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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Sarah Avery's LiveJournal:

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Friday, April 22nd, 2016
5:26 pm
Like Hope Grenades, Like Earth Day Fireworks
The two of them together fit in the palm of my hand. I've needed them today, with all this news of the bleaching coral reefs. Maybe you need them, too.

Long ago, before you were born, extinction came to claim the American chestnut tree. Nearly a third of all the trees in the Appalachians were American chestnuts, and they were about a quarter of the forest trees from Ontario to Mississippi. Eastern settlers who headed west and wanted to make someplace new feel like home carried chestnuts with them to plant. Those isolated trees, far from their home range, helped keep the species from vanishing entirely.

My family tells stories of Uncle Arthur, thrice-great uncle to the youngest of us, a botanist who devoted himself to saving the American chestnut and otherwise lived childless. He came to Thanksgivings bearing enormous bags from the Yale nut research plantation. Every kind of edible nut that could grow in New England filled those bags, and the ancient primate activity of nutcracking kept the children out of the kitchen all Thanksgiving day, every year through the 1950s and 60s. For that matter, it kept Uncle Arthur out of the kitchen, too. He was a man of his time, and thought it funny to surprise whichever lady of the family bent over to baste the turkey. Maybe in another age he could have outgrown that creepy habit, maybe not. But the most human thing, the most redeeming thing about him in the family lore is how it broke his heart to watch the chestnut blight rip through the country. He and many scientists like him did everything they could, but his generation of American chestnut rescuers reached the ends of their lives believing they had failed. For decades, that was his story, and our story of the trees.

Now I get to tell my descendants a happier story, though I only learned it at a funeral.

If you have to be mortal, the best way to go about it is Uncle Jack's way. He lived to be 91, to know his many descendants down to a passel of great-grandchildren, and to help decades of kids as a school counselor. He knew the green world and the human heart could heal each other, so he got those kids out into the woods whenever he could. And when he retired from working mostly on the human side of that relationship, he devoted his later years to preserving and restoring forests. In particular, he gave his time to breeding blight-resistant American chestnuts, teaching young people how to gather and preserve the nuts to give them the best chance to become mature trees.

They're not a sure thing, these two sprouts I have. The breeders are not ready to go to the public calling for a wave of volunteers and say now is the time to bring the species back to its old habitat. But they took a chance on those of us who came to pay our respects to Jack. Maybe the love we have for him, the grief, the care for his legacy will make up for our lack of expertise. If we follow directions (test soil, add lime to ph 6, etc.), and we catch a little luck, maybe our children will get to see what few have seen in a century: American chestnut trees ten stories tall.
Sunday, April 3rd, 2016
2:18 pm
The Imlen Brat Finally Goes To The Book Designer, And Its Audiobook Is Ready
Some parts of self-publishing are going faster than I expected, and some more slowly. I just posted a project update on Kickstarter, to include what I learned on the way to getting these lovely blurbs for the book cover:

The Imlen Brat opens in quite enjoyable territory. Then things start opening up, and moving in surprising directions. A delightful beginning. I look forward to seeing Stisele’s future in all its colors.
— Rich Horton, Editor, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Imlen Brat is a tale of court intrigue, fast-changing alliances, and the constant subtle peril of being an adopted daughter in an enemy royal house. It's a compact Game of Thrones, with mighty pirate kingdoms, weather wizards, quarrelsome ghosts, curses, and secret magics. Don't miss it!
— John O’Neill, Publisher and Editor, Black Gate

Aaaaand the release date slides to no-earlier-than-Bastille-Day, this time for a small, simple reason I could probably have avoided. Frustrating. But I'm still getting to put this book out there beautifully, the way I want to see it done, by means of other people's money. I'm pretty sure the only way I'm letting those people down is by running later than I'd hoped by a couple of months. Here's hoping that stays the only way.
Tuesday, March 15th, 2016
12:38 pm
Where To Find Me At Lunacon
This weekend I'll be in Rye Brook, New York, for Lunacon. I'm looking forward to reconnecting with a lot of friends and colleagues who rarely travel as far south as my current stomping grounds, especially my much-missed New Jersey critique group, Writers of the Weird.

The program volunteers just sent me the current draft of my schedule. Here's where I'm likeliest to be:

Friday, 18 March
7:00 pm
Elijah Budd Room
Magic in a Sword, or Bottle, or Toothbrush
Other panelists TBA
Enchanting an object has been an age-old habit of story-tellers. How do they chose them? How do they keep them from turning into a MacGuffin, or a plot coupon? Why does a magic toothbrush make us all laugh?

Saturday, 19 March
10:00 am
Westchester Ballroom D5
Magical Masquerade
With Pauline J. Alama and Darrell Schweitzer, other panelists TBA
They lurk among us. Werewolves, vampires, Greek gods, wizards and witches, the Fae. Hidden between the interstices of our lives, the magic awaits. Why? Beside the obvious reason that without it, it would be an obviously alternate world. Still, authors from Heinlein onward have done alternate worlds with obvious magic in modern society. What do authors get from this concealment? And how can it be justified within story terms?

Saturday, 19 March
12:00 pm
Westchester Ballroom D4
Research for Historical and Fantasy Fiction
Other Panelists TBA
How to depict a realistic and consistent world in an imagined past? What kind of research can enhance your work? What kind of workaround work when history contradicts your fiction? How to create characters that aren't just modern people in funny clothes?

Saturday, 19 March
2:00 pm
Westchester Ballroom D4
Fanzines on the Internet
With Ben Yalow and Alex Shvartsman
How to turn your site into a hugo-eligible fanzine. Is a Blog a Fanzine? Is a Website a Fanzine? Which current internet fanzines embody the fannish tradition? Which fanzines are getting the new generation of fans excited?

Saturday, 19 March
3:00 pm
Bartell Room
Writers of the Weird Group Reading
With David Sklar, Alex Shvartsman, and Richard Herr

Saturday, 19 March
4:00 pm
Maple Room
So I've Just Finished My First Draft. Now What?
With Matthew Kressel, Gary Frank, Danielle Ackley-McPhail, and Ken Altabef
The first draft of your awesome novel is complete. What do you do with it now to get it ready to sell?
Monday, March 14th, 2016
1:36 pm
Coming Soon: Free Short Story Exclusively For My Email List
I've got a little list... No, not that little list. After all, Gilbert and Sullivan had their Lord High Executioner name the Lady Novelist among those who'd surely not be missed. No, my little list is one you might actually want to be on, thanks to the friends and readers who told me what they like most about authors' email newsletters. (I've got one more question about that, but we'll come back to it.)

I promise it won't clutter your email in-box. The people already on my list can attest that I've, um, never actually sent anything with it yet. That's because I've been holding out for the moment when I could offer something I heard mentioned again and again in your lists of favorite things: exclusive content. Spun-off short stories, deleted scenes, alternate versions of kept scenes, all these were things people had enjoyed from other authors' newsletters, or as thank-you freebies for people who joined email lists.

So, to make my little list bigger, I'll be offering a spin-off short story about Stisele, the heroine of The Imlen Brat. For at least the next three years, this story will be available only to my list subscribers.

(Why three years? At that point, it will probably be part of a novel.)

"The Enemy in Snowmelt Season" finds Stisele in her late teens, serving in a war zone as her foster father's envoy. She has a mission to complete, but a snowmelt flood throws her into the company of an enemy soldier and traps them both atop an ancient ruin. Who will be whose prisoner? Whose side will find them first – her weathercalling kin, or the unstable prophets who command his Augury? That’s assuming she and her meddlesome ghost companions can keep her alive through the night.

Thanks to my patient spouse, this 9,000 word story is formatted for Kindle, ePub, and Mobi. It's not quite a work of design like The Imlen Brat will be when it comes back from Design for Writers, but Kate Baylay's lovely colophon gave us something to put on the cover. Here it is in the royal red of the Principality of Beltresa, the commoners' leaping dolphin emblem under a heavy crown of seven tines:


After laboring over that a while, Dan said, "Now, to get the cover image to show up on people's Kindles, you need to give it an ISBN of its own. One for each format, actually."

"Isn't that overkill?" I said. "It's just a freebie. It's 9,000 words."

"If we're going to do this, we should do it right." Dan knows me well.

As my grandfather used to say, anything worth soldering is worth soldering to NASA specifications. So now I've got a batch of ISBNs. I was going to need some anyway for The Imlen Brat. It's good to be one item further down the Kickstarter checklist.

The one thing we're still figuring out is the best way to get these ebooks out to people. Dan has come across several different ways to do this, but we're guessing there's probably a way readers prefer. So I put the question to you guys, especially if you've received free ebook files from other authors' sites: which way of getting those files have you liked best?
Thursday, March 3rd, 2016
4:42 pm
The Pagan Night Is Much Weirder Than It Looks, In A Very Good Way
I'm on a big book reviewing kick at Black Gate. In addition to reviewing the first volume of Tim Akers's Hallowed War series, The Pagan Night, a few days ago, I volunteered to take a look at a trilogy being published all in one season, and another trilogy that's winding up. So the publisher for the latter is sending me all three volumes, hoping I'll review the whole series. It's a bigger gamble than they think, sending me all these review copies. I don't mince words when I'm sent a book I can't honestly vouch for.

I can vouch for The Pagan Night, though. If Hayao Miyazake were writing Princess Mononoke as a sword and sorcery novel set in a Shinto version of Western Europe colonized by outsiders whose cosmology looks a lot like modern Wiccan duotheism, it might come out like this Tim Akers novel. Although the result doesn't crack my personal top 3 books for the past 365 days, it's hovering somewhere in my top 10, pending how its sequels follow through.
Wednesday, February 17th, 2016
1:41 am
Turnaround
First the story spent about twice the usual time for consideration at the toughest market in the genre, and came back with two full pages of description of the editorial committee's deliberations about whether to accept it. They could have sent a one sentence does-not-meet-our-needs-at-this-time. Instead, they told me exactly what to make better and urged me to send the next other thing I wrote. Yay.

So then I sent the story to the second-toughest market in the genre, where I got another long personalized rejection urging me to send my next story. Yay.

To break the tie in my own deliberations about where to send it next, I picked the highest-paying of the remaining markets in the genre. They usually reject in about three months. Instead, they held onto it for ten months while they tried to decide between it and a specific other story for a spot in a specific issue. Very close, keep trying. Yay.

I get all the best rejections.

At times like this, I remind myself that even Jay Lake, even at the height of his Jay-Lake-itude, said he got three rejections for every acceptance. At times like this, I imagine it might be nice to be a short-form specialist, rather than a long-form specialist who occasionally challenges herself to write short.

So out it goes again. Good luck, little story.

And now back to work on the short story in progress.
Tuesday, January 26th, 2016
8:36 pm
Tales from Rugosa Coven is Out of Print, Seeking New Press
Confirming this news has taken some time: The rights to Tales from Rugosa Coven have formally reverted to me. Yes, that's the one that won the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award.

The small press that published it, Dark Quest Books, is in a state of flux. I don't know what their current status and plans are, so I don't want to speak for them. At times it has looked like they were closing up shop, or changing direction, or shrinking the business to fit around the publisher's day job. Whatever the case is, my contract expired at the two-year mark. All I had to do to get the rights reverted is notify Neal Levin in writing that I would not be renewing the contract, and thirty days later the matter would be resolved. And so it now is. I've been holding my breath, and my blog posts, until I knew it to be so.

To make the press's transition -- whatever it ends up being -- a little easier on Neal, I'm accepting author copies in lieu of royalties owed. So I'll have enough stock to keep my commitments to my Kickstarter backers, a few copies to hoard for my kids, and maybe some extras to sell. We'll see.

Meanwhile, Amazon and the other online booksellers still have a few copies in stock. If you've been meaning to buy a copy, it would be a great kindness to me to help them clear their shelves. The more obvious it is that nobody has a claim on the rights but me, the easier it'll be to find a new publisher.

For me, this is actually a good development. Dark Quest Books was not in a position to help me put the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award to work to bring the book to a larger audience. It's one thing to end a contract with a press that shows every sign of having reached the end of its run, and another to ditch a publisher the minute your book wins an award and before the publisher has a chance to benefit with you. The latter ranges somewhere between tacky and unethical, depending on whom you ask; the former can be a mercy and a kindness.

Tales from Rugosa Coven is a single-author collection of novellas by a writer who, until August 3rd of 2015, had not yet proven herself. No big publisher would have taken such a book. For a major imprint, that would have been an insane business decision. The book only got into the position of outliving its press because there was a publisher who took a chance on it in the first place. I'll always be grateful to Neal Levin. Whatever happens with Dark Quest, it's the publisher of record on the Mythopoeic Society's award pages. I'm really happy about that.

Now that the Rugosa book has its award, some larger press will want it.

Not every imprint will have a slot in its line-up that makes sense for a reprint single-author collection of contemporary fantasy novellas. Even presses and imprints that would have such a spot might not have one in a time frame that makes sense for me.

Here's the thing, though: a spot in a publisher's line-up is a little like a spot in a parking lot. You don't need the whole lot to be empty. It's nice when you have a choice of good spaces, but ultimately, your one book can only take up one spot at a time. So, as long as the contract terms are fair and appropriate, you only need one.

The book is far, far from saturating its market. If my information's current, Rugosa only ever sold something on the order of 300 copies, including ebooks. Dark Quest started contracting before I'd even won the award. And considering how many people have begged me to tell them there will be more Rugosa Coven stories, it probably helps that I'm actively working on a sequel.

I'm optimistic -- and, now that things are official enough for me to make this announcement, immensely relieved.
Thursday, November 19th, 2015
5:39 pm
How The Kickstarter Ended: Huzzah!
That last minute rush was amazing to behold.

So now we have a book with Kate Baylay's cover art plus three half-page black & white interior illustrations, and an audiobook narrated by C.S.E. Cooney.

And we have a little extra to spare. I'm not sure how much yet. Tomorrow, when my brain is recovered a bit from the final push, I'll figure out exactly what comes to the project after Kickstarter's well-deserved fees. More of you chose digital rewards than I expected, so I'll need to update my estimates for production and shipping costs of reward fulfillment.

Depending on how much extra we actually have, we could be looking at something small like a colophon, something middle-ish like a bookplate, or something as big as adding a fourth interior illustration. If the best answer isn't obvious, I'll be calling on you guys for suggestions.

You know that Mark Twain tall tale about the guy who gets his tooth pulled? Only the root of the bad tooth reaches all the way to his big toe, so his whole skeleton follows it out, and he has to be carried home in a pillowcase? That's kind of how I feel right now. I'm going to flow into my sheltering pillowcase for the night and let my heroically patient family carry me home in it.

Tomorrow I get to start making a book real!
12:18 am
Looks To Be A Volatile Endgame For The Kickstarter
I'd spent the last couple of days stalled out $600 short of the interior illustration stretch goal. For every new backer I gained (mostly friends and relatives helping me rush for that milestone), I lost another one (all people I didn't know who may have pledged because of the illustrations that were starting to look so unlikely).

I despaired. I found peace. I posted on Facebook about finding peace and then promptly despaired again.

(It's silly to despair. The book, the cover art, and the audiobook will definitely happen. They will all be awesome. What business do I have despairing when I get to make so much happen with -- I remind myself -- other people's money?)

When Jeff Mach, he of the 87,000 Facebook followers, offered to do some signal boost in the morning, I got all hopeful again and posted the project's link one more time.

Three stalwart friends rushed to pledge, outweighing the one illustration fan who defected.

Now we've got 12 hours to raise $440.

The pledge level that's attracted the most backers is $25. If 18 more people did that, we'd hit the current target.

While I wait out the suspense, I'm going to go look at Kate Baylay's sketch for the cover art. We made this possible. You guys made this possible. We'll get to see this one in color:

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015
5:56 pm
Hit Kickstarter Goal, With 8 Days To Go!
We did it!

The Imlen Bastard will definitely be a book. We'll get to hold it in our hands. We will get to find out what that Kate Baylay piece looks like when it progresses from preliminary sketch to finished cover art.

If we hit our next goal, which is less than $400 away, we can hear what C.S.E. Cooney does with it as its narrator. The 8 days we have left should be more than enough.

Your help getting the word out could make a big difference. And if you haven't yet, please check out the project and consider pledging.

Thank you!
Monday, November 9th, 2015
2:05 pm
World Fantasy (The Short Version), And Two Podcasts From Balticon
The World Fantasy Convention went beautifully for me. It had its logistical quirks, including its now-justly-internet-notorious lack of ramps for wheelchair-using panelists, but I accomplished almost everything there that I hoped to. John O'Neill has asked me to write a convention report for Black Gate, so I'll tell more there.

Meanwhile, check this out:

Tim Dodge, who hosts the Geek Side of Life podcast, recorded several panels at Balticon back in May. I got the chance to listen to the two I'm on, and they came out very well. You can find many more at his site.

Reading as a Writer
With Hugh O'Donnell, Mark Van Name, and Bugsy Bryant
There are some useful bits here about reading strategies for building fiction skill sets that don't come easy to us, as well as a long bit about reading mainstream literary classics as a writer of genre fiction.

What Can We Learn from Bad Writing?
With Alessia Brio, Meria Crawford, and Judi Fleming
This conversation developed a lovely, generous spirit -- given the title, it could have turned out to be a real snarkfest, but I'm proud and happy to have been part of what it became instead. We ended up with a long movement about rough drafts and juvenilia, and what writers at all stages of skill can learn from reading their own bad writing on the way to writing better.
Friday, November 6th, 2015
12:57 am
Where To Find Me At The World Fantasy Convention
After an eight-hour drive to Saratoga Springs and several hours of schmoozing, my brain is mush. So, just the facts, ma'am:

Friday, 1pm, City Center 2A
What Does Epic Fantasy Owe the Literary Epic Tradition?

The World Fantasy Convention is odd, in that nobody gets more than one time slot on the program. There are a lot of programming items I'm interested in, but the one on Friday's the only one I'm certain to be at.

Aside from that, your best bet if you want to find me is, believe it or not, the bar.

I'm not really a bar-going person, generally, but the bar is where agents and editors spend convention evenings, expecting writers they don't know to engage them in conversation. Since this year I actually have something they'll want, that's where I'll be.
Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015
6:13 pm
Halfway Through 30 Days, Almost Halfway To Goal
I just posted my latest Kickstarter update. The short version: I changed the order of the stretch goals to put the easiest ones early (audiobook, black and white interior illustrations), then combined the two hardest into one (color interior illustrations and offset printing), and accepted that the hard ones almost  probably won't happen. Now I can stop putting energy into overthinking ways to reach the stretch goals, and concentrate on the basic goal, which is not a done deal yet.

Initially I included hardcover printing as a stretch goal, but it never really made financial sense, so I've cut it entirely. If you're one of the people who liked to imagine that for me, thank you for your kind thoughts. One day there will be a book like that. Just not this time.
Wednesday, October 28th, 2015
2:36 pm
Excerpt From The Imlen Bastard
If you've come here from my Kickstarter's FAQ, welcome to my blog! Kickstarter's webform for creating a project FAQ couldn't handle the formatting I needed to make this easy on the eye. If you're writing dialogue for a cast that includes both ghosts and the living, italics really are a basic necessity.

Whether you're a newcomer or a friend of many years, I'm glad to be able to show you the opening scenes from The Imlen Bastard. Enjoy!Read more...Collapse )
Tuesday, October 27th, 2015
5:22 pm
Day 7 Update: An Editing Letter Any Writer Would Love to Receive
I just got Betsy Mitchell's developmental and line edit of the manuscript. Her editing letter starts like this:

"The Imlen Bastard" was a delight! Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to work on it. It’s very clean; I sprinkled some notes throughout but there’s nothing major to concern you. I can predict, though, that people are going to be looking for more of this story.... I almost growled when I realized there was no more.

One of the great things this means is that I'll be able to post an excerpt on my Kickstarter page later tonight!

A lot of you have been asking for an excerpt. I wanted to wait until I'd heard back from my editor first, so I knew I'd be able to find a passage that wouldn't change much before it went to press. Now I know I can give you the opening two or three scenes with just a minor brushing up.

All the minor glitches Betsy spotted in the manuscript would normally take a day or two to fix. Because Kickstarter outreach is my main daily task right now, the fixes will probably take a little longer.

Another wonderful implication of Betsy's feedback is that the manuscript itself should be ready to go to the book designer as soon as the artwork is ready to go with it.

Before launching this campaign, I made a list of known potential delays, mostly to satisfy my own curiosity. The first of these -- I worried that Betsy's schedule might be too full to take the manuscript before the winter holidays -- is crossed off as of today. The next one is my job to rule out.
Wednesday, October 21st, 2015
5:28 pm
Kickstarter Update: Some Story-Behind-The Story. Plus, Day 1 Rocked. Day 2's Rockier.
I've got a new post at Black Gate about where "The Imlen Bastard" was hiding before I picked it for my first experiment in crowdfunding and self-publishing.

The Great News: On the first day of the 30-day campaign, so many of you rushed to pledge that we hit 18% of the starting goal. That's a strong start.

The Meh News: Day 2 is a lot quieter.

The first three days are really important. Kickstarter aficionados who aren't already familiar with me or my work -- people who just like looking for cool projects to back -- like to back winners. How the first three days go seems to be a big part of how they choose which projects to take a chance on.

So I need to pull out all the stops to get back to the Day 1 momentum.

If you know fantasy readers, art lovers, and audiobook readers who might like what I'm up to with The Imlen Bastard, please do point them over here.

All suggestions for things I haven't thought of, or maybe should do more of, to get the word out would be very welcome.

Meanwhile, my uncharacteristically large collection of exclamation points and I need to get back to work!
Tuesday, October 20th, 2015
12:11 pm
We Have Liftoff!
The Kickstarter campaign for The Imlen Bastard is live right here. Go check it out!
3:13 am
K-Hour Minus 9 And Counting
I launch at noon. Wish me luck!
Sunday, October 18th, 2015
5:55 pm
K-Day Minus 2 And Counting
Good news: I almost sort of understand Camtasia now, at least enough that I'm no longer intimidated. I'm still slow, though. So Jen's saving my butt.

Bad news: I was up until nearly 3am reshooting the entire Kickstarter video so I'd have the footage Jen needs for the saving of my butt. Now sleep deprivation has me so cognitively impaired, I doubt I'll get any more useful work done until tomorrow.

My kids think Kickstarter is somehow guaranteed to make me rich, so they want me to run a vegetillion campaigns. (Apparently a vegetillion is an order of magnitude larger than a gajillion.) When I try to explain that it's not a sure thing, and we couldn't live with me in a constant state of deadline rush even if it were, they argue that they knew I'd win the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award, so now they must be right, too. Well, that would be a good problem to have.

At this point, I'd just be relieved to make the starting goal, and thrilled if we managed a few interior illustrations. My respect for people who work in traditional publishing increases with every task they do that I try for the first time.
Friday, October 16th, 2015
3:00 am
K-Day Minus 4 And Counting
The feedback I got on the Kickstarter draft was immensely helpful. Also daunting. I'm curious to see how I'm going to have all my ducks in a row by the 20th.

As predicted, I do not have a knack for video editing. I figured I'd have to cut down what I had by about half, and at worst I'd have to reshoot it from scratch. That involves wearing makeup. Really, isn't five days a year of wearing makeup more than enough for anybody?

Only it turns out that, in addition to wearing makeup again to shoot it from scratch, I need to learn to use an entirely different video editing application because what really makes this campaign is not my smiling face, but rather Kate Baylay's amazing art.

With good reason, Kate's art is the biggest item in the budget, and it's my fervent hope that we can make her slice of the budget even bigger so we can commission more illustrations. So of course me being charming at my cellphone camera will not do. Including one illustration on the Kickstarter page and telling prospective backers to go look at the artist's website is no way to go about it. And I knew that.

What I didn't know was the name of the right video editing application for the job or that I could get it for free for 30 days (Thank you, Jen!). And I need to tinker quite a bit with the rewards structure (Thanks, Sarah and Jen!). It might not have occurred to me to make the project description more user friendly by adding headings, but once the possibility came up, it seemed obviously necessary (Thanks, Ian!).

So, back to work.
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