(I’m In) Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe!

Very excited to finally be able to announce that my story “Midnight Man versus Doctor Death” will be appearing in Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe edited by Claude Lalumière & Mark Shainblum. This will be my second time dinging the Tesseracts bell, and my second time in one of Claude’s anthologies. I love selling to the same market again. It helps one feel like the first time wasn’t a fluke.

This sale also means a lot because superhero comics were my gateway to reading way back when. Between wishing I could draw better and playing various superhero roleplaying games, I have created more superheroes and supervillains than I can easily remember, so it’s a thrill to have one out there in the world officially.

I do hope readers will like Midnight Man (obviously), as the story ties into a couple of my other works-in-progress.

Here’s the complete list of contributors:

John Bell ~ P.E. Bolivar ~ Kevin Cockle ~ Evelyn Deshane ~ Marcelle Dubé ~ Chadwick Ginther ~ Patrick T. Goddard ~ Kim Goldberg ~ Geoff Hart ~ Sacha A. Howells ~ Arun Jiwa ~ D.K. Latta ~ Michael Matheson ~ Bernie Mireault ~ Luke Murphy ~ Brent Nichols ~ David Perlmutter ~ Mary Pletsch & Dylan Blacquiere ~ Jennifer Rahn ~ Corey Redekop ~ Alex C. Renwick ~ Jason Sharp ~ Bevan Thomas ~ Leigh Wallace ~ A.C. Wise

Write on!

May Goals

How in the hell are we a third of the way through the year? I’m going to try not to think about that…

Instead, I’ll look back at how I did with April’s goals:

  • Work on my other WiP
  • Revise and submit one of my previously drafted short stories.
  • Get rolling on keeping the rest of my short fiction on submission again (FINALLY)
  • Finish my comic script

Progress on the WiP went very well (okay, there was a lot of swearing). Locked another five chapters, and made preliminary revisions on a few more. I’m at roughly the halfway point of this draft. It’s taking longer than I’d like, but it’s moving again for the first time in forever.

I organized my short fiction and found potential markets for my available short stories. Pretty much everything went out the door, including previously published short stories looking for reprint markets. I only had to hold one thing back, because I ran out of open reprint markets. I spaced the organizational tasks out over the month instead of devoting an entire day to submitting stories, which helped keep the job manageable, but it also highlighted why I need to stay on top of my short stories. Maybe I’ll set aside one day a week to ensure everything is up to date going forward. All told I think it was over ten hours to double check that stories weren’t in fact on submission elsewhere, build a list of available markets for each story, and then make sure those markets were accepting submissions. After that was done, came the tweaking of formatting and submitting. As I was in the middle of doing all that, a couple of rejections for previous submissions rolled in (for a while I thought I’d hit a new record, but 11 months was still a little shy of the longest it’s taken for me to get a response). So the hard part of keeping my short stories on submission is done. I just have to maintain the machine better for the rest of the year and that’s another big goal down.

I got sick again in April, or maybe more accurately, I never got entirely well, which cost me a weekend and lots of energy. I still feel like I’m fighting it. Blergh. That’s all I have to say to this bloody six week and counting cold. The cold definitely did me in on the revising a short story front. Another thing I’ve noticed is that once I hit a good deal of momentum on a novel, I am loathe to set it aside unless I am writing for a contracted deadline.

My comic script required three more drafts before I felt good about turning it in. I probably rewrote every word of that script, even if the bones of the story stayed the same. All of this was done without really imagining who might be drawing the story. But now the editor on this project showed me some sample art by the person they want me paired with, and HOLY SHIT. I really want this to work out. More news when I have news, obviously.

And what’s on the agenda for May:

  • Keycon is on the horizon (10 more days!), so I want to sort out what I’ll be reading during my reading slot. Chances are I will preview some of Too Far Gone, but I have an hour to fill, and will probably read at least one short story in completion (so let me know if there is anything you’ve a hankering to hear) in addition to a TFG teaser.
  • Polish up and practice my presentation for The Writers’ Union of Canada.
  • Keep plugging away at that WiP.

That’s it for May.

Write on!

Free Comic Book Day and Authors for Indies Day!

Today is two great days for readers! Authors for Indies and Free Comic Book Day.

I’ll be hanging my hat at McNally Robinson Booksellers from 1 pm until 2 pm recommending books, and maybe signing a couple of my own. I’m also set up virtually over at Valkyrie Books with a guest post.

Before I head to McNally, I’ll be trucking on down to my local comic shop, Mighty Comics, to get my Free Comic Book Day haul. One thing to remember about Free Comic Book Day, the comics are free for you, but not for the stores, and neither is staffing the shop, or keeping the lights on. So how about you buy something while you’re there to show some support. Cool? Cool.

Write on, read on.

New Year, New Goals 2015 Edition

This is coming a bit late isn’t it? It’s still January, so it still counts.

Here were my goals from last year:

  • 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.).

Not going to lie. This wasn’t the best year for hitting goals. It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything, but opportunities kept coming up that weren’t a part of my goals list. They were pretty cool though. I won a Manitoba Arts Council writing grant, and applied for my first Canada Arts Council Grant (still waiting to hear back on that one). I was invited to teach a couple of workshops (which also meant I had to design a couple of workshops): the ACI Teen Writing Workshop at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library, and a Writing Dark Fantasy and Horror workshop for the Thompson Writing Guild (Thanks ACI for having me, and thanks to the city of Thompson and the Manitoba Writers’ Guild for sending me north!). As a part of the teen writing workshop I also edited an anthology of my students’ work (Shine a Light and it’s available at Millennium Library if you want to check it out), there’s some excellent young writers coming up in this province, I assure you.

Okay, so, how bad was last year for actually making my goals:

  • 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.).

Pretty bad (this is probably why I never do New Year’s resolutions).

I finally finished a draft of Too Far Gone, and have done a couple revision passes, but it’s not handed in yet. It will be by month’s end, but it’s no longer 2014, is it?

Conventions fared better, I went to more conventions this year than any year prior. In fact, I doubled down on the convention in a new city goal by attending World Horror Con in Portland, Oregan, and World Fantasy Con in Washington, D.C. What I’ve realized for a long time, and still need to find a better way to implement, is how to be more productive while I’m on the road.

Most of my revision energy went into Too Far Gone this year, I made some progress on the first book in a potential new series, but it’s not ready for submission yet. Which is why I bowed out of committing to NaNoWrimo early this year, I’d hoped to have Too Far Gone off to first readers by end of October so that I could NaNo guilt-free, but that didn’t work out, and so I didn’t see the point in dodging one deadline, while adding another first draft to the pile.

I was more diligent with submitting my short fiction at the beginning of the year, I also identified some new markets, and did some research into reprint markets and audio markets, but as the deadline loomed for Too Far Gone that discipline fell away. Which is why I also didn’t finish up a lot of those short story drafts.

On the plus, side, a drafted a bunch of new stories. “New Year’s Eve,” a Thunder Road vignette, was published on the Ravenstone website in January. I sold “The Last Good Look” to The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir (releasing March 1st, 2015!), another has been accepted pending revisions/contract signing (so I won’t say any more for now) and I self-published two stories. The first self-published story “A Simple Twist of Fate” was an experiment. I didn’t have anything new for the Winnipeg Comic Con (C4) this year, so wrote a  new Thunder Road story, hired an illustrator for the cover and interior illustrations and had it printed to look like a comic book. That was a rousing success. I’ll definitely do more of those (thanks Kevin Madison for the art, Samantha Beiko for the book design, and GMB Chomichuk for the idea). The second story I self-published, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks,” also a Thunder Road story, was published on my website, as a thank you to my readers (because you’ve been awesome to me). I’ve also got two other stories that I drafted that have to be polished for submission, and the first 10000 words of a novella in the can.

Those comic scripts are almost there…One has finished art, and me and the artist just need to get together and sign off that we’re both happy and we can send it to the editor. The other script just needs one or two more passes, and I’ll send it in to the editor so he can find me an artist.

And for this year:

  • Finish Too Far Gone.
  • 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.
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • Get those old stories polished and out the door (which I think will also help the goal above from getting lost in the shuffle)
  • Write and submit at least two new short stories.
  • Write a script for a secret comic project with Samantha Beiko.
  • Say no to more “author” stuff and yes to more “writing” stuff.
  • Keep better track of my daily word count output.

I’m not planning to make a run at NaNo this year. If Too Far Gone releases when I think it will in the fall, then I’ll probably be touring in November. I played that game in 2013 and it was a wee bit stressful. I’ve been keeping track of my daily word count since I saw this post by Jamie Todd Rubin, and it’s definitely helping to motivate me. At times it didn’t feel like I was writing very much, since a lot of my time was spent revising, but after only twelve days, I see that all the those new words I sneak in while I rewrite are adding up to a page or two of new material a day. Seeing that I’ve got a few hundred words down, makes me want to add to them. I’ve never actually tracked my words for a full year, so I’m curious how it’ll shake down.

Finally, my goals for the month of January:

  • Finish Too Far Gone  (I have to, that’s my deadline)
  • Turn in a review of Owl and the Japanese Circus for The Winnipeg Review
  • Submit a story to Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe

Write on!

Central Canada Comic Con 2014 Roundup

Well…that went well.

Another C4 is in the bag, and I feel like it was an unqualified success. Artist’s Alley was moved away from the main exhibition hall this year. I was worried that being away from the bigger vendors and the celebrity guests would hurt the artists, a worry made more serious by a slow Friday, but it really didn’t. I’ll admit to being concerned about that, given that I’d printed up a book just for the con, but Saturday and Sunday more than made up for that. Artist’s Alley was packed most of the weekend. We also had better lighting, a brighter, more cheerful space, and (and I can’t stress this enough) carpeted floor. That carpet made a huge difference with all the standing I had to do over the weekend.

I’d brought my tablet to do some writing, as there had been slow times last year where I could really dive in and get some words, but that wasn’t the case this year. There was always someone to talk to so not a lot of writing got done, other than a few messily scrawled notes to self in my notebook.

I shared a booth with Samantha Beiko, GMB Chomichuk, Ryan Roth Bartel, and Jeff Martin and had a blast. There were a bunch of other awesome folks in Artist’s Alley this year, Lovern Kindzierski, Scott Henderson, Nyco Rudolph, Scott A. Ford, Sierra Dean, and the Burst Books crew (Ron Hore and Leia Getty).

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Sam ended up doing a Tilda sketch in her Valkyrie Books Dream Book. Which was pretty awesome.

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Okay, this couple was just to perfect not to take a picture. I was wearing a Thor shirt of my own, and Sam is a huge She-Hulk fan. They were kind enough to pose with our books.

I talked to lots of folks, and it was surprising how many people stopped by who had actually read my books. Sales aside, the convention was totally worth it for the young man who stopped dead when he saw Thunder Road and realized that I was the author. His enthusiasm for my work certainly helped keep me energized over the 13 hours I was in Artist’s Alley on Saturday.

My limited print run Thunder Road short story “A Simple Twist of Fate” was a success also. I didn’t sell out, but I sold a lot of copies. It was also great to have something new for the people who bought Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues last year. Credit where credit is due, I got the idea from GMB Chomichuk and his Raygun Gothic limited print runs and Kevin Madison knocked it out of the park with the art, as did Samantha Beiko with the book’s design.

A Simple Twist of Fate

Too Far Gone releases next fall, so there will be a new novel in time for next year’s Central Canada Comic Con, but I wouldn’t discount the possibility of having another new convention exclusive short to debut at C4 2015. We’ll see, no promises on that front yet. Too Far Gone needs to come first.

Kevin Madison, the artist of “A Simple Twist of Fate” was in town to surprise his mother with a visit, and he had time to run by the con, which was awesome. He even happened to be there when someone was buying the story, and got to do a signing and sketchfor her.

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Just when I thought I was about to lose my voice, it was time to sit down with Dan Vadeboncouer and Kenton Larsen for the Media Nerds Podcast. We talked a bit about my books and writing, but dove quickly into geeking out about movies and television, and discussing Star Wars (as happens from time to time). At the end, I gave a big shoutout to Jeff Vandermeer’s Southern Reach trilogy.

Met Edmonton artist and writer Jeff Martin. Jeff’s done lots of cons and had some cool tips that I’ll try to incorporate into future ventures. There’s still a few things I need to take care of if I want to start doing more of these types of cons. Better signage for one. Maybe some ancillary things like buttons or magnets for sale. Again, we’ll see. I also don’t want to lose sight of the fact I’m there to sell books.

I usually end up leaving C4 with all kinds of swag and 2014 was no different.  I thought I wasn’t going to buy any more art, as I still haven’t hung up everything from last year, but the heart wants what it wants. I got it in my head to get a Dr. Fate and Zatanna original sketch, but I couldn’t find the artist I was hoping to do it, so instead I may have commissioned a (modified) Dr. Fate helmet from Rampant Design. Clearly I cannot be left alone at my own table. I will turn all of my profits into swag.

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Picked up a copy of Scott Henderson’s new graphic novel, Chronicles of Era.

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And got a pretty sweet sketch inside too.

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Jeff Martin and I traded books. I sent him home with a copy of Thunder Road and now I’ve got a book about Space Wrestlers to read.

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In a happy surprise, I found that I’m an entry in the Manitoba Authors colouring book fundraiser being done by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild.

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My book came with Black, Grey, and Orange crayons. I might also draw some hair sticking out the sides of that hat…

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I didn’t find the entire Beau Smith/Mitch Byrd Guy Gardner Warrior run, but this was a good start. One of my favourite issues, illustrated by Phil Jimenez, and Supermullet Superman? Gold.

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Nyco Rudolph bills his work as “Art for people who are classy as fuck” so I’m pretty chuffed to be putting this “Viking as Fuck” print up on my wall.

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Fantastic old school print by Donovan Yaciuk, creator of Spacepig Hamadeus.

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Talked to Hope Nicholson, who Kickstarted the return of Canada’s first superheroine, Nelvana of the Northern Lights, and scored a couple of sweet prints. Wished I would have remembered to bring my Nelvana collection with me though, it would be nice to have it signed.

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A while back I commissioned an original Tilda drawing from Scott Henderson that was inspired by Tombstone Blues. Man did he deliver. Pictured here are a signed print, and the original inked page. You can still see the pencil marks in places. I love it.

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Just look at it. God. I can’t wait to see what he cooks up for Too Far Gone.

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STAY VIGILANT!

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Finally got my hands on volume 2 of Raygun Gothic!

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And a sketch of Ghost Doctor 13 (And his sidekick, the brain of Neils Bohr)!

Who is Ghost Doctor 13?

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Time to read and find out.

COSTUMES!

I’m not much of a cosplayer myself. I can barely find the energy to dress up for Halloween these days (I went as Darkest Timeline Chadwick this year). But I love seeing the folks who go all out. And comic conventions are full of the highest concentration of balls out great costumes you’re likely to find anywhere.

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These vikings were awesome.

There were a lot of Poison Ivys this year (I suppose as costumes go, that one is evergreen. Bah dum bum), and lots of Harley Quinns. There always are. Fewer Adventure Time costumes than last year, to my disappointment. Newly popular were the Winter Soldiers, Quicksilvers, and Rocket Raccoons and Groots–not surprised by that at all given how sweet they were in their various movies.

Jessica Quicksilver

My favourite Quicksilver of the weekend.

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I’m always on the lookout for good Thor and Loki cosplay, and these were two of my favourites of the weekend.

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YES.

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Sweet Baroness.

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One of my favourite clever costumes. Not picture: Bat Sandals and Spider Sandals.

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Props to this guy, who needed two helpers to maneuver him through the crowd.

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“Pizza for I.C. Weiner? Awww, crud.”

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If I could’ve found a knit brain slug to stick on my head, I totally would’ve bought one.

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Boba Fett sucks, but this costume does not.

Another great year!

Write on!

A Simple Twist of Fate–A Central Canada Comic Con Exclusive Thunder Road Short Story

Central Canada Comic Con is this weekend and I’ve been cooking up something special to debut for my readers: an original Thunder Road story!

Comics are a huge reason why I’m a reader and I’ve always kind of wanted to see my name on a comic book. So I made one.

Sort of.

“A Simple Twist of Fate” is a short adventure starring the hero of Thunder Road, Ted Callan. It’s an illustrated story that I had printed to look like a comic. The printer just dropped my copies off and they look gorgeous! This project came out of talks with GMB Chomichuk, and the coolness of the limited print editions of his Raygun Gothic comic (seriously, check it out). “A Simple Twist of Fate” takes place after the events of Tombstone Blues for the continuity nerds out there. Cover and interior illustrations are by Kevin Madison, and book design is by Samantha Beiko.

Here’s a peek at the cover image:

TR ASTOF Cover Finished

There will only ever be 200 of these. Come by Booth 328 to find these signed and numbered bad boys (and me!).

Write on.

Some More Pics From My Alberta Research Trip Part Two: Edmonton

I love Edmonton.

I’ve been there quite a few times in recent years, and it feels a lot like home. Maybe because, like Winnipeg, it’s a river city. Maybe because it still has some old architecture. I can’t explain it.

I took the Red Arrow bus line from Calgary to Edmonton, which is a really nice way to travel. Comfortable seats. WiFi. It’s also not much slower than flying when you factor in time to get through security and the fact that the Edmonton airport may as well be on the moon. The bus station was only a couple blocks from the LRT line. Rapid transit has become a big part of Winnipeg’s current mayoral debate, and every time I go to Alberta, I come back thinking: “The precious. I wantsssss it.”

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Bay/Enterprise Square Station.

It’s so shiny.

In non-book research related research, I tried cedar smoked salmon for the first time my first night in Edmonton. Normally, I hate the sea and everything in it. This meal however, was amazing. It was grilled up with marinade of maple syrup and apples. Big thanks to my Edmonton host, and old bud, Brad Neufeld for the kick ass food, and the place to hang my hat.

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When I travel, I will now be forever reminded of the title of Robert Shearman’s new story collection from ChiZine, They Do the Same Things Different There. Case in point: one can buy bourbon at the Costco in Alberta. This was a very tasty whiskey. A little bird told me that Costco gets their vodka from Grey Goose, so I wonder who supplies their bourbon…

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The exterior of the Edmonton Archives. I spent a few afternoons here, digging through photos and old articles.

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Microfiche!

I haven’t used one of these in years. I may or may not have pretended to be a spy while I loaded the microfilm. Also, I must be cursed, because most of the machines were down, or stopped working shortly after I got started. The archivists were great though.

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Author Billie Milholland snapped this photo of me at the Stanley A. Milner Library while I was rooting through their Heritage Room.

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One of the things I’ve been meaning to see for ages was Fort Edmonton. It’s an interpretive park, with lots of costumed workers explaining the history of the area. There’s a similar place outside of Winnipeg, Lower Fort Garry–which is still on my list of places to go. (I really need an out of town guest to show up doing research for their book, so I can take them to all the local attractions I never get around to seeing!)

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Survival tips for the northern explorer: rum. (Why is the rum gone?)

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An old York Boat.

The thing that is neat about Fort Edmonton is that it isn’t just one time period. You take a train from the gift shop out to the fort and then walk through three different time periods, 1885 street, 1905 street, and 1920 street.

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1885 street!

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It was crazy hot the entire time I was in Edmonton, and sadly, Kelly’s Saloon was not serving beverages.

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A Gatling Gun stashed behind the RCMP (North-West Mounted Police at the time) barracks

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In case of emergency.

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1905 street!

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There was a street car you could hop on! (Street car not shown) I love street cars.

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Unlike Kelly’s Saloon pictured earlier, the Hotel Selkirk on 1920 street does have a working bar.

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The Capitol Theatre. I didn’t have time to catch a movie, as I had to prepare for a reading.

First, though, there was an author dinner with Edmonton friends Janice MacDonald, Randy Willliams, Eileen Bell and new to Edmonton by way of New York ex-pat Winnipegger (and amazing author), the divine Susie Moloney. We went to Edmonton staple Doan’s, which has some great Vietnamese food.

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Randy Williams snapped this shot during my reading at Audreys Books.

I haven’t been back to Audreys since Thunder Road launched, so it was fun to be there again, and read from Tombstone Blues. We had a good turnout. I met a couple Facebook friends for the first time, which I always enjoy. I also found out the section I chose for my reading (The Night Mara’s attack) gave someone in the audience a nightmare. I felt a bit bad about that, but I’m not going to lie, I was also pleased that one of my favourite scary scenes genuinely scared someone.

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I love this view, with Grant MacEwan in the distance. It seems like a great place for some kind of showdown…

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COMICS!

My trip happened to fall so that I missed two New Comic Book Days. (Seriously, who planned this thing. Oh…wait.) What is a visit to another city without a stop at their best known comic store? While I was in Calgary I made another visit to Comic-Kazi (my friend Kevin’s local), the staff and owner there are amazing. Also, Fiona Staples of Saga fame apparently used to work there.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Happy Harbor, and some of my friends have done events with them. It was a very cool store. Larger and more spread out than my local (Mighty Comics, represent!) but it was easy to find what I was looking for.

Between the two stops I found a few issues I’d missed of a couple series I wanted to collect, and had the bonus of two weeks worth of my regular comics waiting for me when I got home!

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Thanks to fellow Ravenstone author, Janice MacDonald, for pointing this place out to me. The Valhalla. Perfect. How can that not turn up in book three?

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I love the High Level Bridge. One of my favourite things to do in Edmonton is walk across that bad boy.

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I took a drive out refinery way, by Fort Saskatchewan, not too far outside of Edmonton. These plants are huge. And from what I’m told, are completely dwarfed by the sites up north near Fort MacMurray.

It was a great trip. I love my visits to Alberta and can’t wait to get back there.

Write on!

GMB Chomichuk’s Raygun Gothic (Issues 1-5)

With my recent contribution to the Lords of Gossamer and Shadow RPG Kickstarter, I’ve been thinking about Roger Zelazny’s Chronicles of Amber. I’ve loved those books since high school. If I am absolutely backed into a corner by persistent inquiry, it’s these novels that I label as my all time favourites (still a bit of a cheat I know, to name a ten books series when someone asks you for your favourite novel singular–if I’m forced to narrow even further, then I pick the second novel in the series, The Guns of Avalon to fill the spot).

What does this have to do with GMB Chomichuk’s serialized comic book, Raygun Gothic? When I first read the first three issues of Chomichuk’s latest work, it reminded me of the vastness of Zelazny’s Amber, and I don’t make that comparison lightly. So what is Raygun Gothic?

Raygun Gothic is: a bombastic science-fantasy tale that spans 14,000 years of  history and the lifespan of one person who is cursed to live that long in protection of humanity.

Raygun Gothic is: knights and dragons and monsters and witches and werewolves.  It is also robots and cyborgs and aliens and starships.

It’s also been serialized on Bleeding Cool and garnered Chomichuk two Prix Aurora Award nominations. GMB Chomichuk and I were guests at Keycon this year, and as I watched him create an original work, I was reminded of how much I loved his art, and also that I wasn’t quite caught up on Raygun Gothic.

So I dived back in, reveling in the slow reveal of an Immortal King who wears his crown from the distant past and into the far future, is called upon again to take an active role in the defense of humanity. Raygun Gothic’s protagonist would be right at home in the intrigues between the Kingdom of Amber and the Courts of Chaos,which puts him right in my wheelhouse of characters to love.

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Raygun Gothic plays with Greek myths (The King’s space warriors are called Hoplites, and they attempt to breach the walls of Ilium and defeat it’s defender, Ajax). I wish like hell I would have remembered this element when I was asked for science fiction that contained mythological references at my Keycon Myth & Folklore panel! Chomichuk doesn’t merely draw on mythology, there are references to Shakespeare too. An uttering of “Once more unto the breach” or The Immortal King meeting with the Crossroad Witches of Dunsinane, who told him of his rise to power–every word they said coming true.

Chomichuk gives The Immortal King many names, Sir Water the Grim, The Forever Man, The Peerless Warrior, and with his millenia spanning career as an eternal champion, the reader can imagine The King fulfilling the role of any great warrior or monarch from literature or myth. Lancelot, Arthur, Leonidas, and yes, my favourite, Corwin of Amber. When a line like “The game we played had the world as it’s prize,” is uttered, imagined Conner MacLeod battling the Kurgan in Highlander. This wide ranging influence across genre boundaries and media plays in the story’s favour and into one of Chomichuk’s artistic strengths: mixing media with unusual and unique results.

Despite the presence of monolithic space vessels, The Immortal King rides into a space battle on a dragon. Or as Chomichuk refers to it, his genetically engineered warwing. A beast that possessed a ferrous skeleton that allowed it to ride magnetic currents “as sure as any creature took to the air.” The juxtaposition of The King wielding a sword while riding a fantastic beast into battle with robots and rayguns is something that I just love.

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The King is empowered by a simple means: Those that would do him harm must risk the same. Whether it is drones, men, cyborgs or dragons that The Immortal King faces, he is up to their challenge, made equal to them by the nature of his gift. As the King battles Ajax he notes, “He had evolved to overcome the science of war. What I did was art.” And what a work of art this comic is! Only five issues in, and so much more to come.

I can’t wait.

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What are you waiting for? Read Raygun Gothic here: 

Let me know what you think of it, in the meantime, I’m going to reread The Imagination Manifesto.

Join The Fight, Make Comics!

The first Saturday in May is fast approaching, and that means: Free Comic Book Day!

I love comics. I have for as long as I can remember. Comic books were a huge part of my developing and maintaining a love of reading as a young boy. And while I haven’t made an effort at it since I’ve been concentrating on writing prose, I have always wanted to create my own comics. Unfortunately, I’ve been hamstrung by one very unfortunate fact:

I can’t draw.

Okay, that’s not the whole truth. I’ve done a fair amount of illustration in my time, and I can do passable, posed versions of my D&D characters or superheroes. Passable, but not great. And I never bothered to learn how to draw anything else. This is a bit of a problem. Regardless of whether you’re telling your story in our world, or one of your own creation, it needs to be populated by more than people posed heroically (and stiffly) on an otherwise blank page.

Which brings me to something I forgot to mention in my C4 Lit Fest Roundup. I promised GMB Chomichuk (author of Aurora Award nominated Imagination Manifesto and Raygun Gothic graphic novels) that I would “Join the fight, make comics!” after attending his “Words to Page” workshop about turning your novel into a comic book. It’s his workshop, so I won’t go into too much detail, other than to say that it was awesome. He’s a great teacher and really knows how to engage with his audience and students.

What I will reveal about the workshop is his Step #1 for turning your novel into a comic:

Don’t Do It.

That was kind of a relief, actually. It followed my instinct that comic book adaptations of novels tend to, and I’m being generous here (and also not naming names), suck. I’ve been told by more than a few people that there are comic book elements to Thunder Road, and that it would make a great graphic novel. I take this as a compliment. I’ve read so many superhero comics that it is completely unsurprising that it has bled into my fiction. But I don’t think I would be the right person to turn my book into a comic. I like it as a book. It was designed to be a book. But mostly because comics are collaborative, and Thunder Road is mine.

Not to say that I wouldn’t be open to telling new stories in that world with characters that were co-created with an artist, but what I really want is to tell a story that needs to be a comic, whether it’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse or not. I have tons of stories that I want to tell someday (there is always that nebulous someday). I just need to find the right story and the right artist (and to learn how to actually script a comic).

I know how important that pairing of writer and artist can be. While I will read books just for the art, or just for the writing, there is something magical in just the right mixture of art and words that makes comics so perfect for telling stories. Pairings like Matt Fraction and David Aja on HawkeyeBrian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples on Saga, Brian Clevinger and Scott Wegener on Atomic RoboEd Brubaker and Sean Phillips on Fatale (and stretching back a great ways, to my formative years, Chris Claremont and John Byrne’s epic run on Uncanny X-Men) are current standouts for me. After reading the preview pages, I’m also anxiously awaiting the September release of Rat Queens by Kurtis J. Wiebe Meg Dejmal, and John “Roc” Upchurch.

Lately, I’ve cut down my comic pull list to just those sorts of books, the ones that speak to me on both levels. It means I have had to bail from a lot of my Marvel and DC books, as long, character defining runs seem to no longer exist in the corporate comic book world. The usual best case scenario is getting one trade paperback collection of a pairing you really like these days. I think that by sticking only with the books that I love, I’ll find the comic story that I would love to tell.

I’ll be attending C4 Comic Con this year, hanging out in Artist’s Alley selling my books (Tombstone Blues will be out by then, yay!), but I’m also hoping to meet some fine folks and talk comics, and hopefully, talk about making comics. See you there.

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.