Wednesday, August 26, 2020

The Film Rights to OCTOBER Are Sold!

Well, it's official. The film rights to my novel October have been sold to L.A.-based indie filmmaker Dominic Haxton, as Publisher's Marketplace Deal Report announced today, in a deal quarterbacked by my agent, Sam Hiyate of The Rights Factory. 

I'm over the moon to finally be able to share it. I was a fan of Mr. Haxton's short films long before he approached me about making a feature film of October. I'd found his powerful short film, Tonight It's Me, about an encounter between a young trans woman, Ash, and a hustler, CJ, beautiful and remarkably moving. 

His queer horror short, Tonight It's You, on the other hand, which again featured the character of CJ, was as dark and chilling as its more optimistic predecessor was tender and revelatory. It's one of my favourite short horror films. 

In the afterword to October I mentioned a young filmmaker in California who had enquired about making a feature film of the novel, and what contemporary updates he might apply. 

That filmmaker—unnamed in the afterword—was the brilliant Mr. Haxton. 

Two years ago, he acquired a shopping deal for October, and earlier this summer, he purchased the film rights themselves, to make October as his first full-length feature. 

I couldn't feel more confident that the book is with the right filmmaker.  If you click this Tonight It's You link, I think you'll understand why. 

I can't wait to see what Mr. Haxton does with the novel when he applies his own elegant, modern horror aesthetic to the story of Mikey and Wroxy, and Adrian, and the haunted town of Auburn. 

We'll keep you posted as the process unfolds and develops. 

But for now, we're going to open some champagne. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Cover Reveal à la Française

Here's the cover of the forthcoming mass-market edition of Les Ombres de Wild Fell, the French translation of my haunted house novel Wild Fell, which will be published by Editions Bragelonne in Paris, in October, 2020.

In the same way that many authors pine for a hardcover edition of their novel, I've always pined for a mass-market paperback edition of one of mine. I grew up on mass-market horror paperbacks. 

We all read them at school, traded them, collected them, hoarded then, and loved them to shreds. I still have some of my best-beloved ones from the late-70s and 80s. 

The late, legendary Michael McDowell, who wrote some of the best original horror fiction of the era, always said he was proud of being a paperback novelist—a writer whose books were published only in mass-market paperback. 

I always admired him for that, as well as for his tremendous storytelling gifts. 

Bragelonne published a beautiful trade paperback of the novel in 2016, with a glorious translation by Benoît Domis. 

I've never been able to read my work to myself in English without hearing my own voice, and finding things I would have loved to have done differently. It's a weird neurosis, but I own it. What I found, reading the book in French, was that it was like reading a novel by someone other than myself. I enjoyed that sensation. I likewise had a much clearer sense of the book when I didn't attach that authorial self-consciousness to the process.

I hope French readers of the new mass-market paperback edition enjoy it as much as I enjoyed writing it. There's an enormous amount of pleasure in imagining someone picking up the novel at an airport somewhere in the French-speaking world, maybe for a long flight, and imagining them spending those hours in the air, being transported, in their minds,  to Canada, to a remote, windswept island in Georgian Bay, and an old dark house presided over by a very particular, very possessive, quite terrifying châtelaine.

Bonne chance, mes potes. 

Friday, August 14, 2020

Meet My New Publisher, Open Road Media

I'm delighted to be able to share some exciting news, as well as some new book covers

Early in 2020 we were approached by Open Road Media about acquiring the publication rights for my fiction backlist, the novels Enter, Night, Wild Fell, and October. These novels, originally published by ChiZine Publications, have consistently remained in print since 2011 when Enter, Night was first published. 

A French edition of Wild Fell was published by Editions Bragelonne in Paris in 2016.

Open Road Media is America's premier global backlist publisher. Their roster includes legends such as Joan Didion, William Styron, Alice Walker, Dee Brown, Pat Conroy, Paul Monette, Joyce Carol Oates, Gloria Steinem, Octavia Butler, John Jakes, Pearl S. Buck, Walker Percy, and Sherman Alexie

Closer to home, I'm honoured to have my books appear alongside some of my favourite speculative fiction authors, including Graham Masterton, Robert McCammon, Thomas Tryon, Poppy Z. Brite, Elizabeth Hand—and of course, the elder gods: Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, J. Sheridan LeFanu, Ann Radcliffe, among many, many others. 

Best of all, the partnership with Open Road Media assures that my three novels will remain in print for the foreseeable future—certainly as e-books, but also as print-on-demand paperbacks and hardcovers further on down the line. 

The e-books are up for pre-order on Amazon. They will be released in October 2020.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Watch Out, World—She's Eighteen and She's Going To Change Everything

My beloved goddaughter Kate turned eighteen today and I'm all at sea.

Of course I'm thrilled and proud beyond measure that this glorious young woman, at the threshold of adulthood, has indeed crossed that threshold and stepped confidently into the sunlight of that new stage of life. 

She's part of that powerful generation of young people whom I have no doubt will save, and change forever, the world they've inherited. It needs saving, and it needs changing most of all. This is a generation for whom issues of the environment, of racial equality and empowerment, and issues of LGBTQ equality and empowerment, are not "goals," but actual starting points. 

Things that my generation strove to actualize, they grew up already aware of. If they didn't necessarily take them for granted, they knew right from wrong, and they know the importance of righting wrongs. This gives them tremendous power and I have no doubt in my mind that they'll wield that power in the most responsible way, and that they're going to change everything that needs to be changed. 

And yet, here I am, at 2:00 a.m. on her birthday morning, replaying memories over and over in my mind, among them the most cherished memories of my life. 

I'm gently haunted in particular by the memory of how her tiny hand fit into mine when she was very small and we walked together—in parks, along roads, through the woods up north. We walked together  a great deal. The hand grew, and the girl grew, but that particular memory is one I hold close. 

I loathe clichés, both as a writer and as a human being, but the question Where did all these years go? seems an inevitable one tonight. Where did they go? 

Well, to living, of of course. That's where years go

Memories are patchwork, and when you've made enough of them, you begin to stitch them together. Sometimes you don't realize how luxurious a quilt you've made until nights like tonight arrive. And when they come, what a Kate-quilt I have. The patches aren't ordered in a chronological or sequential way. Instead, they come into their design based on vividness and colour. 

Here's just one patch, for instance: Kate's tenderness and her gentleness—towards dogs, towards other children, towards beloved adults, including her two godfathers. Brian and I have a framed photo on the mantelpiece of Kate, at two or three, brushing our late yellow Labrador Harper's paws with a pink doll brush while Harper, entirely in her thrall, watches, fascinated. 

Here's another: her athletic fearlessness—skimming over the waves up at the lake behind her father's boat, wet blonde hair flying behind her, laughing into the sun against the hard blue August sky, the embodiment of Ontario summer.

Still other patches: Kate giving a talk about LGBTQ rights to her class in, what, grade eight? Grade nine? My immense and overwhelming pride in her upon hearing that it had been well received by her classmates and the teacher, thinking Of course it was well received—she's brilliant and she has a social conscience and she's not even sixteen yet. 

And others still: Kate taking up long-distance canoeing with a vengeance, joining the line of a family tradition that spans several generations—a very Canadian tradition at that. Kate running. Kate swimming. Kate skiing. Kate baking, Kate reading, Kate exploring the possibilities of her own life in discussions with Uncle Brian—her other godfather—about careers and politics. 

Reading to Kate before bedtime on the nights I babysat; her eyelids fluttering and growing heavy in the moments before the book was put away and light was turned off. 

Kate painting a canoe paddle at camp as a gift for Brian and I five years ago, as a gift for our anniversary, blazoned with the legend "Thirty Years Of Love." 

The memories fall like snowflakes, all of a pattern but each one exquisitely unique. 

And yet, even as I run my mind along the soft surface of this quilt of patchwork memories, all I can think of is how many others there are, and that even if I listed those others, I'd only be conscious of how many I'd missed. 

Kate's parents are two of the people I love the most in the world, full stop. 

They gave us an incredible gift many, many years ago:  they made Brian and I members of their family. With no children of our own, we were invited to participate in the miracle of Kate and her brother Michael, my namesake, literally from birth. We were invited to love and be loved by those two children (neither of whom are children as of this writing) and to watch them grow in to the forces of nature they now are. 

Our lives have been shaped and enriched by that love. We are who we are today in part because of it. 

On this, the early morning of Tuesday, July 14th, 2020, my goddaughter, who is probably asleep, is legally an adult. That is a phrase that will naturally mean more to her than it does to me at this point. That's as it should be—I remember the feeling very well from my own eighteenth birthday: a sense that nothing had changed from the day before, but, also, that everything had changed.

But what's really changed is this: a brave, brilliant, fearless young woman is about to boldly stride into her own life and into the world.  She'll be taking everything she has been, and everything she is now, with her.  

The possibilities are literally limitless. 

I've wracked my brain for hours trying to sort out my feelings, because this is all so intoxicatingly bittersweet. 

Don't get me wrong—it's absolutely sweet. But time carries weight, and to deny that weight is to deny how we experience memory itself. And still, even with an ocean of pre-fab birthday platitudes at my disposal for moments like this, I can't even imagine what to say to her besides Happy Birthday

Or else, I could say this: I could thank her for the glorious mosaic of the years spent watching her reach this moment.  I could tell her that she's extraordinary, and that I believe she'll live an important life, and that I believe that she, and women like her, will change the world. I could tell her that I'm prouder of her than she could even dream, and that she has been a source of inspiration since the first moment I held her in my arms, and that she is even more of one today. 

I could tell her how much I wish I could be with her today, and how bitterly I resent the degree to which COVID-19 has made travel impossible, denying us the chance to celebrate this milestone with her in person. 

And I could tell her that one of the reasons I can afford to dream of the greatness she'll achieve, and the love and joy she'll find in the years to come, is that I can still feel that tiny, perfect warm hand in mine. 

I can feel it tonight, as I write this.  I'll feel it tomorrow. I'll feel it forever. 

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Riding the Peace Train

The thing about the interiority imposed by self-quarantine, particularly for a freelancer, is the loss (or at least the reduction) in daily markers. I used to joke that weekends for a freelance writer just meant a day when FedEx didn't deliver. The concept of a "weekend" exists only in relation to our intersection with the lives of "normal" people. Saturday and Sunday were two days to work on a deadline when we knew an editor wasn't going to be calling and wondering why whatever we were working on wasn't on their desk yet.

Before the self-quarantine, I used my husband's getting to, and coming home from, the office as a marker of not only time, but of days of the week.

Much like the timbre of light in the sky or "morning sounds" vs. "evening sounds," or Beckett's feeding and walking schedule, his movements through the tunnels of air that make up our days ad night have always been a reliable way to keep track of time. But of course, for the foreseeable future, I'm going to have use an alarm clock and an agenda like everyone else.

Now that he's working at home too, it's like having two freelancers under the roof instead of just one. I'm not sure what I think of that, not that it matters. It just is what it is.

I just went downstairs and made an offhand remark about how I couldn't believe it was Friday again already. He informed me that it was, in fact, Saturday.

So, I apologize to the editor I emailed earlier about a pending deadline in an attempt to get everything tidied up before "the weekend"—which was clearly already here. Sorry darling, my bad. Entirely.

In the past few days I've been revisiting the music I've loved.

In 2010, when I was writing my first novel, Enter, Night, which is set in 1972, I submersed myself in everything of the era I could find—I read the magazines, I smelled the scents (yes, I found bottles of 70s-era perfumes on Ebay, both to evoke memories of the time and to add to the my inner mental map of the character of Christina Parr, the female protagonist) and I listened to the music.

I loaded up my iPod with everything from pop and folk to the metal of the time. Some of it was an enjoyable revisiting of my earliest musical discoveries. Some of it was pure work—I won't need to listen to Deep Purple's Machine Head again until I decide to tackle a sequel to Enter, Night. But at the end of the day, it was about immersion in an an era in the service of the writing of my first novel. And when it was over and the book was written, I just put it away and went back to my real life, and my real life's tastes.

This past week, I've been felt drawn to some of that old music again. It started with a re-listen of some Joan Baez. I've always loved the gritty earnestness of her voice, particularly in songs like "Diamonds and Rust."

From there, I gravitated to Janis Ian's Between The Lines, still probably my favourite album of all time.  The phrase "soundtrack of my life" is a woefully overused one, but in this case I have to cop to it. I can place myself emotionally in every song of that album. It's the easiest route to memories of heartbreak, of feelings of inadequacy, of yearning for love, of being convinced that love was something for other people, for "girls with clear-skinned smiles, who married once and then retired," as well as for "normal" kids, among whose number I could often not find a place for myself.

Two days ago, it was Carole King and her Tapestry album, which features her version of her song "You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman." Like most people with a pulse, I am devoted to the Aretha Franklin version, which I consider the pinnacle recording of this song. But at my school in Switzerland in 1974, all the American girls who were my friends had this album, and it's as evocative of that time in my life as the scent of their Love's Fresh Lemon cologne.

Last night, I lit a fire in the fireplace, made a pot of mint tea, and indulged myself in a watercolour wash of Judy Collins' pellucid voice, a voice that still seems like a miracle half a decade later.

Today—Saturday, not Friday—has been all about Cat Stevens, aka Yusuf Islam.

In 1970, my American grandparents bought transistor radios for my brother and I, with cases in two different shades of grey to make them easy to distinguish. My parents were obsessed with the idea that my brother and I would fight over things. When we fought, it was very rarely over an object, and I don't ever recall the radios being an issue.

His was a darker grey, mine was a light graphite, and we never swapped.

How well I remember the nights of falling asleep listening to the miracle issuing from the tiny leather-encased box on my pillow. I was seven, and I believed all the music I was listening to was being recorded live down at the local radio station. (The discovery that the songs were all on records was both thrilling and devastating—I was thrilled that they were available in shops, but devastated to realize that rock stars weren't all visiting downtown Ottawa for the evening.)

"Wild World" haunted me. Even at seven, I recognized that someone was very, very sad to be saying goodbye. The first few times I listened to the song, I wept a bit at the thought of the loss. Upon later listenings, I was both attracted and repelled by the idea of a "wild world" where "a lot of nice things turn bad out there." But, ever the optimist, I focussed on the fact that love was driving this sad goodbye, and if someone could love the girl in question to hope she "has a lot of nice clothes to wear" and "makes a lot of nice friends out there," then it was probably all going to work out for the best in the long run, and always being remembered as "a child, girl" clearly wasn't a bad thing, particularly from my point of view as an actual child.

Later, in 1974, when Dad was at the U.N. and we were living in Geneva, I met Nancy, the American girl who was hired by my parents as a babysitter. I wrote about Nancy in the Huffington Post (you can click the blue link and read the essay "For My Sister On Her Birthday) in 2016, as well as in some of my non-fiction books.

From a chance cancellation by our usual babysitter came possibly the earliest defining relationship of my life. Plainly speaking, I adopted her as a big sister, and she adopted me back.  Forty-six years later, the only adjustment to that relationship has been a deep patina of shared experiences and shared love that has only grown in the four and a half decades since that fateful night.

We spoke this afternoon about how each of us were handling the self-imposed quarantine on opposite sides of the continent. As the conversation went on I was reminded again, as I so often have been over the years, how permeable the veil of time is when two people have our history.

When I listen to "Tea for the Tillerman" as I did this afternoon—an album Nancy owned, and one to which she introduced me—that's her for me. Music, like scent, is a time machine. It's a temporal barrier-breaker. I close my eyes and I'm sitting on he bedroom floor with my eyes closed, listening to the music flow over me, igniting my imagination like a fuse, feeling loved, feeling safe, and feeling connected.

And all the while, the music was writing itself into my history.

Nancy could play the guitar, and eventually she learned "Father and Son." We sang it together. Being Nancy—a young woman of incomparable patience, and possessed of a wry sense of humour—she allowed me to sing the third-verse background parts of both the father and the son, though by rights I should have only been allowed to sing one or the other.

This week, as an adult revisiting that personal soundtrack, I find that this music still has the power to map my life. My life today. It feels almost miraculous  It doesn't make me feel younger to revisit it, to connect the various threads that bind this music to the memories of my life, but it certainly makes me feel present in my life now. Present, and grateful.

In an moment as uncertain as the one in which we find ourselves right now, that's pure gold.

If these songs were a dream, I'd want to linger a bit longer before waking up.

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Good morning, April

Spring is as close as the Early Snow Glories bordering the front walk. It's coming, whatever else is going on in the world. Like a coquette, it demands to be fêted and admired. I'm happy to oblige.

The View From Inside

And here we are, on the first perfect day of spring, and we're inside, looking out. It's a glorious afternoon. The flowers in the graveyard where I walk Beckett every day are making shy debuts.  The air is soft, for the first time in months. The earth is waking up slowly, stretching, and even smiling in the newly-yellow sunlight.

Last year at this time, I would have been outdoors all day—walking the dog of course, but also maybe shopping, or meeting friends for dinner after a day of writing, or going to the gym, or walking through the University of Toronto campus, which is always rich with memories for me at this time of year. Or wandering around downtown, marvelling at how much healthier and happier everyone looks in spring. Or any number of other things that I previously took for granted.

Freedom of movement, freedom of interaction, freedom of association. Freedom to hug someone, or to kiss their cheek. Freedom to let children pet Beckett in the park while I exchange pleasantries about the weather with their mothers and fathers, as neighbours do.

This past March, I published a short story in a groundbreaking anthology edited by Matt Bechtel called The Dystopian States of America. Some of the finest horror writers in the business set themselves to the task of sketching fiction about life under the current regime in the United States, or its aftermath. It's not an optimistic collection by any reckoning, but neither was it intended to be prophetic, and yet here we are, trying to remain indoors while a virus that appears to defy science is literally ravaging the world.

What we are asked to do is stay at home and restrict contact with others. It's not much.

Those of us who have the privilege and the luxury of being able to do that have, to my mind, even more of a moral obligation to do so. Inexplicably, some of us find this an impossibility. Even as I look out this window, I see children playing in the schoolyard across the street. I see groups of people sauntering past on the sidewalk as though it was the spring of 2005, not the spring of 2020, and I wonder what in God's name it's going to take for people to take this seriously.

I think of my many young friends in the restaurant industry who were barely making do before, and who now have no income to speak of. I think of the teachers who are learning new ways to teach, pretty much making it up as they go along. I think of the doctors and nurses who literally put their lives on the line every time they go to work, trying to save people who may or may not have laughed off the urgings of politicians and medical professionals to stay home.

I'm fortunate to have my husband at home with me now. His work has proved to be surprisingly mobile, and it has allowed him to turn his home office into command central. Ironically, we're spending more time together of late than we ever have in the 35 years we've been married. The fact that we each have home offices means we're not on top of each other, and are in no danger of killing each other. I like to hear his voice behind his office door, and I love the sound of his muffled laughter. After three and a half decades, my heart still flutters when I hear it.

When I was a child, people said I was "too sensitive," which was turned into the ultimate derision when adults used just the right tone of voice. It meant I felt things too deeply, or took things too personally, or too seriously, and that I was too "emotional." It was all code for "feminine"—the worst, most lethal insult that could be thrown at a boy in the late-60s and 70s.

It's taken more than half a century, and some excellent therapy, to realize that being "overly sensitive" (what does "overly" mean, anyway?) isn't my problem, it's my strength. It  allows me to feel the empathy required to write what I write, and to love as I do.

But yeah, there's a cost, particularly during these days of the new plague. Like many of us, I feel all of this. And I'm frightened, as most of us are, even as I'm genuinely optimistic.

I'm taking care of the people around me. I'm reading books I'd put off reading, and watching some excellent television. I'm working on a new book of my own, and finalizing the details of a potential film adaptation of one of my novels from a brilliant indie director in Los Angeles, of whose work I have been a fan for years.

I'm writing cards and letters by hand, and reaching out to friends with whom I've been out of touch. I'm focussing on love, forgiveness, and kindness, because our thoughts become our character more than ever in a dark time.

The other day someone reached out to me from Rosedale United Church, a church I attend less frequently now than I'd like, but for whom I have great affection and solid, joyful memories of winters of volunteering at a homeless shelter. Other friends have called or written, and I find myself sending and receiving more DMs than usual on Facebook. One of my beloved sisters-of-the-heart sent flowers the other day, with likely the most incomplete sense of how much joy and colour they brought me.

Social media—so often a nightmare world populated by vindictiveness and the wanton destruction of lives—has become a lifeline: a virtual phone-tree. It reminds us that we're not alone.

I don't watch the news anymore, because I already know the situation and it's like wallowing, naked and wet, in a bathtub full of broken glass. If something happens, pro or con, I'll hear about it. I don't have any profound, philosophical insights to share about life under COVID-19 self-quarantine, so I'm just going along as best I can, trying to help out whenever I can.

And staying home.

But it I have one takeaway, it's this familiar one: love and kindness are never wasted. Also, that you never know how blessed you are, or how much you take for granted, until it is taken away from you, either by force or circumstance.

When this is over, and it will be over, that will be my new life mantra.

Be kind to each other. We'll get through this together, one way or another.