Once & Future

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

December 29, 2016

Packing 2016 Away, Remembering

I had a good 2016.

*ducks, waits for fruit to stop flying*

I did, though. I can’t be cagey about it. I’ve been collegially glum when appropriate this year, but I have to agree with Chris Kutarna, who, when speaking on CBC’s The Current this month, pointed out that periods of great disruption are going to have jolts and shakes in all directions, but we have to retain some perspective or we are at risk of becoming fatalistic. “This is a deeply contested moment,” he said, and that rang true with me. Nobody has won anything. This is not the end of history.

Picture of M used entirely without her permission.

For my little family, this is barely the beginning. My kids, Maggie & Oonagh, are now 8 and 5 years old, respectively. We are into real people territory, complete with opinions, tastes, hobbies, activities, and drama. Maggie reads non-stop, spending all her pocket money on books (benefit #1 of having a bookseller mother: any book you can find an ISBN for, at a discount.) She has become, additionally, a constant library-user. When she started finding typos in her books, she enthusiastically wondered whether perhaps this was a career path: she could read books for a living and find any errors before they go to print! Yes, Maggie discovered editing. I’ve tried to interest her in doing some guest-posts for me, or some YouTube reviews, but alas, she is – well, not shy, I should say, because she is in no way afraid to approach people in real life. But she is private. She doesn’t want her photo online, let alone her words or video. “It’s creepy,” she tells me. Well!

Oonagh learned to read this year as well, though she prefers graphic novels. More energetic by far than her sister, she prefers active games with elaborate props and settings. The stories she tells are delightful, if a little – shall we say, misleading? Her teachers are under several misconceptions about Oonagh’s home life due to her storytelling. We lucked into a teacher this year who is absolutely understanding, however; open-minded when corrected and very keen to encourage her storytelling. “Maybe she will be a writer!” she enthused at parent-teacher interview time. My partner and I both groaned. “Can’t you make her be a doctor?” I was joking, sort of.

The very best thing about kids growing older is that they loosen their grip on you. I went out more this year than I have in the previous ten years, and I’ve been able to take on projects I never could have before. In addition to publishing three new short stories (and two reprints), this year I wrote and performed a story accompanied by the incredible Junction Trio – “Distant Skies.” I learned about lighting and microphones, about the technical limitations of theremin(s?) and the rehearsal habits of professional musicians. I learned I really enjoy stage work, and I plan to do more in the future.

And there was more! I went to Ad Astra, launched Clockwork Canada twice, and read to a crowded room at SFContario. I hosted a really lovely music + writing workshop as part of the House Culture Festival. I went out to a book launch or drinks with writers at least once a month. I felt nourished, supported, and part of something that’s moving in a good direction.

It was also a year for professional firsts. I was nominated for both the Sunburst and Aurora Awards. The same story was listed on both the Nebula recommended reading and Locus recommended reading lists. I sold a story to my very-first Best Of anthology. I had my very first magazine cover. I had my very first Podcast story. I became eligible for full SFWA membership.

By the numbers? I submitted 17 stories (!) 32 times. 14 of these submissions were reprint submissions, which was my biggest push this year.  I sold 2 reprints and another 9 are still under consideration. That only means 3 reprint rejections, but who is counting?

Of the 8 unpublished stories that I submitted the remaining 18 times, 2 were sold – both on their first submission. The remaining 6 poor stories are mostly ones I have had in circulation for three years now. You’d think I’d take the hint, but no. What would I submit, if not these poor, neglected babies?

New writing, maybe? This year, I wrote approximately 54,000 words of new fiction, half of which went into a novel that is now on hold. I did finish 3 new stories, though; two novelettes and a short. I wrote mountains of non-fiction, worldbuilding, and plans. I didn’t track the latter this year, but I can say with certainty that I wrote something almost every day this year, even if it wasn’t publishable word count.

2017 is already prepped to be exciting. I have two publications on the horizon – one in Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Fantasy & Science Fiction 2017 and another soon-to-be-announced work that I am particularly fond of.

We are looking for new venues for more revised, polished performances of  “Distant Skies.” And we enjoyed the process so much that violinist Ivana Popovic and I have plans to do more music/science fiction collaborations in the future under the name Theiamania. 

I am half way through a novella-length alt-history murder mystery, set in the same world as “La Héron.” The main character is a banker with a preference for flings with ogres, and I love her.

And, last but not least, I have a serial in progress. The details will have to be terrible secret at the moment, but suffice to say this project is going to be big, fun, exciting, amazing, and so, so good.

You guys. 2017. It’s gonna be great.

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