Prose & Cons: When Words Collide 2018

I’m heading to Calgary next week for the 2018 iteration of When Words Collide. This convention brings together writers of all genres, giving everyone a chance to brainstorm on problems common to all storytellers, such as plotting, pitching, publishing and procrastination, along with a few things that start with other letters. This will be my third visit to WWC, and my third time presenting there.

Last year, I launched Avians at WWC (buy my book!) plus I did a solo presentation on Writing Aviation, moderated panels on Worldbuilding and Pantsters versus Plotters, and was reader for the science fiction edition of Live Action Slush.*

*Live Action Slush, (it goes by other names at other conventions) is a chance to have a few pages of your work read out loud to a panel of editors. Bringing your work to this event takes courage, because the whole room–and in Calgary it’s usually packed–will get to hear not only your draft manuscript, but also the editors criticisms of it. WWC does it wonderfully, by which I mean the focus is on constructive criticism. No one gives in to the temptation to mock writing that falls short. Authors who take the opportunity to identify themselves after their piece is critiqued get generously applauded, especially if fundamental faults were pointed out.

My schedule for this year’s WWC is lighter than last year’s. I’m reading for the SF LAS again, and I just saw on the final schedule that they’ve taken me up on my offer to read for other kinds of slush– I’ll be doing the historical fiction one as well.

Organizer Randy McCharles mentioned to me that WWC is always on the lookout for presentations about aviation, so I decided to combine two of my favourite things, and do a talk on Aviation in Worldbuilding this year.

I plan to run through the who, what, when, where, why and how of Aviation as it pertains to writing fiction, and I’m hoping that the worldbuilding aspect will attract some writers of speculative fiction.

Under the Who, after introducing myself, I’ll talk about some writers who have included fabulous aviation in fiction, ranging from famous authors like Heinlein and Herbert to more current writers. Time permitting, I’ll plug some of my favourite Sky-Fi authors and books. Maybe I can get an easel or a whiteboard, and jot down some titles in advance. Note to self: create a web page on this blog for Tim’s Sky-Fi reading list.

What will be my opportunity to segue into talking about some kinds of aviation that are very different from our mundane metal monoplanes. Ornithopters, horse-drawn battle-kites, inter-colony ballistic missiles, human-powered flying machines, the usual stuff.

When will be a chance to speak about some historic aspects of aviation. I’m convinced we could have developed flight much earlier than the Wright Brothers, and I’ll use that to encourage writers who want to put aviation in low-tech worlds. In hindsight, some form of air travel should have been feasible in the age of sail, and even the iron age. My own novel is set on a world with technology not much above the stone age. Mini-rant: don’t underestimate stone-age societies, they had a lot more going on than hand-axes.

Where will take us to other planets, with a quick contemplation of potential aviation on Mars and Venus to introduce some of the basics of flying in less earth-like environments, and then some words on factors that make flying easier or harder, such as local gravity, atmospheric density and composition, otherworldly weather, and so on.

Why will cover reasons aviation matters in worldbuilding. Transportation is, I believe, a pivotal technology, like communication. It’s fundamental to a society’s trade and travel in ways that affect everything from family visits to restaurant menus. Seriously. Want fresh fruit from far away? You’re going to want it flown in. The existence of aviation also implies a whole lot of career choices. I’ll try not to get sidetracked into grumbling about pilot stereotyping.

How sounds like it could be a recap, but I think I’ll use it to discuss how to make aviation immersive and emotionally compelling. Then I’ll move on to ways to use aviation to advance the plot and reveal inner character.

Huh. I just killed two birds with one stone. I have used a blog post to write an outline for my presentation.

If you’re attending When Words Collide, come see me at 10:00 AM on Sunday in the Acadia Room, which is downstairs in the Tower Building.




But first, downcoming. On Thursday, I had a  flight before dawn, during the hours when the Geminid meteor shower was in full force. From the ground, an observer who gets away from the lights of urban areas can hope to see about a meteor a minute.

Sean and I were flying north from Kenora to Kingfisher Lake, so we were a long way from city lights. Better still, we were at Flight Level 210, about 21,000 feet above sea level, which put us above most of the atmosphere. You may be thinking, “Tim means above most of the haze and pollution,” but air density up there is less than half of what it is at sea level, so we really were above more than half of the atmosphere by weight.

We had very clear viewing conditions, and  we saw a shooting star as soon as we leveled off and darkened our cockpit. Given our restricted field of view – pressurized airplanes don’t have picture windows – we hoped to see about twenty meteors during our forty minutes of level flight. We counted 59. That’s one every forty seconds. It was an immensely satisfying flight.

And now back to earth. The  title of this post refers to some public appearances I’ll be making in December and January.

On Tuesday, December 19th, I’ll be popping in to the Q-104 radio studio to chat with Ken O’Neill. The interview will take place at around 9:00am, and will likely go to air soon after.

Update: the interview is recorded, and should go to air around 8:10 Wednesday morning.

Novel Ideas bookstore Dryden Winter

One thing I’ll be mentioning is that Avians is now being carried by Novel Ideas in Dryden.

Please support your local independent bookstore. They support authors like me.

On Friday, December 22nd, I’ll be at Elizabeth Campbell Books on Main Street in Kenora (next door to the Plaza restaurant, if you weren’t sure.) Susie 01I’ll be chatting about Avians and signing copies of  for an hour or two starting at 7:00pm. You don’t have to wait until this late date to buy someone my book for Christmas, of course; I’m delighted to sign and personalize copies regardless of when they were purchased. Since the August release, Elizabeth Campbell Books has ordered several cases of my books. My publisher must have been impressed, she featured Elizabeth’s store on the Five Rivers Publishing blog back in October.

On January 25th, I’ll be in Winnipeg to speak at the Royal Aviation Museum of Western Canada at 7:00pm. The meeting of the Manitoba Chapter of the Canadian Aviation Historical Society is open to the public and free to attend, and there will be coffee and doughnuts on hand.

CAHS Jan 25 2018 poster

I’ll present a version of my Alternative Aviation slideshow and talk: I run through an entire glossary of unusual kinds of flying machine, from Autogyros to Zeppelins. If you didn’t know there’s been a flight by a human-powered helicopter, or that nuclear powered airplanes were once a thing, you might find something entertaining in my presentation.

I’ll also talk about some of the aircraft from my science fiction: the bamboo gliders and gigantic solar-powered airships of Avians, and the gunpowder propelled paragliders from my alternative history short story “The Emperor’s Dragon.”

I plan to introduce The Lake of the Woods Ice Patrol for some of those Winnipeggers who may not know about it, and yes, I’ll have copies of Avians on hand.

I’m looking forward to a fun winter.


Prose & Cons: When Words Collide, Saturday & Sunday

Saturday was my busy day, with a presentation, a salon and a reading. A little stressful and long.

I learned some things about launching a book from Tyche Press’s Margaret Curelas. Pre-release orders work best for big name authors who will achieve high advance sales on Amazon. For someone like me who will attract modest numbers, it will just drag my stats down before the game even begins. Huh. Might not be a good strategy.

Went to a nice panel on Trilogy, Series or Serial. I’m planning a series, by the way. That means my first few books will be related, featuring the same setting and characters, but a reader won’t have to tackle them in order: each book will stand alone.

My own presentation, An SF Writer’s Glossary of Alternative Aviation went well after a rocky start. The room needed to be reversed because of a noise issue, so before I could begin, every chair had to be spun around and the speakers table had to be moved from one end of the room to another. I was already sweating about the length, as WWC is very conscientious about ending each session early to allow people to change rooms. There was also the issue of connecting my tablet computer to an older generation projector. We ducked this by using Lindsay’s laptop and an adapter. She was brilliant as an A/V operator, adjusting the projector, scanning ahead to keep up with my talk and even fixing my e-reader when I accidentally zoomed my speaking notes to an unusable scale.

We had an audience of fifteen or so, which was not bad considering my topic was listed in a very abbreviated form on the pocket guide. The right people read the full blurb in the booklet and showed up. We had about even numbers of writers and aviation buffs, and one person who was mainly interested in a reading list for Sky-Fi. Gave them a plug for Updraft, by Fran Wilde. I’m reading it in my spare time this weekend and loving it. Kind of Windhaven meets Divergent.

Got through my topics on time, even with the inclusion of what I pass off as humour.

After that, I ran upstairs to attend the Five Rivers salon. My publisher is launching two books at once right now, and I enjoyed the reading from A Town Called Forget by C.P. Hoff. This is a tale about a girl who has to go live with her eccentric aunt. For eccentric, read bug-nuts if you’re American, or barking mad if you’re British. It’s slated to be my next vacation read, as soon as I finish Updraft.

Lindsay won a copy of The Mermaid’s Tale by D.G. Valderon. It’s a dark story of serial murder in a fantasy realm. It might not be for me; I’m pretty sure it’s not for my vacation.

I met Jeff Minkevics, Art Director for Five Rivers, and had an encouraging chat with him. If you didn’t know, not every publisher lets the author have a lot of say on the cover art. Jeff seems willing to talk. Later in the conference, I also met other Five Rivers authors, and one that had moved on. Tellingly, he had no complaints about his time with them. That isn’t always the case in an industry that mixes artistic creators with demanding economics.

After that, Plotting for Pansters. I was relieved to learn that I am not the only author to “write dessert first” and then tackle my scenes out of order. There’s even a name for it, it’s called quilting.

The book social with Gerald Brandt and Robert Sawyer was fun. Lindsay won another book. I bought one, and got it autographed. I got invited to a party.

I made time for a supper break with Caroline, then returned to the convention just as the Aurora Awards wrapped up. I showed up early for my reading, partly to show support for other writers. That turned out to be a good thing, as there were a few no-shows. I got to do my bit early, and we ran out of readers at around the time I was originally scheduled. I offered some pitching pointers to some of the newer writers, which is absurd when you consider that I do the nation’s worst pitches. I have, however, learned from my mistakes, and these people hadn’t yet.

Sunday was my fun day. I had no stress and spent most of the day hanging with other writers of MG (middle-grade) and YA (young adult) books. Two panels of kids were probably the highlight of my day. Ranging in age from nine to fifteen, they talked books, shared how they choose what to read, and responded to slush readings. Amazing footnote. One of the slush readings, an SF piece, appeared before both a panel with adult editors and the panel of kids. The kids identified the same flaws. They weren’t as tactful. They haven’t learned the politest ways to hint that a page is boring. They just said so. There were spectacular rants on the topic of describing things in too much detail, and on repetitive phrasing.

After that, I started saying my goodbyes. Some friends are travelling tonight, others, like us, first thing in the morning. There are quite a few people I’ll see again soon, at Can*Con in Ottawa next month. And I was asked if my aviation thing could be reconfigured as a writing workshop. That would be cool.




Summer Travels 2016

It’s been a while since I wrote about our travels. This summer, we’re taking to the road. Dingbat, our beloved(?) GPS will be joining us for a road trip to Portland, OR. But we’re starting with a flight.

First stop: Calgary, Alberta for When Words Collide. My publishers, Five Rivers, will be launching two books at this convention.

5R Poster 2016

And lookit! Way down at the bottom of the poster, it not only says I’m doing a reading from Avians, it nails down the release date in print.

Immediately before the Five Rivers Salon, I’ll be doing my presentation on Alternative Aviation in SF, and I’ve been stressing a little over how to juggle my notes (one handed on an e-reader?) and the slide show (touch screen tablet?). Good news! Lindsay Kitson, critique partner and fellow pilot, has said not only will she be in attendance, she’s willing to help with setting up and running the projector for me. That’ll be a huge help.

There’s far more to the con than just those two things. There are a slew of panels and presentations I’m eager to attend; my schedule often has two or three highlighted at the same time. I’ll blog those as I go.

After that hectic weekend, we’re hopping over to Kelowna for some family time with the western part of Caroline’s clan.

From there, we’re sticking Dingbat in rental car and heading down into Washington and Oregon. We’d like to see the Museum of Flight in Seattle, then I have novel research to do at Mount Saint Helens, because it is a rare example of a stratovolcano with lava tubes, and you can hike through them. Then Portland, OR for some seafood dinners and as a base of exploration for some local wineries before heading back to Kelowna, Winnipeg and home.

Then just a week or two later, we’ll take an extended September weekend to go to Can*Con in Ottawa. That’s one of my favourite cons, and this’ll be my third visit. It looks as if I might get to moderate a panel there, which will be a great chance to meet authors and readers of SF. More later, as details get firmed up.

It’s going to be a great summer!

When Words Collide

When Words Collide is Calgary’s big writer’s convention in August and it’s strong on Speculative Fiction. I wanted to go last year, but it sold out while I was waiting to see if a health issue was going to be a problem. This year, I not only get to go, I get to be a presenter!

I’m taking An SF Writer’s Glossary of Alternative Aviation on the road. Before I heard of the A to Z Blogging Challenge, I had the Glossary in mind as a talk/slide show to introduce other authors to some of aviation’s ugly ducklings. I wasn’t sure Calgary would take me on, as I have never attended before and don’t know any of the organizers. It seems the concept strikes them as original, so I’m in.

I have about thirty types of aircraft to talk about, and a one-hour time-slot to do it in. Subtract set-up time and a few minutes to get everyone seated and introduce myself, and allow ten minutes for questions, and I’ll have less than ninety seconds to talk about each type of flying machine, what it does best and badly, what kind of technology and infrastructure are needed to build and fly it, how it has been used in Spec Fic before, and what it can bring to a new story in terms of plot or worldbuilding.

I’d better start rehearsing to see how much I’ll be able to fit in. I don’t want to gallop through it- I’d like time for a weak joke or two. One thing I learned from the A to Z Challenge was that doing it in alphabetical order is not only practical, it actually lends itself to working from the simple to the complex. Many of the mash-up combination aircraft fall neatly into place after the simpler base concepts are introduced.

It’ll be a great way to meet people, and judging from the roster, quite a lot of friends and acquaintances are going to be there too. My own editor, Dr. Robert Runté, is a Guest of Honour, for instance. I’m stoked.