Music Monday: “Hex” By Neko Case

I love music, even if I’m terrible at playing instruments (and the less said about the one time I went to karaoke, the better). I write to music. I make soundtracks for my stories. I almost always have music on somewhere in the background. I think I’m going to kick off a new–hopefully regular–post here, where I talk a bit about whatever my latest earworm is.

So here’s my first kick at the can: Neko Case’s Hex.

It’s very likely that you’ll see a lot of Neko Case turning up on Mondays; I love pretty much everything Neko Case has released. Hex is one of those songs that when my randomizer spins it out, I end up playing over and over several times. There’s been more than a few bus rides to work where this is the only song I’ve listened to. It had been a while since it turned up, but it did yesterday, and now its all I want to listen to.

Hex elbowed its way onto my soundtrack for Too Far Gone. It wasn’t there during the first draft, but I definitely feel that the frequency I was listening to it while I was revising influenced the tone of the story.

The bit of the song that always sticks with me:

When the stars in the sky begin to fade
Do you tell yourself, don’t be afraid
It’s just the night
That’s dying

Love it. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hit play, one more time.

Write on!

Behind the Scenes of The Last Good Look

I’ve liked crime fiction almost as long as I’ve liked fantasy. So I’m really chuffed that my story “The Last Good Look” was selected to be included in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.

New Canadian Noir Cover

One of my writing mentors was fellow Ravenstone author, Michael Van Rooy, who passed away far too soon. You should do yourself a favour and check out his Monty Haaviko crime novels (An Ordinary Decent Criminal, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Criminal, A Criminal to Remember) they are all great reads.


(Photo Credit: Janek Lowe for the Winnipeg Free Press)

Michael has always been a huge inspiration to me, but was especially when it came to “The Last Good Look”.

Earlier in my writing career I was selected to be the Emerging Writer-in-Residence at the now sadly defunct Aqua Books. Michael had also been one of the Writers-in-Residence there. While I was writing in my office, which had been his office, and trying to finish up the as-yet-unsold Tombstone Blues, I had an idea for a rough-and-tumble troll tough guy.

And so Neelak (Neal to his friends) Trollborn, Wizard of Runes was born. I wrote the first four pages of his story and before long, Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues had sold to Ravenstone, and so I had to set Neal aside.

But I never forgot him.

When Claude Lalumière and David Nickle put out the call for submissions I was so excited to have the reason to figure out the rest of Neal’s debut story. He surprised me a lot, Neal did.

Every good noir also needs its femme fatale. Neal found his in one of my coworkers at the time: artist, photographer, and model, Holly Halftone.

I’ve rarely so blatently stolen someone’s appearance, so I asked Holly if she was okay being written into the story and thankfully she said yes. I had used “Halftone” as a temporary name in the text while I was drafting, thinking I’d eventually come up with something I liked better, but nothing else worked as well, and so Holly got to be a double inspiration on that particular dangerous lady.

Holly Halftone by Alexa Lachuta photography

(Photo Credit: Alexa Lachuta)

Pretty stoked to have this one in print. I hope you enjoy it.

Fellow New Canadian Noir contributor, Corey Redekop, interviewed Keith Cadieux and I about our stories (as well as a bunch of the other authors) over on his blog.

It’s still a long way off, but the Manitoba boys in the anthology, me, Keith and Corey will be doing readings at McNally Robinson Booksellers May 27th. I hope I’ll see you there.

Write on!

One Month Left To Nominate For The 2015 Prix Aurora Awards

While I had my head down to finish Too Far Gone, nominations opened for the Prix Aurora Awards (and a whole mess of other awards too–though it’s the Auroras that are most likely to impact ’round Thunder Road Way).

There is still a month left to nominate, and if you’re so inclined, here’s what I did in 2014:

  • New Year’s Day: Published by Ravenstone, January 2014, eligible in the “Short Fiction” category
  • Runt of the Litter: Published in the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine, eligible in the “Short Fiction” category
  • A Simple Twist of Fate: Self-published October 2014, eligible in the “Short Fiction” category
  • A Taste of the Other Side: Published in Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls, October 2014, eligible in the “Short Fiction category
  • While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks: Self-published, December 2014, eligible in the “Short Fiction” category
  • Co-Chair/Artistic Director ChiSeries Winnipeg with Samantha Beiko: “Fan Organizational” category

Eligibility lists are here:

Please also consider the people that helped me create in 2014.

On Spec Magazine is eligible in the “Best Related Work” category.


Kevin Madison’s work during his “Thunder Road Trip” art blog read of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, is eligible for “Best Fan Related” category

Tombstone Blues Thor and the Dead.finished

Thunder Road Einherjar Finished

Runt of the Litter Grim and Loki.finished

Ted and Ravens

Ted Callan

and the cover and interior illustrations he did for “A Simple Twist of Fate” are eligible in the “Artist” category.

TR ASTOF Cover Finished

I’d also like to give a shout out to Scott Henderson in the “Artist” category for his stunning illustration of Tilda as a valkyrie from Tombstone Blues.


Scott also has a graphic novel that’s eligible this year: The Chronicles of Era.

Chronicles of Era

Check out the awesome sketch he drew in mine:


If you’re a member of CSFFA, please add eligible works to their data base, please nominate, please vote. The more involvement there is in the award from folks who care about Canadian speculative fiction, the more meaningful the award is.

Instructions on how to nominate are available on the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association’s site. But why should you vote? Ottawa author Matt Moore wrote an excellent blog post on why we should participate in the Aurora Awards. The more people that participate, and the more they care, the more these awards will matter.

I still haven’t put my ballot in, so if you know of something from 2014 that absolutely shouldn’t be missed, drop me a line and I’ll add it to my to-read pile.

Thank you, and write on!

My Ad Astra 2015 Schedule

Ad Astra is fast approaching. If you’re attending, here’s where you’ll find me:

Friday, April 10th

8:00 PM – 9:00 PM: Readings: Chadwick Ginther & Arlene F. Marks 

Room: Whitchurch

Saturday, April 11th

2:00 PM – 3:00 PM: Funding Your Grocery Bill: Writing Grants and Writing for Grants 

Room: Markham B

Panellists: Amanda Sun, Karina Sumner-Smith, Robert Boyczuk, Sandra Kasturi

Grant writing is hard – we can’t teach you how to write the perfect grant – But! We can discuss the good, the bad and the necessary fundamentals of grant writing. Gain some insight from our pros who have been there, written the grant and lived to see the benefits.

7:00 PM – 8:00 PM When the Gods Run Amok: Ancient, New and Urban Mythology

Room: Markham B

Panellists: Doug Smith, Kelley Armstrong, Marie Bilodeau

Urban fantasy gives us the chance to play around with our archetypal fairy tales and mythology. We can bring the gods down to our level and we get to bring magic into the everyday. Why is this so compelling?

That’s it for my programming, although I may, should inspiration strike, join Michael Matheson’s Late Night Slash Readings panel.

See you in Toronto!

Write on!

A Few Things Make A Blog Post

I meant to have at least a couple of other posts up by now, but I’ve been fighting the cold from hell (Hmmm, hell or Hel?) the last week. Here’s a few things that haven’t turned up on the blog yet:

A little while back I was interviewed by Jonathan Ball about writing process and why I choose to make my writing goals public.

On Monday, I received my contributor copy of The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir!

New Canadian Noir Comp Copy

The Last Good Look Title Page

It is a beautiful book. I haven’t read every story yet, but really enjoyed the tales by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Corey Redekop, Keith Cadieux, Kelly Robson, and Alex C. Renwick.

Corey Redekop is kindly collecting short interviews about our stories on his website. My answers should be up some time next week.

And finally, there was a very cool review of my Thunder Road ‘verse story “Runt of the Litter” over at Speculating Canada. “Runt of the Litter” originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. Thanks for the continued support Derek Newman-Stille!

Write on!

March Goals

Another month come and gone.

How’d I do?

  • Revise an old story to submit to Swords v. Cthulhu
  • Finish revising a previously drafted story
  • Draft a new short story.
  • Clean my office

Two solid months in a row! I knew that last goal would be a tricky one to complete–believe me, it was down to the wire. I’m just glad I didn’t say I was going to re-organize my office. It needs that too, but I’ll settle for being able to walk around again. To give you an idea of the state of things, I found a birthday card from seven years ago, and an anniversary card from ten years ago.

Evidently, I’m a pack rat.

::cough:: Hoarder ::cough::

Okay, we’re not quite at hoarder levels at Thunder Road HQ. Yet. Never fear, steps are being taken.

I always, always forget that February only has 28 days (yes, I’m aware of leap years). You’d think after so many trips around the sun, that fact would stick, but every time I set a deadline in February, the 26th rolls around and I’m like, “Lots of time to finish.” ::sees calendar:: “NOPE. NOPE. NOPE. SHIT.”

This year wasn’t as bad as many previous when it came to February’s surprise ending, but a variety of non-writing factors still kicked my butt for most of the month. I’d reached the point where I wasn’t sure I would get anything accomplished. So I feel pretty good about what got done.

Looking at my handy new words per day tracking sheet, I drafted just under 15000 words for the month, way down from January, but I was expecting that. I usually have a bit of a comedown after submitting a large project. Two short stories out on submission in two months; one brand new, one a revision of an old story I’d only submitted once. A new story nearly nearly ready to go out the door (I finished my revisions, but I had an idea after the fact, thanks to my writing group, that would cut 1000 more words and I want to mull the notion over before I hit send). I finished a draft on another new story, but I was ear-marking it for a specific anthology and I’ve since heard that the editor has pulled the anthology from the publisher. I was sorry to hear that, but at the same time, I’m not sure I’d have been able to get this piece ready in time for the deadline. I was aiming for an existential horror tone, but so far it comes across as a bad faux-literary wankfest. I’m going to try again and add monsters. Which is a good plan for any occasion really.

So that was February. What’s on deck for March?

  • Reread one of my novel WiPs to refamiliarize myself with a work that I’ve been mostly ignoring since the summer.
  • Finish a comic script I’ve been noodling on.
  • Finish drafting that novella I’ve been noodling on.

That should keep me busy. What are you up to?

Write on!