Current Project: Novella to Novel

My big project for the now is to expand the novella I was working on through 2019 into a novel-length manuscript – for semi-secret reasons that a bunch of people in my immediate circle know about, but which I’m not making public yet. The cool thing about the meeting that led to this novella-to-novel plan is that when the suggestion was first made, I immediately thought, “Oh, yeah, I can totally see that. I can do that no problem.”

You can probably guess where this is going.

As you can see from my word count on the list below, I haven’t slouched on the novella expansion these last couple of weeks. (Sweet fuck, has it been two weeks since I posted last? How in the hells did that happen?) But getting back into writing new words for this story has been an adventure. Basically the existing novella focused on a bunch of characters with a long history together; they’d mention past events that caused them to drift apart, including specific things each of them said, but the focus was very much on the now. The decision we’ve come to for the novel is to actually show those events in detail, in what probably be periodic interludes since I don’t like a lot of heavy flashbacking. Not nearly as much bounce as The Witcher or Haunting of Hill House, or even Lost, but a similar idea.

The easy part comes from the fact that part of writing the original novella was making a bunch of notes about all of this backstory, so I have the bones of it all mostly figured out. What I don’t have is the heart: I know the emotional core of those scenes, and how each of them develops the relationships between my characters, but it’s figuring out how to properly convey that that’s the trick. Plus they’re different people in these new scenes I’m writing, which I have to keep in mind when I consider their dialogue and decisions, without overcomplicating to the point that I paralyze myself. And of course I started with the most difficult flashback scene, which maybe wasn’t the smartest idea, but I never claimed to be 100% smart all the time.

It means I’ll have to shrug off some other projects I want to write until I get this done, but that’s another story. In the meantime, wish me luck! I’m sure I’ll keep you posted here, especially when I feel like procrastinating.

What I did in the last week TWO WEEKS OH GODS

  • Talked contributor copies and publicity for upcoming anthology
  • Signal boost comic release of “True Balance”
  • 5300 words on the novella-to-novel
  • Coordinated author visits at work for I Read Canadian Day
  • Revised and submitted article on ELLs
  • Probably other little things I don’t remember

Shout-out of the Week!

I’ve had the good pleasure to hang out with Jason Sanford at pretty much every SFF con I make it to in the States (Jason gets around) and read some of his short fiction over the years, which is excellent. Recently, though, I’ve been impressed by his coverage of newsworthy stuff going on in our industry through his Genre Grapevine column on Patreon. It’s not easy taking a journalistic look at the industry you’re a part of, so I have mad respect that Jason’s willing to do it, and with care and professionalism. If you want a taste of that, check out his recently-published #SFF2020: The State of Genre Magazines, which examines the economics of the big SFF short fiction markets, including interviews with some of the top editors in the U.S. I’ve been at this a while now, and it enlightened me!

http://www.jasonsanford.com/blog/2019/12/sff2020-the-state-of-genre-magazines

New Semester – Time for a Creative Writing Class!

End of semester and then the start of Semester Two is always a trip, since there’s very little time between exams and calculating final marks and the start of new courses. (Literally one day, not counting the weekend, for anyone playing the home game.)

But it’s exciting, too, because you get a new crop of students, and ideally at least one new course to teach. I’ve got three, since I’m shifting from all Grade 10 History and Civics to all senior courses: U.S. History, Intro Social Sciences, and (drumroll) Grade 12 Writer’s Craft.

Apparently some of the students in there read this blog, so this is sort of a shout-out to them. This Writer’s Craft course is easily my favorite thing to teach. Go figure. If you’re not familiar with the Ontario curriculum, there are very few English electives available, and they rarely have enough interest to run. Writers Craft is essentially our only creative writing course, and covers everything from idea generation to drafting to critical analysis to publishing, but through different lenses than your traditional English course. It’s especially different because, at least at my current school, there’s no creative writing done in any of the mandatory English classes. They focus exclusively on critical analysis and argumentation, which are important, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t bother me that there’s no room for creative expression in the course that every student has to take.

Luckily, though, that makes my course even more of a gem, and I’m lucky enough to have almost a full class (at 26 students, unless I scared more of them away). The first day gave me some insight into where their interests are, and I’m already stoked about the different perspectives and focuses they’re bringing to the course. I’ve got a whole crop of games writers, for example, and a handful of poets, and more interest in how to start and structure a novel than I’d expect. This is gonna be a fun ride, folks, so don’t be surprised if you hear about it occasionally here over the next five months.

What I got up to last week (besides end of semester grading):

  • Revision notes and game plan for my novella-turned-novel
  • Edited an episode of Broadcasts from the Wasteland Season 2
  • Touch-up revisions on a short story for submission
  • Outlined and drafted a 1200-word article on literacy and English Language Learners
  • Brainstorming session on a secret project with Marie Bilodeau and Evan May

Shout-Out of the Week!

On top of describing what I’m working on above, I’m going to start signal boosting friends and colleagues in the industry, or projects I catch wind of that I think deserve more attention. This week I want to give a shout-out to Augur Magazine, currently Canada’s only pro-rate SFF magazine. They’re running a Kickstarter right now to fund their next two years of issues, and while they’re already two-thirds of the way to their goal, there’s still room to donate and a bunch of rewards and stretch goals up for grabs. If you have a little money to throw toward awesome SFF short fiction and poetry, you can check out Augur right here.

Roundup of My Recent Work!

When social media was swarming with not just “what have you done in the last year,” but also “what have you done in the last DECADE” posts, I tuned it all out for various reasons. My mind fixates on the past enough without me doing it on purpose, and honestly those retrospectives have always felt dicey to me (which I discussed a couple posts ago).

That said, since this blog was quiet from March through December, I feel like giving a rundown of everything I got up to in 2019. Partly to collect everything in one place for anyone who likes my work, but also as a reminder to myself that I was actually pretty busy last year, even though it felt slow in terms of releases and big news.

Short Fiction: “Exactly What You Need” in Abyss & Apex

This was my only 2019 short fiction release, but it went way further than I expected. “Exactly” focuses on a bookstore that knows the deepest desire of every customer who comes in – even if they don’t – and the shopkeeper who has to defend everyone inside when one customer pushes that magic too far. It was a neat story to write and it’s

gotten some great feedback from readers. Plus it was selected for The Best of Abyss & Apex Volume 3 AND got mentioned in a Locus review. AND it was one of two A&A stories for 2019 selected by the editors to be nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Hugely grateful to Wendy Delmater Thies and the A&A team for their faith in this story!

New Podcast! Broadcasts from the Wasteland

In the category of things I never thought I’d be doing when I started in this business, I ha

ve a podcast now! Evan May and I are lucky enough to know a lot of other creative types, so we decided to sit down with some of our friends to casually talk fandoms, creative process, and whatever else we think of. We don’t prep any questions or have any specific angles; we’re just hanging with people we know or would like to know better, and inviting you to listen in.

Season One included eight episodes (plus an “Episode Zero” introducing the podcast to the world) with paired guests like Violette Malan and Tanya Huff, Kevin Hearne and

Julie Czerneda, Marie Bilodeau and Jay Odjick, and Matt Moore and Lydia Peever. Then we did three “Escape the Fall” podcasts in September/October. It was so much fun that we’re launching Season Two this spring, and have already recorded episodes with guests like KT Bryski, stormchaser Mark Robinson, and E.L. Chen. Plus we have a #BatmanDuel to open the season – stay tuned!

(Sidebar: If you like Broadcasts, it’s totally eligible for the 2020 Aurora Awards. Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.)

 

Narration for PodCastle

Last minute at Can*Con in October, KT Bryski and Jen Albert asked me to stand in as narrator for a reading of “Franken-Puppy” by Derek Kunsken, a PodCastle Original being recorded live at the con. I’m not busy enough at Can*Con so naturally I said yes, joining a cast made up of Charlotte Ashley, Sylvain Neuvel, Jay Odjick, J.M. Frey and Rati Mehrotra. My first time narrating was a blast, and you can listen to the finished product on PodCastle right here!

Can*Con

Speaking of Can*Con, I did my fourth(?) stint as one of the Programming Leads again this year, for what became our busiest and liveliest event yet. 450 people, a new Science Literacy track, and hosting the Aurora Awards … where Can*Con finally won for Best Fan Organizational!

What is Solarpunk?

Apparently I did a lot of media stuff this year. You’ve likely seen me talking about solarpunk across the Interwebs. If you have no idea what it is, or want to hear more perspectives on this emerging genre, my European colleagues Commando Jugendstil and Tales from the EV Studio put together a video with short clips from a bunch of solarpunk authors – including me! You can check it out here.

Upcoming Stuff: Flame Tree and a comic with Markosia

I had a couple sales that will be released early this year, which involved some behind-the-scenes work through 2019. The first is a reprint of my story “Rainclouds” in Flame Tree Publishing’s A Dying Planet – my first sale with them! Keep an eye out for that probably next month.

The second is my short comic “True Balance,” coming out in the second volume of Flip, an anthology series edited by Jack Briglio for Markosia Press. My comic looks at a world where the old “eye-for-an-eye” concept from Hammurabi is the basis for today’s justice system, and follows a seventh-grader who needs to decide the right punishment for the kid who bullies him. The art by Scott Drummond is amazing, and I’ve been sharing sample pages to get primed for release day. (There might be one more popping later today…)

And I’m pretty sure that’s it! On the sidelines, I’m still writing occasionally for my column on BlackGate.com. I’ve been hard at work with an agent on a novella that’s quickly becoming a novel. Plus drafting and sending around short stories, and a couple super-secret can’t-talk-about-it yet projects that will be really exciting once I can talk about them.

Thanks for continuing to follow my work, and for scoping out anything above if it’s new to you. Stay tuned for more ramblings!

ConFusion 2020!

I promised you an update on everything creative I’ve been up to since March … but unfortunately that’s going to have to wait. Cuz I’ll be at a con next weekend!

I’m super excited to be hitting ConFusion next weekend in Michigan. This will be my third time attending, and I’m on some fabulous panels, plus I’ll be holding a live one-on-one with GoH Kameron Hurley. If you’ve seen a live interview before and you’re thinking, “Meh, I don’t want to sit and watch some guy ask another writer questions,” I totally get it. But I’ve decided this year to go deeper into the Craig Ferguson style of interviewing – research the guest, throw out the questions, and just chat. It’ll be fun, it’ll be casual, and we’ll hopefully dive into things that the average interview doesn’t discuss.

ConFusion has consistently been a blast, and one of the closest analogues I’ve found in the U.S. to what we do at Can*Con. If you’re able to make it, I highly suggest you check it out!

Here’s my full schedule for the weekend:

Ready, Steady, Flash!
Friday 6:00PM Keweenaw
Join Lee Harris for a flash improv panel! Authors will be given five minutes to write a flash piece to a prompt, then will share their work with the audience. Then you do it again with a new prompt until the panel is out of time. Lee Harris (m), Brandon Crilly, Seanan McGuire, Stephanie Malia Morris, Kameron Hurley

How To Train Your Reader
Saturday 10:00AM Manitou
Established authors tend to become known for certain kinds of writing styles, genres, and ideas, which readers come to expect from every work. But how do authors practice this consistency? How do they train readers to look for their specific voice, world-building, characterization, etc, across different works and (sometimes) different genres? How can you use these tricks to keep readers wanting more? Tracy Townsend (m), Dyrk Ashton, Brandon Crilly, Ferrett Steinmetz

Toothless? Making Allies of Villains and Monsters
Saturday 11:00AM Interlochen
“Enemies to Friends” and the “Heel-Face Turn” are two of the most beloved and most common tropes in genre lit, particularly in fan writing. Shuffling characters into new teams between novels or seasons also lets us see characters, often villains or anti-heroes, in a new light. In this panel, we’ll discuss the appeal of seeing what was once horrific or threatening become (relatively) “safe,” the role of “redemption” (if any) in that process, and, of course, both favorite and “failed” Heel-Face turns. Tracy Townsend (m), John Wiswell, Brandon Crilly, Marie Bilodeau

Black Gate Interview with Author GoH Kameron Hurley
Sunday 10:00AM Charlevoix
Join Author GoH Kameron Hurley for a live interview with Black Gate columnist Brandon Crilly, discussing her award-winning novels and her extensive career as an advocate for marginalized voices in SFF and examiner of the genre’s past, present, and future. Brandon Crilly, Kameron Hurley

New Year, New Blog? Okay, Same Blog

Okay, so it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything here. I meant to provide an update in November about everything I’ve been up to, but then I fell into some sort of space-time vortex and it was three days after Christmas. Which means any new post would have to be either a 2019 retrospective or looking ahead to 2020, right?

I’ve seen a lot of my writer friends tweeting or posting that sort of thing over the last few days were those kinds of tweets or posts, sometimes focusing on a recap of the last decade. My immediate reaction every time has been a solid, Fuck that. The absolute last thing I want to do is a retrospective. If I examine the last year, inevitably the brain weasels are going to rehash everything I didn’t accomplish and try to minimize everything I did. Even though, being honest, I’m pretty happy with where I got as of Dec 31, 2019. If I examine the last decade? There’s been plenty of good there, but that would dive into a lot of bad that I’ve chosen not to discuss online, and deliberately leaving those things out in a retrospective feels disingenuous. And my goals and game plan for 2020 (leading up to Can*Con in October, which I’ve decided is my year-end) are for me only, since they get recalibrated every month or two.

That said, I don’t want to wait another month to get this blog going again – then it’ll never happen.

I legit almost wrote just now “so I guess I’ll do a brief, bullet-point list of what I got done in 2019, so you know where I’m at now.” Apparently coming up with an original idea for a blog post in the wake of New Year’s is difficult. (No disrespect to anyone who’s past couple of posts have been New Year-focused. See below.)

Part of my issue, I think, is that I’m not really a New Year’s person. My Nemesis and I (that’s the code name for someone very important behind the scenes) spent our New Year’s Eve ordering pizza and watching Nicolas Cage movies because we thought it would be fun, but really that could be a plan for any weekend when you want to shut the world out. And to my mind, New Year’s isn’t supposed to be about shutting out the world; it’s supposed to be about celebrating, right, either with people in-person or by sending texts when the ball drops? Which has never seemed all that important to me, since the world doesn’t suddenly become a drastically different place on January 1. I totally understand that the New Year is really just a symbol for a lot of people, and it’s wicked if someone can use that as a benchmark or a mental reset to try to improve something about their life. It’s not for me, though. Or what I think it’s supposed to be isn’t for me – but that word “supposed” is pretty loaded, and as someone who doesn’t often like ceremony or tradition, “supposed” shouldn’t carry a lot of weight.

On the topic of the blog, it might be that I’ve been too caught up in what a blog is supposed to be, too. I’ve seen other writers do really cool things with blogs, and really find their “blog voice” or the niche that their blog occupies. My friend Marie Bilodeau has done that recently by turning her blog partly into a narrative recap of our D&D campaign. Authors I’ve started following like Kameron Hurley and Cory Doctorow have clear, distinctive voices and areas they focus on. I’d like to say my issue is that I don’t know what voice this blog should have, but that’s an excuse. I started this blog as purely the unedited, sometimes madcap rambling of a writer who happens to teach, and between gaining greater success as a writer, finding a place in the writing community, and waffling between whether I should talk a lot about the world outside or not at all, I started overthinking my blog and subsequently haven’t posted anything since … good gods, March? How in the hells have I left this blog silent since March???

Well then. With that sobering thought, I’ll remind myself that 2019 was a pretty busy year and let myself off the hook. But this blog is back, dear readers and fellow writers. I don’t have a damn clue what my specific focus will be, but you can expect there to be some balance of discussing my thoughts on being a Writer, a Teacher and a Human. I’ve always liked that tagline.

Now I feel like I owe some of you a recap of what I’ve been up to since March, but let’s save that for an upcoming post. 2019 was a fun year, in many ways. Stay tuned!

Oh, and Happy New Year 🙂

Broadcasts from the Wasteland is now LIVE!

Over the past while you might have seen me discussing a Secret Project with my friend, Can*Con partner-in-crime and master of the “soothing gravitas” Evan May. By which we maybe weren’t too secret about what we were up to, if you read between the lines. So guess what? We’ve put together a podcast!

Broadcasts from the Wasteland is a seasonal podcast hosted by me and Evan, set against the backdrop of a world ruined by some calamity or another (they tend to happen a lot, right? I sometimes lose track.) Our full first season will be eight episodes, each of features the two of us with a couple other writers tied in some way to the National Capital Region. If you’ve been to Can*Con or Ad Astra, you might recognize some of the names on our GUESTS page, including Julie E. Czerneda, Kate Heartfield, Jay Odjick, and Kelly Robson.

What are we talking about? Basically whatever came up as we sat around a table together sharing stories – about our pasts, our careers, the stories we love or hate, what we think about genre or writing or the world, and a bunch of crazy tangents. Much as I like formal interview podcasts, I really wanted Broadcasts to take a different route, echoing the casual, unscripted style favored by one of my favorite comedians, Craig Ferguson. Imagine wandering past a table of writers at a conference, overhearing what they’re gabbing about, and you’ll get an idea of what this podcast is about.

Season 1 officially begins on April 8th – so why are we announcing the podcast now? Because we have some extra content for you! Available right now on our website and Spotify (with iTunes following shortly) is a special Episode Zero, where Evan and I recorded our thoughts and hopes for Broadcasts before we ever sat down with our guests. Did we succeed in what we wanted? Are we crazy for even trying this? You have my blessing to check out Episode Zero, dive into Season One when it drops, and then let us know.

One last thing: putting this podcast together wouldn’t be possible without the assistance of one of my best friends, the irreplaceable (and terrifying) Marie Bilodeau, who helped us put together our web platform, provided guidance as our project came together, and continues to cheer us on and support us. Thank you, Marie! Also a huge thank you to all of our guests for agreeing to take part in the madness and trust us to put together a good show, and to the Ottawa writing community, whose camaraderie and warmth inspired me to reach out to Evan in the first place.

Check out Episode Zero using the link above, and as you’ll hear me and Evan say in the forthcoming season: we look forward to reaching you with our next Broadcast from the Wasteland.

This Weekend @ ConFusion!

You might have seen me discussing on social media that this weekend I’ll be returning to ConFusion, the Detroit area’s annual conference for fans and writers of science fiction and fantasy. I had an amazing time last year and I’m really stoked to head back. Below is where you can find me on programming, but I’ll be around the conference area all weekend 🙂

Saturday 7 pm – Allen Park Room – To the Pain: On Making Characters Struggle

Sometimes you can’t kill your protagonists outright … but you can definitely put them through a lot. How do writers use different kinds of “pain” to craft better stories around their characters? At what point does a writer push their characters too much? And is it possible to create tension and conflict with minimal struggle? Tracy Townsend (m), Brandon Crilly, Angus Watson, Dan Wells

Saturday 8 pm – Erie Room – Inconceivable! Establishing Narrative Credibility in SFF

The best science fiction and fantasy is often based around bizarre, alien worlds or premises, but these always need to be relatable to the reader. How do writers make the incredible credible? What effective tricks do we see our favorite authors pulling off, and which ones don’t work on us as readers? Tracy Townsend (m), Marie Bilodeau, Brandon Crilly, Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Angus Watson

Sunday 10 am – Michigan Room – Black Gate Magazine Interviews GoH Ada Palmer

Black Gate columnist and author Brandon Crilly sits down for a live interview with Pro GoH Ada Palmer to discuss Terra Ignota, mythology, philosophy and looking ahead to the future.

If you’ll be there, give me a shout and come say hi! Looking forward to another excellent ConFusion!