The 2020 Reading List: March

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

March:

Imaginary Numbers by Seanan McGuire: I started this in February, had hopes about finishing it before March, but it didn’t happen. I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Sarah Zellaby has always been one of my favourite minor characters in the InCryptid series, so it was nice to see her get her moment to shine. I also love that McGuire’s books have included bonus novellas.

Story Genius by Lisa Cron: I picked this one up on the recommendation of writer Delilah S. Dawson. I haven’t been much for reading books on writing since I started publishing, but this was a pretty strong recommendation from a writer whose work I admire. I only read it, I chose not to play along and do the exercises suggested by the author. I’ve been in the middle of revising a novel and don’t want to think too hard about the next one I want to write, but as with any writing advice, there’s some I hope to internalize, and some I doubt will work for me. Cron kept it interesting though, and I liked how she followed one author and one novel in progress throughout the exercises she suggests, showing the work in progress.

Bite Marks by Becky Annison: This was a Powered by the Apocalypse game that I backed on Kickstarter. After reading Monster of the Week last year, I’d hoped to maybe use this in conjunction with some of the lore from my old White Wolf World of Darkness Werewolf: The Apocalypse books, but I don’t think that’ll work out. I think this game is a bad fit for the groups I’m currently playing with, but not necessarily a bad game.

Dungeons & Dragons Explorer’s Guide to Wildemount: Based on the setting for the second Critical Role campaign. I really like this supplement. It does a lot of what the Eberron: Rising from the Last War does well. Lots of adventure opportunities and interesting new character options. I think I like it better than the previous Critical Role campaign book for Tal’Dorei, but that might be because I started watching the show with the second campaign and never really connected with the first after the fact. I’m still unlikely to run a game set in Matthew Mercer’s world, but there’s lots in here I’d borrow for a homebrew game.

I’d hoped to read more, what with social distancing and trying to stay inside as much as possible, but pandemic news has been having the same effect on my reading as it has on my writing–the siren call of the TV is even harder to ignore. Hopefully April will be better in all things. Stay safe and be well, friends.

Here’s what I read in January.

Here’s what I read in February.

The 2020 Reading List: February

Since one of my writing goals for 2020 was also to read more, I thought it would help to keep track of what I knocked off Mount Tsundoku. Here’s as good a place as any to post what I’ve read in 2020 to keep me honest, and what I thought of each book immediately after finishing.

February:

Die on Your Feet by S.G. Wong: The first book in the Lola Starke mysteries. I blurbed the third book in the series, and it was really neat coming back to the ground level of the series with this excellent opening volume. I knew the gist of how the metaphysics of Wong’s Crescent City worked, but that definitely deepened reading Die on Your Feet. This is the kind of setting I’d love to run a pulp-noir RPG in. I’m looking forward to reading more Lola Starke.

My Heroes Have Always Been Junkies by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips: A standalone graphic novella in the Criminal ‘verse. I’ll read pretty much anything Brubaker and Phillips put out. They are consistently among my top comic teams regardless of the type of stories they’re trying to tell, but I sure have a soft spot for their Criminal books.

Dreams of Shreds & Tatters by Amanda Downum: I think I held off reading this one for as long as I did because I wanted to read The King in Yellow first, as the King plays a role in this book. I’m aware of The King in Yellow largely through RPGs and stories riffing on the work, but never got around to the original Robert W. Chambers piece. I still haven’t done that, and maybe there’d have been more in this book that jumped out at me if I had, but I enjoyed the story well-enough anyway even if I wasn’t catching all the references. I really liked Downum’s prose, which felt a little like reading a dream, entirely appropriate for this book.

The New Fantasmagoriana II edited by Keith Cadieux: Stories by Adam Petrash, Jess Landry, J.H. Moncrieff, David Demchuk. All four writers stayed in Winnipeg’s supposedly haunted Dalnavert Museum and wrote the first drafts of their stories overnight. I really enjoyed each story, and I think Demchuk’s was the stand out for me. Cadieux says in the foreword that the writers had the same experience, and leads me to believe the only downside to reading all of the stories in a row is some of that sameness came into the book. There are Victorian mansions in each, and children play a role in each story. Definitely not a deal breaker though. And it’s my own fault really, all in a row is not how I typically read short story collections.

Spectaculars by Scratchpad Publishing: I backed this roleplaying game on Kickstarter and it arrived recently. It is awesome. I have a soft spot for superhero RPGs, and I cannot wait to get this to the table, although I’m not sure if I want to play it or run it more. The box set is huge, and full of game trays, tokens, and power cards in addition to the rule book and setting book. I haven’t seen a game that emulates comic books as well as this one does, I hope the first read impression holds when I actually start playing it.

Night’s Dominion Volume 3 by Ted Naifeh: The concluding volume of a high fantasy graphic novel series that I’m definitely sad to see go, but what a great ending. Now that the series is done I’m looking forward to reading it in its entirety in a short span and seeing how that changes things.

Here’s what I read in January.

My VCon Schedule

I’m heading off to VCon this weekend. VCon is Vancouver’s premier science fiction, fantasy and games convention. I can’t wait for this. I’ve been meaning to get to VCon since my first convention (World Fantasy in Calgary) as I met a bunch of awesome B.C. folks there. I’ve met a few since, some of whom I only get to chat with on Twitter and Facebook, so I hope we’ll get to hang out a bit.
VCon will also be another reconvening of the Illuminaughty, albeit a small one. It’ll be great to see Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Ann Aguirre again. Secret societies are the bomb. (Ssssh. SECRETS.)

Guests of Honour include author David Weber (Honor Harrington Series; Safehold Series, Dahak Series) http://www.davidweber.net/,  artist David Mattingly (Does Cover Art for David Weber’s Honor Harrington Books) http://www.davidmattingly.com/ and game designer Bruce Heard (Original TSR employee, responsible for the development of much of the BECMI D&D line and it’s campaign world Mystara) http://bruce-heard.blogspot.ca/.

I’ve got to say, I’m pretty stoked about meeting Bruce Heard. Mystara was (and still is) my favourite D&D setting and I backed Bruce’s recent Kickstarter for Calidar in Stranger Skies. It’ll be an honour to share a panel with a game design legend.

This year VCon is also hosting Canvention (Canada’s national and traveling convention) and the Prix Aurora Awards. Me and my ChiSeries Winnipeg partner Samantha Beiko will be there representing Winnipeg (oh, and our books, and the ChiSeries and stuff).

VCon has brought in a few guests specifically for Canvention. Canvention, Tarol Hunt creator of the Goblins webcomic http://goblinscomic.com/ and artist Melissa Mary Duncan http://www.melissaduncan.ca/.

Here’s my schedule:
Friday, October 3
7 pm Selling Your Nonfiction to Subsidize Your Fiction? There’s an abundance of work out there when you’re a talented non-fiction writer. How does that translate into your speculative fiction? How do you balance writing both? Do anthology editors consider an author’s entire portfolio or just the fiction?
Sandra Wickham • Claire Eamer • Melanie Dixon • Chadwick Ginther • Mark Anthonry Brennan
8 pm Aurora Award Pin Ceremony: All attending Aurora award Nominees receive their Nominee Pins from members of the CSFFA (Aurora award admin people) Board of Directors.
Saturday, October 4
2 pm Game Master Tricks: Having problems with your game going off the rails? Time to break out the big guns! Panelists share their favourite tips for putting one over on players, devising devious schemes, or improvising when your carefully laid plans go all to hell.
Paula Johanson • Tarol Hunt • Chadwick Ginther • Bruce Heard • Jeremy Reimer
4 pm Aurora Award Afternoon Tea: This is a catered ticketed affair. Guests will savour finger sandwiches, light pastries, scones, fruit compote, Devonshire cream, etc.
During (or shortly after) the High Tea retired Movie Critic and Journalist Michael Walsh will present several ‘spoof’ Elron Awards in a tradition dating back to the first VCON in 1971. R. Graeme Cameron, presenter of the Elrons since 1989, will unveil the rest of the horrors at a later program event.
4:45 pm Aurora Award Ceremony: Master of Ceremonies Sandra Wickham (well-known author whose stories have appeared in “Evolve”, “Urban Green Man”, and numerous other anthologies and magazines) will preside over the awarding of the Auroras.This is the last year the current Aurora Award design will be handed out – Frank Johnson’s wonderful ‘Maple Leaf Aurora’ design has been used for the past 23 years, each award individually handcrafted by him in his workshop. To put it mildly, CSFFA certainly appreciates Frank’s dedication and hard work. CSFFA is glad to note that Frank will be present at the awards. As part of the ceremony CSFFA Canvention 34 Chair Clint Budd will announce the recipients of the newly created Hall of Fame Honours. This replaces the previous Lifetime Achievement awards, all previous winners of which will now be inducted into the CSFFA Hall of Fame.The past winners of the Lifetime Achievement Award being “transferred” into the Hall of Fame are: A.E. Van Vogt, Susan Wood, Judith Merril, Phyllis Gotlieb, Dennis Mullen, and Robert J. Sawyer. This year’s winners are William Gibson, and Spider & Jeanne Robinson. Bill and Spider will be present to acknowledge their induction, the latter on behalf of and in memory of his co-author and beloved wife of many years, Jeanne Robinson. 

Sunday, October 5
10:00 am Reading with Ann Aguirre
Hope to see you there, and wish me luck at the Auroras.
Write on!

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: The Norns

The norns were women who would attend children’s births to determine their futures. These women must have wielded great power, as everyone wants the best for their child. I imagine there was a lot of attempts at bribery, or resorting to threats, hoping to ensure a good viewing by the attending norn. I’m certain there were also some (by some, I mean many) grudges settled by bestowing a poor fate on an enemy’s child.

But there are norns, and then there are Norns.

The three that Loki is concerned with; Urd, Verdandi, and Skuld, were responsible for spinning the fates of the gods. Their arrival ended the golden age for Odin and his pantheon. There must have been even stronger attempts from the gods to turn their future away from what the three Norns had seen; the gods had more to lose than any mortal. But Ragnarök happened anyway.

Now that’s power.

Given their role as guardians of fate or destiny, I also had to believe that the Norns would not be feeling kindly deposed to Loki for escaping his fate at Ragnarök–or to me for writing him out of that fate.

And boy did they get their revenge. As it turns out, writing about a bunch of seers is a pain in the ass. They need to be (or at least should be) one step ahead of everyone else. They also raise uncomfortable questions about free will versus predestination. I really should have known better. If my thirty-odd year history with roleplaying games and comic books has taught me anything, it is that seers, while a great plot device, have always been tricky to work with. And I know for a fact there was no surer way to encourage the baleful eye of your Gamemaster than to give your character a precognitive power.

So naturally, I wrote three of them.

Superstition usually holds that bad things come in threes, but then, it says the same of good things. The question for the characters of Thunder Road is: which will the Norns prove to be?