Tag Archives: Book Launch

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.

—-

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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Malory and my marathon

So this last weekend was not a very good weekend. I guess regular readers may have gleaned through the summer that I was doing a lot of running – in fact I was training for a marathon. This past weekend was the marathon, and I didn’t finish. It was the first time I have ever failed to complete a race that I started.

I guess I have some excuses. In the days prior to the race I got a sinus bug and spent several days totally inactive; I was still coughing and congested on race day. The night of the race I didn’t rest as I well as I would have liked. Partway through my IT band injury recurred and I knew I couldn’t do it; there was still at least 2 hours of running ahead of me and I knew it was impossible.

It made me think of Sir Thomas Malory.

No, wait, this will (may?) make sense in a moment. Sir Thomas Malory, if you don’t know him, is among other things the editor or compiler of Le Morte d’Arthur, the late medieval version of the King Arthur stories that most modern audiences are most likely to be familiar with. (The history of the Arthur tales is a long and complicated one that we are not getting into) Malory’s version of the story tends to de-emphasize the magical elements in the tales and play up those of chivalric honour.

It’s a little curious because Malory himself seems to have had a fairly checkered history; he was accused of being a bandit, a kidnapper, and a rapist, and although some or all of the charges against him may have been fabricated by political enemies, he certainly wrote Le Morte d’Arthur while in prison, waiting and hoping for a pardon. He also wrote during a chaotic and fairly unchivalric piece of English history; right smack in the middle of the Wars of the Roses, in which Malory also fought.

It’s a bit of a puzzle to find a tale extolling knightly virtues of upholding the law, respect for weakness, mercy and piety in such a setting and from such a man. Or is it? One interpretation that I read a long time ago (so long ago that to my immense regret I can’t recall whose ideas I am ripping off today) is that Malory knew perfectly well that he didn’t live up to the ideals of the Arthur stories, and nor did many/most of his contemporaries, but that it would be good, and praiseworthy, to try.

In other words, it’s good to try to be the ideal knight, to set that standard for yourself. You may not be able to do it because you’re not actually Galahad, who has among his many advantages that of being a fictional character. (Also, is Galahad any fun? He is not.) You may make mis-steps from time to time, do things you shouldn’t and have your failures. In that, Malory’s story tells us, among other things you are no different from Gawain and Lancelot and Arthur, who all try and fail to reach that chivalric ideal.

But they try, they commit themselves to something laudable and the attempt itself is praiseworthy. It is good to try to reach a goal, even if you don’t. It is good to demand things of ourselves, and push ourselves, and we can still be amazing characters even if we don’t quite get to the goal we were reaching for. Malory, this scholar argued, wanted his fellow English knights (and himself!) to try to be truly chivalric knights, even if they couldn’t actually do it all the time.

And here we get (finally) to the connection to my marathon. I trained very hard through the summer. I had some setbacks on race day, and I gave it all that I had on the day, and it was not enough. I’m trying very hard to listen to what I think is the lesson Malory wanted his 15th century buddies to take away from his Arthur stories. The effort is good in itself.

This, I think, applies to writers as well, thus the connection to this blog (beyond it being mine, of course). You may set writing goals for yourself that you don’t exactly reach. It’s ok. You may push yourself in various ways as an artist that and not be exactly able to achieve the result you were after. It’s all right. You’re writing, you’re trying, you’re getting better as an artist and as a person.

Our profoundly success-based and profit-based society wants to teach us to believe that anything short of total success is entirely worthless. I try very hard, perhaps especially so over the last few days, to remind myself that this isn’t really the case. There is merit in the attempt, in trying to better ourselves and overcome the challenges in our way. Sometimes we’ll succeed, sometimes we may fall short. We’re better for the trying, either way.

I’ll try to do better the next time.

—-

After that happy note, a bunch of announcements!

I have gotten things sorted out on Goodreads so that if you want to leave a rating or review of The King in Darkness, you can do that there.  I look forward to hearing what people think of the book, and there are a variety of ways we can interact there if you want.

We also have another Renaissance Press event coming up from October 3-4 at the Ottawa Geek Market and Capital Gaming Expo.  Renaissance will be there all weekend with their full range of titles, and I will be there on Sunday (the 4th) if you want to say hello.

Also (!!!) the date is set for the Official Launch of the King in Darkness, on Sunday, October 25th.  It’s going to be a huge event at which Renaissance will launch not one but 4 titles, and will also feature the launch of yet another great book by local author S.M. Carrière, with readings by all the authors (including me) and food and prizes and all manner of amazing stuff.  I will post up more details closer to the date, but we are all very excited to have this event coming together.  I’ll be very excited to see you there.

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