Hope you're all enjoying the late spring/early summer.
A little business to get out of the way first: whenever these mailings go out, I always get a handful back because in-boxes are full, or email addresses have changed. Due to time constraints, I can't resend those. If you think you've missed a newsletter, you can check the archives on my site.
And as I've noted before, while I enjoy reading your comments on the newsletter, there simply isn't the time to respond to them. Hope you understand.
Of course the big news is that Forests of the Heart (Tor Books) is finally out. Readers have been sending kind emails, which are much appreciated, and MaryAnn's been collecting reviews which are now posted here.
Also out is My Favorite Fantasy Story
edited by Martin Greenberg which gave me a chance to introduce a Barbara Kingsolver story to readers of genre fiction. "Homeland" has everything I love about her writing in it. I was also delighted that Tanya Huff chose my own "Ghosts of Wind and Shadow" for the same anthology as it's probably the first and last time I'll be in the same anthology as Kingsolver, who remains one of my all-time favourite writers.
Choosing a favourite story was difficult, of course. The other two that really stand out for me over the years are "Distances" (from Sherman Alexie's collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
) and "Blue" (from Girl Goddess #9
by Fransesca Lia Block).
Mind you, I was thinking of out-of-genre stories when I was approached to contribute. I can't even begin to list the in-genre ones, though stories by Roger Zelazny, James Blaylock and Harlan Ellison would be close to the top of the list. The one at the top (though strictly speaking, it's a novella) would be "The Color of Angels" by Terri Windling (it appeared in the now out-of-print The Horns of Elfland) or her "Red Rock" which is currently available in the latest issue of Century (a lovely little magazine out of New York City edited by Robert Killheffer and Jenna Felice).
Life is good. The new Steve Earle CD (Transcendental Blues) is finally out and in constant rotation in the Harris/de Lint household, we finally opened up our cottage (though all we managed to do was sweep it out, hang up the curtains and mow the lawn), and except for some pretty much local events (Ottawa, Toronto, Montréal) that are coming up, we can now buckle down to get some real work done: MaryAnn will be drawing and painting all summer, working on interior illustrations for Triskell Tales and preparing for a September show that will run simultaneously on the Endicott Studio website and at Rasputin's, a local restaurant/folk club, while I'll be concentrating on The Onion Girl, getting more written over the next few months than the few lines a day I've been managing over these past weeks.
Besides the Steve Earle CD, I've been listening to the new Terri Hendrix (Places in Between), Slaid Cleaves (Broke Down) and Under Feet Like Ours, a CD by a duo billing themselves as Tegan and Sara (they're twins and based in Toronto), though Fred Eaglesmith's CDs are never long out of the player. MaryAnn has been particularly taken with CDs by a couple of local acts: Starling (Sustainer) and Jim Bryson (Jim Bryson & the Occasionals).
I didn't mention Steve Earle playing with the Del McCoury Band the last time out. The Mountain
is acoustic, bluegress, but it's still Steve and it's a terrific album. Of course, I have a huge bias towards anything he records. What can I say? He and Fred could easily be my desert island choices—they're already in the CD player often enough.
* * *
I haven't been reading nearly as much as I'd like to, what with travelling and all, so I don't really have any new recommendations along those lines this time out. But since I still get regularly asked what are some of my favourite books, I'll take the time here to list a few. Long time favourite authors (running the gambit in mood) are Barbara Kingsolver, Alice Hoffman, Andrew Vachss, Robert Crais, Thomas King…well, this could go on forever.
In the genre (so to speak) there are two books that have really stuck with me over the past few years: Terri Windling's The Wood Wife
(Tor) and Godmother Night by Rachel Pollack (St. Martin's Press). Also Jane Lindskold's two Athanor novels, Changer
and Legends Walking
, are well worth your attention. They're a Zelazny-esque take on the immortals living among us; serious and seriously fun.
Outside the genre, one of my all-time favourite books is La Maravilla
by Alfredo Véa, Jr. (Plume Fiction), set in the Southwest. And I'd also like to recommend Zak Mucha's The Beggar's Shore
(Red 71 Press), a harrowing story of a kid trying to make a life for himself on the streets of Chicago after escaping from the religious cult in which he was raised.
More next time.
CONduit in Salt Lake City was easily one of the best conventions that MaryAnn and I have attended to date. To be honest, we were kind of expecting it to be, since the con committee's organization and kindness became obvious long before we actually arrived at the hotel and met them in person.
But it was more than simply the con committee. Everybody we met was friendly and enthusiastic, generous with their good humour and time. The panels were all well-attended and the concert we gave on the Saturday was particularly enjoyable. When we arrived for it, we saw they were opening up two rooms and we mentioned that perhaps they should leave it to just one room so as to keep it more intimate. We were picturing this large room with a few people scattered throughout, but they assured us that we'd need both rooms.
Turns out they were right. The double room was filled almost to capacity and it was a fun hour. From conversations afterwards, there was more than one person that left as a new fan of Fred Eaglesmith. The same thing happened at the public library where we performed a short set before I did a reading and signing. It was also well-attended, and I liked the fact that people who couldn't make it to the con still had a chance to say hello.
It was also great to hang out with Rick and Becky LeMon (Rick's the Iron-Fisted Dictator of the Tamson House list, Becky's the voice of reason) who also happened to be in Salt Lake City at the same time. We went to a great Mexican place called the Red Iguana (first introduced to us a couple of days earlier by Scott Rich—thanks, Scott) where the wall near our table was signed by various members of Los Lobos.
But if the con was fun, the southern Utah trek that we signed up for after the con was purely amazing. We opted for hiking in the scenic Bryce Canyon area, rather than go looking at dinosaur tracks and fossils, and what a time we had. It was also great to get to know some of the con committee better on the hikes.
You can find some photos here.
* * *
Next up was Wiscon in Madison, WI. It had to a lot to live up to, considering how well we were treated in Salt Lake City but our friends Kathi and Kim Nash (the con's co-chairs) were well up to the task. And like CONduit we met lots of wonderful readers as well as connected with a bunch of old friends like Terri Windling, Charles Vess and Karen Schaffer, and our musician pal Dave Clement who took the bus all the way down from Winnipeg to be there with us. We ended up having a great song-swapping evening with him, Erin McKee and a couple of other musicians on Saturday night.
Wiscon's a different convention from most we go to. Like the World Fantasy Convention, there are a lot of professional writers, editors and the like in attendance, but here they seem to gather to discuss books and social issues as much to do business which makes for invigorating and lively discussions that carry on from the panels out into the halls and elsewhere.
The concert here was well-attended as well and I got to play my new favourite song "Good Dog" (written by Fred E., who else) for Karen who likes dogs as much as I do. MaryAnn and I have cats, of course (the prerequisite for being involved in the F&SF field it seems), but dogs can be good friends, too, if a little higher maintenance.
Madison's a pretty cool city, if you haven't been there before. The con's held in a hotel right downtown near State Street which is a few long blocks with great restaurants and funky shops. I did a reading and signing in one of them—A Room of One's Own—before the con and again, it was nice that I got to meet some of the college students who couldn't attend the con itself.
I gave a speech at Wiscon and you can read it here, if that sort of thing interests you.
* * *
Our last stop for this little jaunt was Austin, TX, for a signing at Adventures in Crime and Space, and boy was it hot and muggy—like Ottawa in July. We liked Austin a lot—it being one of the NA Meccas for good music, but alas, while I got to fill a few holes in my CD collection at Waterloo Music (thanks for the recommendation, Charles), we didn't get to take in any live music as we'd hoped. We got in too late on the Monday night and we were too tired after the event at the bookstore to go out and look for some on the Tuesday.
It was great meeting all the readers at the signing and a special treat for me was the opportunity to see my old correspondent Mike Ambrose, chat a bit with Jayme Blashke, meet my cyber pal Rob Blake (he of the Tamson House Library fame), and finally say hello to William Browning Spencer, the author of such great books as Zod Wallop and Irrational Fears. I didn't even know he lived in Austin; if I had, I'd have brought one of his books for him to sign to me. Do yourself (and him) a favour and go out and buy (or at least request) his books from your local book store. Bill's one of the better writers we have in the field and deserves our support.
* * *
Our trip ended with a night spent on a cot in O'Hare airport since weather delayed our flight to Chicago and made us miss our connection to Ottawa. Though perhaps "night" is a misnomer since they woke us up to take back the cots at 4:30am.
But now we're back home, playing catch-up. I've a book to write, MaryAnn has painting to do for her upcoming show, my mother's dog is visiting for a couple of weeks, and our cats are put out because of that and because we had the nerve to go away and leave them with MaryAnn's parents while we were gone. Though I don't know why they're complaining—they get spoiled rotten there.
Until again, stay strong and dream true.