At Vicki's

Pennterra and Fantastic Books

If you're interested in the progress of Warren Lapine's Fantastic Books reprint line--out-of-print titles reissued in POD editions, as described in more detail in my LJ entry of April 9--I refer you to his own LJ posting from yesterday This list will give you an idea of who else has committed to taking the plunge, and I know there are quite a few more in the pipeline.

My 1987 novel Pennterra is supposed to be released pretty soon. I promise to report on the quality of the product, how the cover turned out, and anything else I think people might like to know, as soon as I get my mitts on a copy.
At Vicki's

PayPal and Amazon Buttons

Up to now, Mill City Press has been fulfilling orders for The Bird Shaman as they come in, charging me for the service, the freight, and also a "1st item picked" fee, whatever that is. But pretty soon my fulfillment agreement with the press will expire, so I'll have to find other ways of making copies available to people.

Amazon should be easy enough. A friend of mine plays in a band that has recorded a couple of CD's; he sends them directly to Amazon, and Amazon sells them and pays him. (Check it out at My friend, a jazz violinist, is the one with the beard.) He can tell me how to set that up.

But I also want people to be able to buy copies from me directly. To that end Marty Halpern, who manages my website, suggested putting a PayPal button on the site. Marty also figured out how to add a menu box where the buyer can specify whether s/he wants the book inscribed. While we were at it, we made me an Amazon Associate and switched out Mill City's Amazon button to one supplied by Amazon to its associate members, complete with a little customizable graphic of the cover. You probably know this, but being an associate means you get paid a little bit when somebody buys the book through the website link.

The buttons just went live today and I think they look very cool--indeed, all but irresistible:

Waiting now for the orders to come pouring in . . .
At Vicki's

Surviving Comes of Age

Today, April 15, is the 21st anniversary of my breast cancer diagnosis. My 1986 novelette "Surviving" is about a girl raised by chimps; my 1988 novella "Tiny Tango" (written in August 1987) is about a woman's struggle to survive AIDS; yet both strike me now--and have for a long time--as fearfully prescient. Especially "Tiny Tango," which I began while nearly crippled with sourceless-seeming anxiety, a few months before finding the lump under my left arm.

After the diagnosis came the usual: mastectomy and six brutal months of chemo. I was Stage II Breast CA; the tumor had been concealed by a mass of fibrocystic tissue and was both impalpable and invisible to mammography until it had grown and begun to spread. By the time it was detected, six axillary lymph nodes were involved, and the prognosis was, to put it mildly, not good. Collapse )
At Vicki's

Fantastic Books and Warren Lapine and Pennterra, Oh My!

You've probably read about Warren Lapine's return to publishing (if not, check it out at One of his projects (he's got several) is . . .
well, I'll let Marty Halpern, who is (inter alia) a freelance acquisitions editor for Lapine's new genre imprint, Fantastic Books, tell about it. This is from Marty's blog, More Red Ink

. . . So what does this mean for you, the author? I am currently acquiring out-of-print backlist titles -- sf, fantasy, horror, slipstream, etc. If you have an oop book that you would like to make available to today's readers, so that they don't have to search the used bookstores for a copy (the purchase of which doesn't make you, the author, any money), then please do contact me. My email addy is marty dot halpern at gmail dot com.

While I think the world of Marty, I was initially skeptical about what he's proposing here. The reprints will all be POD, and I know all too well (some of) what that means, after spending a year self-publishing The Bird Shaman. On the other hand, Lapine isn't asking authors to pay a cent, which certainly makes a refreshing change. He's even scanning titles that aren't already in electronic form, cleaning up the scans, and providing the author with a copy of the file. The royalty is 10% of cover price. Unless you think somebody is about to beat down your door with a better offer, this is a way of getting your OP titles back in print, and as such it might well be worth considering.

I decided to test the waters by allowing Marty to acquire my 1987 novel Pennterra for Fantastic Books. Pennterra is my "Quaker novel" and the only one of my novels set offworld. It's been out of print for a long time, though copies are available from online bookstores and sometimes even in physical used book ones, I'm told (thank you, mmaresca!), and also from my attic if anybody wants to know.

This is by way of being a trial balloon, but if I like the result, and in the highly probable event that no better offer turns up, I expect to let Marty acquire my trilogy too. And I'm sure he would love to acquire yours, and to provide more info if you want more.

No doubt we would all prefer new hardcover edition from commercial presses, but so far I've been happy enough with what I've seen. I'll let you know how it turns out.
At Vicki's

The International Conference on the Fantastic in the Arts

I really couldn't afford to go this year, but I wanted to do this one last thing to help The Bird Shaman into the world. And besides, I really, really like ICFA. I would say it's my favorite con, except that it's not a con-vention but rather an academic con-ference. College professors with Ph D's come to Orlando from around the western world, and maybe two dozen writers turn up as well. The profs, who teach fantastic literature in college classrooms, and publish scholarly articles and books on these subjects, do papers and panels at ICFA. The writers give readings, attend the odd scholarly event, mingle with the academics, go out to lunch and dinner with each other, do very little work and have a great time. If you're not familiar with ICFA, you can get an idea of what goes on there from the 2009 program, still up on the IAFA website at

I like this conference so much because I'm at home on both sides of the divide that unites the attendees, and respect and admire both groups on their own terms. After finishing my doctorate at Penn, I taught for years at the Universities of Iowa and Pennsylvania, courses in American literature and creative writing workshops in poetry. Then I introduced a course called The American Novel of Science Fiction, and you know what happened: after a while I started thinking "I bet I could do that!" and it turned out that I could. For me, being at ICFA feels like those parties I used to go to when I lived in Sweden, where you chat in English with one group of friends, then turn to another and switch languages as naturally as if they were so many hats. I enjoyed being at home in two cultures then, and I enjoy it still. I spend six months in rural Kentucky every year and the other six in sophisticated Swarthmore PA, so you could truthfully say that my basic living situation now is a version of that metaphorical party, except that I will never, ever find Lawrenceburg Kay Wye and Swarthmore in the same big room, talking animatedly with one another. I would be so tickled if they could.
At Vicki's

Self-Pub Article in NYRSF

At Capclave last fall, I was telling David Hartwell anecdotes about the self-publication ordeal I had just about finished enduring, and he suggested that I do a feature article for The New York Review of Science Fiction about that. So, when I finally got to the end of the tunnel, and emerged blinking into the light, I sat down and wrote one. The worst stories I didn't want to tell in print, as least not as long as I still needed to have dealings with the press in question. But by that time I had also understood that an awful lot of my misery had been brought about by two factors: my extremely, indeed incredibly, low level of computer skills, and my failure to understand what a wholesaler's 55% discount means to the profit margin when you have paid to manufacture the book yourself. No way to blame anybody else for either of those.

Michael Levy's long, thoughtful review of The Bird Shaman had appeared in NYRSF in October. To follow that up with a feature story in which the title of the novel appeared prominently and repeatedly seemed like a publicity opportunity not to be missed. Plus I did have useful things to say about self-publication, which--had somebody said them to me before I took the plunge--could have saved me a lot of grief.

The finished piece turned out pretty well and was published in the February issue. NYRSF is a print-only magazine, so I can't provide you with a link to the article, but I think you would enjoy it, if only to count your blessings at not having been forced to go that particular route to publication.

David told me that a number of people commented on the piece at Boskone, and quite a few had picked up The Bird Shaman from his table at the dealer's room to look it over, but nobody bought one. Hm. Well, I thought, I wasn't at Boskone, I wasn't reading or autographing; let's see how it goes in Orlando at ICFA. Collapse )
At Vicki's

Homestead Year Library Event

Back in midwinter sometime I was asked to do a presentation about modern homesteading for an evening series offered by the Swarthmore Public Library. Someone who had read my 1995 nonfiction book Homestead Year: Back to the Land in Suburbia, and also Barbara Kingsolver's 2007 nonfiction book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, thought that suburban homesteading would be a topic of interest to people who (unlike Kingsolver) don't have a farm and a lot of draftable family labor at their disposal, but would like to move as far as their circumstances might allow in the direction of self-sufficiency.

The backstory: in 1992 I took a year off from teaching at Penn to turn our one-acre suburban lot in Rose Valley PA into a little farm. By then the yard already featured a big organic garden, five apple trees, a hedge made of blueberry bushes, and two beehives. To these we added a liner pond stocked with catfish and bluegills, and seven noisy, smelly Cayuga ducks. Homestead Year describes the experiment. The main thing I brought away from it, aside from a ton of produce, was a deeply intensified appreciation for how everything in the biosphere connects to everything else, even on a scale as small as ours. Collapse )
At Vicki's

Long Time Gone

It's been four months and change since last I darkened LJ's door. Lots of reasons for that, but the main one was that after putting in a solid year in front of the computer screen, first self-publishing and then frenziedly promoting The Bird Shaman, I could barely stand to stare at said screen for longer than it took to deal with my email each day. I had done most of what I could think of to further the novel's fortunes via blogging and other internet activities. A few more non-blogging, non-internet things had also been suggested, and I did those; and then in December I came down with a horrible viral ailment that carried me right through the holidays and into the new year. In retrospect, I think I allowed being sick to mark a boundary between the self-pub process and the rest of my life.

However! Life goes on, so I'm going to try to get back in the swing here, and report on what's been happening behind the veil of silence. Not all at once, and not all of it by any means, but I reckon some of it is interesting enough to blog about. I've made a list of topics to cover. I will also be reading about you, you, you, and what you've all been doing, and are doing now. I hope to learn that you all are well, happy, busy, and employed (unless you're retired, like me, me, me!)
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At Vicki's

Four Reviews and Not Counting

The Bird Shaman has been reviewed twice this month, after Edge:Boston in August and Locus in October.

One review is by Meredith Sue Willis and appears in the November issue of her online newsletter Books for Readers, at This newsletter, which arrives in my inbox every month, casts a wide net, though I think I discern a preference for books engaged with political and social issues. (Willis has herself written one offbeat science fiction novel, The City Built of Starships). The other review is a long, thorough, serious discussion by Michael Levy, just out in the November issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction.

So that's a total of four, no frothing raves but all positive and respectful, and all in decent places. And that's likely to be the lot. Not everything I might have dreamed of, but, for a self-published book, really not too shabby either.
At Vicki's

Philcon in New Jersey

Philcon's new location makes it a lot harder for me to get to, so I'll only be there for one day, Saturday. I told the organizers that when I registered, but a stitch got dropped in the shuffle, to mix metaphors, and they gave me two events on Saturday and THREE on Sunday anyway. And no reading. I just read for the Philadelphia Fantastics at Robin's Bookstore; maybe they felt the potential audience wouldn't justify a slot, but I'm disappointed.

I thought about making my one day Sunday instead of Saturday. But reorganizing my ride got complicated, and I'm moderating one of the panels on Saturday, so will stick to the plan.

Anyway, here's my schedule:

Sat 2:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour): GENUISES AND MADMEN (56)

[Panelists: Judith Moffett (mod), Ellen Asher, Tobias Cabral, Genevieve Iseult Eldredge, Josepha Sherman]

The relationship between creativity and mental imbalance. Can there be a kind of Faustian bargain where greater artistic achievements are reached at the cost of sanity or is this entirely a myth?

Sat 5:00 PM in Plaza V (Five) (1 hour): TOPICALITY IN SCIENCE FICTION (44)

[Panelists: Larry Hodges (mod), James L. Cambias, Ian Randal Strock, Ellen Asher, Judith Moffett]

How effective is science fiction as a tool for writing about current events?

--Good topics, if familiar ones. Looking forward to seeing some of you in Cherry Hill.
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