My CAN-CON Schedule!

Hi everyone,

It’s that time of year again, and for me that means CAN-CON, Ottawa’s annual conference on speculative arts and literature. This year is a bit of a change for me, because I’m only participating in two panel discussions this year. I will, however, be attending many more, and I look forward to connecting with friends and colleagues – old and new – as well as learning a great deal.

I will be participating in the following panels on Saturday, October 31:

The Basics of the Sword, the Katana, and Viking Axe (12:00 – 12:55 pm, in Salon E), with Ariella Elema, Kris Ramsey, and Raeanne Roy.

Weird Fiction and Lovecraftian Themes (2:00-2:55 pm, Salon D), with Leah Bobet and Sean Moreland.

I hope to see you there!

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The Vagaries of Publishing

No matter how well you write, no matter how thoroughly you edit, no matter how many reviewers you enlist before submitting your story to the market, there are no guarantees.

I just got an apologetic note from a magazine concerning a recent submission of mine that they will not be able to publish – not because it’s crap or doesn’t fit their editorial vision, but because they need to refocus their business on their anthologies and website – the print magazine was simply not viable.  In the end, despite having a pile of great stories, they could not make it work.  It was nice to know, however, that my story had made it to the short list.  I appreciate the effort they made to contact me personally, and I hope their efforts to stay afloat are successful.

So, back to land of submissions for this horror story…

Come See Me at the Art and Wine Tour!

I will be at Blue Gypsy Wines on September 12-13, where I will be taking part in this year’s Art and Wine Tour! I’d love to chat with you, and I will also have signed copies of Heroes of Mars and People Eating People available for purchase.

As a bonus, you will also be able to meet my partner, the lovely and highly-talented Fiona Plunkett, a fantastic stone carver who uses her affinity with stone to bring out its natural beauty. She will have a number of pieces on-hand for sale, and if you come at the right time you might catch her in action.

Hope to see you there!

Getting Back to my Roots

Although most of my writing is in the horror genre, my first breakthrough publication as an author was in the roleplaying games industry. In fact, I owe a debt of gratitude to roleplaying games, and to the Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) fan community, for helping me get where I am today.

I first picked up polyhedral dice in 1984. It was summertime, I was living in North Bay, and my friend Clinton had bought the pink box edition of D&D. I knew nothing about it beyond the cartoon that I watched on Saturday mornings, and of course the anti-D&D hysteria (which I thought was a load of crap even then) but the dice looked cool and the idea of playing make-believe with imaginary characters complete with stats, treasure, and the prospect of UNLIMITED POWER appealed to my 10-year-old self. I didn’t last long in “The Keep on the Borderlands”, but I’d been bitten by the bug and kept playing, on and off, for the next ten years. I went on to play many roleplaying systems, but D&D remained my favourite.

By the mid-90s I was in university. The original D&D game had been discontinued by TSR, and I no longer bought gaming products because nothing really appealed to me. So I ran a campaign using what I had, and figured I would just keep on playing until my books fell apart. Then I discovered the Internet, and the online fan communities – and that’s when I started writing. I hadn’t met anyone in Ottawa who was interested in my version of D&D, but there were tons of people in Italy, Brazil, Australia, the US, and other parts of Canada who were devoted fans. I got to know them, and before long we were collaborating on online writing projects to expand the campaign settings we loved so much, but which were no longer receiving official support. Years passed, our writing improved and we published our work online in fanzines, and I daresay we eventually were writing adventures and gaming sourcebooks that were of the same calibre as what we once bought in gaming shops. Such is the power of devoted, mature fans.

Somewhere along the line I looked at the sheer mass of what I had written, and thought, “Why couldn’t I make a serious go at this?” So I studied the small presses in the roleplaying markets, realised that adventure modules were sought after, and began hunting for opportunities. I made my first sale – The Secret of the Callair Hills – to Expeditious Retreat Press in 2010. That first professional sale gave me the confidence to keep going. Solstice Publishing bought my novella “The Tunnelers” in 2011, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Although I became less active in the gaming community as I devoted more time and energy into writing short fiction, I never forgot my roots. I still wrote occasionally for fanzines, ran my own D&D campaign (still going strong), and ran D&D games at local conventions. A second gaming module – To End the Rising – was published in 2013.

And now Expeditious Retreat Press has bought the rights to a third module – “The Crocodile’s Tear” – which I ran as a playtest at a local gaming con this Spring. I was thrilled to receive the news, and I can’t wait to see the cover art. It’s an adventure solidly in the style of Indiana Jones – recovering a treasure from an exotic locale, complete with traps, ancient menaces, and a curse. There is an immense satisfaction with writing and running an adventure module and seeing how engrossed the players get into the storyline – it’s a kind of connection that fiction can’t achieve, in my view.

And it’s why I doubt I’ll ever abandon my gaming roots, regardless of how far I go as a writer.

Objects In Mirror Are Larger Than They Appear – A Mid-Year Check-In

June has passed, the days are getting shorter again, and 2016 is no longer a theoretical possibility but something that is definitely taking form. This has led me to think about how things have been going – both in terms of my writing and otherwise.

2015 started off with a bang, writing-wise. Two stories of mine – “The Old Boys Club” and “White Noise” – that had already been published were picked up by McGraw-Hill-Ryerson for inclusion in their electronic collection of contemporary Canadian short fiction, which is aimed at secondary school educators.

I followed that with my first trip to Ad-Astra, Toronto’s main science fiction and fantasy convention, in April. There, I participated in several interesting panels, play-tested The Oatmeal’s Exploding Kittens card game, and delivered a few readings with my friend and fellow author, Marie Bilodeau. it was a great time, and my first exposure to one of Canada’s bigger cons. I finally got the chance to meet several people with whom I had been corresponding for quite a while. I’ll definitely be going back.

In May, Black Treacle Magazine has picked up another of my stories – Re-Possession – which takes the zombie trope and adds corporate intrigue, with a twist. Even more recently, another of my stories – The Statuette – will be appearing in in the first issue of a new magazine. More details to come!

2015 has been a wondrous year on a more personal note, too. I started off the year at a New Year’s party, knowing only two people in the house where it was taking place and hoping for a nice diversion and an opportunity to get to know a few people. Little did I suspect that I would meet someone who, in six months, would turn out to be the best partner I could ever hope for. Both of us have been around the block and we went into our relationship with honesty and reasonable expectations. My girlfriend is a loving companion, a confidante, a kindred soul, and my best friend. She not only accepted me into her life; she welcomed me into it. And I her. I couldn’t imagine life without her, now, and the future is looking even better than ever. If nothing else, meeting her has defined 2015 as my best year. Let there be many more! 🙂

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.

My Ad Astra Schedule!

As promised, I am posting my scheduled panels at Ad Astra, Toronto’s premier speculative fiction convention, which runs from April 10-12!  Hope to see you there.


Saturday, April 11

Spicing up your Game Setting

Time: 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM

Room: Oakridge

Panelling with: Chris A. Jackson, James Alan Gardner

Jungles, deserts and tundras, oh my! from tribal wanderers to megacities and more! Panelists discuss how you can step away from the monoenvironmental, the monocultural, the monoboring and make your setting varied, alive and deeply interesting.

From The Tabletop To The Side Table

Time: 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM

Room: Whitchurch

Panelling with: Chris A. Jackson

From Books to TV Shows and Movies, tabletop roleplaying has been a subtile guiding hand for many story, setting and character inspirations. And in some cases, not so subtle. Panelists discuss the process of taking a tabletop game or characters and set pieces and translating it to a different medium for an audience rather than active participants.

The Shadow Over Lovecraft

Time: 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM

Room: Markham B

Panelling with: JD DeLuzio, Nancy Kilpatrick, Simon McNeil

Modern horror fiction inspired or derived from H.P. Lovecraft. What influence has his fiction had? What makes Lovecraftian fiction work? The best and worst texts, both in literature and films. Why all the odd pop culture appearances? Is he really that great? And how do we handle his xenophobia and racism, and the modern-day controversy it has generated?

Saturday, April 12

Reading with fellow Ottawa-area author Marie Bilodeau!

Time: 12:00 PM – 1:00 PM

Room: Whitchurch

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.

My CAN-CON Schedule!

It’s been a very busy several months for a variety of reasons, and I have lots of great updates to share.  But all in good time….

In the meantime, I am posting my schedule for CAN-CON, Ottawa’s own science fiction and speculative fiction convention. If you haven’t been, I strongly suggest you go – we have an excellent program lined up and there is sure to be something for everyone.

Here are the panels I will be participating in…

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 3

  • 7:00 PM: “Be It Resolved: Stop Writing Novels – Write Short Fiction” – The Live Debate!
  • 9:00 PM: “RPGs: How the Industry Has Changed, Open Gaming Licenses, and Breaking In”

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 4

  • 6:00 PM: “Organic Readings with Gratuitous Punctuation” – I am reading from my short story, The Old Boys Club (which appears in Imaginarium 2013, which should be available at the ChiZine Table)
  • 7:00 PM: “Email Spam: Can a Narrative be Created?”

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 5

  • 12:00 PM: “Guardians of the Galaxy – The Phenomenon”

I’m Doing a Blog Hop!

I was invited by my friend and fellow author (and East Block Irregular), Marie Bilodeau to participate in a blog hop. I eagerly accepted because I have no common sense, and very little dignity. Situation normal where my dealings with Marie are concerned (though she did eat a bug for me so I suppose it balances out, but that’s another story).

Marie encouraged original responses to her questions, and even urged us to break the rules – but that simply wouldn’t do. After all, she tagged me as a spawn of the Elder gods, and when someone saddles you with a label like that, garden-variety madness simply isn’t going to cut it. No, she deserved the special reserve – that select variety of perverseness I stash away for those who are truly special. My connoisseurs, if you will.

Takes one to know one, I suppose. 😉

On to the questions!

1. What research would you conduct to write a scene in which squirrels become the sole proprietors of the Febreeze Empire?

Hold on. What do you mean, “in which the squirrels BECAME the sole proprietors”? They were always the sole proprietors, because the great progenitor, the Flying Ra’aki (May He glide forever!) ate a bad nut at the dawn of creation and vomited out the cosmos for the enjoyment of His children. He then horked out a shell fragment which became – as all right-thinking people know – the Febreeze Empire. The sacred texts of Ra’aki (May He glide forever!) say so.

Unless, of course, you have been reading the heretical works of Ch’p and Dhail. Please tell me you have not been doing so, Marie. Swear by the Holy Pouch, and by St. Bolwinkul, that you have not. I have no wish to call the Inquisitors…

You did, didn’t you?

 

2. If you could conjure one mythical creature to finish a book for you, which one would get to select the ending and why?

Well, that’s one’s obvious. I mean, seriously dudette, how long have you known me? It doesn’t matter which mythical creature I chose to end my book, because Great Cthulhu would just kick the door down, drink all my beer, rearrange the furniture in disturbing ways, and then screw my storyline six ways from Sunday. And I’d love it because I’d be huddled in the corner, giggling maniacally and singing “I Left My Hearts in R’lyeh”.

Wait a minute. That’s a normal Friday night…oh crap.


3. Bigfoot sex. Discuss.

Some people think I’m sexually repressed because I’m half-English, into sadism because I’m part-German, or into kink because I’m part-French. While it’s been years since I’ve wielded a riding crop or poured melted cheese into a [CENSORED] and lapped it up with a side helping of [CENSORED], I do keep an open mind about sexuality in general. Bigfoot sex is no exception. I believe that we should love all people equally, regardless of skin colour, height, weight, body shape, or hirsuiteness. Rather than hunt our primal brethren, or speculate wildly about them in checkout tabloids of dubious quality, we should accept and welcome them with all appendages. They probably know some damned good tricks, too. If I lived in the woods I’d want to make sex more interesting.

Bigfoot sex is actually an underlying theme in much of my writing. Give any of my works a serious read and you’ll see. I’ll wait.

“Go big or go home,” as they say…

 

4. What would you need to do to become the most prolific writer ever (can include crimes, questionable science and lack of morality)?

Funny you should ask that. I’ve placed a hit on Father Time and if Sweaty Pete is as good as my bookie says he is, I won’t have any worries about deadlines, scheduling or crap like that because the time-space vector will collapse. So if your clock stops, you can thank me.

 

5. Does Vogon poetry have artistic merit?

If you’d asked me that in my pre-writing days the answer would have been a resounding “NO!” Everyone has to start somewhere, and as much as I hate to admit it there was a period in my life (before I was “enhanced” by the Elder Gods) when I was obsessed with such trivial, boring things like logic. Fortunately, I am no longer so encumbered, and since becoming an author I have crossed the threshold into realms of abnormality that are beyond the wildest dreams of my younger, more human, self.

That being said, after reading the collected works of the great masters for the first time, and after the echoes of my final screams had subsided, I began to see that Vogon poetry possesses a unique, putty-like beauty which smells slightly of old, peaty cheese. Who knew that beauty could have a scent? I didn’t. But it does, and that revelation was wonderful on so many levels.

Vogon poetry is a valid art form. My grant application to the Canada Council for the Arts is forthcoming.


6. Shoggoths – Animal, Vegetable, or Mineral?

I really don’t know. I thought they were a type of fungus for the longest time, but when I grilled one up the other day it didn’t taste a thing like the portobello mushrooms I served at the last dinner party – not even with a generous helping of Worcestershire sauce. It didn’t taste like the guests, either, so that rules out animal as well. One thing I will say is that despite the fact that the buggers can change their shape at will and can pass through the tiniest cracks, shoggoth gunk really gets stuck between your teeth. I flossed for a good half-hour to get it all out.

Trust me on this one.

 

7. What are you working on right now?

Oh, if you must. I mainly write short stories, and as we speak I have six of them in various stages of editing, and another two being written – half of them are horror. I’m trying to branch out, but I think the tone of this post should give you an idea of where I am spiritually, genre-wise.

I’ve also got a YA novel on the go, and a couple of gaming modules in varying states of completion. I’d get a lot more done if it weren’t for reality.

Good thing I’ve got Cthulhu on speed dial…

There you go, folks. Me – unfiltered. Please check out the blogs of my other writing buddies, Matt Moore and Hayden Trenholm, and see how they have responded to Marie’s fiendish questions.

Fear her!