My Keycon 30 Roundup: AKA Best. Con. Ever.

A bold statement, “Best. Con. Ever.”

But I’m going to stand by it.

Keycon 30 was a multiple anniversary, celebrating thirty years of the convention, fifty years of Doctor Who, and 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft (In another anniversary of sorts, or at least a cool coincidence, I am celebrating my one hundredth post on the blog with this roundup).

This was my first con with a book out (yeah, yeah, I know, World Fantasy and Pure Speculation were a part of my tour, but Thunder Road was just released then, and few folks had had the chance to read it yet). I was blown away by the number of people who came up to me to tell me that they loved the book. And I swear, I didn’t pay first time Keycon attendee, Shayla Elizabeth to sport a Thunder Road tattoo on her cheek all weekend. 

DSC_0006

The only complaints I heard were about the brief period when the elevators had stopped working, but seriously, people complain about the elevators at every convention I have ever been to. And you can hardly blame acts of Cthulhu on the convention. This was the biggest and best Keycon I can remember. The guests hit on all cylinders, even the ones I wasn’t familiar with before the con. I didn’t see half of the folks I wanted to, and they time went by too quickly with those I did see. But I did make many great new friends.

Hats off to Brian Mitchell and Levi Labelle, the 2013 ConChairs. They deserve your Aurora nominations next year. As does the programming team of Sherry Peters, Lindsay Kitson, Anna Lauder and Charlie Lauder.

This year the book table was manned by some Chapters and Coles staff. I’ve tweeted about how awesome they were all weekend, but it deserves to be said again: Sydni, Stephanie, Dana, you ROCK! They knew their stuff (and knew my book!) and were lots of fun. I signed all the stock of Thunder Road they brought with them, and I hope to see them back at the con next year.

DSC_0004

I never get to see everything that I want to at any con. Invariably, one must see (at least, must see for me) panel is in conflict with another, but I particularly enjoyed Lee Moyer’s presentation on bad book covers and the crowdfunding panel Lee shared with Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and Steven Barnes.

As for my side of the programming, I had a great time sharing a reading slot with David Annandale. We decided to tag team and trade off several short readings rather than each doing one long one. I think it worked well and kept our audience interested. David read from Gethsemane HallDeath of Antagonis, and Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha. I read the openings from my short stories “First They Came for the Pigs” (natch, Silvia was my editor on that story) and “Back in Black”, finishing off the slot with the opening pages of the second book in the Thunder Road Trilogy, Tombstone Blues. 

Next up, I was moderating the Hour with an Author panel, featuring Author Guest of Honour, Ann Aguirre. Things got off to a slow start due to some location confusion (our original room had been partially flooded by a busted sprinkler head–R’lyeh Rising, terribly appropriate for a Lovecraftian Keycon) so I had a great chat with Ann before attendees filtered in to start asking questions. Ann is a great storyteller, and I’m in the middle of reading her Corine Solomon novels at the moment and really enjoying them (I’ve also been told that if you like Firefly you’ll like her Sirantha Jax novels–and I love me some Firefly, so I’m excited to start those too). Because our panel started late, we ended a little late, and Ann only had 45 minutes to eat before her next slate of programming started. Knowing from experience that the Radisson restaurant would not make that kind of turnaround, we hustled out of the hotel and into the rain. The closest restaurant was La Bamba, so yes, we took the author from Mexico City to eat at a Mexican restaurant in Winnipeg (her verdict: good–and more authentic than she usually finds in the States).

My final panel was a discussion of Mythology and Folklore with Karen Dudley and Leia Getty. Technically, the panel was about the “reemergence of Greek and Norse mythology in fantasy fiction” but after talking about how those stories have never really gone away, we started branching out to talk myth in a more general way and about using it in fiction. It was  a great turnout for a Sunday afternoon panel. I had a lot of fun.

I checked out the Filk room, aka The Dandy Lion, run by Morva Bowman and Alan Pollard (who are nominated for an Aurora Award for their concert at FILKONtario 22) with Samantha Beiko and Clare Marshall. Clare rocked the blue fiddle she borrowed from Sam (the blue fiddle she was hoping to sneak home in her luggage) through a number of songs before Morva and Alan started their concert. I’ve never been much into the filk scene at cons, but I had a lot of fun.

DSC_0009

Things got a little meta when Canadian Author Guest of Honour, J.M. Frey read a fantasy short story set at a fantasy con during the Dead Dog party. Ryan Roth Bartel from Rampant Design made a custom mask for Lee Moyer. GMB Chomichuk drew a wicked version of Nyarlathoteph in his crawling chaos shape for Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I love Gregory’s work, and so to see him create an original piece was a treat I won’t soon forget.

DSC_0012

You can see the finished product in all its eldritch glory in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Keycon post.

A whole gang of us spent the night of the Dead Dog in the Clockwork Club hospitality suite holding a seance that summoned only popcorn. Stories were told and plots were hatched. Oh, and we may or may not have formed a secret society. But I can’t talk about that.

It’s a secret, after all.

Advertisements

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 Launch Roundup, Part The Second

I’ve mostly recovered from my first book launch. Thanks again to everyone who came out on Thursday. I was so wired afterward that I don’t think I slept a wink.

As problems go, I’ll take it.

Knowing that space as I do, my best booksellerly (it’s a perfectly cromulent word)

estimate of attendance would be around 250 people.  Wendy even overheard a customer who saw the crowd say: “who the hell is reading tonight, James Patterson?”

I’ll take that too.

McNally events maestro, John Toews, gave me a lovely and professional introduction, hitting all the highlights of my writing career thus far, and I’m sure that Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, my editors for the Fungi anthology will appreciate that John (who is a huge fan of things eldritch and Lovecraftian) also singled out Innsmouth Free Press and my story “First They Came for the Pigs” in front of the crowd. Even sweeter than the professional introduction, was the very personal one that my dear Wendy offered up. She likes public speaking even less than I do, but she stood up there, and she fucking rocked it. My Grinch heart grew three more sizes in that moment.

 

 

I told the crowd that while I was preparing I felt that I was writing a toast for a wedding. I was surrounded by family, friends, acquaintances, and yes, even some strangers (in some ways, that was the most thrilling thing, that someone had seen the poster and thought that looks cool and decided to attend). I’m also sure a few people were drunk when I hit the podium (and certainly were by the end of the night, judging by how much wine Turnstone put out. I know I had a couple or three by the time the line was done. Woo!).

People seemed to like my intro, and laughed where I hoped they would, which was a relief. I’m not a natural public speaker. I can’t hop up to a podium and extemporize and have it go well. The most stressful part of a reading for me is what to say before  I start reading. Once the book comes out, I’m on script and feel fine.

Again, because I’m not a natural performer, I rehearse my readings to ensure good pacing and change of inflection. I’ve been to at least three hundred readings over the last ten years, and so I like to think I’ve absorbed a bit about what works and doesn’t. I chose a passage from the beginning of Thunder Road so that I didn’t have to spend five minutes explaining backstory, and read for about ten minutes, trying to leave the story on a tense moment, hoping the audience will need to know what happens next. Judging by the Winnipeg Free Press Bestseller list, it worked.

Because of the size of the audience and the fact that I knew there were a number of out of Winnipeg guests (hello, Morden, Darlingford, Miami, and Brandon!) who still had to drive home on a work night, I decided against doing a question and answer period. If any of you were in the audience and had a question you wanted to ask me, drop me a line in the comments, and I’ll be happy to chime in with my two cents.

The Thunder Road launch was also a reunion of sorts. My teachers from the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th grade were in the audience, as was my junior high principal. I’m sure every time I said “fuck” it brought back old times for him (I was an early adopter of profanity, even I mostly kept it hidden from authority figures). There were tons of local writers in the crowd, and Robert J. Sawyer, who provided the cover blurb for my book) flew in from Toronto to attend.

After the reading, I was presented with a block mounted, enlarged version of my author photo. I had absolutely no idea that McNally Robinson planned to enshrine me on their wall of writers, so surprise well-kept folks. This is a store where the staff go above and beyond every damn day–I also joked that I liked to think that maybe they gave me just a little bit extra above and beyond, and boy did they ever deliver. So thank you, once again, to my fellow booksellers, here in Winnipeg, and to booksellers every where else.

I was also surprised with gifts of whiskey (Irish and Kentucky), Odin Stones hand picked from Gimli’s beach, a beautiful photo album (which will become my record of the evening) and a very cool caricature card drawn by my friend and former co-worker Phil Hayes. John Toews also arranged to have a soundtrack of sorts playing for the evening with the songs I used as chapter titles. For those of you who know my taste in music hearing this in the store was totally worth the labour of writing a book.

 

This isn’t the first time I’ve scrawled my name and defaced a book or magazine. When I sold “First Light” to On Spec, I signed copies for friends and family. At Edmonton’s Pure Speculation festival in November 2011 I signed my first signature for a stranger (though Cath Jackal isn’t a stranger any longer!). Recently at When Words Collide in Calgary, after the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy fall launch I signed my name over my story “Back in Black” in a bunch of copies of Tesseracts 16. This was very different however. With the pressure to move a long line efficiently, and wanting each of the signatures to be heartfelt and unique, I often found myself scrambling for something to write. My publisher warned me to come up with a few stock taglines to sign with, and I did, but let me tell you, in the moment, it’s a lot harder than it sounds to remember them. Sometimes, you go to sign a book and you just have nothing. One more thing to work on. You learn more about this business of being and author every day.

You also learn to watch what you say on Facebook. I made a professional wrestling reference and thanks to David Nowacki of Cult Couch infamy, this was happened:

 

“Oooh YEAAAAAH!”

Holiday Accountability Checklist

As of this moment, I’m on holidays from bookselling until after my book launch. Of course, when you’re a writer, holidays from the day job usually means typing until your fingers bleed (in between the paroxysms of self-doubt and inevitable bouts of internet time-wastage). I do plan on taking advantage of these dog days of summer, visiting family, playing tennis, etc. but mostly, I’ll be working.

For your observing pleasure I’ve decided to post a list of my writing goals for the next couple weeks. I know there is no way in hell all of this will get done. It probably wouldn’t have been possible even when I wasn’t on Twitter or Facebook, but by itemizing every project big and small that is on my to-do list, and most importantly, making it public, I’ll try that extra little bit harder (you know, to avoid the shame (and stink) of failure).

So, here’s the list:

  • Choose the passage I’ll be reading for my Thunder Road launch.
  • Attend my own book launch.
  • Don’t screw up my own book launch.
  • Choose the passage I’ll be reading for my THIN AIR appearance.
  • Finish the current (3rd) draft of Tombstone Blues (four chapters and a short epilogue left to look at).
  • Walk the Winnipeg locations of Tombstone Blues for veracity & feeling (this will be repeated in the fall, as the novel is set in November).
  • Arrange research trip to the virus lab.
  • Actually go to the virus lab.
  • Start 4th draft of Tombstone Blues.
  • Finish 4th draft of Tombstone Blues.
  • Finish my story for submission to Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Dead North anthology.
  • Go back to the drawing board (notebook?) and completely redraft my Urban Green Man short story so that I’m not embarrassed to have Adria Laycraft and Janice Blaine read it.
  • Revise two short stories that On Spec offered to take a second look at in their next submissions period.
  • Write a guest blog for As You Were.
  • Write a new blog post every day.
  • Update a few things on my website.
  • Answer interview questions for my first confirmed interview.
  • Brainstorm ideas for a horror story for when John Joseph Adams’ Nightmare Magazine reopens to submissions.
  • Brainstorm ideas for the forthcoming Innsmouth Free Press anthology Swords and Mythos.
  • Dust off an old, too-long short story to see if I can resurrect it as a novelette or novella for Innsmouth’s new Jazz Age Cthulhu venture.
  • Dust off my 2nd draft of a Sword and Sorcery manuscript and give it a reread, as I’ve been itching to get back to it lately.
  • Look at the outline for the as-yet-untitled third book in the Thunder Road trilogy.
  • Most importantly, write new damn words, every damn day.

Wow. I will be busy, won’t I?

A Bunch of Little Things Make a Big Blog Post.

I was in Ottawa over Canada Day, and while I was hoping to have my recap of that trip up and posted, a bunch of things have got in the way. So instead, here’s a few minor tidbits that have crossed the desk since then:

The Sunburst Awards Shortlists Announced:

Adult fiction:

  •  Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, David Nickle (ChiZine Publications)
  • Technicolor Ultra Mall, Ryan Oakley (Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publications)
  • Enter, Night, Michael Rowe (ChiZine)
  • Paradise Tales, Geoff Ryman (Small Beer Press)
  • The Pattern Scars, Caitlin Sweet (ChiZine)
  • Blackdog, K.V. Johansen (Pyr Books)

Young Adult fiction:

  • Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • All Good Children, Catherine Austen (Orca Book Publishers)
  • The Summer of Permanent Wants, Jamieson Findlay (Doubleday Canada)
  • The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Evan Munday (ECW Press)
  • Blood Red Road, Moira Young (Doubleday Canada)

Another great year for my pals at ChiZine, and the second year in a row where the Sunbursts and the Prix Auroras have had a surprising amount of commonality. My recollection (I suppose I could actually research this, but that defeats the purpose of a quick blog post, doesn’t it?) is that the two awards, one juried, one fan-voted, have never shared a winner.

On the Same Page (aka Manitoba Reads before CBC started an actual Manitoba Reads program) shortlist announced:

  • A Thousand Farewells, Nahlah Ayed (Viking Canada)
  • Queen of Hearts, Martha Brooks (Groundwood Books Ltd.)
  • Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings From the Land of Water, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, editors (Highwater Press)
  • A Large Harmonium, Sue Sorenson (Coteau Books)

Local awards like On the Same Page are always hard for me to come out in support of a particular title. I think it stems from getting to know many of the authors at my bookselling day job. It feels a little like playing favourites. I know I have a few colleagues who refuse to be on any of the Manitoba Book Awards juries for this reason. But this is my blog and I’ll play favourites if I want to. I think it’s going to be hard to top Manitowapow this year. The book has had an amazing response so far, and with its multiple contributors I think it’ll have the most promotional oomph.

There are no genre titles in the running this year. I nominated Sierra Dean’s debut urban fantasy Something Secret This Way Comes, (mostly because it’s an awesome and fun read, but partly because I know the customers who buy whole hog into On the Same Page, and thinking of them reading a book about a half-werewolf, half-vampire bounty hunter really made me smile) because if I don’t support Winnipeg’s fantasy writing community, who will?

Speaking of Winnipeg’s fantasy writing community:

Fellow Turnstone author, critique partner, maker of holiday peanut brittle and all around good egg, Karen Dudley, has booked the Winnipeg launch for her fantasy debut, Food for the Gods. Be there. It’ll be awesome. I fully intend on drinking a full amphora of wine and telling embarrassing stories about the early days of this novel. If that doesn’t float your boat, Karen is one of the best readers I’ve encountered, and trust me, I’ve worked in a book store for over ten years, I’ve heard a lot of readings (many of which I’d pay money to unhear).

Oh, and this happened:
Chadwick Ginther Puts The Magic Back In Manitoba
A great shout out from my home team at McNally Robinson. Thanks especially to Steven Benstead who wrote the article and has been a tireless supporter of my writing from day one. Steve is also a damn fine writer himself, and as much as I poke fun at Can-Lit, when his current novel finds a home, it’ll knock your socks off.

Finally, the Innsmouth Free Press anthology Fungi (containing my story “First They Came for the Pigs“) has a website now and I think it looks beautiful. I love everything about this project, so kudos to editors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s stories. And if I’m playing favourites, of all the stories I’ve written, my contribution to Fungi is currently my most loved.

That’s all the news fit for print, as the saying goes.

Write on!