Aurora bundle spotlight: Napier's Bones

Napier's Bones coverNext up in my interview series on the current (but over soon!) Aurora Award bundle from Storybundle is Derryl Murphy, author of Napier's Bones. It's great urban fantasy with a dose of mathematics and history, and it's a lot of fun. I had the honour to be a beta reader for Derryl on an early draft and was thrilled to see it come out from the excellent Toronto press, Chizine Publications. And even more thrilled when it was a finalist for the Aurora.

Besides Napier's Bones, Derryl is also the author of the ecological science fiction collections Wasps at the Speed of Sound and Over the Darkened Landscape. He's been a finalist for the Aurora Award four times. Here's his interview. 

What's your favourite relationship between two characters in this book and why?

Between Dom and Billy, because of the mystery that lies between and within them, and because of how much they are forced to share by their proximity with each other. Being forced to think about how they would respond to each other within that framework was fun for me.

What's your favourite scene in this book and why?

The visit to the Ballachuan Hazelwood, by far. I was lucky enough to visit Scotland and England to research for Napier's Bones, some of it in libraries and some in real locations. This was on Seil Island, after crossing the "Bridge Over the Atlantic," a very old stone bridge barely wide enough to handle the odd tour bus. The wood itself was an absolute delight, and I suspect very few people go there, or even know it exists. Most tourists cross the bridge, take a picture, then head back.

I could also, however, name the scene in the church that takes place directly afterward. It is a real church, and while a took liberties with a mathematical concept in that scene, it was good fun to write.

Is there something in this book that you consider to be particularly Canadian or that Canadians would relate to or recognize in terms of sensibilities, world view, societal beliefs, etc.?

Dropping Dom and Jenna into Edmonton and using the peculiarities of that city's streets was most fun for me, and so of course I've never heard anyone mention it.

What's your strongest memory about writing this book?

On the flight back home from Scotland in 2003, hammering away at a tiny keyboard hooked up to my Palm Pilot, I managed something like 10K words of the beginning of a very rough first draft.


Wow. A Palm Pilot. That takes me back. I had a Palm, too, and a Targus keyboard that folded up into the size of a deck of cards. It was a surprisingly usable little setup but I don't think I ever did 10,000 words at a sitting with it. Anyway, thanks for the interview, Derryl.

The Aurora Award ebook bundle is still available, but not for long. Only four more days, so go grab some of the best of Canadian speculative fiction at an incredible price.

Aurora bundle spotlight: Fallen Angel

Fallen Angel coverThe next interview in my spotlight series on the current Aurora Award ebook bundle is with Stephanie Bedwell-Grime on her paranormal romance, Fallen Angel. Stephanie is the author of more than thirty novels and novellas, as well as numerous shorter works. She is a five-time finalist for the Aurora and has also been an EPIC eBook Award finalist.

What’s your strongest memory of writing this book?

My most vivid memory of writing Fallen Angel is working on Chapter Thirteen. I was writing about the apocalypse. I was really immersed in the story when the radio station I was listening to made this weird click sound and the signal died. A second later the power to my computer went out.

I later learned that the power in a lot of the east coast was out, but for a moment I thought, Oh, oh! Because I was writing about Armageddon after all…

What’s your favourite relationship between two characters in this book and why?

My favourite relationship is the one between the main character, Porsche Winter and Cupid. Cupid is the kind of best friend everyone needs. He’s always got Porsche’s back, even when she’s in heaven, hell, or jail. The one thing they don’t agree on is Porsche’s relationship with her former charge, Alex Chalmers, which causes a lot of friction between them.

What’s your favourite scene in this book and why?

My favourite scene has got to be the one where Porsche barges into Cupid’s apartment in heaven. Porsche describes Cupid’s lair as a “pink, fake-fur nightmare”. I had so much fun coming up with things that Cupid might have in his home, like his fuchsia shag carpet vying for attention against a red velvet couch and white pillows.

But Porsche’s visit comes at a bad moment and Cupid is furious. Suffice to say the visit does not go well.


Thanks, Steph! Folks, time is running out on this bundle. Only five more days before it's gone. So check it out here for your chance to own some of the best of Canadian speculative fiction at a bargain price.

Aurora bundle spotlight: Enter, Night

Enter Night coverMy next interview in my spotlight blog series on the current Aurora Award ebook bundle is with Michael Rowe on his vampire novel, Enter, Night, a finalist for the Aurora when it came out. He is also the author of the novels Wild Fell (2013) and October (2017.) An award-winning journalist and essayist, he has won the Lambda Literary Award, the Queer Horror Award, and the Randy Shilts Award for Nonfiction. Here are Michael's answers to his interview questions.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why?

If I had to pick the character I most enjoyed writing, it would be Adeline Parr, the monstrous matriarch of the town of Parr’s Landing. Hands down. I’ve always had a soft spot for female monsters and anti-heroines. Women in horror have been so often depicted as victims in need of saving, particularly in traditional vampire fiction. I prefer them as powerful entities that can look after themselves, and then some.

There was something tremendously exhilarating about writing a character as emotionally carnivorous and all-powerful as Mrs. Parr—she says whatever terrible thing she wants to say, whenever she wants to say it. She wields her money and her power with equal ruthlessness and cruelty against her family and against the town.

She’s old gold mining money, and she has an almost feudal relationship with the town her family founded and named. She has no discernable moment of redemption, and by the end of the novel she’s only been transformed into the creature she really already was. 

She was an absolutely blast to write. Long before the actual vampires make their appearance in the novel, Adeline Parr is already the queen regnant of the monsters.

What's your favourite relationship between two characters in this book and why?

The relationship between the teenagers, Finn and Morgan, is my favourite of the relationships in the novel. There’s a great deal of the young me in Finn. Morgan is an amalgam of the teenage girls I knew at that age, and parts of the relationship mirror my relationship with a former babysitter, Nancy, whom I eventually came to regard as a big sister—a relationship, by the way, which continues to this day. When I was writing Enter, Night I was very conscious of that particular relationship and all its nuances. Of course, their relationship takes off in directions mine with Nancy never went, but there are echoes of it all throughout the book. 

A close second in the relationship department would, of course, be the relationship between Jem, who returns to Parr’s Landing as an adult gay man, and his first lover, Adrian, who is now a local cop. While Jem has chosen to live his life in the open, Adrian remains deeply closeted and full of self-loathing. The interpersonal dynamics in that relationship were surprisingly poignant to explore, particularly since they had loved each other as boys.

In Adrian’s case, that love was brutally snuffed out by Adeline Parr, who sent Jem away for reparative therapy and forced Adrian’s father to cruelly punish his own son. What struck me the most about that relationship was that even though it was set in 1973, the particular conflicts it presents still exist today in repressed pockets of North America and elsewhere.

What was the toughest scene to write in this book and why?

There is a scene midway through the book between Finn and his black Labrador, Sadie, which utterly gutted me. During the writing of Enter, Night my own Labrador, Harper, was living through what would be his last year. A great deal of my anxiety and anticipatory mourning went into that scene, and indeed manifested itself throughout the relationship between Finn and Sadie. That said, it was essential to the novel, and it had to be written exactly as it was. It’s quite unprecedented in vampire fiction and no one seems to have ambivalent feelings about it.

Aurora bundle spotlight: Martyrs

Martyrs coverNext up in my spotlight interview series on the current Aurora Award ebook bundle is Edo van Belkom talking about his horror novel, Martyrs, which was a finalist for the Aurora when it came out. Edo is a two-time Aurora winner and has also won the prestigious Bram Stoker Award. Here are his thoughts on Martyrs.

Who is your favourite character in this book and why?

I'd have to say the hero, Karl Desbiens. He's got a bunch of problems to overcome like his crisis of faith and, of course, the evil force trying to wipe him out.

What's your favourite relationship between two characters in this book and why?

The bond between Karl Desbiens and Father Dionne is a good one. Having gone to high school with priests as my teachers, I wanted to make the two more like real people with everyday problems, not just the big one driving the novel forward.

What was the toughest scene to write in this book and why?

The toughest thing about writing this book was just making it believable. Classic horror in which evil forces are unleashed upon the Earth wasn't normally my thing, so I wanted to make the fantastic bits seem as real as I could make them. Contrary to what people might think, it's not easy convincing a reader that a possessed entity can still be alive and menacing with a caved-in skull.

What's your favourite scene in this book and why?

I think it's the ending. I've always found that with classic horror like this the story usually falls apart when the cause or the reason for the evil's existence has to be explained. I think I've walked that tightrope fairly well and set up an ending that is hopefully unexpected, plausible and satisfying.

Is there something in this book that you consider to be particularly Canadian or that Canadians would relate to or recognize in terms of sensibilities, world view, societal beliefs, etc.?

Well, the location and setting is absolutely Canadian. When I was in elementary school we traveled to the Jesuit settlement at Ste-Marie-Among-the-Hurons and were told how brave the priests were when their faith was challenged by the natives. Years later you grow up and start thinking for yourself, and you question why the Jesuits just couldn't co-exist and accept the natives as they were instead of trying to convert them to their own religion and ideology. Maybe in those terms it's more Canadian than just being set in Canada.

What was your biggest surprise in writing this book?

I think it was how the ending seemed to come together so seamlessly. I usually outline everything I write so there are no real surprises, but the last few chapters were satisfying in that I didn't have to shoehorn anything in to make it all work. Everything along the way had contributed just what it was supposed to and it was enjoyable to just sew all the loose ends together.


Thanks, Edo. I hope everyone following me will check out the Aurora Award bundle up at Storybundle now. But it won't be there long. The bundle ends August 9. Don't miss your chance to pick ten great Canadian speculative fiction books at a bargain price.


Aurora bundle spotlight: Second Contacts

Second Contacts coverHere's the next in my spotlight interviews on the authors, editors, and books in the current Aurora Award ebook bundle from Storybundle. Today's interview is with Mike Rimar of Bundoran Press talking about the Aurora winning anthology, Second Contacts.

Here are three questions and Mike's answers:

What is your strongest memory from editing this anthology / assembling this collection?

Second Contacts was the first anthology I edited. The theme was, First Contact has been made and the aliens have gone, but now they've come back some 25 years later. And…go…

It was a good theme, one that hasn't been explored too often, but I was concerned that we would get a whole bunch of Independence Day-like submissions where the aliens return seeking vengeance. Incredibly, and to my pleasure, we didn't get one like that. At least I don't remember reading one. What we did get was a diverse collection of amazing stories from around the world, taking our theme into all sorts of fantastic directions.

Is there something in these stories that you consider to be particularly Canadian or that Canadians would relate to or recognize in terms of sensibilities, world view, societal beliefs, etc.?

Speaking for myself, that's difficult to answer. Most of our anthology stories are written by Canadian authors. Canadian writers express a curious dichotomy of society and solitude; of technological progress, but mindful of environmental impacts; of justice and sacrifice but not at the cost of culture. While not distinctly Canadian, these themes are more prevalent in Canadian society because our nation is so culturally diverse. We're far from perfect. Mistakes have been made and more will be made. But we try to be a better people and that is reflected in these stories.

What music would be the ideal listening soundtrack for readers for this book?

Tragically Hip Discography.

The Hip. Of course. How quintessentially Canadian. Thanks, Mike, for the answers. Pick up the Aurora Award ebook bundle here to get Second Contacts and nine other titles, all award winners or finalists, for a great deal. The bundle runs only to August 9.

Aurora bundle spotlight: Shadow of Ashland

Shadow of Ashland coverI'll be spotlighting the authors and books in the current Aurora Award ebook bundle from Storybundle over the next couple of weeks. Today we're starting with an interview with Terence M. Green, author of Shadow of Ashland, the first book in Terry's Ashland trilogy.

Here are three questions and Terry's answers:

Terry, is there something in this book that you consider to be particularly Canadian or that Canadians would relate to or recognize?
I’m Toronto-born and raised. My parents were Toronto-born and raised. My father’s parents were Toronto-born and raised. My mother’s parents were small-town Ontario-born and raised. Our Canadian roots pre-date Confederation.
More Canadian context… CBC Radio broadcast a dramatic reading of the novel spread over 10 days to over 400 stations nation-wide, back in 2002 on Between the Covers. And it was taught in the SF course (English 237) at the University of Toronto in the late 90s.
What was your strongest memory about writing this book?
The opening sentence of the novel is “My mother died on March 14, 1984.” This is true. The first 40 pages or so of the novel are about 80% true. At that point, it veers into purer fiction, but when I’m asked how much of the book is “true,” I’ve been known to answer, “It’s all true. Not all of it happened, though.”
After my mother passed, I found 4 old letters and cards from the 1930s in a chest at the foot of her bed. They were from her brother, Jack, who disappeared down into the States in the 1930s and was never heard from after 1934. The writer in me saw the drama, based on those letters, and the story began to evolve from there. There are 10 letters woven into the novel. The first 4 are those found letters. I made the others up, using those first 4 as my guide.
The narrator, her son Leo (a fictional persona), tries to find Jack, ends up leaving Toronto for Ashland, Kentucky, and ends up there in 1934.
What was your biggest surprise in writing this book?
As well as the Aurora Award nomination (twice, 1996, 1997), it received a World Fantasy Award nomination for Best Novel in 1997 as well. Curiously, one of the other nominees that same year was a book titled A Game of Thrones. Pretty good company.
So… Lots of Canadian vibes both in and surrounding the novel… Memories galore, nearly all involving family… And the biggest surprise: how well the book was received. I think of it as the little book that just kept on growing. I’m hoping it never stops.

I hope the same, Terry. And I also hope that readers will drop by the Aurora Award ebook bundle page and check out Shadow of Ashland and the other nine titles, all award winners or finalists, that are available for a great bargain...but only until August 9.


The next Aurora Award ebook bundle

July 2018 Aurora Award ebook bundleHere's another chance to own, at an incredible bargain, ten books that readers like yourself have already voted to be the best examples of speculative fiction published in Canada. I'm once again curating an ebook bundle for StoryBundle of winners and finalists for Canada's premier speculative fiction prize, the Aurora Award.

The Auroras are awarded annually by the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association (CSFFA) for excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Introduced in 1980 as the Casper, it was renamed the Aurora in 1990. I'm honored to have won the award three times and to have been on the final ballot another sixteen.

This Aurora bundle again delivers a great mix of speculative fiction genres: SF, fantasy, science fantasy, urban fantasy, horror, as well as young adult. The titles once more reflect the long history of the Auroras, spanning over two decades of Canadian speculative fiction from 1995 to 2016.

Upcoming appearances - July 2018

2018 Ad Astra Time Travel panel

A little short notice but here are a couple of my appearances happening this coming week, one in person and one online.

  • Wednesday, July 18, 6:00-9:00PM EDT: Pulp Literature issue #19 launch. Along with several other authors, I'll be doing a short reading from my Pulp Literature #12 story, "The Last of a Thing," as well as signing and selling books. Location: Another Bar, 926 Bloor St. W., Toronto. [Correction to first posting: this starts at 6pm, not 7pm.]
  • Saturday, July 21, 12:30-2:30PM EDT: I'll be giving an online workshop hosted by SFWA president, Cat Rambo, on Rights and Reprints for Short Fiction, based on my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction. Full information and registration link here.

Hope to see you at one of these events!

And I neglected to post about this one, but this weekend I was at the annual Toronto (okay, Richmond Hill) genre convention, Ad Astra, doing panels, a reading, and selling and signing. Thanks to all of you who dropped by and said hello. The photo to the right is from a very fun panel on the different ways of writing time travel stories, called appropriately enough "The Timey-Wimey Stuff."  Panelist were (left to right): Kari Maaren, Cameron S. Currie, Jen Frankel (m), Cathy Hird, James Bambury, and me.

Upcoming appearances

In case you're located in Southern Ontario, here are some of my upcoming appearances over the next few months:

May 8, 2018 (new date!): Reading, Toronto Public Library, Parliament Street Branch, 269 Gerrard St. E, Toronto. 6:30-8:00pm. Books will be available for sale and signing.

May 26-27, 2018: Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston. Author Guest. I'll be on panels as well as giving a workshop based on my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game

June 3, 2018: Aurora Street Festival, Aurora. Signing and selling.

Hope to see you at one of them!

Some recent interviews

Write Hot PodcastLaura Powers, Celebrity Psychic, Host, Entertainer, and fellow writer, interviews me on her Write Hot podcast about short fiction and my writer's guide, Playing the Short Game. The podcast is available on iTunes, Sitcher and Hipcast.

Fellow writer, Sherry D. Ramsey, interviews me on her blog about writing my story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down," why I love short fiction, my all-time favourite short story, my approach to novel writing, my fascination with shapeshifter stories, what music I listen to while writing, and what I'm working on now.


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