Brief link round-up

Clockwork Phoenix 5 Best of Apex Magazine Volume 1

Now both have launched, reviews of both Best of Apex Magazine Volume 1 and Clockwork Phoenix 5 are available. Here are a few links for the interested:

  • 365shortstories has posted reviews for all of the CP5 stories. Mike Allen has rounded them up over at Mythic Delirium. You’ll find the review of The Prime Importance of a Happy Number here.
  • Also at Mythic Delirium, Mike has posted links to a review from Andrea Johnson and to a livestream of the busy launch party.
  • There are a number of reviews of Best of Apex Volume 1 up at Goodreads, including a 4/5 star review for She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow from one reviewer (thanks, Althea Ann!).

CP5 could use some reviews up at Amazon, so if you’ve read it please consider posting a review. Every one helps!

Share this:

Semi-obligatory 2016 awards post

I’ve noticed that it’s the time of year for award eligibility, so here is what I’ve got in the running for 2016 awards.

Zangao
This isn’t Skook, but it looks like him.

I had a slow year on the writing front, but She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow is eligible in the short story category and available to read for free (or you can listen to the podcast). Should you wish to cast some love in the direction of Hedron, Chancery and Skook, I could bathe in the warm fuzzies like a happy baby sea flap flap.

It also turns out this marks my first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award for best new writer. My thanks to the moderators, especially David Walton, for helping me confirm that and getting my name up on the list.

Just being on there feels like an achievement!

Share this:

The Clockwork Phoenix has landed

Clockwork Phoenix 4 front cover

In the flesh


I was delighted to receive my contributor copy of Clockwork Phoenix 5 a couple of days ago. It is a stunning book, and I’m not just saying that because I’m (more than slightly) biased. It arrived at work, and a couple of my colleagues were driven to remark on how nice it felt — the print quality is excellent. Although I’ve had an electronic copy for a while, I’ve been saving the other stories for when the physical copy turned up, and so far Jason Kimble‘s The Wind At His Back indicates a fantastic collection.

Clockwork Phoenix 5 back cover

This book will be released on the 5th April, and can be pre-ordered direct here (same as first link above), or from Amazon US, Amazon UK, Barnes & Noble and a few other places. If you follow the first link in this post, you’ll find all the pre-order links.

A Clockwork Phoenix 5 launch reading will take place on April 5th at 19:30 in The Brooklyn Commons Cafe at 388 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, New York as part of the New York Review of Science Fiction/Hour of the Wolf Reading series. Mike Allen be there, and so will seven of the book’s 21 contributors: Rob Cameron, C. S. E. Cooney, Barbara Krasnoff, Carlos Hernandez, Sonya Taaffe, Shveta Thakrar, and A. C. Wise. All will read excerpts from their Clockwork Phoenix 5 stories. I can’t make it, owing to the presence of a large, wet, wobbly thing in which one finds fishes and whales and crabs and octopuses.

And, if you’re in book buying mood, Best of Apex Volume 1 is now in stock at Amazon UK, and presumably elsewhere. This book reprints my story from the December issue, She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow.

Share this:

Help the Apex magazine fund!

Haar is what we call the sea fog here in the north east of Scotland. There are other places that have similar banks of dense, white cloud rolling in from the sea, of course; the phenomenon is not limited to this part of the world. I’ve seen something similar in San Francisco.

It plays a big part in She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow, which will be published in Apex Magazine next month, and is as much a part of the land here as the ever-shifting dunes, the tank traps and pillboxes, and the extinct volcanoes.

It was particularly splendid this week, sitting a mile or so offshore and dull grey in shadow but bright, brilliant white in the sun. I tried to take a picture, but I have yet to manage to capture an image of the haar in its full glory.

Haar

There’s something in the haar and it has a taste for cattle

The thick grey band across the horizon is the haar. It’s remarkably stable, and just sits there until conditions are right for it to come into shore.

Apex has announced a subscription drive, with a target of $5,000. As I write this, the funding rocket is showing less than $1,000.

You can find direct links to the subscription links here. It doesn’t cost much to subscribe. Most of the material is online for free anyway, but by subscribing you help make sure that there will be more great new stories from emerging and established authors. If you can’t subscribe, or can but want to do a bit more, you can always add some funds to the tip jar at the bottom of the subscription drive page.

Share this:

Best of Apex Magazine Vol. 1

This is me on a sea-kayaking trip last year with Frood at Portknockie, in which we were ably guided by Sam Weir of Kayak Scotland:

Sea Kayaking at Portknockie

One of the best weekends ever.

That grin on my face is a result of being encouraged into doing things I had no idea I was able to do with the experience I had, and coming out the other side with vastly increased confidence and a burning desire to get out there, do more and go further, and have even more fun in the process.

Now you have a good idea of what my face looked like when I found out that my story She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow has been selected by Jason Sizemore and Lesley Connor for Best of Apex Volume 1. There might have been some jumping around squealing, too.

Just a bit.

To help fund the project, the Apex team is holding a raffle for a place on Carrie Cuinn’s Editing for Writers workshop, worth $100. The course is 4 weeks long, and should be a goodie.

“Editing 101” – AKA “Editing for Writers”. Identifying parts of a story, tenses and perspectives, narrative arcs, and other elements that are potentially affected by the editing process. Definitions, editing marks, using (and creating) style sheets, important style manuals, levels of editing, and fact-checking. The basics of copyediting: concepts and skills necessary for line editing (also called copyediting), relying mainly on the Chicago Manual of Style, 16th ed; editing vs. proofreading; tips for spotting tricky errors. The basics of developmental editing: what it is and isn’t, including the specifics of developmental editing in fiction. We’ll also cover rates, and working with clients, including querying about edits, maintaining an author’s voice, and related services.

As you may already know, Carrie published my story What The Water Gave Her in the Dagan Books anthology Fish, which was a huge deal for me. Carrie is putting herself through school at the moment, supporting herself with her freelance author and editor work, while raising her young son. This is a great opportunity to buy a chance to take what promises to be a great course for the sum of $3, which is less than a pint of beer or a large coffee at Haymarket’s AMT. Apex will split what they get from the raffle 50/50 with Carrie. Buying a ticket will help support both Apex and Carrie, and put you in with a chance of winning the top prize. Other prizes on offer include print copies of Women and Other Constructs by Carrie Cuinn, Starve Better by Nick Mamatas, To Each Their Darkness by Gary A. Braunbeck, and For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher by Jason Sizemore.

Go on. You know you want to.

Share this:

Sale! It’s a happy place

The last couple of months have been HECTIC. Work has been super-busy, I’ve been struggling to find time for editing and writing, and we’re moving house. I’ve had almost no time for physical exercise, which always makes me cranky, and at times the effort of trying to deal with it all while remaining suitably optimistic when in company has been almost beyond this introvert.

I have a friend whose favourite method of reassurance when things are weighing me down is to say, “A lot can change in a couple of years.” He’s right of course. As if I needed proof, I received some amazing news last week.

My short story She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow was bought by Jason Sizemore for Apex Magazine. This piece means a lot to me, and it would be an understatement to say I’m chuffed to bits. Selling a story to Apex is like nine Christmases and birthdays all rolled into one.

I’d be remiss not to mention the various people whose stellar feedback helped along the way, including Cat Rambo and the other students on last year’s Advanced Workshop, my fellow Orbiter 6 members and, of course, that ragtag bunch of talented reprobates who form the Altered Symmetry crit group.

The pillbox

Yesterday, Frood and I went to the beach to say goodbye to the pillbox. I’ve been taking pictures of the pillbox every now and then since we moved here, recording the changing shape of the dune around and behind it. We’re moving south of the city at the end of the week, so it’s unlikely I will be a regular visitor from now on. I wanted to take one last look, and it was such a beautiful day.

Here’s my happy place. Standing on the beach, toes in the sand, dreaming of other worlds and the words I need to tell them.

happyplace

Share this:

When short stories aren’t

Although I’ve been putting words on paper since I could hold a pen (I shall dig out some of my earliest journals sometime), I have written purely for myself, not with a view to submitting to market. I started doing that only recently, and I’m still finding out where my strengths and weaknesses lie when writing for others.

Some of them are obvious, such as the struggle I face balancing too much exposition with confusing prose, when part of what I want to do is conjure ambiguous worlds where nothing is definite. My crit groups are invaluable for dealing with these kinds of problems.

Other problems are harder to pin down. My short stories often grow metaphorical arms and legs and tentacles, before ignoring the limitations of limbs and sprouting hyphae all over the place. I end up trapped in something like a web built by a swarm of caffeine-fuelled spiders in a memory palace the size of Hannibal Lecter’s.

If I were writing long form, this would be more useful. Is it, therefore, a good thing or a bad thing? I’m still undecided, but am going to treat it as a good thing for the time being. At the moment, I would rather be in the position of having to cut than to add, except where my crit buddies suggest I can have clarification without straying into wordiness.

A short story I started with a nominal project target of 5,000 words has reached almost 10,000 words with no sign of stopping. It has pages of research and its own Scapple folder. I came back to this piece after several months away from writing, and opened it with a notional inclination towards abandonment. I read what I’d done, and I liked it too much to give up. There’s a story here I want to tell, and whether it ends up as 15k words I cut back to 7k, or 20k I work up to a full length novel, finishing the story at whatever length it turns out to be is something I have to do.

I’ve heard it said that a story ends up the length it needs to be. We’ll call this an experiment.

Share this:

BristolCon and Looking Landwards

It’s only a couple of weeks until BristolCon, where I’ll be helping to launch Looking Landwards, the NewCon Press anthology containing my story When Shepherds Dream of Electric Sheep. As I’m still in the early days of my writing career, when every sale feels like a miracle, I’m a little over-excited. There aren’t many conventions in the UK compared to the busy American schedule, and I live so far north I’ve only been to one thus far.

Here’s the official publicity for the book. I’m sharing a ToC with some amazing people. Last week — despite a possibly fractured, and definitely painful wrist — I signed a ridiculous number of sheets of paper for the limited edition hardcover. I can’t wait to see this book and read the other stories.

Looking Landwards Cover

With the impending crises of climate change, scarcity of water, dwindling energy reserves and spiraling global populations, the effective management of our land and the food it produces has never been more relevant. Established in 1938 by a small group of far-seeing and enthusiastic engineers and agriculturalists, the Institution of Agricultural Engineers provides a professional nexus for the scientists, technologists, engineers, and managers working in the many and varied forms of land-based industry.

In 1988 the IAgrE marked its 50th anniversary with a publication that considered the changing face of farming and agricultural engineering over the previous half century. In 2013, to mark their 75th anniversary, they have chosen to commission a book that looks forward at what the future might hold. To help them achieve this, they approached NewCon Press.

Looking Landwards represents NewCon Press’ first ever open submissions anthology. We have been overwhelmed by the response, receiving submissions not only from within the UK but also from the USA, Australia, mainland Europe, Africa, and Asia; from professional writers and would-be writers, from scientists and engineers who are actively involved in dealing with the book’s themes to people who have simply been inspired by them. Looking Landwards features the very best of these stories. Twenty-three works of science fiction and speculation that dare to look to the future and examine what lies ahead for farming, for agricultural engineering and for all of us.

Contents:

  1. Introduction by Andy Newbold and Chris Whetnall of the IAgrE
  2. The Blossom Project – M Frost
  3. Contraband – Terry Martin
  4. When Shepherds Dream of Electric Sheep – Sam Fleming
  5. Inversion Centre – Darren Goossens
  6. Ode to an Earthworm – Gareth D Jones
  7. A Touch of Frost – Renee Stern
  8. The World Coyote Made – Jetse de Vries
  9. Earthen – Alicia Cole
  10. Soul Food – Kim Lakin-Smith
  11. Charlie’s Ant – Adrian Tchaikovsky
  12. Cellular Level – J E Bryant
  13. My Oasis Tower – Holly Ice
  14. Throw Back – Gill Shutt
  15. Mary on the Edge – Steven Pirie
  16. Landward – Den Patrick
  17. Long Indeed Do We Live… – Storm Constantine
  18. Tractor Time – Kate Wilson
  19. Veggie Moon – Neal Wooten
  20. Wheat – Kevin Burke
  21. Blight – Dev Agarwal
  22. Black Shuck – Henry Gee
  23. A Season – Rebecca J. Payne
  24. The Last Star – Nigel Edwards
  25. About the Authors

 

Released 28th October 2013, Looking Landwards will be published as:

A5 paperback (ISBN 978-1-907069-59-8) Price: £11.99 (UK), $20.99 (USA)
A numbered, limited edition hardback, each copy signed by all the contributing authors(ISBN: 978-1-907069-58-1) Price: £29.99

To find out more about the Institution of Agricultural Engineers and their work, visit them at: http://www.iagre.org/about/about.

Share this:

Spoken word, seasoned with citrus

Recently I’ve been pretty busy on the writing front. On the 7th September I was one of the guests on the Literature Show, alongside my fellow Point of Balance writers Pam, Morag and Haworth. If you missed it (let’s face it, you probably did), you can listen again at mixcloud. We were there to promote the chapbook and you can hear me and my fellow writers reading excerpts from the pieces in the book. I also took the chance to sneak in a signal boost for Minister of Chance, as the movie is in pre-production.

[Naturally, if you haven’t already listened to it, do so immediately (IT’S FREE, THERE’S NO EXCUSE) and then please bung some dosh Dan’s way. It’s still entirely crowd-funded.]

Last weekend I had two launch events for the chapbook and my first spoken word event, Lemon Zest.

The first launch event was at Better Read Books in Ellon. It was a lovely evening; we were guests at a regular poetry evening (even though there isn’t any poetry in the book). We heard some fanastic poems — including a telling of the story of Noah in Doric — and I picked up a copy of Cathrynne M. Valente’s Deathless in hardback. I was surprised to see this volume in a local store. Clearly, Better Read Books is an amazing bookshop. They have a fabulous selection of second-hand and illustrated texts, and Euan is the only person so far to engage with me enthusiastically on the topic of 18th century automata. Euan and Bill definitely deserve support (and they have signed copies of the chapbook for sale). We sold a few copies, but most interest was in the cover, and so Frood ended up getting all the attention.

Saturday’s launch went well, too. That was held at the regular LTW meeting venue, so the regulars turned up, although it was nice to see some unfamiliar faces. Then, on the Sunday, was Lemon Zest. We had our first run through the programme during the afternoon, with the show proper that evening.

I’ve had plenty of experience of public speaking throughout my career, so I don’t get nervous, as a rule. I was lucky enough to have a mother who was hot on grammar and diction, and being understood isn’t a worry, but I’ve never considered myself to be a natural performer. (My run as the evil magician in my primary school’s version of Aladdin And His Lamp doesn’t count, despite the standing ovation.) I don’t write with a view to the piece being performed, even though reading out loud is an essential part of my writing process.

The story I read at Lemon Zest is a homage to Russell T. Davies called Why Don’t You Just Switch Off Your Television Set And Go And Do Something Less Boring Instead? Those who grew up with British Television in the 70s and 80s may remember the show the title references. I’m very fond of this flash piece, which grew from a prompt in one of the group’s 10 minute writing exercises — I like the layers of meaning and internal reflections — and although I’ve not yet succeeded in selling it, it’s had some encouraging rejections. My outfit for the occasion was a nod to Christopher Eccleston’s 9th Doctor, I had 11’s sonic screwdriver poking out of my pocket, my piece was cunningly disguised in an antique storybook the colour of the TARDIS, and I introduced the piece as ‘Sam does Jackanory’ to put people in the mood.

Yet, watching the other group members, I realised I was outclassed in reading for an audience. Richie Brown’s tale of bringing King George III to the 21st century was very well performed, which is hardly surprising given that he’s one of the driving forces behind Demented Eloquence North. The undisputed highlight of the show, however, was Pam’s sketch Mike and Susan, in which Bill Robertson and Helen Elizabeth Ramsay played a couple discussing how they might go about spicing up their love life.

For me it was both an enjoyable and educational evening. Audiences, I realised, go to these events to be amused and entertained, and they’ll enjoy things that make them laugh more than things that make them think (although you’re onto a winner if you can do both). A lot of it was undoubtedly lack of practise and experience, but as an introvert who takes as much pleasure in the construction of a sentence as in the overall story, I think performing to an audience is not the best way to show off my work. Unless, perhaps, I get someone else to read it.

I put a lot of effort into the chapbook and I’m very pleased with the result. Mark Pithie put a lot of work into Lemon Zest, and I hope he’s also very pleased with the result. There are some talented people in LTW, particularly when it comes to writing for performance, and Mark did an excellent job organising an evening for them to demonstrate it.

Point of Balance will be available at LTW events until we sort out wider distribution. In the meantime, if you want a copy (if only so you can feast your eyes on the gorgeous cover, to which the photos don’t do justice), drop me a line at sam [at] ravenbait [dot] com and I’ll see what I can do. Cover price is 4 of your Earth pounds, all of which goes towards keeping Lemon Tree Writers up and running, including putting on events like Lemon Zest for all to enjoy.

Share this:

Point of Balance chapbook launch

Last year I was asked if I would like to be part of a chapbook for Lemon Tree Writers. Although it has been part of my growth as a writer to decide I do not work for free, in this instance it was for a good cause. I’m fairly introverted, and very busy, and if it were not for the fortnightly writers’ group meetings it’s possible I wouldn’t go out and meet people outside the day job at all. I also happened to have some work lying around that was in need of a home and thought the experience of working with other writers and seeing a project through from concept to publication would be good experience.

Point of Balance cover artPoint of Balance went to the printers today. Inside is a collection of six works by four writers: Haworth Hodgkinson, Pamela Shand, Morag Skene (who doesn’t have a website) and me. It’s hard to describe this collection, which spans from the dark past to the whimsical future and the abstract never-was; from the humorous to the horrific. It has a piece written in broad Scots and one that uses scientific jargon. Choosing a running order was one of the hardest parts of the process (best described as educational).

The cover is a beautiful photograph of a rock balance by Alibarbarella — and I may be biased, but he has done an amazing job. We had a number of images to pick from, and he was brilliant to work with, happily flipping things, cutting things, swapping things around and adding text on the fly so we could see what would work best. If you are in need of a cover artist, please consider dropping him an email.

We launch the chapbook on Saturday, 14th September 2013 at 11am at the Douglas Hotel, 43-45 Market Street, Aberdeen, AB11 5EL (map). You’ll be able to buy a copy (of course we’ll sign it for you if you want!) and talk to the writers about their work. We’re also hoping to have prints of the cover art available, signed by the artist. There will also be a pre-launch at 7pm at Better Read Books in Ellon (map)on Friday 13th. Leave a comment if you plan on coming to either event, so I can be sure to say hello and thanks for the support.

Share this: