Friday, June 27, 2008

Official cover for The Even


Yet again many thanks go to new in-house graphic designer, Reece Notley for turning the excellent artwork of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law, into one hell of a cover!

I can also announce that Morrigan Books has agreed on a contract for a second book from T. A. Moore, entitled Shadows Bloom, such is the belief we have in Moore and her writing.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Stars of Speculative Fiction #16: Ekaterina Sedia


Well Kathy, it's all go for you isn't it, what with rave reviews of The Secret History of Moscow and Paper Cities adorning the net, you must be over the moon!

1. What are you up to at the moment, writing and editing wise?

Well, at the moment I am editing Russian Winters – an anthology of fantasy stories rooted in Russian myth for Prime. There are also a couple of editing projects very much in the proposal stage, so I feel it's a bit early to talk about them.

Writing-wise, I have finished my third book for Prime, The House of Discarded Dreams, and am currently working on a YA book. There are a few other things in various stages of development kicking around, and my amazing agent is working hard looking for a publisher for my next book.

Sounds exciting!

You've actually lead me on to a question I wanted to ask someone in your position, which is regarding being a writer who edits (or an editor who writes).

2. I've been told that writers shouldn't edit and editors shouldn't write. What's your opinion?

Obviously, I disagree; at least, I disagree with it as a universal statement. I think it can create a situation where there is a conflict of interest -- for example, an editor inserting a story into an anthology they edit, and that should be avoided (again, there are exceptions). Other than that, I see no particular reason not to put together a book of stories by writers I enjoy and finding a publisher. Writing and editing definitely appeal to different interests, and I am not sure why shouldn't I be allowed to enjoy both.

3. As you know I've read The Secret History of Moscow and loved it (and still have a review that needs polishing). How much research went into that in terms of the mythology/history and how did you come up with the idea?

Not a whole lot of research -- I needed to verify some of the dates, but otherwise I tried to rely on history and folklore generally familiar to Muscovites of my generation (Zemun the Celestial Cow possibly being an exception) -- something we all learned in our history classes and movies based on folktales. The book is largely a riff on the familiar cultural and historical background and the underside of this background. I've always been fascinated with secret histories and hidden realities, so this book was my attempt to poke in the cracks between background reality and understanding of history, and see what crawls out.

4. What do you do when you're not writing (or editing)?

I do work full-time (more than full time, if you consider that I teach at a liberal arts college -- in addition to a heavy teaching load, I do research, so it all adds up to long long hours. In my free time, I garden, cook, occasionally work out or watch movies. Nothing earth-shaking there.

5. Have you any tips for aspiring writers (and indeed editors) who may be reading this?

All advice should help you achieve your goals, so having goals that depend on oneself rather than some outside agency is always good. One piece of advice I found helpful (and I have to credit Jay Lake, who's been a wonderful friend and a greatly supportive influence for it) was "Write more" -- because really, this is something we all can do, and more writing leads to better writing. Another bit of advice is to evaluate all advice given -- there are so many writer-oriented websites, books, blogs, that there is too much advice out there. Most of it applies in certain circumstances or to certain people but not others. Like writing everyday -- great for some, terrible for others. Or avoid adverbs at all cost -- another thing that can be useful in some situations (overused dialog tags, for example) and just horrible in others. Basically, find things that work for you and discard the rest.

As for the editors -- I would say that all editors (and I am including myself in this group) should strive to attract more writers from underrepresented groups -- such as women in science fiction, or writers of color in most of speculative fiction genres (this is, of course, meant to apply to the US). Seek to expand your tastes beyond things you used to love when you were twelve.

And for both writers and editors -- read outside of your chosen genre as well as within it. Good writing is universal.

Lots of good information there, Kathy, thanks for that!

6. Is music a big part of your writing and editing work? Are you a keen listener, are you inspired by music, or do you prefer quiet and solitude?

I do enjoy quiet and solitude, but music is often helpful for creating atmosphere. I do tend toward dark music -- Tom Waits and Nick Cave are my go-to dark musicians. I also do enjoy The Pogues and Clash a lot -- I've been listening to a lot of both lately, while working on my YA book. In any case, music is usually the background, not the inspiration (and that is a good thing, considering.)

Oh my, what fine taste in music you have grandma... I mean Kathy...

7. Who inspired you to write and who is inspiring you to keep writing?

There are plenty writers I admire, but I would not say that any one of them inspired me to write. Writing, IMO, occurs when one feels one has something to say, and should stop when I has said everything one wanted to say.

I like the very vague answers to this question recently... although I do agree with your point.

8. What do you think there needs to be more of in the spec fic industry, specifically within the independent press area?

Good books. More good books. Independent press is positioned to take advantage of many niche markets today, so I would think that it would make sense to publish less mainstream boy's own adventure and paranormal romances where everyone is white and independently wealthy, and focus instead on speculative fiction that is not as widely represented -- fiction by and about ethnic minorities, women, cultures other than Western and so on. We need books about future where not everyone is middle class, we need epic fantasy set outside of what K. Tempest Bradford termed 'McEurope' in her recent Fantasy Magazine article. More different voices, more voices that have not been heard before.


9. What is it that draws you into speculative fiction, why are you working in this area?

I think (good) speculative fiction is about the same things as mainstream fiction; spec fiction allows one to explore the same concerns people share in different situations, contrived settings and plain fun tropes. There's just so much realism one can take.Personally, I like writing about characters who are not-quite-human, and take known histories and look for potential weirdness – alternate history appeals to me a lot for that reason. At the same time, speculative fiction allows one to talk about myths and their influence on people as something other than a metaphor -- you can take the fantastic and incorporate it into a normal life; in a way, it is an attempt (at least occasionally) to reconstruct magical outlook of many human societies to who the distinction between the realistic and the fantastic was not necessarily obvious or even real.

10. Last but not least, In terms of the short fiction you write, when sending it away do you look for a particular theme of an anthology, or do you prefer certain editors or do you even care?

Specifically for anthologies -- it all depends. Sometimes a theme might appeal to me, or sometimes the editor or the publisher. Of course, I usually try to honor invitations if at all possible. Another thing I look for are paying markets -- not really a mercenary consideration, but the ability and the desire to pay writers tells me whether the company has the means to get my work seen, and just generally if they respect the writers enough to pay them.

Same is true of magazines, even though there I go more by reputation and their list of contributors. Lone Star Stories and Farrago's Wainscot, for example, pay a token amount but published an excellent list of contributors, so I was proud to appear in both. Overall, I think, I go for the publications I like.

Thank you so much Kathy, for agreeing to come along for the interview. I wish you continued success with The Secret History of Moscow and Paper Cities and I hope the new books do even better!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Katherine Kerr to join Elaine Cunningham in dark Celtic anthology

I can now confirm that Katherine Kerr, bestselling author of the Deverry series, will also be writing for the dark Celtic anthology, to be edited by myself (Mark S.Deniz) and Amanda Pillar.

I am especially excited about Katherine Kerr agreeing to write for us, as the Deverry books were an integral part of my fantasy reading in the 90's and this decade also, and to know that Katherine is going to be sending us a story for the anthology is fantastic news, both for the book itself and for Morrigan Books in general.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Stars of Speculative Fiction #15: Steve Berman


Greetings Steve, nice to be able to interview you. There's been quite a bit going on for you recently with several stories out and nominations abound...

1. Care to tell us all a little bit about your recent exploits?

Thanks, Mark. Well, my novel, Vintage, released last year but the original publisher was bought by another press uninterested in fiction. Fortunately, the book returned from the dead through Lethe Press and became a finalist for the 2007 Andre Norton Award. It’s also been nominated for the Gaylactic Spectrum Award Best Novel. Actually, now that I think of it, I’m nominated in all three Spectrum categories: for Vintage, for So Fey (Best Other Work), and “Bittersweet” (Best Short Story) from the Journal of Mythic Arts.

I’ve been promoting the 2008 release Magic in the Mirrorstone of late. It’s a young adult fantasy anthology I edited for Mirrorstone Books (the children’s publishing arm of Wizards of the Coast) with fifteen stories by such well-known authors as Holly Black, Greg Frost, and Nina Kiriki Hoffman.

I have stories in two Prime anthologies this summer, and a new annual anthology I edited reprinting the best gay speculative fiction, Wilde Stories, releases from Lethe Press at the month’s end. Oh, and my next short story collection, Second Thoughts comes out in time for my birthday in August.

As I said, the odd thing here and there...

2. Who got you writing and who inspires you now?

I don’t think there was any single individual or even author that inspired me to write. When I was in elementary school I wrote these really awful short short stories about a secret agent. I shudder to think of them now. The rest of class would groan when I was about to read one.

Who inspires me now? I think inspiration is the wrong term. Rather than a muse, I have support. Support from my family, support from good friends.

Support is good, support is underrated.

3. What the hell is speculative fiction anyway and do you consider yourself a speculative fiction writer?

You want me to speculate on speculative fiction? All storytelling demands some imagination, on the part of the teller and certainly with the listener/reader. But, to me spec fic is any form of fiction where something odd or weird is a necessity for the author to tell the story. Thus, it could range from high fantasy to space opera, supernatural horror, to magic realism. Parables and fairy tales are also often speculative fiction. Without the strange element, the story would seem truncated to the reader.

I would say that, outside of some articles and essays, almost everything I’ve written is speculative fiction.

It's been an interesting question this one, as I don't think I've gotten the same answer twice...

4. What should publishers like myself be thinking of at the moment when looking for new work in the spec fic scene, what do you think the market is missing, and what are its strong points?

This is a tough question. My first reaction is: publishers need always be concerned with quality versus trend. I’d rather read a well-written book with familiar themes than something trendy but poorly constructed.

As for what is missing, I’m still surprised that the speculative fiction field seems very much a white room; there are too few minorities (as much as I hate the world, in spec fic its apt to describe authors’ ethnicities). The question to ask is: why does the field, in all its varied scope, not attract more African-American, Asian-American, and Latino-American writers? There’s some disconnect here. If I went to the cinema when Lord of the Rings was playing and took a census, what would be the ethnic mix? Certainly more than what was on the screen. Who was the last non-white hero or heroine of a well-done science-fiction movie?

That said, there are some strong points to the current market. Sexual orientation is no longer the boogeyman as it once was. Mainstream publishers are releasing books that deal with gender issues. I’d like to think this reflects on a wider readership. We still have far to go, though.

Agreed (not that my books are breaking any boundaries in that area though...)

5. What do you do when you're not writing?

Mostly think about why I’m not writing. Then feel guilty for not writing. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I do have a day job. And I do spend time with my parents a great deal. Otherwise, I’m really dull. I read, I watch old movies.

Ah that guilty feeling when not writing...

6. Onto the obligatory music question (well for me anyway): are you a music listener when you write or are you a lover of silence? If so what do you listen to or what inspires you?

Well, if I’m writing during breakds in the dayjob, then there’s no music. At home, I do try and have something playing the background. I’m sure I’m not alone in liking an eclectic selection of music. Let’s see... what’s on my iPod. Terri Windling infected me with love for Seth Lakeman. Then there are musicals (Hairspray, Guys and Dolls, Oliver!). Some Bob Hope, some Melissa Etheridge. A dose of Cute is What We Aim For, a dash of Madeleine Peyroux with a pinch of Girlyman. And every playlist deserves some Gin Blossoms or Ottmar Liebert.

*tries to get his around Bob Hope to spec fic... fails*

Bob Hope and spec fic are perfect today. The Road movies often featured bizarre events. My favorite, Road to Morrocco, featured talking camels and a ring that granted wishes. Then Hope was the star of Ghost Breakers, a terrific voodoo comedy.

7. Where do you see yourself as a writer in five years?

I’m never good at prognostication. For years I tried Ouija until someone told me the proper method is through a board and not a bowl of alphabet soup.

All I can hope for is that I’m still alive, still challenging myself to write better stories, and maybe even still being read.

*laughs* are you saying it isn't done through soup?

8. What tips do you have for the new and budding writers out there?

Well, too often I hear new writers boasting how little revision they do. This misconception of the writing process—that revision is proof of poor skill—actually works to their detriment. Revision should be embraced for the powerful tool that it is.

Also, in regards to the notion of support I mentioned earlier, every writer benefits from having other writers in his or her social circle. It could simply be a writing buddy or as advanced as a critique group, but being able to meet with a friend creates a welcome environment for talking about stories, writing techniques, and comfort during some of the lonelier moments that happen to all writers.

Lastly, do not compare your career to that of others. Trust me, that path only leads to melancholy. There will always be some writer younger than you, or more skilled, or faster, better paid, and so on. Telling stories for pay is not a competition. Yes, there are awards for writers, but you should concern yourself with the rewards: finishing the best story you can and knowing that some stranger out in the world you could never hope to meet in your lifetime is reading your words and finding meaning in them.

Excellent advice, some stuff to be noted here!

9. Why mroctober on live journal and why the pumpkin head? Is that a really obvious question?

*notes that his birthday is August*

Oh, back in 1994, I had my two first professional sales, one to Dragon and one to White Wolf Magazine. Both were Call of Cthulhu gaming articles and both released in October. I spent a fortune having them framed. My friends started calling me Mr. October after that.

Why the pumpkin head? Oh, Halloween is my favorite holiday and nothing seems to evoke that image better in my mind than a scarecrow with a jack o’lantern noggin.

Okay, I'm glad I asked as it's not as obvious as first seemed!

10. Last but not least I saw in your first answer (and from the excellent cover artwork) that you've edited an anthology. How was that and how does it compare to writing?

I’ve actually edited four anthologies to date. It’s a very different process, more like buying a puzzle, then discovering that you have to choose the pieces first from several boxes and find the best way for them to fit together.

Writing for me is an introverted pursuit that is prone to anxiety because the success or failure relies only on myself. Editing allows me to be more extroverted. The very nature of inviting authors to submit, of choosing stories, brings me into contact with a number of extraordinarily talented people. Plus, the caregiver in me enjoys sharing words I have come to value with others.

Nice to hear! Thank you so much for coming along and I wish you all the best with your projects and really hope to see something of yours over at Morrigan Books in the future!

Thanks, Mark. I’m truly flattered you took the time to talk with me.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

New York Times bestselling author comes to Morrigan Books

After discussions over the last few days, I can now confirm that Elaine Cunningham, bestselling fantasy author, is to work on a future Morrigan Books anthology. The fine tuning of the anthology is still under way but I can inform interested readers (and indeed writers) that it will be dark fantasy and will focus on Celtic mythology, with our very own namesake, Morrigan, taking an active role.

More news to follow soon...