When Words Collide 2014 Roundup

Another When Words Collide Festival has come and gone. I’m a little bit late getting to this roundup (although not nearly so late as I was with World Horror Con and Keycon!). This year my WWC festival was wrapped up in a research trip to Alberta for Too Far Gone, so I hope you’ll forgive the delay. I’ll try to document the research side of the trip (and my reading at Audreys Books in Edmonton) soon. (Yeah, right.)

This Calgary festival for readers and writers has in its four years of existence become one of my favourite events of the year. It’s always well run, the programming excellent, and the guests of honour are top notch. This year’s guests included Jacqueline Guest, Mark Leslie (director of Publishing Services at Kobo–and my editor for “Back in Black” in Tesseracts Sixteen), D.J. McIntosh, Brandon Sanderson, and Jack Whyte (filling in for Diana Gabaldon, who unfortunately had to cancel).

I did a bit more programming this year than last, no readings though. Unfortunately, readings (except for the guests of honour) have gone by the wayside for programming which will actually fill up the rooms. I understand this, and fair enough, even if it is a little disappointing. I love doing readings, and like to attend them. WWC offered folks the opportunity to book one of the social rooms to host launch parties, etc. but with no new book out, or on the horizon, it didn’t seem worth the expense for me this year. Maybe next year, although it’s doubtful Too Far Gone will be out by August, I might have some advance reading copies, or do a teaser reading.

My programming included:

  • Saturday 1 PM RPG Storytelling: [panel discussion with Brandon Sanderson, Chadwick Ginther, Ron Bender, Dave Gross] RPGs or Role-Playing Games make up a huge chunk of the gaming industry. Part of what makes them so popular is the rich storytelling that players experience as they solve problems and learn secrets through the game. Our panel of RPG storytellers and players discuss what draws them to the gaming life.
  • Saturday 2 PM Why Paranormal/Urban Fantasy Is So Popular: [panel discussion with Margarita Gakis, Melodie Campbell, Aspen deLainey, Sandra Wickham, Chadwick Ginther] Urban Fantasy has grown large enough to be its own major genre. Indeed, many publishers have created imprints just for Paranormal or Urban Fantasy. What is it about these subgenres that are so attractive to today’s psyche?
  • Saturday 8 PM Autographs: Festival Guests are joined by 50+ authors
    Drop by between 8 PM – 9 PM to meet the authors and get your books signed. This session is open to the public, so tell your friends.
  • Sunday 4 PM On (Writing) Vacation [panel discussion with Randy McCharlesPatrick Swenson, James Van Pelt, Chadwick Ginther] Writing retreats, with their focused time and space, can inspire and rejuvenate authors and are as accessible as you want them to be. Panelists discuss their experiences and the rewards reaped from attending writing retreats.

I thought the RPG Storytelling panel was excellent. Brandon Sanderson moderated and did a great job. It was clear that the packed room was primarily there to see him (except for the one person who asked him who he was, drawing a good laugh from the audience–Brandon had been making notes on his name card, like a good moderator) but he was very generous with sharing the panel and including everyone. There were some great points from my fellow panelists Dave Gross and Ron Bender and I had a lot of fun.

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The Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance panel went well. The only person I knew on it was Sandra Wickham, and I think she did a great job of moderating. I won points from someone in the audience for giving a shoutout to Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid series (which is a blast, check it out).

I had a lot of fun with the autograph session. I hung out with Edmonton friends, Janice MacDonald, Randy Williams, and S.G. Wong, and we were joined by the force behind Faery Ink Press, Clare C. Marshall. I stamped a few people with my new “Loki Approved” stamp.

Oh, and Brandon Sanderson’s signing line was ridiculously long.

My last panel was about writing vacations. I haven’t been on a focused group retreat, like the Rainforest Writers, that Patrick Swenson hosts, but I did start writing Thunder Road while I was housesitting for my parents which was a sort of writing retreat. I also go to a lot of local “write ins” at friends’ houses, (Gerald Brandt and Sherry Peters, thanks for hosting!) so I talked a bit about that, and using microfocus Twitter sprints as my contributions to the discussion. Everyone else on the panel is a regular at Rainforest so there was a bit of a dynamic that I wasn’t a part of, but rather than making me feel alienated, it made me really want to sign up for the retreat (next year’s already full, but I’m going to put my name on the waiting list).

There was also a lot of unscheduled fun (there always is) that took place.

This year was my pal Laurel’s very first convention. I’m so proud of her for heading out to Calgary and pitching her work and I hope she had a lot of fun and will be back again next year.

When the official party rooms, didn’t suffice, a new space was created (thanks to one David J. “Fort” Fortier.

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It’s hard to tell from this picture, but there were at least sixteen folks in there. Also: whiskey (and whisky).

Here’s something you don’t get to do every convention: Get beat up by a pregnant Ninja:

When Sandra Wickham was worried about whether someone would come to her writing about fighting presentation, I made a joke suggesting she’d be less nervous if I was there to heckle her. This led to me volunteering to be her test dummy for a few moves.

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For the record: Arm bars hurt.

I also spent a lot of Friday telling people they had to be at the panel if they wanted to see me get up by a pregnant woman. And evidently they did. Sandra had a packed house!

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Seriously though, she gave a great presentation, so if you have a chance to check out one of her panels (whether I’m getting beat up or not), do so. She’s a great writer too. You’ll be seeing a lot more of her.

I also got to hang out with a couple other alums from Patricia Briggs’ character workshop last year (I wasn’t actually able to go, but I still made some cool friends because of being signed up and doing the critiques). Kate Larking and Jill C. Flanagan, it was a pleasure.

When I wasn’t doing my own programming, I hung out with Clare at the Faery Ink Press table, because Clare is awesome, and I don’t get to see her nearly enough. I even managed to get some writing done

Somewhere along the way, On Spec editor and unofficial Sheriff of Edmonton, Cat McDonald declared we were rivals and needed to have a Read Off. Our goal is to end up in the same anthology so that we can make this happen (I WILL DESTROY YOU. Ahem.). Cat is also doing a Kickstarter for a new RPG, which you should check out and back.

Sentry Box was also in the Dealer’s Room selling books, and they sold out of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues! That was great news! I also spent some of those future royalties at their table.

One of the cool things WWC did this year was have an evening where people could play Magic the Gathering with Brandon (who is an avid gamer, and has had a roleplaying game created from the world of his Mistborn novels) Sanderson. I didn’t play. It’s been forever since I’ve played Magic, but listening to Brandon explain the rules to the folks who’d signed up made me very glad I didn’t have to play him for money.

I stayed an extra night so that I could attend the Dead Dog Party. It’s always fun, and even though everyone is exhausted, it’s a good chance to catch up with folks (like the con organizers) who are way too busy during the convention proper.

I’ve already purchased my membership for When Words Collide 2015. Check out the guests!

Daniel Abraham Fantasy
C.J. Carmichael Romance
James S.A. Corey Science Fiction
M.L.N. Hanover Urban Fantasy
Sally Harding Literary Agent
Faith Hunter Urban Fantasy
Gwen Hunter Thriller
Brandon Mull Young Adult

I know I’ll have a blast. Hope to see you there!

I’ll leave you with some words of wisdom from Jack Whyte, who when he was asked in his writing about battles workshop: “How much fighting is too much? How much whisky is too much? There are signs.

Write on.

 

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Three Great Events

I’ve definitely been a busy bee since Tombstone Blues escaped the printer. I had a few events in such short order (and I’m happy to say, I’ve more to come) that I just can’t give each their own roundup post.

Tombstone Blues Launch:

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It was another packed house at McNally, (thanks for coming back guys!) and while nothing can compare to the first launch, I have to say I might have enjoyed this one a little bit more. I’ve done several readings in the interim, talked to crowds that were not filled out with friends and family, and that definitely took some of the edge off the performance jitters.

Also, there was cake.

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Huge thanks to everyone who came out to support me!

The Ravenstone Monster Mash:

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On October 23rd, I was joined at McNally Robinson by my friends and fellow Ravenstone authors David Annandale, Karen Dudley, and (visiting from Edmonton) Janice MacDonald. We all got together to share spooky pieces from some of our latest works. If you were there, you got a tease from one of my forthcoming short stories, as I realized I read my favourite scary scene from Tombstone Blues a week early at the launch.

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David Annandale, Karen Dudley, Janice MacDonald, Chadwick Ginther

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Books! Karen Dudley’s Food for the Gods, David Annandale’s The Valedictorians and Gethsemane Hall, Janice MacDonald’s Condemned to Repeat, and from yours truly, Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues.

Word on the Water:

Kenora’s growing literary festival was a lot of fun. Guests included Robert J. Sawyer, Charles Wilkins, Gail Bowen, Duncan Weller, Mike Grandmaison, C.C. Benison, Catherine Hunter, Karen Dudley, Samantha Beiko, and Sherry Peters. Thank you to Elizabeth Campbell Books, who was on hand selling copies of the attending authors’ books.

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This was taken on the opening night of the festival. I had the pleasure of introducing my friend, Robert J. Sawyer, one of this year’s guests of honour. Rob delivered a fantastic keynote address and reading and then I had the pleasure of moderating the audience Q&A portion of the event. There were many great and thoughtful questions, you guys made my job easy!

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On the future of publishing panel with Duncan Weller and Samantha Beiko, moderated by Daniel Klein (who I know from Twitter, but finally had a chance to meet in person).

Next up was the Reality Made Fantastic or Fantasy Made Real, moderated by Kenora’s Rick Brignall. A spirited discussion on real places becoming fantastic and the creation of secondary worlds with Karen Dudley, Samantha Beiko, Robert J. Sawyer and myself.

Remember my “Grumpy Cat” photo from the Manitoba Book Awards? I think it’s been topped…

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Don’t blame me, I’ve got a condition. Seriously though, I hadn’t slept well, and had a fierce headache all day Saturday, but I did have fun on my programming, so I hope it wasn’t at least constantly obvious that I had a monkey trying to chisel out of my brain.

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Saturday night it was Charles Wilkins‘ time to shine. The Thunder Bay author introduced his latest work, Little Ship of Fools, did a short reading and then we had a screening of the film Big Blue (about Wilkins’ journey across the Atlantic chronicled in Little Ship of Fools) before the Page Turner gala dinner.

But this is not the end, more great events are coming up in short order!

C4 (Central Canada Comic Con): I’ll be selling copies of Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, handing out swag, and staring at Ron Perlman. Come by Booth 140A and say “Hi.”

Tombstone Blues launching in Morden: Very happy to be giving book two a hometown kickoff. I wrote the first fifty pages of Thunder Road in Morden, and I discovered the Norse Myths in the very building where I’ll be doing my reading. Hoping for a very special night.

Eat, Drink, and Be Literary: I’ll be joined by David Bergen, Carolyn Gray and Kelly Hughes in this fundraiser for the Manitoba Writers’ Guild.

Reading and Signing in Saskatoon: I’ll be part of a multi-author book launch along with E.C. Blake, Sean Cummings, and Derryl Murphy at McNally Robinson Booksellers.

Lots to do and hopefully more to come.

Write on!

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.

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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!