Thunder Road Launch Roundup, Part The Second

I’ve mostly recovered from my first book launch. Thanks again to everyone who came out on Thursday. I was so wired afterward that I don’t think I slept a wink.

As problems go, I’ll take it.

Knowing that space as I do, my best booksellerly (it’s a perfectly cromulent word)

estimate of attendance would be around 250 people.  Wendy even overheard a customer who saw the crowd say: “who the hell is reading tonight, James Patterson?”

I’ll take that too.

McNally events maestro, John Toews, gave me a lovely and professional introduction, hitting all the highlights of my writing career thus far, and I’m sure that Orrin Grey and Silvia Moreno-Garcia, my editors for the Fungi anthology will appreciate that John (who is a huge fan of things eldritch and Lovecraftian) also singled out Innsmouth Free Press and my story “First They Came for the Pigs” in front of the crowd. Even sweeter than the professional introduction, was the very personal one that my dear Wendy offered up. She likes public speaking even less than I do, but she stood up there, and she fucking rocked it. My Grinch heart grew three more sizes in that moment.

 

 

I told the crowd that while I was preparing I felt that I was writing a toast for a wedding. I was surrounded by family, friends, acquaintances, and yes, even some strangers (in some ways, that was the most thrilling thing, that someone had seen the poster and thought that looks cool and decided to attend). I’m also sure a few people were drunk when I hit the podium (and certainly were by the end of the night, judging by how much wine Turnstone put out. I know I had a couple or three by the time the line was done. Woo!).

People seemed to like my intro, and laughed where I hoped they would, which was a relief. I’m not a natural public speaker. I can’t hop up to a podium and extemporize and have it go well. The most stressful part of a reading for me is what to say before  I start reading. Once the book comes out, I’m on script and feel fine.

Again, because I’m not a natural performer, I rehearse my readings to ensure good pacing and change of inflection. I’ve been to at least three hundred readings over the last ten years, and so I like to think I’ve absorbed a bit about what works and doesn’t. I chose a passage from the beginning of Thunder Road so that I didn’t have to spend five minutes explaining backstory, and read for about ten minutes, trying to leave the story on a tense moment, hoping the audience will need to know what happens next. Judging by the Winnipeg Free Press Bestseller list, it worked.

Because of the size of the audience and the fact that I knew there were a number of out of Winnipeg guests (hello, Morden, Darlingford, Miami, and Brandon!) who still had to drive home on a work night, I decided against doing a question and answer period. If any of you were in the audience and had a question you wanted to ask me, drop me a line in the comments, and I’ll be happy to chime in with my two cents.

The Thunder Road launch was also a reunion of sorts. My teachers from the 2nd, 3rd, and 8th grade were in the audience, as was my junior high principal. I’m sure every time I said “fuck” it brought back old times for him (I was an early adopter of profanity, even I mostly kept it hidden from authority figures). There were tons of local writers in the crowd, and Robert J. Sawyer, who provided the cover blurb for my book) flew in from Toronto to attend.

After the reading, I was presented with a block mounted, enlarged version of my author photo. I had absolutely no idea that McNally Robinson planned to enshrine me on their wall of writers, so surprise well-kept folks. This is a store where the staff go above and beyond every damn day–I also joked that I liked to think that maybe they gave me just a little bit extra above and beyond, and boy did they ever deliver. So thank you, once again, to my fellow booksellers, here in Winnipeg, and to booksellers every where else.

I was also surprised with gifts of whiskey (Irish and Kentucky), Odin Stones hand picked from Gimli’s beach, a beautiful photo album (which will become my record of the evening) and a very cool caricature card drawn by my friend and former co-worker Phil Hayes. John Toews also arranged to have a soundtrack of sorts playing for the evening with the songs I used as chapter titles. For those of you who know my taste in music hearing this in the store was totally worth the labour of writing a book.

 

This isn’t the first time I’ve scrawled my name and defaced a book or magazine. When I sold “First Light” to On Spec, I signed copies for friends and family. At Edmonton’s Pure Speculation festival in November 2011 I signed my first signature for a stranger (though Cath Jackal isn’t a stranger any longer!). Recently at When Words Collide in Calgary, after the EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy fall launch I signed my name over my story “Back in Black” in a bunch of copies of Tesseracts 16. This was very different however. With the pressure to move a long line efficiently, and wanting each of the signatures to be heartfelt and unique, I often found myself scrambling for something to write. My publisher warned me to come up with a few stock taglines to sign with, and I did, but let me tell you, in the moment, it’s a lot harder than it sounds to remember them. Sometimes, you go to sign a book and you just have nothing. One more thing to work on. You learn more about this business of being and author every day.

You also learn to watch what you say on Facebook. I made a professional wrestling reference and thanks to David Nowacki of Cult Couch infamy, this was happened:

 

“Oooh YEAAAAAH!”

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Thunder Road Winnipeg Launch Roundup, Part The First…

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

 

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

 

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

 

A photo to try and capture the crowd.

 

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

 

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

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Valhalla

 

I think my first exposure to Valhalla was hearing Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song on the radio (yes, radio, I’m old). You know the one, it starts with Robert Plant doing this: “Ahhhhahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhahhhhhhhhh!”

Of course, growing up near the U.S. border, I thought they were saying “Walhalla“, and wondered why they were screaming about North Dakota.

What they actually meant, was the enormous hall where Odin housed the souls of those who died in combat. These souls, gathered by the All-Father’s Valkyrie–his Choosers of the Slain–awaited Ragnarök and another battle. The last battle. They would fight jötnar and the forces of Hel herself.

It’s a weird coincidence that Valhalla is today’s post. Originally, it wasn’t meant to be. But I like that things turned out this way. Serendipity. Tonight is the launch of Thunder Road. Tonight I take my book out in search of glory. Immortality. Or, at the very least, one hell of a good time.

Valhalla, I am coming.

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Midgard

The action in Thunder Road takes place on Midgard, the realm of the Nine Worlds in Norse mythology that is the home of humanity. You know, Earth.

But what is it about Earth that makes it so attractive to the gods? Why are they constantly coming down and mucking around with us mere mortals? Maybe they feel that because they made the world, they are entitled to play with it and everyone and everything upon it. Maybe they just want to appreciate a job they felt was well done.

Every mythology has its own creation story for Earth. In Norse Myth, Midgard was formed from the blood and bones of the primordial giant, Ymir, by Odin and his brothers. The gods built a fence from Ymir’s eyebrows at the edge of Midgard to keep the giants from invading the home of men (fences do make for good neighbours, after all). Surrounding Midgard was a great, impassable ocean that became the home to Loki’s son, Jormungandur, AKA the Midgard Serpent, a being so vast he could circle the world to bite his own tail.

Beyond Midgard are the other eight worlds in Norse myth; Jötunheim, realm of the giants; Alfheim, realm of the elves; Asgard, home to the Aesir gods; the underworld of Hel, named for Loki’s daughter, among them. With these realms and more to choose from, why have Thunder Road start out on boring old Earth, let alone in Manitoba?

No fence, no matter who built it, can keep everything out. If you get a couple hours north of Winnipeg you can hide anything–we still have wilderness. Manitoba has lake serpent sightings, sasquatch sightings, numerous reported hauntings. If you look at our folklore, the monsters are already here.

Then there is Manitoba’s large community of people of Icelandic descent. Manitoba has a rural municipality named Bifrost, Bifrost also being the name of the rainbow bridge that connected Midgard to Asgard. In the myths, Gimlé, also known as Gimli, is the place where the survivors of Ragnarök are said to live; “the most beautiful place on Earth”. I’m sure folks who summer at their cottages in Gimli, Manitoba would agree.

So I had lots of reasons to write about “boring old Earth”, but that doesn’t mean the story will always stay there.

The Next Big Thing Week 11

Thank you, Rhiannon Held, for tagging me in The Next Big Thing. The Next Big Thing is a weekly blog post where the tagged authors talk about a work in progress.

What is the working title of your book?

Tombstone Blues Book Two in the Thunder Road Trilogy is my current work in progress. Book One launches on Thursday, September 6th and Tombstone Blues will release Fall 2013.

Where did the idea come from for the book?

Tombstone Blues happened organically from events leading up to the climax of Thunder Road. I’d sketched out a rough outline for this story to write someday, not intending it to be next, but as soon as I wrote: “Hel is jealous and strong. She will not be pleased.” I also knew this book had to be next.

What genre does your book fall under?

Urban Fantasy, with heavy Norse mythological influences.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I would have said Brett Favre for Ted (at least before all that texting business…), but as I’ve only seen him play himself in Something About Mary, I’m not sure he really counts as an actor. Instead, I’m going to say Ray Stevenson. Perfect height for Ted, and he has a gift for onscreen profanity and violence. Tilda would be Adrianne Palicki. Again, she’s the perfect height. I liked her in Supernatural, and she seems drawn to superheroic/fantasy roles. Loki is a shapeshifter, so he could be (and should be) played by multiple actors (and actresses). It feels like a cheat to say Tom Hiddleston, but I liked him so much in Thor and The Avengers. He might play his Loki a little more sinister than I wrote mine. Hel would be Tilda Swinton, because she does layered madness very, very well. Finally, Thor would be Liam Neeson. He’s big. He punches wolves, and he’s played gods before. What more can you ask for?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Hel’s army invades Winnipeg trying to reclaim Thor’s hammer from its new wielder.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

My book will be published by Ravenstone Books, an Imprint of Turnstone Press. Currently, I am not represented by an agent.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

A little less than three months for the first draft, but as I wrote it immediately after finishing Thunder Road, it sat after its first round of revisions until I sold the first book (a strategy I am somewhat regretting at the moment as my delivery deadline creeps closer).

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

J.A. Pitts’ excellent Black Blade Blues mixes Norse Myth with the locales of his home state. And while I hesitate to mention Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, which has won every award and is simply a breathtaking book, it also has strong mythological elements–particularly Norse Myth.

Who or What inspired you to write this book?

As I said above, the broad events of Tombstone Blues grew out of Thunder Road, but the biggest inspiration for the book was my home city of Winnipeg. It’s history geography and folklore make the book what it is. I just hope Winnipeg forgives me for all the damage my characters are doing to it!

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

I write an appendix of handy-dandy explanations about the gods and creatures of Norse Mythology, all done in Loki’s best snarky voice.

Tag! You’re it!

David Annandale

GMB Chomichuk

Karen Dudley

Erika Holt

Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Rules:

***Answer the ten questions about your current WIP (Work In Progress) ***
Tag five other writers/bloggers and add their links so we can hop over and meet them. It’s that simple.
Ten Interview Questions for The Next Big Thing:
What is the working title of your book?
Where did the idea come from for the book?
What genre does your book fall under?
Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
Who or What inspired you to write this book?
What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: Surtur

 

Surtur.

Ruler of the fire giants of Muspelheim. He’s as much a force of nature as he is an antagonist.  He’s a walking cataclysm with a sword.

He was also a perfect choice for my big bad.

The villains of Ragnarök die (of course so do the heroes, the Norse brought us the concept of mutually assured destruction long before the Cold War did): Heimdall and Loki meet their doom together. So do Thor and Jormungandur. But the  god Freyr, who is destined to face Surtur, does so wielding only a set of antlers (note to self, never trade away your magic sword)–either he was too proud to ask for a better weapon, or his fellow gods were such giant dicks that they didn’t offer. Regardless, I don’t like his odds. And since it is unlikely that Surtur would be harmed when he set fire to the world, he was still around after the Fate of the Gods, waiting.

Surtur was the doom of the gods. But “doom” means more than just death and destruction. It is also an inevitable fate. While we’ve been programmed to believe the word has sinister connotations (personally, I blame Doctor Doom for this), it doesn’t have to. In myth–and in real life–fire is as often a force of creation as it is destruction. So then, what sort of new world will the appearance of Surtur create, and who will be caught in the storm?

Loki’s Guide to Norse Mythology: The Norns

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

But there are norns, and then there are Norns.

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

Now that’s power.

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

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

So naturally, I wrote three of them.

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