Sunday, July 26, 2009
Ahmed Khan has announced the finalized table of contents for his upcoming YA SF anthology, Fun Times in Strange Lands. And here she be:
J.P. Boyd: "The Boy Scout with Three Heads"
David M. Fitzpatrick: "Four Young Ones and a Terrible Dragon"
Nancy Fulda: "Hexes and Tooth Decay"
Ralph Gamelli: "Rainy Afternoon, with Brain"
Ahmed A. Khan: "Promises to Keep"
Ted Kosmatka: "The Last Teddy Bear"
Brian Lawrence: "Mother’s Comfort"
Kevin James Miller: "The Beautiful Truth"
Marian Powell: "When the Earth’s No Longer Silver"
Mark Rayner: "Hounding Manny"
David M. Simon: "In Search of Ancient Underwear"
Casey Wolf & Paivi Kuosmanen: "Triona’s Beans"
Saturday, July 25, 2009
I have a feeling that the majority of people who come to this blog once used a typewriter. I know I did, a manual one, and it had taken many years of determined longhand before I was able to reach that lofty economic and artistic goal. When I saw an ancient adding machine the other day it looked so like the old typewriters that I crossed over to it, oohing and awing, and ran my fingers over it.
Why? They weren't exactly fun to use. Pounding hard to get an even imprint, the type bars tangling together if I struck the keys incorrectly, spools of ribbon spilling out across the room when I tried to change them, the ink staining my fingers red and black...
Why does that make me nostalgic?
If you look at the previous post in this blog you will see three boys crowded together by a crumbling wall, looking at a book. This photo evokes a similar feeling for me.
It isn't a treacly nostalgia. It's a blend of sorrow and joy, loss and awakening. I won't go into a long disclosure of why that is, but I will say that writing has been a rooting down for me, into the past, the present, and even the future, in terms of molding it in some small way - my own future, at least, if not the world's. It's been one of the often overlooked doors of perception that bring me out of my distracted state to fully notice existence - mine, ours - and my love for it. Writing is a link to times and people that I've known and loved, and others I can only imagine. It's a reminder of the brevity of life and the fact that I've caught up in one way to my grandparents and parents; I'm now one of the people who remembers a time that, for better and for worse, is gone.
Writing, reading, even typewriters, lead me to remember that I was a child just born, that I babbled at wallpaper, sat outside in a playpen and watched the world, was held by my parents, hit my head on the table when running underneath it. That I feared and was injured, loved and explored, hoped and despaired; that I fought, gave up, learned new ways. They remind me that some day my experiments will all be over, and I'll put my body into park, and turn off the engine. They prompt me to look around and see what is, instead of what I think I want to be, and to notice the wonder of it. And they cause me to consider others from the inside out, instead of staying lost in my own point of view.
I was listening to interviews today with Farley Mowat and Aleister MacLeod on The Next Chapter. (CBC Radio, rebroadcast from January 2009.) I love listening to writers talk about writing, and life, in a thoughtful way. It inspires me to write more, and to think about what I'm doing as a writer, and if it's what I want to be doing.
This last year, as the creation of Finding Creatures moved on to the publishing and promoting stages, has been an education, both exhausting and fun. I've spent more time trying in timid and often useless ways to promote the poor thing than I've spent writing anything new. (Yes, I've got some stories coming out, and have progressed a little on The Novel, but not as much as I would like.) I've helped other people with their books and writing and learned a ton more doing that. I read almost as much as when I was a child (and wasn't trying to be productive or useful). I've been connecting with writers and readers and LibraryThinging with gay abandon. This increased emphasis on every aspect of writing has been wonderful. My brain brims with bookishness.
It hasn't all been fun, of course. Sales are, well, teensy. That's okay. The point of publishing wasn't to make money (I'm not delusional), but to be read, even if only by a few people who get something out of what I've offered them. Most of the reviews, verbal or in writing, have been enthusiastic and that is rewarding. If you keep your thoughts and your writing to yourself for many years, as I have, you're never really sure if they would mean anything to anyone else.
Some of the reviews, though, have been less positive. The problem may be that the books went to readers who were hoping for desperate escapes, thrilling fights, worlds saved and destroyed, titillating sex scenes...and got quiet, thoughtful prose instead. As one nevertheless admiring reader said, "Your writing requires thinking" - not always a popular leisure activity for an over-busy and fatigued populace. A couple of people have said they felt distant from the characters - something others have strongly disagreed with. One young woman, who received a review copy through LibraryThing, said she couldn't get through a single story, that she wouldn't recommend them to anyone, that they completely sucked.
Hmmm. While this saddens me, I'm less stung by it than I would have been eight months ago. But I do wonder. Is it just a marketing problem? Should I be sending review copies to literary magazines - which I have assumed wouldn't be interested in the stories because of the speculative element - and forgetting about most genre sources? Am I painting myself into a corner by writing literary speculative fiction? Is there something I'm just not getting?
I do know that I miss working on my novel. I miss being immersed in that story and I want at the same time to finish it so that I can let my writing-brain rove to the next place it wants to go. Despite the occasional story and essay I've written in the last year, I miss having writing, not promoting and networking and other writing-related projects, as my primary focus.
In my interview with Irma Arkus last October I said that since I was beginning my writing career so late I didn't want to spend the time I had allotted to me in writing strictly genre fiction, which isn't my forte, but instead wanted to write what meant the most to me.
Of course, I could write what that reader above was looking for. I read it myself, when I want entertainment rather than something to Think about. But what most grounds me in the world? What is the juice in writing for me?
It's what I said above. Small and subtle things. The recognition of a leaf turning in quiet air. The song and flitting smallness of a chickadee. A tiny golden spider spinning down from my hat brim. The release of tension in a lonely human. Imagining some new way. The awakening of kindness. The softening of rage.
I love the earth and its people, be they spiders or mud or sunlight or child or wicked old man. These are the ordinary things I want to touch when I write, not the dramas of world-saving and gallant heroism. I'd have to refer to someone else's sensibilities to create action fiction. And I would have to remove myself from my own experience of life to do it, snapping the root hairs that anchor me to my work. What would be the point?
Or is that even true? What am I missing here? What am I asking?
I guess that partly I'm wrestling over whether I'm doing the right thing by writing as I do, or whether I'm being self-indulgent. And I'm remembering what it's like to be a writer just in order to write, not to try to figure out marketing or worry about reviews or wonder if I'm doing the right thing. I'm thinking how lovely it is to just pull out my notebook and open the tap and let the words run over the ground and sink into the earth, nourishing my heart and the worms beneath me, if no one else.
Maybe I would be happier as an unpublished poet than a person who struggles to tweet when she'd rather roll over dead than blat out 140 character flashes every day in the hope of selling a book. (I only lasted on Twitter for a week, for that reason.) If I have only a few years left to read and write, do I want to spend them fruitlessly marketing my poor book, or should I let it take care of itself and go on to whatever's next?
This isn't really a new question in a way. I have a tendency to get caught up in jobs and leave living behind. So there may be no dichotomy at all. No conflict between writing as and what I want and attempting to get published, reviewed, and read. Maybe it's just that same old cycle again. Time to lighten the overcommitments, spend a few days smiling at leaves and insects and cats as I have been today, remember why I write...and to do it.
I went to a friend's book launch a couple of days ago. (I should really write about that...) It was wonderful. And yet, I felt tired. Who'd know that "being" a writer could be so much work?
On the other hand...yes, on the other hand...
Though there is something blissful about walking on a beach alone, thinking only your own thoughts and responding to the cries of birds, the drag-marks of crabs, the smell of brine, there is more to the story than that. I heard an interview with a man who went to the ends of the earth to be alone for many months so that he could delve into the spirit and come away enlightened. He was made to take a cat with him so that he could test for red tide by feeding the cat any shellfish he harvested. But the cat cried so much that the man became violent with him, emotionally at least, and still at the end of his time away he hated the cat and the feelings it brought up in him and the fact that the cat disrupted his trek to enlightenment.
While I was sweeping the floor this morning, noting the abundance of fluffy white cat hair and the very little else that was in my sweepings, and stopping to pet the perpetrator of that fluff from time to time, I remembered with irritation that man who thought he could run away from the world to find enlightenment, and who was so divorced from his surroundings that he showed only hatred to this cat.
My cats cry a lot, too. In my younger days I reacted to that with anger as this fellow did. Eventually I learned to pay attention to the cats. To show them affection instead of irritation and try to understand why they cried. The results have been fascinating and rewarding, and if ever I have had great spiritual teachers, these cats have been among them. To myself I lectured, while petting and sweeping, and sweeping the pettings, and then creating more, "If you want enlightenment, if you really want enlightenment, stay in the world, don't try to run out of it. It's in rubbing up against the things that make life difficult that you are shaped into something wiser, kinder, more generous than you were before."
I hear an echo of that admonishment when I suggest that what I might want to do is move away from the fray of published life and write silent lines to myself and the trees. I'm just rubbing up against a new and rough-surfaced thing. It isn't a right, a wrong, a this way, or a that way. It just is, like everything else. The answer, as always, is to relax. And enjoy. And what I can't enjoy, forgive.
(Okay, computer. That's it for you today. Time to go out to enjoy the lanterns under the stars.)
The Great Moment Arrives.
The "Finding Creatures & Other Stories" Book Giveaway - Today is the draw.
I've written out all the names (from various sources) and put them in a bag. I am fluffing the names around with my trusty digits to be sure they are well mixed up. And now, I carefully withdraw but one white slip..........
Janeena Woodville! You can look forward to a copy of my book winging its way to you in wee winterly Australia. Enjoy, and thanks to all for entering the draw.
(Gosh I love playing hawker. Who'da thunk it?)************************************************************
No giveaway would be complete without the response of the winner:
And a last note on the matter:
Thanks also to my sister Joanne for pointing me toward the photo above. Reading, in all circumstances. Have a look at all 9 pictures linked to from the image above. Really something.
Friday, July 24, 2009
Kit St. Germaine of Escape Clause has sent the contributors a list of questions to answer (or not) to stir up a little interest in the upcoming book. I have dutifully answered them and am now ripping them off whole cloth for my blog. I think Kit will be just fine with this, as it will remind you of the anthology which is Coming Soon.
Check out some of the links here. Some are just dull old Wikipedia infodumps, but there are some good one. The archived news report of a move to ban Margaret Laurence's books, for instance, downloadable copies of Kim, an excerpt from Joyce read aloud, and games for both Sam-I-Am and Captain Underpants.
Escapees P.R. quiz:
1. If you could wave a hand and instantly change any 2 things in the world what would they be?
- All people would have the courage to look deeply at what is in front of them and to face their feelings, embracing all others (human or rock) as a result. I think that would take care of all the crap and make life a lot more fun, too.
- Two more moons. Including one really big one. Oh, the tides...
2. Have you ever encountered an alien?/ Do you think aliens exist?
Other than my mitochondria? To my knowledge I haven't. If aliens do NOT exist I'd be very surprised.
3. If you had an avatar, representing you in the world what would it look like/be/do/ be named.
My avatar would be a cocker spaniel cross, very friendly though a bit confused. Her name would be Febianne and she would be smiling, a little worriedly.
4. …Or; If you were a super-hero, what would your name/power be?
To heck with "or".
If I was a super-hero I would be Primordial Ooze Girl, capable of creating whatever is needed, given time. A lot of time.
5. What do you like most in yourself?
My hard-earned kindness.
6. What do you like most in others?
Knowing when to let it go. And when to hang in.
7. What is your most precious possession?
8. Name a few of your favorite literary characters.
Tweel, the leggy Martian in Stanley Weinbaum's 1934 story, "A Martian Odyssey".
Fionn macCumhaill of the Fenian Cycle of Irish myths.
Hagar Shipley of Margaret Lawrence's The Stone Angel.
Gwynneve in Kate Horsley's Confessions of a Pagan Nun. (All time stupidest title but an amazing book. I blame the publisher. Please may I blame the publisher?)
Sam-I-Am (needs no introduction).
Captain Underpants, Dav Pilkey.
Archie of Archie and Mehitabel, Don Marquis.
Avram Davidson's recurring character, Jack Limekiller.
Jonnie Dash in Rosa Guy's The Sun, the Sea, a Touch of the Wind.
Benjamin January in Barbara Hambly's A Free Man of Color...
Ben in Meja Mwangi's Going Down River Road.
Rudyard Kipling's Kim. and last but not least: Jirel in Jirel of Joiry, by C.L.Moore.
Sorry you asked???
9. If someone was telling the story of your life what detail would you most wish that they included.
I meant well.
10. If you could team up with a fantastical being who would that being be?
11. What is your beauty regimen.
Wash. Brush. Dress. The usual.
12. If you could instantly know something, just download any information and know it comprehensively-- what would that be.
All things Physical Scientific, extra-specially the Biologies and Geologies.
13. If you could have lunch with any person at any time in history, who would that be, what would you chat about, what would you eat
Any of my great-ancestors. Who they were, what their lives were like. Biscuits and butter.
14. What would you consider a good time to lie?
Anytime someone has a gun pulled on me.
15. What author wows you?
16. What words do you overuse when speaking? / writing?
speaking: $@*!/ writing: little
17. What would give you the greatest happiness?
After world peace??? Giving up fear.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
I am very sad to pass on the news that Phyllis Gotlieb died this week of complications from a burst appendix. Phyllis was a pioneer in Canadian science fiction, and was writing the stuff when it was a rather weird thing to do - at a time, in fact, when it was largely assumed to be a male genre. Those were in some ways lonely days, and as the Canadian science fiction scene developed Phyllis was an enthusiastic and dearly loved member of the community.
We always say someone will be missed, when they have died, and this time it's as true as it ever is. What a lovely, funny, spirited, irreverent, and generous soul.
Here's the CBC obituary:
Phyllis Gotlieb, sci-fi writer and poet, dies at 83
Last Updated: Wednesday, July 15, 2009 | 6:33 PM ET Comments8Recommend28
Phyllis Gotlieb, the novelist and poet said to be the first Canadian science fiction writer, has died. She was 83.
Gotlieb died Tuesday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto.
Gotlieb earned a Governor General's Literary Award nomination in 1970 for Ordinary Moving, a collection of her poetry.
Her 1982 novel A Judgment of Dragons won the inaugural Aurora Award for best Canadian science-fiction and fantasy novel.
She has been called the mother of contemporary Canadian science fiction, and the Sunburst Award, for adult and young adult sci-fi, was named after her first novel.
Gotlieb was born Phyllis Bloom on May 26, 1926, the daughter of a man who ran a Toronto cinema chain.
"I would go to whatever theatre my father was running, and spend the day there with my movie mags and my pulps — Doc Savage and The Shadow especially. I had such a pop culture background, Mickey Mouse was my hero," she said in a 2002 interview with Maclean's.
She was an only child, like fellow sci-fi writers Robert Silverberg, Frederik Pohl and friend Judy Merril. Her ambition was to be a writer, but she saw her future as a poet.
Gotlieb published her first poetry pamphlet, Who Knows One, in 1961, followed by the collection Within the Zodiac, which earned her a reading tour with Irving Layton and Earle Birney.
While she was struggling with writer's block in the early 1950s, her husband suggested she try science fiction.
"My poetry had dried up, but as soon as I started SF, it came back," she said. Initially she sent stories to sci-fi magazines, but in 1964 got a publisher for her novel Sunburst.
Fellow sci-fi writer Robert J. Sawyer credits her with opening doors for Canadian writers with U.S. publishers.
Her science fiction, like her poetry, often focused on ethical questions, and she shied away from pat solutions.
Sunburst was about a community with telepathic powers and the problems it faces, a theme that would frequently resurface in her fiction and short fiction.
O Master Caliban! treats themes of genetic mutation. Flesh and Gold looks at a world with more than one sentient race and an unequal balance of power.
Her Starcats trilogy features two cats as protagonists. Written in the 1980s, it includes A Judgment of Dragons (1980), Emperor, Swords, Pentacles (1982) and The Kingdom of the Cats (1985).
In 1969, Gotlieb published Why Should I Have All the Grief?, a novel about the aftermath of Auschwitz in a Canadian Jewish community.
She also wrote several verse plays commissioned by CBC that are published in the 1974 collection Doctor Umlaut's Earthly Kingdom.
Her last novel, Birthstones, was published in 2007.
Gotlieb is survived by her husband, three children and four grandchildren.
Thursday, July 09, 2009
Eileen Kernaghan's Made the Sunburst Shortlist! Congratulations, Eileen!
Wild Talent: A Novel of the Supernatural
From the book jacket: "Wild Talent: a Novel of the Supernatural is the strange tale of Jeannie Guthrie, a sixteen-year-old Scottish farm worker, who possesses a frightening talent. Believing that she has unintentionally killed her ne'er-do-well cousin, her fear of being sentenced as a witch propels her to flee her home to
The Sunburst jury says: "An absorbing, carefully crafted coming-of-age story and a vividly successful evocation of Victorian occult worlds, with real people and events skillfully interwoven with the author's fictional supernatural elements (and the false supernatural of charlatans), this book reads like a superb historical novel as well as a superior fantasy."
The novels of award-winning author and poet Eileen Kernaghan include The Aprilioth Sequence (Journey to Aprilioth, 1981; Songs from the Drowned Lands, 1983, and The Sarsen Witch, 1989, reissued 2007), Dance of the Snow Dragon (1995), The Snow Queen (2000), The Alchemist's Daughter (2004), and Winter on the Plain of Ghosts: A Novel of Mohenjo-daro (2004). She lives in
I would never have thought of having my collection reviewed as horror. In fact, when Don D'Ammassa reviewed it last yearin the Horror section of his site, I was distressed, thinking that the people who might like it wouldn't find it here, and the people who like horror would be annoyed if they read my book.
Clayton Bye has given me a reason to consider differently. Although I don't write traditional horror, normally, some readers don't like or get my stories, and even consider them a downer in instances when I really don't. Why? Maybe Clayton is giving us a clue here. Maybe it makes sense to expand our own ideas of what our writing is, and who might appreciate it. One learned writer compared my stories to Jane Austen.
This baffled me. I write speculative fiction! But it is the style of the writing, the sensibility brought to the subjects under examination, that brings Austen to mind for her. So we are perhaps not always the best judges of who might like our work, or where we should be marketing it. An intriguing thought... Buy Now at Amazon
Casey Wolf submitted her book Finding Creatures & Other Stories to be reviewed on The Deepening World of Fiction’s horror blog. We both knew, in advance, the collection probably wouldn’t fit the horror genre. Yet Wolf’s stories dig at the soul in a sometimes dark and subtle way. Much of the fiction is also speculative, a type which lends itself well to horror.
There’s Aggie’s Game, a disturbing look at a child’s battle with the grim reality of her life. This is a fine horror story. It contains a few computer generated formatting problems that messed up some words, but the piece is an otherwise superb example of what good horror writing is. Truth be told, Wolf makes me wish I was a better writer than I am. Her work touched me in deep places.
Dana’s Hand is another of Wolf’s stories which resonates with a quiet horror. A mother lost in dementia is guarded during the day by her offspring, Dana, and calmed of her night-time terrors by the strange healing powers of Dana’s left hand. But it is not the subtle horror of the situation which captures us. No, it is Dana’s capacity for joy and her appetite for life that reaches us, that lifts our spirits to a sweet sadness too many of us already know.
Mr. Cowmeadow’s Sky is at once disturbing and uplifting. A story about a dying man on a dying world who yet finds joy in the continued existence of his son, the only thing in his life he ever considered worthwhile.
The rest of the stories in this wonderful collection? I think the talented and accomplished author who introduces the book sums it up perfectly: “Wolf uses different genres, different voices, different cultures—in short whatever she needs to make the story work. What ties it all together is her sure-handed prose and a depth she brings to her writing, that indefinable element that rises up from between the lines and gives a good story its resonance… —Charles de Lint—
Finding Creatures & Other Stories is excellent fiction—period. I heartily recommend it.
Copyright © Clayton Clifford Bye 2009
by C. June Wolf
Wattle and Daub Books, 2008
Monday, July 06, 2009
Click HERE to escape to the contributor line-up for Escape Clause, a new (to be annual) anthology from Ink Oink Art Inc.
Aw, what the heck. Why make you click? Here it is:
Signed on for the first volume are award winners Eileen Kernaghan, and Linda DeMeulemeester (winner of the Silver Birch Award for The Secret of Grim Hill). The madly talented, Ari Goelman and Casey Wolf author of Finding Creatures, join us, as do an astonishing line-up of writers; Father and daughter and fellow Clarion graduates, Timalyne and Robert Frazier; Husband and wife Grá Linnaea and Jennifer Linnaea; Leslie Brown, poet Matt Betts, Tina Connolly, Bhaskar Dutt. of the glamorous left knee, Elaine Isaak, author of The Singer's Crown and Eunuch's Heirs, Melissa Yuan-Innes, Bobbie Metevier, Elizabeth Twist, Daily Cabal regular, David Kopaska-Merkel, the gently mad Christopher Morris, Playwright Mark Rigney, Phil Voyd and Jude Wright. Award-winning poets Marcie Lynn Tentchoff, and Mary E. Choo, grace us with pieces of genre prose. The prolific Robert Guffey is with us, as well as Beth Wodzinski, editor of Shimmer Magazine. Regular columnist for Strange Horizons, Susannah Mandel, joins us as well as the ineffable James Dorr.
Cleilie Rich (Editor) is everyone’s go-to person to find out how a thing is really done - She’s an expert’s expert, and now she’s ours.
Thomas Anfield (cover) is an erudite, (He paints for a living, but people should be paying just to hear him talk) much loved local performance artist and a painter - take a look at his site here.
Lee Tockar is a fellow actor (Link to IMDB) who spends his bench time with his nose pressed into his sketchbooks meticulously handwriting children’s stories and illustrating them with a skill to rival Maurice Sendak’s - I’ve known him ten years. He lives in luminous cocoon of creative electricity. I can’t wait for everyone to meet him. I’m so glad we could get him while we can still afford him!
Welcome to Escape Clause.
Escape Clause the app! Glorious speculative short stories by the following authors will soon be available for download on your iPhone!
J. Sawyer Arquin, Leslie Brown, Ari Goelman, Robert Guffey, Teresa Howard, Elaine Isaak, Jennifer Linnaea, Grá Linnaea, Christopher Morris, Laura Jeanne Sanger, Renee Stern, Frank Summers, Marcie-Lynne Tentchoff, Phil Voyd and more....
Sunday, July 05, 2009
Help Defend P&E
Information of all sorts for Artists, Composers, Game Designers, Poets, and Writers of all persuasions.
What's on Preditors and Editors?
But the part that gets people's danders up (and reassures others) is:
- Warnings (white pages)
- Warnings about some publishing and writing service activities. Generally, warnings are posted beside the appropriate entries within the P&E listing pages.
- Linked listing of other web sites with important info about scams or threats.
From the site:Unfortunately, there are those who do not like P&E or its editor because we give out information that they would prefer remain hidden from writers. Usually, they slink away, but not this time. P&E is being sued and we are asking for donations to mount a legal defense in court. Please click on the link below and give if you can to help protect P&E so it can continue to defend writers as it has for the past eleven years.
Other sites are welcome to copy the code for our donation button and place it on their pages with an appeal on behalf of P&E.
Well, this is a fun and wonderful thing!
A few months ago my brother Vic and I met a young woman online who lives far away in Finland and who has an imagination that kicks BUTT. So surprising and vivid, her images. Her name is Päivi Kuosmanen and I turned to her a couple of months ago for help.
See, Ahmed Khan had a submission call out for two anthologies (Cheer Up, Universe and Fun Times in Strange Lands). I like submitting to Ahmed's anthologies because a) he always comes up with cool ideas for them and b) he likes my writing! So it's fun and egoboo. (Usually.)
Well, I wrote a story for Cheer Up. Perfect of course. Not so to Ahmed! Sigh. "This is For Mrs. Zaberewsky" came wending home, tail betwixt her legs.
Then I started on something for Fun Times. Egads! I am so not used to writing YA! I started, I built a head of steam, I floundered.
I ask Päivi for help.
Now, Päivi has limited fiction writing experience. But she has a lively and humorous take on life. I have more experience. But I have a dour and stalwart approach. A marriage made in heaven? Who knows. But it's sure been fun.
I write, I send, she fixes. She writes, I glance over, she writers more. We debate, we miss each other, we blunder ahead on our own; we meet on gmail-chat and negotiate.
What we've written is something neither of us would have produced on our own. Whether it is good or not, who can say? It's harder to control a story when, well, you're not controlling it, and in this process I am sometimes straining in another direction, sometimes running to catch up. But whatever it's flaws may be, "Triona's Beans" has a lot of gentle humour and some very endearing beings in it. And it was a great way to have fun with someone who is thousands and thousands of miles away.
So, thanks, Pie! Now let's hope we can find a home for this.
image by Rudolf Koivu.