Too Far Gone Winnipeg Launch

What a great night!

It’s been a week, and I feel like I’m still coming down from the party.

Thanks to everyone who attended, and for those who couldn’t make it, here’s some photos of the evening.

I like to start with some crowd shots, because these photos of all the awesome Winnipeg folks who came out to support me will definitely help keep me warm when I take Too Far Gone on the road.

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Also, there was cake. Red velvet cake.

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I was introduced once again by McNally Robinson’s John Toews. There is no hyperbole when I say nobody crafts an intro like this man. Many thanks for all your support, good sir!

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Nothing says fun, like action shots of someone reading from a book, but here are some of my favourites:

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I wish I knew what I was saying when Gerald Brandt snapped the photo below.

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Goofing around before the signing portion of the evening started, and mugging for Shen Braun’s camera.

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Me and Shen, who is one of my oldest friends, and also a very fine writer (for some reason the perspective on this photo makes me look like some sort of Gamma-irradiated Gargantua Chad). Shen was a first reader on Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues, but I finally get to surprise him with the ending.

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I brought an assortment of pens to make my doodles in each book in addition to a signature, and of course, my “Loki Approved” and “Fucking Magic” stamps.

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A bit of the signing line.

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And finally, the last book signed, I was apple to join friends for a post-launch drink.

Friend, inkslinger, and cocktail crafter extraordinaire, Andrew Penn Romine created a Thunder Road cocktail to help me celebrate the conclusion of the trilogy. It’s called The Thunderbolt, and it is fantastic. A variation on the Black Manhattan, and as dangerous as its namesake.

The Post Launch Thunderbolt

Thanks for another launch memorable, Winnipeg.

Write on!

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Some More Pics From My Alberta Research Trip Part Two: Edmonton

I love Edmonton.

I’ve been there quite a few times in recent years, and it feels a lot like home. Maybe because, like Winnipeg, it’s a river city. Maybe because it still has some old architecture. I can’t explain it.

I took the Red Arrow bus line from Calgary to Edmonton, which is a really nice way to travel. Comfortable seats. WiFi. It’s also not much slower than flying when you factor in time to get through security and the fact that the Edmonton airport may as well be on the moon. The bus station was only a couple blocks from the LRT line. Rapid transit has become a big part of Winnipeg’s current mayoral debate, and every time I go to Alberta, I come back thinking: “The precious. I wantsssss it.”

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Bay/Enterprise Square Station.

It’s so shiny.

In non-book research related research, I tried cedar smoked salmon for the first time my first night in Edmonton. Normally, I hate the sea and everything in it. This meal however, was amazing. It was grilled up with marinade of maple syrup and apples. Big thanks to my Edmonton host, and old bud, Brad Neufeld for the kick ass food, and the place to hang my hat.

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When I travel, I will now be forever reminded of the title of Robert Shearman’s new story collection from ChiZine, They Do the Same Things Different There. Case in point: one can buy bourbon at the Costco in Alberta. This was a very tasty whiskey. A little bird told me that Costco gets their vodka from Grey Goose, so I wonder who supplies their bourbon…

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The exterior of the Edmonton Archives. I spent a few afternoons here, digging through photos and old articles.

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Microfiche!

I haven’t used one of these in years. I may or may not have pretended to be a spy while I loaded the microfilm. Also, I must be cursed, because most of the machines were down, or stopped working shortly after I got started. The archivists were great though.

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Author Billie Milholland snapped this photo of me at the Stanley A. Milner Library while I was rooting through their Heritage Room.

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One of the things I’ve been meaning to see for ages was Fort Edmonton. It’s an interpretive park, with lots of costumed workers explaining the history of the area. There’s a similar place outside of Winnipeg, Lower Fort Garry–which is still on my list of places to go. (I really need an out of town guest to show up doing research for their book, so I can take them to all the local attractions I never get around to seeing!)

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Survival tips for the northern explorer: rum. (Why is the rum gone?)

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An old York Boat.

The thing that is neat about Fort Edmonton is that it isn’t just one time period. You take a train from the gift shop out to the fort and then walk through three different time periods, 1885 street, 1905 street, and 1920 street.

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1885 street!

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It was crazy hot the entire time I was in Edmonton, and sadly, Kelly’s Saloon was not serving beverages.

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A Gatling Gun stashed behind the RCMP (North-West Mounted Police at the time) barracks

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In case of emergency.

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1905 street!

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There was a street car you could hop on! (Street car not shown) I love street cars.

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Unlike Kelly’s Saloon pictured earlier, the Hotel Selkirk on 1920 street does have a working bar.

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The Capitol Theatre. I didn’t have time to catch a movie, as I had to prepare for a reading.

First, though, there was an author dinner with Edmonton friends Janice MacDonald, Randy Willliams, Eileen Bell and new to Edmonton by way of New York ex-pat Winnipegger (and amazing author), the divine Susie Moloney. We went to Edmonton staple Doan’s, which has some great Vietnamese food.

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Randy Williams snapped this shot during my reading at Audreys Books.

I haven’t been back to Audreys since Thunder Road launched, so it was fun to be there again, and read from Tombstone Blues. We had a good turnout. I met a couple Facebook friends for the first time, which I always enjoy. I also found out the section I chose for my reading (The Night Mara’s attack) gave someone in the audience a nightmare. I felt a bit bad about that, but I’m not going to lie, I was also pleased that one of my favourite scary scenes genuinely scared someone.

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I love this view, with Grant MacEwan in the distance. It seems like a great place for some kind of showdown…

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COMICS!

My trip happened to fall so that I missed two New Comic Book Days. (Seriously, who planned this thing. Oh…wait.) What is a visit to another city without a stop at their best known comic store? While I was in Calgary I made another visit to Comic-Kazi (my friend Kevin’s local), the staff and owner there are amazing. Also, Fiona Staples of Saga fame apparently used to work there.

I’ve heard nothing but good things about Happy Harbor, and some of my friends have done events with them. It was a very cool store. Larger and more spread out than my local (Mighty Comics, represent!) but it was easy to find what I was looking for.

Between the two stops I found a few issues I’d missed of a couple series I wanted to collect, and had the bonus of two weeks worth of my regular comics waiting for me when I got home!

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Thanks to fellow Ravenstone author, Janice MacDonald, for pointing this place out to me. The Valhalla. Perfect. How can that not turn up in book three?

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I love the High Level Bridge. One of my favourite things to do in Edmonton is walk across that bad boy.

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I took a drive out refinery way, by Fort Saskatchewan, not too far outside of Edmonton. These plants are huge. And from what I’m told, are completely dwarfed by the sites up north near Fort MacMurray.

It was a great trip. I love my visits to Alberta and can’t wait to get back there.

Write on!

Home Again, Home Again

I’m back from the western leg of the joint Thunder Road/Food for the Gods tour. Short story, I had a blast. Long story, a roundup blog is on the way. In the meantime, enjoy a pic from my reading at Calgary’s Sentry Box (and check out Darth Vader lurking in the background). Photo courtesy of Kevin Madison.

Tomorrow I’m hosting a guest blog from Sarah Kades, adventure-romance writer extraordinaire.

THIN AIR Voices From Oodena

Sunday, September 23rd I read from Thunder Road at the Oodena Celebration Circle. This is one of my very favourite places in Manitoba, and it’s hard not to feel moved standing in this unique and magical space.

Enjoy a little taste of Thunder Road:

I was joined on stage by Sarah Klassen, France Adams, Rhea Tregebov and Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, and I hope you’ll give their readings a watch also.

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!”

Thunder Road Winnipeg Launch Roundup, Part The First…

I have no brain remaining after last night’s launch. I am still processing the astounding response. Truly humbling. I’ll try to post with more detail (and coherence) tomorrow. To tide you over, here’s a few photos:

 

If I’d known they were going to warn people, I might have read a different passage…

 

So that giant photo of me on the easel is going to be up on the wall at McNally Robinson next to folks such as Robert J. Sawyer, Guy Gavriel Kay and Steven Erikson. No pressure. Nope. None at all.

 

A photo to try and capture the crowd.

 

A book in the hand, I’m told I even managed to bump Fifty Shades of Grey off the top spot on Winnipeg’s Bestseller list.

 

And an action shot of the author in his natural (unnatural?) habitat.