An Embarrassingly Late When Words Collide 2016 Roundup

Sorry for the delay on this roundup, folks!

Another year, another trip to Cowtown!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay on to the con itself:

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

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

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

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

I found some copies of this on the freebie table:

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

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

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

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

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

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BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE!

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

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Look at this room.

There was nowhere to put anybody.

Which was awesome and terrifying.

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

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

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

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Photo by S.G. Wong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See you again next year, When Words Collide!

Write on!

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When Words Collide 2013 Roundup (Finally)

I had an abbreviated, whirlwind When Words Collide weekend this year.

I arrived late on the Thursday before the convention, already running a sleep debt, and then promptly stayed up well into Friday morning catching up with my pal, tourguide and host, Kevin Madison. We left in the morning for Kananaskis so that I could do some location scouting for future stories (more on that later), and then I hit the con hotel in time to join Celeste Peters and Renee Bennett for supper.

Unfortunately, I missed the Patricia Briggs workshop on Character and Voice, it took place before the conference, and I wasn’t able to get the extra days off of work. I still submitted my sample though, and both she and the critique group had some great things to say about my non-Thunder Road-related work in progess.

Because I wasn’t entirely certain I’d be able to make it to Calgary at all, I didn’t sign up for any programming this year, not even a reading. But my publisher, Jamis Paulson from Turnstone Press, was one of the Guests of Honour, so I crashed the hour with Jamis panel that fellow Turnstone author, Edmonton’s mystery queen (and all around awesome human being) Janice MacDonald was also guesting on.

When Words Collide Janis & Jamis

Hilarity ensued.

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(Last two photos courtesy of Randy Williams)

Some of my favourite folks are Alberta folks. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, I’ve met so many amazing people at the Calgary conferences I’ve attended. WWC feels like my home con even though its over 1300 KM away. I got to meet a bunch of my fellow critiquers for the first time. There were some great stories in that batch of first chapters and I think you’ll be seeing more than a few on the shelves sooner rather than later. It was lovely to hang out with Sandra Wickham, Ella Beaumont, and Jill Flanagan from the critique group, who missed no opportunity to remind me that I wasn’t there. They also made sure to drag me off to meet Patty before the con was over though, so there’s definitely no hard feelings!

One of the other great things about going to cons is finally getting to talk in person with people you’ve only interacted with on Twitter or Facebook. I enjoyed sharing a drink with JW Schnarr, Charles Propelec and Jeff Campbell even if the service and decor of the sports bar were lacking. They were also kind enough to offer their sympathies about the Blue Bombers woes to me when they saw I was from Winnipeg.

There were many launches taking place at WWC this year, but I was only able to take in one, due to my schedule, and that was the Urban Greenman launch. I’m so happy for Adria Laycraft and Janice Blaine. They’ve put together a beautiful book and I can’t wait to dig into the stories inside. I have so many friends who made it into Urban Greenman, and I’m not going to lie, I REALLY wanted to get a story in this collection. Alas, not to be, but I did write a story that I love, and I’m sure it will find a home eventually.

I always tend to spend a lot of time in the Dealer’s Room at any convention I attend, if you can’t find someone in the bar, they’re probably looking at books and swag. And I brought too many (and yet not nearly enough) books home this year, including Urban Greenman, The Puzzle Box by the Apocalyptic Four (aka Eileen Bell, Randy McCharles, Ryan McFadden, Billie Milholland), The Tattooed Witch by Susan MacGregor, and Warriors by Barb Galler-Smith and Josh Langston. Also big thanks to Owl’s Nest Books for stocking Thunder Road at their table this year!

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(Photo courtesy of Randy Williams)

When Words Collide is also the host conference for the In Places In Between short story contest. I have fond memories of this contest. Learning about it was a big kicker to get me submitting my fiction. The first short story I every finished and submitted to strangers went to In Places in Between. I didn’t win. I didn’t place. I didn’t have a hot clue what I was doing then, but having my work critiqued by strangers was an eyeopener. A member of my writing group has placed in it, the extremely talented Chris Smith (“Crow-Maiden”), and this year, I was surprised to see my copy editor, David Jón Fuller had a story inside (not surprised he made it in, David’s a great writer, but I had no idea he’d entered) and now I see that he took second place. Congrats, David (and you’d better come to Calgary next year)!

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A note on the parties (because there are always parties): Whether it’s bubble-blowing gauntlet or a bowl of punch so heavily spiked that allows you to see through time, romance writers know how to have fun. To Tim Reynolds, for the Irish Whiskey (Mmm Writers Tears), and the generous soul (I never caught your name, I’m sorry!) with that fine, fine, bottle of Kentucky Bourbon (Blanton’s, I believe), thank you for roaming the halls with your libations, gentlemen. I took things easy this year, knowing I’d be hiking through the Badlands the next day, and somehow I felt being dehydrated, hungover, and scrambling up and down coulees was a remarkably bad idea (it was, evidently, I didn’t take things quite as easy as I thought).

Next year’s fantasy author guest of honour at When Words Collide is Brandon Sanderson! Which reminds me that I really have to finish writing my review/roundup for the Wheel of Time, now that its all done. But hey, that series was supposed to be a trilogy and it lasted decades and fourteen books, so if my review is a few months tardy, who’s going to complain? Brandon will be joined by Diana Gabaldon (Historical Fiction), Jacqueline Guest (YA, Historical), D.J. McIntosh (Mystery), and my Tesseracts 16 editor, Mark Leslie (as Director of Self-Publishing & Author Relations for Kobo).

Thank you Randy McCharles and all of the WWC organizers, volunteers, members, and guests for another great year!

Write on!