…And That’s the Kind of Year It’s Been

At one point I promised myself I would improve my blogging habits, as it’s important to have something to shoot for. I’m happy to report that I continue to have a goal in this department. While I didn’t post much here in 2018, a lot did, in fact, go on – perhaps it’s accurate to say that I was busy trying to do things that would be worthy to post here.

Yeah, we’ll go with that.

So, without further ado, I’ll run though how 2018 shaped up for me…

Fiction

The year started off with a high note when I learned that “The Wind Father”, my Lovecraftian weird western story that was published in 2017 by Third Flatiron Publishing in their Principia Ponderosa anthology, made it onto Tangent Online’s 2017 Recommended Reading list . This was almost as good as winning an award, and it buoyed my spirits in the early months of 2018.

In May, “Full House”, a science fiction story I co-wrote with my partner, Fiona Plunkett, was picked up by Exile Editions for their Alice Unbound: Beyond Wonderland anthology. This story was intended to be a fast-paced piece with space operatic overtones, and I was glad that Tangent Online also thought so. We had a successful book launch in Ottawa, and followed up with more readings later that year at CAN*CON. I was especially happy that “Full House” got the nod because I’ve long been a fan of space opera and wanted to get something published in that genre. Fiona and I ended the story with Alis and Risus heading out for further adventures, and I plan to see where they end up. 😉

Around the same time, I received word that a horror story of mine called, “The Draught of Dreams” had been accepted by Lycan Valley Publishing for their “Subliminal Realities” anthology. This was especially satisfying because this was one of the first stories I ever wrote, and each rejection (more than I care to count) only made me even more certain that it was a tale that needed to be told. The book is due out soon, and I happy the story finally has a home.

This year was also a good one for reprints—two, in fact. “Giving At The Office”, which originally appeared in Dusty Wallace’s People Eating People (2014), was picked up by Digital Fiction Publishing for their latest horror anthology. Also, my Lovecraftian tale of terror on the Great Lakes, “Deadly Cargo”, will appear in Pole-to-Pole Publishing’s “Re-Terrify” anthology, due to come out soon.

More recently I received word that another story of mine has been accepted in an anthology due for release in early 2019, but I can’t say more for the moment… 😉

Gaming

For the past couple of years I had been devoting a considerable amount of energy to my work for The Ed Greenwood Group, but when the company folded I saw an opportunity to take what I learned and cast my net out farther. I’m happy to say that a few articles of mine will be appearing in the next issue of Arkham Gazette, a Call of Cthulhu-themed magazine produced by Sentinel Hill Press under license from Chaosium, Inc. Writing material for my favourite Lovecraftian game has long been a career goal of mine, and getting my foot in the door makes me feel like I levelled-up (pun slightly intended). There is the possibility of more work with SHP, so time will tell.

2018 was also a turning point for me, game-writing wise, because it was the first time a professional market approached me to write something for them. Expeditious Retreat Press asked me for an adventure module, and I happily delivered one to them in the horror vein. Stay tuned for updates on when it will come out!

Other stuff is on tap for 2019, but again I can’t say anything about it right now.

Other Awesomeness

Perhaps the most surprising thing that happened this year was when Tito Ferradans, a Vancouver-based film-maker, approached me for the rights to make a short film based on my short story, White Noise”, which was first published by AE Science Fiction in 2013, and re-printed in the anthology, Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse”. This has been a hugely exciting experience, and I can’t wait to see the final product! Tito created an Indiegogo campaign to finance the making of this film. There’s still some time left before the campaign ends, so I invite you to check it out and support an indie film-maker!

My friend and writing buddy, Brandon Crilly, kindly interviewed us about the film and the story behind it.

All things considered, it *has* been quite a year…and I wouldn’t have wanted it to turn out any other way. Here’s to hoping 2019 proves to be just as fruitful!

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It’s CAN*CON time again!

The leaves are turning, chill winds are beginning to blow, and Hallowe’en is just around the corner…

…and that means CAN*CON, Ottawa’s annual conference on speculative arts and literature, is upon us again!.

This year’s program is loaded with excellent panels you won’t want to miss, and there are a number of very notable guests you’ll want to meet! Although pre-registration is now full, you can still buy admission at the door.

For those interested, here is my schedule at the con:

Friday, October 12

17:00-17:50 (Salon B)
Alice Unbound Reading
Join me and Kate Heartfield, Cait Gordon, Dominik Parisien, Elizabeth Hosang, and Andrew Sutherland as we read from our stories published in this anthology.

18:00-18:50 (Dealers’ Room)
Exile Editions Table
I will be manning the table for Exile Editions – copies of Alice Unbound and other Exile titles will be on sale. Stop by for a chat!

20:00-20:50 (Salon D)
Braaaains. Please. Sorry.
A discussion of the mark made by Canadian zombie fiction and its connection to our wider focus on the living dead.

Saturday, October 13

I’m not on any panels, but will be there for much of the day.

Sunday, October 14

11:00-12:50 (Salon C)
Creating Game Adventures: From Outline to Treasure Hoard (Seminar & Workshop)
Love RPGs? Ever consider writing your own module? Join me for this 2-hour workshop where I will you through the considerations and process of writing for an RPG, beginning with a seminar discussion of what you need to consider, and finishing with a collaborative workshop. The best part? You’ll walk away with the beginnings of a product that you can market to games publishers.

1:00-1:50 (Dealers’ Room)
Exile Editions Table
I’ll be manning the table once again for Exile Editions.

I hope to see you there!

Updates, I have a few…

It’s been a while since I posted – part of that is because of the ups and downs of regular life, but the other reason is because I’ve been away creating!

First, I’m excited about the recent publication of “The Wind Father”, my Lovecraftian weird western short story, in the recently-released Principia Ponderosa anthology by Third Flatiron Publishing!

The story takes place in the Canadian West in the 1880s.  Settler families have been murdered with some being carried off into a forbidding no man’s land. Sergeant Blake is determined to rescue the most recent victim, defying his commanding officer and leading his small detachment into the hills. What they find is not a band of criminals, but an ancient evil beyond the scope of mere laws…

Principia Ponderosa is available in trade paperback and electronic form, and so far the collection has been receiving very positive feedback.  The kind folks at Tangent reviewed the anthology, and called my story “[a] well-executed piece of Lovecraftian horror set in the Canadian frontier” where the tension build each scene is “just a little bit stranger or more disturbing than what came before.”

I’m also happy to say that Digital Fiction Publishing bought the reprint rights to two previously-published stories of mine:  “Re-Possession”, a zombie-themed tale of corporate intrigue, and “For Old Times’ Sake”, my flash piece about what happens once superheroes retire. This is a great company to work with, and they give free access to hundreds of science fiction, fantasy, and horror short stories.  You can follow them on Twitter, as well.

I’m putting the finishing touches on a few other creative works – more horror and fantasy short stories, as well as a full-length roleplaying module set in Ed Greenwood’s fantasy world of Stormtalons.  Stay tuned for more!

Back to Adventure

While much of my focus, roleplaying-wise, is now on working with an awesome team of Creatives to develop The Ed Greenwood Group‘s world of Stormtalons, I still produce other works from time to time.

I’m very happy to announce the publication of my latest roleplaying adventure module, “The Crocodile’s Tear”, by Expeditious Retreat Press, an independent publisher of quality, old-school roleplaying games of a variety of genres – from high fantasy to gritty modern espionage. This is the third module of mine that they have published, and I enjoy working with them.

AA34 Cover

A “New” Roleplaying Release

As I’ve said a few times, I started my writing career in the roleplaying world.  The many hours spent adventuring in the imaginary worlds Dungeons and Dragons and similar games fuelled my imagination in ways that movies, TV shows, and even books never could.  After I’d run a few adventures of my own, I read the professionally-published adventure modules with a more critical eye.  The storylines offered the blend of heroism and peril that I found engaging, the adventure locales they presented were often interesting, but I couldn’t help but walk away slightly dissatisfied.  There wasn’t enough history.  I wanted to know more about the motivations of some of the personalities the players would meet along the way.  I often saw opportunities for further adventures that the module writers hadn’t explored (or, more realistically, didn’t have the time to explore because of production schedules).

So I started writing modules of my own, and in so doing learned quite a bit about how to structure a storyline (a well crafted adventure is a highly interactive story, after all), and how to build a world on a small scale.  I also derived a lot of satisfaction from producing something tangible that other people could read and use at their leisure.  After I joined the online roleplaying community and connected with like-minded people, I found an audience as well as friends and colleagues with whom I could share ideas, and give and receive constructive criticism that pushed me even farther along my path.  Eventually I moved into writing fiction, but I never forgot my roots and I enjoy returning to them from time to time.

With all that in mind I am very happy to share my latest release, an adventure module for Dungeons and Dragons (although it could be used with any system with a bit of tweaking) entitled “The Wanderer’s Grave”.  This product is free to use and share, and if you have any comments I would love to hear them.

GGA1 Cover

Happy adventuring!

 

It’s Aurora Awards Season – Come Out and Vote!

The Aurora Awards are awarded annually to the best in Canadian science fiction and fantasy. Past winners include authors such as Robert J. Sawyer wiki and William Gibson wiki. What sets the Auroras apart from other awards is that all Canadian citizens and residents can nominate and vote for up to three works in a number of categories. That’s right – YOU get to choose.

To make your voice heard, all you need to do is join the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Association. A one-year membership is only $10, registration is fast, and you won’t be spammed. You will then be able to nominate up to three works in categories that include novels, novellas, short stories, artists, magazines, graphic novels, and more!

This year, a story of mine called Re-Possession is eligible to be nominated in the short story category. You can read it for free here

The full eligibility list can be found here. Nominations close on March 19, 2016. I hope I can count on your vote!

Stories Come in Many Forms

“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”

– Michelangelo

Everyone has a passion somewhere inside them, and they should be encouraged to pursue it as much as they desire so long as it brings them joy. I love to write and tell stories, and I express this through writing fiction and through roleplaying games – both fairly safe and sane activities.

My partner, Fiona Plunkett, also known as The Witch of South Mountain, has long had a passion for stone carving. For her, it’s an organic process: She once told me she looks at a stone and sees the final sculpture inside it, as though the stone “knows” what it wants to be and it is up to her to free it. I get that. Often, a story idea pops into my head and the process of writing feels more like acting as a conduit for the story to tell itself through me.  In those moments I truly feel like I’m in the writing zone, and time flies by.

This month, some of her carvings are on display at the Brockville Arts Centre, a venue that promotes regional artists of all forms. Looking at the display she put together, with her tools and raw stone at the bottom and her finished pieces above, I can see the stones telling stories of their own. The animal carvings show movement – are they escaping a predator, or are they searching for something? Likewise, I can picture her inukshuks standing on a barren Arctic plain, or sitting atop a craggy northern shore, which I could fill with characters of my own.

Someday I will draw inspiration from one of Fiona’s works and tell a new story of my own, but in the meantime I will enjoy the expression of her art. I hope you will, too.

Persistence Pays

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
– Confucius

“Slow and steady wins the race.”
– Unknown

“Are we there yet?!?”
– Any child

I am delighted to announce that another of my horror stories, Re-Possession, is appearing in Issue 9 of Black Treacle, a Canadian magazine of horror, dark fantasy, and speculative fiction.

Re-Possession is zombie-themed social commentary set in the near future, with a dash of corporate intrigue and wistful romance. It’s also a story that has been on quite a journey, from inspiration to publication, and now that it has reached its final destination it really stands out in my mind as a good example of what can happen if you stick with something long enough.

I developed my initial outline for the story in October 2012, and went through seven drafts between then until January 2015. Throughout that time, Re-Possession’s length always hovered in the 2900-3100-word range. Every time the story was rejected, I reviewed any feedback I received from the editor, weighed it against the story and what I wanted to achieve with it, and refined it. I also put the story on the back-burner a couple of times and focused on other writing projects. Each time I returned to Re-Possession, I found I was able to look at it with fresher eyes, and more often than not I found improvements I could make. During that two-and-a-half-year long journey to publication, there were times when I considered abandoning the story. But then I would re-read it, as well as the encouraging comments I received from some of the editors, and I would send Re-Possession back into the market to find a good home.

I’m glad I did. I hope you enjoy the story.

Watch This Space!

Hi everyone!

On April 10-12, 2015 I will be attending Ad Astra, Toronto’s main fantasy and science fiction convention. In addition to participating on panels, I will also be giving readings. Stay tuned for my schedule! 🙂

Maintaining Momentum

If you’re like me, you pursue your creative passion while relying on another line of work to pay the bills. Because said line of work makes such mundane things like a roof over one’s head and regular, generally healthy and digestible meals possible, it really can’t be ignored. Not for long, anyway.

My day job has intense peaks and troughs and when I’m busy, I’m insanely so. In such busy periods (one of which – a week of pure hell – ended very recently) I find I have little energy for writing when I get home at the end of the day. However, as I’ve discussed previously it’s essential to maintain some kind of momentum – otherwise it’s possible to get in the habit of putting aside creative endeavours for any old thing, and the next thing you know you’re running in the soul-sucking hamster wheel of life. So what is a writer (or any creative type – what I’m about to share could be applied to almost any medium, I’m sure) to do?

First, it helps to have several projects on the go – just enough to allow you to switch to something else if you find you’re growing frustrated or bored with your current project, without having so many you feel overwhelmed. It’s even better if your projects are at different stages, so if you switch projects you’re actually doing something different. I usually have 2-4 stories on the go at any given time, in various states of completion. If I get tired working on the first draft of one piece, I can switch to editing a second draft of another, or tweaking another (a third or fourth draft) that was rejected by an editor. I’ve also branched out a bit from my initial genre (horror) into science fiction, so when I switch gears I may also be switching genres. Regardless, even if I am not drafting, I am still making progress.

Second, sometimes it’s good just to unplug entirely and read. I try to read novels recommended to me by friends (writerly or otherwise), but there are others that have been on my hit list for a while, and when I can I take advantage of the down time. Sometimes, I’ll get ideas, too.

Finally, it helps to have other creative outlets – and if they’re related to your artistic passion all the better. In my case, I am involved in two monthly roleplaying groups, one of which I run as Game Master. Both groups consist of interesting people playing interesting characters who are involved in intricate storylines – it’s like an interactive novel. I always come away from a gaming session with anecdotes and inspirations that could very well lead to story ideas, but even if they don’t the intensely fun and creative environment really energizes me. I recommend writers, in particular, give gaming a try to stoke their creative fires.

There you go…some lemonade recipes for when life tosses you a lemon or two…