So, first things first, I’m going to reveal one of the two remaining “announcements” I’ve been holding off on, because now that Sandra Kasturi announced it in front of a room full of people I think the secret is out:
I’m working with Chiaroscuro Magazine (ChiZine) as a book reviewer, which is just so unfathomably cool. There are such utterly amazing people working for ChiZine in a variety of different capacities, never mind the list of authors ChiZine boasts for their publishing arm.
And when I sit back and think about it, this puts me in mind of the fact that 2011 was an amazing year for firsts and just plain cool shit. Now, I’m normally an extremely private person, and I’ve never really been compelled to put together a “year in review” post whenever I’ve actually had an online page/blog/account/thingamy, but there are too many things I think are fascinating, and really worth sharing, that have happened to me over 2011. So, this year, I’m going to do a “professional year in review”. Though you’re still out of luck where the personal is concerned, except where my life bleeds over into my work, as noted below.
Over the course of 2011 I sent out just under 120 submissions. Of those 120 I made 4 sales – 1 for no payment, 1 for token rates, and 2 at semi-pro rates. 7 submissions alone went to Mike Kelly, when I was trying for Chilling Tales 2. And it turns out I’m not the only one who did this: I heard from a friend that they had sent five subs, and I gather they didn’t make it in either. Although, having heard from Mike about some of the authors that made the cut, I don’t feel that badly about not getting in, because the ToC for Chilling Tales 2 is, like the first anthology, full of some amazing writers. So, you know I’m going to enjoy reading it as much as I would have enjoyed being in it. And one of the stories I wrote for the antho sold somewhere else, and I have hopes for all the rest, though I’ve been revising some as I go along, as ever I do. And all this led to me getting to know Mike Kelly, which is a definite plus, because Mike is a pretty awesome guy to know. Not to mention a hell of an editor.
And that then led me to be able to ask Mike Kelly if he wanted to be a judge for the Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest once that got off the ground and became a reality in late 2011. Mike was delighted, and it meant a full complement of writers and editors on board. By that point I’d already asked Chris Szego, Leah Bobet and Sandra Kasturi to be final panel judges. And the most amazing thing for me? It’s not actually that all these lovely people said yes, which is admittedly extremely cool, but more that everyone on that list is a friend. When I realized that earlier this year I ended up reflecting on the number of people in the Toronto and area writer’s community that I know, and the surprisingly large number of people of that contingent who are friends, and not merely acquaintances. This, compared to two years ago, when I knew fuck nothing about the local writer’s community, was out in the hinterlands of fiction, and despaired of ever actually getting published, let alone meeting people whose work I idolised.
Granted, I’m still chasing that elusive first “pro” sale. However, I have had no less than nine rejections from different publications that included a variant of the line “we hope to see more from you”. One of them was even for poetry, believe it or not. And that certainly works for me since all of those publications are markets I do want to eventually place work with.
And it’s not only short fiction I write. I write novels too. Yes, some are technically finished, but really, several are in revision and cleanup. The only one in “submission” is a novel called Gear and Coil that I sent through to Angry Robot via their “Open Door Submission Month” back in March. And for me the finishing of that novel was a decided accomplishment because I wrote the last 50,000 words in a week and a half, racing to the finish line, while so sick it hurt every time I breathed. Which was only exacerbated by the fact that I would devolve into long fits of racking coughs for minutes at a time. It’s a brutal way to write a novel, and I don’t really recommend it. But I finished the novel with a couple of days to spare, polished the submissions package portion, wrote the synopsis – which is the only kind of writing I abhor because it’s absolutely anithetical to the way I think about a story – and sent it off with half a day to go before the deadline. I was one of the last of 990+ people to send a novel submission to Angry Robot that month, so I won’t know if they will request a full manuscript off that partial for another month or so at least (I think). Odds are I’ll probably hear back about it just as this year’s Open Door Month gets going. But whatever happens with it, it was absolutely worth the writing.
And like the novel writing, speed writing ties into the “little experiment that could” as well. For those who aren’t familiar with this yet, I self-published a 46k Sci-Fi Novella back in June of 2010, more as an experiment than anything else. An End to Dreaming was written in 6 days, cleaned up, and then put up for sale. I ended up changing the nature of that experiment pretty fast after participating in a promotional month of “free sales” through Smashwords, wherein I realised that the novella had a much better chance of reaching people if it was free. And then since it was going to be free, I thought of a wicked little experiment. I stopped promoting it. Completely. I wanted to see what would happen if I relied entirely on word of mouth to move the book. Well, a year and a half later, I’ve moved 2,500+ copies, and routinely see 100+ downloads a month through Barnes & Noble’s ebook store, where the heaviest traffic occurs. Small tally? Yes. But I’m doing no promotion whatsoever. The only time this book moves is when someone likes it well enough to tell someone else they should get a copy. It still fascinates me that that model works, and I’m going to continue this experiment as long as it holds out to see what happens in the long term with such a project.
But back to actually selling fiction instead of self-publishing experiments:
I not only had my first fiction sales ever this year, I also had my first book launch. And let me tell you that is an amazing feeling. It also turns out that I actively enjoy signing books and talking with people, which was somewhat unexpected given how shy I can be at times. But signing books is a highly addictive experience, and I’ll be looking for opportunities to do that again in future. As much as possible actually. No, really, it’s a quite a rush.
The launch for Future Lovecraft was singularly awesome in many respects. Not least of which was doing the launch with Helen Marshall and Ada Hoffman (and Ada has blogged about the launch). Though, oddly enough, this wasn’t the first time I’d signed my work. The first time was an issue of Sol Rising, signed during the Toronto Word on the Street festival in September. It might also be mentioned that an oddly unexpected pleasure came from the book launch as well: though Future Lovecraft is normally only available in print form through online ordering, Chris Szego offered to take the launch copies that were left and sell them through Bakka Phoenix Books (where Chris is the manager). So, not long after the launch, I was able to wander into Bakka and see a book with my name in it sitting on a shelf. I don’t think I’d ever really thought about how good that would feel – since it always seemed so far away.
And, of course, I did other talking throughout the year. I lectured at the ACCSFF (Academic Conference on Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy), delivering a paper titled “Northern World Building: Theme, the Fourth Wall in Literature, and Terraforming the Mind in Canadian Speculative Literature”. Especially cool, from my perspective, was the fact that I went on directly after Charles de Lint.
In addition to much talking, I was also actively doing. As mentioned earlier, the Friends of the Merril Collection finally got approval for our Short Story Contest, which is well underway, with the reading period open until Feb. 15, 2012. And people are not only delighted to submit, they’re happy to talk about it and help promote the Merril Collection through the Contest, which is exactly the reaction we’d been hoping for. And of course my work as editor of Sol Rising, also for the Friends of the Merril, goes ever on, with our Winter 2012 issue due out the third week of January.
And then there is the other work. Slush reading as a “Submissions Editor” (I love that job title) for Apex magazine, and now working as a book reviewer with ChiZine.
All tolled, it was a hell of a year professionally. A bit odd personally, but everyone I hear from is glad to have 2011 over with. It seems to have been a fairly gnarly year all round as regards people’s personal lives, especially if the obituaries list is anything to go by. But 2012 is here. I, for one, have no intention of slowing down my submissions swing, though I don’t know if I’ll reach the same numbers this year. I’m not actively trying to best 2011’s submission tally; I’m just going to keep writing, polishing, and sending off my work. I’ve got other goals I want to hit as well in 2012. But for now, I’m just easing into the year. I’ve only sent out one submission so far this month, and I’ve known that was coming for a while. There’s one other I know I’ll be sending off for sure before the month is over, and everything else is up in the air right now.
And there are other odds and ends I’m proud of. My work in Future Lovecraft received a favourable review in the first posted review of the anthology. I checked out ISFDB this morning looking up something totally unrelated to me, and ended up finding out that I now have an entry under author listings there, as well as a short story entry. Finally got to attend my first convention through SFContario 2. Had an absolute blast, and I’ve already booked in for next year’s Con.
Other things to come as well. Still waiting on the last few photos to come in before I start posting up the Future Lovecraft book launch blog. I apologize again for making you wait.
And I’m still waiting for contract confirmation before I can announce what anthology “Night Life” sold to.
In the meantime, I hope everyone had a blast over New Year’s Eve and into New Year’s Day. I know I did.
Happy new year to everyone! See you all again in a few days.