Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Courtney Schafer's The Shattered Sigil Trilogy

Earlier this year, author Courtney Schafer launched a Kickstarter campaign for her fantasy novel The Labyrinth of Flame, book III in The Shattered Sigil Trilogy. Books I and II in this series were originally published by Night Shade Books. Ms. Schafer then made the decision to self-publish volume III, and thus the Kickstarter campaign was born. At the time, she had a complete draft of the novel and had also commissioned the book cover (art and layout) -- with artwork by David Palumbo, the same artist who had done the covers for the first two volumes. So there was little risk for those who contributed to this Kickstarter project.

The Kickstarter was, in fact, fully funded -- and then some: the campaign achieved 284% funding and unlocked three stretch goals.

The Whitefire Crossing
I've been reading the mobi editions1 of books I and II in The Shattered Sigil Trilogy. I completed The Whitefire Crossing a week or so ago, and I'm now about one-third of the way through The Tainted City.

All this in preparation for my next project: I will be working with Courtney Schafer on book III, The Labyrinth of Flame, performing a full copy edit of the final manuscript prior to publication.

The Tainted City
On her website, Courtney Schafer has provided a sneak peak at the novel, with chapters one through three available online. And, if you missed out on the Kickstarter but would still like to add this third volume to your library, the author will accept "late pledge" pre-orders until August 1; contact her directly at courtney(at)courtneyschafer(dot)com.

For those completely new to this series, the author provides sample chapters as well for both book I, The Whitefire Crossing (chapters one through six), and book II, The Tainted City (chapters one and two), on her website.

Now, as I said, I haven't finished reading the second volume, but the story has demanded my attention -- a new take on the apprentice mage (Kiran) and thief (Dev) -- with just enough twists and surprises to keep me intrigued. And, if you are a mountain and/or rock climber who enjoys reading fantasy, then this series is an absolute must read.

"Courtney Schafer has the gift of bringing this reader up to the brink, heart in my throat as I think--no! she's not really going to do that, is she?--and then ruthlessly dropping me over the cliff. That's why I love her books."
~Kate Elliott, author of the Spiritwalker trilogy


[1] I read ebooks primarily on a Nexus 7-2013 using the Kindle for Android app. I do have access to an older Kindle, but prefer the amenities provided by an actual Android device.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Editing in Process: Falling in Love with Hominids by Nalo Hopkinson

The title of this collection comes from my love of Cordwainer Smith's writing, especially his "Instrumentality of Mankind" stories. I loved his imagination, style, the poetry of his writing, his compassion. Loved his sensibility in writing about a racialized, manufactured underclass and telling some of the stories from their context. I'm black and female. I was born and for many years raised middle/creative class in the Caribbean, a region of the world which has had to be keenly aware of issues of race, class, gender, and privilege....These are such human issues. I love and am fascinated by human beings....
~ Nalo Hopkinson, from the Foreword

Falling in Love with Homonids
Cover art by Chuma Hill
This is but a brief excerpt from the more than 700 words that comprise the foreword to Falling in Love with Hominids, Nalo Hopkinson's forthcoming collection of short stories from Tachyon Publications.

When you read the full text of the foreword, you will realize that this collection is more than just a book of short stories: science fiction, fantasy, and a hint of Afro-Caribbean folklore throughout... These are stories of the human condition. Each story has a soul of its own.

Falling in Love with Hominids was my first opportunity to work on stories by Nalo Hopkinson. Her first novels, Brown Girl in the Ring (1998) and Midnight Robber (2000), sit prominently on one of my book shelves. So when Tachyon Publications informed me that this project was next on the "to do" list for me, I was anxious to get to work on it.

The collection includes 18 stories totalling nearly 80,000 words; here's the contents list:
The Easthound
Soul Case
Message in a Bottle
The Smile on the Face
Left Foot, Right
Old Habits
Emily Breakfast
A Young Candy Daughter
A Raggy Dog, a Shaggy Dog
Delicious Monster
Snow Day
Flying Lessons
Whose Upward Flight I Love
Ours Is the Prettiest
Men Sell Not Such in Any Town
The one story, "Flying Lessons," is original to the collection.

I found it difficult to select just one favorite story, as so many of these were special -- but if I must, it would have to be "Message in a Bottle." This story was originally published in 2005 in Futureways, an anthology published by Arsenal Pulp Press in Vancouver. So unless you are a hardcore fan, this story will undoubtedly be new to you, as it was for me. And I found it even more difficult to write about this story without yielding any spoilers, so beware....

"Message in a Bottle" is about a young girl, Kamla, who suffers from "Delayed Growth Syndrome," officially Diaz Syndrome after the doctor who first identified it. At ten years old, Kamla looked like a six-year-old, yet had a fully grown head: all the bones in her skull were fused and she had a full set of adult teeth. "Researchers have no clue what's causing it, or if the bodies of the kids will ever achieve full adulthood. Their brains, however, are way ahead of their bodies. All the kids who've tested positive for DGS are scarily smart."

Kamla is of this world, but not of this time. In a somewhat clandestine meeting with Greg, a friend of the family, an artist, and the protagonist of the story, Kamla reveals her secret: "They grew us from cells from our originals; ten of us per original. They used a viral injection technique to put extra-long tails on one of the strands of our DNA. You need more telomeres to slow down aging." She goes on to talk about "viable blastocytes," "womb donors," and wanting to "make the journey," and "implanted memories from my original." And for Greg, who is hearing all of this for the first time: "The scientific jargon exiting smoothly from the mouth of a child could have been comic. But I had goose bumps...."

Kamla has confided in Greg all for the sake of a found object, an artifact, that Greg used in an "installation piece" on exhibit in a gallery. She asks Greg to keep this artifact safe for her....

Falling in Love with Hominids is scheduled for publication in August; the book can now be preordered from Amazon, or from your favorite bookseller.

Early praise for Nalo Hopkinson:
"Hopkinson is rightly lauded for having one of the more original new voices in SF, and the brilliance in her fiction shines equally from her evocative voice and the deep empathy she displays for her characters. Adding to the fun is the fact that Hopkinson's prose is a distinct pleasure to read: richly sensual, with high-voltage erotic content and gorgeous details."

Friday, April 10, 2015

Editing in Process / Book Received: Vermilion by Molly Tanzer

Cover art by Dalton Rose
Jeez...or is it Geez? (Actually, I believe one is a variant of the other.) I'm so far behind on blog posts that I haven't even written about my work on this book -- and the book itself just arrived in the mail! I'm talking, of course, about Molly Tanzer's first novel, Vermilion, from the indefatigable publisher Word Horde and Ross E. Lockhart.

But let me clarify...I'm not really that far behind on blog posts: I finished work on Vermilion the first week of February, and the trade paperback edition is now in my hands. That speaks more to the quality and effort of the publisher, working with my line and copy edits on this 380-page novel in early February, to distributing the book about nine weeks later.

So let me tell you a bit about Vermilion -- it's a weird western, it's steampunk, it's about Chinese families and traditions, and it's about ghosts, and magic. The story takes place in the Western US around the time work had been completed on laying tracks for the railroads. A lot of Chinese laborers were unable to find work, and consequently many had become desperate.

Opening the book to the full title page enables you to read the subtitle: "The Adventures of Lou Merriwether, Psychopomp." So, who is Lou Merriwether and what is a psychopomp?
Gunslinging, chain smoking, Stetson-wearing Taoist psychopomp, Elouise "Lou" Merriwether might not be a normal 19-year-old, but she's too busy keeping San Francisco safe from ghosts, shades, and geung si to care much about that. It's an important job, though most folks consider it downright spooky. Some have even accused Lou of being more comfortable with the dead than the living, and, well...they’re not wrong.
When Lou learns that a number of Chinatown boys have gone missing deep in the Colorado Rockies -- ostensibly to work on the railroads -- she takes it upon herself to find them, if not to bring them home alive, then to help their troubled spirits cross over. And Lou does indeed set out on an adventure. She tracks the boys to a mysterious sanatorium known as Fountain of Youth. She encounters humanoid bears and desperate men, and a very undead villain who runs the sanatorium and has built a flying machine -- actually, a flying train!

I haven't had this much fun working on a project since, well, since a very long time. Vermilion reminded me of the Detective Inspector Chen stories by Liz Williams, and even a bit of the Laundry Files by Charles Stross (but without all the geekery/neepery, of course). If weird western steampunk magic vampire ghost stories is your thing, then hurry aboard Vermilion: the train is about to leave the track, and you won't want to miss this great ride! And I'm hoping the book is indeed successful, because this novel is just screaming for a sequel.

If you are strictly an ebook reader, then Vermilion is now available in Kindle format from Amazon. However, if you prefer the feel of a real book, but like the advantage an ebook provides when you're traveling, then go for the Vermilion bundled package direct from Word Horde: the trade paperback, a bookplate signed by Molly Tanzer, and the ebook format of your choice (epub, mobi, or PDF) -- all for $16.99.

Book Received: Angels & Exiles by Yves Meynard

Angels & Exiles
Cover by Vince Haig
While attending FOGcon here in the Bay Area over the March 6 weekend, I managed to pick up a copy of short story collection Angels & Exiles by Yves Meynard.

To be honest, I'm not familiar with any of the stories in this collection: one story, "The Song of the Mermaid," is original to the collection; the thirteen other stories were published in what appear to be mostly Canadian publications. Canada is Yves's homeland.

But my interest in this book, and these stories, stems from my previous work with Yves. He contributed the story "Good News from Antares" to my co-edited anthology Is Anybody Out There? (with Nick Gevers). At the book release event at Readercon in July 2010, Yves was on hand to read from his story, as was Paul Di Filippo and James Morrow. (Read my recap of Readercon 2010.)

Yves also contributed a story to my 2003 co-edited anthology Witpunk (with Claude Lalumière). But if you scan Witpunk's table of contents you won't see Yves's name. That's because he writes under the name Laurent McAllister, a symbionym for his collaborative efforts with writer Jean-Louis Trudel. Their story is "Kapuzine and the Wolf: A Hortatory Tale," a stunning, albeit sorrowful, tale -- and one of my absolute favorites in the anthology -- which is why Claude and I chose to close the anthology with this story. Kirkus concluded it's review of Witpunk with the phrase "ringingly brilliant..."

So, Angels & Exiles will definitely fill my need to read more of Yves Meynard's very fine short stories. You might want to check out this collection, and Yves's stories, as well.

And the retro stack of 25¢ paperbacks cover art by Vince Haig is an added bonus.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Received: The Essential W. P. Kinsella

The Essential W. P. KinsellaTaxes: done (finally). Current editing deadline project: completed early this week, and ahead of schedule, too.

So that brings me to one of my recently received books: The Essential W. P. Kinsella, from Tachyon Publications. Though when I initially worked on this book, and then wrote a blog post about it back on August 26, 2014, the working title was "The Very Best of W. P. Kinsella."

Whether it be "The Very Best" or "The Essential" -- "to-may-to, to-mah-to" -- it doesn't matter...this is really the one and only book you need to read, especially if you are new to the writing of W. P. Kinsella.

For those completely unfamiliar with the author's work, he wrote the story "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa," which is included in the book. The story was expanded into the novel Shoeless Joe, which later begat the 1989 Oscar-nominated movie Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner, Amy Madigan, James Earl Jones, and Ray Liotta: If you build it, he will come.

There are quite a few baseball stories included in this collection. But the way in which Kinsella tells such a story, the reader doesn't need an understanding of baseball; the game of baseball merely serves as a metaphor on life -- and what a life it can be: W. P. Kinsella-style, and that "style" typically includes a touch of the supernatural as well. Here's an excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review:
...Other charming baseball fantasies include "The Night Manny Mota Tied the Record," in which a fan agrees to sacrifice himself to bring back the recently dead Yankees star Thurman Munson, and "Searching for January," which concerns an encounter with the deceased Roberto Clemente. Alongside these stories are several more realistic and mostly gentle satires, such as "The Fog," that present the escapades of several indefatigable members of Canada’s First Nations. "The Grecian Urn" concerns a couple who can inhabit the interior worlds of great works of art. "K Mart" is the touching tale of three boys who use baseball to escape from their unhappy lives. Kinsella is a masterly writer of short fiction....each of these works, whether fantastic or realistic, is individually a small marvel of the storyteller's art. ~ Publishers Weekly starred review

In support of the publication of The Essential W. P. Kinsella, the author -- who turns 80 on May 25 -- has been making the rounds of media interviews. In an interview with Richard Warnica of the National Post, Kinsella says of his popular, and oft controversial, First Nations/Hobbema Reserve stories: "They are funny and they are true. They portray the native people in a great light and they show their sense of humour. That is how oppressed people survive." Short story "The Last Surviving Member of the Japanese Victory Society," "a sweet piece about late-life love and loss," was the last story Kinsella read to his wife, Barbara, before she passed away in 2012. "I always read everything aloud [to her]. She is the best editor I ever worked with." The story was published in 2013.

In an interview with Charity Nebbe on Talk of Iowa, for Iowa's Public Radio, Kinsella said of this new collection: "I just want people to enjoy the work. I'd like them to say, 'wow that story really moved me, or that really made me laugh, or it left me with a little tear in my eye.' That's all that I've ever wanted from my writing. I want people to enjoy it."

Two stories, "Do Not Abandon Me" and "Out of the Picture," are original to this collection.