Douglas Smith's blog

Aurora bundle spotlight: Martyrs

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

Who is your favourite character in this book and why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What was your biggest surprise in writing this book?

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


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


Aurora bundle spotlight: Second Contacts

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

Here are three questions and Mike's answers:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragically Hip Discography.

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

Aurora bundle spotlight: Shadow of Ashland

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

Here are three questions and Terry's answers:

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

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


The next Aurora Award ebook bundle

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

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

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

Upcoming appearances - July 2018

2018 Ad Astra Time Travel panel

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

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

Hope to see you at one of these events!

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

Upcoming appearances

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

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

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

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

Hope to see you at one of them!

Some recent interviews

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

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

Convention appearance: Limestone Genre Expo, Kingston

Limestone Genre Expo logoI'll be attending the 2018 Limestone Genre Expo in Kingston, Ontario on May 26-28 (Sat-Sun). I'll be giving a workshop on marketing and selling short fiction, participating on panels, and selling and signing my books. 

Limestone Genre is a fun con that has quickly grown from a part-day event to a full weekend in just a few years. Unlike many genre conventions that focus on visual media, this expo has a clear literary focus and consciously caters to actual (gasp) book readers. Like you, or you wouldn't be here, right? 

From the website: "The Expo is a two-day literary event, celebrating the best in Canadian genre fiction. We offer panel discussions, workshops, readings, pitch sessions, a large vendor area, and many opportunities to interact with our attending authors, editor and publishers.​"

Kingston is a pretty town and this is a great time of year to be there. I hope you'll mark this expo in your calendar. 

Reading in Toronto on May 8: Parliament branch library

I'll be reading as the special guest at the Open Mic programme at the Parliament branch library in Toronto on Tuesday, May 8 in the evening. There will be a number of short readings starting at 6:30p, and then I'll read up to 8pm. I'll also be selling my books at discounted prices and signing. If you're in the area, I hope you'll drop by or tell some friends.


Tuesday, May 8, 2018
6:30-8:00 pm
Toronto Public Library
269 Gerrard Street E.

Writing workshop (short notice)

Playing the Short Game coverFor Toronto-area peeps: I'm giving a 2-hr workshop on marketing & selling short fiction at the Albert Campbell branch library tomorrow from 1-3pm. The workshop is taken from the first part of my Playing the Short Game book and covers the benefits of writing short fiction, rights and licensing, a strategy for marketing your short fiction, how to find markets, how to select the best markets, how to submit, the no-nos of submitting, and much more. 

If you're a short fiction writer or if you know someone who is, please spread the word.


Friday April 13, 1-3pm
Albert Campbell branch
Toronto Public Libraries
496 Birchmount Road
Cost: $20, which includes a copy of the book



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