Half-Year Check In

So here’s what I planned to accomplish for 2020 back in January:

  • Decide what to do with Graveyard Mind and Graveyard Mind 2 and implement those plans.
  • Revise An Excuse for Whiskey.
  • Finish short stories I’ve started but not completed. As before, I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year, but this year I’d also like to write one of those stories for submission to the online pro markets rather than for open call themed anthologies, as is my usual way.
  • Finish revising my WIP novel and get it out on submission.
  • Restart the agent hunt.
  • Read more.

Stretch goal!

  • If I get my WIP out on submission, and Sandra and I finish An Excuse for Whiskey by November, I’ll take a run at NaNoWriMo again.

Holy shit. That list seems ridiculously optimistic looking back with hindsight. I’m still hopeful that I’ll find Graveyard Mind a home with a new publisher, but there’s nothing to report yet. I have received my final royalty statement from CZP, with (hopefully) my final royalty payment arriving imminently. It’ll be nice for that chapter of the novel’s story to be finally closed. Unfortunately, until I find Graveyard Mind a new home, or choose to self publish a new edition, its sequel will remain lying fallow.

Sandra Wickham and I have agreed to put An Excuse for Whiskey on hold for the time being. She’s launching her new fitness website and doing the pandemic single-mom thing, so she’s got her hands full. (You should totally check out Sandra’s fitness programs, she really knows what she’s doing, and has offered me plenty of advice in the last year and a half as I became more serious about losing some weight and getting into better shape.) Lately, revisions haven’t been my bag, so…someday I hope we’ll get back to it. We’re both still really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far with our first attempt at co-writing. Sandra’s one hell of a writing and critique partner, so I’m looking forward to when we’re both able to get this project done and on submission.

Short stories have been going a bit better. I’ve finished one novelette of my six new story challenge and am closing in on another short story. Both stories are for general submission not a specific anthology, which I haven’t done in ages. The novelette is roughly 13000 words, and the short story is currently around 7000, so I’m tempted to count them as three (or four) of my six stories, as the novelette felt like four times the work to edit. I’ll wait and see on that. It’s not really in the spirit of the challenge, is it? In other short story news, my story “Cheating the Devil at Solitaire” was longlisted for the Sunburst Award, my story “All Cats Go to Valhalla” released in Swashbuckling Cats: Nine Lives on the Seven Seas, and my story “Golden Goose” sold to Air: Sylphs, Spirits, & Swan Maidens, due to be released in August! Golden Goose is my fifth sale to Rhonda Parrish, which is awesome, and also makes me three for three (so far) on her Elemental anthology series. If I sell a story to the eventual Water anthology it’ll be like getting a rare Enlightenment Victory in my old Legend of the Five Rings card playing days.

As I said in an interview with Derek Newman-Stille, I gave up on the revisions I’d been working on in favour of trying to draft a new book in this strange pandemic moment. This is the book that I’ve kept promising myself I would start “when I’d crossed a few more items off the old list” but I never got there. This was the book that was going to be my NaNoWriMo stretch goal for the year. I’ve been working on the worldbuilding and history of this secondary world for ages now, but wouldn’t allow myself to actually do any drafting or prose. Now seemed like the perfect time to dive in. Currently, I’m at 41000 words, which means probably about halfway to a finished discovery draft; 30000 words is when a draft usually starts to feel like a book to me, but this one isn’t quite to that feeling yet. I think I’ve figured out what I want the finale to be, but I’m uncertain of the best steps to get through the soggy middle to get there. Nevertheless, I’m hoping to have a draft done by the end of the summer. We’ll see.

I can’t really start the agent hunt until I have a finished book, so that item is on hold for now, but I am updating my wish list of agents to submit to a bit at a time, so that when I’m ready, I am ready. I’ve also been working on a grant proposal project for Manitoba Arts Council and possibly the Canada Arts Council. My sample materials are done, and I have an idea of what I’m going to say, I just have to finish the actual application parts. MAC’s applications changed in recent years, so I’m building a new template from scratch.

As for my reading goals, I must say I’m enjoying tracking this a little bit more. So far I’ve read twenty-seven books, a combination of novels, non-fiction, graphic novels, and roleplaying games (check out my reading list so far here). When I started writing these mini reviews, I first just grabbed whatever was handy and seemed shiny. Since then, I’ve decided to be a little more systematic about my reading plans. Now I’m pulling out an actual to-read pile to stack on the nightstand. I’m limiting the stack to five books, which seems doable for the month, even though odds are I won’t get through them all each month. Occasionally comics and graphic novels or roleplaying games might jump the queue, but I’m trying to get through the pile in order I stack them. The first time I did this, I basically grabbed the first five shinys to catch my eye, but for my next stack, I plan on adding some criteria to diversify my reading a bit. My intention is for each to-read pile to contain at least one book by a BIPOC or LGBTQ2S+ author, one book by a woman, one non-fiction book, and one book by an author I know personally (I’ve accumulated a lot of these over the years, and I’ve been a bit slower to get to many of them than I’d like. Sorry, friends!). For now, especially due to COVID-19, and having hoarded some of these books for so long, I’m still trying to pull most of these titles from my existing shelves, rather than going out an buying more. I’ve been trying to stick to a finish two books I’ve already purchased before buying any new books plan since I moved last summer anyway.

Regardless of how my other 2020 goals shake down, I’m going to pass on NaNoWriMo this year, and I think, every year going forward. Starting a new book and just writing at my own pace has been really enjoyable, and since my last few NaNo attempts have led to one book that took me forever to revise to my satisfaction, another that I still haven’t revised to my satisfaction, and a third that’s on hold until I find a home for Graveyard Mind, it’s just creatively not for me. Also, the last couple times I’ve participated it’s been more of a “holy shit, I haven’t written as many words as I’d hoped for this year, quick, lets get some points on the board before the year’s over” and those words haven’t proven to be terribly productive, let alone any fun.

A few things have changed since I spoke to Derek, but I’m still trying to write, and take care of myself, and stay in touch with my friends as I can. I was also recently a guest on the Seangeek Podcast, where we talked about writing, tabletop gaming, and comics. Sean was also kind enough to review Graveyard Mind previously on the podcast.

That’s it for the first half of my 2020. I hope you’re all staying as well as can be.

 

Half-Year Check-in

So, here’s what I had up for 2019.

  • Finish drafting and revising Graveyard Mind 2
  • Revise An Excuse for Whiskey
  • Systematic finishing of the short stories I’ve started writing but not finished. I would like to get at least six new stories out the door this year
  • Separating my IP from a work-for-hire project that didn’t pan out.
  • Be ready to write that new book by November for NaNoWriMo
  • Read more

And how are we doing? Not especially great, nothing is crossed off the list, but early days yet, and I’m hoping now that my move is done, things will start turning the corner, creatively speaking.

State of Writing: I’ve only added about 15K to the Graveyard Mind 2 manuscript, but I know the shape of what the book will be, and how I want it to influence what will come later in the series. Between a few real life things, it’s been tricky for Sandra and I to sit down and hammer out the revision task list for An Excuse for Whiskey, but I am confident that we’ll get there. I’ve got two new stories out the door so far, and both sold! One will be appearing in Earth: Giants, Golems, & Garygoles, and another I can’t talk about yet. I have one more story that is almost drafted and is due by month’s end. It’s not an old piece of unfinished writing, but I’m still going to count it as getting me half way to my six story goal for the year.

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I haven’t done any work separating out that IP. I’m largely considering just writing off that work entirely. I wasted a creative year on that book, but for now, it doesn’t seem worth the bother to revisit, just a waste of further time. I have, however, been happily worldbuilding and outlining (sort of) the next thing I want to write. If I’ve crossed GM2 off the list, or at least finished the draft by then, I think I’ll be ready to start writing the mystery project in November.

State of Reading: So this was a non-writing related goal, but still a very important part of the writing. You know, such as remembering why I got into writing in the first place, and that’s because I love to read. Mostly have been rereading as I prepped for the move, but I finished a couple more Seanan McGuire books in the series I’ve been following, and finished off Sam Sykes’ Bring Down Heaven trilogy. I also reread my way through the Moonshae trilogy by Douglas Niles, and R.A. Salvatore’s Dark Elf trilogy and Icewind Dale trilogy. Sam Sykes definitely got the old D&D nostalgia vibes going, but comfort reads were what was going to happen, so it was fun to revisit some of the books I read so long ago. I’ve also been doing a bunch of gaming reading as I try to digest some new game systems I’ve recently purchased and want to get to the table, such as Invisible Sun, Mecha Hack, RuneQuest, and Tiny Supers.

State of Gaming: I’ve tried a few new games. Gaming is another big reason why I became a writer, and so while it’s usually the first thing that gets cut when the deadlines roll in, I’ve been missing it. I participated in Dungeon Musings’ game marathon, where we played Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea. I started playing in a Forbidden Lands campaign one of my buddies is running. The 5e D&D game I’m in with my high school group resumed after a moving hiatus and I hosted the first game in my new place. A new game just started up with the gang I played all the way through 3rd/3.5 D&D with, this time using 5th edition, and set in Greyhawk. I should be returning to the GM side of the table with a Marvel Superheroes game set in the MCU set post-Civil War and running a couple of Pacific Rim inspired one-shots and short games using Tiny Fontiers: Mecha and Monsters and Mecha Hack.

State of the Writer Himself: I’ve dropped thirty pounds since Christmas, largely due to a bunch of small changes accumulating to bigger results than I’d expected. Derek Künsken started #7300 Club on Twitter on New Year’s Day, a challenge to do 20 push ups a day for the year. When I saw the challenge, I snarked that I couldn’t promise to try, but I’d try to try, and when I did, I got mad at how much more difficult the exercise was than I remembered, so I kept going. My pal and co-writer Sandra Wickham who knows a shit-ton about this kind of stuff, suggested I vary my exercises and take a rest day, so I’ve been doing that and gradually ramping up my sets and repetitions of all the exercises. It’s all just body resistance stuff at the moment. Most of the weight loss likely came from my decision to quit eating so much garbage at work. So long, Tim Hortons sausage biscuit breakfast, hello banana. Cutting the junk food at work however meant I didn’t need to do much about my other meals to see results. It feels good. The last time I’d been under 200 pounds was after a bout of food poisoning that coincided with having to build a fence in thirty degree heat (I do not recomment this method for a variety of reasons). I’m back to the weight I was in my mid-twenties, and good thing I’m a pack rat, because some of the concert t-shirts I bought back then fit me again. The other exciting part of getting into better shape (you know, other than just plain feeling better) is that the words have been coming more regularly than they did all of last year.

The other big thing: I moved.

This has been a long time coming, we’ve been talking about it for a while now, and it’s finally happened. Sold our house and bought a condo. I’m hoping the lower maintenance will free up more time for writing, and maybe allow my sweetie to travel with me a bit more.

Most of the late winter and early spring was spent getting the house ready to sell, and the rest of spring until now was dealing with the move and unpacking. But I have a functional office again (mostly), so this, combined with just feeling better in general, leads me to believe the backend of 2019 will be better creatively. Any way, that’s me for now.

Write on!

Equus Table of Contents!

The table of contents for Equus is finally live and it’s great to see everyone’s names. I’d sussed out a few other authors because I have a few friends on the list but it’s nice to see everyone all lined up. I’m very curious to read everyone else’s stories (and holy shit, I’m in a book with Jane Yolen)!

Stars, Wings, and Knitting Things by J.G. Formato

Eel and Bloom by Diana Hurlburt

A Complete Mare by Tamsin Showbrook

Neither Snow, nor Rain, nor Heat-Ray by M.L.D Curelas

Rue the Day by Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Riders in the Sky by VF LeSann

Above the Silver Sky by Daniel Koboldt

A Mother Unicorn’s Advice to Her Daughter by J.J. Roth

Ladies Day by Susan MacGregor

The Boys from Witless Bay by Pat Flewwelling

The Horse Witch by Angela Rega

Eli the Hideous Horse Boy by Michael Leonberger

Different by Sandra Wickham

To Ride a Steel Horse by Stephanie Cain

The Last Ride of Hettie Richter by Cat McDonald

We Us You by Andrew Bourelle

Scatter the Foals to the Wind by Chadwick Ginther

Lightless by K.T. Ivanrest

A Glory of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

Of course, I’m over the moon to be sharing a ToC with my good pal, and writing partner, Sandra Wickham; a first for us. Another first: sharing a ToC with my self-declared nemesis, Cat McDonald. Cat’s wanted to have a readoff to determine which of us will rule the universe for years now, so it looks like she might be getting her wish when Equus launches in July.

Get your Goodreads shelves ready!

 

 

An Embarrassingly Late When Words Collide 2016 Roundup

Sorry for the delay on this roundup, folks!

Another year, another trip to Cowtown!

This trip was a little different. Samantha Beiko and I decided to drive to the con instead of flying. A supposedly fun thing I don’t think I’ll ever do again. Because of my car, not the company.

Roughly two hours into a thirteen hour drive, as Sam was joking about not getting stranded in Brandon again, my battery light came on. Rather than risking the car dying on the road, we pulled into Brandon for repairs. What had initially sounded like a one or two-hour delay became closer to four after waiting for the part to arrive, but new alternator installed, we journeyed on. Despite therapeutic cowch outside of Canadian Tire this development was…so disheartening.

Not gonna lie, the temptation to just give up on the trip then and there was pretty high. But! We were both on programming, both up for Aurora Awards, and, both really excited to visit our friend Clare for her birthday.

So we soldiered on, but that thirteen hour drive ended up being closer to nineteen, door to door.

There is a lot of Saskatchewan to get through. It’s not that the province isn’t pretty, but when you start roughly halfway through Manitoba, and are going halfway into Alberta, crossing the entirety of Saskatchewan just feels like forever. It takes the time it takes, but the perception of that time…that I could’ve done without.

We managed to dodge most of the thunderstorms, and had good weather at least.

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This one only caught us for about thirty seconds, but we were completely blindied by the sun shining through the downpour. Sweet little Bifrost though waving us onward though.

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The skies were amazing. I do love those big damn prairie skies. I am glad I got to see these clouds from a bit of a distance rather than having to drive through them.

Okay on to the con itself:

Calgary has a way of causing me headaches. Whether it’s the altitude, or the pressure changes, or what…I dunno. I’m batting 3 for 8 when it comes to Cowtown visits that give me a headache so bad I vomit (take your whiskey jokes and walk, folks) so I’m always a little bit on edge wondering if it’ll happen again. It’s one of the reasons I program lightly at WWC. No vomiting this time. YAY! But the length of the drive and the stress of car repairs did end up giving me a pretty wicked tension headache (thanks, Jill Flanagan for sorting that out!).

I had no programming on Friday. Which is nice for me. I like to catch up with folks at When Words Collide, and I have a lot of folks to catch up with there! We rolled in early, and helped Clare get her table set up and then got our membership badges.

And then I enjoyed a Basil Hayden’s bourbon, which until recently, I wasn’t able to buy in Manitoba. It’s always a treat when the convention bar has it on the shelf.

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Saturday I participated in a Myth and Folklore panel moderated wonderfully by S.G. Wong (check out her latest, Death Takes the Hindmost when it releases, I got to read an advance copy. Very nice!) and thanks to fellow panelists Rhonda Parrish, and Nancy M. Bell for the lively discussion.

I found some copies of this on the freebie table:

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My friend Chris Smith (an inaugural and long-suffering member of my writing group) has a story in this one. The Crow Maiden. Very cool story. You should read it. I brought a few copies home for him.

Saturday also meant running around to grab things for the Post-Apocalyptic Four party I was co-hosting with friends and fellow Aurora nominees Randy McCharles, Eileen Bell, Ryan McFadden and Billie Milholland. By things I, of course, mean whiskey (and whisky).

The Prix Auroras were handed out. This is no longer news, but I still want to give a shout out to the worthy winners. Neither I nor ChiSeries Winnipeg were awarded in our categories, but there were a lot of great works being celebrated, so that’s okay. Looking at the stats, Too Far Gone came in second in the novel category, so that’s pretty cool too. Thank you to everyone who nominated and voted,and congratulations to all the winners!

  • Best English Novel: A Daughter of No Nation by A.M. Dellamonica, Tor Books
  • Best English YA Novel: An Inheritance of Ashes by Leah Bobet, Scholastic Canada/Clarion Books
  • Best English Short Fiction: “Waters of Versailles” by Kelly Robson, Tor.com
  • Best English Poem/Song: “Origami Crane / Light Defying Spaceship” by Naru Dames Sundar, Liminality, Issue 5 Autumn
  • Best English Graphic Novel: The Lady ParaNorma by Vincent Marcone, ChiZine Publications
  • Best English Related Work: Second Contacts edited by Michael Rimar & Hayden Trenholm, Bundoran Press
  • Best Visual Presentation: Orphan Black, Season 3, John Fawcett and Graeme Manson, Temple Street Productions
  • Best Artist: Erik Mohr, covers for ChiZine Publications
  • Best Fan Publication: Speculating Canada edited by Derek Newman-Stille
  • Best Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles, Chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
  • Best Fan Related Work: Derek Newman-Stille, Speculating, Canada on Trent Radio 92.7 FM

We went out for supper and cake after the awards to celebrate Clare’s birthday.

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BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE! BIRFDAE!

After consuming my weight in Indian food and gluten-free vegan chocolate cake, I had to rush back to the hotel for the room party. It’s been four years since I’ve thrown a con party. It’ll probably be at least that many more until the next one. Lots of folks came out for it, but while I enjoy the parties, it’s another matter throwing one. It also means you can’t leave when you want to if you get overwhelmed by the crowd.

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Look at this room.

There was nowhere to put anybody.

Which was awesome and terrifying.

Huge thanks to everyone who came out to drink our whiskey and beer, and hang out and talk writing, or just talk–loud and crowded as it was. You’re all great. I still can’t fucking believe we weren’t shut down within the hour.

Early on Sunday I was on Susan MacGregor’s panel on writing trilogies. Great batch of panelists and questions from Susan. Thanks to Susan, and fellow panelists Gerald Brandt, Samantha Beiko, Barb Galler-Smith and to everyone who came out.

Once again Sandra Wickham presented her “Writing About Fighting” presentation. And I got to be her fight dummy. Another packed room! Sandra does a great job with this so you really should check it out if you’re at a con where she’s presenting it (and not just to see me get kicked in the stomach).

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Photo by S.G. Wong.

(One of these days I’m going to beak off too much on Twitter and Sandra will just straight up murder me in front of her audience)

I skipped the dead dog to hang out with Sam and Clare, decompress, and watched Dragon Heart.

The drive home wasn’t as long as the drive to Calgary, but it was long enough.

Still, a rainbow that crossed the entire sky was a nice welcome home when we pulled over in Brandon to swap out the driver’s seat.

The drive home was especially long the last hour of thunderstormin’. Poor Sam had to drive. What a trooper!

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I tried multiple times to catch a lightning strike. Not easy with a cell phone camera.

I also really wanted an image of a lightning strike behind the Halfway Tree. For reasons.

And once we got fully into the shit, it was dark.

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But, we made it home okay, and you couldn’t ask for a better driving partner than Sam Beiko. 12/10 would road trip with Sam again.

See you again next year, When Words Collide!

Write on!

Ad Astra, Ottawa, Creative Ink Fest

Ad Astra was fun!

There are so many folks that I want to see and hang out with, have a beer with, or talk fantasy/gaming/movies with that I can’t possibly fit it all in over a single weekend. That’s a good problem for a convention to have.

I finally got to meet Robert Wiersema! We’ve only been corresponding online since…well it feels like forever, and I’m glad we made the time to enjoy a drink and talk books and writing. Cheers, Robert! Here’s hoping we cross paths again soon.

Of course I also had to have my now annual curry dinner with Angela & Matthew Keeley and Derek Newman-Stille. This year we were also joined by Don Bassingthwaite, Kate Story, and Dominik Parisien. Lots of fun! I also lugged my old tuxedo to Ad Astra, because Angela promised to wear it. I don’t think she believed me when I said she could keep it, but I sure as shit didn’t want to find the room in my luggage again.

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I think she rocked the look, even if the suit was ginormous on her. I wanted her run rods through the shoulders and turn it into a Talking Heads performance piece, but alas.

The first two panels I was on had smallish turnouts, but I did have fun conversations about visual storytelling and the pros and cons of hybrid publishing, so there’s that. Superhero Universe launched and I met co-editor, Mark Shainblum. My reading from “Midnight Man versus Doctor Death” was well received, which is great, because I really enjoy reading that story aloud. My final bit of programming was a shared reading slot with Sarah WaterRaven, Leah Bobet, and Vanessa Ricci-ThodeI. I read from Too Far Gone, and was pleased with the turnout, and the crowd’s reaction to the reading. Between the four of us we drew over twenty people early on a Sunday morning. I’ll take it.

Of course, I had to spend time in the ToroLUG Lego room.

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And thank you, as always to Bakka-Phoenix books for their support. I signed all the stock they brought, so if you missed connecting with me in Toronto, check them out for signed copies.

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The last thing I did before leaving Ad Astra was join an informal meeting of the Sessorium of Creatives from The Ed Greenwood Group over lunch before hitting the road to Ottawa for some family time and a reading before heading west to Creative Ink Festival. I also met Dave Robison, who talks in Onder Radio voice all the time, and was a really cool guy. I met Ed Greenwood very briefly at GenCon in (I think) 1992 and for some reason in my brain he looked identical now and then. Maybe he really is an Archmage.

ChiSeries Ottawa was a blast. (Shakes fist at Derek Künsken for joke-booing ChiSeries Winnipeg when Matt Moore talked about the Auroras) It was all in good fun though, and the spirit of friendly competition, so if you see Derek out and about, give him a high five from me.

I was glad I lugged a few books along, because I sold a bunch. Almost sold out in fact. I had one lonely copy of Thunder Road left to take to Creative Ink.

I stayed with family while in Ottawa, and got to do a bunch of sightseeing.

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The city was pretty chill about this giant spider menacing a church.

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The Museum of Civilization (now the Museum of History) was the first touristy thing I ever did in Ottawa over 25 years ago, so I wanted to check it out again. Lots of amazing sights there. It was the art and artifacts of Canada’s west coast that really stuck with me though.

There were a few special exhibitions on as well. One on the B.C. gold rush, and another on “Horsepower” that featured sleighs and carriages. The gold rush exhibit had lots of great writing material. Can you believe I missed a viking exhibit by a matter of weeks? Bloody hell.

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Oh look! I am worth something.

I checked out some fun restaurants and pubs, and had a visit with the Curator of the House of Commons. So grateful she was able to fit me in. I got to go in through the “Parliamentary Business” door. Insane.

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I DID A BUSINESS.

Ottawa’s Haunted Walk was a lot of fun! I still haven’t done the one in Winnipeg, but I’ve read a lot of the stories behind it, and so it was neat to get to hear all new Ottawa specific stories. I didn’t see a ghost, but I did see some cool old buildings and got some fresh air. I’ll take it.

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Off to Creative Ink.

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Goddamn I love seeing the mountains from the air. I don’t want to be in them. If Dungeons & Dragons has taught me anything, it’s that mountains are full of monsters.

When you’re used to doing Winnipeg-Toronto or Winnipeg-Calgary, Toronto to Vancouver is a long-ass goddamned flight. Even in an aisle seat. Even when the plane is half empty, and you get a row to yourself. I realize there are a lot longer (and much worse) flights I could’ve had though. Also, I didn’t load enough movies onto my tablet. The More You Know.

Creative Ink was incredibly well run for a first year con, so kudos to Sandra and her team of volunteers! The programming was excellent, and while the con was on the smaller side (to be expected for its first full year) the percentage of attendees actually at panels was very high. Creative Ink had great turnouts for readings, panels, and workshops. Lots of my friends from Calgary were there, so it was fun to see them outside of When Words Collide.

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My schedule.

Does Sandra Wickham know me too well, or did she just want me to embarrass the hell out of myself at the “Guilty Pleasures” panel?

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I snuck out of the convention on Saturday for a bit, because my cousin invited me to a whisky tasting fundraiser, and I got to see her pipe in the mayor of the District of North Vancouver. Great night!

I was so happy to meet Carrie Vaughn, and even happy that she turned out to be such a nice person. I interviewed her years ago. She’s super smart, and funny, and great to panel with.

Galen Dara was sweet and is such a talented artist! I loved seeing her step by step run through of creating this cover for Uncanny Magazine:

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I had to leave too soon. My early flight caused me to miss most of Sunday (other than a quick breakfast and getting to say goodbye to a few early risers, but I’ll be back if I can swing it!

Write on!

 

Prix Aurora Award Nominations

Nominations opened for the Prix Aurora Awards (and a whole mess of other awards too–though it’s the Auroras that are most likely to impact ’round Thunder Road Way) while I had my head down trying to finish my latest novel.

Instruction for how to nominate a story are available on the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association’s site. But why should you vote? Ottawa author Matt Moore wrote an excellent blog post on why we should participate in the Aurora Awards. The more people participate, and the more they care, the more these awards will matter.

If you’re so inclined, here’s what I did in 2015:

  • Too Far Gone, Ravenstone Books, October 2015, eligible in the Novel category.
  • The Last Good Look, The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir, March 2015, eligible in the Short Fiction category.
  • When the Gods Send You Rats, Shared World Volume One, October 2015, eligible in the Short Fiction category.
  • Co-Chair/Artistic Director ChiSeries Winnipeg with Samantha Beiko: “Fan Organizational” category.

Eligibility Lists are here:

I also want to mention the people that helped me create in 2015:

In addition to being my co-conspirator for the Winnipeg arm of ChiSeries, Samantha Beiko steps up every single time I give her a weird ass request, such as: I want to make story cards, or can you draw me a giant, evil cat? Even I want to put a new book together less than a month before Comic Con.

Sam did this great picture of Ted Callan for my story, “New Year’s Eve”

Ted New Year's Eve by SM Beiko

She also illustrated this super fun (and super creepy) Jólakötturinn, the Christmas Cat.

Christmas Cat by Samantha Beiko

and she edited and laid out Shared World.

Sam is awesomesauce. Check out her stuff, and her dream book store, Valkyrie Books.

GMB Chomichuk and James Gillespie also wrote a short story for Shared World. “Kaa-Rokaan.”

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In addtion to being a great writer, Gregory is an amazing artist. His Infinitum was a wonderful, weird read. Time travel noir!

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He also illustrated Underworld, written by another Winnipeg comics mainstay, Lovern Kindzierski. Greek mythology in modern Winnipeg.

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Silvia Moreno-Garcia wrote my favourite book of 2015, her novel debut, Signal to Noise. Silvia’s knows her Lovecraft, and everyone involved in Shared World was chuffed when she agreed to write us a kickass introduction.

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Michael Matheson was my editor for Too Far Gone. Michael was new to editing the series, anddid a bang up job. I’d love to have a chance to work with Michael again. In the meantime, checkout this anthology published by ChiZine Publications:

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David Jón Fuller was my copy editor for Too Far Gone (and the entire Thunder Road Trilogy) and kept all my umlauts in the right spots. David is also a damn fine short story writer.

His story “Caged” appeared in Guns and Romances, and “In Open Air” appeared in Accessing the Future.

Scott Henderson did this gorgeous piece inspired by Too Far Gone.

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Scott also illustrated Richard Van Camp’s graphic novel, A Blanket of Butterflies.

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Claude Lalumière and David Nickle were my editors for The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir and bought my story, “The Last Good Look.”

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This is a killer anthology. I enjoyed reading every story in it.

Sandra Wickham and I are currently writing a novel together. She’s also sort of taken on the Herculean task of getting me back in shape. Her book Health and Fitness for Creative People is a great start.

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Kevin Madison has done tons of Thunder Road illustrations for me over the course of the series’ life. Here’s one of his most recent:

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Kevin also wrote a comic last year, which was a lot of fun. Different artists illustrating various points in a superhero’s career.

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Here’s some other stuff I really dug throughout 2015, heavily weighted towards comics, because that seemed to be the majority of my reading lately.

I helped back Canadian Corps on Kickstarter. Andrew Lorenz’s writing definitely hit me right in the Alpha Flight feels.

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Donovan Yaciuk did the colours for Canadian Corps, but he also writes this sweet indie comic:

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A space-faring pig. ‘Nuff said.

Justin Shauf is the artist on Spacepig Hamadeus and Canadian Corps. He also drew me this SWEET Dr. Fate.

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Rat Queens is written by Kurtis Wiebe, and its one of the highlights of my comic pull list ever time an issue drops.

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I adore Fiona Staples’ art on Saga. Another book that’s never disappointed me.

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Jim Zub’s Wayward is another great fantasy comic.

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No matter how much I read, it still seems like it’s never enough! I feel like I’ve got a lot of cramming to do before I put in my nominations. What have you created or read that I should check out before nominations close?

Write on!

Guest Blogging At Inkpunks And Having Conversations Between Authors!

Hey folks, I’ve got a guest blog up over on The Inkpunks website about writing in a city where you don’t live, and Minerva Zimmerman is hosting me on the “Conversations Between Authors” feature on her website, so please send them your clicks!

Over the years that I’ve been traveling to conventions, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many of the Inkpunks crew, and am happy to call a bunch of them friends. There’s always a great articles to be read there, and I’m stoked to have one of mine among them. Not only are the blogs interesting, but the Inkpunks are a talented group of writers, artists, and editors, so after you check out their website, check out their work. Thanks, Sandra Wickham for asking me if I wanted to send them something.

Minerva and I “met” for the first time on Twitter, around the time that I sold my story “A Taste of the Other Side” to Jennifer Brozek’s anthology Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls. Minerva had sold a story to Beast Within 3: Oceans Unleashed (also edited by Jennifer Brozek). I can’t remember who followed who first, but I do remember having some fun conversations. It was also great to finally meet Minerva at World Horror Con 2014 in Portland. Here’s hoping we cross paths at another convention soon.

In the meantime, Minerva has got a book birthday of her own coming up soon, so check out her debut novel, Take on Me!

Thanks for the great conversation, Minerva!

Write on!

VCon and the Prix Auroras Roundup

Another year of the Prix Auroras have come and gone.

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Very cool to see some of my friends receiving their Aurora nominee pins. Here’s Samantha getting hers.

I didn’t win, nor did ChiSeries Winnipeg, but I knew competition was steep this year. Big Congrats to all the winners! Fellow Winnipeg nominee Samantha Beiko and I got dressed up as fancy as possible (as is our custom at formal affairs) and joined in for the high tea prior to the awards.

Here’s a list of the Prix Aurora winners in all categories:

Best English Novel: A Turn of Light by Julie E. Czerneda, DAW Books
Best English YA Novel: The Rising by Kelley Armstrong, Doubleday Canada
Best English Short Fiction: “Ghost in the Machine” by Ryan McFadden, The Puzzle Box, EDGE
Best English Poem/Song: “Night Journey: West Coast” by Eileen Kernaghan , Tesseracts Seventeen: Speculating Canada from Coast to Coast to Coast, EDGE
Best English Graphic Novel: Rock, Paper, Cynic by Peter Chiykowski, webcomic
Best English Related Work: On Spec published by the Copper Pig Writers’ Society
Best Artist: Erik Mohr, cover art for ChiZine Publications
Best Fan Music: Chris Hadfield for his performance of Space Oddity
Best Fan Organizational: Randy McCharles, Chair and Programming, When Words Collide, Calgary
Best Fan Related Work: Robert Runté, “Why I Read Canadian Speculative Fiction: The Social Dimension of Reading”, Scholar Keynote Address at ACCSFF ’13, Toronto

For those who are interested, here is the breakdown of nomination and voting statistics.

A couple quick thoughts on the stats: It is very clear the two voting bases are in Alberta and Ontario (which I was already aware of in a vague sort of way, but looking at the numbers really hammered that home), but I didn’t know how thin the Manitoban voting pool was. We have a robust con culture here, between Keycon, C4, and other events, so I’m not quite sure why that is. Finally, Tombstone Blues had the most nominations in its category, so I must be doing something right.

Next year, the Aurora nomination ballot will go from three items per category to five. I wonder how/if that will change the shortlist dynamic.

As for VCon, it was my first time at this convention. Also my first time in British Columbia.

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Hello mountains.

I’ve been meaning to go west for a while, some of the first friends I made in the industry when I attended World Fantasy in Calgary were VCon regulars. This year, the combination of Sandra Wickham doing the literary programming, attending the Auroras, and getting to hang out with Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Ann Aguirre again was too much of a treat.

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Convening the Illuminaughty.

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The view from my hotel.

Silvia got Ann, Samantha, and I to leave the safety of the hotel and head into the city. Vancouver really is beautiful at night (to be fair, it’s beautiful during the day also), and the waterfront seemed kind of magical. While we were out with met up with Clare C. Marshall for more fun times.

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Blurry waterfront photo brought to you courtesy of hunger/whiskey.

In fact, I was so hungry by the time we found a restaurant, that I’d completely forgotten how we arrived. Silvia’s directions back to the Skytrain had pretty much disappeared. However, I walk with a purpose and was on the way to getting us seriously lost before Ann and Samantha questioned me. A minor train misadventure later (this one wasn’t on me!) and we made it home safely, if very late. That two-hour time change was a bit of a beast, although I handled it a little better this time than I had in Portland for World Horror Con.

My panel on Writing Non-Fiction to Supplement Your Fiction went well. My fellow panelists had interesting things to say, it wasn’t a huge crowd, but it was a bit of a niche subject. The panel of Game Master Tips and Tricks was much better attended. I tried to speak in generalities that could be used across a broad number of games rather than just sharing D&D war stories from my games. It was cool to meet Tarol Hunt of Goblins fame. I made a shout out to the Amber Diceless RPG and got a very enthusiastic “Woohoo!” from a couple of the attending gamers. We chatted a bit after the panel about Amber and its latest scion, Lords of Gossamer and Shadow.

There was a bit of confusion with my reading on Sunday, mostly due to the fact that I had to ask to change the time at the last minute to ensure I’d make my flight home. That’s on me, I knew I had an afternoon flight, so I should’ve mentioned it to programming as soon as I’d booked it. VCon was very accommodating, but the turnout was pretty thin.

All in all, way too short of a time to spend in such a cool city. I’m sure I’ll be back.

Write on!

 

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!

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.