Fall Tour Schedule

Hello everyone! I’m cross-posting my fall schedule here because it’s a doozy, and I’m hoping that as many of you as possible can come to see me. BECAUSE IT’S NOT JUST ME! Ashley Eckstein will be at these events too! INCLUDING THE ONE AT DISNEY WORLD!

I AM SO EXCITED.

October 7th – 6:00pm :
Disney booth #2820 New York Comic Con
Javits Center
655 W. 34th Street
New York, NY 10001

October 9th – 5:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
97 Warren St.
New York, NY 10007

October 11th – 7:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
2418 East Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

October 14th – 4:00pm
Once Upon A Toy @ Disney Springs Marketplace
1375 Buena Vista Drive
Orlando, FL 32821

October 15th – 2:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
213 N. Dale Mabry
Tampa, FL 33609

October 21st – 7:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
10775 Westview Parkway
San Diego, CA 92126

October 24th – 7:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
313 Corte Madera Town Center
Corte Madera, CA 94925

November 6th – 2:00pm
Barnes & Noble Store
189 The Grove Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90036

These are just the STAR WARS: AHSOKA dates. Everything else is up on my website (and I’ll add the event dates for SPINDLE once I have them.

Love Letters In D-major

It took the Star Wars fandom approximately twelve parsecs* to start celebrating the fact that a queer woman was going to write a book about Ahsoka Tano. I was quite surprised. Not that they were excited, though that was nice, but that they found out so quickly.

It’s not that I don’t tell people. It just…doesn’t come up. I’m the least useful kind of queer person: white, cis, Canadian, straight-passing. I don’t have a story that’s helpful to others. I do my best to be a good ally, and I know that means the A stands for asexual.

There’s no D in LGBTQIA, either.


There are three Pride flags in Stratford that I have found: one on the city hall, one at my favourite coffee shop, and one on a house that I drive past on my way home from the gym. I was really pleased to see them. Stratford is a “city”, but it’s a small one. 30,000 people, Conservative MP and MPP, and the voters are generally what’s known as “blue liberals”**.

The town I grew up in is much smaller, and the liberals are a little more blue.

There was one boy at my high school who was out (there were a couple of others people speculated about, but not aggressively). He must have taken shit for it at some stage, but I never saw any of it. Looking back, I think we were just used to him. He told me, spoke the words even though I knew it already: you know I’m gay, right?

I didn’t have the words to tell him that I liked him because he could play the piano and that sex had nothing to do with it. But I do remember being proud of him, for living where we did and knowing himself so well.

It took me a lot longer.


I discovered fandom in university – once I had control of my own internet usage – and that’s when the words came. I wrote fanfic, of course, but I also read a lot, and learned there was more to sexuality than the three labels I knew (gay, lesbian, straight). Fandom didn’t “turn me gay***” by any means, but it did give me the words to talk about it.

The first time I said the words “bi-romantic demi-sexual” out loud was in Savannah, GA, in a room full of people I love. Before that, I held “bisexual” very close to the chest. I learned about the Kinsey scale from the TV show Revenge, of all places, and it wasn’t until a while later that demi came to my attention.

And I knew immediately that that was me. Not asexual, though I had given it some thought, and not bisexual either. I imagined explaining it to my then four-year-old nephew: It means I like girls and boys, just…neither very much.

Except I love with my whole heart and my whole brain and my whole soul.


I can tell you the exact moment I fell in love with most people. Some of them I’ve never stood next to, or even near, but that doesn’t matter. Some of them I love in groups and some I love as individuals.

It is, as I put it on livejournal some years ago, that I fall in love head first, brain first. I fall in love with your story, and I never get tired of hearing it.

The world really isn’t set up for people who love fiercely and completely. It’s totally cool (in theory) with you loving one person that much, and loving family members, but that’s not how everyone works. It’s not how I work. I think that’s why I don’t talk about my sexuality that much: it has nothing to do with how much I love.

And, oh, I do.


Bi-romantic demi-sexual. Bi-romantic demi-sexual. Bi-romantic demi-sexual.

It’s a bit awkwardly long. That’s why I prefer “queer”, even though that also opens up a conversation I don’t feel I’m qualified to have****.

But when I was in high school, I thought there were only three ways to be. I didn’t know about the rainbow. Now that I do, I remember what I learned about rainbows: each colour bleeds into the next, which means that all colours are possible. There are colours beyond the rainbow, in both directions, that we can’t see. The spectrum isn’t absolute. We only have to know how to look for them.

And every day, I know a little bit more.


Bring me the world. I want to know the story.

 

 

*OMG I know.
**In Canada, our colours are flipped. Blue is Conservative and red is Liberal.
***It bugs me a bit that the blanket term skews male. I much prefer queer, but that word has its own weight and history.
****Um, see note *** actually.

Plant Yourself Like A Tree (CA:CW, SPOILERS!)

So I had about 100% more feelings about this movie than I expected to. I expected frustration, but the writing was good enough that I actually bought the entire thing, which is, frankly, a miracle. A movie with this many characters should not have worked.

But it kinda did. And I’m really impressed that they were able to pull it off. I am annoyed that Steve didn’t get an emotional arc in his own movie, but I’m also okay with that, because Steve was right. He didn’t really need an arc.

(Sidebar: I haven’t seen an MCU movie since The Winter Soldier, and I have no intention of doing so of my own accord. Tumblr tells me what I need to know, and this way I never have to suffer through Ant-Man.)

ANYWAY, as I said, I was fairly neutral to the whole “pick a side” thing, mostly out of obstinance and because I fucking love Maria Hill. Maria (and Fury, and Pepper…and Thor and Hulk) would have made this film about 10 minutes long, had they been in it, so I understand why they were not. It was nice that everyone but Maria and Fury at least got a lampshade. By the end of the movie, though, I was so firmly Team Cap that I kind of surprised myself.

Because Tony was wrong.

Not about the Accords (though I think of everyone, only Natasha was really RIGHT about the Accords. Of course, she’s also the only one of them who could sign them and then break them if she needed too, WHICH SHE DID). Tony was morally wrong about almost everything that happened in this movie. He straight up told Steve that he wasn’t going to stop, and thanks to that wretched scene with Alfre Woodward (well acted by both of them, I must say, but REALLY unfortunate in existing at all), all he wanted was to be a weapon that someone else held. Steve was willing to be accountable. Steve was willing to be flexible. Tony just wanted…

Okay, so there’s that post about Tony’s PTSD going around tumblr, which I’ve read and mostly agree with. Except that literally every character in this movie (except Rhodey…more on that later), threw Tony a rope at some point in the narrative, and he ignored all of them. And every time he did it, I got more and more angry with his petulant man-baby act, so that by the time he said “He killed my mom”, I was so pissed I could barely see straight.

Backing up a bit, I want to talk about Spider-Man. The fifteen-year-old. Who Tony manipulated into giving the most pro-Steve speech in the ENTIRE MOVIE, and then blackmailed into joining an international conflict. Tony LIED to him, put him in TREMENDOUS danger, and then LEFT HIM IN FUCKING GERMANY WITHOUT A PASSPORT. Will Spider-Man have to sign the accords, Tony?

I kind of hate Tony Stark, which makes me sad, because I LIKE Tony Stark, and now I want him to die. He is literally the only Avenger who needs to be stopped. And he took Rhodey down with him, because of his arrogance.

(Sidebar: SAM WILSON, ladies and gentlemen, whose OWN PARTNER was shot out of the sky. Who DIDN’T FUCKING HESITATE when he realized Rhodey was down, and went after him. Who is emergency medical. Who Tony Stark FUCKING SHOT because Tony Stark has the emotional depth of a teaspoon.)

(Sidebar: THIS MOVIE GAVE US THREE VERY DIFFERENT BLACK GUYS, WHO HAVE DIFFERENT OPINIONS BASED ON DIFFERENT LIFE EXPERIENCE, BUT WHO ARE ALL PRETTY GREAT HUMAN BEINGS.)

Anyway, let’s talk about something else.

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So Scarlet Witch has been my low-key favourite every since Colleen told me about her (probably because Colleen neglected to mention that she was a villain, but whatever), but I was quite surprised by how much I loved the movie version. Olsen absolutely nailed it. I’m always here for angry girls with incredible power, so I don’t know why I’m surprised, but, man, I loved her. She was fabulous. She and Vision crammed more into their scenes than basically everyone else in the film (exception: T’Challa), and I am so impressed with their arcs.

I read somewhere that the Russos believe Vision can no longer lift the hammer after what he did in this movie, and I hope they meant because of what he did to Wanda (instead of what he did to Rhodey which, tbh, was Rules of War). His biggest failure is that he did the math and can’t account for the human element, whereas Wanda does the math and can. Their relationship was about 14 times more painful for that reason alone, but I ABSOLUTELY LOVED how many of her own choices Wanda got to make (specifically, whether or not she was going to go with Hawkeye. Sure, he opened the door, but she got them both through it in a BIG WAY, and I love her forever).

AND THEN THEY APOLOGIZE TO EACH OTHER. And Wanda forgives herself (for, like, not fucking up at all, btw. She killed, what, 11 people? Instead of the HUNDREDS who were on the ground?), and Vision can’t. Because there is more than math.

Before I leave Wanda, I want to mention the one thing about her storyline that will probably haunt me for a while: her prison outfit. Sure, they’re only in prison for a couple days, but there is no way she can eat or pee in that thing. Someone had to feed her and strip her so that she could go to the washroom. That prison had three guys who are only powerful when they’re wearing suits, and a traumatized girl. Guess which one couldn’t clean herself when she was allowed to use the toilet? I fucking hate Thaddeus Ross.

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I really liked Black Widow’s character progression through this. As I said above, she was the only one of them who could sign the accords and then break them. More importantly, she signed knowing she would break them, because that’s just how she rolls. She was smart, she was thoughtful, she used her fucking words, and she made the right decisions. I assume she’s randomly in the wind, as we never see her again, but I trust her. Hopefully she and Sharon are off somewhere, preparing with Maria for whatever comes next.

Natasha’s fight scenes continue to be absolutely staggering, but as much as it pains me…I think the ship has sailed on her movie. Unless it’s a flashback with a different actress to the time she broke free of the Soviets (which I’d be down for, obviously. Still very upset that the Black Widow YA book was not actually about YA Black Widow). I think the reason Wanda might be passing her in my affections is that I know what I’m in for with Wanda. With Natasha, in the early days, we had so much fucking hope.

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SPEAKING OF SHARON CARTER. I think she is, really, the only character who “won” Civil War. She makes a speech in public that’s coded directly for Steve (god, Peggy would be so proud). She circumvents her own bosses like NINE TIMES to get the job done. She holds her own as much as can be expected in the fight against The Winter Soldier. I love her so much.

Are we done with Martin Freeman now? I think we should be done with Martin Freeman.

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Man, that Black Panther movie can’t get here soon enough. I mean, not only is CB fabulous at the part, and clearly committed, the character was AMAZING. T’Challa’s emotional development was brilliant, and I loved dealing with a character who was so…enlightened. And talented. And good at his job(s).

(Did he sign the accords? Do you give up diplomatic immunity when you sign the accords? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS!)

Anyway, BREATH OF FRESH AIR.

I hope whoever does the music for his movie is able to suppress the urge to use “African Flutes” every time he does something cool, though. That was very tiresome.

(Also, I had assumed he and his father were speaking a made-up language, because that’s what nerds do for made-up countries, but apparently it was Xhosa. Even though at least one of the actors is a native speaker, that’s still not cool. Geographically, it’s implausible. It’d be like a “mythic Portuguese” person speaking Polish.)

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Okay, now I need to talk about Superhero movies and the suspension of disbelief.

When you go to a superhero movie, there are some things you need to leave outside the theatre. As the genre has gotten “more real”, we bring more into the theatre with us, and one of those things in “real life consequences”. I think that particular horse has been flogged about as much as it can be. The Alfre Woodward scene (I’M SORRY ALFRE WOODWARD) was awful, but the whole thing where Lagos was “Wanda’s fault” was even worse. Because she got FEWER PEOPLE KILLED. And they recovered the damn sample. AND THEY GOT RID OF…fuck I forget his name, but I’m super glad he’s very dead.

I don’t want real life in a comic book movie. I want comfortable justice. I want the bad guys to lose and the good guys to win. I am aware that, as stories evolve and our consumption of them changes, that is going to be altered, but I think we’re getting really close to the line. With Tony Stark as the villain (and he was, 100%, the villain of this movie. Random Dude Whose Name I Have Already Forgotten was secondary at best), I’m way past enjoying the film. We’re moving into Hunger Games territory, and that’s not what I’m here for.

It’s strange, because they’ve spent a lot of time setting Steve Rodgers up as infallible in-universe. And then this whole movie was predicated on my believing, for however short a time, that he WAS fallible. And I never did. Even before I was so angry at Tony (who has, for those of you keeping track at home, now become “his own worst nightmare” in literally every one of his appearances on screen), I was still on Team “Oh God Please Talk About Your Feelings”. I never thought that Tony was in the right (though I could sympathize with him a lot more before he got Rhodey nearly paralyzed and recklessly endangered A CHILD).

It’s an interesting place for story-telling. Every time Rhodey, Tony, or Hawkeye were on screen, my overwhelming thought was “You guys are so old”. They’ve been adding new characters to the MCU without writing out the old ones, even when they have the opportunity to do so. Now, they have the chance to take out Rhodey (or at least move him to “management”), and put Tony in a 100% bankroll position. I think both options would be INCREDIBLY favourable, especially as we look down the barrel of introducing Spider-Man (sigh), Black Panther, and Captain Marvel. They are great stories, but it’s time to thin the herd.

I guess what it comes down to is that this might be the best Avengers movie yet…but I really wanted a Captain America movie.

Poison, by Bridget Zinn

This book.

This book was a tragedy before it came out, because between selling the MS and the publishing release date, the author died of cancer. I remember taking it out of the box at work, and just being overwhelmingly SAD. I don’t think about my own mortality very much, but I was waiting for OWEN, and it occurred to me: I wanted to live to see my book on the shelf. Not in a suicidal way, or anything. I just…didn’t want to die. Anyway, POISON is also a tragedy because it’s a GOOD book, and I would have loved to see what else Zinn had up her sleeves. But my favourite thing about POISON?

It’s not a tragedy.

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POISON is, there’s really no other way to put it, a fantasy romp. It doesn’t turn dark corners, it’s not raw or wrenching, and it certainly isn’t gritty. Instead, it’s the fun kind fantasy I wish the YA section had MORE of, because it’s such a delight to read.

Plot: potion/poison master Kyra is on the run, after having attempting the assassination of the princess (her former best friend). With her old workmates and the royal guard closing in, Kyra has a second chance, even though only allies are her own wits and skill…and a magically talented pig she’s managed to acquire along the way.

have fun storming the castle

POISON had a lot of really delightful twists and turns, and managed to be accessible without ever breaking into everyday vernacular. I love Kyra a lot, and the back-up characters are great as well. The plot is fast moving and takes all sorts of interesting directions, and I really loved the world-building.

Feel the Power

Plus, the magic is all science-y, and Kyra appreciates the value of pie. And friendship. And having fun.

I really enjoyed re-reading this, even though it made me sad again. Publishing is such a NOW! business that sometimes I forget you can fall out of it not because your book didn’t sell, but because of real world sadness. I never got to meet Bridget Zinn, but I got to read her book, and her book is fabulous.

 

Ad-Astra Schedule (2015)

I am really pleased to announce that I’m going to be a panelist at Ad-Astra again this year. I had so much fun last time (even though I spent most of my non-panel time in my room, editing), and I am really looking forward to another spin.

Schedule:

Fri 8:00 PM – 9:00 PM : SF for a YA Audience
Fri 10:00 PM – 11:00 PM : Dystopian YA Clichés
Sat 5:00 PM – 6:00 PM : YA: Canadian Literature
Sun 3:00 PM – 4:00 PM : Readings: EK Johnston & Kelley Armstrong

And the YA panel I didn’t get on to (“Writing the YA Novel”) is right after the CanLit one, so I’ll be in the audience for sure!

The Story of Youtube

In 2012, after OWEN was written and sold, a video was posted to Youtube. It was a cover of a popular song, and what made the video interesting was that it featured five people playing the song on guitar. On one guitar.

I hadn’t even heard the original when I first saw the video (not uncommon for me), but I was hooked. This, I knew, was how Siobhan made her mark on the world. More accurately, this was how EMILY made Siobhan’s mark on the world.

I remember when American Idol first came out, and a bunch of my friends who are, uh, shall we say “choosy” in their music habits were all “UGH, this is terrible”. I was fascinated, though, because I felt like I finally got to see how music packaging works*.

(Side note: my dad’s favourite bands include ABBA and The Mama’s and The Papa’s, so from the time I was small, I was no stranger to music that was arranged rather deliberately.)

And this is Emily’s world. She is very good at the internet, and she’s the one who talks Siobhan into actually putting the music up for wider consumption. It never would have occurred to Hannah and Lottie (or Owen, for that matter), which is one of the reasons I like Emily so much, even though her scenes are a pain to write.

This was a bit of a shift for me, though, because the musician I had originally modelled Siobhan on was slightly different. Her name is Heather Dale, and she is a true bard. Heather started off writing for Renaissance Faires, and eventually recorded CDs and sold them, and travels a lot to perform. I really cannot understate how beautiful her music is. Every time I play it for someone new, they ask me who she is and comment on her words and voice and diction. She might be the best I have ever heard.

Heather has also made really great use of Youtube, as Siobhan eventually does, but the fact that they both got their start “off camera” gives them a slightly different style. It was a lot of fun to play around with. Heather’s music is intrinsically part of my concept of Siobhan herself and of Siobhan’s musical leanings (in particular THE ROAD TO SANTIAGO in The Story of Owen, and JOAN in Prairie Fire).

I think the BEST thing about music on Youtube, though, is that if you are talented, people will find you. It’s the “if you build it, they will come” mentality, only with music instead of baseball. Siobhan is very talented, and her music catches on because it is familiar…with a twist. My current Youtube infatuation is a duo that I think really captures every part of that.

(Also, check out their cover of TAKE ME TO CHURCH because: my heart.)

The Brooklyn Duo is a thing I never would have heard of, were it not for Youtube. And yet, because they recorded a video and put it on the site, and then someone brought it to Taylor Swift’s attention and she tweeted about it, and because I follow Taylor Swift on Twitter, I have heard of them, and I absolutely adore them.

This is how Siobhan’s music works. She doesn’t have to go town to town, singing for her supper (though she would if she did). Her music reaches farther than she imagined, farther than Lottie ever hoped, because it travels at the speed of WiFi, all around the world.

PRAIRIE FIRE is a bigger stage, and Siobhan’s not entirely ready for it yet, but she will be. She will be.

 

Prairie Fire comes out on March 1st, and is available for pre-order.

 

*So it’s not entirely a Youtube thing. Or even a CURRENT thing. Ed Sullivan was really good at finding niche acts to round out his show (my favourite is Gayla Peevey’s I WANT A HIPPOPOTAMUS FOR CHRISTMAS), but my father had to go to someone else’s house to watch that show. Youtube is much more accessible, and much more difficult to control.

 

And then, a sequel

There are usually some pretty good reasons to write a sequel. Here are some terrible reasons I had:

  • I had promised Tessa Gratton that I would burn down Kansas.
  • I had a vague desire to sic a dragon on the town of Hinton, because one time I was working a contract there in December, and I fell in a creek and had to cut myself out of my snow pants.
  • A song I really liked was exactly the wrong shape for OWEN, but I thought might be okay for PRAIRIE FIRE.
  • I had already come up with the title.

But here is the real reason I ended up writing it:

  • I always knew this part of the story.

In May of 2011, before I sat down to write THE STORY OF OWEN properly, I stood on a bluff overlooking the Athabasca River just outside of Whitecourt, Alberta, and I knew that someday, Owen and Siobhan would go there. It was sunny and windy – too windy, we would learn – and not too cold. Everything about the day was perfect, until we got back to our hotel. “Oh, thank goodness!” the hotel owner said. “You’re the last field crew to come in. I’m so glad you’re safe.” Alberta, it turned out, was on fire. The flames were jumping fire-breaks and highways.  For the next week, the woods were full of noise; there were helicopters and smoke in the air. And that was how PRAIRIE FIRE started.

I came home from Alberta and wrote THE STORY OF OWEN. Then I sold it*, and got an agent. “Is it a trilogy?” my agent asked. “No,” I said. “Can you pretend it is?” he asked. So I did. I pretended there was a second and third book, even though I had no idea what happened in Book 2 and didn’t really want to write Book 3. And everything was going swimmingly until we started editing, and Andrew kept asking questions like “How does the Oil Watch work?” and “No, really, what is up with Sadie?”, and I did my best not to think about it.

But I was. I was thinking about it a lot. I was thinking about it so much that I had come up with a dragon for them to fight and a couple of new characters, and a whole “new” city**. And then I got on a plane to fly to Texas, and listened to THE FIREBIRD SUITE on my iPod, and cried a bit, and wrote, quite fatefully After the Thorskards came to Trondheim, we always had a permanent dragon slayer.

I emailed Josh (“Remember that time you asked me if there was another book and I told you there wasn’t another book? I’m writing another book.”), and Josh talked to Andrew, and I wrote Chapter 1, and then we had a deal for it, and then I buckled down to write the rest.

I was terrified that I would experience Second Book Trauma, but I really didn’t. Instead I had regular old physical trauma, and was unable to sit in a chair (at Starbucks, or anywhere), and so had to mostly write in bed, which is not a lot of fun. Unlike my previous books, which I wrote mostly in one place, I never wrote PRAIRIE FIRE in the same place twice. It was very weird. Also, I had to send the last ten chapters to Emma while she was on her honeymoon, which will be funnier after YOU have read the last ten chapters, but then you’ll understand why John, her husband, gets a spot in the acknowledgements.

The thing I like about PRAIRIE FIRE is that it’s the third book in a trilogy. Sort of. Sarah Rees Brennan has famously said that the basic breakdown of a trilogy is: Meet Up, Make Out, Take Over The World, and I am following that model, but skipping Book 2 (it’s not even because of the kissing! It’s because the whole plot is about small town/rural Canadian politics and NO ONE ALIVE cares about that enough to read it in a book, even if the book has dragons). My apologies to Sadie Fletcher.

I really liked the bigger world, higher stakes, and [redacted for spoilers] that came with writing PRAIRIE FIRE. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

PRAIRIE FIRE comes out on March 1, and is available for pre-order now.

 

 

*Slightly more complicated than that.
**Blog posts to come, obviously.