Some Pics From My Alberta Research Trip Part One: Badlands and Stephansson House

So, it was no secret that I was going to Alberta for research for Too Far Gone (the Winnipeg Free Press reported on it before my third book even had a name). These pictures are from the first part of my trip. Also, I will take any excuse to hike through the Alberta Badlands.

I regret that my photographs aren’t as good as Paul Weimer’s (seriously, check out his stuff. Beautiful, absolutely beautiful photos), I’d blame it on the fact I didn’t bring a proper camera and was taking pictures with my phone, but that would be a lie. I’m just not a skilled photographer.

These are from my hike in Horseshoe Canyon.

1407464033698

Unlike my last trip to the Badlands, I actually had proper hiking shoes instead of on-their-last-laces tennis shoes. I also went hiking before I’d spent an entire weekend dehydrating myself with hotel air and Irish whiskey.

1407464034941

It involved a bit of doing to stay dry in some parts of the canyon. Which I didn’t manage. Not that I was going to return those new hiking shoes.

1407464035941

There were a couple scrambles that reminded me that I was out of shape. And that I was one good tumble away from feeding the coyotes.

DSC_1075

There is an “inuksuk graveyard” in Horseshoe Canyon, where hikers build cairns of stone.

DSC_1077

This one was one of my favourites.

1407466750817

Seriously, how can you not love this place?

Heading further north, and near to Red Deer, and down an assortment of back roads, I found Stephansson House. (Thanks to Johanna Brierley’s mother Marcia for the suggestion–and for the loan of one of Stephansson’s books of poetry!). Stephansson was an early settler in the area, and a noted poet.

DSC_1049

One of the things, besides scenery, that I was looking for on this trip was Icelandic ties to Alberta. Those ties paid off creatively for me in writing Thunder Road and there was some neat stuff to be found here. You’ll have to read and find out about that, I think.

1407445895776

But I did meet this awesome dog.

The staff at the museum didn’t know the dog. She must’ve just wandered into area looking for shade. She was quite friendly.

DSC_1019

Stephansson House is a beautiful house. I also felt like a giant inside it. Which was good to know. Also interesting to learn, Stephansson’s son was struck by lightning. The boy died, but afterwards, the house’s roof sported numerous lightning rods.

DSC_1044

Some of which you can see in the photo above.

That’s part one! Big thanks to Kevin Madison for driving me around Calgary and environs.

Write on!

 

 

When Words Collide 2014 Roundup

Another When Words Collide Festival has come and gone. I’m a little bit late getting to this roundup (although not nearly so late as I was with World Horror Con and Keycon!). This year my WWC festival was wrapped up in a research trip to Alberta for Too Far Gone, so I hope you’ll forgive the delay. I’ll try to document the research side of the trip (and my reading at Audreys Books in Edmonton) soon. (Yeah, right.)

This Calgary festival for readers and writers has in its four years of existence become one of my favourite events of the year. It’s always well run, the programming excellent, and the guests of honour are top notch. This year’s guests included Jacqueline Guest, Mark Leslie (director of Publishing Services at Kobo–and my editor for “Back in Black” in Tesseracts Sixteen), D.J. McIntosh, Brandon Sanderson, and Jack Whyte (filling in for Diana Gabaldon, who unfortunately had to cancel).

I did a bit more programming this year than last, no readings though. Unfortunately, readings (except for the guests of honour) have gone by the wayside for programming which will actually fill up the rooms. I understand this, and fair enough, even if it is a little disappointing. I love doing readings, and like to attend them. WWC offered folks the opportunity to book one of the social rooms to host launch parties, etc. but with no new book out, or on the horizon, it didn’t seem worth the expense for me this year. Maybe next year, although it’s doubtful Too Far Gone will be out by August, I might have some advance reading copies, or do a teaser reading.

My programming included:

  • Saturday 1 PM RPG Storytelling: [panel discussion with Brandon Sanderson, Chadwick Ginther, Ron Bender, Dave Gross] RPGs or Role-Playing Games make up a huge chunk of the gaming industry. Part of what makes them so popular is the rich storytelling that players experience as they solve problems and learn secrets through the game. Our panel of RPG storytellers and players discuss what draws them to the gaming life.
  • Saturday 2 PM Why Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Is So Popular: [panel discussion with Margarita Gakis, Melodie Campbell, Aspen deLainey, Sandra Wickham, Chadwick Ginther] Urban Fantasy has grown large enough to be its own major genre. Indeed, many publishers have created imprints just for Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. What is it about these subgenres that are so attractive to today’s psyche?
  • Saturday 8 PM Autographs: Festival Guests are joined by 50+ authors
    Drop by between 8 PM – 9 PM to meet the authors and get your books signed. This session is open to the public, so tell your friends.
  • Sunday 4 PM On (Writing) Vacation [panel discussion with Randy McCharlesPatrick Swenson, James Van Pelt, Chadwick Ginther] Writing retreats, with their focused time and space, can inspire and rejuvenate authors and are as accessible as you want them to be. Panelists discuss their experiences and the rewards reaped from attending writing retreats.

I thought the RPG Storytelling panel was excellent. Brandon Sanderson moderated and did a great job. It was clear that the packed room was primarily there to see him (except for the one person who asked him who he was, drawing a good laugh from the audience–Brandon had been making notes on his name card, like a good moderator) but he was very generous with sharing the panel and including everyone. There were some great points from my fellow panelists Dave Gross and Ron Bender and I had a lot of fun.

1407691064823

The Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance panel went well. The only person I knew on it was Sandra Wickham, and I think she did a great job of moderating. I won points from someone in the audience for giving a shoutout to Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series (which is a blast, check it out).

I had a lot of fun with the autograph session. I hung out with Edmonton friends, Janice MacDonald, Randy Williams, and S.G. Wong, and we were joined by the force behind Faery Ink Press, Clare C. Marshall. I stamped a few people with my new “Loki Approved” stamp.

Oh, and Brandon Sanderson’s signing line was ridiculously long.

My last panel was about writing vacations. I haven’t been on a focused group retreat, like the Rainforest Writers, that Patrick Swenson hosts, but I did start writing Thunder Road while I was housesitting for my parents which was a sort of writing retreat. I also go to a lot of local “write ins” at friends’ houses, (Gerald Brandt and Sherry Peters, thanks for hosting!) so I talked a bit about that, and using microfocus Twitter sprints as my contributions to the discussion. Everyone else on the panel is a regular at Rainforest so there was a bit of a dynamic that I wasn’t a part of, but rather than making me feel alienated, it made me really want to sign up for the retreat (next year’s already full, but I’m going to put my name on the waiting list).

There was also a lot of unscheduled fun (there always is) that took place.

This year was my pal Laurel’s very first convention. I’m so proud of her for heading out to Calgary and pitching her work and I hope she had a lot of fun and will be back again next year.

When the official party rooms, didn’t suffice, a new space was created (thanks to one David J. “Fort” Fortier.

1407649309867

It’s hard to tell from this picture, but there were at least sixteen folks in there. Also: whiskey (and whisky).

Here’s something you don’t get to do every convention: Get beat up by a pregnant Ninja:

When Sandra Wickham was worried about whether someone would come to her writing about fighting presentation, I made a joke suggesting she’d be less nervous if I was there to heckle her. This led to me volunteering to be her test dummy for a few moves.

1407626278864

For the record: Arm bars hurt.

I also spent a lot of Friday telling people they had to be at the panel if they wanted to see me get up by a pregnant woman. And evidently they did. Sandra had a packed house!

1407626287451

Seriously though, she gave a great presentation, so if you have a chance to check out one of her panels (whether I’m getting beat up or not), do so. She’s a great writer too. You’ll be seeing a lot more of her.

I also got to hang out with a couple other alums from Patricia Briggs’ character workshop last year (I wasn’t actually able to go, but I still made some cool friends because of being signed up and doing the critiques). Kate Larking and Jill C. Flanagan, it was a pleasure.

When I wasn’t doing my own programming, I hung out with Clare at the Faery Ink Press table, because Clare is awesome, and I don’t get to see her nearly enough. I even managed to get some writing done

Somewhere along the way, On Spec editor and unofficial Sheriff of Edmonton, Cat McDonald declared we were rivals and needed to have a Read Off. Our goal is to end up in the same anthology so that we can make this happen (I WILL DESTROY YOU. Ahem.). Cat is also doing a Kickstarter for a new RPG, which you should check out and back.

Sentry Box was also in the Dealer’s Room selling books, and they sold out of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues! That was great news! I also spent some of those future royalties at their table.

One of the cool things WWC did this year was have an evening where people could play Magic the Gathering with Brandon (who is an avid gamer, and has had a roleplaying game created from the world of his Mistborn novels) Sanderson. I didn’t play. It’s been forever since I’ve played Magic, but listening to Brandon explain the rules to the folks who’d signed up made me very glad I didn’t have to play him for money.

I stayed an extra night so that I could attend the Dead Dog Party. It’s always fun, and even though everyone is exhausted, it’s a good chance to catch up with folks (like the con organizers) who are way too busy during the convention proper.

I’ve already purchased my membership for When Words Collide 2015. Check out the guests!

Daniel Abraham Fantasy
C.J. Carmichael Romance
James S.A. Corey Science Fiction
M.L.N. Hanover Urban Fantasy
Sally Harding Literary Agent
Faith Hunter Urban Fantasy
Gwen Hunter Thriller
Brandon Mull Young Adult

I know I’ll have a blast. Hope to see you there!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Jack Whyte, who when he was asked in his writing about battles workshop: “How much fighting is too much? How much whisky is too much? There are signs.

Write on.

 

Alberta Mini Tour!

I’m heading back to Alberta to do another round of research for Too Far Gone and I thought I’d tack a couple events on, since I was already around. Hope to see you either in Calgary or Edmonton!

Here’s where I’ll be:

Friday August 8th – Sunday August 11th: When Words Collide.

  • Saturday 1 PM RPG Storytelling: [panel discussion with Brandon Sanderson, Chadwick Ginther, Ron Bender, Dave Gross] RPGs or Role-Playing Games make up a huge chunk of the gaming industry. Part of what makes them so popular is the rich storytelling that players experience as they solve problems and learn secrets through the game. Our panel of RPG storytellers and players discuss what draws them to the gaming life.
  • Saturday 2 PM Why Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Is So Popular: [panel discussion with Margarita Gakis, Melodie Campbell, Aspen deLainey, Sandra Wickham, Chadwick Ginther] Urban Fantasy has grown large enough to be its own major genre. Indeed, many publishers have created imprints just for Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. What is it about these subgenres that are so attractive to today’s psyche?
  • Saturday 8 PM Autographs: Festival Guests are joined by 50+ authors
    Drop by between 8 PM – 9 PM to meet the authors and get your books signed. This session is open to the public, so tell your friends.
  • Sunday 4 PM On (Writing) Vacation [panel discussion with Randy McCharles, Patrick Swenson, James Van Pelt, Chadwick Ginther] Writing retreats, with their focused time and space, can inspire and rejuvenate authors and are as accessible as you want them to be. Panelists discuss their experiences and the rewards reaped from attending writing retreats.

Check out all of the programming being offered here:

Thursday August 14th at 7pm: Reading and Signing Tombstone Blues at Audreys Books in Edmonton. 

Write on!

(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.