I am incredibly pleased to announce that the story I co-wrote with Jo (whose full name is Jonathan) has been sold to the very anthology we originally wrote it for. Sea and Sky will be included in the Masked Mosaic anthology from Tyche Books, edited by Camille Alexa and Claude Lalumière.
If you follow this blog regularly, you may be scratching your head a little bit. Back when I first blogged about this story in an entry I called …and Then the Magic Happened I said the editors had passed on the piece and I was sending it elsewhere. They did, and I did. But then even more magic happened. They changed their mind.
Oh my God, right? That like, never happens. But it did!
When you say it like a Lolcat it sounds almost cute, but they aren’t. They are a huge pain in the ass, for me and everyone else around me. I’ve been working on them for years and years, and one thing that has helped more than anything else is Niteblade**.
When I published the first issue of Niteblade, way back in September 2007, Jo (also known as Jonathan) did the layout for the .pdf and Marge Simon and Shawn Zinyk provided the art (Marge has done all the art since the first issue). I did everything else. Everything. I created and maintained the website, solicited submissions, made editorial decisions, worked on promotion, etc. etc. It was a lot of work, but it was all under my control and that was just the way I liked it.
More or less.
As Niteblade grew so did the workload. You might be surprised how much time can be sucked away answering emails about submission guidelines, for example. Or interview/book review requests. It all adds up, quickly.
Soon I realised I wasn’t going to be able to handle all the book review requests, so if I wanted to accept them I’d need help. That’s where Amber Stults came in. She was our first book reviewer. At one point we had a whole team of book reviewers but managing them and all the finicky little details associated with doing book reviews began to take up too much time so we canceled that aspect of Niteblade. Amber is still here though. Not reviewing books but doing author interviews for our News blog. She’s awesome, works independently and provides regular content for our blog readers without any effort or supervision on my part.
Richard Fay used to do the same thing on our blog, only he was showcasing artists and their work. We canceled that feature, not because of anything on Richard’s end, but because finding artists who wanted to be in our spotlight was becoming more work than it was worth. Go figure.
Anyway, even with Amber and Richard taking slender slices from my Cake of Control I was still responsible for the bulk of the work at Niteblade (and did I mention that it’s a lot of work? It is.). At one point I was feeling very overwhelmed. Niteblade was taking over my life. I wanted to be a writer/editor, not an editor/writer but the magazine was sucking away so much of my time and energy that I didn’t feel like I was getting anything else done, and also we’d been “hacked”. Argh!
“Argh,” I vented to my best friend BD Wilson, “I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I think I may need to close the doors on Niteblade.”
That was when BD saved Niteblade. She joined our staff and took over control of the website. She’s totally automated everything, made it look super purdy and she does all the web-based layouts. She’s fantastic and if it weren’t for her stepping in and taking over that huge responsibility Niteblade wouldn’t be here today. Everything runs smoother now because of BD.
And Niteblade kept growing.
That meant my workload didn’t really decrease despite the fact I had so many people sharing it. Argh! I said. I wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I had been before when I considered shutting the doors, but I was frustrated. I couldn’t keep up on submissions and my submission email addresses were starting to get more and more spam. But along came Submittable, which made it super easy for me to get help dealing with submissions. We got our first set of slush readers and TA-DA! It was like a giant weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The slush readers* helped weed out the stories that are absolutely inappropriate for our magazine (or the ones from people who don’t follow our guidelines) and so suddenly I only had to read about a quarter of the submissions I used to. Sweet!
Then, one of our slush readers, Alexandra Seidel, wrote a blog about her adventures in the slush pile and mentioned that she was sad to not be reading poetry slush. I began sharing the poetry slush with her and, eventually, she took over completely as poetry editor. Giving her that responsibility, that control, was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made. Ever. But it was a good decision. Alexandra is a fantastic poetry editor. She makes some editorial choices that are quite different from the ones I would were I poetry editor, but the calibre of the poetry we’re publishing has increased dramatically since she took over from me, so I think she’s doin’ it right. I *loved* every poem she picked for the September issue. So much so that choosing which one to put on our cover was a freaking nightmare. She’s an awesome poetry editor and Niteblade is stronger for her presence.
My point is this. Over the past five years Niteblade has taught me how to delegate, how to give away bits of power, slices of control to worthy people. Not only has it made the magazine better, it’s made me better. It’s a huge thing, and maybe it’s something I would have learned just over the course of aging over the last five years, but I dunno… Even if that’s the case, Niteblade, and all the people involved in making it the awesome publication that it is, sped up the process immensely.
I used to like saying that Niteblade was mostly a one-woman show, but now, as we near our five year anniversary, I’m proud to say that it’s takes a whole team of people to put it together, and I think we do an awesome job.
*Our slush readers change from issue to issue, but right now Megan Engelhardt, Sheri White and Andrew Patterson are the ones toiling in the trenches to make sure our submitters get responses in a timely manner.
**Becoming a mother and “inheriting” a litter of kittens who were only three weeks old also helped LOL A lot.
This blog post is just one stop on the blog train we’re holding to celebrate Niteblade’s fifth anniversary. Please check out Chris Lewis Carter’s blog if you haven’t already. Chris wrote the awesome story, The Cord, in the March 2012 issue and this train stopped at his blog yesterday. Tomorrow it’s chugging along to Alexis A. Hunter’s blog. Alexis wrote the fabulous short story, Dragons of Fire that we published in our June 2012 issue.
As for me, in trying to decide what to write about for this blog I realised I have a lot to say about Niteblade, so I expect to blog about it more often (for the next little while anyway).
I really wanted to submit something to the Masked Mosaics anthology. I first learned about the anthology from my friend Beth. She writes a fair bit of superhero stuff, but I’d never written a superhero story in my life. It sounded like a fun challenge so I got to work.
By ‘got to work’ I mean I went through all my story idea notes, post-its and such to see if there was anything there I could put a superhero spin on. There wasn’t. So I started brainstorming. Eventually I came up with an idea and wrote a first draft. A very ugly first draft. I let it sit a while, then revised it. Something was wrong but I couldn’t figure out what. So I sent it to Beth to critique. She helped me identify what (at least a few) of the problems were and I started revising again.
The deadline for submissions was getting closer and closer, and my progress on the revisions was getting slower and slower.
Usually when a story fights me as much as that one was I take it as a sign I need to let it rest a while longer and come back to it with a fresh mindset, but I couldn’t do that, I had a deadline!
To cut a long story into a shorter one, three days before the deadline I decided to let the story I’d been working on rest and to write something new for the anthology. Something that would fight me less. Something short.
While taking a walk with Jo I was sorting through ideas, trying to come up with something that would be a good story, and short enough I could get it done in just a few days. He asked what I was thinking so hard about and we started talking. We brainstormed ideas back and forth until we settled on a concept and plot I thought would really work. There was just one problem. Jo had contributed just as much as I had to the idea’s development. It would feel wrong if I took all the credit for it.
So I suggested that we write it together and share a byline.
And then the magic happened.
In less than a day and a half we went from rough concept and story idea, to a polished short story that I’m super proud of. I’m a fairly good writer, and Jo is an awesome one (You can read his short story The Sickening Thud at the End of it All by clicking that pretty link right there. Go ahead. I’ll wait. You won’t be sorry) but when we worked together we created a story that is, I think, better than anything either of us could have written on our own.
Working with Jo brought out the best in me. I wanted to make each word perfect and wonderful because I wanted to show off for him. And the parts of the storytelling where I’m the weakest? Well, those are areas he’s strong in so he was able to carry me a little. And, I’d like to think, the opposite is true as well. We complement one another well, in writing as in life. How awesome is that?
The story, sadly, though fantastic (even if I do say so myself), earned us a (very awesome, personal) rejection letter from editors Camille Alexa and Claude Lalumière, but I’ve since sent it off elsewhere and I’m optimistic it will find a good home in time.
In the meantime, Jo and I are planning on working with one another more in the future and I am using what I learned working on that story to make all my future solo work better. And someday I’ll even go back to the original superhero story I’d been working on and figure out what’s wrong with it and how to fix it.
Have you ever worked in a collaboration like this and had lightning strike, or magic happen? I’ve done quite a few collabs in the past (I love them.) but never anything quite as fulfilling as this one. I’m curious to see how rare it is in other people’s experiences.
I’ve also had some disasterous collaborations LOL but that’s a subject for another day, eh?
This is my husband Jo. I call this picture of him ‘Gameface’ because when I took it we were in the lab and he was doing all sorts of science-y stuff with like test tubes and pipettes and stuff. I think Jo is pretty freaking awesome, (so much so that I commissioned a theme song for him a couple years ago for Christmas. Much of it won’t make sense unless you played WoW with us, but it’s still worth a listen :)). We’ve been married for about 7 years now and together for closer to 11.
We talk about a lot of things around our house but a theme that recurs again and again in our conversations is gender. The perceptions of gender, the portrayals of it in fiction and popular media, that sort of thing.
When I asked Jo to do a guest blog this month he said he had just the thing, and that it had something to do with chickens. Turns out, we don’t get to hear about chickens, but his post does include turkeys, which are almost as awesome, so that’s okay 🙂
I was asked to do a guest column focusing on the letter W, and I wasn’t sure where to settle. I am a scientist, a biochemist specifically, but my interests extend beyond that. The first thing that comes to mind (that is science related) with this letter is tryptophan. This is an amino acid—an essential amino acid famously mentioned on Seinfeld!(1)—but the relationship to the letter “W” comes from the shorthand notation we use to refer to it. As I often point out to student in my classes, biochemists are lazy and would rather write three letters—or maybe just one, if they can get away with it—instead of the full name for something. Tryptophan is typically written as either Trp or W (T was already taken by threonine)—and you can remember this if you pronounce the word “twyptophan”, as if you have some kind of speech impediment. Ha ha, such laughs we have in science! That said, the extent of my dialogue is only as long as a Kilgore Trout novel.
So that got me thinking about W in other ways. W is for “Woman”, both as the straight up letter thing, but also in a more obscure way. Tryptophan, as Seinfeld implies, is abundant in turkey, which leads me to the other way that W and Women come together. In humans, at the genetic level, women are homogametic (XX) for the sex chromosomes while males are heterogametic (XY); the Y chromosome is a degenerate version of the X chromosome and that of course leads to a wealth of joke material regarding remote controls and sexual relations in general. But in turkeys (also other birds, insects and other species) the males are homogametic (ZZ) while females are heterogametic (WZ). This has an immediate repercussion—particularly if someone makes a joke about roosters having inferior chromosomes based on them having an X/Y chromosome system instead of the W/Z. Not that I think hens are inferior to roosters because they have degenerate chromosomes!
Variations on this occur, which leads to one of my other interests regarding sexual ambiguity. It is never as simple as having two options—and in moths and butterflies the difference between females and males may extend from WZ/ZZ to Z/ZZ or WZZ/ZZZZ or further, making the situation much more interesting. The lines between woman and men are never as clear as we like to think, not even at the genetic level.
Kate Bornstein is one of my heroes, and if you have never read the book “Gender Outlaw” I can’t recommend it highly enough. I have loathed gender-based generalizations for as long as I can remember; awareness of the genetic spectrum as well as the phenotypic spectrum of gender/orientation is a huge eye-opener for tolerance and awareness. When I was a grad student I wore skirts regularly; I have never minded being mistaken for a woman; and although I have never identified as female I was always a little jealous of the clothing options (especially formal wear!). One of my tattoos revolves around gender ambiguity and combines male and female symbology as a core part of the design. I do not considered myself “straight” but as slightly bent.
So what is the end message here? “W” is for women—no matter what their chromosome composition—and I love them all.
(1) Seinfeld script for episode 162 “The Merv Griffin Show” http://www.seinology.com/scripts/script-162.shtml
Kate Bornstein’sWeblog: http://katebornstein.typepad.com/
In case you didn’t catch the mouse over, that picture up there? That’s one of Jo’s tattoos.
Did you see how he ended his post with ‘I love them all’? He did that to drive me bonkers. Anytime someone says they love/hate/whatever all of anything (including groups of people) that I’m like ‘Argh! You do not! You don’t know them all! Rawr! Rage!’ Well, okay, not so much the rage, but definitely the rawr ;0)
Anyway, I love Jo’s point about how there is a spectrum of gender identities (and sexuality) even at the genetic level. You can’t just put people into box #1 or box #2 and expect them to fit. I feel like that idea is beginning to creep more and more into my work. For example, I had a lot of fun when I was working on See The Sky Again (an Aphanasian novel that is still very much a WIP) in taking the usual gender roles, standing them on their heads and then turning them inside out.
If you haven’t quite heard enough from Jo, you’re in lucky. Last night we went to the premiere of the documentary ‘Always Forward‘ by PhotonMotion. The documentary is about the Biochemistry department at the University of Alberta, which happens to be where Jo works and teaches. He’s featured in the movie (mostly near the beginning) with his super awesome 3d models making appearances throughout. I thought he looked a little un-used to being in front of the camera, but the footage of him lecturing his class really shows the Jo I know.
This blog post is part of the Blogging from A to Z challenge over the month of April and was brought to you by Jo Parrish and the letter W. I can’t believe the month is almost over (though I’m pretty thankful LOL). Tomorrow I’ll be tackling the letter X.
That’s Eowyn. You’ve met her before, but this story isn’t about her, she just happened to be on the bed and unwilling to move when I took the picture about the real star of this tale:
My mother sewed it for me when I was little. I’m not sure exactly how young I was, but I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have it, so I’m going with very young. It’s king-sized and she sewed it out of squares of fabric she’d cut out of clothes (I assume it’s clothes people had grown out of).
When you consider that I was born in 1976 and I’ve had this as long as I can remember, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to hear a lot of that fabric is polyester. There’s some cotton, some denim and even some fabric I’m not sure what it is, but there’s a whole lot of polyester.
The backing was a flannel sheet, and there was loads of stuffing. My mom hand-tied that beast meaning that at every point where the squares meet she pulled wool through and tied it to bind all the layers together.
My quilt is freaking heavy. It’s even heavier when you’re a kid, but I loved it then as I love it now. I would drag that thing across the lawn to lay it out for a picnic or drape it over chairs or tables to make the most secure fort you can imagine. When I’d have nightmares I would duck beneath it, growing sweatier by the moment but also safe, secure beneath its weight.
When we moved to the country you might think I’d be smart enough to leave it indoors, but you’d be wrong. That quilt has been through fields and corrals, it has hosted tea parties and listened to whispered teenage secrets.
I know it like no other object in my life. I’ve spent countless insomnia-filled nights counting the squares, playing with the wool ties or looking for a pattern in amongst the chaos. I know the texture of each block and I have favourites among them.
Sadly though, the quilt has seen better days.
It’s worn and strained. The backing sheet is threadbare beyond words, stained and tired. Polyester being nearly immortal those squares are fine up top, but the rest are giving up the fight. The batting is also a mess, spread bare in some places and clumped up in others. There are holes big enough to stick my fist (or my foot) through.
The quilt has spent the last four years or so in my closet, waiting while I tried to figure out what to do with it, how to restore it, how to save it. Recently I was forced to admit that really, its time had come. There might be a way to painstakingly pull out all the damaged parts and add new ones in, but that is beyond my skill or the time I have to offer to it. I could applique stuff on over the big holes and put a new back on it, but… well, it wouldn’t be the same.
So I’m saying goodbye to my quilt. I pulled it out, I put it on my bed and we’ve been using it, sort of a ‘last hurrah’.
Then an interesting thing happened.
Jo was trying to get some work done and Danica and I were baking together and being a bit noisy so he took his books into the bedroom. He’d been in there for a while when suddenly he popped his head around the corner into the kitchen and said, “Hey, Rhonda, did you know that my tartan is all over that quilt?”
Sure enough, the plaid blocks all over my quilt, the one my mom made for me over 30 years ago, is Jo’s family’s tartan.
Just one more reason my quilt rocks.
…maybe I should try to find time to save it after all.
There is just no way I’m going to be able to get my newsletter done today. I have two clients who need rush work done and I had to take my daughter to the orthodontist, that means my time is at an even bigger premium than it usually is today. However, I snuck some time in between jobs to pick some of my favorite pictures from our second day in San Francisco and resize the pics to share here. I hope that makes up for it — I mean really, I have sea lions. Sea lions rock!
This is Alcatraz as seen from Pier 39, which is where we went on day two in San Francisco. Looking at it now, I think I should have adjusted the colors on it before sharing but then we run into that lack of time thing again LOL
I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say that the sea lions where the highlight of the trip for me. I <3 them. I’ve seen them in the zoo, of course, and at West Edmonton Mall, but seeing them ‘in the wild’ was incredible. I don’t know what exactly it is about them that I adore so much. I love their noise, their cute little faces, the way they pile on one another, how obviously intelligent they are. How they bend their heads all the way back, how they fight and play. I just love them. Thus…there were a lot of sea lion pictures taken that day 🙂