My Keycon 30 Roundup: AKA Best. Con. Ever.

A bold statement, “Best. Con. Ever.”

But I’m going to stand by it.

Keycon 30 was a multiple anniversary, celebrating thirty years of the convention, fifty years of Doctor Who, and 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft (In another anniversary of sorts, or at least a cool coincidence, I am celebrating my one hundredth post on the blog with this roundup).

This was my first con with a book out (yeah, yeah, I know, World Fantasy and Pure Speculation were a part of my tour, but Thunder Road was just released then, and few folks had had the chance to read it yet). I was blown away by the number of people who came up to me to tell me that they loved the book. And I swear, I didn’t pay first time Keycon attendee, Shayla Elizabeth to sport a Thunder Road tattoo on her cheek all weekend. 

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The only complaints I heard were about the brief period when the elevators had stopped working, but seriously, people complain about the elevators at every convention I have ever been to. And you can hardly blame acts of Cthulhu on the convention. This was the biggest and best Keycon I can remember. The guests hit on all cylinders, even the ones I wasn’t familiar with before the con. I didn’t see half of the folks I wanted to, and they time went by too quickly with those I did see. But I did make many great new friends.

Hats off to Brian Mitchell and Levi Labelle, the 2013 ConChairs. They deserve your Aurora nominations next year. As does the programming team of Sherry Peters, Lindsay Kitson, Anna Lauder and Charlie Lauder.

This year the book table was manned by some Chapters and Coles staff. I’ve tweeted about how awesome they were all weekend, but it deserves to be said again: Sydni, Stephanie, Dana, you ROCK! They knew their stuff (and knew my book!) and were lots of fun. I signed all the stock of Thunder Road they brought with them, and I hope to see them back at the con next year.

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I never get to see everything that I want to at any con. Invariably, one must see (at least, must see for me) panel is in conflict with another, but I particularly enjoyed Lee Moyer’s presentation on bad book covers and the crowdfunding panel Lee shared with Sylvia Moreno-Garcia and Steven Barnes.

As for my side of the programming, I had a great time sharing a reading slot with David Annandale. We decided to tag team and trade off several short readings rather than each doing one long one. I think it worked well and kept our audience interested. David read from Gethsemane HallDeath of Antagonis, and Yarrick: Chains of Golgotha. I read the openings from my short stories “First They Came for the Pigs” (natch, Silvia was my editor on that story) and “Back in Black”, finishing off the slot with the opening pages of the second book in the Thunder Road Trilogy, Tombstone Blues. 

Next up, I was moderating the Hour with an Author panel, featuring Author Guest of Honour, Ann Aguirre. Things got off to a slow start due to some location confusion (our original room had been partially flooded by a busted sprinkler head–R’lyeh Rising, terribly appropriate for a Lovecraftian Keycon) so I had a great chat with Ann before attendees filtered in to start asking questions. Ann is a great storyteller, and I’m in the middle of reading her Corine Solomon novels at the moment and really enjoying them (I’ve also been told that if you like Firefly you’ll like her Sirantha Jax novels–and I love me some Firefly, so I’m excited to start those too). Because our panel started late, we ended a little late, and Ann only had 45 minutes to eat before her next slate of programming started. Knowing from experience that the Radisson restaurant would not make that kind of turnaround, we hustled out of the hotel and into the rain. The closest restaurant was La Bamba, so yes, we took the author from Mexico City to eat at a Mexican restaurant in Winnipeg (her verdict: good–and more authentic than she usually finds in the States).

My final panel was a discussion of Mythology and Folklore with Karen Dudley and Leia Getty. Technically, the panel was about the “reemergence of Greek and Norse mythology in fantasy fiction” but after talking about how those stories have never really gone away, we started branching out to talk myth in a more general way and about using it in fiction. It was  a great turnout for a Sunday afternoon panel. I had a lot of fun.

I checked out the Filk room, aka The Dandy Lion, run by Morva Bowman and Alan Pollard (who are nominated for an Aurora Award for their concert at FILKONtario 22) with Samantha Beiko and Clare Marshall. Clare rocked the blue fiddle she borrowed from Sam (the blue fiddle she was hoping to sneak home in her luggage) through a number of songs before Morva and Alan started their concert. I’ve never been much into the filk scene at cons, but I had a lot of fun.

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Things got a little meta when Canadian Author Guest of Honour, J.M. Frey read a fantasy short story set at a fantasy con during the Dead Dog party. Ryan Roth Bartel from Rampant Design made a custom mask for Lee Moyer. GMB Chomichuk drew a wicked version of Nyarlathoteph in his crawling chaos shape for Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I love Gregory’s work, and so to see him create an original piece was a treat I won’t soon forget.

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You can see the finished product in all its eldritch glory in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Keycon post.

A whole gang of us spent the night of the Dead Dog in the Clockwork Club hospitality suite holding a seance that summoned only popcorn. Stories were told and plots were hatched. Oh, and we may or may not have formed a secret society. But I can’t talk about that.

It’s a secret, after all.

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I Always Said I Wouldn’t Go Back To High School If You Paid Me

Well.

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I guess I’m just a big damned liar.

As Thunder Road was about to be published, I contacted my high school English teacher, Ron Samborski, because he was a huge influence on my love of reading, (and when I turned in a writing assignment full of monsters and heroes, he never once told me to write something different).

I was invited back to my old stomping grounds as a guest speaker for his Grade 11 and 12 English classes. To say it was odd to go back was an understatement. I was speaking in the same room where I had been taught. And while the teacher’s desk had moved in the ::checks watch:: twenty years since I’d been back there, the room felt like I’d never left. Even walking the halls to get there, I think I could have picked out my locker and remembered my old lock combination.

I spoke with the Grade 12s first, talking about my journey as a writer, Thunder Road’s path to publication, and creative writing in general. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked in there. I’ve spoken to Red River’s Creative Communications and ACI Manitoba’s Teen Writers’ Workshop, but those where students who had sought out writing either as a hobby or a career. My best case scenario was that one or two members of the class would listen and engage and the rest would quietly ignore me.

Wrong again.

The class was great. They asked some good questions, answered me when I asked questions of them, and when I looked up from my book during the reading portion of presentation, no one was asleep, instead, they seemed, dare I say it, interested. I was expecting far more ambileance. I mean it’s been a while, but I think I can remember being that age (it involved a lot of walking, uphill as I recall, in the snow, -30–you know the drill). The Principal even stopped by to check things out (he got called back to the office before I had a chance to talk to him, unfortunately. I hear he’s a book collector) and their was a photographer taking pictures for the school newsletter.

My first presentation was followed by an informal meet and greet with students and teachers (even better, people actually showed up! Of their own free will–or so I’ve been led to assume) in the library. Lots of memories there too. I met some budding writers, who given their passion, I hope to hear more from in the future. I answered questions about my writing, their writing, Writers in Residence, Arts Grants, I talked about NaNoWriMo with some novel month participants, there was even a poetry question from someone who wasn’t there to see me, but I’m glad she joined in the discussion.

After a nice lunch with Ron, it was back to talk to his Grade 11 class. These students were right in the middle of a creative writing assignment that sounded like a lot of fun (a fusion narrative) and at least a few of them had read Thunder Road. And based on anecdotal evidence, even teenage girls like Loki best. This class was great too, attentive, inquisitive. I do feel like I let them down on the reading and presentation. Maybe having a bit of adrenaline pumping before I spoke to the first class or that by the time I talked to the second class, I’d been talking solidly for almost three hours but my reading felt off. I hope that wasn’t the case, and that it’s just me overanalyzing my work (nothing new there).

This feeling isn’t something new. I noticed it last year at When Words Collide, where due to the vagaries of scheduling, I had to do both of my readings within five minutes or each other. And again I felt that I killed the first reading and stumbled over the second. Something to remember for the future, I guess, try to find some downtime in between readings to recharge the batteries.

I think that besides being able to personalize Ron’s copy of Thunder Roadmy favourite part of the visit was pulling out my Grade 12 project, as an example of why as a writer, you never throw anything out. The world of my “First They Came for the Pigs” in Fungi is drawn (yes, somewhat modified) from material in that twenty year old, handwritten, yarn bound collection of short stories and bad illustrations.

Thank you for having me back, Morden Collegiate. It was a pleasure and a privilege.

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!

Still Not the Semi-mythical Post About My Trip to Ottawa

It’s been a month since I returned from Ottawa, and still no blog post about it. Just what the hell is my problem, anyway?

Mostly it has been camera issues, as I wanted to include some photographic evidence of the trip. Camera issues have been sorted out, laziness issues continue unabated…

Seriously though, various writing things have come up which made blogging seem like procrastination (given how much I like procrastination you’d think I’d have been all over the blogging instead of re-watching movies like Broken Arrow and Face Off.) So…what kind of “writing things” (that’s the technical term–I checked with my editor) have I been up to:

I finished a review of David Nickle’s excellent Rasputin’s Bastards for The Winnipeg Review. It was a great read, but it was also a big Russian bear to review.

Copy edits and page proofs for Thunder Road. I’m not sure how many of you reread the books you buy, but I’ve reread this book I’ve written more times than I can easily count. Page proofs are also the terror-stage of publishing. It’s the last chance I’ll get to change anything. Which of course means I want to change everything.

With only a month until the launch of the book, there’s been a lot of unexpected (okay, expected, but completely ignored) things to take care of. I spent a good week tracking down the mailing address of what seems like pretty much everyone in Winnipeg. I promised the store I’d blow the roof off the place (the metaphorical roof, not the literal roof–that would get me fired and arrested). This seems more likely to happen, as within a week of the date being set, we had enough reservations that the event grew too large for its initial venue. So, thank you, Winnipeg. That was an amazing feeling.

I’ve finally posted the cover for Thunder Road. If you missed it on Facebook and Twitter, here it is again, because I can’t stop looking at the thing:

Trilogy, you say? I’m hard (ha!) at work on Tombstone Blues. And somewhere in this sea of first book publicity I still need to finish that damned sequel. It’s coming along. More slowly than I’d like, but hopefully I won’t be embarrassed of the book when I turn it in to Turnstone Press in November.

I’ve added a second reading at When Words Collide. I’m part of EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy’s fall launch. I’ll be reading the first five minutes or so of my Tesseracts 16 short story “Back in Black.”

In other short story news, I’ve finished my galley edits for “First They Came for the Pigs” which was a surprisingly painless procedure. Pre-sale on the Fungi anthology happens in November, release is set for December.

I also finished a short story: “A Taste of the Other Side” (almost finished, actually, still some tiny amounts of polish to be lacquered on to it) and will be submitting it to the editor this week. This one was for an anthology where I’d been invited to submit a story. That was a big deal for me, it also means added pressure to get it right out of the gate. I think it works. We’ll see.

The last “writer thing” I’ve had to do involved writing a one hundred word bio of myself. It seems every time I need a bio, a slightly different word count is asked for, and so I must toil at trying to make myself seem a) interesting and b) not a total douche. Thanks to The Daly Show, a little less douche has become my biographical mantra.

Write on!

A Bunch of Little Things Make a Big Blog Post.

I was in Ottawa over Canada Day, and while I was hoping to have my recap of that trip up and posted, a bunch of things have got in the way. So instead, here’s a few minor tidbits that have crossed the desk since then:

The Sunburst Awards Shortlists Announced:

Adult fiction:

  •  Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, David Nickle (ChiZine Publications)
  • Technicolor Ultra Mall, Ryan Oakley (Edge Science Fiction & Fantasy Publications)
  • Enter, Night, Michael Rowe (ChiZine)
  • Paradise Tales, Geoff Ryman (Small Beer Press)
  • The Pattern Scars, Caitlin Sweet (ChiZine)
  • Blackdog, K.V. Johansen (Pyr Books)

Young Adult fiction:

  • Ultraviolet, R.J. Anderson (Lerner Publishing Group)
  • All Good Children, Catherine Austen (Orca Book Publishers)
  • The Summer of Permanent Wants, Jamieson Findlay (Doubleday Canada)
  • The Dead Kid Detective Agency, Evan Munday (ECW Press)
  • Blood Red Road, Moira Young (Doubleday Canada)

Another great year for my pals at ChiZine, and the second year in a row where the Sunbursts and the Prix Auroras have had a surprising amount of commonality. My recollection (I suppose I could actually research this, but that defeats the purpose of a quick blog post, doesn’t it?) is that the two awards, one juried, one fan-voted, have never shared a winner.

On the Same Page (aka Manitoba Reads before CBC started an actual Manitoba Reads program) shortlist announced:

  • A Thousand Farewells, Nahlah Ayed (Viking Canada)
  • Queen of Hearts, Martha Brooks (Groundwood Books Ltd.)
  • Manitowapow: Aboriginal Writings From the Land of Water, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and Warren Cariou, editors (Highwater Press)
  • A Large Harmonium, Sue Sorenson (Coteau Books)

Local awards like On the Same Page are always hard for me to come out in support of a particular title. I think it stems from getting to know many of the authors at my bookselling day job. It feels a little like playing favourites. I know I have a few colleagues who refuse to be on any of the Manitoba Book Awards juries for this reason. But this is my blog and I’ll play favourites if I want to. I think it’s going to be hard to top Manitowapow this year. The book has had an amazing response so far, and with its multiple contributors I think it’ll have the most promotional oomph.

There are no genre titles in the running this year. I nominated Sierra Dean’s debut urban fantasy Something Secret This Way Comes, (mostly because it’s an awesome and fun read, but partly because I know the customers who buy whole hog into On the Same Page, and thinking of them reading a book about a half-werewolf, half-vampire bounty hunter really made me smile) because if I don’t support Winnipeg’s fantasy writing community, who will?

Speaking of Winnipeg’s fantasy writing community:

Fellow Turnstone author, critique partner, maker of holiday peanut brittle and all around good egg, Karen Dudley, has booked the Winnipeg launch for her fantasy debut, Food for the Gods. Be there. It’ll be awesome. I fully intend on drinking a full amphora of wine and telling embarrassing stories about the early days of this novel. If that doesn’t float your boat, Karen is one of the best readers I’ve encountered, and trust me, I’ve worked in a book store for over ten years, I’ve heard a lot of readings (many of which I’d pay money to unhear).

Oh, and this happened:
Chadwick Ginther Puts The Magic Back In Manitoba
A great shout out from my home team at McNally Robinson. Thanks especially to Steven Benstead who wrote the article and has been a tireless supporter of my writing from day one. Steve is also a damn fine writer himself, and as much as I poke fun at Can-Lit, when his current novel finds a home, it’ll knock your socks off.

Finally, the Innsmouth Free Press anthology Fungi (containing my story “First They Came for the Pigs“) has a website now and I think it looks beautiful. I love everything about this project, so kudos to editors Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey. I can’t wait to read everyone else’s stories. And if I’m playing favourites, of all the stories I’ve written, my contribution to Fungi is currently my most loved.

That’s all the news fit for print, as the saying goes.

Write on!

My Keycon Roundup

Another Keycon has come and gone. Keycon is my home science fiction and fantasy convention. I’ve been attending the con regularly since I started writing and always found it to be a fun, laid-back experience. Keycon also usually has a very strong literary track of programming.

This year’s author Guests of Honour were Timothy Zahn and Jonathan Maberry. Other out of town writers in attendance included Robert J. Sawyer, Eileen Bell, Marie Bilodeau and Erika Holt. Manitoba’s SF&F writing contingent were out in force as well, with programming including myself, Karen Dudley, Sherry Peters, Ronald Hore, Chris Rutkowski, Craig Russell, Gerald Brandt (Gerald, I’m including you even though you didn’t do any panels–next year you’ll have no choice, Mr. Published author!) and Lindsay Kitson.

This year’s con really kicked off on Thursday for me. Marie launched Destiny’s Fall to a small, but enthusiastic crowd at McNally Robinson, and we went for drinks and appetizers afterwards and made plans to explore Winnipeg Friday Afternoon before the con officially started. Also, Erika gave me an awesome Inkpunks button! (Seriously, you must check out their shared blog, it’s invariably filled with awesome.)

Touring visiting writers about Winnipeg/Manitoba is awesome, and in many cases, because I didn’t grow up in the city myself, I get to experience these places for the first time, or at least, for the first time in years (I feel there is another blog post in that sentiment somewhere…). Wendy, Marie and I met Rob, Sherry and Erika at The Forks, in the Oodena Celebration Circle (one of my favourite spots in Winnipeg), and grabbed a bite to eat before exploring the market (I bought a Spider-Man toque/half balaclava that everyone was very disappointed I didn’t wear for my reading–it is now my Twitter and Facebook avatar) and taking in the River Walk, amazingly for this time of year, it was not under three feet of water. Afterwards, I took Marie to Louis Riel’s grave, and we walked the grounds of the St. Boniface Cathedral and the Manitoba Legislature before grabbing our memberships to the con and fleeing downtown just ahead of rush hour traffic.

We all met up again for a barbecue at Karen’s house (Bison burgers!) and were joined by Eileen and Winnipeg artist (and former Keycon Artist GoH) Kari-Ann Anderson, and as Opening Ceremonies were looming we made our way back to the Radisson.

One of the reasons I love attending cons is that I get to talk face to face with my twitter and Facebook pals. At the Ice Cream Social following Opening Ceremonies (where I learned we’d all missed being there for the “Also Attending” announcement–we were in the Dealer’s Room, dropping coin) I met up Dieselpunk author and Twitter pal Lindsay Kitson, who joined us for some of the evening. I didn’t take in any programming Friday, instead enjoying the many Hospitality Suites (I think the Nautilus-themed decorations of the New Cairo Club suite were my favourite–even if the drinks they served were not).

My reading was at 10:00 am, on Saturday. As such, I was expecting to be reading to Karen Dudley, who was sharing the reading slot with me, and one or two other folks if I was lucky. Instead, we had a turnout of close to twenty people! If that doesn’t sound like a lot, trust me, for a con, it is. Many attendees were new friends (and old–including a couple who paid for a day pass just to attend the reading! Thanks Mike and Hilary!), some people I know only by name or brief conversations at the con, but a handful–completely new to me. My publisher, Turnstone Press also printed chapbooks that held the first chapters of Thunder Road and Food for the Gods, and Keycon was kind enough to hand these out with their program books. It was an amazing experience, and I’m grateful to everyone who came and listened so attentively, and who seemed to really enjoy what they heard.

This year’s panels attended included: Does it always have to be Good vs. Evil (Timothy Zahn–whose Heir to the Empire is the post-Empire Strikes Back highlight of the Star Wars franchise in my opinion–and Craig Russell, author of 2011 Aurora nominated Black Bottle Man). Storytime with Marie, where Marie Bilodeau told the story of finding the perfect ending to the first story she sold (if you’ve never checked out her storytelling you’re cheating yourself of an amazing experience). Feminism in Fantasy was more a discussion of feminism and women’s issues in general than in fantasy specifically, but I thought the panelists did a good job (Marie Bilodeau and Karen Dudley (panel crasher!) moderated by Keycon stalwart LeAmber Kensley). Stereotypes in Speculative Fiction (Jonathan Maberry, Marie Bilodeau) which didn’t have a lot to do with the topic at hand, but was still tons of fun as Jonathan is an amazing storyteller.

Drinks with Jonathan and most of the attending writers followed, where we talked vampires, folklore, politics, American views of Canadians and vice versa, bourbon and why the Zombie Apocalypse will be all Jonathan’s fault. Jonathan knows a lot about science, folklore, and shares my love of Knob Creek bourbon. He even enjoyed his first Canadian beer, a Fort Garry Pale. I also got to meet and chat with up-and-coming Winnipeg writer Tara Lee Baxter. She loves the Norse stuff too, so I can’t wait to read her book someday.

I cut my con a day short this year–for my Mom’s birthday–but I’m already excited about next year. The Stars Are Right is the the theme, 100 years of H.P. Lovecraft, 50 years of Doctor Who, 30 years of Keycon. So far confirmed as a guest is Innsmouth Free Press editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia, who is also co-editor of Fungi, which contains my story “First They Came for the Pigs”. I’m really looking forward to meeting her, and participating in all the eldritch horror that Keycon has to offer.

Write on!

Good News Day

My publisher Turnstone Press just sent out the first press release for Thunder Road! Which means they just sent out my first press release!

Turnstone Press imprint Ravenstone, known until now for its mysteries and thrillers, expands to include speculative fiction in 2012. This fall Ravenstone will feature two new novels of speculative fiction with the talented up-and-coming fantasy writer, Chadwick Ginther, and the much-loved mystery-maven-turned-speculative-fictionista, Karen Dudley.

Here’s the whole deal.

In other news, Innsmouth Free Press released the Table of Contents for Fungi, edited by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and Orrin Grey.

 

(Art by Oliver Wetter)

In no particular order:

  • Ann K. Schwader, “Cordyceps zombii” (poem)
  • A.C. Wise, “Where Dead Men Go to Dream”
  • Andrew Penn Romine, “Last Bloom on the Sage”
  • Camille Alexa, “His Sweet Truffle of a Girl”
  • Chadwick Ginther, “First They Came for the Pigs”
  • Daniel Mills, “Dust From a Dark Flower”
  • Ian Rogers, “Out of the Blue”
  • Jane Hertenstein, “Wild Mushrooms”
  • Jeff Vandermeer, “Corpse Mouth and Spore Nose”
  • John Langan, “Hyphae”
  • Julio Toro San Martin, “A Monster In The Midst”
  • Kris Reisz, “The Pilgrims of Parthen”
  • Laird Barron, “Gamma”
  • Lavie Tidhar, “The White Hands”
  • Lisa M. Bradley, “The Pearl in the Oyster and the Oyster Under Glass”
  • Molly Tanzer and Jesse Bullington, “Tubby McMungus, Fat From Fungus”
  • Nick Mamatas, “The Shaft Through The Middle of It All”
  • Paul Tremblay, “Our Stories Will Live Forever”
  • Polenth Blake, “Letters to a Fungus”
  • Richard Gavin, “Goatsbride”
  • Simon Strantzas, “Go Home Again”
  • Steve Berman, “Kum, Raúl (The Unknown Terror) – b. 1925, d. 1957”
  • W.H. Pugmire, “Midnight Mushrumps”

The three extra stories included in the hardcover edition are:

  • E. Catherine Tobler, “New Feet Within My Garden Go”
  • J.T. Glover, “The Flaming Exodus of the Greifswald Grimoire”
  • Claude Lalumière, “Big Guy and Little Guy’s Survivalist Adventure”