Autumnal updates

Haven’t been able to write in here for a bit now.  School’s back in session for fall, and I’ve been valiantly running to keep up with it, and, at times, ahead of the pack.  It slows down my abilities to do a number of other things, for sure, so I have to make decisions.  Shall I work on my rewrite of the novel draft I just finished?  Or shall I blog?  Novel revision wins every time.  Priorities, priorities.

I’ve got a number of irons in the fire, though, other than doing revisions to the novel.  I’m working on a proposal for an anthology that I won’t say anything about at the moment, but am looking forward to putting this book together if me and my cohort editor can pull it off and sell it.  It’s a lark of a book idea, really, playful and fun, and I need more playful and fun projects. So, perfect.  More later if we can make it develop.

Otherwise, I’ve placed a number of writings in various venues coming up this fall and spring.  Some creative nonfiction pieces as well as fiction.  This fall, for example, I’ve got four nonfiction vignettes appearing, all in relation to the Mahoning Valley and Youngstown, Ohio.  Pieces that focus on place, sometimes poetically, sometimes philosophically, sometimes prosaically, but always “trying” something out.  They are as follows:

“Mahoning Valley Blues” New Haven Review, November 2010

“The Feral Houses of Youngstown, Ohio” New Haven Review, November 2010

“In a Forgotten Valley” New Haven Review, November, 2010

“The B&O, Crossroads of Time and Space” Muse, December 2010

Likewise, in spring, another piece in this series will appear in Little Ohio, an anthology focusing on Ohio childhood, edited by Robert Miltner for Pudding House Press.  That piece is called, “All the Cows I’ve Ever Known Call Me Home Tonight”.  Fancy, right?

Two stories will appear this spring, 2011.  One is “Gap Year” in the vampire anthology, Teeth, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.  I never ever thought I’d write a vampire story, but I’m still really pleased by this one.  Please do pick the book up and give it a read when it comes out in April.  Of course I’ll remind you then as well. 😉

The other story is “We Do Not Come in Peace” which will appear in Welcome to Bordertown, edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner.  I believe this is also scheduled to release this coming spring.  Bordertown is where a series of stories and novels beginning in the 80s take place, a town literally on the border of the world as we know it and the fae realm of fairy tales.  In many ways it’s the place where urban fantasy as a particular subgenre was born.  I was really honored to be invited to write for this anthology, and to become a part of that fictional city’s history.

I’ve also recently sold a short story, “Smoke City”, to Asimov’s.  I’m not sure when it’s scheduled to appear in print, but it’s my second story for Asimov’s.  The first time I sold a story there, my inner thirteen year old threw a party.  This second time, I’m still excited, but this story is much different from much of my other writing, and I’m looking forward, from a more mature perspective, and from a writer’s perspective, to see what others make of it.  As with others, I’ll post here to let you know when it’s available, as I do hope you’ll give it a read through.

I was also recently recognized as a winner of one of the Mahoning Valley 40 under 40 awards, which are given to forty people under the age of forty each year who are “chosen for their impact in their professions and their commitment to public service” each year.  It’s nice to be recognized in such a way.

I will probably think of things I forgot to mention in this update soon after I post it.  But alas, this is what I’ve been able to recall for now.

Not much else exciting going on in my life, really.  Working at teaching, working at writing, working at settling in for the autumn and winter.  Today as I write this it’s two in the afternoon but outside it looks a bit like six o’clock in the evening, the sky tending toward gray and rainy.  The neighborhood is entirely quiet, which strikes me as odd, because all summer long Sundays have been when I can hear my neighbors on their back or front porches or patios, talking with friends and family, grilling, etc.  Now there’s a real hush to the place, as everyone’s begun to withdraw to the house.  I will keep my fingers crossed that we’ll manage to get a few more warm weekends before autumn settles in for good.  And then, of course, I’ll be happy to admire the changes in the leaves and whatnot.  I’m easy to please in that way, or at least I’ve learned how to be easily pleased in that way.  There is a strange consolation in nature.  Perhaps it is only strange being so removed from it as we are in general.  In any case, I’m going to turn my face toward the window now, and think of other things.

Happy autumn.

Listening to The Language of Moths

t4_image Hey, cool, I hadn’t seen that this was available until today, but here is an audiobook version of my Nebula nominated novelette, The Language of Moths.  I love the image they gave the story, and even better: if you go through the link above to the audible.com page for the book, you can hear the beginning of the story as a sample.  Very fun to finally hear someone else read something I’ve written.

The Ghost Hunter’s Beautiful Daughter

In the October/November issue of Asimov’s, on magazine shelves now, you will find a new story penned by me, entitled “The Ghost Hunter’s Beautiful Daughter”.  It’s set in Warren, Ohio, just a twenty minute drive from where I sit in my office on the North Side of Youngstown, an old floundering steel town with a richly beautiful courthouse square that serves as its downtown, and wonderful old mansions and churches from a time when the region was prosperous.  Every year in the month of October, a local community theater, along with a local church, puts on a Ghost Walk through Warren’s historic district.  When I was a teen in high school, a troop of friends and I would always go on the Ghost Walk, which is more history oriented than it is interested in horror and frightening anyone.  The lives of former residents in the historic district are recounted, at least those who have a bit of a thrill in their family histories.  It’s always something I look forward to each autumn.  For this story, I wanted to set a scene at the Ghost Walk in Warren, which seemed appropriate since I was writing a ghost story.

As an aside, this is the first time a story of mine has been published in Asimov’s, over which my teenage self, if he could know about it, would totally be geeking out.

You can get a taste of the story over at Asimov’s right now, actually.  Just click here. And, if you like it, go out and buy a copy to read the rest of it, or order it online.  I hope you enjoy it.

Interfictions update

Just a heads up.  Very soon this fall the second volume of Interfictions, which I co-edited with Delia Sherman, will be appearing.  And even sooner than the book is released, we’ll be releasing a new story in the Interfictions Online Annex every week until the book appears.

I very much hope that readers like what Delia and I have gathered for their reading pleasures in this second volume.  More to come, but until then, the launch dates for Annex stories are as follows:

On Sept. 15th we’re launching the Interfictions Online Annex, with 1 new, online-only, story/week until the book publication November 3rd:

Sept. 15: Genevieve Valentine, “To Set Before the King”
Sept. 22: F. Brett Cox, “Nylon Seam”
Sept. 29: Kelly Barnhill, “Four Very True Tales”
Oct. 6: Ronald Pasquariello, “The Chipper Dialogues”
Oct. 13: March Rich, “Stonefield”
Oct. 20: Kelly Cogswell, “For the Love of Carrots”
Oct. 27: Chris Kammerud, “Some Things About Love, Magic, and Hair”
Nov. 3: Eilis O’Neal, “Quiz”

The Beastly Bride

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Taken from Jeff Ford’s blog, some information on a young adult anthology in which a story of mine will appear early in spring 2010.  It looks like a great anthology for young readers.  I’m happy to be included in it.

“This came in the mail today from Sharyn November, an Advanced Uncorrected Proof of Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling’s upcoming YA anthology, The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People It’s the fourth in a series of anthologies of mythic tales — The Green Man, The Faery ReelCoyote Road.  Art work, as in the other three, is by Charles Vess. It is being published by Viking and will be in book stores 1st of April, 2010.

Here’s the table of contents:

The Beastly Bride and Other Tales of the Animal People

Preface by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling
Introduction by Terri Windling
Island Lake by E. Catherine Tobler
The Puma’s Daughter by Tanith Lee
Map of Seventeen by Christopher Barzak
The Selkie Speaks by Delia Sherman
Bear’s Bride by Johanna Sinisalo
The Abominable Child’s Tale by Carol Emshwiller
The Hikikomori by Hiromi Goto
The Comeuppance of Creegus Maxin by Gregory Frost
Ganesha by Jeffrey Ford
The Elephant’s Bride by Jane Yolen
The Children of Cadmus by Ellen Kushner
The White Doe Mourns Her Childhood by Jeanine Hall Gailey
The White Doe’s Love Song by Jeanine Hall Gailey
The White Doe Decides by Jeanine Hall Gailey
Coyote and Valorosa by Terra L. Gearheart
One Thin Dime by Stewart Moore
The Monkey Bride by Midori Snyder
Pishaach by Shweta Narayan
The Salamander Fire by Marly Youmans
The Margay’s Children by Richard Bowes
Thumbleriggery and Fledglings by Steve Berman
The Flock by Lucius Shepard
The Children of the Shark God by Peter Beagle
Rosina by Nan Fry ”

Commentary or Fan Fic?

Apparently there’s this book that’s been self-published in England and due to be published in the U.S. that is a “sequel” to Catcher in the Rye, making use of many of Salinger’s original characters, aged appropriately.  The author of the book says it’s not a sequel, and that, “The book explores the famously reclusive Salinger’s efforts to control both his own persona and the persona of the character he created,” according to the brief. “It also scrutinizes and criticizes the iconic stature of Salinger and his creation by comparing the precocious and self-satisfied 16-year-old Holden with a 76-year-old version of himself fraught with indecision and insecurity.”

According to the NYT’s, “Mr. Colting acknowledges that three original characters from “Catcher in the Rye” appear in his novel: Mr. C, his sister Phoebe and Stradlater, Holden Caulfield’s prep school roommate. He also provides a list of more than two dozen original characters he has created for his novel, including Mary, Mr. C’s deceased wife, and Daniel, his son.”

Hmm, sounds like a sequel, Mr. Colting, despite the new characters.  Also sounds not so much like metafiction, as a Case Western professor has declared, so much as it does fan fiction, where a writer takes characters  and situations from a copyrighted book and spins their own versions on a favored author’s original tale.  If it were a story that was in the public domain, it wouldn’t be a problem.  Salinger, however, is very much alive at 90 and fighting this.  

The author says the novel is a commentary on Catcher in the Rye.  That sounds nice, but it also seems, at least from the reportage (and it may turn out to be incorrect reportage, we’ll have to wait and see), that the author really has infringed on Salinger’s copyright by including actual identifiable characters from the original novel.  Saying it’s commentary on Catcher in the Rye seems like a good defense, but I have a feeling it won’t hold up in court.

My first novel, One for Sorrow, was a partial commentary on Catcher in the Rye, but made no use of any of Salinger’s characters or plot in order to do so.  I simply wrote a coming of age story from the point of view of a working class boy growing up in the Rust Belt, who sees ghosts–something that would never happen in a Salinger book, ha!–and runs away from home the way Caulfield goes off the grid once he’s kicked out of Prep School.  My narrator doesn’t have the means to go anywhere fancy like New York City, where Caulfield runs to, rents a hotel room, hangs out with a girlfriend in ritzy restaurants, buying drinks, and where he tries to purchase a prostitute, among other things.  My narrator isn’t really able to afford that sort of running away; he hides instead in his girlfriend’s closet, then in an old lean-to in the woods near his house, and finally gets as far as Youngstown, Ohio, where he squats in an abandoned church.  No alcohol, no restaurant binges, no prostitutes, just crappy desperate turning from one place to another until the reality that he’s unable to run away from his problems sets in.  At one point he reads a book at his girlfriend’s house which is untitled but is obviously a summarized version of the plot of Catcher in the Rye, and he comments on that book, trying to show the differences in how that book looks to a kid from a closed-down ex-manufacturing/ex-steel region who isn’t anywhere near the middle or upper classes, and a much more Midwestern perspective versus Catcher’s East Coast.  I consider that sort of thing commentary on another book.  Taking another author’s characters whole-cloth, though?  That sounds like fan fiction to me, not commentary, though I’m sure commentary does arise out of the fan fiction.  The author probably should have tried to find a different way to do this than to appropriate actual characters.

I’ll be interested to know what comes of it.   Mainly because, even though I wrinkle my nose a little at Holden Caulfield and his drama, I like the kid nonetheless, and the book remains one of my favorites.

Wherefore art thou, Juliet

Today we bring you an awesome interview with the editor of my first two books, Juliet Ulman.  Okay, so “we” don’t bring it to you, Jeff Vandermeer does, over at Amazon.com’s blog, Omnivoracious.  Here’s a connecting pass to it.  And if you like reading Juliet’s really smart and insightful perspective on editing, publishing, and the future of publishing, you can hop over to Jeff V’s personal blog, where there is some more Ulman love going on, including a little ditty from moi.

Interfictions 2.0 ToC Announced!

If you haven’t already seen this at my co-editor Delia Sherman’s blog, you heard it here first (and if you did read it at Delia’s blog, you heard it hear second, or third, or maybe fourth):  The Table of Contents for the second volume of Interfictions has been announced, and looks like this:

Jeffrey Ford, “The War Between Heaven and Hell Wallpaper”
M. Rickert, “The Beautiful Feast”
Will Ludwigsen, “Remembrance is Something Like a House”
Cecil Castelucci, “The Long and the Short of Long-Term Memory”
Alaya Dawn Johnson, “The Score”
Ray Vukcevich, “The Two of Me”
Carlos Hernandez, “The Assimilated Cuban’s Guide to Quantum Santeria”
Lavie Tidhar, “Shoes”
Brian Francis Slattery, “Interviews After the Revolution”
Elizabeth Ziemska, “Count Poniatowski and the Beautiful Chicken”
Peter M. Ball, “Black Dog: A Biography”
Camilla Bruce, “Berry Moon”
Amelia Beamer, “Morton Goes to the Hospital”
William Alexander, “After Verona”
Shira Lipkin, “Valentines”
Alan DeNiro, “(*_*) ~~~ (-_-): The Warp and the Woof”
Nin Andrews, “The Marriage”
Theodora Goss, “Child-Empress of Mars”
Lionel Davoust, “L’Ile Close” 
Stephanie Shaw, “Afterbirth”
David J. Schwartz, “The 121”

As Delia says:  “It was hard, hard, hard to choose these stories. We got a lot of good ones. In fact, we got so many, we decided to put up an online Annex of stories that we didn’t want to get away. They’ll appear in the weeks leading up to the publication ofInterfictions 2 in November, not in the order they appear here:”

Kelly Barnhill, “Four Very True Tales”
Kelly Cogswell, “For the Love of Carrots”
F. Brett Cox, “Nylon Seam”
Chris Kammerud, “Some Things About Love, Magic and Hair”
Eilis O’Neal, “Quiz”
Ronald Pasquariello, “The Chipper Dialogues”
Mark Rich, “Stonefield”
Genevieve Valentine, “To Set Before the King”

And for those of you wondering what the life and times of an editor trying to put a book of stories together is like, let me re-emphasize Delia’s own summing up:  it’s very, very hard.  We had somewhere around 500 submissions for this anthology, which was a beautiful thing in and of itself, so many people sharing their work with us, wanting to be a part of this endeavor.  It was difficult to sort through them all and to make decisions.  Delia and I loved more stories than we could take, and of course that’s how the Annex came into being to begin with, and even beyond the Annex there were other stories that sparked a lot of conversation between us that we hope find homes elsewhere, since ours became crowded to the point that we created a virtual house as well, and then that filled up, too.  

I learned a lot about storytelling from this process, though.  I’ve acted as an editor on small chapbook and zine projects in the past, but this was the first time I had my hands in a full-length book project.  It’s been an invaluable experience, and I look forward to doing it again in the future for Interfictions 3 when it’s time to pull together another assembly of interstitial voices.

But for now, look at that table of contents.  It gleams and glitters.  We were amazed by these stories, and you will be too.

Books in recession

Reading this article in the NYT about the woes of the book publishing industry not being able to make as much money off of their product due to the rise of online used booksellers seems very similar to what happened in the music industry when Napster arrived and people started sharing music instead of buying it.  Of course, people still have to buy the used books from online booksellers, but they’re able to do it often for almost nothing, a cent plus shipping and handling.  Far cheaper than the bookstore, or buying new from an online bookstore.

It’s a situation that doesn’t seem like it’s going to change anytime soon.  As mentioned, the music industry still hasn’t fully figured out how to make money on product that people can easily move around for free online.  A similar thing has been occurring with DVD burning, of course.  I don’t see this as a problem so much as a change, one that indicates the idea of property is changing, too.  People want their music, movies, and books, but they don’t want to pay a lot of money for them.  

I wonder sometimes if these products are priced too high by their producers.  I’m a writer and not a business person, and I understand that the point of a business is to make profits, but if your product is overpriced (a thirty dollar hardback, for example) how do you expect to sell it in great quantities?  And let’s be honest.  Making books isn’t as expensive as it once was, either. Wouldn’t it make sense to lower prices in order to sell more, and by doing so probably make an even greater profit than raising the prices on the product to be purchased by a lot fewer people?  

While Black Wednesday has hit the publishing industry recently (you have been following that event, right?), and many people have lost their jobs because of it, from news and professional blog sources it seems that one sector of the publishing industry that remains safe and still profitable are YA novels.  They’re extremely popular, and that popularity is not waning in the face of recession.  I think this may be because books are seen as a “good thing” and parents can feel good about buying books for their children even if they themselves have stopped buying books for themselves.  But also there are a great number of adult readers reading almost nothing but YA novels.  I find it odd that so many adults are reading about almost nothing but teenagers, and am not sure of what it is an indication.  I read YA stories and novels myself (and often write about young adult characters) so my uncertainty about what it indicates when adults read YA books is not one that comes from some sort of snobbery toward the genre itself so much as it stems from encountering so many adults who read nothing but YA novels.  I don’t buy the theory that YA is where it’s at for no particular reason.  It just doesn’t seem rational that adults would stop reading adult novels altogether, especially when a lot of teens read “up” about older adults and levels of maturation.  It’s a way that we tend to figure out what’s going to come next for us, what to anticipate.

I think a few factors exist in the shakiness of the adult publishing world at the moment.  One of them is expense.  For example, recently I was in the YA section of a bookstore looking for books to buy for my nephews and nieces for Christmas (Peeps by Scott Westerfeld, How to Ditch Your Fairy by Justine Larbalestier, Valiant by Holly Black, and Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link, if you’re interested).  What I noticed (probably for the second or third time in the past year or two) is how cheap YA books are.  You can purchase a hardback YA novel for 15 or 16 dollars.  You’d pay the same amount for many adult trade paperbacks, and twice as much or more for an adult hardback.  You can purchase a trade paperback YA novel for anywhere from 5 to 10 dollars.  Because of this, I felt less restrained about buying more books, and ended up getting several more YA books for myself that day, and got a little annoyed that I couldn’t feel so unrestrained in regards to how I felt I could go about purchasing all of the adult books I want to buy.  

I’ve heard some people say that YA books are shorter than adult books, so they can be priced more cheaply.  But I see a great amount of YA books that have as many pages (and often even more pages these days) as adult books.  If they can be produced at lower cost than adult books, I’m not sure why, and as I said, I’m a writer not a business person, so if someone can explain this to me, I’ll be grateful.  Until then, I’ll continue to ponder over the large differences in pricing between adult and YA novels, and continue to buy unrestrainedly in the YA section of the bookstore while pinching pennies in the adult section.

On a potentially good end note, it seems there is a potential trend toward cheaply priced trade and quality paperbacks in motion, though perhaps not many of the larger publishing houses have caught on to it yet.  The books featured are a new line of paperbacks (Olive Editions) somewhere in between trade and mass market–trade quality cover leaning toward mass market size.  They look good, too.  I received the Olive Edition of Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh for Christmas.  I’d already read the book, but had exclaimed over the size, affordability, and style of its production when I saw it in a bookstore several weeks ago, and in response received it as a gift.