Thursday, April 30, 2009

Got it Covered

After a bit of lull between turning in the stories for Northwest Passages and doing the proofing, there's been a fair bit of action on the book front in recent days. First and foremost was my first look at the cover image, and to say that I was knocked out by it would be an understatement. I didn't really think that the final treatment would be an embossed skull dripping blood, but when I got my first look at the cover it exceeded all my expectations. Credit where it's due: the cover is the work of Stephen H. Segal, and I also want to thank Sean Wallace for letting me have some input into it, which I gather isn't always the case with authors and their book covers. Since I can't draw a straight line, my input was pretty much limited to 'Could the cabin be a little more prominent?' - and lo and behold, in the version you see at right, it is. Frustrated artists of the world, unite! I think it's elegant, restrained, and yet arresting, and strikes the perfect note. Even Tim - who at eleven is at that hard to impress age - was taken with it. 'It looks just like a real book!' he said; then gave me a big hug and said 'I'm so proud of you.' Which is really the best critical response I could hope to get. The book will be published in October, in an edition of 3000 hardcover copies and a smaller leather-bound, limited run, and will be premiering at the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, California.

In other writing news, I was exceedingly pleased to learn last week that Subterranean Online has purchased one of my stories: 'Flu Season', which will appear in late 2009 / early 2010 (which is of course flu season, although I can't help thinking it's fairly timely at the moment). I've got another story under consideration with an editor, three more stories to write pretty sharpish for other markets, and an invite to sub to another anthology. So I'll have to keep those plot ideas coming for a little while yet.

And finally: watched the Vancouver Canucks in the opening game of round two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight, defeating the Chicago Black Hawks 5 - 3 (after squandering a three goal lead in the third period). Note to the 'Nucks: don't do that again, guys. My nerves won't take it.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Another Week, Another Update

I've read my share of introductions and forewords over the years, but in the last few months have been a bit more intimately involved with them, as it were. First off there was the matter of being the subject of an introduction, which was odd, to say the least (still can't get used to seeing myself referred to as 'Roden'). Hard on the heels of that came the writing of my first introduction, for Peter Bell's collection The Light of the World, due out later this year from Ex Occidente Press. Now I'm set to write another one, for Simon Kurt Unsworth's first collection, Black Dogs and Lost Places, due out in September from Ghostwriter Publications. I'm looking forward to the new assignment, and to Simon's collection, which I'm sure will be the first of many.

Not much to report on the Northwest Passages front, except that everything appears to be ticking along, and now it's a lot of hurry up and wait (I expect). I've had a few writers express a willingness to provide a cover blurb for the book, and here's the first one, from World Fantasy Award-winner Zoran Zivkovic, who writes 'Barbara Roden's first collection was a voyage of fascinating discoveries for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in it, every new territory. She is indeed a master storyteller.' And here's a snippet from the introduction, by Michael Dirda: 'Northwest Passages is Barbara Roden’s first collection, all but one of the stories having been written during the last three or four years. Yet, as I’ve emphasized, the collection avoids even the least hint of sameyness. One looks forward to each successive story with eagerness, never quite sure what to expect. Yet they all fit unobtrusively together as ten facets of a single and singularly elegant imagination.'

A note about the pictures: the top one, showing the road through the trees, was taken many years ago on the road up to one of the two cabins I describe in my story 'No
rthwest Passage'. The other one, probably taken at around the same time (c. 1980), shows the cabin in which, in the story, the two boys are living. Known as 'the Bowes cabin' (after the prospector who built it sometime around the Second World War), it's where we generally stayed on our trips to the area: no electricity, no heat (beyond what the fireplace and wood stove provided), and only cold running water piped out of a nearby spring, it was basic living at its most, well, basic. And yes, that's a skull on the wall, to the right of the door and the small window.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

More Writing News

Hard on the heels of hearing that John Joseph Adams will be reprinting my story 'Endless Night' in his vampire anthology By Blood We Live, I've heard from John that he's taking my story 'The Things That Shall Come Upon Them'—originally published in Gaslight Grimoire—for his reprint anthology The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, due out from Night Shade later this year. There's information about it on the Night Shade site, but if you drop by you can get a look at the cover. I'm at work on two new Sherlock Holmes adventures; watch this space for further details.

I've had my first jacket blurb for Northwest Passages; World Fantasy Award-winner Zoran Zivkovic has written 'Barbara Roden's first collection was a voyage of fascinating discoveries for me. I thoroughly enjoyed every story in it, every new territory. She is indeed a master storyteller.'

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Rejections, I've Had a Few . . .

And so has any other writer who's sent his or her work off for consideration; one of the reasons why writing isn't for the thin-skinned. After all, you've slaved over your creation, made it the best you can, sent it off into the world convinced others will love it as much as you do, and the response is a letter informing you that your work does not meet the editor's requirements at this time (or something along those lines). On any list rating life's enjoyable experiences, getting a rejection letter would be nowhere near the top. The best you can do is learn from them: what was it about your work that didn't make it a fit for this particular editor or venue? Then you have to chalk it up to experience, file it away, and get on with something else.

I'm in the somewhat odd position of having to write rejection letters, something I discussed in a previous post here ('Editing Part One', March 2008). One thing I didn't touch on then was something I see fairly often in submissions, usually from beginner writers, or those not overly familiar with the genre. This is the dreaded Conveniently Discovered Missing Link, which ties up the loose ends and ambiguities of the tale with all the thoroughness and efficiency of a Boy Scout intent on getting his Knot-Tying badge. You'll know them when you see them: they usually come after a point where the story has naturally concluded, and take the form of a conveniently-discovered letter, or newspaper article, or diary, or written confession, which connects all the dots of the story in such a ruthlessly clinical manner that any sense of mystery or wonder shrivels and dies on the page before your very eyes. CDMLs are not, by the way, restricted to the ends of stories, although they grate more there; you often find them in the middle, at the point where the protagonist is trying to sort out what's going on, and makes a trip to the local library where—what do you know!—he or she discovers a wealth of old papers which explain all manner of previously inexplicable plot points. Another common CDML is the garrulous old neighbour who remembers the folks who used to live there, yes indeed, and a terrible story it was, too; got hushed up, didn't make it into the papers, but I recall every detail as if it were yesterday—come in and have a cup of tea and I'll tell you all about it. . . . For what it's worth, I was guilty of this myself in a story I completed recently, introducing a chatty neighbour who filled in a lot of blanks in the story for the somewhat clueless protagonist (thus ignoring my advice to others of 'trust the reader'). I liked the scene but wasn't entirely happy with it, and when a friend to whom I sent the story put his finger on what was wrong (thanks, Jim!) I knew what I had to do, and despatched the neighbour and her tale into that realm labelled 'seemed like a good idea at the time'.

Which brings me, rather neatly I think, to my recent writing. In addition to the story mentioned above (which is now complete), I've been working on another tale, this one set near Ashcroft, and involving a small piece of family history. It also tackles the idea of 'true' ghost stories, and what it is that makes so many of them unsatisfactory: it's all very well to read of someone being frightened in the night by a misty grey figure standing at the foot of the bed, but we want to know more than that. Who is the figure? Why does it return? What happens to it, and how? Think of how unsatisfactory a read Perceval Landon's 'Thurnley Abbey' would be if all we had of the story was the apparition showing up in the bedroom, without the buildup or any sort of explanation after. I'm trying to fill in enough background detail so that readers can make a stab at puzzling out what 'really' happened, while at the same time not over-explaining matters. Time will tell if I succeed in walking this fine line. On the cards after that are two more Holmes stories for different venues, and I'm looking forward to returning to that world where it is always 1895 (although someone needs to change the calendar, I think). First up, however, is a story for Exotic Gothic 3. After venturing to the Prairies and Antarctica for my first two EG stories, I'll be staying closer to home for the third one, which is set in British Columbia. It's a beautiful and mysterious part of the world, sadly underrepresented in weird fiction, and I'm trying to remedy that situation, one story at a time.