Once & Future

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

November 21, 2017

A Short Note About Book Distribution

Good news first! The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2017 ed. Rich Horton (Prime Books 2017) is out, and I am in it! My contribution is “A Fine Balance,” originally published in the Nov/Dec 2016 issue of F&SF. I’m over the moon at being included!

I… only wish it had been easier to actually get the book.

I work in a bookstore. I can, and do, order anything I like for myself, even under terms and conditions that we  might not daily agree to. But this has been the second time this year that a book I appear in has been difficult, if not impossible, for me to bring in.

Last month, I spoke with a number of other writer/booksellers at a panel at Can*Con in Ottawa about how writers can interact with bookstores. Ultimately, it turned into an hour-long lesson on the supply chain, because writers don’t fully understand that getting published does not necessarily mean showing up in stores. Over the month since the con, I have come to realize even publishers do not understand how bookstores order and why they can’t get into stores.

So, I offer this to you: a quick breakdown, highlighting especially how the chain has changed in recent years to cut out smaller booksellers. I’ll borrow a thing or two mentioned by my fellow booksellers, Leah Bobet, Aura Beth Roy, and ‘Nathan Burgoine.

You write a manuscript.

 A publisher (this might be you) turns it into a book.

The publisher places the book with a distributor.

The distributor sells the book to stores.

In addition, the distributor takes returns from bookstores, then can sell those books to other stores. The distributor also (often) will warehouse the book for a certain amount of time.

Bookstores like to deal with distributors, not publishers. This is because of the returns clause: most bookstores have the right to return usually 10-15% of their purchases to the distributor. The distributor gives the bookstore a credit when the books are received, and that credit can be spent on other books from that distributor. This means you might return a book from one publisher and spend the credit on a book from another publisher.

This is a credit worth having. It’s flexible. Dealing with each publisher individually would not only be a logistical nightmare, but it means your return credits would be of very limited use. What if that publisher only has one or two books? Nope. Consolidating through a distributor encourages bookstores to take risks on books and buy things from micropresses, because they aren’t trapped in a relationship with that one book.

From the publisher perspective, having a distributor allows them to mitigate the loss from returns, because those books stay in the distributor’s system longer, and can be re-sold to other stores. It allows them to get into bookstores all over the country/world, using that distributor’s infrastructure. It saves enormously on administrative nonsense. It opens the door into thousands of bookstores.

I understand publishers take a hit from this chain in two ways: one, the distributor takes a cut. They just do. That’s their price. Two, the distributor almost always allows returns from bookstores and thus, books will be returned, ultimately, to the publisher.

Nobody likes returns, but they are a fact of life in almost all retail. Every year, millions of new books are published. The bookstore buys them for roughly 40% off of cover price – meaning for every 2 new books we want to buy, we need to have sold 3 other books at full price. For every 2 books you see on the shelf, 3 other books had to be sold to pay for them. To say nothing of rent, labour, and operating costs. That’s a HUGE volume, and it never happens. If we had to wait to sell three book in order to buy two more, we would literally never buy new books. We’d just be sitting around waiting to move old, outdated stock.

Returns help. You send back last year’s fashions to make room for this year’s. Thus, the world goes around.

Some distributors have found a way to attract the business of nervous small publishers by offering that holy grail: NO RETURNS. Diamond Distribution, who specialize mainly in comic books, are the biggest of these. This is who distributes for Prime Books – the publishers of my Year’s Best.

How do they do this? Well, they put the burden on the bookseller. In order to be allowed to order from Diamond, the bookseller needs to buy a minimum number of their books – which, again, are mostly comics and small presses. This minimum order gives you the right to a very limited discount (less than 40%) and no returns. If you want to be able to return books, your minimum order needs to be even higher. Returns only apply to new books – not backlist – and they need to be sent back quickly. They don’t have any shelf life.

This is a model built for comic distribution, where new issues come and go monthly. For books – and graphic novels – it is totally non-functional. For this reason, most big comic book publishers have left Diamond and gone to more conventional distributors.

These days, I only find myself face to face with Diamond if I am dealing with a small press. These guys are usually just inexperienced. They were burned once by a high return, and they are determined it will never happen again, so they go with the big name that won’t give their books back.

But their books will never reach bookstores. Very, very few independents can afford to open an account with Diamond, much less a big enough account to get the terms they need. Diamond is a graveyard for small presses.

This brings us to Ingram. Ingram is the Amazon of distributors: a huge, sprawling mess of every book ever, with no customer service and very rigid terms. Almost everyone lists with Ingram because they might as well. Ingram will allow you to list your books as non-returnable, if you need to. They means, of course, they won’t warehouse them, and they may not offer the bookstores a discount. The bookstore can technically get the book, but they aren’t encouraged to. Aside from lack of returns and bad discounts, Ingram doesn’t offer any useful cataloguing service, they have no customer service, and their shipping fees suck.

I did, after all, order my Year’s Bests from Ingram. They were printed on demand and are, thus, miscut. There was no discount, and they were shipped to Canada at a great cost to us. Even at my “wholesale” cost, they cost me 50% more than cover price.

I was going to put them on the shelf and sell them, but I can’t. Not looking like that. Not at those rates.

So, what does a writer or publisher do, if they want their books easily available in bookstores?

Writers, ask prospective publishers who they distribute their books through. If the answer is “direct,” run. You might as well print your own book.

If they only distribute through Diamond or Ingram, know that this means your books will not show up in indies. They may not even show up at your local B&N or Chapters.

There are lots of good, reputable distributors in both Canada and the US. There are the big guys, of course: the distribution arms of Simon & Schuster, Penguin Random House, Hachette Book Group. I give Perseus distribution a tentative thumbs up, though they have recently been bought up by Ingram and have become very difficult to deal with, even though they operate separately from Ingram.

There are also excellent small press distributors who understand very well the challenges small presses face. Independent Press Group (IPG) and National Book Network do great work.  In Canada, we have Literary Press Group (LPG), LitDistCo, Raincoast Books, Brunswick Books, and UTP Book Distribution. There are more, many distributing in particular types of books (university presses, scholarly publishing, children’s books, etc.) Do some research. Ask your local bookseller what they think of your choices.

Publishers, one last thing about returns.

Returns suck. I get it. Especially if the book store chain you are working with doesn’t even give the books back – some will just pulp the books and then bill you for them. But there are ways you can work this into your contracts or publishing model.

DON’T REPRINT RIGHT AWAY. Initial sales are ALWAYS inflated. Wait until the three month mark, when returns start coming back. Obviously, use your professional judgement: if your book was Tweeted out by Obama or up for a major award, REPRINT FOR SURE. But if Indigo just happens to be using it as a doorstop in all its stores, maybe wait. Give it a minute.

ASK FOR YOUR BOOKS BACK. Pulping is not in any way the industry standard. Your distributor can ensure that your books come back to you in salable condition. Take these on book tours with you.

OFFER FLEXIBLE DISCOUNTS. This is especially applicable if your distributor works with a discounter for overstock books. Got lots leftover? High returns? Offer them out for a bigger discount. Sell ’em to a discounter in bulk. The book chain is many-faceted, and your business plan has to account for the different stages of a book’s life. You might lose money at some of these discounts, but that is made up for with the better sales you get on front list by being out there with books easily available.

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Now, it’s possible that this is indicative of a seismic shift in the industry. Diamond and Ingram are perfectly sufficient for dealing with Amazon. If most of your sales are through Amazon, then maybe it’s worth cutting out booksellers in order to get risk-free distribution.

I think this is narrow thinking. Booksellers are your army. They are your boots on the ground. Even if readers increasingly buy their books online, they still visit bookstores to browse, to talk to the staff. They want to see what’s out there, connect with people who love what they do. A bookseller is worth a ZILLION Amazon algorithms. Worth at least ten book bloggers, in my humble opinion, because we are steeped in this stuff. You want us to champion your books. You want us to put it in the hands of your readers.

Open floor, here. Any questions? I’m happy to field any technical book chain or publishing questions here. Pick my brain. That’s what booksellers are for. If you appreciate this post (and others like it,) click below to tip!

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November 6, 2017

SFContario 2017!

In a couple of weeks, I will be hobnobbing at my local convention, SFContario 8. I’m not going to glad-hand this one – SFContario is pretty awful about letting people know what is going on ahead of time. There is virtually no information on their website about what you might find upon attending the con, but if you’re considering it, you can piece together some ideas from the posts made by other guests and panelists. A quick round-up (and if you have posted your schedule somewhere, let me know! I’m happy to link it.)

Alyx Dellamonica!

Kelly Robson!

Lawrence M. Schoen!

I will be there too! Here’s my schedule:

Eating and Ethics
Saturday, November 18th, 11 am w/  Alyx Dellamonica, Lawrence Schoen, and Gunnar Wentz

What is the ethical scope of our food choices? Is buying local really better than buying imported food? Are Vegans better for the environment? How do things like socioeconomic status, mental health, and disability intersect with the ethics of food consumption? 

I’ll be moderating this panel and BOY is this in my wheelhouse. I have a degree in this! This exact thing!

Reading
Saturday, November 18th, 2-2:30 pm

I’ll be reading (probably) “The Ur-Ring” from my Archipelago world. This story is a good time, funny and crazy in good measure. Hope you’ll come listen!

How to Overthink Your Way Out of Writing
Saturday, November 18th, 3 pm w/ Charlotte Ashley, Matt Mayr, Ira Nayman, and Kelly Robson (moderator)

Theodore Sturgeon famously taught “Ask the next question.” Beginning writers everywhere are advised to ask “What if…?” as they develop their story. With a little research and some extra caffeine you too can come up with such a plethora of possibilities that your story becomes a dense jungle with no clear path–impenetrable and neverending. As denizens of the Digital Age, with its abundance of information and surfeit of attention span, we have never been in a better position to over-complicate our stories–and our lives!

How not to write an encyclopedia when you’re trying to tell a story. This should be vital.

Food in Fiction
Saturday, November 18th, 4 pm w/ Erik Buchanan, Eric Choi, Cathy Hird, and Gunnar Wentz

Stories that make you go, “Nom!” How do you describe food to express mood or set the scene? Join our panelists as they dish on the culinary delights that tantalize us in fiction, from regional teas to kingly feasts. What works? What doesn’t? And what should you know about a food-centric scene. 

I’m moderating this one too – and yes, it will be very different from Food & Ethics! Expect this one to be much tastier and less sociological. 😉

See you guys there!

October 10, 2017

Can-Con 2017!

My first Can-Con! I won’t be too saccharine about it, but this one is pretty exciting for me. When you’re a near-solo parent of two kids, you talk yourself into thinking you are going to be TRAPPED FOREVER by obligation and will never be able to travel for something as self-indulgent as a SFF convention.

But – and you won’t believe this until it happens to you – kids appear to get older and more independent as time passes. All of a sudden, someone says “Hey, you should come to Ottawa for three days” and you realize there’s not much stopping you. Your whole world grows three sizes.

Needless to say, I wasn’t going to let the opportunity go to waste. My Can-Con schedule is thick.

Friday, October 13th @ 8pm – Alternate History Live Challenge w/ Charlotte Ashley, Anatoly Belilovsky, KT Bryski & Mike Rimar, moderated by Matthew Johnson

Is there anything that can’t be used to build an alternate history story? Our panelists accept the challenge of coming up with obscure or difficult historical events, people, etc., and then lobbing these ideas at each other to see who they can stump from creating a pitch.

Not gonna lie, this is the single biggest thing I am looking forward to at this convention, and I’m including both my PodCastle recording and the afterparty, here. 

Saturday, September 14th @ 10am – The Illusion of History w/ Charlotte Ashley, Cathy Hird, Fiona Patton & Gregory A. Wilson, moderated by Ranylt Richildis

When constructing the history of a fictional world, how much work should a writer do? Panelists will discuss how much history they develop for a single book, whether that history grows as a series develops, how to “fake it” and make it seem like there’s a richly developed history behind the scenes, etc.

Faking it: my best skill! Luckily, research is my second-best skill. Also, I am psyched as anything to meet Ranylt Richildis, editor of Lackington’s. Squee!

Saturday, September 14th @ 12pm – How to Interact with a Bookstore w/ Charlotte Ashley, ‘Nathan Burgoine & Benoit Chartier, moderated by Leah Bobet

What are the best ways for a writer to approach a bookstore about readings or promotional events? What unexpected complications can a writer plan for and avoid?

Doing my professional duty as a veteran bookseller of 14 years.

Saturday, September 14th @ 3pm – Laksa Media Presents: The Stories Behind the Stories

If the mere prospect of hearing me and a dozen other people talk about these kick-ass anthologies is not enough, maybe there will be cookies? [1]

[1] There may not be cookies. COME FIND OUT.

Saturday, September 14th @ 6pm – PodCastle Live! w/ Jennifer Albert & Charlotte Ashley

Join PodCastle co-editor Jen Albert and author Charlotte Ashley for a live-recorded episode of the popular fantasy fiction podcast. Charlotte will be reading “Zilal and the Many-Folded Puzzle Ship,” a new story set in the world of her Archipelago project. The whole panel will air as a special “Live at Can-Con” episode of PodCastle this winter.

I DON’T THINK I NEED TO EXPLAIN THIS. A full and complete reading of my totally-new story, complete with voices and funny noises masquerading as sound effects. Bonus: stay for possibly inappropriate stories about how I came to be inspired to write a story about a genius shipbuilder mobilizing her substantial talents to find a secluded (and dangerous) place to make out with her boyfriend. Totally not autobiographical! Ha ha, just kidding. This story is almost entirely autobiographical.

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And that’s it! I get Sunday entirely off, so I’ll be running around listening to all the other geniuses sharing their skills. I’m easy to find and easy to be approach! Come be my buddy.

I will also have copies of all my stories in various forms with me, as well as some INCREDIBLY BEAUTIFUL Archipelago bookmarks. The former might cost a few dollars, but the latter are free! That’s gotta be worth something.

BONUS ASK: Archipelago is now six months old, and in commemoration of that, we have put together ARCs of the first 6+ episodes of each faction for potential reviewers. Want to give us a read and talk about it? Let me know! We’d be happy to hook you up.

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

May 19, 2017

In Which That Escalated Quickly

I’ve said before that I enjoy collaboration. I am not a cabin-in-the-woods writer (unless that cabin has five bedrooms and a huge kitchen, for parties) – I write better with company, with a sounding board, with exchange. I really found my feet as a writer when I joined a local writing group, because even chatting for two hours about writing once a month was enough to open my brain up. I find collaborating energizing.

Which is all very well for me, one of the rare “extroverted writers” of the world, but I worry about my collaborators. Sometimes, I wonder if they regret what they’ve gotten themselves into.

Let me give an example. Let me talk about The Archipelago.

Last year, Andrew Leon Hudson contacted me and asked if I would be interested in collaborating on a Patreon account. By pooling our audiences, multiple authors would reach more readers than just one, he reasoned. And readers, they’d get three stories for the price of one! We’d just have to commit to producing regular material over a long period of time.

Sounds good, right? Sharing, my favourite thing! This should have been an easy ask.

Sure, I replied. But instead of just releasing, you know, ANY OLD WRITING, why don’t we collaborate on the world instead? We could release serial novels in a shared world.

Andrew hesitated, but agreed. He had been burned by a shared world project in the past, but maybe if we were more diligent…

BUT WAIT, I no doubt ploughed right over his concerns. WHAT IF our shared world was COMPETITIVE? People could pick a faction/writer to support, and we could write our stories tactically, like a role playing game!

To his credit, Andrew rose to the occasion, and the Archipelago was born. But our ambition didn’t stop there.

We had soon brainstormed the beginnings of our world and recruited Kurt Hunt to the cause. “This should be easy,” we thought. “A chapter a month, a few thousand words… I can do this in my spare time.”

Ha ha ha.

Then we decided to create a three whole side-plots, for readers who wanted to “declare fealty” to one faction.

Then we decided to properly brand ourselves, and invest in art and design.

Then we decided to allow audience interaction.

Then we decided to launch with a Kickstarter campaign.

Pretty soon, we were committed to at least 5k words of fiction a month, much of it written on the fly, maintaining a Wiki, publishing ebooks, commissioning artists, writing world guides, and more. “Spare time,” indeed.

Bookmarks!

Do I have any regrets?

Absolutely none.

Here’s the thing about Archipelago: every time I mentioned to someone what I was working on, their eyes went wide. Every time I sent a draft to a reader, they returned it covered in exclamation marks. My cousin started writing Archipelago fan-fiction before we had even finalized a chapter.  Something about the world, about the project, just sings to me. I have had more fun writing over the last six months than I had in the preceding two years. I’m buried in it, but happily. There is treasure here.

Today, BlackGate.com are kind enough to host my first Archipelago story, “The Ur-Ring.” This is an introduction to my Nation, Al’Tahj, but also a stand-alone story in its own right. Kurt called it “our banteriest story yet,” and it is, indeed, very banter-y, but also marvelous and mysterious, I hope. You can read it here.

I hope you’ll read along. Starting June 1st, subscribers to our Patreon will receive three Archipelago stories per month. You can subscribe for as little as $1/month! You could also support us at our Kickstarter campaign this month for bonus material and an early chance to have a character, ship or even an island named after you.

Obviously, it serves me entirely to say this story is going to be great, but I’m sincere as well. It’s going to be great. It already is. I am so glad Andrew talked me into it. I hope he and Kurt forgive me for taking them into so much more!

Follow The Archipelago on Twitter and/or Facebook for updates!

May 5, 2017

A Sequel, and Your Chance to Hear It!

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to tell you all that I have sold my sequel to “La Héron” – “The Satyr of Brandenburg” – to F&SF! This will be my 4th F&SF story, but my first sequel, and I’m really excited about it.

Short story writers, we have to get used to killing our darlings. A short story is a brief, stand alone medium. Nobody gets three-story short deals, and selling to the same place more than once is not always easy. You have to make a new case for how awesome your story is every single time you submit. It’s easier to write one and done – close all the loose threads and move on to new characters, new settings, new plots. Because you never know what will happen to it.

But I love La Héron and Alex. I loved them right away, and I knew from the get-go that they had more life in them than one fairy duel. I really, I realized, should have given them a novel right away, but I love the episodic format, meeting up with the same characters every week, or month, or year, for a new adventure. It was a hard sell, but a sell I knew I needed to gun for, because I couldn’t just leave these guys alone. They have adventures to undertake, foes to defeat, and intrigues to uncover.

I have no idea when “The Satyr of Brandenburg” will hit the shelves, but I will be reading from it this weekend at Ad Astra! This is your chance to get a little preview. I’ll be reading in the Markham B suite tomorrow morning at 10:30am – come for my co-readers, Tonya Liburd & Malon Edwards, and stay for a little taste of the further adventures of La Héron. It will be worth it all around!

May 3, 2017

Ad Astra 2017!

Yay, it’s Con Time! Being pretty Toronto-locked, my convention options are few, but choice. Ad Astra’s our biggie, and so I try to be involved in a big way. I’ll be there all weekend, and in addition to my run of panels and readings, I LOVE MEETING PEOPLE so, seriously, don’t be shy. Let’s hang out!

I’ll also be there with Archipelago bookmarks (which look awwwesoooome) and copies of all my published work for sale. I COME WITH LOOT. Yes I do.

If you need to know where to find me, here is my panel schedule:

Reading, Saturday 10:30am – Markham B

I’m the one on the schedule, but I will be hosting the PHENOMENAL local writers Tonya Liburd & Malon Edwards! Come see 3-for-1. If you’re lucky, I might read from my forthcoming “La Heron” sequel, “The Satyr of Brandenburg.”

Starting Them Young: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Picture Books, Saturday 2:00pm – Newmarket

w/ Brandon Draga, Charlotte Ashley, Deanna Laver, Alisse Lee Goldenberg, Carolyn Charron

Nearly everyone who is a fan of genre will look to things like Narnia, the Hobbit, Redwall, or Ender’s Game as their introduction to SF/F, but how much earlier could one be introduced to such things? How do you define what makes a picture book scif-fi or fantasy? What are some examples, classic or new, that illustrate this?

What is this play of Role of which you speak? Saturday 7:00pm – Newmarket

w/ Brandon Draga, Charlotte Ashley, Deanna Laver, Nicole Lavigne

An introduction to the RPG hobby, with a look at a variety of games for the new player,

Crowdfunding Strategies,  Sunday 10:00am – Newmarket

w/ Thomas Gofton, Charlotte Ashley, Beverly Bambury, Darrell Drake, Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Kari Maaren

So you want to fund your film, book, game or invention? Come to this panel and hear the tricks, tips, downfalls and reality of making your next level maneuver in crowdfunding. Learn about the different platforms, styles and methods to help you gain maximum success.

Disrupting the Narrative, Sunday 11:00am – Richmond CD

w/ Rebecca Diem, Charlotte Ashley, Eli K.P. William, Cathy Hird, Vanessa Ricci-Thode, Carolyn Charron

Science fiction and fantasy has the potential to transform our worldview. The inclusion of alternate perspectives and diverse characters help us to re-examine the past, present or future, in our universe or beyond. Inserting new experiences into old narratives shows the limitless potential of stories to inspire us. This panel will look at stories that shake up our perspective, from Steampunk and alternate history to dystopian fantasy.

April 24, 2017

Spring Cleaning!

I love change. You know that thing where you get frustrated with your life, so you cut all your hair off and dye it blue? That’s me, only with everything. Starting a new novel, painting a room, quitting a job or adopting a cat: it doesn’t matter how big or small a change is. The prospect of something new and different is my personal catnip, irresistible.

My desire to shake things up has often been at odds with my sense of responsibility, and one of the greatest lessons I have had to learn as an adult is the value of stability. Before I had kids, I often pictured myself as the sort of mother who would raise her children in a camper-trailer, traveling from place to place and training my children to be circus-performing ninja pickpockets. I cultivated an array of diverse skills from juggling and fiddling to sourdough baking and knitting, thinking I would live by my wits one day at a time, doing something different every day to suit the needs of the moment. I hated the idea of stagnation, of repetition.

I have had to learn differently. Change is exciting, but it is precarious. The greater, more lasting victories in life require harder work, slogging, dreaded repetition. You can’t give up on a thing when it becomes hard or boring. Building a legacy, even if it is just a family, requires roots. I learned to sit still and work.

This isn’t always good either. Sometimes, especially if staying put doesn’t come naturally to you, you can fail to see the point at which it is normal, and not compulsive, to give up on a thing. Change isn’t always just for thrillseekers. Sometimes it is the necessary next step.

This winter, I broke with my partner of 14 years, the father of my children. Subsequently, I realized I was not going to be able to make ends meet, going forward, by staying in the same bookstore I have worked in for 15 years. Big changes are coming.

The Short Game

I have been writing short stories for four years now. This spring, I sold the last of my unsold short stories – yep, I emptied the trunk. I am beyond thrilled with my success as a short story writer, but in light of my new work and financial situation, I know I will have less time and energy to dedicate to it.

No, I am not giving up writing. Au contraire, I have my sights on bigger projects than ever. Next month, I will be launching Archipelago, a shared-world, interactive serial swashbuckling novel. May 1st, we will launch both a Kickstarter campaign and a Patreon page through which you will be able to sample and support this endeavor.

It is so good, you guys. I say this is an utterly non-self-promotional voice… we’ve written something fantastic here, and I am so excited to share it with you. Watch this space for more.

My short work will continue to appear over the next year or so. Last month, I spoiled the TOC of Sum of Us from Laksa Media, including my story, “Orang Tua Adventure Home Academy.” I now have this book in my hot little hands and it looks GREAT. That should be coming in September.

In June, “A Fine Balance” will turn up once again in The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017 ed. Rich Horton. Watch for a selfie of that one too, possibly of me drooling on it, because YEAR’S BEST, GUYS!

I am pleased to tell you about two new sales as well!

My breakup revenge fantasy ecopunk scifi story, “She Falls,” will appear in Upper Rubber Boot’s forthcoming anthology Broad Knowledge: 35 Women Up To No Good. URB will be facilitating pre-orders via a Kickstarter in May, so release details will come then.

Then, one of my personal favourite stories, “Gog and Magog,” will appear in Kaleidotrope in 2018. “Gog and Magog” takes place in 12th century Georgia under the reign of Queen Tamar, told from the POV of an illiterate prostitute in the style of a medieval (Byzantine?) chronicle. And it is hilarious.

I will also suggest that there might be a sequel to “La Heron” on the horizon. *mysterious whistling*

But then what?

With Archipelago consuming most of my writing time and resume-writing taking up the rest, I am going to leave off short fiction for a while.

But then what?

Well, I don’t know. I have the world ahead of me. I am looking for a new job (writers, publishing people, leads appreciated) and wondering if I can – or should – keep my house. I’m meeting new people and trying new things. I’m thinking about school again. I’m letting myself get excited about potential.

It’s spring, and change is here. It’s hard not to love it.

April 3, 2017

Aurora Nominations are Open!

Happy April, everyone. Apparently it is spring in the warmer places of the world. In Canada, spring doesn’t reliably arrive until May and we don’t have fresh produce until mid-June, so I could say something pithy about rebirth and growth and sunshine here except I’m not really feeling it. April is the month where you die of starvation lying in a sunny, plush, green field because winter took too long finding the door.

But I’ll tell you what keeps this writer from starving in April’s glory, and that is AWARDS SEASON. The Hugos and the Nebulas are off to the printers, but the Canadian awards are just thawing off. The nomination period for the Prix Aurora Awards opened last Friday, and let me tell you, I am severely interested in earning your nomination.

Here’s how that works:

To nominate people and works for the Aurora Award, you need to be a member of the Canadian Science Fiction & Fantasy Association. Membership is $10/yr (Canadian play money dollars) and gives you the right to nominate and vote for the awards, as well as other CSFFA business. Additionally, you get the Aurora nominees packet, which traditionally includes a great pile of really amazing work, so that book is more than work the price of admission alone.

Once you are a member, you can nominate! You have until May 7th, 2017 to fill out your ballot.

I am eligible in the short story category, as ever, but if you have a look at the eligibility lists, you’ll see a lot of familiar, excellent names on there. You can nominate things NOT on those lists as well. The list is just a handy reminder! The full eligibility criteria can be found here.

I have three stories on the eligibility list (La Clochemar, More Heat Than Light, and A Fine Balance), but I encourage you to nominate one in particular: “A Fine Balance” from the Nov/Dec 2016 F&SF. Why? First of all, this is my favourite of last year’s stories. Secondly, it can currently be read for free in Event Horizon 2017, the anthology of Campbell-eligible writers, making it the easiest to access of my stories. Lastly, this story has received some of my best reviews of the year, and has been selected for inclusion in Rich Horton’s Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2017, which I think is a pretty great endorsement.

But wait, there’s more! The Auroras have a “Best Related Work” category that I invite you to look closely at as well. Canada has become a producer of a large number of really stellar short fiction anthologies thanks to the efforts of places like ChiZine, Exile Editions, Laksa Media, and EDGE, and this is the category where those books get their due. My selfish favourite this year is Exile’s Clockwork Canada, ed. Dominik Parisien. I would be proud as anything to see this book on the ballot.

That’s me. What have you read and loved in Canadian SFF this year? Join the CSFFA and let us all know. Writers eat praise and this might just keep us going until the strawberries show up in June.

 

March 14, 2017

Sum of Us TOC Announcement!

I have been waiting months to tell you about this one, you guys. Yes, I have another short story coming out in, yes, another nifty anthology. But lest you should think these are becoming routine, let me correct you. There’s is nothing routine about a project like this. I have been fired up about it since Lucas Law asked me to contribute.

Sum of Us is an anthology of stories about the complexities of caregiving, explored through the lens of speculative fiction. That sounds specific, I realize, but it is something that is more fundamental than that: care, connections, community, responsibility for the sum of a people, rather than just the self…. these are things that inform all stories – or should – and I was really invested in exploring it.

I came up with my story immediately, inspired by my father’s attitude towards his own end of life (when it should come, which is hopefully not for ages and ages.) The elders in my life have been curmudgeons and grumps to a man, the sort of people who don’t want to be cared for and who stubbornly intend to raise hell until the moment they (presumably) spontaneously combust, leaving nothing to bury. These are people who, in my opinion, have a lot of energy to harness for grand adventures.

“Orang Tua Adventure Home Academy” is the story of one such curmudgeon who turns up on a beach in Penang, intending to vanish into the jungle, and winds up being pressed into some 17th century hydrodynamic engineering. This story wrote itself. I had so munch fun, and love my characters to pieces.

When I got the final TOC this week, my heart nearly exploded. I am in fantastic company. I genuinely can’t wait to see how this batch of geniuses engage our empathy. Check it out:

Foreword, Lucas K. Law
Introduction, Dominik Parisien
The Dunschemin Retirement Home for Repentant Supervillains, Ian Creasey
Bottleneck, A.M. Dellamonica
Mother Azalea’s Sad Home for Forgotten Adults, James Van Pelt
Things that Creep and Bind, Christie Yant
The Gift, Bev Geddes
The Gatekeeper, Juliet Marillier
The Healer’s Touch, Colleen Anderson
The Crystal Harvester, Brenda Cooper
The Burdens We Bear, Hayden Trenholm
A Mother’s Milk, Heather Osborne
The Mother’s Keepers, Edward Willett
The Oracle and the Warlord, Karina Sumner-Smith
The Beautiful Gears of Dying, Sandra Kasturi
The Gardener, Amanda Sun
Number One Draft Pick, Claire Humphrey
Orang Tua Adventure Home Academy, Charlotte Ashley
Sunshine of Your Love,- Nisi Shawl
Good-bye is that Time between Now and Forever, Matt Moore
Ambassador to the Meek, Alex Shvartsman
Gone Flying, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm
Am I Not a Proud Outlier?, Kate Story
Blinders, Tyler Keevil
Dreams as Fragile as Glass, Caroline M. Yoachim
Afterword, Susan Forest

Anyway, Sum of Us is due out on September 8th, 2017. You can pre-order the book directly from the publisher, Laksa Media. The official launch will be at When Worlds Collide in Calgary, AB in August. I won’t be there (unless someone wants to fly me out there, ha ha ha) but I’ll be at various Ontario launch parties. Watch for it!

March 13, 2017

Event Horizon 2017 – A Free Campbellian Anthology

I blogged earlier this month about the Campbell Award, offering a suggestion or two for who you might want to nominate for it (including me). My list was short n’ sweet, being mostly stellar and very high-profile writers who have shot out into the field like a bundle of fireworks, but it was far from comprehensive. There are dozens of writers who have done some absolutely heartbreaking work in the last two years. Choosing a ballot of 5 is tough work.

But Jake Kerr and Shirtsleeve Press managed to pull of a miracle. Over the course of about a week, they have pulled together Event Horizon 2017: An Anthology of Authors Eligible for the John W. Campbell Award. This free anthology includes the work of over 75 authors eligible for the Campbell award – some 400,000 words of fiction, some of which is being offered for free for the first time.

This includes my short story “A Fine Balance,” which can otherwise only be read on the paper pages of the Nov/Dec 2016 F&SF and the forthcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2017.

Event Horizon will only be available for a limited time. This link will disappear on July 15, 2017. But that is plenty of time to give it a skim and pick your Campbell nominees! You can nominate for the Campbell Award (and the other Hugo Awards) up until March 17th, 2017.

You have nothing to lose! Download the book for a tonne of great reading and an introduction to your next favourite authors. Enjoy!

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