Behind the Scenes of The Last Good Look

I’ve liked crime fiction almost as long as I’ve liked fantasy. So I’m really chuffed that my story “The Last Good Look” was selected to be included in The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir.

New Canadian Noir Cover

One of my writing mentors was fellow Ravenstone author, Michael Van Rooy, who passed away far too soon. You should do yourself a favour and check out his Monty Haaviko crime novels (An Ordinary Decent Criminal, Your Friendly Neighbourhood Criminal, A Criminal to Remember) they are all great reads.

100616-MichaelVanRooy-03.jpg

(Photo Credit: Janek Lowe for the Winnipeg Free Press)

Michael has always been a huge inspiration to me, but was especially when it came to “The Last Good Look”.

Earlier in my writing career I was selected to be the Emerging Writer-in-Residence at the now sadly defunct Aqua Books. Michael had also been one of the Writers-in-Residence there. While I was writing in my office, which had been his office, and trying to finish up the as-yet-unsold Tombstone Blues, I had an idea for a rough-and-tumble troll tough guy.

And so Neelak (Neal to his friends) Trollborn, Wizard of Runes was born. I wrote the first four pages of his story and before long, Thunder Road and Tombstone Blues had sold to Ravenstone, and so I had to set Neal aside.

But I never forgot him.

When Claude Lalumière and David Nickle put out the call for submissions I was so excited to have the reason to figure out the rest of Neal’s debut story. He surprised me a lot, Neal did.

Every good noir also needs its femme fatale. Neal found his in one of my coworkers at the time: artist, photographer, and model, Holly Halftone.

I’ve rarely so blatently stolen someone’s appearance, so I asked Holly if she was okay being written into the story and thankfully she said yes. I had used “Halftone” as a temporary name in the text while I was drafting, thinking I’d eventually come up with something I liked better, but nothing else worked as well, and so Holly got to be a double inspiration on that particular dangerous lady.

Holly Halftone by Alexa Lachuta photography

(Photo Credit: Alexa Lachuta)

Pretty stoked to have this one in print. I hope you enjoy it.

Fellow New Canadian Noir contributor, Corey Redekop, interviewed Keith Cadieux and I about our stories (as well as a bunch of the other authors) over on his blog.

It’s still a long way off, but the Manitoba boys in the anthology, me, Keith and Corey will be doing readings at McNally Robinson Booksellers May 27th. I hope I’ll see you there.

Write on!

A Few Things Make A Blog Post

I meant to have at least a couple of other posts up by now, but I’ve been fighting the cold from hell (Hmmm, hell or Hel?) the last week. Here’s a few things that haven’t turned up on the blog yet:

A little while back I was interviewed by Jonathan Ball about writing process and why I choose to make my writing goals public.

On Monday, I received my contributor copy of The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir!

New Canadian Noir Comp Copy

The Last Good Look Title Page

It is a beautiful book. I haven’t read every story yet, but really enjoyed the tales by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Corey Redekop, Keith Cadieux, Kelly Robson, and Alex C. Renwick.

Corey Redekop is kindly collecting short interviews about our stories on his website. My answers should be up some time next week.

And finally, there was a very cool review of my Thunder Road ‘verse story “Runt of the Litter” over at Speculating Canada. “Runt of the Litter” originally appeared in the Spring 2014 issue of On Spec Magazine. Thanks for the continued support Derek Newman-Stille!

Write on!

New Year, New Goals 2015 Edition

This is coming a bit late isn’t it? It’s still January, so it still counts.

Here were my goals from last year:

  • Turn in Book 3 of the Thunder Road trilogy to Ravenstone.
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three four (after NaNoWriMo) drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo again (I’ve already started outlining the new project!).
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • I have at least eight short stories in various stages of readiness to submit, I’d like all of those to be out the door in 2014, and say write and submit at least two more for a total of ten new stories in the mix.
  • Turn in two comic scripts (Sekkrit projects, yo.).

Not going to lie. This wasn’t the best year for hitting goals. It wasn’t that I didn’t accomplish anything, but opportunities kept coming up that weren’t a part of my goals list. They were pretty cool though. I won a Manitoba Arts Council writing grant, and applied for my first Canada Arts Council Grant (still waiting to hear back on that one). I was invited to teach a couple of workshops (which also meant I had to design a couple of workshops): the ACI Teen Writing Workshop at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library, and a Writing Dark Fantasy and Horror workshop for the Thompson Writing Guild (Thanks ACI for having me, and thanks to the city of Thompson and the Manitoba Writers’ Guild for sending me north!). As a part of the teen writing workshop I also edited an anthology of my students’ work (Shine a Light and it’s available at Millennium Library if you want to check it out), there’s some excellent young writers coming up in this province, I assure you.

Okay, so, how bad was last year for actually making my goals:

  • Turn in Book 3 of the Thunder Road trilogy to Ravenstone.
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three four (after NaNoWriMo) drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo again (I’ve already started outlining the new project!).
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • I have at least eight short stories in various stages of readiness to submit, I’d like all of those to be out the door in 2014, and say write and submit at least two more for a total of ten new stories in the mix.
  • Turn in two comic scripts (Sekkrit projects, yo.).

Pretty bad (this is probably why I never do New Year’s resolutions).

I finally finished a draft of Too Far Gone, and have done a couple revision passes, but it’s not handed in yet. It will be by month’s end, but it’s no longer 2014, is it?

Conventions fared better, I went to more conventions this year than any year prior. In fact, I doubled down on the convention in a new city goal by attending World Horror Con in Portland, Oregan, and World Fantasy Con in Washington, D.C. What I’ve realized for a long time, and still need to find a better way to implement, is how to be more productive while I’m on the road.

Most of my revision energy went into Too Far Gone this year, I made some progress on the first book in a potential new series, but it’s not ready for submission yet. Which is why I bowed out of committing to NaNoWrimo early this year, I’d hoped to have Too Far Gone off to first readers by end of October so that I could NaNo guilt-free, but that didn’t work out, and so I didn’t see the point in dodging one deadline, while adding another first draft to the pile.

I was more diligent with submitting my short fiction at the beginning of the year, I also identified some new markets, and did some research into reprint markets and audio markets, but as the deadline loomed for Too Far Gone that discipline fell away. Which is why I also didn’t finish up a lot of those short story drafts.

On the plus, side, a drafted a bunch of new stories. “New Year’s Eve,” a Thunder Road vignette, was published on the Ravenstone website in January. I sold “The Last Good Look” to The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir (releasing March 1st, 2015!), another has been accepted pending revisions/contract signing (so I won’t say any more for now) and I self-published two stories. The first self-published story “A Simple Twist of Fate” was an experiment. I didn’t have anything new for the Winnipeg Comic Con (C4) this year, so wrote a  new Thunder Road story, hired an illustrator for the cover and interior illustrations and had it printed to look like a comic book. That was a rousing success. I’ll definitely do more of those (thanks Kevin Madison for the art, Samantha Beiko for the book design, and GMB Chomichuk for the idea). The second story I self-published, “While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks,” also a Thunder Road story, was published on my website, as a thank you to my readers (because you’ve been awesome to me). I’ve also got two other stories that I drafted that have to be polished for submission, and the first 10000 words of a novella in the can.

Those comic scripts are almost there…One has finished art, and me and the artist just need to get together and sign off that we’re both happy and we can send it to the editor. The other script just needs one or two more passes, and I’ll send it in to the editor so he can find me an artist.

And for this year:

  • Finish Too Far Gone.
  • Attend at least one SF&F convention in a city that I’ve never been to.
  • Revise at least one of the three four (after NaNoWriMo) drafted novel manuscripts I’ve been letting lie fallow until it is in submission shape and then send it out.
  • Be more diligent about keeping my short fiction on submission.
  • Get those old stories polished and out the door (which I think will also help the goal above from getting lost in the shuffle)
  • Write and submit at least two new short stories.
  • Write a script for a secret comic project with Samantha Beiko.
  • Say no to more “author” stuff and yes to more “writing” stuff.
  • Keep better track of my daily word count output.

I’m not planning to make a run at NaNo this year. If Too Far Gone releases when I think it will in the fall, then I’ll probably be touring in November. I played that game in 2013 and it was a wee bit stressful. I’ve been keeping track of my daily word count since I saw this post by Jamie Todd Rubin, and it’s definitely helping to motivate me. At times it didn’t feel like I was writing very much, since a lot of my time was spent revising, but after only twelve days, I see that all the those new words I sneak in while I rewrite are adding up to a page or two of new material a day. Seeing that I’ve got a few hundred words down, makes me want to add to them. I’ve never actually tracked my words for a full year, so I’m curious how it’ll shake down.

Finally, my goals for the month of January:

  • Finish Too Far Gone  (I have to, that’s my deadline)
  • Turn in a review of Owl and the Japanese Circus for The Winnipeg Review
  • Submit a story to Tesseracts Nineteen: Superhero Universe

Write on!

Gears & Growls and New Canadian Noir Covers

Some news about a couple of anthologies I’ve contributed to:

It’s been a long time coming, but Beast Within 4: Gears & Growls releases soon, Halloween, to be exact, which I love. This was my first steampunk story and my first anthology invite (thank you, Jennifer Brozek!) so I’m pretty excited to see “A Taste of the Other Side” in print.

Here’s the cover!

Gears & Growls

Full cover including the copy.

Gears & Growls full cover

Jenna Fowler’s wonderful illustration of my protagonist! See more of Jenna’s work here.

jennafowlertasteoftheotherside

And while this probably isn’t the final cover, here’s a teaser to give you an idea of the feel that The Exile Book of New Canadian Noir is going for. This anthology is edited by Claude Lalumière and David Nickle and includes my story “The Last Good Look.”

New Canadian Noir Teaser Cover

I’m very excited to get to share a TOC with a bunch of cool folks like Colleen Anderson, Keith Cadieux, Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Corey RedekopAlex C. Renwick, and Kelly Robson.

Write on!