and man it lives up to its rep. For my Winnipeg friends, imagine if McNally Robinson had four floors and sold used and new books. It was also very busy. It did my heart good to see so many people in a bookstore on a sunny Saturday (Yes, it was sunny in Portland. At least until it rained again.) afternoon.

We started the dance at World Horror’s Gothic Ball. It was also strange to see more people dancing to “Funky Town” than “Closer“, but hey, Funky Town!

Maple Bacon Bar

Voodoo Doughnuts!

I first heard about Voodoo Doughnuts while watching Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations travel show, and have been lusting after the pictured bacon maple bar ever since. So good.

Street Elevator

Loading elevators that came out of the street!

By the time I noticed what was happening and got my phone out to get the picture, the delivery had already disappeared into the bowels of Portland’s underground.

Yes, I found a comic store. Evidently, Portland is rife with comics professionals. No surprise there, given it’s the home of Dark Horse Comics. The neighbourhood I was staying in was home to one Brian Michael Bendis, who you may have heard of.

Leaving Minneapolis for both Portland and Winnipeg, my flights were racing a thunderstorm (appropriate, I know) and on the flight home, there was a moment when it actually felt like the plane was going to fall out of the sky. Crazy. Scary. Cool (because, you know, it didn’t).

When I got home from Portland, I had a couple of cool things waiting for me:

Sword & Mythos

My backer’s copy of the latest Innsmouth Free Press anthology, Sword & Mythos!

On Spec Spring 2014

And my contributor’s copies of the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec, which includes my Thunder Road story, “Runt of the Litter.”

Keycon 31 was a bit different beast. And while we’re not quite at the Cheers phase, my home con is definitely the place where a lot of people now know my name.

Silvia was a guest of honour here, so we got to hang out again, which was awesome. I picked Silvia up at the airport and we went on a walking tour of Winnipeg’s Exchange District before grabbing some supper.

Silvia at Millenium

Friday night, I shared my reading slot with Samantha Beiko, who I unintentionally trolled during her reading.

SM Beiko Reading Keycon 2014

Samantha is reading from her phone, see, and I decided to tweet about her reading and tag her. If only I could’ve caught the look she gave me when she realized what was happening. Again, sorry, Samantha! Not intentional. (She got her revenge when we went to see Godzilla and punched my belly like it was a speed bag at the gym. Tiny but fierce.)

Met some awesome folks, such as author (and wrestler) Adam Knight and cartoonist Johnathan Hatton. I caught up with old friends, Clare Marshall, Code Skillen, Levi Labelle and Brian Mitchell, co-chairs from Keycon 30.

I also signed a book for Tanya Freaking Huff. That is the kind of thing that doesn’t get old. I love her writing and she is a wonderful human.

The women who worked the Chapters book table last year were back again. Many thanks for your support and enthusiasm, Dana, Stephanie and Sydni! I had at least a couple of people at my signing who told me they bought Thunder Road because you sold them on it. You rock!

Gregory Chomichuk didn’t have any pieces in the art show this year, but he was doing live art in the registration area. So cool!

GMB Live Art Keycon 2014GMB Keycon 2014

(I saw this piece, finished, and up for sale at Gregory’s joint “CoLabratory” art show, which was a time and a half.)

When it came to panels I was on the Locally Grown: Authors and More You Likely Missed panel, moderated by my pal Adam Petrash alongside Samantha Beiko, GMB Chomichuk, Karen Dudley, Adam Knight, Johnathan Hatton, Laurie Smith, Lindsay Kitson, Leia Getty, and Lenora Rose Patrick.

Using Setting and Culture to Shape Characters with Samantha Beiko and ably-moderated by another Winnipeg fantasy author, Sherry Peters.

My final panel was Sparking Creativity, which I shared with Sherry Peters, artist GoH Ian Sokoliwski, and GMB Chomichuk. I was late to this panel, because for some reason I thought it was hour later than it turned out to be. Fortunately one of my fellow panelists tweeted that he missed me, and I dashed off. I was in such a hurry that I got caught in a lie. We were talking about opening yourself up to creativity and I mentioned that I always carried a notebook so if I had an idea I didn’t lose it, when Gregory noticed that I didn’t have my notebook on the table (I’d left it safely behind the Faery Ink Press table in the dealer’s room when I realized I was late) and called me on it. But I did have my back up, my phone, which has a notepad and voice recorder app, so I somewhat recovered my always taking notes cred.

I missed a bunch of panels that I would have liked to check out. They were either opposite my programming or in the brief spans that I had available to try to squeeze food out of the hotel restaurant. I did take in GMB’s panel on Storytelling for Graphic Novels, which was fun.

Silvia, code and I played Crazy 8s (and tried to remember how to play Crazy 8s) while waiting for the banquet to start. After dinner we roamed the party rooms until the ungodly hours of the morning.

And at least I managed to finish this blog post before I have to write one for When Worlds Collide!

Write on!

 

July Goals and Half Year Check-in

Half of 2014 is now gone, and looking back at June, how’d I do?

  • Work on Thunder Road Book 3.

Well I certainly did that. I didn’t get as far as I wanted to. I ran into a chapter that bedeviled me for about a week and a half. It was the chapter that reintroduced Loki, so no surprises that working on it came with a side of mischief.

I’m a little behind the schedule that I’ve set for myself. However, considering that this novel started its life as a handwritten jumble of scenes written in no particular order, and notes typed as far back as the first draft of Thunder Road, is starting to actually feel like a book, I’m satisfied, if not overjoyed, with my progress. I will be overjoyed when it is done.

**There can be no joy until it is done.**

Also: holy shit, half the year is gone already! I made some longer range goals way back in January when it seemed like Fimbulwinter had come. How are those doing?

  • Turn in Book 3 of the Thunder Road trilogy to Ravenstone.
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three four (after NaNoWriMo) drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo again (I’ve already started outlining the new project!).
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • I have at least eight short stories in various stages of readiness to submit, I’d like all of those to be out the door in 2014, and say write and submit at least two more for a total of ten new stories in the mix.
  • Turn in two comic scripts (Sekkrit projects, yo.).

Still a lot of work left ahead of me, it seems. But progress has been made. Steps are being taken. While it’s too early to say whether Book 3 will be turned in before the end of the year, it kind of has to be in by February if it’s going to make the production schedule, so I feel pretty good about my odds.

I’m actually going hog wild on the convention goal, Portland, Oregon and World Horror Con may be behind me, but I have V-Con and Vancouver, and World Fantasy Con and Washington D.C. ahead of me. This won’t let me off the hook for the next two years though. The convention goal is going to be one I try to stick to every year. And World Fantasy 2015 will be in Saratoga Springs, New York and I haven’t been there yet either.

Revisions are ongoing with my NaNoWriMo book from 2011. It was my hope to have it in submission shape for this year’s World Fantasy Con, but contracted work has to come first. Whether I hit this goal is entirely dependent on Book 3 of the Thunder Road trilogy.

I’m actually reconsidering my participation in NaNoWriMo this year. Again, dependent on what kind of shape Book 3 is in. Yes, I have an idea for what my next NaNo book might be, but even if I’ve got the time, I might not try and draft that novel (I already have enough first drafts to fix!), instead, I might be one of those NaNo rebels that spends the month writing short stories.

Speaking of short stories:

I have thus far been much better about keeping my short fiction out on submission than I was last year (which reminds me that I have a couple stories that came back recently that I need to resubmit). Not crossing this one off until the year is over though.

I’ve drafted two new short stories this year, both of those are out in the world, so yay! One more thing off the list! As soon as I have something to say about them, I’ll share it. Fingers crossed I can give you good news soon. I wrote a third short story that needs maybe one more pass of edits before I’m willing to let it out into the world and have rough drafts for two more. As for editing the older stories that had been laying fallow, they’re still lying out in the field. I haven’t brushed the dirt off them yet.

My comic script work stalled, but I have one story treatment done, and another one roughly scripted.

That’s my writing year so far, how’s yours going?

Write on!

National Aboriginal Day 2014

Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. I hope that my readers will take a moment or two to think about the many contributions the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples have made to Canadian culture.

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Van Camp, who is an amazing storyteller as well as a kind and generous man. I hope you’ll check out some of his work.

(This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Prairie books NOW)

Storytelling From Lullabies to Zombies

“We’re encouraged to tell stories every day.” Richard Van Camp says of his Dogrib Dene heritage. “Storytelling is part of our medicine power, it’s part of our spirituality.”

Raised in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories by taxidermists and medicine people, he also credits his love of stories to growing up in a time before television “when families still visited families”. At the age of nineteen, Van Camp realized that no one was telling his story, nor was he reading it. The ghost stories and love stories of Fort Smith and “how we can two-step to anything under the Northern Lights” were not represented in Stephen King, Judy Blume or comic books.

This was something Van Camp sought to rectify, thinking it is crucial for indigenous people to see themselves in the literature they read and the stories they tell to their children. Now he tells stories for all ages. There is something magical in his work for everyone, from innocent newborn to jaded adult.

Little You, the author’s latest book for babies, was birthed in a lucky moment. He was attending a Pearl Jam concert when singer Eddie Vedder stopped the show, asking the audience to sing for his daughter’s birthday. “The file is still on my phone,” Van Camp says, “I was half way through Happy Birthday and it came in a flash and I wrote it out on my phone.” What came from that lucky moment is a heartfelt lullaby illustrated by Julie Flett which captures innocence with “dignified elegance.”

In contrast, Van Camp’s collection Godless but Loyal to Heaven is full of stories where myth, fantasy, and the harsh realities of Canada’s north intersect.

The book opens with zombie story “On the Wings of This Prayer”, set in the not-so-distant future where the “shark throats” have overrun humanity. Van Camp credits an elder’s tale of a wheetago buried in the oil sands, as its inspiration.

“The Fleshing”, another wheetago tale, though one set in our time, follows. “We’re all inhabited by the wheetago,” Van Camp says of why zombie tales are so prevalent. He also feels we see zombies in suffering and in the never ending hunger that comes with addiction. “If you’ve ever spoken to a loved one on crystal meth or crack cocaine, that’s not them anymore. That’s just a body moaning across the table from you.”

Beyond the supernatural, Van Camp also offers a subtle human horror.

We’ve all gone to that party,” he says of the sleepover in “Children of the Sundance” “where somebody says ‘let’s play a new game.’ In “Feeding the Fire”, Van Camp cautions care with one’s intentions and the danger of giving a wish to somebody that can do something about it.

“The wish for revenge is a bullet you can’t take back.”

Godless but Loyal to Heaven is not filled entirely with darkness, there are equal parts hope and love and aspiration for better times—especially in the title story, the longest in the collection.

“I want to be remembered as somebody who wrote literature that was hopeful. I think life is about second chances.”

Richard Van Camp

 

Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, NWT, Canada. He is a graduate of the En’owkin International School of Writing, the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing BFA Program, and the Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

He is an internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author. His novel, The Lesser Blessed, is now a movie with First Generation Films and premiered in September of 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival. He is the author of three collections of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go and Godless but Loyal to Heaven, as well as two children’s books with Cree artist, George Littlechild: A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?

His first baby book, Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, was the official selection of the Books for BC Babies program and was given to every newborn baby in British Columbia in 2008. Richard followed this up with another board book: Nighty-Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies. His third book for babies, Little You, is now out with Orca Book Publishers. The amazing Julie Flett is the artist. Little You is published in Bush Cree, Dene and South Slavey, courtesy of the South Slave Divisional Board of Education.

All of Richard Van Camp’s children’s books are available in Braille for free, anywhere in the world, courtesy of the Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI)and Accessible Resource Centre-British Columbia (ARC-BC).

Richard’s first comic book on deterring youth away from gangs, Path of the Warrior, is published with Cree artist, Steve Sanderson, through the Healthy Aboriginal Network. His second comic book on sexual health is Kiss Me Deadly, with Haida artist Chris Auchter is now out and can be read in its entirety at www.thehealthyaboriginal.net.

Richard wrote for CBC’s North of 60 television show for two months under their Writer Internship Program and was a script and cultural consultant with them for four seasons. He taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, worked as a Creative Writing and Storytelling instructor with the Emily Carr Institute and was the Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta for 2011 and 2012 and at MacEwan University in 2013 and 2014.

Richard has three new books coming out: Three Feathers, a graphic novel on restorative justice with artist Krystal Mateus (Portage and Main); Whistle a mini-novel exploring mental health (out soon with Pearson  Canada) and his new short story collection, Night Moves, will be out with Enfield & Wizenty in the Fall of 2015.

 

June Goals

It’s that time again! Here are my writing goals for the month of June:

  • Work on Thunder Road Book 3.

Yes that is all.

I’ve come across some things that I need to read up on for research and am rearranging some chapters and scenes, but progress is being made on the word count. And more progress must be made on the word count if I’m to be ready for what should be my final Alberta research trip in August. If anything else shiny happens in the meantime, I’ll let you know in my June report, I promise.

How’d I do in May?

Well, I was running around so much I forgot to actually post any goals for the month, but here’s how I did with my April goals as they never received an accounting:

  • Reread Tombstone Blues and make notes relevant to Book 3. Start writing.
  • Transcribe my notebook (which has gotten well out of hand)
  • Edit and submit one of my recently drafted short stories.
  • Edit and submit one of my previously drafted short stories.

And while I also forgot to track my daily word counts for the month, it was a pretty decent month in terms of new words, scattered as usual between various projects. May also saw some progress on the yearly goals. Normally I do my yearly check in in July, but I managed to cross this bad boy off the list.

  • Turn in Book 3 of the Thunder Road trilogy to Ravenstone.
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three four (after NaNoWriMo 2013) drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo again (I’ve already started outlining the new project!).
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • I have at least eight short stories in various stages of readiness to submit, I’d like all of those to be out the door in 2014, and say write and submit at least two more for a total of ten new stories in the mix.
  • Turn in two comic scripts (Sekkrit projects, yo.).

Progress has been made on a few other fronts, but I’ll get to them later. In May I visited Portland, Oregon for the World Horror Convention and visited with members of the Illuminaughty (wanna join a secret society?). It was a great time, and I’ll be blogging about that trip and my time at Keycon soon.

Write on!

A Few Questions About Writing

My northern Manitoba colleague, Lauren Carter, author of Swarm, tagged me recently and asked me to take part in a blog tour happening in the literary community across Canada. The gist of it is that I’m assigned four questions and then invite two other writers to join in. Here goes:

What am I working on?

I have a number of projects on the go right now, most notably the third book in the Thunder Road Trilogy, which you should see in Fall 2015. I’m also polishing up some short stories set in the world of the trilogy to keep you all occupied until next year.

In addition to my Norse Myth-influenced work, I’m editing the first book in an entirely new urban fantasy series, trying my hand at comic book scripting, and co-hosting and organizing the Winnipeg arm of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series with fellow author Samantha Beiko.

How does my work differ from other works in its genre?

Since my series is influenced by Norse myth, I’m not retelling the big ending of that myth cycle–Ragnarök, the Fate of the Gods–in the Thunder Road universe, that fate has already been dealt. In the Marvel Comics take on Thor, Ragnarök has happened at least three times, but what struck me as a myth fan was how interesting the stories that came after were to me. When Ragnarök is on the table, that is the only place the story can go. It’s inevitable. Having that great battle in the past also allowed me to avoid “ruining” any stories people might have loved from the sagas. They are there. They happened. My only caveat to this is that in my books, Loki survived his prophesied death (because if anyone could weasel his way out of his fate, it would be him).

Another notable difference is probably my use of Manitoba as a setting–not a place most people think of when they think of magic. I’ve read very little fantasy that uses Western Canada (and Manitoba in particular) as a setting, and I think there’s a lot to left to be said in this part of Canada.

Why do I write what I do?

I love juxtaposing the magical and the mundane and the Urban Fantasy genre is great at that. I grew up with old Tarzan and Lone Ranger stories, so adventure was set in my bones from an early age. When I went to listening to stories to reading them, comic books were my gateway (and I still read them) and I went from those to Lord of the Rings and Dungeons & Dragons and other fantasies. I can’t imagine wanting to write anything else. Fantasy allows me to write anything, and unlike my more realistically inclined writing colleagues, I get to have dragons and robots too.

How does my writing process work?

Barely. Ba dum bump.

But seriously…

I am what is usually referred to as a “pantser” (as in I write by the seat of my pants). No plotting, no outlining. For me, writing is a lot like driving at night: the headlights allow me to see just enough to keep going, even when I can’t see my destination.

I’m a huge music fan (all of the chapter titles in Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues are taken from songs) and I also write to music, so it has seeped deeper into my process. One of the first things I do when I’m starting a new story is make a large playlist of songs that feel like how I want the story to feel. As I write and listen, I winnow them down to about twenty or so that form my book’s playlist. That soundtrack also happens to be an emotional outline of how I want the book to feel.

There are exceptions to this. The third book in the trilogy turned out to be something I couldn’t “pants”. I had built up the architecture of the series, and wrote certain scenes as they came to me while drafting the first two books. Because I wasn’t entering the world fresh, by necessity it required a bit more of a structured approach to writing than I am accustomed to. Not a bad thing, just not usually my thing.

Next up, author and illustrator, GMB Chomichuk and author and Valkyrie Books proprietor, Samantha Beiko!

Thunder Road Trip

My pal, Kevin Madison is starting a “Live Blogging” of Thunder Road as a part of his “Year of Drawing” challenge. You might remember Kevin from this awesome congratulations artwork he drew for me after the release of Thunder Road. 

Thunder Road Congrats 2012 JPEG

Check out his Tumblr to follow along (#thunderroadtrip) but in the meantime, here’s some of his preliminary sketches!

ThunderRoadTrip Sketches1

I’m very excited to see more! Thanks, Kevin!

Write on.

 

 

My Keycon 31 Schedule

Are you coming to Keycon 31? I hope so! It’s shaping up to be a good one. Author guests include: David Gerrold, Tanya Huff, and Silvia Moreno-Garcia. Robert J. Sawyer will be attending, as well as a bunch of awesome local folks, such as: S.M. Beiko, Gerald Brandt, GMB Chomichuk, Karen Dudley, Shayla Elizabeth, Lindsay Kitson, and Sherry Peters.

If you’re around, here’s where you’ll find me:

  • Reading (with Samantha Beiko) – 9pm Friday
  • Locally Grown – 12pm Saturday
  • Using Setting & Culture to Shape Characters – 1pm Saturday
  • Sparking Creativity – 4pm Saturday
  • Autograph Session – 12pm Sunday

Do come and say hello!