Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My SFContario Schedule

I'm going to be at SFContario this weekend: a very cool little Toronto convention, located right in the downtown core at the Ramada Plaza Hotel, 300 Jarvis Street (here's a link)..And I've got a schedule of panels and whatnot. 
Here's the gist of it:

Ballroom BC          Sat. 12:00 PM                               You Can Kill Zombies, But You Can’t Kill The Zombie Craze.      
A little over forty years ago, George A. Romero changed the nature of zombies with his low-budget breakthrough film, Night of the Living Dead. Since then zombies have shuffled into the mainstream. There are now countless zombie movies being
Gardenview          Sat.  1:00 PM                                Horror, Science Fiction and Fantasy
What makes them distinctive, and why might readers of one be hesitant to cross over to another? Writers of these genres discuss the differences and what you can do to attract readers from other genres.
Gardenview          Sat.  4:00 PM                                Politics And Horror                   
It can be argued that there is horror in all politics, but is there politics in all horror? Horror, like many genres, works best when it works on more than one level. Our panelists discuss the political foundations of horror books and movies.
Gardenview          Sat.  5:00 PM                                Scary, not Slimy                     
Are intense descriptions of bloody death and torture really necessary to scare the bejeebers out of your audience? Join our discussion on how to terrify without all the gory details.

And I'm reading Sunday morning, right after Madeline Ashby, at 10:30 a.m., in whichever room it is that they're doing the readings.

 

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Playlist for Eutopia

All the kids seem to be doing this lately: putting together a list of the music that helped inspire their new books, sort of a mix tape for readers, a bit of an aural window into the writer for the curious. Stephen King did it here for Doctor Sleep; Joe Hill did it here for NOS4A2. In that spirit, I thought I'd offer up this one, for my 2011 novel Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism.

Because music played a tremendous role in the writing and the re-writing, and also keeping poor, exceptional farm-boy Jason Thistledown and brilliant, beaten-but-not-defeated surgeon Andrew Waggoner, alive enough in my mind to consider a sequel.

There is a sequel coming. Right now, we're calling it Volk, and it follows the characters and creatures that showed up in 1911 Idaho to 1931 Europe, and we're aiming for 2015.  Can't say too much more than that now.

But I can say this: Here's the playlist for Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism--starting with the music accompanying the book trailer:




...and moving on to these:

Theme from Jurrasic Park by John Williams
Helplessness Blues by Fleet Foxes
White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes
Ellis Island by Thomas Newman (from the Angels in America Soundtrack)
The Lyre of Orpheus by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
God's Away on Business by Tom Waits
Christian Zeal and Activity by  John Adams
Son by The National
The Pines of the Appian Way, by Resphighi (from the Pines of Rome)
God Shuffled His Feet by the Crash Test Dummies
Look To The Rainbow by Astrud Gilberto
Down To The River To Pray by Allison Krauss
O Death by Ralph Stanley
You Can't Unring A Bell by Tom Waits


Friday, October 4, 2013

O happy Hallow's Eve!

Rue Morgue Magazine's Jessa Sobczuk digs my novel The 'Geisters and says so, in the magazine's supersized Halloween edition. There's nowhere to link--Rue Morgue doesn't fly with the idea of free content on the website--but allow me to quote her opening:

"Award-winning Toronto author David Nickle (Monstrous Affections, Eutopia) masters the art of terror in The 'Geisters, a poltergeist novel alive with magnetic characters, steady action and atmospheric scares. Nickle populates his fictional world with supernatural threats that are as believable and startling as they are scary and enigmatic. He hooks the reader in a matter of pages and never lets up until the end."

It goes on for a bit, then finishes: 


"Anyone who enjoys ghostly yarns or supernatural dark fiction should add this perverse, spine-tingling tome to their collection -- stat!"

This is the latest in a couple of fashionably-late-to-the-party reviews of The 'Geisters to come out. Bookgasm's Mike Reynolds penned a really kindly review here, in which he writes, in part: 


"The book doesn’t just explore the attractiveness of terror — it embodies it in a narrative that demands (excites even as it repels) your attention. It’s a(nother) strong novel by one of the best, most interesting horror writers working today."
 And blogger CheffoJeffo writes in this review:

"In The ‘Geisters, David Nickle captures two types of horror (the latter being too often overlooked): horror found in the supernatural and, even more frightening, the horror to be found in humanity.
"So, how much did I enjoy The ‘Geisters?
"Enough to jack up my TBR stack by a couple of inches:"
DavidNickleStack

Friday, August 23, 2013

A Texas-Size Worldcon Schedule...

I will be in San Antonio, Texas, next week, for LoneStarCon3, which is to say the World Science Fiction Convention, which is to say there is a schedule for places where I'll be panelling and signing and kaffeklatsching.

Here's how it's shaking down:

August 29:

Noon:
Autographing Session at the Convention Centre, with Edward M. Lerner, G. David Nordley and Alastair Reynolds.

August 30:
2 p.m.
The Cthulhu Internationale
006CD (Convention Center)
Tracks: Literature
Toh EnJoe, David Nickle, Seia Tanabe, Masao Higashi, Cathy Clamp
H. P. Lovecraft’s influence on horror and science fiction is not only immense, it is international. Come hear from Lovecraftians from the Americas, Europe, and Asia talk about Lovecraft’s work inspired them, and how their own work has adapted Lovecraftian themes for their particular national audiences.

6 p.m.:
Do SF Stories have Fewer Happy Endings Now?
007A (Convention Center)
Tracks: Literature
Martha Wells, Jessica Reisman, David Nickle, Grant Carrington, Bryan T. Schmidt
In the 1940s, 50s and even 60s the Good Guy usually won and the Earth was saved. How and why did our stories' endings change?

Aug. 31:

1 p.m. Kaffeklatsch, with Tobias Buckell, in the Riverview (Riverwalk)

Sept. 1:

11 a.m.:
Fiction about Real Politics and How Writers Get It Wrong
007A (Convention Center)

Noon:
Living with a Creator
102B (Convention Center)
Tracks: Fannish
David Nickle, David Gallaher, Diana Thayer
Is egoboo a strong influence on our successful authors and artists? What's more important to the success of an artist -- talent or a spouse with real job (and health insurance)?


 5 p.m.
Where have the Ghost Stories Gone?
102A (Convention Center)
Tracks: Literature
Ellen Datlow, David Nickle, David G. Hartwell, Peggy Hailey
Ghost stories used to be a major part of literature, from Victorian times though the first half the Twentieth Century. Charles Dickens, M.R. James, and others were major figures. Are ghost stories still a key part of literature? How have things changed

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Professional Problem (with bonus quiz)

Ah, the needless tempests-in-teapots that rise up in our genre from time to time. The thing about them—like Lisa Morton’s post at the HWA blog this past weekend—is that trivial as they are, they can still get under your skin.

Morton’s blog entry is all about professionalism. This is an issue that comes up quite a bit in genre writing (or at least in the kinds of genres that have conventions and clubs and so on). And it's generally been an issue of exclusivity. Writers who are selling their work to certain markets, possibly but not necessarily making a living at it, belong to the club of professional writers. Other writers, who are selling their work at a lower rate, or publishing it themselves, or are just dilligently trying to crack those or any markets, don't.

The line at the edge of that club is clearly drawn, generally respected and occasionally, jealously guarded. Usually, those who do so are gracious enough to make it all seem exclusive--and not exclusionary. Sometimes they aren't.

 Which brings me back to Morton's blog. It offers up a 10-point quiz, to determine whether a writer is professional enough to pass muster. You want to answer yes to all of them. A passing grade's eight out of 10.

For the record: no no no maybe yes no yes no no no. And based on that set of answers, I’m a hobbyist. With five books, thirty-something short stories, an old TV deal and a handful of awards, some nice (and not-so-nice) reviews in newspapers and publishing industry journals for many of ‘em.

It’s okay. I’m in company with Brian KeeneJohn Scalzi and really, every other professional writer I know.

It is possible that Morton’s ideas about writing as expressed on the Horror Writers Association's official blog  miss the mark in, um, certain areas. As my partner, author Madeline Ashby pointed out on the weekend, Salieri would pass this quiz with flying colours. Mozart? Hobbyist. As Laird Barron (who got the call-out ball rolling on his Facebook page) put it: "The distinction between pro and non pro writer is mainly useful if one wants to join a club with particular membership requirements, or when engaging in pissing contests."

No worries. I have come up with my own 10-point quiz that is at the very least, every bit as helpful and descriptive of the habits and foibles of our little profession...

1: Would you take a moment from writing a middle chapter in a novel that’s a month past its due date, to click refresh one more time on Novel Rank, and see if your last book has sold another copy yet on Amazon?
2: Once Novel Rank tells you that you’ve sold a copy of your last book on Amazon, is it appropriate to go check the Novel Rank score of your worst enemy’s poetry collection, to make sure that it has still not sold any?
3: Would you cut short a discussion of the role of exposition in science fiction stories with your writer’s group in order to read aloud the unkind review of your worst enemy’s poetry collection in Quill & Quire?
4: Do evenings with friends often get cut short for reasons you can’t fathom?
5: Is 11 a.m. a fine time to crack open the second bottle of Merlot?
6: Is your designated Creative Time, set aside to finish the middle chapter of the novel that’s a month overdue, set to begin before 11 a.m. or after 11:15 a.m.?
7: If your worst enemy’s unkindly-reviewed poetry collection is not yet listed on Novel Rank, is it a good use of your afternoon Creative Time to go and set up a listing for your own gratification?
8: Do you use writing as an excuse not to do any housework during Creative Time?
9: Have you memorized the last review you received on Goodreads? Is it better than the last review of your worst enemy’s poetry collection? (If you don’t know, automatically fail)
10: Have you checked your Novel Rank listing at least once over the course of answering this quiz?

Didn’t get at least 80 per cent of those questions right? Well, you’re no pro. But the good news is, you’ll probably be okay.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

More 'Geister news

A bit late to the game on this. But The Toronto Star published a short review of The 'Geisters in Alex Good's SF column a week or so ago. You can look at it right here. He writes in part:

"Few writers do psychosexual horror as well as Toronto’s David Nickle, and with The ’Geisters he’s back with another tale of voluptuous terror and the supernatural. In a highly original thriller that takes plenty of unexpected turns, Anne LeSage is a young woman with a personal demon that makes her the target of a kinky secret society of thrill-seeking ghost-humpers."
More recently, we were able to get me a spot on the Hugo-winning blog SF Signal, where I wrote a longish piece surveying feminist horror fiction written by men. It's under the amusing headline, David Nickle Looks at Feminism in Horror, which as twitter pointed out, can be taken a couple of ways. I called the piece Rosemary's Daughters.

Here's a bit of it:

"Rosemary’s daughters are a different breed. It would be wrong to call them properly feminist — because they’re not really stories informed by the core experience of their authors. Rather, they’re stories written by male novelists, using the tools they’ve got to understand, as best they can, the experience of their sisters and wives and daughters."
And here's the link. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The National Post weighs in on The 'Geisters

The 'Geisters was on the receiving end of a really kind--and dare I say smart--review in the National Post this weekend. Natalie Zina Waschots was by her own account quite terrified reading the book, writing among other things: "There is not a moment, until the final, world-crashing reveal, that is spared from a sense of creeping dread."

To see some of those other things she wrote, have a look here.

* * *
Update: Since posting this, the National Post has gone the way of a pay wall. Good thing the review got syndicated all across the country. At this writing, it's shown up in Saskatoon, Edmonton, Calgary, Montreal, Windsor... and in the Regina Leader Post, one of the few who didn't edit all the good parts out. Here's a link, paywall-free. 

Natalie, meanwhile, has compiled all the links for all the iterations over at her blog. Right here.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

That was a party...

We launched it.

It was a good night last night at No One Writes To The Colonel, when we launched The 'Geisters, Joey Comeau's Bible camp horror novel The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved, and Peter Darbyshire's Bible everything thriller The Mona Lisa Sacrifice. People showed up (the first sign of a good launch) bought books (the second sign) and mojitos (the first and only sign of a good launch as far as a bar owner's concerned). That caps the first week-and-a-bit of The 'Geisters life in the world. And overall, it's been a pretty good week.

Haven't seen a lot of reviews yet, but the ones I have seen hold promise. Cory Doctorow was very happy with his review copy,  and said so at Boing Boing:
"...With his new novel, The 'Geisters, Nickle manages to capture another of horror's delicious thrills: spookiness. From the first page, The 'Geisters exudes a hindbrain-teasing sense of lurking menace, the haunted-house creak of an impending apparition. It's a spectacular feeling, and Nickle tightrope-walks it for 300 too-short pages, building to a climax that's spooky, creepy and scary besides -- and all the moreso because of that long journey on the verge of fear."
 Quill and Quire's Ian Daffern was more measured, but I'll call his review as landing on the positive side of the line. He wasn't sure that all the flashbacks were good for the book's pacing, but dug the premise and the payoff in "climactic scenes that are genuinely transgressive and deliver the right degree of skin-crawling revulsion."

There's been a bit of a blog tour going on too. Last week, I stopped byShelf Awareness' Book Brahmin to talk at some length about my reading habits (link here). And just yesterday, John Scalzi was kind enough to let me rattle on about The 'Geisters in The Big Idea section of his blog Whatever, right here.

We'll see what else summer brings as it transpires. Right now, I'm gearing up for another book launch, of my partner Madeline Ashby's second novel iD. That'll be taking place at Bakka Phoenix Books July 6 at 3 p.m.

We two are in the strange but rather nice circumstance of having our novel releases sync up for two years running now. Last year, it was my big fat Russian novel Rasputin's Bastards, and her sleek and sexy robot novel vN. This year, it's The 'Geisters and iD. We'll have to see about next year...

climactic scenes that are genuinely transgressive and deliver the right degree of skin-crawling revulsion. - See more at: http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=8047#sthash.xCOMFG0Y.dpuf
climactic scenes that are genuinely transgressive and deliver the right degree of skin-crawling revulsion. - See more at: http://www.quillandquire.com/reviews/review.cfm?review_id=8047#sthash.xCOMFG0Y.dpuf

Friday, June 7, 2013

The Party

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There is going to be a book launch--and what a book launch--for The 'Geisters coming up soon. I have details.

First things first, though: this launch is not just for The 'Geisters. ChiZine Publications is launching their summer blockbusters. Which means fellow CZP authors Peter Darbyshire (aka Peter Roman) will be there launching The Mona Lisa Sacrifice, and Joey Comeau will be launching The Summer Is Ended And We Are Not Yet Saved. It is going to be intense, Yard-Apes. Do come.

Here are the details. It's Wednesday, June 26 at No One Writes to the Colonel, 460 College St., Toronto, Ontario.

(And as an added bonus, I should have mentioned, the incomparable Kari Maaren will be on hand to perform a little poltergeist music.)


Monday, June 3, 2013

In the beginning...

It's just over two weeks now before my new novel The 'Geisters hits the ground. We've got a music video, and some interesting blog tour stuff lined up, and hopefully a review or two on its way. Now, there's also a bit of the book--right here. This is the first part of the first chapter. It picks up... right at the beginning.

* * *

A Glass of Gewürztraminer

i

Was it terror, or was it love? It would be a long time before Ann LeSage could decide. For most of her life, the two feelings were so similar as to be indistinguishable.

It was easy to mix them up.

ii

“Family, now . . . family is far away,” said Michael Voors, and as he said it—perhaps because of the way he said it—Ann felt a pang, a prescience, that something was not right with him. That perhaps she should leave now. Until that moment, she’d thought the lawyer with the little-boy eyes was the perfect date: perfect, at least, by her particular and admittedly peculiar standards.

To look at, Michael was a just-so fellow: athletic, though not ostentatiously so; taller than she, but only by a few inches; dirty blond hair, not exactly a mop of it, but thick enough in his early thirties that it would probably stay put until his forties at least.

He’d listened, asked questions—the whole time regarding Ann steadily, and with confidence.

Steadiness and confidence were first among the things Ann found attractive in Michael, from the night of the book launch. He’d approached her, holding her boss’s anthology of architectural essays, Suburban Flights, and asked her: “Is it any good?” and she’d said: “It’s any good,” and turned away. He hadn’t been thrown off his game.

She had been enchanted by this easy confidence. After everything that had happened in her life—everything that had formed her—it was a quality that she discovered she craved.

But now, that confidence crumbled, leaving a man that seemed . . . older. And somehow . . . not right.

It hadn’t taken much. Just the simple act of asking: “What about you? Where’s your family from?”

He tapped his fingers and looked away. His suddenly fidgeting hands cast about and found the saltshaker, a little crystal globe the size of a ping-pong ball. His eyes were momentarily lost too, blinking away from Ann and looking out the window of the 54th floor view of Toronto’s financial district, a high hall of mirrors up the canyon of Bay Street. They were in Canoe, a popular spot for lunch and cocktails among the better-paid canyon dwellers. It should have been home turf for him. “Just my father now. In Pretoria. But—” and he twirled the nearly spherical glass saltshaker, so it spun like a fat little dancer “—I don’t hear from him. We have had—you might say a falling out.”

“A falling out?”

“We are very different men.”

Their waiter slowed as he passed the table, took in Michael’s lowgrade agitation and met Ann’s eye just an instant before granting the tiniest, most commiserative of nods: Poor you.

He picked up his pace toward the party of traders clustered at the next table, and Ann suppressed a smile. She was sorely tempted to stop him and order a big, boozy cocktail. But it was early—in the day, and in the relationship—for that kind of thing. Particularly because the way things were going, she didn’t think she’d stop at one.

“He is an Afrikaner,” continued Michael. “You understand? Not just by birth. By allegiance. When the ANC won the elections in 1994 . . . He wasn’t a bigot—isn’t a bigot, I mean. But he’d seen the

things that the African National Congress could do—the business with the tires . . .”

“The tires?” Ann said, after a heartbeat.

Now Michael made a half-wise smile, set the saltshaker aside. His hand must have been trembling: the shaker kept rocking.

“My God,” he said, “you’d think I’d been into the wine already. I’m sorry. They would put tires around fellows they thought were traitors, and light them on fire, and watch them burn to death in the streets of Soweto. And then they became the government. You can imagine how he felt.”

“I remember that,” said Ann. She nodded in sympathy. That was real terror, now. In the face of it, her own inexplicable instant of fear vanished. “I was small. But didn’t Nelson Mandela have something to do with that?”

“His wife. Winnie. Maybe. Probably. Who knows?”

Ann smiled reassuringly and they sat quiet a moment; just the chatter in the restaurant, a burst of boozy mirth from the day traders; the pool-hall swirling of the saltshaker on the glass tabletop.

The waiter scudded near and inquired: “Need a minute?”

“Just a minute,” she said, looking at her menu.

Michael studied his too, and without looking up, said: “Share an appetizer?”

“Is there real truffle in the wild mushroom soup?”

“You want to share soup?”

“Is there a law says I can’t?”

That, thought Ann as she regarded Michael, was how you kept it going on a second date: make a little joke about the appetizer. Don’t talk international politics. For that matter, don’t start asking a lot of questions about how international politics and tires kept father and son apart for so long.

In fact, don’t start talking about family at all. Because as grim as the tale of Michael Voors’ own family turmoils might be—if Michael then started asking after the LeSages, and she was compelled to tell that horrific story . . .

Well. He was already thrown enough to fidget—she could hear the rolling sound of the saltshaker again.

“What about the salmon tartar?” she asked before he could answer. She allowed herself a smirk: why, Mr. Voors was actually blushing! “We don’t have to share soup.”

“No, I—” he was frowning now, and looking down at the table.

“My goodness,” he said softly.

“What is it?”

Ann lowered the menu, and looked down at the table. And froze.

The saltshaker was dancing.

It twirled in a slow loop across Michael’s place setting, rolling along the edge where the curve met its base. Then it rocked, clicking as the base touched the tabletop, and rocked the other side, turning back. Michael held his menu in his left hand—his right was splayed on the tabletop near the fork. His pale cheeks were bright red as he stared. First at the saltshaker, then up at Ann.

“Isn’t that incredible?”

Michael set the menu down, well away from the perambulating saltshaker.

“Incredible,” said Ann quietly, not taking her eyes off the shaker as it continued to rock.

The Insect, she thought, horrified.

It was back.

No, not back.

Really, it had never left.

Ann wanted to reach out—grab the shaker in her fist, stop it physically. But she knew better. Already, she could hear the rattling of glasses at the long bar. Two tables down, one of the traders commented that the air-conditioning must have kicked in. One of his lunch-mates asked him if he were a woman and everyone laughed. Michael’s eyes were wide as he watched the saltshaker.

Ann reached under her chair and lifted her handbag. “Don’t touch it,” she said.

He looked at her and asked, “Why not?”

“I’m going to the ladies room,” she said and stood. “Now please—don’t touch it.”

Ann drew a long breath, and pushed her chair back to the table.

Michael didn’t stop her, and he didn’t try to touch the spinning saltshaker either.

Their waiter, carrying a tray of two martinis and a fluted glass of lager, stepped past her—and without her having to ask, directed her with a free hand to the restrooms. “You have to go outside,” he said. “By the elevators. Just past them.”

Ann smiled politely and, shoulders only slightly hunched, head bowed only the tiniest, hurried between the tables, out the doorway and past the elevators—and there to the women’s washroom where she finally skulked inside. It was as safe there as anywhere, now.

*

One blessing: the washroom was empty but for her. She made her way to a sink, spared herself a glance in the tall, gilt-framed mirror. Her makeup was holding. That was something.

Ann fumbled with her phone.

It was a new one, and she hadn’t had time to program her numbers into it. Not a catastrophe—she knew the number she had to call now like she knew her own name—but speed dial would have helped.

Finally, a signal. One ring.

Would the glasses still be on the rack now, or sliding, one by one, along the rails, crashing into the plate glass windows overlooking Bay Street?

Two rings.

Would frost be forming around the edges of those windows, irising a circle of white, evil crystals to block out the sun?

Three.

Would one of the traders hold up his hand, wonderingly, examining the steak knife that had penetrated the back of it as he sat, turning it this way and that while his mind processed the impossibility of it, and itself began to unravel?

Four.

The first might be dead—the only question would be who . . . who it would choose. Not the waiter! Not Michael Voors—

Oh God . . .

“Come on, Eva,” Ann said to the empty washroom. “I need you.”

And click: and five. And . . .

“Hello?”

“Eva!”

“Ann?” Eva Fenshaw was on her own cell phone—she’d obviously figured out the intricacies of call-forwarding since last they spoke—and her voice crackled. She sounded as though she

might be in some large space—maybe the Wal-Mart where she liked to spend hot afternoons before her consultations started in the early evening. Ann should have remembered, and called the cell phone first. “Ann, how nice to hear from you!”

“Not so nice, Eva,” said Ann.

“Are you all right?” Pause. “Ann, dear?”

“It’s coming,” said Ann.

“Oh oh. The Insect.”

“The Insect.”

“Oh.”

The acoustics shifted—maybe as Eva moved down an aisle,

someplace more private. “All right, Ann. It’s all right.”

“It’s not all right. It’s back, it’s coming out, I can feel it.”

“Where are you? At work?”

“At lunch. With a date.”

“With that Michael?”

“Michael Voors.”

“Dear Creator,” Eva whispered. She had, of course, warned Ann about Michael; Eva Fenshaw had a lifelong distrust of lawyers, born of the needless troubles in her divorce thirty years ago. When Ann told her about Michael’s interest in her, Eva had had some unkind things to say.

She didn’t repeat them in the Wal-Mart. “All right, Ann. Were you drinking?”

“God no.”

“Good. Now. How did it manifest?”

“The saltshaker,” said Ann. “Moved on its own. That’s for sure.”

“In the restaurant.”

“In the restaurant!”

“Telekinetically.”

“Yes!”

“Don’t shout,” said Eva. “Stay calm. We’re going to visualize the safe place.”

Eva gave a yogic huff, and Ann drew a deep breath.

“It hates him,” she said. “It’s the same as before.”

“Ann!” Her voice was sharp this time. “Visualize the safe place, Ann. It can’t harm you there. And if it can’t harm you . . .”

“I can control it. All right.” She shut her eyes.

“Good, dear,” said Eva, in a voice that seemed to recede down the long corridor that was the first part—the gateway to Ann’s safe place. Eva had helped her construct it—how long ago? Not important. Ten years ago. At the hospital. You remember the hospital, don’t you, little Annie? I know I do—

Ann concentrated on opening herself up, seeing the hallway, walls made of cut stone with bright, leaded glass windows along both sides. There was a sunrise—Ann was always happier with the onset of light than she was the spread of darkness—and it manifested in pinkish rectangles along the flagstone floor.

The safe room was at the far end of the corridor. It would take a moment to walk, but by the time she had made the journey, she would have shed the tension that had brought her here. That was how Eva had explained it, all those years ago as they sat together in the lounge in Fenlan, waiting for word of her brother, of Philip after the crash.

“You’re going to walk as slowly as you need to, and at each window, you can pause and throw any worry you have out there into the light.”

“Light of the rising sun?” young Ann had asked, and Eva had replied: “Just the light.” And she had held Ann as Ann described how that hallway would be: like the hallway between high towers in a wizard’s castle.

The wizard wasn’t there, because she was the wizard.

This was Ann’s castle.

She stopped at the first window. Ann always had a leather satchel with her when she walked the Hall of Light, and she reached into it this time. She found a small parcel, wrapped in a dark, oily cloth. It was warm to the touch.

It wasn’t important—it might even be counterproductive—to try and determine what worry, exactly, was contained in this package. Whatever it was, it was heavy, and warm, and alive. She pushed open the first window, and threw the package out. It fell into the hot sunlight, down the mountainside, and disappeared.

She was inclined to hurry, to the thick oak door at the far end of the hallway. She certainly could do so; the castle existed only in her imagination, as guided by Eva’s own counsel. She could simply imagine herself all the way down, in the tower room, her fears cast from windows in retrospect. She could simply say to herself that she had unlocked the twelve sturdy locks, and removed the bar, and raised the miniature portcullis that led to the tower chamber, where it—the Insect—was contained.

And I could, she told herself, watch as the whole, fragile construct collapses to dust. While God—excuse me, Creator knows—what havoc the Insect is wreaking in the restaurant.

So, meticulously, Ann went window to window, tossing cloth packages and poisonous apples and broken daggers and twisted candles from her bag, until it was empty, and then removed the

key ring, and set to work on the door. And then, free of all burdens, she stepped inside—to the tower room.

“Do you see it there?”

“I don’t.” The chamber was a circular tower room, with a single window overlooking a bright kingdom, far, far below. There was a chair. A table. A little flask of iced mint tea (in the past, matters had gotten uncontrollable when there was wine in the room). It was otherwise a bit of a cliché: but what was to be done about it? They’d devised it during the depths of Ann’s teenaged Dungeons & Dragons obsession. And circular tower rooms in wizards’ castles, as Ann had explained seriously at the time, were both pretty comfortable safe places, and made awfully good prisons. Good, but obviously not perfect.

“It’s gone. It’s escaped.”

“Look up, dear.”

“Of course.” She looked up, into the rafters of this room—where just a few years ago, during the big blackout, when she was sure the thing had gotten out again, running amok in the dark corridors of her residence, flinging knives, she’d found it hanging like a great chrysalis, grinning down at her, long hair dangling like the tentacles of a man-o-war.

Not this time, though.

“Not this time,” said Ann.

“Keep at peace,” said Eva. “All right dear, let me tune in.”

Ann couldn’t help imagining Eva in the Wal-Mart, moving her hands so they hovered inches apart from one another, eyelids fluttering . . . the little rituals that she invoked, to tune in to Ann, and her safe place, and the prisoner that she kept there.

Imagining Eva in Wal-Mart, or indeed anywhere but in the circular tower room, was of course exactly the wrong thing to do.

The safe place was an unreliable construct . . . a lie, really, although best not to think of it in those terms. Hurrying would knock it over, and so would distraction. Start thinking of some other place, particularly a real place (like the Wal-Mart) and that place intrudes.


“Stupid,” she hissed, as the door to the stall farthest from the door slammed shut and her eyes opened. “Sorry,” she said to the closed stall door. The woman who’d presumably gone inside didn’t answer, and suddenly Ann felt nothing but foolish—imagining how she must have appeared to the woman now sequestered in the stall, a moment earlier quietly passing the sinks, and wondering: what a strange young woman, leaning over the sink with her eyes shut tight. Some of us can’t hold our liquor. That’s what she would think.

“Ann?” said Eva, and Ann said, again: “Sorry.” She shut her eyes, and reassembled the tower room, re-inhabited it. “Got distracted.”

“All right,” said Eva, “now hush. I’m sending you energy.”

Indeed, as Eva said this, the tower room flooded with light—appearing through the mortar between the stones, and the narrow slit-like windows that gave a tantalizing view of the realm. Ann thought she’d have a look at that realm—cement some details in her mind—the bucolic roll of hills, a silver river that wended between them . . . that mysterious, snow-capped mountain range in the distance—and take in the energy that Eva insisted she was sending her.

Was she really? Sending energy? From Wal-Mart?

Questions such as those, Ann had long ago learned to suppress.

And she did so now. After all, they did nothing to help her take control, to give her the strength she would need to wrestle the Insect.

A clank, as the door to the stall rattled. And a voice—echoing off the tile of the washroom. “Are you all right out there?”

“Fine,” said Ann, keeping her eyes shut this time, “thank you. I just need a moment.”

Don’t we all.”

The hollow rumble of toilet paper unwinding now.

You know what you really need?”

Still unwinding.

“I’m fine,” said Ann, while on the phone, from Wal-Mart, Eva said: “Shh.”

That fine-looking young man out there. He’s a crackerjack!”

The door to the stall rattled fiercely. It slammed open, and closed again, and somehow Ann was turned around, the cell phone on the floor. Watching as the door to the stall slowly rebounded

open. Showing nothing but an empty stall, with a long line of toilet paper, draped over the toilet bowl in a mandala form.

From the floor, Eva’s voice buzzed. Like a bug, Ann thought crazily (like an insect) and she watched, transfixed, as the silver button on the side of the tank depressed, and the toilet began to flush.
*

I am satisfied,” said the Insect, as it settled back into its chair in the shadowy part of the tower room, crossing its hands on its lap, slender fingers twitching and intertwining. “I approve.”

“Thank you,” said Ann when she’d collected her phone from the floor.

“Did that do the trick dear?” asked Eva, from Wal-Mart.

“That seemed to do it,” said Ann.

“You sure now?”

“Sure,” she said—not sure at all.

Eva sighed. “I’m glad, dear. Be at peace. Now you call, if—”

“I will.”

*

From one tower to another, Ann LeSage made her way back. She could find no evidence of mayhem en route. The glasses hanging over the bar gleamed in the afternoon sun, which shone through windows clean and clear. The traders gesticulated at their tables, hands unblemished, while their cutlery stayed safe in front of them. The waiter was cheerful and intact behind the bar, tapping lunch orders on a computer screen. And Michael sat back in his chair, ankles crossed, hands palm-down on the table, while the saltshaker sat unmoving between them. His face was strangely, beatifically calm.

When Ann recalled that July day—months later, outside Ian Rickhardt’s Niagara vineyard, while she cradled an unreleased Gewürztraminer on the south-facing veranda and looked down upon the rows of grapevines, with just a moment to herself before their other guests arrived . . . this moment, not any prior or subsequent, was the moment that defined it. She, folding her skirt beneath her as she resumed her seat; Michael, looking steadily at her, unblinking, as he lifted one hand, and lowered it on top of the saltshaker like a cage of fingers.

“Gotcha,” Michael said as he lifted the shaker off the table and studied it with real glee.

Was it terror she felt looking at him then?

Was it love?

Love, she guessed.

Yes. Love.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The 'Geisters - by Kari Maaren

So as some of you may know, there's a new book coming out: The 'Geisters, my third novel with ChiZine Publications, and first novel about poltergeists and the men who have an unwholesome interest in same. Also, about wine. And Advanced Dungeons and Dragons. The book is coming out in June (on June 18, to be precise) and there'll be a lot more to say about it in the coming weeks. Today, however, is all about Kari Maaren. Who is a genius singer-songwriter-ukelele artist, and a dear friend, and also, the composer and performer of this: a theme song for The 'Geisters, commissioned by me, performed by her, and filmed/recorded by Carlos Parra and Devin Melanson. You can watch it and listen to it now.
It should be obvious to anyone who knows me that I got the idea from John Scalzi, who last year engaged NYC troubadour Jonathan Coulton to write and perform a theme song for his, ah, modestly successful novel Redshirts. He, like me, is a big fan of Coulton's clever, funny and poignant songs about zombies and office drones and bigfoot, and Coulton did him right.

I became a fan of Kari Maaren through repeated exposure to her musical stylings at the Chiseries reading evenings in Toronto, where she would provide interstitial musical numbers to offset the drone of we authors. I expect that a great many people will become big fans of Kari Maaren's own clever, funny and poignant songs in the next while. She's got an album out--Beowulf Pulled My Arm Off--which you can preview and purchase for a modest sum over at her page on Bandcamp. And if The 'Geisters theme catches your fancy, you can pick up a high quality digital track for your device-of-choice by clicking  right on this link here.

She has more videos too, on her youtube channel.

Oh yes, and if after all that you're still interested in the book... the friendly fiends at ChiZine Publications are happily taking pre-orders right here.

In a few days, I might just put up an opening chapter or so, to whet your appetites. But first: More Maaren. Specifically, the song that convinced me she was the right maniac for the job:

"I'll Still Love You When I'm Gone"





Wednesday, May 8, 2013

No fooling this time...

April Fool's Day having long passed, here's some real, amazing news that's come my way. Rasputin's Bastards, my very long book about psychic spies during and just after the Cold War, is being picked up by Panini (France) for a French-language translation.

This is baby's first translation deal, and I think it's a big deal. Panini does a lot of graphic novel work (among others, they publish French language translations of Marvel Comics), and now they're getting into sf/f novels. Rasputin's Bastards is 186,000 words long, and it's going to be a big job for some poor translator. I am thrilled to see it (if not to read it; I am, ashamedly, uni-lingual).

Thanks to Ron Eckel at the Cooke Agency, who handled the sale on behalf of ChiZine Publications. And also, to the editors at Panini (France) for taking an interest in the book.


Monday, April 1, 2013

Just in time for Christmas!

Literally.

I'm pleased to announce that ChiZine Publications will be releasing my fifth book,  just in time for the holidays. And it's going to be a bit of a departure--if one can call coming home a departure.

Where previous books of mine have dipped toe in American history, espionage, Russian literature, new-age self-help doctrine and Rankin-Bass Christmas specials, the new one goes right back to my roots: mid-1980s paperback horror novels.

And this one's got everything: an evil doll; a bassinet; a mysterious stranger who has been walking the earth waiting for the doll and the bassinet to wake up and figure shit out; a creepy old caretaker who says things like 'fortnight''; and a burned-out bass player from an AC-DC cover band who crucially forgets his hearing aid when he meets with the creepy old caretaker at the huge old house he'll be renting for a fortnight, to work things out with his family.

So without further ado, may I present:
.

CZP is so excited about this new project that they let me design the cover myself. I had complete creative control: I didn't even have to find a place to put the CZP logo. In fact, Brett insisted that I not find a place for the CZP logo...

 It'll be released December 24, 2013. If I can just find someone willing to typeset and copy-edit it...

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Monstrous Affections, in your ears...

Some happy news for a freezing cold January morning: the good folks at Iambik have released a nine-and-change hour audiobook of Monstrous Affections, my 2009 story collection from ChiZine Publications. You download it from Audible.com (where you can also download an excellent reading of Eutopia: A Novel of Terrible Optimism, read by Oliver Nyman).

Monstrous Affections was read by Robert Keiper, and in the author's opinion he does a fantastic job of it.

If you feel like checking it out, click here.