National Aboriginal Day 2014

Today is National Aboriginal Day in Canada. I hope that my readers will take a moment or two to think about the many contributions the First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples have made to Canadian culture.

Some time ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Richard Van Camp, who is an amazing storyteller as well as a kind and generous man. I hope you’ll check out some of his work.

(This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of Prairie books NOW)

Storytelling From Lullabies to Zombies

“We’re encouraged to tell stories every day.” Richard Van Camp says of his Dogrib Dene heritage. “Storytelling is part of our medicine power, it’s part of our spirituality.”

Raised in Fort Smith, Northwest Territories by taxidermists and medicine people, he also credits his love of stories to growing up in a time before television “when families still visited families”. At the age of nineteen, Van Camp realized that no one was telling his story, nor was he reading it. The ghost stories and love stories of Fort Smith and “how we can two-step to anything under the Northern Lights” were not represented in Stephen King, Judy Blume or comic books.

This was something Van Camp sought to rectify, thinking it is crucial for indigenous people to see themselves in the literature they read and the stories they tell to their children. Now he tells stories for all ages. There is something magical in his work for everyone, from innocent newborn to jaded adult.

Little You, the author’s latest book for babies, was birthed in a lucky moment. He was attending a Pearl Jam concert when singer Eddie Vedder stopped the show, asking the audience to sing for his daughter’s birthday. “The file is still on my phone,” Van Camp says, “I was half way through Happy Birthday and it came in a flash and I wrote it out on my phone.” What came from that lucky moment is a heartfelt lullaby illustrated by Julie Flett which captures innocence with “dignified elegance.”

In contrast, Van Camp’s collection Godless but Loyal to Heaven is full of stories where myth, fantasy, and the harsh realities of Canada’s north intersect.

The book opens with zombie story “On the Wings of This Prayer”, set in the not-so-distant future where the “shark throats” have overrun humanity. Van Camp credits an elder’s tale of a wheetago buried in the oil sands, as its inspiration.

“The Fleshing”, another wheetago tale, though one set in our time, follows. “We’re all inhabited by the wheetago,” Van Camp says of why zombie tales are so prevalent. He also feels we see zombies in suffering and in the never ending hunger that comes with addiction. “If you’ve ever spoken to a loved one on crystal meth or crack cocaine, that’s not them anymore. That’s just a body moaning across the table from you.”

Beyond the supernatural, Van Camp also offers a subtle human horror.

We’ve all gone to that party,” he says of the sleepover in “Children of the Sundance” “where somebody says ‘let’s play a new game.’ In “Feeding the Fire”, Van Camp cautions care with one’s intentions and the danger of giving a wish to somebody that can do something about it.

“The wish for revenge is a bullet you can’t take back.”

Godless but Loyal to Heaven is not filled entirely with darkness, there are equal parts hope and love and aspiration for better times—especially in the title story, the longest in the collection.

“I want to be remembered as somebody who wrote literature that was hopeful. I think life is about second chances.”

Richard Van Camp

 

Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Nation from Fort Smith, NWT, Canada. He is a graduate of the En’owkin International School of Writing, the University of Victoria’s Creative Writing BFA Program, and the Master’s Degree in Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia.

He is an internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author. His novel, The Lesser Blessed, is now a movie with First Generation Films and premiered in September of 2012 at the Toronto International Film Festival. He is the author of three collections of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, The Moon of Letting Go and Godless but Loyal to Heaven, as well as two children’s books with Cree artist, George Littlechild: A Man Called Raven and What’s the Most Beautiful Thing You Know About Horses?

His first baby book, Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns, was the official selection of the Books for BC Babies program and was given to every newborn baby in British Columbia in 2008. Richard followed this up with another board book: Nighty-Night: A Bedtime Song for Babies. His third book for babies, Little You, is now out with Orca Book Publishers. The amazing Julie Flett is the artist. Little You is published in Bush Cree, Dene and South Slavey, courtesy of the South Slave Divisional Board of Education.

All of Richard Van Camp’s children’s books are available in Braille for free, anywhere in the world, courtesy of the Provincial Resource Centre for the Visually Impaired (PRCVI)and Accessible Resource Centre-British Columbia (ARC-BC).

Richard’s first comic book on deterring youth away from gangs, Path of the Warrior, is published with Cree artist, Steve Sanderson, through the Healthy Aboriginal Network. His second comic book on sexual health is Kiss Me Deadly, with Haida artist Chris Auchter is now out and can be read in its entirety at www.thehealthyaboriginal.net.

Richard wrote for CBC’s North of 60 television show for two months under their Writer Internship Program and was a script and cultural consultant with them for four seasons. He taught creative writing at the University of British Columbia, worked as a Creative Writing and Storytelling instructor with the Emily Carr Institute and was the Writer in Residence at the University of Alberta for 2011 and 2012 and at MacEwan University in 2013 and 2014.

Richard has three new books coming out: Three Feathers, a graphic novel on restorative justice with artist Krystal Mateus (Portage and Main); Whistle a mini-novel exploring mental health (out soon with Pearson  Canada) and his new short story collection, Night Moves, will be out with Enfield & Wizenty in the Fall of 2015.

 

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February Goals

How’d I do last month?

  • Reread the completed Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues novels and make some notes before diving back into Book 3.
  • Reread everything I’ve already written for Book 3.
  • Reorganize my research notes and the scenes that were written while the book was resting, and insert them into the manuscript.
  • Start writing Book 3 again.

Not too bad, I was hoping to have all that reading done, but it’s been a busy month. I’ve started teaching a teen writing workshop for ACI Manitoba, and while I knew it would take more time than I expected, it is taking even more than that. I am enjoying teaching though, and it’s been a good experience so far. Rereading the previous books, while important, wasn’t nearly as vital as getting through all of my notes and rough draft material, because now I can actually start drafting again, and I have written a couple of new scenes I’m pretty happy with (Now if only I could find a title I like…).

So, what are my goals for February?

  • An hour of new words, every day, regardless of what else is going on. My buddy Kevin Madison has been doing an hour of drawing every day since 2013 with some amazing results. Word count isn’t so important to me with this experiment as forcing myself to make the time. I experimented with it during the last weeks of January and managed to draft a short story I’ve been thinking about writing for a while. I’m not setting a hard word count for this goal; 1000 words would be nice, but I’m thinking that I must draft roughly a page, so 250-350 in each sitting. I’m keeping a running total of how many words and which project they belong to). Some of these words will be for Book 3, but I’ve got a few short stories on the go too.
  • Get my short fiction house in order, by which I mean: finally enter the last round of story rejections into my submissions tracker and fire them back into the world again.
  • Reread the completed Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues novels and make notes relevant to Book 3.
  • Turn in my article to Prairie Books Now.

Write on!

July Goals And A Half-Year Check In On The Big Picture

Here’s my latest monthly goals post:

So, how did I do in June?

  • Keep writing Thunder Road book 3. I’m not going to set a specific word count goal, I just want to keep up the forward progress and keep momentum rumbling. Okay, who am I kidding, I want to hit at least 50000 words in the manuscript by month end (which is not looking promising), which brings me to the next item:
  • Revamp my writing routine. There’s a good reason for this (besides getting my ass off Facebook and Twitter a bit more).
  • Polish the first short story I wrote in May. It’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse and takes place just after the first book. No Ted in this story. I’m playing around with some minor characters. Who doesn’t like dwarf women kicking ass?
  • Finish drafting the second short story I started. Another one set in the Thunder Road ‘verse. I’ve written a story with this character before, and love the voice (Hopefully you’ll all be able to read that one soon! I’m waiting on the contract to make the announcement). These first 2000 words feel more like the beginning of a new novel, but I think I can make it work as a short story.

Not as good as I’d hoped, unfortunately. There are reasons for this. (*cough* EXCUSES! *cough* Ahem) I didn’t write for most of the first week on my new job. I had two book reviews (one for The Winnipeg Review, one for Quill and Quire) and an article for Prairie books NOW all show up close together, and with similar deadlines. My response to paying work is generally to say “yes” and then figure out how I’ll make the time later. For year’s it’s been these reviews and articles that have helped to pay for my out of town conference trips. I made an admirable run at my word count goal for the final book in the trilogy, hitting almost 47000 words, but that’s not 50000, is it? Sadly I didn’t even look at those two short stories. The big goal of revamping my writing has been working however, and while 500-700 words a day on my lunch break and another 300-400 on the bus ride home may not seem like much, that roughly 1000 words a day is considerably more than I was averaging before May.

So what’s on the deck for July?

How about everything left over from June, to start.

  • Keep writing Thunder Road Book 3: This time I’m aiming for at least 60000 words in the manuscript by month end.
  • Polish the first short story I wrote in May. It’s set in the Thunder Road ‘verse and takes place just after the first book. No Ted in this story. I’m playing around with some minor characters. Who doesn’t like dwarf women kicking ass?
  • Finish drafting the second short story I started. Another one set in the Thunder Road ‘verse. Another one without Ted. I’ve written a story with this character before, and love the voice (Hopefully you’ll all be able to read that one soon!). These first 2000 words feel more like the beginning of a new novel, but I think I can make it work as a short story.

And on the new side:

  • Write a short story for the Innsmouth Free Press “Wings” special issue.
  • I haven’t written any “Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology” blog posts in a while. I have two on deck that I’ve been meaning to get to.
  • Attend the kick ass launch of ChiSeries Winnipeg Wednesday July 17th, at McNally Robinson. I am the co-organizer of this along with the Tiny Godzilla of Winnipeg’s YA scene (AKA the awesome and talented Samantha Beiko) and it’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally there! We’ll have readings from David Annandale, Andrew Davidson, and Sierra Dean.

I think I’m already veering into “unrealistic goal territory” as there is editorial work on Tombstone Blues to take into account, so I’m going to leave it there and see what happens in August. But since we’re half way through the year, I thought I’d also check in on those goals for 2013 that I posted back in January:

  • Finish Tombstone Blues
  • Start writing the as-yet nebulously titled book 3 in the Thunder Road Trilogy (I’m thinking this will be a good year to return to NaNoWriMo).
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Start a new writing project, just for the fun of it.

Still some work to do there, I see. I’m not terribly worried.

Tombstone Blues will be finished, I’m not worried about that, but I don’t feel I’m done writing a book until I’ve approved the final page proofs. So until then, I’m leaving it on the list. I’ve probably hit the two-thirds point of my discovery draft of Book 3. There will be lots more work once that’s done, but things are going well, and I’m way ahead of schedule on that project, as I’d only anticipated starting to draft in November.

I’d thought the convention would be an easy one, when I first made that goal, it was my intention to hit World Horror Con in New Orleans. That plan got a bit waylaid when I switched jobs, so I couldn’t make it. I will get to World Horror some day. And I will get to New Orleans too (maybe for the Romantic Times convention next year). I will be going to Can-Con in Ottawa in October. I’ve been to Ottawa, but not  to that convention… I’ll leave it up to readers to decide if I can count that one and strike it off my list.

I’ve revised one of my old manuscripts, it’s still nowhere near submission shape, but it’s probably next on the list once the draft of book three is done. It’ll be good to take a little break and let the draft breathe before I get back to it.

So that leaves starting a project just for the fun of it. Looks like that will be my project for NaNoWrimo this year.

Write on!

New Month, New Goals

So these were my goals for January:

  • Finish my submission for Sword and Mythos. I helped fund this anthology on IndieGogo, so I damn well better send them something.
  • Send at least one short story to On Spec.
  • Write a blog post at least once a week.

Now that it’s February, how did I do?

  • Finish my submission for Sword and Mythos. I helped fund this anthology on IndieGogo, so I damn well better send them something.

Yeah, that didn’t happen. I have finished drafting the story, but it still needs a lot of polish before I’m willing to let anyone (let alone an editor) see it.

  •  Send at least one short story to On Spec.

I managed to send in three stories to On Spec for this submission period. Two of those stories are ones they offered to take a second look at if I made some revisions and the third, while not a new new story, is new to them, as they were closed to submissions when I first finished it. Fingers crossed, knock wood, not mentioning that “Scottish play” and all that.

  • Write a blog post at least once a week.

I’m actually not sure what to say about this one…I wrote five blog posts in January, as well as had a guest blog from Clare Marshall. By the numbers I guess I hit my goal, but if I lawyer up on my wording, I failed. In one of those January weeks I didn’t actually write a blog, I only published Clare’s guest post. A technical win, I suppose?

Yeah, I’m going to call that a win too. It’s my blog, I can change the rules.

  • Write a blog post at least once a week.

So what’s up for February? February actually has some paying deadlines so it’s going to be a little crazy.

I think that’s ambitious enough for now.

Write on!

For Your Consideration: AKA The Inevitable January Awards Eligibility Post

I have totally snurched the body of this post from writing pal Karen Dudley (with her permission, of course).

January 1st marked the start of the Aurora Awards nominations and the Hugo Award nominations. The Nebula Award nominations are already underway (for members of SFWA) as are the World Fantasy Award nominations. If you are one of those nominating or thinking about nominating works for science fiction/fantasy-related awards, I ask you to consider the following for Best Novel:

Thunder Road, Ravenstone, September 2012

Some reviews:

“Ginther handles both the mythic and human aspects of Thunder Road with considerable skill… Thunder Road is a fast-paced, thoughtful novel, and news that it’s the first in a trilogy is welcome indeed.” – Quill and Quire

“…delivers fast-paced action and witty dialogue as our heroic trio battle unnatural and vulgar forces.” – Winnipeg Free Press:

“Unique and brilliantly crafted, Thunder Road leaves the reader salivating for the next book in this trilogy…” – The Winnipeg Review:

“In Thunder Road, Chadwick Ginther opens a doorway to the mythical in the modern world, letting his reader almost believe that at the edges of our reality, in the most mundane of places, there lurks the remnants and lingering presence of the Otherworld….” – Speculating Canada

You can read the prologue of Thunder Road on the excerpts page of my website.

I also published two short stories in 2012:

“First They Came for the Pigs,” FungiInnsmouth Free Press, Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey, editors. December 2012

“Back in Black,” Tesseracts 16: Parnassus UnboundEDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, Mark Leslie, editor. September 2012

So, who can nominate a work?

Well, for the Aurora Awards, you must be a member of CSFFA in order nominate. To be a member of CSFFA there is now a $10 membership fee. Memberships are good for the calendar year no matter when they are purchased. Nominations must be submitted by April 15, 2013. Look here for more information on the Auroras:  http://www.prixaurorawards.ca/Membership//  And do read Michael Matheson’s (of the Friends of the Merrill Library Short Story Contest) blog post, he has some interesting words on the “no award” option of the Aurora ballot.

For the World Fantasy Award, all registered members of the 2011 World Fantasy Convention in California, the 2012 World Fantasy Convention in Toronto and the 2013 event in Brighton are eligible to vote before the deadline (which is May 31, 2013).  For more information, go to http://www.wfc2013.org/wfballot01.html

For the Hugo Award, any person who was or is a member of the 2012, 2013, or 2014 Worldcons as of January 31, 2013, is eligible to nominate for the 2013 Hugo Awards. If you are not a member of any of those conventions, you can join LoneStarCon 3 or Loncon 3, the 2014 Worldcon, before January 31, 2013 to become eligible. You can find more information at http://www.thehugoawards.org/

For the Nebula Award, you must be a member of the SFWA, and you must nominate the work before February 15, 2013. Check out http://www.sfwa.org/nebula-awards/how-to-vote/ for more information

Coming soon, a post full of works I’ve read and loved over the last year, so this site isn’t all about me (for once).

Write on!

Reviewed And Interviewed

I’ve been reviewing books for Quill and Quire since 2008. In fact, a Quill and Quire review was the first piece of writing I was ever paid for. As I was reading old issues of the magazine to get a handle on their style, a few reviews stood out to me, and still do, done by author/bookseller Robert J. Wiersema. So it was a thrill when I saw that he had reviewed Thunder Road (and even more of a thrill that he liked the book!).

Here’s an excerpt:

Ginther handles both the mythic and human aspects of Thunder Road with considerable skill… Thunder Road is a fast-paced, thoughtful novel, and news that it’s the first in a trilogy is welcome indeed.

I’ll post a link to the full article as soon as I have it.

In other news, kicking around bookstores, libraries and other places where the arts matter in Western Canada, you’ll find the Winter 2012 issue of Prairie books NOW (it’s free, and full of awesome prairie books, snag one if you can!) in which I am interviewed by the indomitable Perry Grosshans of THIN AIR fame (infamy?). This was actually the first interview I did as an author, so, another thrill.

Write on!

Chilling Tales And Apparitions Too…err 2

I just donated to Michael Kelly’s Apparitions 2 on Indiegogo.

Much like with my Kickstarter addiction, I am quite fond of this, the Canadian equivalent, and am hopeful that my streak of endorsing winners continues. I had a chance to interview Michael a while back, in fact, it was my first ever story for Prairie Books Now (it was also a lot of fun). I finally had a chance to Meet Michael in November during the 2012 World Fantasy Con. We also shared a table of contents in Tesseracts 16, and I can tell you, Michael is one hell of an author–and one hell of an editor.

Chilling Tales, also edited by Michael, was in my mind the strongest Canadian anthology of speculative fiction to come be released in 2011, and any number of its stories deserved a place on a year’s best list. If you’re into horror and crowdsourcing, Michael Kelly’s new anthology is definitely worth funding.

This interview originally appeared in the Spring 2011 issue of Prairie books NOW.

chilling-tales

Chilling Tales Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd Did I Live

Michael Kelly, Editor

Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy

$14.95 pb, 224 pages

ISBN: 978-1-894063-52-4

Underneath that cool Canadian reserve, a dark heart beats, believes Michael Kelly, editor of Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live.

Chilling Tales features stories from Canadian horror fiction mainstays Brett Alexander Savory, Sandra Kasturi, and Nancy Kilpatrick, as well as some of the nation’s brightest (or should that be darkest) up and comers such as Gemma Files. Robert J. Wiersema, best known for his literary fiction, leads off the collection with a honky-tonk infused ghost story.

Kelly sensed a distinctly Canadian worldview, a “tangible loneliness” and “disquieting solitude” permeating the stories of his collection. But he feels Canadian writers are “merely doing what comes naturally—in this vast, sprawling land of ice and prairies, of wind and rock and water, of major urban centres encroaching on the barrens with spreading tendrils—exploring the other, that vastness.”

Anthologies such as Chilling Tales have been something of a rarity, although Don Hutchinson’s Northern Frights series left “an indelible impression” upon Kelly.

“There’s no easy answer,” he says, of the dearth of all-Canadian horror collections. “Part of it, I surmise, might be that Canadian genre writing is somewhat marginalized by the bigger publishing houses.”

It’s no surprise to Kelly that the two most recent such volumes were published by Chilling Tales’s publisher, Brian Hades at Edge Science Fiction and Fantasy. “It is the smaller houses with an indie spirit that will take a chance on a project like this.”

Kelly felt it was time to showcase Canada’s dark heart. There was no open call for submissions; instead he went hunting for authors that “shared that strange dark worldview” he was conjuring.

“I also mentioned that they could recommend some authors to me, as well. It was a bit of word-of-mouth and also me soliciting authors I admired.”

A writer himself, the Pickering, Ontario-based, Shirley Jackson Award-nominated Kelly enjoyed the challenge of editing the collection.

“There’s a certain order to the stories, a flow, whether you’re moving from something short and shocking, to something literary and poetic, to something prosaic. It’s a balancing act,” he says. “When I’m writing fiction, I just want to tell a story. I’m writing for me, though, no one else. When I’m editing a commercial anthology, I’m cognizant of the reader.”

The result? An eminently readable, page turning collection, tales that leap from the page, burrowing into you. It is as if the authors are kids around a campfire, each trying to one up the other with the imaginatively macabre. From ghosts, to issues of faith, to the very unusual skin condition in David Nickle’s “Looker”, Chilling Tales has a velocity that keeps its reader huddled up for just one more story.

“I’m hoping this first volume will act as a benchmark for future volumes,” says Kelly. “I wanted to show that Canadian writers can be as literate, entertaining, edifying, and as scary as their contemporaries. Of course, I already knew that. Now, everyone will know.”