Posts Tagged 'can-con'

Writing workshop: “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats” at CAN-CON on Oct 13 in Ottawa, ON

I will be teaching a writing workshop on how to create and maintain tension in your story at CAN-CON in Ottawa, Ontario.

WHEN: Friday, October 13, 2017 @ noon
HOW LONG: 2 hours
FORMAT: Lecture with group exercises and hand-outs
COST: $20

Why take this workshop?

Regardless of what you write, you need to hook the reader and keep them reading. “I couldn’t put it down,” is something we all want to hear. This can be through characters we care about, end-of-the-world stakes, will-they/won’t-they romance, or a plot that keeps unfolding new twists.

But have you been getting rejections like “Just didn’t grab me” or feedback saying it “Started too slow”? Do you have trouble figuring out what your main character should do next? Does your story start great and ends with a bang, but gets bogged down in the middle?

This workshop will help.

How will it help?

Tension is more than short, clipped sentences, the “ticking clock” or cutting between scenes. It’s making readers want need dying to know what happens next. This all comes from how you reveal and conceal information, and increase the stakes for your character. It’s not gimmicks, tricks or “on page 14, reveal the conflict” formulas. It’s solid writing techniques that can be used in any genre and any length of story.

What will you get out of it?

We’ll discuss:

  • How to structure scenes and the overall story so readers will keep turning pages
  • Techniques to make sure there’s always several things threatening your main character, driving them through the story
  • The various kinds of antagonists working against your main character, and why they are such a threat
  • How to keep upping the stakes if your character fails
  • How to stop using clichés, tricks and gimmicks that actually remove tension from your story



My Can-Con 2016 Schedule


The schedule for Can-Con 2016 has been posted and it’s amazing. There is everything here for fans of science fiction, horror and fantasy. Plus science panels, pitch sessions, agent sessions, and more. Please take a look at the panel descriptions.

If you’ve never been to a convention but have thought about it, but felt it might be too much for you, please read my post about why conventions are safe spaces for the shy or introverted. If you feel this way, please check out Can-Con. Registration information is online. It will make you feel at home and introduce you to an entire community you didn’t know was out there.

For me, I will be busy! Here’s my schedule, subject to last-minute changes.


7:00 – 8:00: So This Is Your First Con!
Zenith Room
I’ll be joining Lisa Toohey, Ryan McFadden, and Brandon Crilly (m). I will try to bring some humour and sage wisdom to this panel.

9:00 – whenever: Bundoran Press party
Tavern ConSuite
I’ll be reading from my story “Innocence Prolonged, And Overcome” from the new anthology Lazarus Risen. What happens in a town where everyone will live forever? Well, it’s not good. Nope, not good at all.


11:00 – 12:00: Reading from But It’s Not The End And Other Lies
Guildhall ConSuite
Join me doing a reading from my upcoming collection But It’s Not The End And Other Lies (ChiZine Publications) about what makes us human and what makes us monsters. Joining me in this time slot is fellow CZP author Ian Rogers reading from Every House is Haunted and ‘Nathan Burgoine reading from Triad Blood.

5:00 – 6:00: Can The Exorcist Work in the Modern World?
Twilight Room

I’ll be moderating a panel with Timothy Carter, Madeline Ashby, Mike Rimar and Ranylt Richildis. Since The Exorcist works on the idea that the Devil is real, that must mean God is real. And Jesus. And the Bible. In a secular world, does being scared by The Exorcist mean we must accept Christianity? We’ll discuss.

9:00 – whenever: ChiZine Publications party
Tavern ConSuite
This is the party to be at. Meet the leading voices in horror and dark fiction. And there will be booze.


12:00 – 1:00: Not All Antagonists Are Created Equal
Sunset Room

I’ll be moderating a panel with Julie Czerneda, Erik Scott de Bie, Gregory A. Wilson and Nina Munteanu where I propose there are three types of antogonist—villains, monsters and forces of nature. We’ll slug it out, talking to both fellow authors and fans. Bring ideas about your favourite antagonist.

1:00 – 2:00: Horror is Domestic
Sunset Room
I’ll be with Suzanne Church, Sean Moreland, Ryan McFadden and Sandra Kasturi. This is an important concept in horror—horror is some external, corrupting force invading the family unit. Is this essential or is it bullshit? We’ll figure it out.

Conventions as “safe spaces” for the shy and introverted


Can-Con 2016, Ottawa speculative fiction convention, is coming up in a few weeks. It’s taking place September 9 – 11, 2016 at the Novotel in downtown Ottawa.

If you are a fan of sci-fi, fantasy, horror or anything like that, but have never been to (or considered attending) a convention, please give this a try. A bit of my history: When I began writing seriously, I was encouraged to attend Ad Astra in Toronto. I was very hesitant. I am a shy person, very introverted, and a weekend surrounded by strangers seemed overwhelming to me. Like, panic-attack overwhelming.

But I went and was transformed. Here were people like me: shy and thoughtful, but away from the loud-and-boisterous braggarts who dominate just about every public space, we could be ourselves. Was Robotech as good as we remembered, is Star more SF or more fantasy, when does horror go too far? I could talk to people if I wanted to, or be off by myself and no one bothered me. And not just did no one bother me, no one made me think that being on my own was somehow wrong.

A speculative fiction conference is a safe space in a lot of ways. We actively fight sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and racism. But you are also safe to be in your own shell. We’ve all had experiences where sitting and reading our book is viewed as pitiable or even a justification to “save” us from being alone. This does not happen at a speculative fiction conference. And something like Comiccon, even with all its geeky goodness, can be overwhelming with so many people.

SF conventions, like Can-Con, are places to observe and think. It is as contemplative as it is social. You can go to the room parties, read in the bar, or chill out in your room—it’s all OK. If you don’t say one word to anyone else, no one will judge you or think it’s wrong or you’re being a jerk.

If you’re a fan of SF/F/H and feel like no one at work or in your family really gets you, and you have to pretend to be someone else to get by every day, please come. Experience what I did. Make strong friendships even after a life-time of finding it hard to make new friends. We might not all love the same things, or see eye-to-eye on The Force Awakens, but we will respect who you are and what you believe, and welcome you into our community even after so many others have excluded you.

Please come:

My CAN-CON 2015 Schedule

CAN-CON 2015—Ottawa’s original conference on SF/F/H—is coming up in Ottawa from October 30 to November 1. There will be readings, panel discussions and presentations, plus book launches and room parties. Registration is open and it’s $60 for the whole weekend with discounts for students.

A description of all the panels is up on their website. And you can download a PDF of the daily schedule. My schedule is below.

Something that is not listed are my Blue Pencil Cafés, which you have to sign up in advance for, but they are free for attendees. I hope you’ll sign up!


2:30PM: Workshop – Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats
I wrote a blog post with some more information on this workshop. Short version: creating tension means knowing how to structure a story and create threats to your hero. If you’re interested, you can register on the CAN-CON site. It’s $10 with a $1.25 service fee.

7:00PM: Live critic panel
Matt Moore, Kris Ramsey, James Bambury, Kevin Quirt, Agnes Cadieux
Come hear us crack wise about whatever the audiences says they love.

9:00PM: Bundoran Press/SFCanada Party
I’ll be attending. We’ll have to see how the evening goes, but I might be reading a snippet from “As Below, So Above” from Bundoran’s Second Contacts anthology.


10:00AM: Our Monsters are our Children
Matt Moore (m), Sean Moreland
Why do we love monsters, and what does that say about us?

3:00PM: Horror Reading: What is scaring the $#@% out of you?
Matt Moore (m), Peter Halasz
Looking for some good horror novels to read? Come check this out.

6:00PM: Extreme Weather Slapdown CANCELLED
Marie Bilodeau (m), Matt Moore, Eric Choi, Leah Petersen, Mark Robinson
Famed stormchaser Mark Robinson poses a severe weather event, and we authors have to create a story around it.

7:00PM: Scifi Cult movies (Buckaroo Banzai, Mystery Men, Repo Man, etc)
Ira Nayman (m), Timothy Carter, Matt Moore, Eric Choi
Why do we love them?

9:00PM: The ChiZine Publications’ Party
I will be there.


11:30AM: Reading
I’ll be reading “The Weak Son” from Tesseracts Thirteen. It’s an older piece, but one of my favourites to read aloud.

12:00PM: Contract, Contracts, Contracts – What’s a Good One?
Matt Moore (m), Matthew Johnson, Eve Langlais, David Hartwell, Caroline Frechette
Are you an author wondering what makes a good contract? Publishers and experienced authors will let you know what to expect, what to fight for, and what’s just crazy to ask for.

Come to My Blue Pencil Café at CAN-CON 2015

CAN-CON, Ottawa’s SF/F/H convention on October 30 – November 1, 2015, is offering free Blue Pencil Cafés. And I will be taking part.

A Blue Pencil Café is a 15-minute one-on-one session with an established writer. You can talk about the business of writing, get your work critiqued, talk about inspiration or structure, or anything you want.

To sign up, you must be registered to attend CAN-CON. Then go the Blue Pencil Café registration page and pick which author you want to spend time with and the author you prefer. You can pick me or:

  • Marie Bilodeau – four-time Aurora nominated epic fantasy, space opera and horror author
  • Leah Bobet – Andre Norton and Aurora-nominated author
  • Nina Munteanu – science specialist and writing coach
  • Jay Odjick – comic book creator and TV producer
  • Linda Poitevin – bestselling romance and dark urban fantasy author
  • Dr. Robert Runté – SF Academic and editor at Five Rivers Publishing
  • Hayden Trenholm – Aurora-winning author and editor, publisher of Bundoran Press
  • Ed Willet – This year’s guest of honour and author with DAW, Croteau Books and Bundoran Press

I hope to see you there!

Writing workshop: “Keep Readers on the Edge of Their Seats” at CAN-CON on Oct. 30 in Ottawa

I will be teaching a 2-hour writing workshop on how to keep readers on the edges of their seats before the official start of CAN-CON, Ottawa’s SF/F/H convention coming up October 30 – November 1, 2015.

This workshop is one of four workshops being run before the convention officially starts, so you won’t miss any programming by attending. Even if mine doesn’t sound interesting, check out the others.

If you’re interested, here’s the short version:

  • WHEN: Friday, October 30, 2015
    2:30 – 4:30
  • WHERE: Sheraton Ottawa Hotel (Room TBD)
    150 Albert Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
  • HOW: Register online
    Space is limited
    You do not need to register with the con to attend
    No same-day registration
  • COST: $10 plus $1.25 service fee

Why should I take this workshop?

This workshop is for writers of all genres who want their stories to be page-turners that readers can’t put down. If you have been getting rejections or feedback like “Started too slow” or “Just didn’t grab me”, this workshop is for you.

There’s more to maintaining tension than just writing short, clipped sentences, the “ticking clock” or cutting between scenes. Stories, and the scenes within them, have a structure. (And do not confuse structure, which is descriptive, with formula, which is prescriptive.) That is, we are introduced to a scene, something changes for our characters, and they move on to the next scene. This can involve saving the universe or looking for their car keys. To create tension, you need to understand how the pieces of this structure work—plot, pacing, characters, conflict, etc.

We’ll look at things like:

  • How to end a scene in a way that makes the reader want to keep reading, but by giving a pay-off and not “cheating”?
  • What kind of threats and challenges can you throw at the main character that aren’t tired, clichéd or too easy?
  • Who or what is working against your main character?
  • What is on the line if your main character fails?

There is limited space and you have to register in advance online. You won’t be able to register at the convention.

I hope to see you there!

CAN-CON 2014: Your guide for getting coffee, food, booze, etc.

The CAN-CON Logo

If you’re coming into downtown Ottawa for CAN-CON, our local convention on speculative fiction, in early October, navigating downtown Ottawa can be a challenge. Even for its residents, what’s a bustling central core during on weekdays becomes abandoned and closed over the weekend. Here’s an attempt to let you know where you can find services in downtown Ottawa.

If you’re not sure about CAN-CON, they’ve posted their schedule on their site. You can register for CAN-CON here.

If I’ve missed anything or you have something to recommend, please let me know in the comments!

Understanding downtown Ottawa

  • The streets are laid out in a grid, but in reality they run northeast-southwest and northwest-southeast. But if someone gives you “Go north” directions, remember that Parliament Hill is considered north.
  • The downtown core is built around public servants, so some places might not be open on the weekends.
  • Like everyplace else, we are undergoing construction—closed lanes, blocked sidewalks, etc.
  • Like most downtowns, there are one-way streets, no turns at certain intersections, and other traffic rules that make no sense.

The hotel

The Sheraton is right downtown at the corner of Albert and O’Connor. (On Google Maps.) It looks like there are always taxis out front. When I went by their was a sign for valet parking only in the hotel’s underground garage.

Across Albert Street is the World Exchange Plaza, which takes up an entire city block. There is a food court inside, but I do not know if it will be open over the weekend. But there is a Shopper’s Drug Mart right across the street for your con-crud needs. (Friday until 9PM, Saturday 9AM-6PM, closed Sunday).

If you are driving in for the day, parking at the World Exchange Plaza is free on the weekends. Get off the Queensway (Highway 417) at the Metcalfe exit and go north toward downtown. You will want to get into the left-hand lane as you approch downtown. Go straight across Albert and down the ramp into the underground parking garage. There is also an entrance off Queen Street between Metcalfe and O’Connor. (Hat tip to Natasha E Bertrand!)

You are also only three blocks south of Parliament Hill. We take it for granted in Ottawa, but if you’ve never seen it it’s worth the walk.

Restaurants & bars

There’s a bar and restaurant right in the lobby with seemingly sane hours. Hopefully we won’t need to go to far afield for a drink.

If you feel like going out, there are usually food trucks and stands all over downtown. But, on a weekend and with fall coming on I don’t know how many you’ll find.

Two blocks north is Sparks Street, a pedestrian mall that has number of shops and restaurants. There are too many to list here, so check out the Sparks Street website to get an idea.

If you are meeting a prospective agent, see if they will take you to Hy’s Steakhouse, one of the swankiest joints in the city. It’s on Queen between Bank and O’Connor (one block north, half a block west).

At Sparks and Bank (two blocks north, one block west) you’ll find 3 Brewers, a huge place that brews its own beer. Not great, but very good.

There are also Subways, McDonalds, shwarma, sushi and other places to get a quick bite, but too many to list here (though I can’t promise what will be open).

LCBO and Beer Store

There is an LCBO across Albert Street and at the east end of the block.

  • Friday: Open until 8PM
  • Saturday: 10AM6PM
  • Sunday: 12PM4PM

Unfortunately, there is not a Beer Store in the downtown core and you’ll need to cab it or drive to The Beer Store at Rideau and Waller.


There is no shortage of coffee places. Just pick a direction!

Metcalfe and Slater (one block east, one block south)

  • Tim Hortons (6AM-7PM daily)
  • Starbucks (Friday until 8PM, Saturday 6:30AM-7PM, Sunday 7AM-7PM)
  • Second Cup (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 7AM-7PM)

Bank and Albert (one block west)

  • Bridgehead (Friday until 9PM, Saturday and Sunday 8AM-8PM)

Bank and Slater (one block south, one block west)

  • Starbucks (Friday until 8:30, Saturday 7:30AM-8PM, Sunday 7:30AM-8PM)
  • Second Cup (Friday until 7PM, Saturday 8AM-5PM, closed Sunday)

O’Connor and Laurier  (two blocks south)

  • Starbucks (Friday until 7PM, Saturday and Sunday 7:30AM-6PM)


Most major banks have locations within a block or two, so if you don’t mind a quick walk you can save a buck or two at the ATM.


The hotel offers an exercise room, but there is also a GoodLife Fitness at Queen and Bank (one block north, one block west) that is open until 10PM on Friday, and 7AM-7PM Saturday and Sunday.

Like I said above, if I missed something feel free to let me know if in the comments! See you all in a few weeks.

More About my Writing Workshop on Narrative Tension

UPDATE: Unfortunately, I have had to cancel this workshop. I hope to put it on later in the fall.

A little bit more about the all-day writing course on creating tension in your writing that I’ll be teaching. It takes place June 22 here in Ottawa.

The cost is $45. Send the payment by Paypal to They’ll confirm your registration within 24 hours by email.

Part of the funds raised will go to support ChiSeries and Can-Con.


Join Me at On The Brink: CAN-CON Celebrates New SF Writers

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be the Keynote Reader at the inaugural On the Brink: CAN-CON Celebrates New SF Writers taking place May 29 at the Westboro Clocktower Brew Pub. Things get started at 7PM.

On the Brink is an idea I’ve heard floating around the Ottawa spec-fic community since I launched ChiSeries here in Ottawa. The goal is to provide a venue to raise awareness for new and emerging authors of speculative fiction—science fiction, fantasy, horror, slipstream, etc. I’d considered it as part of ChiSeries, but already have my hands full.

So, I was thrilled when my friend Marie Bilodeau contacted me to let me know On the Brink had found a home with CAN-CON, Ottawa’s speculative fiction convention that happens each October. And, surprised when she asked me to be the Keynote Reader for the night! I need to coordinate the agenda with Marie, but my time will probably be a combination of readings, speaking and interview. I’m thinking of reading a few pieces from Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark plus some unpublished stuff.

Leading off the night will be three local writers: Mary Pletsch, Jason Sharp and my friend Geoff Gander.

If you’re in Ottawa and a fan of speculative fiction, I hope you’ll come out to join us. We’re a growing community here in Ottawa and these events are becoming a mainstay in town. The more of us show up, the more events we’ll have. So please come out and show that Ottawa isn’t the boring, sleepy town others make it out to be!

Clocktower Brew Pub, Westboro
418 Richmond Rd.
Ottawa, Ontario
Google Map



2013 Year in Review

I’ll remember 2013 as a great year.

Although I only had one fiction publication (the small town horror story “The Leaving” in Blood Bound Books’ Blood Rites), I made 25 submissions and had 4 acceptances, all of which will appear next year. In addition, my op-ed on (sub)urban fantasy appeared in the Spring edition of On Spec.

I was also nominated for an Aurora Award in the short story category for “Delta Pi” from Torn Realities (Post Mortem Press).

In April, I launched the Ottawa branch of the Chiaroscuro Reading Series, the first off-shoot of the Aurora Award winning professional reading series stared in Toronto. Charles de Lint was my headliner, followed by Tanya Huff in July. Speaking of Toronto, I read at the Toronto ChiSeries in September. (Watch videos of my readings.)

For conventions, I attended and participated in Ad Astra in April, the World Horror Convention in June, Can-Con in October and SFContario in November. I highlight of Can-Can was getting to represent Can-Con and Ottawa in presenting the Aurora Award in the Best Graphic Novel category. Except for World Horror, I did readings at all of these conventions. Plus, I was invited to read with Kate Heartfield and Lydia Peever at an event hosted by Postscripts to Darkness.

I also attended Ottawa Comiccon (May) and Ottawa Pop Expo (December), though I did not do programming there.

And I launched my short story collection Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark.

Looking ahead to 2014

Preparing and promoting both the Ottawa ChiSeries and Touch the Sky, Embrace the Dark took a lot of time. I also received some bad news in my personal life in 2013 that zapped a lot of my energy.

To be honest, my writing in 2013 was probably my weakest in years. I did not produce as much as I wanted and it was not at the quality I need to be producing now. All of my sales were of pieces I had written early, they just happend to sell in 2013.

So in 2014, here’s my plans:

  • Watch less TV. I don’t watch a lot, but have a habit of turning on the TV when I am folding laundry or eating a meal. I will stop since it sometimes sucks me in or, at the least, distracts me. It’s time for that to stop.
  • Get excited about writing again. I think I became a bit burned out by actually writing in 2013. I felt more pressure to revise, submit and promote than actually write. That needs to change. I need to love the stories I am telling more than finally getting them out to market.
  • Be more overtly genre. A lot of what I have written in the last two years has been very heavy on character at the expense of the plot one expects in genre fiction. While I strongly believe genre fiction can be literary, a literary story with a barely-there speculative element will have a hard time selling in either genre or literary markets. My thinking had been “I’d rather the horror be subtle and let the character’s story carry you through.” I now see the character’s story can carry the reader, but the horror can also be in your face.
  • Run workshops. I ran some workshops two years ago, but have not gotten back to it. I enjoyed the experience of helping other writers and hope I can organize a few this year to support ChiSeries and Can-Con.

Upcoming Appearances

Limestone Genre Expo – Guest
May 26 – 27, 2017
Holiday Inn Waterfront
Kingston, ON
Can*Con 2018 – Special Guest
Oct. 12 – 14, 2017
Sheraton Ottawa Hotel
Ottawa, ON

Where Else to Find Me

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