Monday, January 27, 2014

"Angels and Automatons": New Zealand Steampunk Anthology Kickstarter

Take a New Zealand genre publisher with a growing reputation for awesome books, add a fictional New Zealand West Coast gold mining town in the 1860s, then add a liberal sprinkling of steampunk, and you have "Angels and Automatons", a shared world steampunk anthology.

Stephen Minchin, a Sir Julius Vogel winner, of Steam Press has kindly asked me to write a story for "Angels and Automatons", and I'm all in because it sounds like a heck of a lot of fun. Steam Press are the publisher of "Mansfield With Monsters" by Debbie and Matt Cowens and "The Wind City" by Summer Wigmore among others, garnering glowing reviews.

To get this anthology up and running, Minchin is running a Kickstarter to fund the anthology at pro rates. There are some sweet rewards available, including ebook and paperback versions of the book, books from the Steam Press catalog, short story and novel critiques, and one near to my heart...a tuckerization! That's right, if you pledge $100 under my name I'll immortalize you into my A&A story. There's only one available under my name,  but Tuckerization is available with some of the other authors too.

So if steampunk is your thing, why not give New Zealand authors take on the genre a helping hand by pledging and/or spreading the word. For more information on the anthology - and Minchin has really gone all out with the back story and historical context - click through to the Kickstarter, read all about it, and watch the video.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Silly Rabbit

I've been reading "Dragonwriter: A Tribute to Anne McCaffrey" lately. I received the book as a Christmas present along with the accompanying artwork by Michael Whelan. It's a heartfelt glimpse into the life of one of my favourite authors.

"Dragonwriter", signed by artist
Michael Whelan
It's been teaching me a little more about McCaffrey, often many things I did not know because I moved on from the fandom quite early in my 20s. But from the perspective as a writer, one of the things that did not surprise me was her dedication to working with up-and-coming authors.

I knew she had worked with Writers of the Future, and had taken it close to my heart that in the year I'd turned my hand (and first ever science fiction story) to entering, she had been a judge and would have read my story. That was enough for me to know, and I lived on that buzz for a very long time.

While reading Dragonwriter, I came across a discussion of her work with young authors, WotF, and her writer friends in association with these things, including Algis Budrys. After reading this particular essay, I decided to pull out the paperwork from my WotF entry for nostalgia's sake. I have a certificate from that year - 1999 - as I got a highly commended (though I'm not sure how because now I look back at the story its a little twee), and letters from the judging committee. Looking back over them was a revelation about my growing ability...because it was there.

Now here's where it gets really stupid. I was so focused on the idea that Anne had read my story (and that I hadn't won...hey, I was young and really egotistical) that I really hadn't soaked in the feedback letter that came with my certificate .

It was a personal letter from Algis Budrys, with compliments on my writing, suggestions on how to fix the story, and the desire to see more of my work in the competition.

Can you believe this? I've had this correspondence for fifteen years now. I must have glimpsed over the letters (I do this with rejections, thinking that if I read it quick enough it won't hurt) and simply filed it away without thought. I didn't even register the name signed at the bottom of the letter.

Certificate from Writers of the Future,
Honourable Mention, 4th quarter, 1999
I feel really foolish and ungrateful. Budrys died back in 2008, and I didn't get the chance to thank him for his kind words, even if it had just been a short letter or email.

I realize I did this at the time because I was going through a massive crisis of confidence. I quit writing not long after that - not because of the rejection, but because I got Fake Geek Girl'd out (a story for another time).

I've had a letter telling me I'm good from one of the greats for all this time, and I didn't realize it until now. It's weird and gratifying at the same time. I'll make it up to Budrys soon, and read some of his work.

Those 11 years in between made me a different writer. But silly rabbit. You were better than you thought to begin with.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Questions: "The Dragon in the Wardrobe", Betwixt Magazine, January 2014

It's time to open the lid on the candy box just a little, and let out my narrator PT so we can talk about another of my stories, this time "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" in Betwixt Magazine Issue 2.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

"The Dragon in the Wardrobe", Betwixt Magazine, January 2014

New year, new story!

I present to you my first story release for 2014, my tribute to Anne McCaffrey - "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" now live at Betwixt Magazine. Here's a small excerpt to get you going:
Eight-year-old Ani sits at the desk shaping Gareth out of red play dough. It’s not the real, store-bought dough, a school treat smooth and fine and warm beneath her searching fingers. She does not create fat plaited hair like other girls have done, imitated with sideways smirks at her thick woollen bunch. No, this dough is cobbled together from flour, water, and salt, splotched with Nika’s limited pantry of colours.

Dough Gareth is red, like the tips of her fingers, which she licks small bites of dough from, a substitute for the always-empty biscuit tin. Ani is displeased with the inadequate, crumbling representation of her dragon that does nothing to show his grandeur, but Nika smiles regardless.

Nika smiles less when fourteen-year-old Ani is still drawing Gareth, but that might not be her daughter’s or the dragon’s fault. Red is not the colour of proper dreams.
If you like this story, or any of the others in Issue 2 of Betwixt, you can buy the magazine or donate through their Paypal links.

Dragons give good chin scratchies