The latest, and final, installment in my Magical Menageries series is opening to submissions very, very soon so I wanted to take a quick moment to share with you the story of how it came to be.
Some time ago–time is slippery these days and my mind can’t hold on to it well, so it could have been months but I think more likely it was years–I critiqued a story for a friend of mine, Beth Cato. As many of her stories do, this one involved horses. I’ve critiqued a fair number of stories for Beth over the years (as she has for me) but this was one of my favourites. It’s difficult to critique a story once you’ve fallen in love with it, but I did my best. I sent it back to her and Beth did, whatever it is Beth does between critique and submission, then she sent it off to Big Market #1.
The editor at Big Market #1 sent back and revise and resubmit letter. So Beth revised and sent it to me to see if I thought she’d addressed all of the editors concerns. I did. And I thought the story was stronger for it. Beth re-submitted. Time passed. The editor of Big Market #1 eventually passed on the story, “close but…”. With a shrug Beth sent the story on to Big Market #2. The editor sent back a revise and resubmit letter… so she revised and sent it to me, I thought, “Wow, this story went from great to amazing!” and she resubmitted. “Close but…”
This particular story collected more than its fair share of ‘Close but…’ emails. Finally, in exasperation, as Beth was sending the story out yet again I said, “If they don’t accept it this time I’m gonna make a freaking horse anthology so it can find a good home!”
That market accepted the story.
(I’m being vague here because Beth gave me permission to tell this story but I feel like the details are hers to divulge, not mine)
Fast forward some more time, slippery devil that it is. I had to decide what to pitch to Sarena Ulibarri for the next installment of the Magical Menageries anthology series. I thought about dragons, because, c’mon, dragons! but the first of my elemental anthologies will cover dragons. And I thought about witches but they seemed too human for this series. And I thought about going with something quite obscure but then, out of nowhere, I remembered Beth’s story and my saying, “I’m gonna make a freaking horse anthology!”. And it just felt right.
I’m not hugely into horses these days, but I spent years and years and YEARS of my childhood obsessed with them. I spent innumerable recesses playing unicorns with my best friend Linda. Basically we just trotted or galloped around and around in a circle talking about what colour of unicorn we were–I was usually black with a silver horn, or white with a gold horn that had red roses spiraling around it–and when we moved to a new town my new best friend Miranda definitely helped fuel my horse love. One of my favourite books when I was a kid was The Black Stallion, and The Last Unicorn remains one of my favourite books even today.
And also? I grew up on this:
Centaur and Pegasus, anyone?
So I thought about all of that.
And I thought yes.
And happily, Sarena thought yes too.
And that is how I decided to make Equus the final installment of this anthology series. 🙂
When Words Collide was last weekend and it was amazing (as always). I can’t begin to contain all the awesome things that happened in one blog post, but here’s a very brief snapshot of my weekend:
This was the view out my car window as we drove down to Calgary for the convention. One of my favourite things about Alberta is our amazing skies. I lived in Norwich, England for a brief time and complained (probably the whole time >_<) about the absence of sky — it all felt very claustrophobic. I don’t think my boyfriend at the time understood at all what I was talking about until he came to visit and saw where I’d come from. I know Montana branded itself ‘Big Sky Country’ but really, it doesn’t get an exclusive claim to that 😉
My first panel was the early bird live action slush, which I really enjoyed. As I promised last year, I put a page of my own into the pile this time… and was stinkin’ tense the whole time my fellow panelists were giving it feedback. It was fun, when it was my turn to speak, to say, “That one was mine. Thank you.” but I heard from one member of the audience that they could tell it was mine from the moment Edward Willett began to read because I was so tense looking. Good to know! LOL
The mythology panel I was on was fantastic (S.G. Wong is an amazeballs moderator) and one con highlight for me came immediately after it when Athen, of Athen’s Book Picks, asked me to sign his copy of Sirens. Athen has a great blog where he reviews children’s, MG and YA Books and I had a lovely (but short) chat with him about that. It makes my heart glad to see young people not just caring about books but caring passionately about them.
The autograph signing had a bit of confusion and a shortage of tables. If we hadn’t all wanted to sit together we totally could have found spots at various tables around the room but we DID want to sit together so Jo and Cat suggested we snag some of the refreshment tables and improvise. It turned out we were totally punk enough to do that, and we set up a super signing assembly line of awesome. And coloured* in between selling and signing books — as you do.
The hotel gave out a different style of mug for this year’s convention. Seen here with a copy of Sirens for scale.
Sunday at noon I was the featured author at the EDGE booth in the dealers room. I ran into Cat on my way in and when she asked what I was doing I said I was being featured. “Oh, this I need to see,” said Cat, and came with me… and was promptly talked into being featured “like big shots” alongside me. Soon after that we also talked Sandra Wickham into being a big shot with us:
…which was even more fun than you can imagine and at one point involved squealing and happy jumping hugs. Because that’s how we roll.
After the EDGE booth party it was time for the Sirens launch. It was a lot of fun. We started off with Cat McDonald reading from “Notefisher” — her surreal story about getting stoned in the woods to forget that you want to kill yourself. Then it was V.F. LeSann’s turn to read from “Nautilus”. Megan Fennel and Leslie VanZwol are each one half of V.F. LeSann and they played rock, paper scissors to decide who was going to read. Leslie won/lost and gave a lovely reading.
Pat Flewwelling followed that up with a great reading of some of the darker parts of her story, “Moth to an Old Flame” and Sandra Wickham followed her with an engaging share of part of “Experience”. I felt a little bad for L.S. Johnson having to follow on Sandra’s heels… right up until L.S. knocked her reading of ‘We are Sirens’ out of the park and made me cry!
(Yes, I probably could have used the word ‘follow’ more in those last two paragraphs :-p)
The pitch sessions were a whirlwind of people telling me about their stories and blowing my mind, again and again, with creative ideas and plots. These pitches were five minutes each, and followed one right after the other. Many of the novels sound fantastic but the experience (it was my first time doing pitches) was rather dizzying and by the time it was over I was glad it had been my last session of the con because I really needed some quiet time to catch my breath LOL
And then it was time to go home. Have I mentioned how I feel about Alberta skies?
And then we were home!
Super big shout outs to Tyche Books for selling the Magical Menageries series at their table for me. Because of them we sold out of copies of Sirens and even sold a few of the older anthologies as well!
For me, the side effects of attending a convention include feeling recharged by seeing so many of my friends in the same place–many I don’t get to see in three dimensions anywhere else, inspired to get back to work by the conversation, panels and hearing people read… and a raging case of imposter syndrome. That last bit is compounded by a thing I’ve decided to call ‘Con Brain’. Are you nodding along already? Do you know what I’m about to say?
Example #1: I was at a party and you looked over to see Sandra Wickham, Sandra Kasturi and S.G. Wong (whose name is also Sandra) all sitting together. I tapped tap S.G. Wong on the shoulder, fully intending to say, “Sandra, Sandra and Sandra! It’s the Sandra club!” (because they probably haven’t already all heard that five times already) but what happened is I said, “Sandra, Sandra and–” and I looked at S.G. Wong’s name tag and for some reason, for just a moment, I was like, “Wait! Stop! Don’t say Sandra! Her name is Susan! Quick! Change gears!” so I said, “Sandra, Sandra and Susan! It’s the S club!”
Sandra was awesome about it. Because she’s awesome. But really? Really?
…have I mentioned that my mother’s name was Sandra? If I was gonna mess up a name…
Example #2: This one is funnier. At the Sirens launch I was like, “The publisher for this book is When Words Collide and…” eventually the audience (and Sirens) stopped laughing long enough to remind me that the convention is When Words Collide and my publisher is World Weaver Press. WWC / WWP. My defense is that they are only one letter apart.
I’m calling this ‘Con Brain’ because it seemed to get worse as the con went on. And I don’t think it was so much a case of just normal slips of the tongue so much as my brain saying, “Dude! We’re doing so much more adulting and peopling than we usually do! I’m burning out so I’m just gonna flip this switch for a while. You don’t need to word, right? Right? Good…”
Still, you can bet that I’ll be doing it all again next year because so far no one has held my oopses against me and man, I loves me some When Words Collide!
Jo was putting in an Amazon order the other day and asked if I needed anything. Which, I mean… I think we all know the answer to that right? But I thought about the huge pile of books sitting up on my ‘To Be Read’ shelf and the multitude of electronic titles I have waiting to be read and I decided to be responsible and say no. Then I had a flash of inspiration. “You know what I could use?” I said. “I could really use to replace my copy of On Writing.”
This is my copy of On Writing:
It doesn’t look too bad, does it? Well, not until you look at it like this:
It’s water-stained and pretty beaten up.
For the record, I bought it second hand and it was like that when I bought it. It really was. But I wanted the book pretty badly so I paid actual, real money for it despite the condition it was in. And I’ve read it cover to cover at least three times since then, so, ya know, apparently the damage didn’t bother me all THAT much.
But now, thanks to Jo, I have this:
Which, as you’ll notice from my sexy paint chip bookmark, I’ve already started reading again.
And that got me thinking about ‘how to write’ books and how many I own. The answer to that question, in case you’re curious, is three:
And I recommend every one.
On Writing by Stephen King is an amazing combination of autobiography and master class on writing. Like I said, I’ve read it at least three times cover to cover and I’m on my way through it again. I find this book super inspiring. It never fails to get me fired up about writing again on days when I’m just not feeling it.
Steering the Craft by Ursula K. LeGuin is fantastic. I’m not done reading it — I’m working my way through it with my ‘Mutinous Crew’ and life has been getting in our ways a lot lately, but what I have read has been great, and the writing exercises are interesting (which is more than can be said for most writing exercises, amirite?). This book has also added several titles to my TBR list and the ones I’ve read have been whole lessons in themselves.
Writing the Breakout Novelby Donald Maass is phenomenal. I don’t know if you can see in this picture but I’ve got tons and tons of Post-it notes marking sections of this book. I feel like I’ve internalized a lot of the lessons but then every time I go back to skim through something or another I learn (or re-learn) new things.
For myself it’s important that I spend more time writing rather than learning about writing (because reading about writing is just another form of procrastination for me, and I am already the freaking queen of procrastination) so the ‘Books about Writing’ section in my library must remain small, but these three titles come with the highest of recommendations from me and I can’t imagine that I’ll ever part with them.
What about you? What does your ‘Books about Writing’ section look like?