The Kickstarter campaign for The Imlen Bastard is live right here. Go check it out!
I launch at noon. Wish me luck!
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.
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.
Kickstarter has approved my campaign to go live whenever I'm ready. As far as I can tell, that mostly means I filled in all the blanks on the endless webform, because the approval came back almost instantly. In a day or two, I can hope to see feedback from their staff of live humans.

I'm hoping those of you who have experience backing or running campaigns will take a look at the page in preview and advise me on how to improve it.

If people who are definitely planning to back the campaign were to post their pledges on the first day, that would be immensely helpful. If the project has legs right away, Kickstarter might make it one of their staff picks and promote it to people who otherwise might not see it.

I had planned to go live on the 13th, but that didn't leave much time for implementing suggestions, and would have meant asking people to rush to take a look at it. When I ask favors, I generally try not to ask people to hurry about them.

So it looks like we'll go live on Tuesday, October 20th. And then I'll have as frenzied a 30 days as I ever did for National Novel Writing Month.
Come check out my new post on Black Gate. It's an essay on awards and the psychology of motivation, with a studies-have-shown riff about why motivation doesn't work the way most of us have been led to think it does, and a pull-the-wool-over-your-own-eyes riff about preserving self-motivation from stuff that might deplete it.
It's a lovely little convention, not overwhelming in scale, with an unusual emphasis on short fiction. When I meet a writer who hasn't tried the convention circuit, I propose Capclave as a good first experience.

I love it, too, when a convention comes within bicycle range of my house. In this case, it's more my husband's bicycle range than mine, but I'll count it. Anyhow, although I won't be sleeping at the Hilton Washington DC North (a disingenuous name for a hotel way out in Gaithersburg), I'll be on premises pretty much from the start of programming to the end, every day of the con.

The programming volunteers have sent me the current version of the schedule. I'll post an update if anything changes. Here's where I'll be:

Friday, 9 October 2015
5:00 PM-5:50 PM
Writing in Series

8:00 PM-8:50 PM
The Right Length For Your Story

Saturday, 10 October 2015
2:00 PM-2:50 PM
The Epic Blockbuster

3:00 PM-3:50 PM
Creating Your Setting

Sunday, 11 October 2015
12 PM-12:25 PM
Reading - Sarah Avery
(I'll be reading from The Imlen Bastard, since I'll be launching the Kickstarter to self-publish it two days after the convention ends.)
There are funerals that are totally unabashed about being funerals, and that can be perfect. There are funerals that try not to funerals, that want to be celebrations of the life of the beloved dead, but they don't quite take off, and turn out to be funereal celebrations -- that can be what needs to happen, sometimes, too. And then there are memorials in celebration of a life that's ended that really flower into jubilation. Jubilation punctuated by people taking turns breaking down in tears, but still. It doesn't sound quite right to call those celebratory funerals -- a celebratory funeral would be something else, I suppose, and I'm lucky that I've never been to one. But this thing that happened yesterday, it was like nothing else.

I'm just home from a memorial that broke, for a little while, into a dance party.

After the ritual was over, with its storytelling and singing, one of the mourners who's a wedding DJ by profession set off a playlist of the music Keith had loved. It was quiet enough for everybody to converse over, just loud enough to give us a steady stream of Keith's aesthetic as a sort of undercurrent.

Until we came to Delta Rae's "Dance in the Graveyards." Now, before you run off to YouTube to hear the most joyful song I've ever heard that also deals honestly with loss, consider whether you have some tissues handy and you're someplace where it's okay to have watery eyes for a few minutes -- in which case, watch this heartbreakingly beautiful video. If you're someplace where you can't let your hair down quite that much, here's a version that gives just the audio and the lyrics. It's okay to go check those out. I'll be here when you get back.

So you see why dancing erupted.

We were under the stars, with candles lit in the hundred or so candle holders Keith left behind (because that's how we Pagan hoarders roll). "Careful of the candles!" said some wise person. The only word that made it through the burst of perfect song was candles, so we all found ourselves picking up those hundred candle holders and holding them aloft while we danced.

Our resident DJ being awesome, he put the song right back on, louder, and we sang along at the tops of our lungs, improvising harmonies as we went.

So many moments in the shockingly brief time between Keith's diagnosis and his memorial have unfolded perfectly -- perfectly except for happening about forty years too early. Keith would have made an excellent octogenarian. Aside from that one rendingly wrong thing, I'm thinking what most of us are: when it's my time (long and far may it be), if you can't find my instructions and I can't tell you how I want things, just ask the people who were there what they did for Keith.

And if you're reading this, you are cordially invited to dance in my graveyard.
My website is now faster to load, easier to use on a wider array of devices, and subtly more intuitive. The things that worked about it before it crashed work again in approximately the same way, at least from the user's point of view, as they did before. So the homepage picks up my blog posts from Livejournal automatically (which is much less time consuming for me than posting it on my website first and having LJ pick it up), and the overall aesthetic is the same.

The email list subscription works now -- I know because some of you have subscribed in the past few days. Thank you!

We've got plenty of updating left to do, especially of content. The bio, biblio, and event calendar pages still need to be caught up, and we'll be adding a new section for free reads. Dan is working on making the site mobile-friendly. There may be technical problems that don't show up in our humble testing environment. We just have to survive the first week of the school year and hosting a child's birthday party, and we'll be able to turn our attention back to the website. (Have I mentioned recently the awesomeness of my spouse? He's devoted just about every second of his free time over the past three weeks to this project.)

Meanwhile, if you feel so inclined, please go poke at sarahavery.com. If anything breaks, doesn't look right on your hardware or in your browser, or could otherwise use improvement, I'd take it as a great kindness if you'd let me know.
My website's nearly done getting a major overhaul, and it'll go live probably in the next week or so. The most significant change is that it'll put all the links to stories available for free online in one place, and I'll be offering an e-reader friendly version of a story never published elsewhere to anybody who signs up for my email list. This offer will include people who are already signed up. I haven't used the list yet, so I'm looking forward to seeing what I can do with it.

I've also chosen a start date for my first Kickstarter campaign. Tuesday, October 13, the day after I get home from Capclave, I'll be... do people really use the expression "pulling the trigger" about crowdfunding campaigns? Weird. I'd like to have a way to talk about that phase of the project that doesn't sound like I'm deploying a weapon at people who are helping me bring a book into being. Anyhow, October 13, definitively, with hopes of getting the book itself out in the early srping of 2016, subject to the artist's availability and how many illustrations we end up commissioning from her.

Meanwhile, I'm acting on some excellent and friendly advice on how to fix one of the Beltresa novellas. Apparently, if I take the last 5,000 words and cut that part back to 1,000 words, it will no longer feel like a fragment of a larger book. Okay, let's see if that works. I get all the best personalized rejection letters!
(You may wish to read the first episode, in which Sir Percival and his companion set out on the River of Story to bring the Grail to a Fisher King in need of healing, and the second episode, in which our wanderers brave rough waters. You may also wish to read Percival's first appearance in 2006.)

The knight and his author made their way down the Delaware River, across two centuries, and catty-corner from winter to summer. "Is it this one?" Percival asked when the next creek poured in from the west.

The author squinted upstream, tasted the wind. "No." They paddled on. "Look, I've got no quarrel with your king. He was probably the best game in town at the time."

"I just don't see how you can disbelieve in kings after seeing your General Washington for yourself. If any man after Arthur was kingly enough to have pulled the sword from the stone, it would be..."

"This one," said the author. She leaned west to listen for something. "Yes, this is definitely our tributary."

The creek poured from a concrete pipe whose diameter beat Percival's height by two handspans. "Do we go in?"

"Let's try portaging first."

So they stepped out into a gulping mud that swallowed the author's right shoe and left both travelers mud-spattered to the waist. Hefting the boat shoulder-high, they followed the outside of the concrete pipe to its start, where the tributary sparkled over its bed of smooth stones.

"Upstream," sighed the author.

"Of course," Percival said brightly. "Nothing ventured, nothing gained."
Read more... )
Every time I tried to write acceptance remarks just in case, I found myself drafting congratulatory emails to the finalists who aren't here, and rehearsing what I would say to Theodora Goss, who's sharing a hotel room with me at the conference. I really enjoyed your book, and I'm honored to have been named on the shortlist in your company. It was something I could say with a full and open heart to all four of them, because I'd read their books, and they were all wonderful in their different ways.

Fortunately, Dora insisted that I should prepare some remarks, because you never know.

I got to hear Jo Walton -- the Guest of Honor and a previous winner of this award and, most to the point, a writer whose work I admire tremendously -- give the announcement that the Rugosa book had won.

So here I am with my award trophy, the Aslan. Tomorrow morning I fly home. Aslan is on the move!
Tomorrow I fly to Colorado Springs. Weather permitting, I'll land around 4:30pm. So far my only plans for Thursday night are to unpack and iron my conference finery, and if I have any brain left from traveling I'll write another episode of Percival. If any of you going to the conference or already in Colorado would like to get together for dinner, please get in touch. I'd love to see people.

My reading is scheduled for 1:15 in the Aspen Room on Sunday afternoon. Since this year's conference theme is Arthuriana, I plan to read How the Grail Came to the Fisher King in its entirety, and if there's time, maybe such episodes of Return of the Grail Bearer as exist at that point. As my Dickens professor used to say, bring a tissue.

The banquet and presenting of awards is 6:30-8:30 Sunday. There's a remote possibility I'll have occasion to give acceptance remarks.

I'll definitely bring stuff to the Bardic Circle at 9pm Sunday in the Aspen Room. I'm not sure what I'll read yet. Probably scenes from the Rugosa book, maybe the Persephone sonnets, depending on the mood and pacing of the evening.

Monday morning, I fly for home. I'll be in either air or airports for about the next 12 hours, and then I'll spend Tuedsay getting put back together by my excellent chiropractor.
[See Return of the Grail Bearer 1, in which Sir Percival embarks on a quest down the River of Story.]

Percival twisted back to ask the author where they were -- conversation was difficult in a tandem kayak. She was squinting up at the constellations with such concentration, he did not interrupt her.

"Perfect," she said at last. She leaned to one side so he wouldn't have to twist so far around to see her. The boat drifted silently on a current powerful and slow. "We're exactly where I hoped we'd turn up."

"So, which otherworld is this?" He sniffed the air. "It doesn't smell floral like Faerie. It's definitely not Heaven. The sun never sets in your Summerlands, so it's got to be something else."

"Reports on the Summerlands vary, but you're right, this is somewhere else. We're on the Anduin, the Mississippi of Middle Earth. And see that bright star on the eastern horizon?"

"How do you know which way is east?"

"I've known the map to this place since I was eleven. So, the brightest one in the sky? That's Earendil, the most beloved star. You can bottle that light, and it's proof against pretty much any kind of badness. It's a light that never goes out, even in the darkest places. Most to the point, for a Fisher King fighting cancer, it makes unwholesome things wither and back the hell off. Fill the Grail with it, and we're good to go."

"Language," said the Knight of Purity.
Read more... )
Percival hid behind the curtain of willow branches in full leaf, watching the knights practice jousting across the river. He wove the slenderest willow withes he could find into his first suit of armor, and put it on over the furs and hides that were all the clothing of his feral childhood.

This was his favorite moment in all the stories that had been told about him, the one he retreated to when nobody needed him to heal a Fisher King. He was laughable in his innocence. The knights would laugh, later, when he emerged from the forest to join them. That was all right. Bearing the Grail demanded laughable innocence, and in Sir Percival's experience, Fisher Kings often needed to laugh.

Something long and shiny parted the branches -- plastic, that was the word, and shaped like a boat paddle. The blunt prow of a bright blue tandem kayak nudged into Percival's hiding place. A bespectacled woman slid her her craft alongside the river's muddy bank, looked up at him, and said, "Sir Knight?"

"Milady," said Percival, because he still wasn't sure of the correct form of address from a character to his author.

"I'm so sorry to take you away from this, but we need you again. Same Fishers, different King. There's a biopsy coming up, and the results have to be good. I don't suppose anyone's told you the parable of Schroedinger's cat..." The words had started out all business, but now her voice quavered. "Will you come?"

"Of course I'll come. And there was much talk of the miraculous cat at the Grail Castle of Sloan-Kettering."

So Percival let go of his feral child form and became his pilgrim self, humble in sackcloth.Read more... )
Here's something I wish I'd known a few weeks earlier: When my late brother-in-law Zach got diagnosed with his cancer, he felt like he had some broken ribs -- it hurt to breathe in a particular area -- but he didn't remember an incident that might have broken them. Turned out cancer that had started in his bile duct was moving in on his liver.

And now the friend who had trouble breathing, but had been assured that he had broken ribs, has a dire diagnosis.

So, my dears, if you ever feel like your ribs are broken but don't remember a specific way you could have gotten injured, go to your doctor immediately just in case.

Fuck Cancer. It's time to break out all my old FC gear again.

You know what else it's time to break out?

I'm bringing back the fucking Grail. (I just noticed the Grail is now available as a podcast. I'd planned some kind of cheery post to announce that when it finally happened. This bit of news is disappearing into the Infinite Perspective Vortex of this morning's.)

Pardon me while I portage my fictional kayak to the big river of story. Let's make it a tandem kayak this time. I have a Grail Knight to fetch.
Here's what I can't figure out: Why is there not more buzz about Sebastien de Castell's Greatcoats series? The debut volume, Traitor's Blade, was my favorite book of 2014. The second, Knight's Shadow, is my favorite of 2015, and it's hard to imagine the rest of the year bringing me a book I could like better. Nothing against the year -- it's just that de Castell is that good. When the projected series of four volumes is complete, I predict it will come to be spoken of as a classic.

But a lovely close second is Shieldwall: Barbarians!, by M. Harold Page. It's more historical fiction than fantasy, imaginatively filling in all the gaps in the historians' records of the Siege of Orleans, when Attila the Hun brought his whole army to bear on the walls, and the defenders prevailed -- nobody now is quite sure why. Page wrote the book to be an old-fashioned adventure story for his son, and it does have the feel of the YA historicals of my youth. Hengest, a prince fostered among Romans, must lead his father's Jutish warband to rescue his sister from slavery. Her abductors' trail leads into the most dangerous war zone in Hengest's world. I'm looking forward to the next volume.
I'm definitely going to Mythcon, which means I need to learn how to write an award acceptance speech, just in case I win this thing. The odds that I'll need to use the speech are not overwhelmingly high, which makes me a little less nervous about writing badly in an unfamiliar form. I did more research, and it turns out one of the finalists whose name I didn't recognize is the person who wrote Chocolat. Could my presence on the shortlist possibly be any more anomalous? On the other hand, as far as I can figure out the Mythopoeic Society's rules, the award is juried, rather than voted on by the society's membership or the conference's attendees. If I'm right about that, I can at least be sure that the people voting will have read my book.

Meanwhile, I'm the lead story on today's Wild Hunt.

It's hard to explain the importance of that site in the Pagan community. I considered whether to liken it to the Daily Beast, and then I got stuck on imagining the Wild Hunt tracking and capturing the Daily Beast, and I still haven't quite made it back from being easily amused.

Even meanerwhile (because it should be linguistically possible to have two concurrent situations in the background while a third is in the foreground), the Lyme is definitely somewhat abated. Taking an antibiotic that makes you photosensitive is especially irksome in the week of the summer solstice, just when your kids are out of school, craving outdoor time and joining the swim team. No sunblock is enough. But offered a choice between the burns and the combination of crushing fatigue and brain fog I had before the Lyme test, I'd take the burns any day. I seem to have full use of my brain back, and I have enough energy now that I no longer lie glassy-eyed in the living room while the television parents my children. Until I started getting better, I had no idea how sick I was.

There's even enough energy now that I've picked up a couple of new students, ones who want to make the most of the summer by meeting twice or three times a week. I haven't had a tutoring schedule this full since we moved out of New Jersey. It turns out I've really missed explaining the five dimensions of the English verb to teenage boys. Have I mentioned that I'm anomalous?
Remember that concussion I had in November, and how I lost my reading speed? It got better for a while, until it started getting worse. And the post-concussion fatigue got better, too, until it became utterly crushing.

And then it occurred to me that fatigue and brain fog were also symptoms of Lyme disease. Which a blood test just confirmed I have. I've probably had it for months.

Rejoice! For there is nothing like a diagnosis that can be acted on.

So now I take a bunch of antibiotics (and carry around an Epi-Pen, and after this morning's little incident get way more vigilant about keeping the kids away from the damn Epi-Pen), and with any luck, I'll get my nervous system fully online again. It's such a lovely nervous system. Comes in handy for writing with, you know.
My brain is trying so hard to process this list. It tried stammering, then it tried Jersey-style profanity (Holy #%&*!), and now it's playing the Talking Heads' "Once in a Lifetime." Here comes the voice of David Byrne again: You may say to yourself, Well, how did I get here?

Here's the ballot in my award category:

Mythopoeic Fantasy Award for Adult Literature

Sarah Avery, Tales from Rugosa Coven (Dark Quest)
Stephanie Feldman, The Angel of Losses (Ecco)
Theodora Goss, Songs for Ophelia (Papaveria Press)
Joanne M. Harris, The Gospel of Loki (Gollancz)
Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez, Locke & Key series, consisting of Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft; Vol. 2: Head Games; Vol. 3: Crown of Shadow; Vol.4: Keys to the Kingdom; Vol. 5: Clockworks; and Vol. 6: Alpha & Omega IDW Publishing

Okay, to break it down for anybody who doesn't read fantasy (and if you don't, you're in good company, along with my mom, so that's totally fine), here's why these other finalists are blowing my mind:

Joe Hill is massively famous, with multiple New York Times bestsellers to his name. (People usually also mention that his father is Stephen King, which is why he publishes under a pen name and kept his other identity secret for as long as he could.)

Theodora Goss is the perfect author for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award. When I saw her name on the announcement, my first thought was, This can't be her first nomination. Surely she won for In the Forest of Forgetting? She didn't win in 2008, but only because that was the year Catherynne Valente won for Orphan's Tales.

I'm not familiar with Stephanie Feldman or Joanne M. Harris, but their publishers are Ecco and Gollancz. I've been assuming all these years that my manuscripts were not worthy to lick the crumbs from under the tables of Ecco and Gollancz -- that despite the fancy doctorate and whatever other fancy stuff can be ascribed to me, I'm not fancy enough for presses that prestigious. Once I decided I'd rather be entertaining than academic, I figured prestige was not something I should aim at anymore. Maybe that was the typical writerly impostor-syndrome voice talking.

(Or, mutters the impostor-syndrome voice, maybe you really don't deserve the nomination. Maybe you were right to be shocked, and you don't belong on this list after all. Nasty little imp, that voice is. Hey, imp, find something helpful to do, or prepare to be ignored.)

Oh, and I have a partial answer to the Talking Heads' question -- I know a little more this hour about how I got here. Thanks are due to Pauline Alama, who's part of my old critique group, the Writers of the Weird. She's a longtime member of the Mythopoeic Society and nominated my book for the initial longlist. An award committee culled the longlist down to five finalists. Maybe I'll get to find out more later about their process. Presumably it involved reading my book and finding it somehow preferable to a bunch of other books. Books that also had advocates (other than their authors and publishers) who liked them enough to nominate them for the longlist.

This is the point at which my mind starts boggling again. Somehow I got preferred for something over an unknown number of authors that probably included at least a few major names who were publishing with major presses. (The imp tries to prepare me for the possibility that this is all a clerical error and I'll have to post a retraction. Bleeping imp.) Looks like it'll be a bogglesome week.
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