Can*Con 2017 Roundup

I haven’t been as diligent (or as prompt) with my convention roundups as I used to be, and I still have my C4 roundup on deck (and I should really be writing my NaNoWriMo novel) but I wanted to make sure I talked about Can*Con.

What a great convention!

The 2017 Can*Con was my first time back since I attended in 2013 for the Prix Aurora Awards. The convention has grown noticeably since then. I always love an excuse to get to Ottawa, because it’s a gorgeous city, and I have family and lots of friends there that I don’t get to see nearly often enough.

Saturday was my big day for programming. I heard that a lot from a number of the out-of-towners. I don’t know if it was purposefully done by the programming team, but it does mean you can build your schedule without having to worry about whether a panelist has a late flight in or an early flight out. Given Can*Con’s attention to detail in every other regard, I’m going to assume that the decision wasn’t an accident.

Me reading from the first chapter of my forthcoming ChiZine novel, Graveyard Mind. Photo courtesy of Jerome Stueart.

On the On Spec Panel (L-R, Me, Brandon Crilley, Leah Bobet, Susan Forest, Diane Walton, Hayden Trenholm). Photo courtesy of Andy Taylor.

I didn’t get a picture of the Stories of the Northmen panel, unfortunately, but we had a great crowd–honestly way more than I was expecting. K.W. Ramsey, Una Verdandi, and Kate Heartfield shared the panel, and Kate did a great job as moderator. We had a pretty lively discussion, a few disagreements that highlighted while we all enjoyed the topic we’ve consumed it in different ways.

I’ve mostly gotten out of the habit of attending panels that I’m not speaking on, using that time instead to catch up with friends or network. Can*Con was different. I remembered a high level of discourse from my first time attending, and looking at the panel descriptions and who was speaking on them I felt assured that this year would only be better. And it was.

First off, most presenters at Can*Con only appear on a couple of panels, and this cuts down on the “I don’t know what I’m doing here” confessions from panelists. The moderators know their topics, and every panel had a moderator. This attention to detail seems vanishingly common, and I can’t stress how much it improves a paneling experience for me (unless a moderator is there to turn the conversation to their own books, but Can*Con seems to have avoided that with their careful curation).

I had to grab a seat on the floor for the stellar Epic Fantasy panel with Kim-Mei Kirkland, Michelle Sagara, Steven Erikson, Sheila Gilbert, Violet Malan, and Fiona Patton. It’s been a while since I’ve read epic fantasy, and some of the insights I garnered gave me an ephiphany for how to rewrite an old sword & sorcery first draft that wasn’t working. It also made me realize I probably need to step away from urban fantasy for a while as I have two existing series in that subgenre, and while I was editing a third, motivation to continue with it was thin on the ground.

The Post-Apocalypse and First Nations Perspective panel was fantastic. Brandon Crilly (centre) did a great job of moderating, but to tell the truth, there weren’t many lulls in the conversation between Jay Odjig and Waubgeshig Rice.

Also, Julie Czerneda is awesome. But you probably know that. Not only did Julie give me a killer blurb for Too Far Gone, she went out of her way to ensure that I was introduced to people she felt I should get to know. So thanks for making me feel at home, Julie!

Also, a big thank you to Derek Marie Bilodeau, and all the staff and volunteers for putting on an amazing weekend. I had way too many fine conversations and interactions to list, and I’m planning on returning to Can*Con in 2018. This convention is just too good to miss.

 

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Writing Like I Used To: A Guest Post By Julie E. Czerneda

It was my pleasure to host Julie E. Czerneda when she launched her fantasy debut A Turn of Light, and I’m so glad she wanted to come back to talk about her return to science fiction, This Gulf of Time and Stars!

This Gulf of Time and Stars releases November 3, 2015. Learn more about the series and author below, and please welcome Julie E. Czerneda!

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Ad Astra 2014 Roundup

2014 was the first time I’ve attended Ad Astra, Toronto’s premiere science fiction and fantasy fan convention.  All in all, it was a great weekend. Guests included: authors Patricia Briggs and Steven Erikson, as well as editor Anne Groell. My only regret is that I wasn’t feeling well. I rarely get sick, rarely get con crud, but I rolled in sick this time, and had to make the best of it. If any of you Toronto folks caught my cold, my apologies.

I took it easy on the Friday, my throat was sore and I was already running a sleep debt from various deadlines leading up Ad Astra. Definitely not the best way to get started, I know. On the plus side, Ad Astra was held in the same hotel that hosted the World Fantasy Convention in 2012, so I at least I already knew the venue. Granted, the hotel is technically in Markham, so it’s hell and gone away from the airport (and I hate traveling on public transit with luggage) but it is a nice venue.

My immediate thought about the con was how quickly it felt like a “home convention.” Keycon feels this way, obviously. So does When Words Collide in Calgary. As I went to grab dinner in the restaurant, Robert J. Sawyer was sitting with Steven Erikson, and introduced me. Steve used to live in Winnipeg, though that time predated my writing career. Also in the restaurant were a gang of rogues that I’ve met in my previous travels, including Matt Moore, Derek , and Michael Matheson.

One of my favourite things about conventions is when I finally get to meet people that I’ve been interacting with on Twitter or Facebook. This time I met writer and podcaster, Adam Shaftoe and Blue Magic author, Alyx Dellamonica (who I interviewed ages ago).

After having my gear stowed and registration picked up, I had my first panel of the convention. Normally, I like to attend a con at least once before I do any programming, but that’s not always going to be an option, and as I’d asked excellent indie bookseller, Bakka Phoenix to bring stock of my books to the con (Thanks, Team Bakka!), it seemed a good idea to get out there and be seen.

Panels are fun, but it’s a fun that’s also wholly dependent on who you share them with and what kind of crowd you draw. There’s lots of advice I’ve heard about doing panels well which is easily said, but harder to implement. I try to be fun, have fun, as well as be informative. And I do my best to not bring up my books. I hate sharing panels with the “Mybookmybookmybook” author. If you’ve ever been to a convention, you probably know the one, they have nothing to say unless it directly relates to something they’ve written or they try to twist everything back around to their writing.

I take my cue for panel participation from Edmonton author, Minister Faust. I saw Minister on a large panel of authors once, and he was the only person not to bring up his books, or his writing. What he did was have thoughtful and interesting things to say. Full stop. He didn’t need to sell me on his books, I was hooked on him as someone who had something to say. Guess whose book I bought when I was next in the dealer’s room? (He’s a great writer too! Loved From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain!)

My first panel, “Myth Information in Fantasy”, which had my friend Marie Bilodeau on board, as well as Jen Frankel, Katrina Guy and Stephen B. Pearl, was a blast. There was a great turnout, almost a full room, and I think the panel went well, I did receive some compliments on it after the fact. It was also nice to see Derek Newman-Stille from Speculating Canada in the audience. (Also, terrrifying. I’ve been interviewed by Derek before, and he always asks great questions, but they’re also hard questions.)

Myth Information Panel

The Myth-Information Panel: Photo by Matt Moore. (Marie Bilodeau is challenging Derek ‘s assertion that fantasy cannot be political. Or rather, trying to raise up a mob to challenge Derek on her behalf.)

I bowed out of the parties quite early Friday night, I even had to skip the Romulan Ale, Blue Milk, and Slurm (it’s highly addictive!) replicas that the restaurant was offering (among other SF&F drinks) during Klingon Kareoke. Evidently, Klingons really like Alannah Myles. Who knew?

AdAstra Klingon Kareoke

Me and Marie Bilodeau. Photo by Derek Newman-Stille.

Lots of good fun on Saturday. I enjoyed meals with friends before getting to the mass author signing. Not a lot of signatures to be had, that’s the nature of the game though, It’s hard to begrudge Patricia Briggs and Steven Erikson their fans because they’re awesome folks (and at least no one actually pointed out that the GoHs had a longer signing line than me. Yes, that’s happened). I sat close to Suzanne Church and Julie E. Czerneda so I had some fun folks to talk to. Julie was even gracious enough to give me an opinion of the titles I’m considering for Thunder Road book 3. Thanks, Julie!

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One cool thing I got to do was sign a copy of Michael Rowe’s stellar book, Wild Fell, for collector Mike Cramer. Mike likes to have signatures from everyone involved in the book, and Michael was kind enough to thank me in the acknowledgements of Wild Fell (You’re very welcome, Michael!).

After the signings, Derek Newman-Stille caught up to me and we did a sit down interview for Speculating Canada that will air on Trent Radio. I’ll post a link or announcement about the date as soon as I have one.

Also, there were Daleks.

Derek & Dalek

Derek Newman-Stille, photo by yours truly.

It tried to exterminate me. Perhaps because of an offhand comment about that big blue public toilet it was hanging around…

My final bit of programming (I went light this year, and good thing I did, as my voice always felt just this side of collapse) was the panel “Comics as Literature”, ably moderated by James Bambury. We were joined by Michael J. Martineck and Sarah WaterRaven. I think that one went very well too. Good questions from Derek Newman-Stille as always, and from new con pal, Angela Keely.

After supper at Host, a local Indian restaurant, (their butter chicken was good, but I always feel I’m cheating on hometown fav, East India Company, but EIC is still winner and champeen of the curry universe as far as I’ve experienced) we headed up to the party rooms and books launches.

In one room Bundoran Press was launching Strange Bedfellows, edited by Hayden Trenholm (I contributed to the Indiegogo to support this one), and Alison Sinclair’s Breakpoint: Nereis. Robin Riopelle joined them, launching her debut from Nightshade Books, Dead Roads (and I’m so happy her books made it! She was having customs and FedEx issues and at least her launch had a happier ending than my Canada Post-foiled Edmonton launch of Tombstone Blues). In the other party room, Suzanne Church and Michael J. Martineck were launching their books from EDGE Publications: Elements: A Collection of Speculative Fiction and Milkman: A Freeworld Novel.

Michael Matheson had a reading scheduled for 10:30pm, and since Fun Things would be happening opposite the slot and there was nothing happening after, his reading morphed into a boozy sharing of Pacific Rim/Star Wars fan fic. Good Times. Probably the highlight of the con, in fact. Angela Keely brought down the house with her reading of the first four chapters of legendary (and legendarily bad) Harry Potter fan fic, My Immortal. There is talk of this becoming a thing for next year’s Ad Astra. I hope it does.

From the readings we meandered our way back upstairs. After roughly 4:00 in the morning, I realized my words were no longer working and went to bed. I did manage a bit of sleep and thank Thor for late checkouts.

A few other cool things about Ad Astra:

Check out the LEGO room!

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SPACESHIP!

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Seeing this loose tumble of multicoloured bricks really is a thing of beauty.

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Very cool Batman cover replica!

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And….my swag: Golden Age Flash T-Shirt for the Win! And always, books, books, books!

I spent the remainder of Sunday afternoon and evening in Toronto proper with one of my oldest friends. We rewatched Zombieland and then watched This is the End for the first time. All in all, a wonderful trip. Ad Astra was a great con experience and I’ll definitely be back.

Write on!

 

A Turn of Light Scavenger Hunt

In addition to hosting a guest post from Julie Czerneda, my blog is part of her A Turn of Light scavenger hunt! Click through for all the details. 

From Julie:

There will be six copies given away in Canada (courtesy Penguin Canada, who originated and managed this tour) and four in the US (courtesy DAW Books, who happily cheered and supported it). If there are more successful (ie. you’ve found ALL the answers!) entries than books, never fear. I’ll put all your names in a suitable hat (there’ll be a photo) and do a draw for 

the winners.

 

Have fun, and good luck if you decide to enter!

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.)

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!