Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

December 30, 2014

New Year’s Resolutions 2015

I know New Year’s resolutions are bunk. Why not make a resolution on April 4th? Why not yesterday? Better yourself all the time, self! You don’t need an arbitrary calendar date to do it!

And yet there is something in the tradition that is more effective than a spontaneous declaration of intent, the way a cup of tea somehow tastes better on a snowy evening. A year is always longer than I think it is, and when I allow myself to go back and open the time-capsule that was last year’s resolutions, I am always pleased to see how much more I have accomplished than I thought. So I will make them, so I will look back on them.

This year’s resolutions were staring me in the face anyway. After reflecting on 2014, it is clear what I need to do in 2015.

Write More

Although 2014 was a banner year in sales & exposure for me, I didn’t actually write much more to tide me over into 2015. I completed three short stories, one of which is already spoken for. Of the remaining two, one is a very long short – almost a novelette. This will be a hard sell. If I want to publish more work in 2015, I need to write more.

In 2015, I want to write one short story per non-hectic month. I will round it off to 10 stories. In number terms, I’d like this to represent about 5,000 words a month, or 60,000 for the year – double what I wrote in 2014.

Read More

I have been bellyaching about the need to read more here since 2010. Back then, I lamented falling short of a goal of 50 books a year. Oh my God. I would kill to read 50 books a year now. Last year I read fewer than 10 novels – though I read hundreds of short stories. This doesn’t help me keep up with the lit scenes, it doesn’t help me critically, and it doesn’t help me as a bookseller. I need to read more.

This year I will set the target at a modest 12 novels for the year – one per month. Surely I can read 12 novels in a year.

Focus

I feel so busy. I have freelance obligations, editing clients, a short story contest to run and non-profits to volunteer with. Oh, and a full-time job and two young children. How on earth am I supposed to ramp up my writing and reading?

I love the internet, I really do. And for someone like me, who has trouble navigating real-life social situations, social media is critically important to my mental health. But there is truly no good reason I should have to check Submission Grinder twenty times per day. Or be unable to close all the tabs for a solid, focused hour. Or have all my Dragonvale notifications come up as push alerts. *ahem*

In concrete terms, I resolve in 2015 to spend at least one uninterrupted hour a day disconnected. Close the tabs, put the phone in a drawer, write or read. More than one hour a day would be brilliant – but I don’t want to make promises I may be unable to keep. Let’s shoot for an hour.

That’s it. The key to achieving your goals is to set achievable goals, right? Go forth into 2015, self. You can do this.

December 23, 2014

2014 by the Numbers (or: The Airing of Grievances)

Morley and Boots had a good year!

I love to hear about publishing progress. To be honest, it makes me feel 300% better about every bloody nose and concussion I get knocking my head against publishing’s thick stone walls. Nobody writes perfect, publishable material every single time – so we’re told. It helps me to see in concrete terms how often a respected author is rejected, how often they have to revise, and how often they have to put a piece into a runed iron box, bury it, salt the land, and move away. It helps to know you can face a lot of failure and still see respectable success afterwards.

I am only in my second year of submitting stories, but I want to share my numbers anyway. Compare and feel stronger, my lovelies. It takes a lot of swings – and a lot of misses – to finally hit.

In 2014 I submitted a dozen or so short stories 76 times to magazines, websites, or anthologies. 45 of them were form-rejected, but another 26 merited very nice, encouraging rejections.

Two of my favourite pieces are now on their 14th and 16th submissions. They’ve changed a lot from the first, but I still love them even if nobody else does – yet.

My newest piece is only on its 3rd submission. The piece before that – ‘La Héron’ – was sold on its 6th try to a venue who had rejected it two months earlier. I like to think this shows improvement in my writing.

I sold 4 stories in 2014. 1 of these was sold at pro (according to the SFWA) rates. Another was for semi-pro. Both were ten-fold or more improvements on my previous best sale.

In 2014, I had 3 stories published. My daughter told her friends at school I was a “famous author” and took one of my anthologies for show & share to prove it. My first true fan! I participated in my first panel at the Toronto Public Library and gave my first interview where I only lied a couple of times.

My reviews not only appeared in Apex Magazine on a bi-weekly basis, but in Canada’s biggest national literary review, the Quill & Quire. I participated in some literary list-making over at the 49th Shelf and a round-table on Con-going at SFSignal.

As if that wasn’t enough, I also edited novels, novellas, and short stories, a cookbook and a boardgame manual for a dozen clients. I threw myself into a very intensive short story workshop with Mary Robinette Kowal. I participated in a 6-week “Artsy Games Incubator” for writers with the Hand Eye Society and published my first piece of interactive fiction, Utopia. I took over as Contest Administrator for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. I even edited a volume of short stories for charity, Chamber of Music.

2014 has been an incredible year of firsts for me. 2015 will, hopefully, be the year I solidify my ground. Where does this path go? I have no idea! But I’m on it, so I’ll find out and let you know when I do.

Oh, and one last thing: I finally set up a Page on Facebook for my writerly doings. Drop in and throw me a like! There’s no communication like two-way communication!

Onwards to 2015!

December 15, 2014

Me! It’s Me!

The fantastic and talented Andrew Leon Hudson (whose new weird Western, End Trails, will be available soon – excerpt here) has interviewed me at his blog, The Cartesian Theatre. I think interviews like this are hilarious, so I had a bit of fun with it. Hope you do too!

December 11, 2014

Best of 2014 Roundup

I read a tonne of science fiction & fantasy short stories this year – upward of 500, at least. Picking from the pile my favourite stories of the year was incredibly difficult, but the final six really are all that. Check out my full Best SFF Shorts of 2014 (plus list of honourable mentions) at Apex Magazine!

December 1, 2014

Reviews: December 1st 2014

The way I write about him, you’d think I have something against Neal Stephenson. I swear I don’t, I really think he’s the most genius genius of all geniuses. I love him to death and want him to be my best buddy. But I also stand behind everything I say about his latest Big Idea short story over at Apex Magazine…

December 1, 2014

Utopia: An Interactive Crisis in Twine…

My interactive Twine story, Utopia, is available here! You’re in charge at the end of the world, so don’t screw it up…