Awards Eligibility!

Hello there!

I’ve been scant on here again (which I imagine folks can understand, given, you know, everything) but I wanted to tip my toe in here to roundup my 2020 creations. If you’re reading/reviewing for the Auroras, Nebulas, etc (including the Eisner Awards – eep!) here’s my eligible work. Thanks in advance for taking a look!

If you’d like more regular updates from me, I’ve revived my newsletter, with another one coming later this month. That will see more activity, and you can sign up via the link on the right-hand side of this page.

Comic: “True Balance”
Published in Flip Volume 2 from Markosia Press (art by Scott Drummond)
What would present-day Canada look like if everyone believed in justice by “eye for an eye?” Middle school student Damir is told he needs to decide a punishment for a cyberbully but doesn’t know what to do, so he talks to his parents, friends and social media for advice. But what does he decide?

Check out a review of “True Balance” on Bleeding Fool and my interview with True North Country Comics.

Podcast: Broadcasts from the Wasteland
Evan May and I had a blast recording Season 2 this past year, even though our finale plans were dashed by COVID-19 lockdowns. Even so, we hosted a bunch of phenomenal guests, including Marie Bilodeau, Amal el-Mohtar, stormchaser Mark Robinson, CBC Ottawa’s Alan Neal, E.L. Chen, and KT Bryski. Plus an epic BATMAN DUEL between myself and author/podcaster Erin Rockfort!

Related Work: No One’s Alone Reading Series
Early in this pandemic, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant and I were missing reading events and gathering with our community. We reached out to a bunch of authors to organize a pre-recorded reading night, MC’d by yours truly and edited by Adam, to help fill the initial void of events as we all locked down. I’ll be honest, it only dawned on us later that we’d created a Thing! Features readings by Julie E. Czerneda, Kari Maaren, Zig Zag Claybourne, Phoebe Barton, Dan Stout, Kate Heartfield and more.

Wow, It’s Been a Spell, Hasn’t It?

Hey there, fellow creatives! Did you forget I have a blog? I might have.

Honestly, amid everything going on in Canada and the rest of the world, this blog definitely fell into the category of “non-essential.” Part of that was my own bandwidth, and the fact that the past seventeen months or whatever (has that joke gotten tired yet?) stretched even my ability to remain upbeat and positive sometimes.

Part of the problem is:  what in the hells do I talk about here? Especially on topics that others are speaking about much more eloquently (like COVID-19), or topics where my role is to listen and signal boost (like Black Lives Matter) or topics that I have very little stake in personally as it hurts people I know (like recent news around folks like Myke Cole). Also this blog was never meant to contribute  to the ongoing doom-scrolling and commenting on said doom-scrolling that I totally never fall into (or the collective burnout we’re experiencing, according to this Medium article my friend Tracy Townsend shared).

The other problem is that I’ve been very lucky compared to other folks. I’m safe and healthy, my loved ones are safe and healthy, and I’m fortunate to live somewhere that right now has few COVID-19 cases due to lockdowns and social distancing. (That doesn’t mean I like seeing busy patio bars downtown, mind you.) My only major source of stress has been teaching, in the sense that the necessary Learn from Home here in Ontario wasn’t nearly as fun or useful or productive as teaching in a classroom. Admittedly that’s because I’m an energy vampire who needs to feed off a live audience, and staring at a Google Meet of faceless avatars doesn’t allow me to take full advantage of my Encyclopedia Britannica/David Copperfield/Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson model of teaching. But now the school year is done and hopefully a) things will be safe enough to do at least a hybrid teaching model in September and b) everyone’s realized that promoting more mandatory online courses is a terrible idea, which isn’t surprising since it comes from a Ministry run by someone who understands fuck-all about education, and passed the buck on coming up with that September plan mentioned a few lines above.

Oops, I got political there for a second.

Courtesy of circumstantial luck, I’ve managed to be pretty productive creatively, which I’ve also hesitated to talk about because I know a lot of people aren’t amid amid lockdowns and social upheaval. But it’s the truth, mostly because losing myself in a project is one of my best coping strategies. I managed to finish the draft of a novel, which has been sent out somewhere Very Important (sorry for the vaguebooking), and yesterday I dove back into Different Novel Rewrite, with the hope of getting that done by end of summer. I’ve had some releases and public appearances, too; for anyone who’s curious, there’s some links below, which is as much self-promotion as I feel is appropriate today.

The thing I’m trying to maintain the most between creating and teaching is signal boosting other amazing creatives whose work people should check out. That’s most of what I do on Twitter, besides madcap arguments with my Can*Con teammates and geeking out over stuff, to try to put some more positivity into the hellscape. If you want to see more regular updates from me, please follow me there, but I’ll try to post occasionally here for those of you who follow this blog. In the meantime, hope you’re keeping safe and well, and that we’ll one day meet again in something akin to Spaceballs II: The Search for More Money.

Links to What I’ve Been Up To!

  • Season 2 of Broadcasts from the Wasteland, my podcast with Evan May, just concluded! We had a blast chatting with a bunch of guests, including a Batman Duel with Erin Rockfort.
  • Broadcasts was also nominated for an Aurora Award – and voting is open now! Full details here, and any support/signal boosting would be appreciated! Voting closes July 25th.
  • My short story “Rainclouds” was reprinted in A Dying Planet Short Stories (Flame Tree Press). You can learn more about the anthology here. Plus Flame Tree is spotlighting the contributors on social media.
  • A couple other appearances that you can go watch on YouTube: the first ever online version of Lee Harris’s Ready, Steady, Flash game, feat. myself, Tina Connolly, Paul Cornell and Sienna Tristen. Flash fiction written on the spot via audience suggestions! In addition, we’ve posted two interviews from the Before Times, where I chatted with Charlie Jane Anders and Kameron Hurley.
  • I had the pleasure of taking part in Pulp Literature’s Friday reading series a couple weeks ago, reading from my story “Clearing Out Nests,” about the ghoulish side of gentrification.
  • And last but certainly not least, Adam Shaftoe-Durrant and I put together the No One’s Alone Reading Series, an audio production to fill the void left by various literary events that have been cancelled due to COVID-19. You can listen to the full production here, which includes readings by folks like Marie Bilodeau, Kelly Robson, ZZ Claybourne and Dan Stout.

 

So Trying to Write Non-Linear Was a Mistake

What’s funny about our writing process is that somehow it always changes. Even if you have a consistent, comfortable way of working, every project is different, which means sometimes you’ll tweak your process. I haven’t written every short story the same way. Sometimes I need to do a bunch of outlining before I start draft 1. Sometimes I write a bit then realize I have to go back and prep more. My flash fiction tends to come out in one go, whereas even a 2000-word story will sometimes take weeks to draft.

For longer fiction, though, I think I might have finally figured out one thing for sure: I have to write linear.

For this novella-to-novel project, I started off making a bunch of notes on what flashback scenes to add, where I can expand my “A” plot, some character sketch work on things I hadn’t considered, and then spent time trying to figure out where to start. Since I’m not entirely sure where each of my flashback scenes will fit, I figured I could write those first, then expand my “A” plot, and then I’d know the right places to add the flashbacks in. So I picked a flashback scene I thought I knew really well, which will end up becoming one of the emotional tent poles for the novel, and started drafting.

Those 7000 words are done now, but fuck me they were a slog to write. Which was weird, because I know my characters, I know how this moment in the past affected them, and I had an outline for what happened in that moment. But finding the heart of that scene in those 7000 words was really hard, and I couldn’t figure out why.

Naturally I spiraled a little bit afterward, with the usual thoughts like Was taking on this project a huge mistake? and Maybe I’m just a hack and I should stick to short fiction. I had no idea what scene to write next, since none of them were speaking to me. But I need to keep working on this thing, so I decided to go back to page one and start reading, to see if something jumped out at me. No joke, I get partway through my old Chapter 2 and realize exactly what scene needs to be added there (not a flashback). I write that scene, and I keep reading, and sure enough at the end of Chapter 3 my gut tells me exactly what flashback needs to go in there, which is what I started writing next.

There are a bunch of cliched metaphors to describe this process I’ve gone through, but the important thing is that I finally figured out how to write this gorram novel. I figure by the end of this new first draft I’ll have to go back and pad things – I don’t like overly long descriptions in fantasy, which is sometimes a problem when you’re trying to hit a certain word count – but for now, I’ve got a path and procedure to move forward.

No one ever let me try to write non-linear again.

What I did this week:

  • Finished a press release for True Balance (comic) and started sending out
  • Recorded two episodes for Broadcasts from the Wasteland Season 2, including the fabled #BatmanDuel
  • Edited and uploaded a previous Season 2 episode
  • About 2500 words on the novella-to-novel project, not including outline notes

Shout-Out of the Week

Guess who has a new book out? It’s Marie Bilodeau! Her second Guild of Shadows book, Hell Bent, dropped on Amazon and elsewhere as a fancy new eBook. The series centers on a devilish assassin named Tira as she navigates a world that’s largely out to kill her, and her own impulse to make poor life choices. (Wait, that might be Marie’s D&D character…) If this whole series is news to you, learn more about book one, Hell Born, in the link above.