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. 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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May Goals

It’s time for another monthly goals post. I’m not shooting for the moon in May, but with Mother’s Day coming up, a convention to prep for (Keycon 30! W00T!) and my presentation at Inside Publishing behind me, I think I’m going to go light on the goals. Besides, it’s revision season, and the next round of edits on Tombstone Blues could drop in my lap at any moment.

May Goals:

  • Write at least 31000 words on the third book in the Thunder Road trilogy. Why 31000? It works out to 1000 words a day. 1K a day for May. I like the way it sounds. Also, somewhere around 30000 words is when a work in progress starts to actually feel like a book to me. My first drafts are usually in the 60K range (Thunder Road was 68000 in first draft, and Tombstone Blues was 62000 words in first draft), and so this will take me to roughly the halfway point of the novel (though I have a sneaking suspicion that Book 3, will be the longest of the trilogy)
  • Prepare for my Keycon 30 panels. I’ll be interviewing Ann Aguirre and moderating audience questions as a part of the “Hour with an Author” program. I’m also doing a panel on Myth and Folklore with Karen Dudley and Leia Getty, and sharing a reading slot with David Annandale.
  • Draft a new short story (I’m told there will be a post-Keycon write-off with some of my writing chums, and I always get lots of work done at these things, so what the hell, let’s add this to the mix).

So how did I do in April? Not too shabby…

  • Finish the first draft of my current (and newly untitled–man I hate thinking of titles) urban fantasy Work in Progress.
  • Look at my short fiction not currently on submission and send those stories to new markets.
  • Finish my latest review for Quill and Quire
  • Finish my latest review for The Winnipeg Review
  • Finalize my soundtrack for as-yet-untitled book three of the Thunder Road Trilogy(The soundtrack is the first step of my novel writing process–its essentially my first rudimentary outline).
  • When I finish reading or watching something that I really like, say something about it here on the blog.

Colour me as surprised as you, but I did indeed finish the first draft of book one in an entirely new urban fantasy series. Lots and lots of work left in this one before I’m ready to send it out, but I think it has promise (even if it still doesn’t have a name). Probably the darkest thing I’ve written so far, and skirts closer to horror territory than anything I’ve written in the Thunder Road trilogy so far.

I didn’t get all of my short fiction back out into the world, but I did resubmit most of it. There were a couple of stories I wrote for theme anthologies that I decided to take a long second look at before resubmitting, and a couple stories came back, one with a rejection and one with a rewrite request that threw a spanner in the delicate work of juggling stories between markets that are open and stories that have already been submitted to those same markets. All in all, of my stories that were sitting fallow, five were resubmitted, three consigned to the rewrite pile (one at editorial request), and one more ready to go out.

My review of Barbara Fradkin’s The Whisper of Legends was turned in to Quill and Quire, it’s not online yet, but you can read my review of Guy Gavriel Kay’s River of Stars on the Winnipeg Review website.

The soundtrack for Thunder Road book 3 is currently in regular rotation in my car, good thing, because I’ve started to write that book! I won’t reveal the tracks just yet, but the soundtrack for book 2, Tombstone Blues, will be revealed this summer.

I did finally post a review of J.M. Frey Triptych, on the blog, and a couple of brief reviews on my Goodreads account, so I’m counting that last one.

Looking forward to next month, I’m going to try and get my June goals up before the first week of the month is over. But that’s a goal for June. 😉

Write on!

A Review of J.M. Frey’s Triptych

I’ve been promising to post some reviews of things that I’ve enjoyed on the blog for a while now, so here’s the first: J.M. Frey’s Triptych.

I was excited to read this one. Frey is going to be the Canadian author Guest of Honour at my local SF&F convention, Keycon, and I always try to read some of the attending authors work, if possible. Full disclosure, (for those who get their underpants in a twist about such things) the author provided me with an electronic copy of the book for the purposes of this review. Also, **spoilers** for those who care.

For a little context ab out the book, here’s the publisher copy:

IN THE NEAR FUTURE, humankind has mastered the arts of peace, tolerance, and acceptance. At least, that’s what we claim. But then they arrive. Aliens–the last of a dead race. Suffering culture shock of the worst kind, they must take refuge on a world they cannot understand; one which cannot comprehend the scope of their loss.  Taciturn Gwen Pierson and super-geek Basil Grey are Specialists for the Institute–an organization set up to help alien integration into our societies. They take in Kalp, a widower who escaped his dying world with nothing but his own life and the unfinished toy he was making for a child that will never be born.  But on the aliens’ world, family units come in threes, and when Kalp turns to them for comfort, they unintentionally, but happily, find themselves Kalp’s lovers. And then, aliens–and the Specialists who have been most accepting of them–start dying, picked off by assassins. The people of Earth, it seems, are not quite as tolerant as they proclaim.

Triptych is fittingly told in three parts, with three different voices, Gwen’s mother, Evvie, the alien, Kalp, and Specialist, Basil. Kalp’s voice was probably my favourite. Frey deals with the alien culture very well, and I enjoyed Kalp’s reactions to life on Earth. There is also some great world building and interesting biology and society to Frey’s aliens. I particularly liked the idea of the alien’s family group being a matter of threes rather than twos; one parent to give birth, one to work and provide for the family and the third to care for mother and child.

The gradual insertion of Kalp into Gwen and Basil’s existing relationship was I also totally believed that a segment of humanity would flip out, not only at the prospect of aliens among us, but at us sharing our lives and love with them. I do have hope for humanity’s future (most days) but seeing the hate coming from some opponents of marriage equality, I can only imagine Pat the reaction if that “gay” person was also blue. It was absolutely heart wrenching when Gwen loses her baby because of an attack by such a bigot.

There is a time travel element to the book, which is not my favourite science fiction trope, however, Frey handled it well. I didn’t feel any lingering paradox gnats biting me, and I’m also glad she didn’t use it to obliterate the emotional punch of Gwen’s miscarriage.

All in all, Triptych is fast-paced, highly enjoyable science fiction that really delivers with its characters. Highly recommended!

Shutting Down To Start Up Again

I don’t get sick often, but when I do get a cold or flu…it’s usually a doozy. I didn’t do much of anything for the first two weeks of March. I couldn’t even post a March goals blog–which is good, I guess. I wouldn’t have succeeded on any of them.

I did have a number of blogs in the works before this little revelation (yeah, sure you did) but I’ll get to them (yeah, sure you will).

Just before my cold/flu/plague hit, I was reading writing buddy Andy Penn Romine’s blog over at Inkpunks about taking a break and recharging the batteries. It’s a good one, and well worth checking out. (Pretty much any Inkpunks blog has an interesting nugget for the up and coming writer–or even more established folks.) That blog got me thinking that I haven’t been having a lot of fun lately. Between recovering from Retail Hell (you might call it Christmas) and writing work, I’ve been a bit of a grump.

So the break, while unplanned, wasn’t a bad thing. I’m back on track with my Work in Progress and feeling energized about my writing again. Now to re-energize the blog! Coming up on April 6th, as a part of her A Turn of Light blog tour is a guest post from Aurora Award winner, Julie E. Czerneda. I’m thinking of starting to post reviews–not just books, but comics, movies, TV, whatever–I’m working on one now for J.M. Frey’s Triptych.

There will also be a goals post for April (I promise!).

Write on!