Workshop And Reading In Thompson

Huge thanks to the City of Thompson, The Manitoba Writers’ Guild and Calm Air for inviting me to present a fantasy and horror writing workshop, and for making this trip possible! It’s some auspicious timing also, what with the 22nd being the 20th anniversary of the first Hellboy comic!

I’ll also be doing a reading and Q & A at the City of Thompson Public Library, Friday March 21st at 6pm. Thank you, Thompson Public for the invitation.

writingworkshop_poster_proof2

Northern Manitoba was a huge inspiration in the writing of Thunder Road, and so while I’m heading up north to teach, I’m also hoping to come home with some more stories. I promised one of my Twitter followers that I’d write something set in her home town some day…

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.

 

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.)

Last Recommended Reading Post For A While…

Aside

My previous recommended reading post featured all Canadian authors, but I did read a bit outside of my nation in 2012. In the spirit of fairness, here is some work I really enjoyed by American and U.K. writers.

  • Folly of the World, Jesse Bullington. Orbit Books, December 2012
  • The Steel Seraglio, Mike Carey, Linda Carey, Louise Carey. CZP, April 2012
  • Silver, Rhiannon Held. Tor Books, June 2012
  • Libriomancer, Jim C. Hines. DAW, August 2012
  • The Warlock’s Curse, M.K. Hobson. Tesla, October 2012
  • Soul Trade, Caitlin Kittredge. St. Martin’s Press, September 2012
  • Greatshadow, James Maxey. Solaris Books, January 2012.
  • Discount Armageddon, Seanan McGuire. DAW Books, March 2012
  • Forged in Fire, J.A. Pitts. Tor Books, June 2012
  • This is Why You Fear Me, Robert Shearman. CZP, November 2012
  • A Pretty Mouth, Molly Tanzer. Lazy Fascist September 2012

Most of the short fiction I read in 2012 was Canadian, but here’s a couple of American standouts from Fungi:

  • “Last Bloom on the Sage”, Andrew Penn Romine, Fungi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Orrin Grey eds., Innsmouth Free Press, December 2012
  • “Tubby McMungus, Fat From Fungus”, Molly Tanzer & Jesse Bullington, Fungi, Silvia Moreno-Garcia & Orrin Grey eds., Innsmouth Free Press, December 2012

Thunder Road Excerpt

Only two stops left on the joint Thunder Road/Food for the Gods book tour! Posting on the blog has been a bit sporadic of late, but never fear, there’s more to come. Thursday I am hosting a guest post by Calgary adventure-romance author Sarah Kades and shortly after my (triumphant?) return to Winnipeg, I’ll have my tour roundup post.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy a brief taste of Thunder Road

***

Prologue

When the Levee Breaks

There was no warning. But then, there never is.

His world exploded.

The site was a spiderweb of pipes and steel, sprawling over the earth like the screensaver on his computer. There had been a pinprick of light, maybe a welder’s torch, maybe a cigarette lighter had flashed, and then everything had gone white.

An acrid cloud rushed past Ted, carrying gravel and bits of shale that stung like hornets. Within the cordon of string surrounding the bench where employees were allowed to smoke, the ground trembled beneath his feet. Ted didn’t fall. If you were close enough to get knocked down, you weren’t ever getting up again. The site was designed to funnel explosions upward; to keep destruction of company property to a minimum. Small comfort to those who might be stuck in the flames.

Men he’d known for years; shared beers or fistfights with—sometimes both. Friends

A high-pitched whine filled his ears, but Ted had to imagine the sirens and screams shooting through the crackle of flames and the smaller, secondary blasts. He squinted, trying to get a better look.

Fire.

It was all he saw. Hell, they’d see the flames from Edmonton. His cigarette fell from his lip. He’d promised Susanna he’d quit. We promised each other a lot of things when we got married. Ted fumbled for his cell, his fingers numb. The emergency response numbers were programmed into the phone, and he scrolled down, frantically looking for the water-bomber team. Site fire response wouldn’t be able to handle this—if they were even still alive.

The metal left standing in the wake of the blast started to twist and crumble inward. Greasy black clouds flared and plumed, filling the air with the stink of burning oil and melting PVC. He could see more explosions. One following another like footsteps marching in time.

And then something stepped from the fire.

It was too big to be real. Shaped like a man, but the height of a building, it stepped out of the inferno grinning like the devil himself. Ted dropped his phone as the creature tore a length of metal from the ground and held it aloft, brandishing it like a club. The challenge the creature bellowed at the sky somehow cut through Ted’s deafness, reaching some primal part of him. Louder and more terrifying than anything he’d ever experienced. He wanted to scream, but no human cry could scare away what towered over the wreckage.

The creature’s hair and beard were made of the same flames it had stepped from. Smaller tendrils danced along its bare arms and chest, where a man’s body hair would be. Its every breath came out in gouts of smoke, quickly welcomed by the burning work site. Its coal-black skin cracked and broke, the molten lines leaking lava. Its eyes were the blue of an acetylene torch, and it grinned with broken teeth of white metal.

Smaller forms followed the thing out of the fire. They could have been man-shaped, but they were oddly hunched, dragging themselves over the rough ground like wounded dogs. They screeched and pawed at the earth, rubbing up against the legs of the giant. It patted their heads with rough familiarity, before allowing them to retreat into the flames.

Rattling its rough sabre in the air, the giant opened its mouth to roar the deep belly-laugh of a Bond villain. Through the screaming in his ears, Ted heard a sound like lock, lock, lock. The creature turned to join its servants in the blaze, but as it strode away, explosions flaring with each step, it paused and looked back over its shoulder.

At Ted.

Their eyes locked. In the intensity of the creature’s gaze, Ted felt he could’ve caught fire. He looked away as the creature spoke in no language heard on Earth. And yet deep in the core of his being Ted understood what the words meant.

“I will burn the world.”

Ted sank to his knees and stared at the fire.

It was over an hour before a rescue worker found him. His phone remained on the ground, unused. He hadn’t even called Susanna to tell her he was alive. That he still loved her.

That it was the end of the world.

My World Fantasy Convention Roundup

Another World Fantasy Convention has come and gone, and as my blog readers seem to enjoy these reports (if my site stats are to be believed) here’s the WFC2012 report.

Better late than never, right?

World Fantasy is my favourite convention, hands down. Maybe I imprinted on it somehow, World Fantasy 2008 in Calgary was the first away from home conference I ever attended. I talked comic books with Tad Williams, football with George R.R. Martin and Hemingway with Joe Haldeman. I met tons of people who became good friends. That is bound to make an impression on a guy.

This year’s convention was also held in Canada, so I knew I’d also have a lot of friends to meet up with. It was an early start for me, as I flew off Thursday morning with friend and fellow Turnstone Press author, Karen Dudley. We’d hoped to meet up with another Manitoba writer, Shen Braun, who was arriving at the same time as us, but on a different flight, and split a cab from Pearson airport to the conference hotel (it was quite the jaunt as World Fantasy Toronto was actually in Richmond Hill, or so I kept being told). Unfortunately, Shen didn’t get in on time, but Karen and I did share the plane with Winnipeg writer Gerald Brandt. Even more luck, our mutual friends Eileen Bell and Ryan McFadden were on route to the conference and near the airport, so they swung by to pick us all up. It was a tight squeeze with five writers and their luggage in a Toyota Corolla, but we made it work.

Arriving at the hotel was a homecoming of sorts. Every time I turned around, there was someone else I knew. A great feeling. Over the weekend, I not only connected with friends who are scattered across the continent, but met many new friends.

After ditching our bags, we had to hustle to get through registration and grab our swag bags (the swag at WFC is truly epic, this is only what I could fit in my luggage, I left at least this much behind on the trade table.)

We had to hustle because Thursday night, Turnstone was sponsoring the Ravenstone Books Launch Party for Thunder Road and Food for the Gods. I’m glad the party was Thursday, it meant I didn’t have it hanging over my head for the entire weekend. I know the way I roll, and there was no way I’d have been able to relax and enjoy the convention until the launch was over. Marie Bilodeau from Ottawa served as our host and Bakka Phoenix was there to sell copies of our novels. We managed to get the room set up, and just finish having a bite to eat before it was time to open the doors and the worrying began. What if no one shows up? What if everyone shows up? Fortunately, we had just the right mix, the room was full, but not so packed that we couldn’t move about and mingle. I had a great time, signed a bunch of books, and met a few people I’d only know through Twitter or Facebook. It was over too soon, but it did teach me how stressful organizing an event can be. My hats off to people who do it all the time.

Friday:

I took in Julie Czerneda’s reading from her forthcoming fantasy novel, A Turn of Light. I’ve been curious about this one for a long time, as I’ve always had my feet deeper in fantasy than in science fiction, looking forward to reading the whole book. The samples Julie read were enough to entice me to read the book when it releases.

At my very first World Fantasy Con, I met Chandra Rooney. She was on a panel about writing tie-in fiction. I read her Tarot Cafe novel, The Wild Hunt, and interviewed her here. It was great to be able to chat for a bit after her reading. The samples Chandra read are unpublished right now, but you’re in for a treat when they do see the inside of bookstores.

I think the only panel I took in this year was Sandra Kasturi’s interviewing World Fantasy special guest, Tanya Huff. Sandra’s a riot and Tanya is also funny as hell, and a consummate pro to boot. She shared some great stories from her career with a packed and eager room. Good times.

Every World Fantasy Convention also includes a mass signing, putting every author in one big banquet room for two hours, and lets the signature hounds go wild. It was a better experience than I was expecting. I did actually sign some copies of Thunder Road, despite Fantasy giants like Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss being in the same room. I handed out a bunch of my temporary tattoos and had fun chatting with Neil Godbout from Prince George (who’s debut YA novel, Disintegrate, is well worth checking out) and Robert Sawyer.

After the signing had concluded I made my way up to the hospitality suites and flitted between the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Fall launch, the Tor Books party and the Con Suite. I happened to be around when it was announced that James A. Moore had wrote a story about Dr. Doom and Barbie. There was a bet of some kind involved, I never did suss out all the details, something about 55$ and popcorn. James joked it was the best per word rate he’d received to date. Christopher Golden read the story aloud to a dozen or more listeners. The story, about 1200 words, complete with a beginning, middle, and end, was evidently written in about 45 minutes. It was amazing. James promised to put it up on his blog at some point. As soon as it surfaces, I’ll link to it, because it’s too good not to read.

I picked up a copy of Shanghai Steam (complete with an awesome story by my bud, Shen) and read the first five minutes of “Back in Black” from Tesseracts 16, joined by fellow contributors Michael Kelly, Sandra Kasturi, Adria Laycraft and Randy McCharles.

Saturday was mostly spent taking in readings:

James L. Sutter, author of Death’s Heretic and fiction editor at Paizo did a short reading, and then led a fun Q&A about writing and gaming with his audience. I’m still holding out hope that Paizo will let him write a novel set in his Distant Worlds Pathfinder Campaign setting. It’s may be a bit of a fringe product, but it was one of the coolest game accessories I’ve seen in years, and it was obvious James had a real passion for it.

Another Paizo author, Dave Gross, had the room next. Dave read from Queen of Thorns. It was a saucy reading for 9:30 in the morning. Man, I love the character of Radovan! I picked up Dave’s previous book, Master of Devils after Dave’s reading at When Words Collide 2011 in Calgary, and have been looking forward to his next book ever since.

Suzanne Church won the Aurora Award for her short story “The Needle’s Eye” so I wanted to check out her reading (also, she promised candy). Suzanne read snippets from a few different stories (bought her issue of Clarkesworld while I was picking up my “rejected by Clarkesworld card), all very different, but all excellent.

I had to run to make Helen Marshall’s reading from her new collection, Hair Side, Flesh Side, but it was worth it. A very intriguing story, and perfect delivery in the reading.

I made it back from supper in time for the epic ChiZine party. I’ve met so many of the ChiZine authors, and they’re all awesome people in addition to being great writers, but the gravitational pull of that much awesome in one room made for a very crowded party. So I wandered the halls roaming between the consuite party, ChiZine party, and the hotel bar.

It sounds bad, but I mostly behaved (mostly). I had to be up at 5 to get ready for my flight home.

I survived the weekend on two hours of sleep a night and managed not to pick up any con crud despite seemingly being surrounded by coughers and flu carriers (Looking at you, Mrs. Dudley). It was also quite the change of gears to go from drinking bourbon with friends for four days and being on no one’s schedule but my own to plunging back to the incessant ringing of telephones and vague requests for “that blue book, you know the one.”

Next week the western leg of the tour starts! Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, I am coming for you…

Write on.