A Review of J.M. Frey’s Triptych

I’ve been promising to post some reviews of things that I’ve enjoyed on the blog for a while now, so here’s the first: J.M. Frey’s Triptych.

I was excited to read this one. Frey is going to be the Canadian author Guest of Honour at my local SF&F convention, Keycon, and I always try to read some of the attending authors work, if possible. Full disclosure, (for those who get their underpants in a twist about such things) the author provided me with an electronic copy of the book for the purposes of this review. Also, **spoilers** for those who care.

For a little context ab out the book, here’s the publisher copy:

IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that’s what we claim. But then they arrive. Aliens–the last of a dead race. Suffering culture shock of the worst kind, they must take refuge on a world they cannot understand; one which cannot comprehend the scope of their loss.  Taciturn Gwen Pierson and super-geek Basil Grey are Specialists for the Institute–an organization set up to help alien integration into our societies. They take in Kalp, a widower who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and the unfinished toy he was making for a child that will never be born.  But on the aliens’ world, family units come in threes, and when Kalp turns to them for comfort, they unintentionally, but happily, find themselves Kalp’s lovers. And then, aliens–and the Specialists who have been most accepting of them–start dying, picked off by assassins. The people of Earth, it seems, are not quite as tolerant as they proclaim.

Triptych is fittingly told in three parts, with three different voices, Gwen’s mother, Evvie, the alien, Kalp, and Specialist, Basil. Kalp’s voice was probably my favourite. Frey deals with the alien culture very well, and I enjoyed Kalp’s reactions to life on Earth. There is also some great world building and interesting biology and society to Frey’s aliens. I particularly liked the idea of the alien’s family group being a matter of threes rather than twos; one parent to give birth, one to work and provide for the family and the third to care for mother and child.

The gradual insertion of Kalp into Gwen and Basil’s existing relationship was I also totally believed that a segment of humanity would flip out, not only at the prospect of aliens among us, but at us sharing our lives and love with them. I do have hope for humanity’s future (most days) but seeing the hate coming from some opponents of marriage equality, I can only imagine Pat the reaction if that “gay” person was also blue. It was absolutely heart wrenching when Gwen loses her baby because of an attack by such a bigot.

There is a time travel element to the book, which is not my favourite science fiction trope, however, Frey handled it well. I didn’t feel any lingering paradox gnats biting me, and I’m also glad she didn’t use it to obliterate the emotional punch of Gwen’s miscarriage.

All in all, Triptych is fast-paced, highly enjoyable science fiction that really delivers with its characters. Highly recommended!

Thunder Road Shortlisted For Prix Aurora Award For Best Novel


This happened:

Best Novel – English
Destiny’s Fall by Marie Bilodeau, Dragon Moon Press
Food for the Gods by Karen Dudley, Ravenstone Books
Healer’s Sword: Part 7 of the Okal Rel Saga by Lynda Williams, EDGE
The Silvered by Tanya Huff, DAW Books, Inc.
Thunder Road by Chadwick Ginther, Ravenstone Books
Triggers by Robert J. Sawyer, Penguin Canada

I received a very welcome phone call a while back to let me know the news. It was a very welcome surprise. And I am in absolutely excellent company in the Best Novel category, and in excellent company in general. Congratulations to all my fellow nominees! I’m privileged to know a great many of you, and I’m looking forward to meeting everyone else.

Voting begins May 6th and remains open until Noon, PDT September 13th. The awards will be presented at Can-Con in Ottawa October 4-6.

Thank you to everyone who nominated Thunder Road, and thank you to everyone who nominated, period. The Auroras have a long history and none of it would be possible without the fans.

Here’s the nominees in all other categories:

Best YA Novel – English
Above by Leah Bobet, Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong, Harper Teen
Dissolve by Neil Godbout, Bundoran Press
Mik Murdoch, Boy Superhero by Michell Plested, Five Rivers
Pirate Cinema by Cory Doctorow, TOR Teen
Under My Skin: Wildlings Series (Book 1) by Charles de Lint, Razorbill Canada

Best Short Fiction – English

Delta Pi” by Matt Moore, Torn Realities, Post Mortem Press
Happily Ever After” by Marie Bilodeau, When the Villain Comes Home, Dragon Moon Press
Knights Exemplar” by Al Onia, On Spec #90, Fall
Synch Me, Kiss Me, Drop” by Suzanne Church, Clarkesworld, Issue #68, May
The Walker of the Shifting Borderland” by Douglas Smith, On Spec #90, Fall

Best Poem/Song – English
A sea monster tells his story” by David Clink, The Literary Review of Canada, July/August
The Ghosts of Birds” by Helen Marshall, Phantom Drift 2: Valuable Estrangements, Wordcraft of Oregon
Hold Fast” by Leah Bobet, Strange Horizons, June 11, 2012
Roc” by Sandra Kasturi, Come Late to the Love of Birds, Tightrope Books
Zombie Descartes Writes a Personal Ad” by Carolyn Clink, Tesseracts Sixteen, EDGE

Best Graphic Novel – English
Goblins by Tarol Hunt, webcomic
Looking for Group by Ryan Sohmer and Lar DeSouza, webcomic
Raygun Gothic by GMB Chomichuk, Alchemical Press
Weregeek by Alina Pete, webcomic
West of Bathurst by Kari Maaren, webcomic

Best Related Work – English
Shanghai Steam edited by Ace Jordyn, Calvin D. Jim, and Renée Bennett, EDGE
Imaginarium 2012: The Best Canadian Speculative Writing edited by Sandra Kasturi and Halli Villegas, ChiZine Publications
Hair Side, Flesh Side byHelen Marshall, ChiZine Publications
Blood and Water edited by Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society

Best Artist
Richard Bartrop, illustrations for fiction on Reality Skimming blog
GMB ChomichukRaygun Gothic, Alchemical Press
Costi Gurgu, cover art for Inner Diverse, (Starfire World Syndicate)
Michelle Milburn, cover art for Gathering Storm and Healer’s Sword, (EDGE)
Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications

Best Fan Publication
BCSFAzine, edited by Felicity Walker
Broken Toys, edited by Taral Wayne
In Places Between: The Robyn Herrington Short Story Contest, edited by Renée Bennett
Reality Skimming blog, content coordinator Michelle Carraway
Space Cadet, edited by R. Graeme Cameron
Speculating Canada blog, edited by Derek Newman-Stille

Best Fan Filk
Morva Bowman and Alan Pollard, Concert at FilKONtario 22
Debs & Errol (Deborah Linden and Errol Elumir), Songs in the Key of Geek CD
Brooke Lunderville, International Guest of Honour Concert at Consonance
Kari Maaren, Body of Work
Peggi Warner-Lalonde, Concert at NEFilk 22 ConCertino 2012

Best Fan Organizational
Andrew Gurudata, Organizing the Constellation Awards, Toronto
Evelyn Baker, Amy De Ruyte, and Peter Halasz, Executive Committee of WFC Toronto, 2012
Sandra Kasturi, Helen Marshall, and, James Bambury, Co-Chairs, Chiaroscuro Reading Series, Toronto
Sandra Kasturi and Laura Marshall. Co-Chairs, Toronto SpecFic Colloquium: Beyond the Human
Randy McCharles, Chair and Programming, When Words Collide, Calgary

Best Fan Related Work
Ron Friedman, conception and delivery of the Aurora Awards voter package
Helen Marshall, “The Book is Dead; Long Live the Book!”: Some Thoughts on the Coming of eBooks, lecture at the 2012 Toronto SpecFic Colloquium
Michael Matheson, compilation and maintenance of the Can Spec Fic List
Lloyd Penney, for fanwriting and letter and article writing for fanzines and e-fanzines
Peter Watts, “Hive Minds, Mind Hives” lecture at Toronto SpecFic Colloquium

Good luck, everyone!

Write on!

C4 Lit Fest Roundup

C4 Lit Fest was a blast. For a first year festival, it ran very smoothly.

Odin love G.M.B. Chomichuk, when he introduced himself at the Opening Ceremonies, he told the attendees that if they were going to buy only one book on the weekend, they should by Thunder Road. I tried to return the favour when ever I saw someone linger by his table (not that he needs my help, check out his art, Raygun Gothic is AMAZING).

Author alley was a lot of fun, as our tables were in close proximity, and I had the pleasure of being next to awesome Winnipeg YA author, Samantha Beiko  and directly across from awesome Winnipeg urban fantasy author, Sierra Dean. Fun was had. Great to see other familiar faces, G.M.B. Chomichuk, Ronald Hore, Rhiannon Paille, Craig Russell and Susan Rocan. It was also great to meet Jodi Carmichael, The Chapter by Chapter book bloggers: MaryAnn and Gabby, A.P. Fuchs, Gabrielle Goldstone, and Shaylinn Wilbon.

My first panel of the day was Plotting versus Pantsing, with Guest of Honour, Kelley Armstrong and fellow local authors A.P. Fuchs and Ronald Hore. Most of us tended to write on the seat of our pants, but Kelley ably held up the plotting end of the spectrum.

Sadly, How Can I Support My Local Authors (with Samantha Beiko) had the lowest attendance of any of my panels, not that it wasn’t expected. Making people care about the writers in their home town is always tricky. I think that the group that did attend got something out of what Samantha and I had to offer.

We were paired together again on a panel about the Traditional Publishing Process. Sam brought reams of experience as Managing Editor at ChiZine Publications and Marketing/Promotions diva for Signature Editions and I chimed in from the bookseller/book buyer side. Good turn out and good questions.

Sunday got off to a rough start as I woke up to more snow. However, by the end of the day the sun was out and looking back now and seeing grass (dead, brown, snow-mould encrusted grass, but grass all the same) I’m able to forgive that.

My first panel of the day was Fairytales, Folklore and Myths, Oh My! which I shared with Kelley Armstrong and local YA author, Susan Rocan (who was kind enough to interview me, and to review Thunder Road when the book first came out). This was a packed house. We talked about Werewolves, Vampires, Norse Myth (Kelley’s got a Middle Grade novel, Loki’s Wolves, co-authored with Melissa Marr, coming out that looks amazing), Aboriginal spirituality, the dangers of cultural appropriation, and a bit on avoiding inherent sexism and racism in modern takes on the tales. When the audience ran out of questions, I started picking on them and asking questions of them (Sorry, Perry and Craig). Tons of fun.

My final panel of the festival was What is a Beta Reader? with C4 Lit Fest organizer, Rhiannon Paille, and Ronald Hore. As with most panels on publishing or writing advice this quickly veered into territory of every writer is different and everyone’s path is different. I think we covered a lot of the bases on critique groups, first readers and beta readers, though.

Big thanks to Rhiannon and all the volunteers who made C4 Lit Fest such a great experience! I met a bunch of great people–I even sold some books! I’m very happy to hear that C4 Lit Fest will be back again next year.


Where You’ll Find Me At C4 Lit Fest

Tomorrow and Sunday I’ll be appearing at the inaugural Central Canada Lit Fest at Place Louis Riel with Guest of Honour, Kelley Armstrong and many of Manitoba’s talented authors. 

And on that note, here’s where you’ll find me hanging my hat:

In between my panels I’ll be at my table signing books in “Author Alley” and possibly (hopefully) catching a discussion or two. 
Hope to see you there.
Write on!




A Turn of Light Scavenger Hunt

In addition to hosting a guest post from Julie Czerneda, my blog is part of her A Turn of Light scavenger hunt! Click through for all the details. 

From Julie:

There will be six copies given away in Canada (courtesy Penguin Canada, who originated and managed this tour) and four in the US (courtesy DAW Books, who happily cheered and supported it). If there are more successful (ie. you’ve found ALL the answers!) entries than books, never fear. I’ll put all your names in a suitable hat (there’ll be a photo) and do a draw for 

the winners.


Have fun, and good luck if you decide to enter!

Magic, Czerneda Style: A Guest Post By Julie E. Czerneda

Many of you know Canadian author Julie E. Czerneda as the former biologist turned science fiction novelist published by DAW Books NY. You may have read her Clan Chronicles series, or be a fan of Mac or Esen from her other work. Maybe you’ve heard she’s an editor. Also true. This spring, however, prepare to meet the Julie you don’t know. After three years of work, she’s letting out her whimsical side with the release of her first fantasy novel, A Turn of Light, also from DAW. The setting, Marrowdell, is based on pioneer settlements in Ontario. There are toads. And dragons. The magic? All her own. For more about Julie’s work, including book excerpts and upcoming events, please visit www.czerneda.com.

A Turn of Light Cover

Art Credit: Matt Stawicki

To say I’m not known — yet — for magic is an understatement. There’s not a whiff of it in my previous novels; for good reason, since those were science fiction. But I knew there’d be magic in A Turn of Light. The first paragraph I wrote of this story, decades ago, told me what kind I wanted. My kind.

Jenn laughed. The sparkling sound brought up the nose of a curious digger, crowned with a moist dab of soil. Nearer the forest, a rabbit paused, ears flat back to listen for the swoop of an early-hunting owl, and found the strength to jump into the safety of a thorn bush. While on the Northward Road, a weary stranger lifted his head and caught the scent of sunwarmed pine.

Magic innate, yet without guile. Magic of extraordinary consequence, often unexpected. Magic both carefree and wild.

I don’t write magic as tech. To me, that’s too close to science fiction, which I do write very differently and adore for itself. If I had boxes in my brain, tech would be in lovely organized rows and magic would spill throughout and betwixt as lush green vines and ancient silvered spiderwebs. With toads peering between.

I prefer not to do magic as spells. Here’s another bit from that very first paragraph.

The shimmering spot beside her on the hill began to whirl, the long rays of late afternoon sun picking out confused motes of dust caught by its frenzy, yellow pollen spiraling up in streaks of gold.

This introduces my dragon to readers (and to me). Magic again innate. Magic that belongs, as bone or breath belongs, to particular shapes of life. Magic as power is a potent theme in fantasy but in mine, including Turn, I give it away. To beings who are magic, for magic is what they can’t help but do. Here be wonders.

Or monsters. It depends on you. I’m more interested in our reaction to magic than in magic itself. How open to different are we? How willing to give respect instead of fear? If magic is the embodiment of imagination, who embraces it? Who walks away, oblivious? Who flees?

By lamplight, the roses were blood red and black, trailing over the lines of roof and wall, nodding overhead. She’d need a ladder to reach one; not that flowers would let themselves be picked. “I’m here for Poppa,” Jenn whispered. She lifted her hands. “He needs you.” There was a snap somewhere in the darkness overhead, then a single bloom tumbled down. It landed, dew-damp flower and stem, across her palms, and had not a single thorn.

There’s earth-rending magic in Turn as well as dire peril, because there are consequences not to ignore. There’s Bannan, with his truth-seeing eyes, and Jenn Nalynn, on a journey that will change everything she knows. Looking back, however, I find the smallest bits of magic are what I love best. The talents of  house toads and efflet. The ability of a horse to express opinion. The courage of a dragon.

Hurried, his body creaked and strained and tried to fail. The turn slid over and passed him as he pushed his way between neyet. Ylings trilled warnings. Nyphrit slipped into their holes. His useless foot snagged in a root and he pulled if free with a jerk that snapped bone. The road at last. He flung a breeze outward, “RUN!”

Before writing A Turn of Light, I worried if I could set aside, for the time required, my science and science fiction self, the one that demanded rigour and explanations and would never let anything of magic slip by. (Wonder, yes.) I used all sorts of tricks, a topic for another blog, to ensure I changed whatever I could of my work environment and my craft. When I sat to write that first day (October 2nd, 2009, if you’re curious), none of them mattered. I literally trembled.

I thought, then, of how very much I loved imagining my kind of magic. How, if there’s anything I’ve learned over the years, it’s that readers respond best to what I care about most. Write from the heart, I told myself. It’s always the right advice, even when it’s terrifying. Just like that, my fingers flew over the keys and A Turn of Light came to life.

Magic. Czerneda-style.

Julie Czerneda author photo credit Roger Czerneda Photography

Photo Credit: Roger Czerneda Photography

(All quotes from A Turn of Light, DAW Books, used with permission.)

I Always Said I Wouldn’t Go Back To High School If You Paid Me



I guess I’m just a big damned liar.

As Thunder Road was about to be published, I contacted my high school English teacher, Ron Samborski, because he was a huge influence on my love of reading, (and when I turned in a writing assignment full of monsters and heroes, he never once told me to write something different).

I was invited back to my old stomping grounds as a guest speaker for his Grade 11 and 12 English classes. To say it was odd to go back was an understatement. I was speaking in the same room where I had been taught. And while the teacher’s desk had moved in the ::checks watch:: twenty years since I’d been back there, the room felt like I’d never left. Even walking the halls to get there, I think I could have picked out my locker and remembered my old lock combination.

I spoke with the Grade 12s first, talking about my journey as a writer, Thunder Road’s path to publication, and creative writing in general. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in there. I’ve spoken to Red River’s Creative Communications and ACI Manitoba’s Teen Writers’ Workshop, but those where students who had sought out writing either as a hobby or a career. My best case scenario was that one or two members of the class would listen and engage and the rest would quietly ignore me.

Wrong again.

The class was great. They asked some good questions, answered me when I asked questions of them, and when I looked up from my book during the reading portion of presentation, no one was asleep, instead, they seemed, dare I say it, interested. I was expecting far more ambileance. I mean it’s been a while, but I think I can remember being that age (it involved a lot of walking, uphill as I recall, in the snow, -30–you know the drill). The Principal even stopped by to check things out (he got called back to the office before I had a chance to talk to him, unfortunately. I hear he’s a book collector) and their was a photographer taking pictures for the school newsletter.

My first presentation was followed by an informal meet and greet with students and teachers (even better, people actually showed up! Of their own free will–or so I’ve been led to assume) in the library. Lots of memories there too. I met some budding writers, who given their passion, I hope to hear more from in the future. I answered questions about my writing, their writing, Writers in Residence, Arts Grants, I talked about NaNoWriMo with some novel month participants, there was even a poetry question from someone who wasn’t there to see me, but I’m glad she joined in the discussion.

After a nice lunch with Ron, it was back to talk to his Grade 11 class. These students were right in the middle of a creative writing assignment that sounded like a lot of fun (a fusion narrative) and at least a few of them had read Thunder Road. And based on anecdotal evidence, even teenage girls like Loki best. This class was great too, attentive, inquisitive. I do feel like I let them down on the reading and presentation. Maybe having a bit of adrenaline pumping before I spoke to the first class or that by the time I talked to the second class, I’d been talking solidly for almost three hours but my reading felt off. I hope that wasn’t the case, and that it’s just me overanalyzing my work (nothing new there).

This feeling isn’t something new. I noticed it last year at When Words Collide, where due to the vagaries of scheduling, I had to do both of my readings within five minutes or each other. And again I felt that I killed the first reading and stumbled over the second. Something to remember for the future, I guess, try to find some downtime in between readings to recharge the batteries.

I think that besides being able to personalize Ron’s copy of Thunder Roadmy favourite part of the visit was pulling out my Grade 12 project, as an example of why as a writer, you never throw anything out. The world of my “First They Came for the Pigs” in Fungi is drawn (yes, somewhat modified) from material in that twenty year old, handwritten, yarn bound collection of short stories and bad illustrations.

Thank you for having me back, Morden Collegiate. It was a pleasure and a privilege.

Write on!

April Goals

So not only did I not manage to post a list of goals for March, I also didn’t follow up with how I did in February. Time to remedy both of those things.

April Goals:

  • Finish the first draft of my current (and newly untitled–man I hate thinking of titles) urban fantasy Work in Progress.
  • Look at my short fiction not currently on submission and send those stories to new markets.
  • Finish my latest review for Quill and Quire
  • Finish my latest review for The Winnipeg Review
  • Finalize my soundtrack for as-yet-untitled book three of the Thunder Road Trilogy (The soundtrack is the first step of my novel writing process–its essentially my first rudimentary outline).
  • When I finish reading or watching something that I really like, say something about it here on the blog.

Some other things that are up for April, but don’t really count as goals include:

  • Talk to my high school English teacher’s Grade 11 and 12 classes. Mr. Samborski at Morden Collegiate was a huge influence on me when I was in school. He challenged me and encouraged my love of the written word, helping it become a desire to scribble down some of my own. (He’s also the reason why I prefer King Lear to Hamlet)
  • Attend C4 Lit Fest. Other author guests include: Kelley Armstrong, Samantha Beiko, Anita Daher, Sierra Dean, Susan Rocan, and Craig Russell.
  • Attend The Manitoba Book Awards to defend the honour of Thunder Road.
  • Have you nominated your favourite Canadian Speculative Fiction for the Prix Aurora Awards? I still haven’t finalized my lists, but I’ll have to soon, the deadline is April 15th.

Finally, for those without the benefit of long memories, here’s what I had wanted to accomplish back in February:

How’d I do? Not too bad, actually.

Only the Letter Month Challenge didn’t get seen through to completion. I did have fun with it, though, and will probably participate again next year. It was kind of a last minute addition to my activities this year, so I think if I plan ahead a little, I’ll do better next year. It was awesome to get real mail again. I can’t even recall the last time I received a letter in the post before I joined the Letter Month club (and come to think of it, I still owe someone a letter…).

Of the two stories I submitted, one has already been rejected, but that’s okay. I’m free to send it off somewhere else (as per this month’s goals).

Write on!