A Shockingly Timely Sask Expo 2016 Roundup

This was my first year exhibiting at Sask Expo. I’ve heard great things about the show from Winnipeg comic creator, Andrew Lorenz of September17 Productions, and since Saskatoon is a reasonable drive for a weekend show (turns out it’s not as reasonable as I thought, more on that later), I thought it was worth giving a try. Andrew and a bunch of other Manitoba creators like GMB Chomichuk and Nyco Rudolph were going, so I knew I didn’t want to miss it.

Also, there’s lots of cool folks in ‘Toon town that I don’t get to see nearly often enough, so the show also had that going for it. Another bonus, it’s roughly the same distance for me to get there as it is for my pal Clare Marshall, so we tabled up side by side. (Clare writes amazing roundups of her convention experiences, so do check hers out too!)

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It’s hard to get time off from the dayjob in September. It’s busy as hell, and I’m usually at low ebb energy wise, which was my only hesitation about heading west for the expo. And, in my brain I thought Saskatoon was 7 hours from Winnipeg. Turns out, it’s actually 9. I’ve driven the Yellowhead many times in the past, but never made just the Winnipeg to Saskatoon leg, I always stopped a little short of Saskatoon, or carried on to Edmonton. That, and forgetting about the damned time difference meant I had to beg, borrow, and steal a second day off work so I wouldn’t still be on the road at 3am after a busy con and needing to go into work almost as soon as I got home.

So…was the con worth it?

Mostly.

We shared a row with September17 and Justin Schauf who I know from C4 and other events. I really dug September17’s Canadian Corps, and Justin was the artist on that book.

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He also did a great Doctor Fate sketch for me a while back.

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Sask Expo announced they had over 15000 people attend over the weekend. I had it my head that there would be more. Maybe because Carrie Fisher was there, or perhaps I’d misheard last year’s attendance. The Expo did seem well organized. It was one of the easiest load ins I’ve ever had, and the volunteers were easy to spot, and ubiquitous, my problems finding a water fountain in the building aside (something nobody seemed able to direct me to, despite being certain there was one). On Sunday, volunteers came around to all the exhibitors to provide bottled water, which was very helpful.

Clare and I had our tables set up across from the Creator Guest aisle, which is cool, but unfortunately the spacing in the aisle was so broad, it was very hard to get any concentration of foot traffic. I heard other vendors had a different issue in cramped aisles nearer to the entrance but the same problem. Once you’re moving in a cramped aisle, it’s hard to stop to look at a table even if you’re interested as the press of people behind you keep you going. Once people hit our aisle it was being used as a superhighway to get from one end of the expo to the other, with brisk walkers not wanting to browse. Pretty much every vendor in our aisle was saying they had the same issue.

I met my minimum sales threshold to consider returning to Sask Expo. That doesn’t sound great, but the Saturday was really slow for me, and I wasn’t happy with my table build, so I tore it down Sunday morning and I think it came out stronger. Sales certainly were.

I kept seeing folks cosplaying vikings, but few were swinging by, so I bought a replica Mjolnir and thudded it down on the table.

WORTHY.

I was talking to Clare about sales and the foot traffic patterns, and she said “what’s your brand?” well right now it’s Thunder Road, sure I tagged my banner “Mythic Fiction” because that is what I do. While I have other stuff on my table, it’s the Thunder Road trilogy that sells best, reminding me of the old bookselling adage: Sell more of what is selling.

Clare knows this stuff. it’s her job. Con sales are a sideline for me, a bit of supplemental income to direct towards travel or shiny projects, but it’s a big part of her business plan. So I listen when she suggests something. It’s also cool getting to watch her work, and how she engages her customers, both returning and potential.

How’d that advice turn out?

If you rebuild it they will come.

I made the books way more prominent, and that hammer paid for itself within the hour. I sold two complete trilogies to folks who recognized it, and their wondering why it was on my table gave me the opportunity to pitch the books to them.

I handed out lots of postcards and business cards over the weekend, so that’s good. Hopefully that will lead to some future sales, or requests from the library. Hard to say what the results will be. I know that there’s a lot of folks who seem to buy the second or third time you do a show, because they keep seeing you around, and I guess they no longer assume you’re a fly-by-night operation. I also noticed a significant uptick in web traffic, and lots of those views came via Sask Expo’s exhibtor page, before, during and after the show.

I was also surprised by the number of folks who stopped by to say they’d read and enjoyed the series, as I’ve not made much inroads into Saskatchewan sales wise, and my last event there was almost three years ago.

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One young woman who’d read the first book and told me she’d enjoyed it came back later to get it signed and returned again on Sunday to purchase the rest of the trilogy.

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Thunder Road is also currently on adoption for Professor Michael Cichon’s “Beowulf and Tales of the Northern Heroes” course at U of S, and some of the students popped by to get their books signed. Pretty cool when they’re forced to buy it, and they still want it inscribed. It’s moments like that which really push you through the dead times in Artist’s Alley.

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Not related to the writing side of my trip, but I also found a bunch of the issues I need to recreate my run of the 90s version of New Warriors! Woo!

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Mike was also kind enough to host me and Clare while we were in Saskatoon, and we had a great time, so I’m very grateful for the hospitality, fine food and drink, and excellent conversation.

I don’t know a ton of people from Saskatchewan, but many of them stopped by for a visit, so it was great to see Arthur Slade, Kurtis Wiebe, , Ed Willett, and Ian Goodwillie again.

Okay! On to the real reason folks come by my comic convention roundups: COSPLAY.

I’d probably have more (and better) photos to share, but Wendy was able to make the trip with me to track down shots of folks I couldn’t catch at the table. Sorry, folks!

JOUST.

When I asked for his picture, this Lemongrab screamed “ACCEPTABLE.”

I didn’t see many Lokis and no Thors this time around, but this young lady was great, and very excited to hear that Loki was a character in my books.

FOUND YOU BOTH.

Jeff Burton, creator of Auroraman, dressed up as his character.

The Saskatchewan Ghostbusters were out in force.

Can’t wait to see what the Manitoba Ghostbusters cook up for C4!

An awesome Betty and Violet from Rat Queens.

AKU!

This Hawkwoman was bloody amazing.

Okay, that was Sask Expo 2016!

Write on!

An Embarrassingly Late Prairie Comics Festival Roundup

Prairie Comics Festival was a blast! Sorry it took me so long to write about it.

I’m so glad to hear that it’ll be happening again in 2017. The library really got behind the festival, which certainly helped.

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(My photo doesn’t do it justice, but the display person turned this poster into a 3D cutout. So cool!)

I didn’t take in any of the programming, so I can’t speak to that, but the exhibition room was fantastic. There was a great energy in the room and even in times of slower foot traffic there always seemed to be patrons perusing the tables. I appreciated that there was a break between panels which not every convention or festival thinks to do. Hope Nicholson’s commitment to keeping admission and exhibition free is also admirable. It really takes the pressure off when you’re not worried about covering your table, and I think that relaxed atmosphere lead to more substantial interactions between exhibitors and patrons.

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I did manage to sell some books, but I was mostly there to raise the profile of Mythfits. Me and Sam had some ashcan pages available for folks to peruse, and some cover prints, and the patrons I talked to seemed pretty excited about the comic. Can’t wait to unveil that first issue!

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It was amazing to see so many people come out on the strength of predominantly local talent. Even if I’m not asked to be an exhibitor next year, I’ll be back as a fan for sure!

Write on!

An Embarrassingly Late When Words Collide 2016 Roundup

Sorry for the delay on this roundup, folks!

Another year, another trip to Cowtown!

This trip was a little different. Samantha Beiko and I decided to drive to the con instead of flying. A supposedly fun thing I don’t think I’ll ever do again. Because of my car, not the company.

Roughly two hours into a thirteen hour drive, as Sam was joking about not getting stranded in Brandon again, my battery light came on. Rather than risking the car dying on the road, we pulled into Brandon for repairs. What had initially sounded like a one or two-hour delay became closer to four after waiting for the part to arrive, but new alternator installed, we journeyed on. Despite therapeutic cowch outside of Canadian Tire this development was…so disheartening.

Not gonna lie, the temptation to just give up on the trip then and there was pretty high. But! We were both on programming, both up for Aurora Awards, and, both really excited to visit our friend Clare for her birthday.

So we soldiered on, but that thirteen hour drive ended up being closer to nineteen, door to door.

There is a lot of Saskatchewan to get through. It’s not that the province isn’t pretty, but when you start roughly halfway through Manitoba, and are going halfway into Alberta, crossing the entirety of Saskatchewan just feels like forever. It takes the time it takes, but the perception of that time…that I could’ve done without.

We managed to dodge most of the thunderstorms, and had good weather at least.

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This one only caught us for about thirty seconds, but we were completely blindied by the sun shining through the downpour. Sweet little Bifrost though waving us onward though.

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The skies were amazing. I do love those big damn prairie skies. I am glad I got to see these clouds from a bit of a distance rather than having to drive through them.

Okay on to the con itself:

Calgary has a way of causing me headaches. Whether it’s the altitude, or the pressure changes, or what…I dunno. I’m batting 3 for 8 when it comes to Cowtown visits that give me a headache so bad I vomit (take your whiskey jokes and walk, folks) so I’m always a little bit on edge wondering if it’ll happen again. It’s one of the reasons I program lightly at WWC. No vomiting this time. YAY! But the length of the drive and the stress of car repairs did end up giving me a pretty wicked tension headache (thanks, Jill Flanagan for sorting that out!).

I had no programming on Friday. Which is nice for me. I like to catch up with folks at When Words Collide, and I have a lot of folks to catch up with there! We rolled in early, and helped Clare get her table set up and then got our membership badges.

And then I enjoyed a Basil Hayden’s bourbon, which until recently, I wasn’t able to buy in Manitoba. It’s always a treat when the convention bar has it on the shelf.

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Saturday I participated in a Myth and Folklore panel moderated wonderfully by S.G. Wong (check out her latest, Death Takes the Hindmost when it releases, I got to read an advance copy. Very nice!) and thanks to fellow panelists Rhonda Parrish, and Nancy M. Bell for the lively discussion.

I found some copies of this on the freebie table:

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My friend Chris Smith (an inaugural and long-suffering member of my writing group) has a story in this one. The Crow Maiden. Very cool story. You should read it. I brought a few copies home for him.

Saturday also meant running around to grab things for the Post-Apocalyptic Four party I was co-hosting with friends and fellow Aurora nominees Randy McCharles, Eileen Bell, Ryan McFadden and Billie Milholland. By things I, of course, mean whiskey (and whisky).

The Prix Auroras were handed out. This is no longer news, but I still want to give a shout out to the worthy winners. Neither I nor ChiSeries Winnipeg were awarded in our categories, but there were a lot of great works being celebrated, so that’s okay. Looking at the stats, Too Far Gone came in second in the novel category, so that’s pretty cool too. Thank you to everyone who nominated and voted,and congratulations to all the winners!

  • Best English Novel: A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
  • Best English YA Novel: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet, Scholastic Canada/Clarion Books
  • Best English Short Fiction: “Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson, Tor.com
  • Best English Poem/Song: “Origami Crane / Light Defying Spaceship” by Naru Dames Sundar, Liminality, Issue 5 Autumn
  • Best English Graphic Novel: The Lady ParaNorma by Vincent Marcone, ChiZine Publications
  • Best English Related Work: Second Contacts edited by Michael Rimar & Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
  • Best Visual Presentation: Orphan Black, Season 3, John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, Temple Street Productions
  • Best Artist: Erik Mohr, covers for ChiZine Publications
  • Best Fan Publication: Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille
  • Best Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles, Chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
  • Best Fan Related Work: Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating, Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM

We went out for supper and cake after the awards to celebrate Clare’s birthday.

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BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE!

After consuming my weight in Indian food and gluten-free vegan chocolate cake, I had to rush back to the hotel for the room party. It’s been four years since I’ve thrown a con party. It’ll probably be at least that many more until the next one. Lots of folks came out for it, but while I enjoy the parties, it’s another matter throwing one. It also means you can’t leave when you want to if you get overwhelmed by the crowd.

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Look at this room.

There was nowhere to put anybody.

Which was awesome and terrifying.

Huge thanks to everyone who came out to drink our whiskey and beer, and hang out and talk writing, or just talk–loud and crowded as it was. You’re all great. I still can’t fucking believe we weren’t shut down within the hour.

Early on Sunday I was on Susan MacGregor’s panel on writing trilogies. Great batch of panelists and questions from Susan. Thanks to Susan, and fellow panelists Gerald Brandt, Samantha Beiko, Barb Galler-Smith and to everyone who came out.

Once again Sandra Wickham presented her “Writing About Fighting” presentation. And I got to be her fight dummy. Another packed room! Sandra does a great job with this so you really should check it out if you’re at a con where she’s presenting it (and not just to see me get kicked in the stomach).

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Photo by S.G. Wong.

(One of these days I’m going to beak off too much on Twitter and Sandra will just straight up murder me in front of her audience)

I skipped the dead dog to hang out with Sam and Clare, decompress, and watched Dragon Heart.

The drive home wasn’t as long as the drive to Calgary, but it was long enough.

Still, a rainbow that crossed the entire sky was a nice welcome home when we pulled over in Brandon to swap out the driver’s seat.

The drive home was especially long the last hour of thunderstormin’. Poor Sam had to drive. What a trooper!

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I tried multiple times to catch a lightning strike. Not easy with a cell phone camera.

I also really wanted an image of a lightning strike behind the Halfway Tree. For reasons.

And once we got fully into the shit, it was dark.

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But, we made it home okay, and you couldn’t ask for a better driving partner than Sam Beiko. 12/10 would road trip with Sam again.

See you again next year, When Words Collide!

Write on!

Appearing At Sask Expo!

I’ll be driving out to Saskatoon (should that be running back to Saskatoon?) Friday to set up for my first Sask Expo. There’s lots of cool folks to meet there: Carrie Fisher, James Marsters, Shannon Purser, and Tom Felton on the media side,  Tom Grummett, Karl Kerschl, Kurtis Wiebe, and Steve Niles on the comic side, among many talented others.

Those of you who’ve read Too Far Gone know that the outskrits of Saskatoon play a bit of a role. That chapter is one of my favourites in the novel, and the one I usually read at events. So if you’re at Sask Expo, come by my table and ask me about Secret Saskatchewan Lore. I’ll tell you about how that chapter came to be, and give you a little bit of swag (while supplies last).

You can find me at Booth #1318 in Artist’s Alley, side by side with my pal Clare C. Marshall of Faery Ink Press! A bunch of my C4 friends look to be there too, so I think this’ll be a good time.

Write on!

 

Music Monday: “Oxycontin Blues” By Steve Earle

This is not a confession. Settle down.

Lately I’ve swung back into a cycle of listening to a lot of Steve Earle.

Which is a good thing.

He’s an amazing storyteller with his songs, and this one is no different. The reason I first started listening to Steve Earle (recently, anyway) was because I was sick of all the music I had on my phone but have been too lazy/busy to swap it out with any care. Much of it was a writing soundtrack from a previous book, and as that novel took me longer to get out the door than I would’ve liked, I was also listening to those songs longer than I would’ve liked.

Earle’s songs don’t necessarily fit the book I’m working on now (it’s a sword and sorcery sort of thing) but they do fit the book I wrote for NaNoWriMo back in 2013, which I haven’t got around to editing since, as I had to finish up the Thunder Road Trilogy. With every Steve Earle song I listen to, I can hear that book calling me again, wanting to be finished.

I just need to hold on to that feeling long enough to get the current book out the door. I’ve been bad in the past at writing first drafts and not editing them soon enough, leaping to the next story I needed to get out of my head.

In the meantime, I can’t get this out of my head.

Well my daddy worked in the coal mine
Till the company shut it down
Then he sat around and drank hisself blind
Till we put him back underground
Now nothin’ grows on this mountain
And what’s a poor boy to do?
Except to wander these hills forgotten
With the oxycontin blues
Write on.

Those Who Make Us Cover Reveal!

Those Who Make Us has a final cover, and the anthology can now be preordered here:

Those Who Make Us Cover

What resides beneath the blankets of snow, under the ripples of water, within the whispers of the wind, and between the husks of trees all across Canada? Creatures, myths and monsters are everywhere…even if we don’t always see them. This is a unique and powerful collection of all-new, cross-genre tales that take the reader into real and imagined worlds, ranging from an encounter with the Metis creature Rugaru to trolls dissatisfied with modern life, to the demons who follow us from our parents’ countries, and to Anishinaabe myths about the creation of creeks. Twenty emerging and award-winning authors explore the way we think about and interact with the unnatural – showing how much the stories we create can teach us about what it means to be human.Authors: Helen Marshall, Renee Salkikar, Nathan Adler, Kate Story, Braydon Beaulieu, Chadwick Ginther, Dominik Parisien, Stephen Michell, Andrew Wilmot, Rati Mehrotra, Rebecca Schaeffer, Delani Valin, Corey Redekop, Angeline Woon, Michal Wojcik, Andrea Bradley, Alex C. Renwick and Andrew Sullivan.

My contribution is a Thunder Road ‘verse story entitled “A Door in the Rock” which is set in Flin Flon and is full of dwarves and trolls and Chevy Suburbans. I’m very pleased with how this one turned out and I hope you’ll enjoy it. Thank you, as always, to David Jón Fuller for the Icelandic language assist.

So glad to be a part of this anthology! It includes so many great writers whose work I’ve loved, and so many more whose work I’m about to discover. And this makes three anthologies I’ve shared with Corey Redekop and four with Alex Renwick. Maybe we’ll need to put out a collection…

Write on!

September Goals

First off, how’d I do in August?

  • Keep my short stories on submission
  • Query agents
  • First edit pass on my new manuscript
  • Prep for my panels at When Words Collide
  • Have fun at When Words Collide, regardless of Prix Aurora results
  • Write a chapter for An Excuse for Whiskey
  • Discuss Whiskey edits with Sandra Wickham at WWC

Stretch goals:

  • Finish revising a short story I’ve been noodling with and send it out

Not as great as I’d hoped. There were a number of sitting ducks on that list, so I should’ve been able to hit everything. The big one, well, one of the big ones is off the plate. My new urban fantasy novel is out the door and awaiting resposnse from agents.That means one of my yearly goals just bit the dust!

  • Revise 2015 WiP for submission to agents and editors.

I have some more queries to send out yet, but a few of the agencies I wanted to submit to were closed until after Labour Day.

As for the new manuscript, I got about three quarters of the way through my first round of edits, and have written roughly half the scenes and connective tissue I felt the first draft was missing. I love the early bits of the book to pieces. The middle and end still feel pretty rough, but hey, that’s why I revise. My first drafts come out super rough, and more about finding the story than the prose and I build them up, and polish them as I go forward.

When Words Collide was a good time. Unfortunately, the warp and weft of the con didn’t leave Sandra and I a lot of time to work on our book. We did decide that we need to do a reread of the early material as we drive to the novel’s climax. Unfortunately, we didn’t actually plot out the finale of the book. We’ve definitely been letting some early threads lie fallow. A nature of the beast that is collaborative writing, I think. I’m pretty good about being able to hold a whole book in my head while I write, but I’m not Professor X (despite my hairline) so when half of the book is hiding in Sandra’s brain, I’m not surprised that things have slipped. Still, we’ll figure it out. I love the world and characters we’ve created, so I can’t wait for folks to be able to read this one! I figure we have roughly three chapters each left to deliver to finish our first draft.

I didn’t win a Prix Aurora award, but I did have a blast driving with Samantha Beiko (12/10 would road trip again) despite my car not wanting to completely cooperate, and hanging with Clare Marshall is always awesome. Especially since she was a birthday princess that weekend! We skipped the dead dog to watch Dragonheart and drink whiskey.

I sent out what stories I had that weren’t already on submission and had likely markets available to them…which was not many this time around. A few stories are going to get trunked at the end of this year, I think. Which is why I really wanted to hit that stretch goal (and getting more new stories out this year was a part of my yearly goals list too).

And for September:

September is very busy at the day job, so I’m not going to push too hard. Especially since I have an out of town convention and a Winnipeg Writers Festival appearance to prep for.

  • Keep my short stories on submission
  • Send out more novel queries to agents
  • Edits on my new WiP: finish currrent draft and at least one more to boot
  • Finish revising a short story I’ve been noodling with and send it out
  • Attend Sask Expo and have fun (and sell some books, maybe?)

Write on!