Category Archives: Bonhomme Sept-Heures

Review

Robin Riopelle, author of Deadroads:  A Novel of Supernatural Suspense, has written a delightful review of Bonhomme Sept-Heures here.

It was a great pleasure to be on a panel with Robin at the Limestone Genre Expo last summer and I’m even more pleased that she enjoyed my story.

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Bonhomme Sept-Heures

Last weekend, I launched another one.

Saturday night was the official coming-out party for my new novel, Bonhomme Sept-Heures. My publishers put on a wonderful launch party with several other local artists in downtown Ottawa, there was an amazing turnout, and the evening was fantastic. People listened to me read a selection from the book, some of them decided they wanted my story and took it home with them.

Some very keen people have even already finished it, and told me how they liked it. There’s no better feeling, as a writer, to have someone say that they would like to sit down with a story you wrote. It really doesn’t matter, to me, whether they say it directly, or just through the implication of taking my book home with them. It is a wonderful validation to have created something, and have someone say ‘yes please’. I imagine that’s true for every artist.

There is also that vulnerability that I talked about a couple weeks back – where people may read it, and decide they don’t like it, but right now I’m not feeling too much of that. I’m mostly just excited to have the story out where people can read it (which is really what stories are for) and give it a home in their imaginations. I’m sure I will hear some criticisms – which I am mostly glad to get, since it means someone read my story and thought about it – but for now I’m just enjoying it leaving the nest.

The launch itself was a splendid experience, too, of course. Again it was great to be in a room full of writers and readers and to feed off all that excitement for stories and enjoy the craft of other artists. We obviously can’t always be surrounded by people who agree with our passions, but it’s certainly a treat and a reward when it’s possible to grab it. I’m very grateful for all of these times.

Finally, I feel like this all reinforces the creative process on the next project. Even though what I’m working on now is a different set of characters and quite a different sort of story than my first two books feature, having this reminder of the payoff for getting it done and getting it out to an audience is fantastic incentive. I already can’t wait for my next story to be ready for people to read. It’s going to take a while.

Next week I will probably have something a bit more thoughtful for you. This week I’m watching Bonhomme Sept-Heures take flight. Thanks for reading.

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(Thanks to Rohit Saxena for the photo)

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I’d be delighted if you wanted to give Bonhomme Sept-Heures a try yourself. I made the story the best I could and I’d love to know what you think of it. You can order the book from Amazon (as well as several other major online retailers), you can buy it direct from the Renaissance Press website here, and you can ask for your favourite local bookstore to order it in for you. It will (of course) also be available at any of the events Renaissance Press attends from this point onwards, and I’ll keep you updated about those as they come up.

There’s one minor wrinkle at the moment as the paperback edition isn’t available on Amazon.ca – it is on all the other versions of Amazon, but because of how Amazon handles the different versions of itself there’s a delay with the Canadian one. It will be available there shortly and I’ll update you when it is.

I greatly appreciate everyone who spends some of their reading time on my stories. I hope you’ll like Bonhomme Sept-Heures and I really do look forward to hearing what you thought about it.

You can now also read an excerpt from the story under the ‘Books’ tab here.

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Momentum

I have hit what I feel to be a key moment in the new WIP, and that it has generated some critical kind of creative momentum. It is now spontaneously generating ideas, or at least that’s how it seems to me. What I mean is that even when I’m not sitting down for Writing Time and deliberately focusing on the book, scenes and scraps of dialogue will pop into my head. I think of it as my imaginary people demanding to have their story told. Both of the novels that I’ve written to completion had stages where they went this way, when the ideas started coming whether I wanted them or not.

I am not in the least complaining. Having the ideas behind the work (if not always the actual writing down of the ideas) coming easily is a wonderful way to feel, especially in contrast to the times when I can’t seem to drag a sentence out of me. This means that even with a relatively full schedule these days, I am making significant progress with a story that I’m genuinely excited about. It is, perhaps, just a tiny bit frustrating when I get a great idea for how to do a scene when I’m meant to be writing a lecture, or a nice exchange of dialogue pops into my head right when I need to be going to sleep.

This phenomenon is interesting at the same time as it is frustrating – although I think of these unsolicited, unprompted ideas being the story writing itself, or the characters telling me their story, obviously it is all coming from me and there aren’t really any other minds or entities at work, but it really doesn’t feel that way when, as I said above, something about a character pops into my head while I’m trying to concentrate on something else.

No doubt a psychologist or someone who understands the physical processes of the brain would know exactly what’s going on here. I doubt I’m the only one who experiences moments like this, when the brain starts firing up thoughts and conclusions on a topic other than whatever we were intending to be focused on at the moment. Certainly I know it happens to me involving things other than writing – thinking about things that I would really prefer to forget, or put aside, that I not only haven’t chosen to focus on but would absolutely choose not to focus on, if I could. Those last can be especially frustrating, particularly when you remember the times when you couldn’t get ideas on something you were interested in. It seems like your brain is being contrary – no, you can’t have what you want, but here’s a bunch of stuff you definitely don’t want.

I don’t really understand why thinking works this way, at times, but ultimately even though I find it frustrating at times, in the end I don’t mind. For one thing, I would never want to do anything that might disrupt my ability to create new ideas to write about, so if it has to be an erratic and nebulous process, I can live with that. If I’m honest, I also kind of enjoy the thought of my characters telling me about themselves and explaining their stories to me, so even if rationally I know that it’s just me talking to myself, I’ll happily pretend to believe in the illusion instead.

I’m not sure how to assess the times when some of these revelations are (or at least seem) genuinely surprising to me – I honestly do have ‘oh, I didn’t know that would happen’ moments thinking through plots and scenes, or ‘wow, ok, I hadn’t realized that about them’ realizations about some of my characters. It does make it seem like there’s a part of my mind operating outside my supervision, which is both fun and slightly disturbing. Again, I know there’s a rational explanation in there somewhere, but I doubt knowing it would really affect the experience, and those revelations can be very exciting, so I think I’ll keep them.

Anyway. However things are happening, at the moment they’re flowing well and I feel like I can have a complete or complete-ish draft of the next book by the springtime, and perhaps spend the summer trying to find a home for it. I know there will be tougher stages ahead so I’m trying to just enjoy the ride for now.

That’s what I’ve got for you this week – thanks for reading.

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As much as I’m excited about my new project, this Saturday is the launch for Bonhomme Sept-Heures! If you’re in the Ottawa area it would be great to see you at the huge event Renaissance Press is doing for my book and seven other local artists. Details here.

If you can’t make it to the launch, watch this space for details on how else you can get your hands on a copy. I’m really looking forward to sharing this one with you.

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Can*Con 2016

This past weekend was Can*Con in Ottawa, which is our annual convention for readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy, horror and erotica. It is steadily growing both in terms of the stature of the guests who attend and the number of people who sign up for a weekend’s worth of discussion on the literature they love. It will also always be special to me because it was a Can*Con pitch session that got me connected with my publisher for The King in Darkness, and being able to see my first novel in print.

As always it was fantastic to get to spend a couple of days really feeling like a writer: participating in thoughtful discussions about both how to write and things we enjoy reading, meeting loads of awesome people who are deeply into the same stuff that I’m deeply into, and talking about my own writing to people who didn’t immediately look shifty and scurry away sideways. Especially when writing often has to be crammed into whatever time can be stolen here and there from jobs that pay the bills and the practicalities of life, it can be easy to feel like your writing isn’t very significant. It’s amazing to have a few days where writing gets to be The Thing and to have your passion validated. I always come away from Can*Con very excited to get to work on new projects. Project. One project at a time, like a sane person.

So that feeling was great to have again, but this Can*Con also felt very different because this was the first year that I was part of the organization team, which is also getting larger as the con (and therefore the work involved in setting it up) expands. This added a whole new level to the experience. In addition to everything else, I was also getting chairs where we needed chairs and hastily creating signs and helping lost souls find the con suite – and also getting to meet all of our guests in a slightly different way than previous years. Getting to (even briefly) say hi to Ed Greenwood was pretty cool. More than anything, this all made me appreciative of the work that goes into putting on an event like Can*Con in a way that I hadn’t really understood before; we started actively planning this soon after the New Year and had basically been working steadily at it ever since. It was great to see all that work turn into the event itself and to watch people enjoying themselves with what we’d put together.

Now I also need to lie down.

All of the discussions I went to were interesting – I was part of talks on epic fantasy, the nature of monsters (which will lead to a radical change to my current WIP), the portrayal of medieval culture in fantasy, the financial side of writing, and Shakespeare in science fiction, and all of them gave me a lot to think about. The one that I’ve been going back over in my mind over and over, though, was the panel on adapting SFF for TV or movies, which (to be honest) I mostly went to because Jay Odjick panels are always awesome.

Now, in all honesty I’m extremely unlikely to have to worry about the things that go into having something I wrote adapted for film (although, as we saw last week, I do think that would be pretty rad), but one of the things that all of the panelists said (including Tanya Huff and our agent guest of honour Sam Morgan) got the Mind Gears going. Basically they said that if your work is being adapted into another format, those writers are going to change basically everything (Tanya Huff was invited to write an episode of the series that was adapted from her book Blood Ties, and they kept six lines of the dialogue she had written) and that, as a writer, you should be fine with this because they’re giving you a cheque, and your original work is of course unchanged.

I gotta say, that makes a solid amount of sense. Stephen King got asked about whether he was upset about what Hollywood had done to some of his books, and famously replied that ‘no, the books are fine, they’re right there on the shelf’. I admire that. I also know that deep inside my bizarre little writer’s heart, I would be screaming at the top of my lungs about something I wrote being changed. It’s my story. These are my characters. I wrote them this way for a reason, you don’t get to just change them around. Or, if you do, it’s not my story any more, and let’s not pretend that it is. (As an example, one ‘change’ suggested by a reader of King in Darkness was that the main character Adam should ‘get together’ with Sophia. Sophia is gay. Adam is at least twice her age. If that change got made to the story, I would be really upset. And yet, ‘add a romance!’ seems like a pretty probable move.)

I really do get the ‘yes, but cheque!’ argument, as well as the one that everyone knows that film writers change everything and so nobody really connects a film version to the writer in any significant way. It’s probably ok if the screaming is on the inside. So I do get that, and understand Sam Morgan’s comment that if a client of his was upset about changes being made to an adaptation of their work, he’d smack them (because: cheque!), but I also know that at least some part of me would be deeply unhappy with the whole deal. It’s probably just as well that this is a moot point and that probably no-one will ever want to make a movie out of King in Darkness, is one takeaway.

The other is that it’s remarkable how much ownership creators (because I don’t think I’m the only one) feel over their imaginary people and their stories, and how emotionally invested we are with the pretend worlds we’ve brought into being. I do write my stories the way I do for reasons that I think are good, and because (as I mentioned in an earlier entry) I feel like I know these characters so well, it seems wrong to just arbitrarily change them. It’s part of why creating art is so risky, because you really do put a piece of yourself out there for the world to look at. (That’s also part of why it’s great, when people look at it and say that they liked it.)

However, I should know from my history studies that stories don’t belong to anyone, or rather they belong to everyone. Stories that survive almost any length of time at all get constantly rewritten and changed and done over again to suit the needs of different audiences and to express the values and priorities of different cultural moments in time. King Arthur and Robin Hood and (more recently) characters like Batman and Sherlock Holmes change and change again as writers and readers who love them want to do something new with them or make the story work for their time and place. It is, really, a wonderful compliment to a creator to say that you want to take something they came up with and adapt it and give it a new kind of life.

So maybe I really would be ok with someone rewriting my stuff to film it.

Once the screaming died down.

And on that cheerful note, I want to use this space to thank everyone who was part of Can*Con and helped make it such a great weekend. We had amazing panelists, really enthusiastic and thoughtful audiences, and our volunteers were outstanding. All of the other members of the organizational team – Marie Bilodeau, Nicole Lavigne, and Brandon Crilly (who was programming’s Batman to my Robin) did fantastic work. I also want to especially thank co-chair Derek Künsken for inviting me onto the team and letting me be a part of it all.

Already looking forward to next year.

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Some of you may have noticed a sudden lapse in running-related entries on here. Many of you probably said ‘oh thank God’. In case you were curious, though, the reason is that I have had only the second significant injury I’ve suffered as a runner this summer and have shut things down for the season. The plan is to spend the winter getting strong and have a great season next year.

This has been surprisingly difficult, though, both because running is a stress-buster for me and has very much been part of my routine for years, and also because (as I’ve talked about previously) I do a lot of writing in my head while running, and all of that is currently lost. I also had to admit a little while ago that there was no way I could do the race I had planned for the end of the month, and just let that go.

In a way though that’s another useful lesson to come out of running that I think applies to writing as well. It’s good to set goals for yourself and to push yourself to achieve them, and to try to set standards that you need to live up to in terms of amounts of work getting done or having something finished by a certain time. That helps with organization and time management and making sure that you’re making your writing a priority.

There are also times, though, when things are just out of your hands and you have to let one of those goals go, and that’s ok. I couldn’t do anything about this injury, and it’s ok, and I will be back running when I can and I’ll hit the next goal. Sometimes the equivalent will happen with writing, and something won’t get done on time, and that’s ok.

Setting goals is only useful if it makes you better, not if it just turns into another stick to beat yourself up with.

Letting go is ok.

That’s what I’ve got for this week, except that if you’re going to be in Ottawa on Saturday, October 29th, you should definitely come to the Renaissance Press launch event for Bonhomme Sept-Heures and seven (seven!) other authors and creators, at the 3 Brewers pub at 240 Sparks St. It will go from about 5 to around 7, and there will be reading from all the authors, prizes, and probable tomfoolery. It would be great to see you there.

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Cinematics

Several things to throw at you today!

First, I recently joined a local writers’ group and it has already been fantastic in motivating me to keep working on the current WIP (so I have something to bring to circle) and our conversations have been really interesting as well. For anyone trying to improve as a writer, I strongly recommend seeking out a group to work with. As is often the case, the internet is probably your friend here, and I really think it will help your writing.

In any case, the group I have joined had some really useful feedback on my current project and one of the conversations we had also got me thinking about something I thought I’d write about on the blog today.  We were talking about what does and doesn’t work as an opener to a piece, and a lot of the discussion kept returning to the framework of ‘if this was a movie, then…’.  I think because film (under which umbrella I am sticking movies, TV, and whatever the label is for things ‘broadcast’ through places like Netflix) must be the context we experience most of our stories through, we tend to use it as a default to think about stories in other contexts.  I also think it very likely affects us as artists working in other mediums.

I hadn’t really articulated it before but I do frequently think of scenes in my writing in terms of how they would work if filmed – or at least, as much as I am capable of doing so with absolutely no background in film at all. I don’t really know anything about how to set up a shot or what the terminology is or even why film directors do things the way they do; I’ve just seen end products that I’ve thought were very cool and they’ve influenced me in terms of what I like to create and given me a sort of framework for how I imagine the story I’m creating might unfold.

So, in my mind, the prologue bit of the WIP would be one long scene, then there would be a credit sequence (because of course), and then fade in to the opening of Chapter One. We’ve been debating whether the prologue needs to stay or not, and one of the reasons I think it does is that I like that idea of a pre-credits scene to sort of whet the audience’s appetite and let them know what kind of show they’re in for.

In fairness, I also think it introduces my main character in a kind of cool way and hits some of the main beats about her without a big wodge of exposition, while also bringing in the setting and hinting at the main plot line a bit. So, I think it does have genuine merit from a literary point of view, but I’d be lying if I said the film scene justification wasn’t in there too.

I imagine somewhere lurking around in there is the thought that it would be awfully cool to see something of mine filmed at some point in the future, but I don’t think that’s the only reason. Film gives its own particular framework to stories, and the cuts from shot to shot can really regulate the mood and tension of the piece (he said from a more or less uniformed standpoint). A director or a film studies person could dig into this much better than I can, but suffice to say that I like to try to do some of that with my written stuff, too. This is also the reason for a lot of scene breaks in early versions of my manuscripts that sometimes baffle and/or annoy my readers and editors – the reason they’re there is because it’s where I imagine that there would be a cut to a new shot. Or a commercial break. (Seriously)

It is kind of paradoxical, though, because (as I’ve written about here before) I don’t really tend to put huge amounts of careful visual description into my writing. I like to let the reader fill in a lot of the scene from their own imagination based on the parameters I give them. So, even though I know exactly how every scene in the book looks in my mind, I’m not sure it’s useful to give all of that detail to the reader, especially as I don’t find reading reams of description a particular pleasure myself.

So, a lot of the ‘works like a film’ part ends up being an internal process for me and I’m really not sure how much it comes across in the finished work. I can see it, but I know that it’s supposed to be there. I guess I’m not sure if it actually makes what I write work better or even differently, but it is part of the engine of creation that ends up with words on the page, so (perhaps due to inherent laziness, superstition, contentment with the results, or some blend of the above) I just kind of roll with it.

Again, none of this is advice (because I don’t write advice) but perhaps some of that will be interesting to any of you who are working on your own writing. I do think it’s sometimes useful to reflect about my process as an artist and think about what works, what maybe doesn’t work so well, and at least recognize my strengths and vulnerabilities as a writer so that I can play to the former and try to compensate for the latter.

Thanks for being a sounding board.

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By way of updates: The final set of edits on Bonhomme Sept-Heures were completed late last week and I am currently going through the proofs before the book is sent to print. I could not be more excited that the book is this close to coming out – should be ready to come your way by October!

This weekend is also Can*Con here in Ottawa, and as a member of the programming team I’m both fired up and very proud about the weekend we’ve put together for you. It is not too late to register and come out for what should be a great 2 1/2 days of workshops and discussions about SFF, horror, and comics writing, and some awesome opportunities to meet people who are both established and up-and-comers in the field. There are spots left in all of the workshops Friday afternoon, and even though online registration for many of the sessions is now closed, you will be able to sign up at the registration desk, so there’s still time to get in on everything! Check out the program here, and if you want to listen to my friend Brandon Crilly and I talk about Can*Con and why we think you should come, you can listen to a radio interview we did about it last Thursday right here. I’m really looking forward to it and you should definitely come.

Finally, but far from least important: I got confirmation this week that Renaissance Press will be at the Word on the Street festival in Toronto this year, and I will be able to attend! I’m thrilled to be able to bring my work to such a massive event and looking forward to being a part of things throughout one of the biggest days in literature in Canada. Renaissance Press will have a table in the Fringe Beat section, and I will be there throughout the day. I’m very excited to get to meet some new people, so come say hello!

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My Companion

So this week I’m going to write about my oldest, constant companion. It is both a wonderful gift and, at times, a trial, but even in the moments when it drives me crazy I also know I wouldn’t change it if I could. This companion of mine, always with me even in moments when it might be best if it wasn’t, is my imagination.

(This is going to be one of those kind of weird mind-rambly entries, so buckle up and/or bail out)

I have always – or at least, as long as I can remember – had a very active imagination. I’m not sure whether a good imagination is something one is born with, or learns to have, although I do know some people don’t have them. I grew up in a house with a very good example of that: my father has basically no imagination. (I write this secure in the confidence that he will never read this blog.) My dad never reads fiction because he can’t get past the part where the people don’t exist and the events never happened. I guess he just doesn’t see why he should spend any time on things that aren’t real. (Which is, to be completely fair, a solidly practical point of view on things) Even though he is deeply, deeply fascinated by World War Two, my mother failed to get him interested in a historical novel about a fictional WWII fighter squadron, because again: not real. Even though you could hardly have tailored a book more specifically to my father’s particular interests, I don’t believe he ever finished it. (I did. It was ok.) (I will read almost any book that isn’t actually on fire)

So I know some people don’t have much of an imagination, and therefore (I assume) not much of an imaginary life. I don’t know exactly where mine came from, whether through the genetic slot machine or learned behaviour – my mother always encouraged me to read and was immensely tolerant of imaginary games that routinely took over big parts of the house – but I have it now and again, for the most part, I regard it as a tremendous gift that I cherish.

I guess it isn’t a huge surprise that a fiction writer has a good imagination, and of course that’s where all the strange things I scribble down come from. A lot of times (as I think I’ve discussed in previous blogs) some fragment of the real world gets plucked up (for whatever reason) by my consciousness and dipped into my imagination before becoming part of a story. But obviously, it all comes from there or through there and as I love to write and increasingly love to share my stories with other people my imagination something I simply could not do without.

It has also given me a wonderful escape from the world and my problems throughout my life. It’s easy for me to wander off into a place that doesn’t exist and explore that for a while when the planet is too stressful or too disappointing or too thoroughly awful to deal with for a while. It’s a great coping mechanism and also just vastly entertaining; growing up I had space explorations and dinosaur Olympics and scientific expeditions and much more all without needing to go anywhere at all. It has let me go places and do things that I’m pretty confident no-one else ever has.

I think in some ways having a good imagination made me reasonably self-sufficient, because I’m very good at keeping myself amused and keeping myself company, or at least conjuring up imaginary people to keep me company. That’s also been a great gift, at times. I also wonder whether being able to spend so much time engaged with my own imaginings, and therefore not needing to interact with actual real people as much, helped make me into the rather shy person I am today. Probably the two things reinforce each other.

There are times when my imagination is not helpful. It has made me an elite world-class worrier. I can think of roughly 1000 worst-case scenarios for any situation or any decision, and experience them in gruesome detail. I can usually think of very, very many possible outcomes to any course of action I might want to take, which is sometimes good, but sometimes also leads to ‘analysis paralysis’ as I pause and consider all the various ways (some not good) that something might work out before doing it. There are times in my life where I know my imagination, and the many maybe-future roads it let me see, led me to wait and wait and wait before doing something, because I wasn’t sure how it would work out, and then the moment to do it was gone and will never come back.

It’s at times like these, or when I am lying awake in the night considering the 437th way that That Thing I Said will lead, inexorably, to my demise, that I can get very frustrated with my imagination, and wish it had an ‘off’ switch or at least a volume button. I have, in these moments, even tried negotiating with my imagination (look, can you cool it for a few hours so I can Get Things Done and then we’ll get right into it) but it is, I am sure, an inherently irrational thing and so they never work out.

In the end, though, if forced to choose I know I wouldn’t change it, at all. My imagination has been my companion for as long as I can remember, and it has made my life an endless amazing, fabulous, and deeply odd place. I’m grateful in many different ways for that, and can only hope it continues on for all the years ahead.

However many there are.

(Don’t start, you.)

That’s what I’ve got for you this week. Thanks for reading.

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In case you have somehow failed to notice the approximately 500 times I have announced this already, here is the cover for my upcoming novel, Bonhomme Sept-Heures.  There’s a blurb for it over in the ‘Books’ section of the blog as well if you’d like to give that a read.

I’m very excited about it and to have the book ready for you to read later in the fall.

bonhomme kindle cover

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Cover Reveal: Bonhomme Sept-Heures

I’m very excited to be able to reveal the cover for my next novel, Bonhomme Sept-Heures.  I think Renaissance Press has done another amazing job and I really love the look of this cover – I hope you like it as well.

bonhomme real final cover(1).jpg

The book should be ready to share with you later in the fall.  I’m looking forward to that very much.

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Bonhomme Sept-Heures

This week I have some exciting news: a few days ago, I received confirmation that Renaissance Press will publish Bonhomme Sept-Heures, the sequel to my first novel, The King in Darkness. I can tell you that having a second novel accepted for publication is just about as thrilling as the first time around. I imagine it’s inevitable, given the amount of time that goes into writing a manuscript, to put some emotional investment in there as well, and so the ‘yes’ to the piece of art is a ‘yes’ to a little piece of the soul as well. Given my own ever-present doubts about my own work, too, it’s wonderful to have a pat on the back from people who take books very seriously and have them tell me that they think mine is good.

Of course now there is a great deal of work to do to get ready to share the story with all of you; the next months will be filled with editing the manuscript so that it will show its best when it arrives in your hands. Having been through the process once, I now have a better idea of exactly how much labour there is to be done, and how much of a team effort it really is between the author and the editors. I think I may already have told the story here about how I didn’t expect there to be too much work to be done on King in Darkness after my own rewrites and feedback from the Eager Volunteers, and then I got thirty pages of notes from the first editor. It was a bit sobering, it was enlightening, and the book was very much better as a result.

At the same time, I am thinking of writing the Next Thing and hoping to regain momentum on my new project. I’d still like to have a first draft of it done by summer’s end, although somehow we are now already in June and I’m not sure it’s possible. I’ll have to see how it goes.

For now, thank you to everyone who has already read some or all of Bonhomme Sept-Heures and has helped me get it this far. Your ideas and your encouragement made it possible to make the story as good as it is and I am tremendously grateful. I’m also pre-emptively grateful to the editors at Renaissance who will be working with me over the next few months; I apologize in advance for the length of some of the sentences.

I don’t yet know when Bonhomme Sept-Heures will be released, although obviously I’ll keep you updated as the process goes on. I’m excited for you to read it, but I also want to make sure it’s worthy of your time when it gets to you. One final thanks today to everyone who read King in Darkness and told me that you wanted to read what happens next; the response to the first part of Adam Godwinson’s story was really encouraging and gratifying and I hope you’ll enjoy the next part just as much.

I look forward to putting the story in your hands and hearing what you think about it.

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This past weekend I was interviewed on the Sunday Morning Coffee podcast by my friend Scott Gardiner; although it is no longer Sunday morning, I’m pretty sure he’d still be all right with you giving it a listen. We talked about writing, my early experiences in publishing, and how goddamn old I am now. You can find the episode on iTunes or from the SMC website here.

Just like with your favourite authors, if you enjoy the podcast, it would be a great help if you left a review on iTunes.

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FINISH IT

I try not to put too much on here that might be construed as Advice, primarily because I don’t really think I am in any away accomplished enough to be telling other artists how to do their thing. On the other hand, as you may have seen on Twitter, I recently finished writing Bonhomme Sept-Heures, the sequel to King in Darkness, and I thought I’d write a little about that process briefly today. I think it’s useful for me to get my thoughts about it down and perhaps someone will read them and find them useful.

As you may recall from previous entries, I got more than a little behind schedule writing this thing. Originally I had hoped to have a full draft by the end of November, and for a while it looked like that was going to happen. Then Life Intervened, and ‘hey, this is going to work’ turned into ‘there’s no way this is going to work’. That derailed me, or if I was already derailed, pushed the locomotive further into the mire. I knew I wasn’t going to hit my goal and that was demoralizing and demotivating.

I think setting goals and targets is a good idea. It gives you something tangible to push for and to work towards, and a way to measure your progress. Many people do well under pressure (and many more believe they do, but that’s a different conversation) and working under a little gentle pressure can sometimes be beneficial. I do it all the time and usually it works out ok.

There is a danger to it, though, because if you set a target you can’t hope to hit (as I did, in retrospect, thinking I could write Bonhomme in a month) then all you do is risk feeling like you’ve failed or let yourself down. As it happened, I probably did less writing on the book than I would have in late November and early December than I would have without the stupid goal making me feel like I’d messed up, when I really hadn’t – I’d done what was possible for me to do, and that should have been ok.

So setting targets can be a good thing, but I think they need to be realistic targets, and you have to realize what they’re for – good goals are there to motivate you and help your process; if what they’re doing instead is making you feel down on yourself and putting you under stress then they’re counterproductive, and you should feel fine about adjusting them or setting them aside.

Ok, so after that the Christmas holidays interrupted much more work getting done – which happens – and then we got to January, and I had a new problem. By now, I had formed the idea that the book was Not Going Well in my mind, and so I didn’t want to work on it (because it wasn’t going well) and sort of avoided thinking about it (because it wasn’t going well). There was other stuff going on too, but in general I had in my mind that the book was A Problem and the easy thing to do was to do something else.

I suspect I’m not the only person who does this; it’s very tempting to put difficult things and problems we don’t know how to solve aside and move on to things we feel more comfortable with. Sometimes those are even productive things (I did a lot of laundry, man) but it doesn’t get those problems solved. The book was not magically writing itself on the hard drive at night.

Finally I realized it was February, my publishers were doing acquisitions in March and so the book sort of Needed To Be Done (for reasons discussed last time). I made myself get back at it, and discovered (no surprise, in retrospect) that the book did not have as many problems as I thought, and got it done. It began with breaking “Finish It” into smaller tasks (fix the scene where <x happens>) and starting to check those off. I have often found that a useful approach. After I dragged myself through a couple of those, the momentum came back and the last parts of finishing the manuscript went quite quickly.

I think it’s natural to try to avoid things we know are going to be difficult and that we’re not entirely sure how to do, but I also know that when I do that I can start to generate those negative feelings again (haven’t written anything on the book today, have you? No you haven’t. Hack.) and so the best thing, really, is just to do something. Make a little progress, because then you’ve done at least that little bit, and for me anyway, most things tend to build momentum as I work on them.

So the book got written, although it (obviously) isn’t finished yet – I’m already getting comments back from the Eager Volunteers and doing some rewriting, although in general the feedback has been very kind – and I’m proud of that, and pleased with the story it tells, now that it has a beginning, middle and an end. Hopefully the people who read it will like it too.

Maybe some of this will be useful to people who read it; mostly I’m going to keep this around for when I start to have some difficulty with the next project, whichever one that turns out to be.

I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.

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As you also may have seen on Twitter, I am very excited to be able to confirm that I will be attending the Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston this summer! Limestone is a fairly young convention and although many of the writers they have lined up are SFF types, they celebrate all kinds of genre fiction so there will be lots for fans of mystery and romance books as well. Details about the panels and workshops are still firming up but the lineup of talent who will be there looks really cool and I’m very glad to be a part of it. Renaissance Press will be there all weekend and I’m already looking forward to meeting some new people and hanging around book lovers for a couple of days.

I’ll let you know more about it as the date approaches, along with other stuff that I’m also excited about in the months ahead.

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Promises, Promises

This is going to be a short one this week. There’s a good reason – I went and promised my publisher that I would have Bonhomme Sept-Heures done by the end of the week and I gotta maximize the time I can devote to it to be sure and make that deadline.

I suppose it probably doesn’t really matter – they would probably take it a few days late – but it does to me. Douglas Adams has that famous quote about loving the whooshing noise deadlines make when they go by, but I always wonder at what point in his career he wrote or said that. If you’re an established name whose product people actively want, then yeah, you can do things like that. I’m pretty far from that, and I know that if I don’t produce some new work, the publisher and the people who read King in Darkness will move on.

That’s not really my biggest concern, though. I’ve said several times on this blog (and elsewhere) that I don’t miss deadlines. I never missed an academic deadline, and I’ve never missed a professional one either. I consider hitting my deadlines part of being a professional, in whatever field, and showing that I’m taking things seriously. So it matters to me to make this one, too. I may never make a living from my fiction writing, but however big a part of my life it eventually becomes, I have decided that I want to be serious about it.

I also just don’t like going back on my word. I try not to make too many firm promises because things can always change around in ways you don’t expect and sometimes even what seems like the safest prediction in the world doesn’t work out the way you thought it would. You can all too easily end up not being able to follow through on something you figured would be super easy, and it might not really be your fault at all. But, if I give a solid promise, for reasons I’m not sure I can articulate, I absolutely hate to have to back up on that.

So, gotta hit this deadline. Longer blog entry next week.

For now, I’ll just tell you a little about the new book. It picks up after King in Darkness (which, of course, you’ve read. Right? RIGHT?!?) and returns to Adam Godwinson, faced by (of course, probably) another threat that he wouldn’t have expected. I think it takes things in a reasonably unexpected direction overall, and I hope people will like that. I’m also excited that this book is tied to specifically Canadian spookiness (the titular Bonhomme Sept-Heures), which I think is relatively unique and fun.

I think that if you liked King in Darkness you’ll like this new one as well, and I think it may stand on it’s own ok even if you haven’t read the first book. (But of course, you will read the first book, won’t you?) Now I need to go finish writing it so I can share it with you before too much longer. I’m very excited to do that.

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By way of briefly updating what I’ll be doing in the months to come, plans are still firming up, but not to the point where I can say anything for certain yet. It does look like there will be some really exciting events that I will be taking part in though, and if everything comes together I’ll be roaming out beyond the Ottawa area for the first time. I’m looking forward to meeting some new people and taking part in stuff I haven’t before. As I said a couple weeks back, getting to do some conventions and signings and things has been an unexpected joy and I’m really excited to do some more in the months ahead.

I’ll give you details as they solidify.

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