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…

2015 is Already Looking Awesome

It’s a New Year, and that means an opportunity for new starts – professionally and personally. The changeover from one year to the next can also be a reset, of sorts, for our creativity so that we can attack our ongoing projects with renewed vigour.

I am developing lots of new story ideas while I wait to hear from editors, some of which are solidly in the science fiction vein. This is a big step for me, as the vast majority of my professional fiction sales thus far have been horror. Every new genre has a learning curve, and I am enjoying the prospect of researching biological phenomena that will enrich my stories. I know I can turn to my writing circle, and the occasional beta reader, to help me reach the next level. What I learn can also give me an interesting factoid or two to impress people at cocktail parties. I play the long game. 😉

I do, however, have awesome news to share on the writing front. McGraw-Hill Ryerson, a premier Canadian educational publisher, has purchased reprint rights for two of my short stories: The Old Boys Club and White Noise. This is incredibly exciting because my stories will be added to an electronic collection of contemporary Canadian short fiction, which educators can access in order to build readers (in print or electronic form) for their students. So yes, some day high school students might curse my name as they struggle to write term papers about my stories.

Life is good.

Delectable Baked Yuletide Delights of Doom!

Yes, it’s been a while. Life’s like that. However, the holiday season is upon us yet again, and what better way to celebrate than to eat, drink, and be merry?  I’ve got the eating angle nailed down in this post, at least. So do a bunch of other authors, too, but more about them later.

Linda Poitevin started the great Xmas-cookie-recipe-exchange-and-blog-hop, which was later rechristened as Cookies of Might and Magic by Marie Bilodeau, who then tagged me.  Just as some of my horror stories centre on what happens when you disturb ancient evils, so I am sharing a cookie recipe with a bit of history.

Oh, alright.  “Ancient evil” isn’t always synonymous with “old recipe”, if we’re going to get technical… (everyone’s a critic)

This recipe has a bit of history associated with it.  When my mother attended nursing college in Niagara Falls, back in the early 60s, her landlady was a woman named Mrs. Ibey.  She always had a plate of these cookies available for her boarders, and my mother loved them so much she got the recipe.

 

COCONUT OATMEAL CRUNCH COOKIES

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, shortening, or margarine
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 cup shaved coconut (technically optional – the coconut makes all the difference, in my view)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet.
  2. In a bowl, cream soft butter and sugar together until light and fluffy;
    add egg and mix well.
  3. Sift flour, salt, soda and baking powder together into another bowl.
  4. Add dry ingredients along with rolled oats to the creamed mixture. Blend well.
  5. Roll this batter into balls and place on cookie sheet, about two (2) inches apart.
  6. Flatten balls with a powdered fist and bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly browned.
  7. Remove from cookie sheet and place on a wire rack to cool.
  8. Yields about 5 dozen. ENJOY!

These cookies freeze very well and can be used as a sandwich cookie with dates, if desired.

Source:  Kindness of Helen Ibey.

And now I am tagging Jamieson Wolf, who will tantalize your taste buds with more baked goodness.