I’ve Been Busy Behind the Scenes

I’ve been busy with behind-the-scenes promotional tasks for Elements.

My book launch at Bakka Phoenix Books was so much fun last Saturday, April 19th. I’ll post photos to Facebook soon.

Speaking of Facebook, visit the Elements page for details on the CHAPTERS launches in Barrie (Saturday, April 26th) and Newmarket (Sunday, April 27th) this weekend.

On the interview front, The Qwillery asked me some great questions.

As an added bonus, SF Signal linked to the interview in their April 22 post.

I will post links to the other items I’ve been working on here as they become available.

TML logoSince my beloved Toronto Maple Leafs didn’t make the playoffs for the Stanley Cup, I’ve been browsing the teams that did.

Stanley CupMany of you might be wondering if I’ll support the Montreal Canadienes since they’re the only Canadian team to make the playoffs. I’ve tried a couple of times, but it’s a tough pill to swallow for a Leafs fan. Maybe if they make the final round…I’ll keep you posted.

For now, I’ve been cheering for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They’re fast, motivated, with great defense and devoted fans. You can expect plenty of #CBJ #BattleOn action on my Twitter feed.

It’s hard to cheer against the Pittsburgh Penguins since I admire Sydney Crosby, so this #CBJ alliance is a rather fragile one.


Ad Astra Convention is THIS WEEKEND!!
…so my blogging and posting might be a little on the light side. I’ll be tweeting as long as my phone battery holds out.

I learned (from a reliable source at the convention hotel last night) that the ELEMENTS/MILKMAN launch will not be in room 1086. But it will be somewhere on the 10th floor. Follow the signs and the noise. I’m sure you’ll find us since we’ll be the ones with CAKE!!

Elements-5.5x8.5-100dpi-c8MilkMan-Cover miniI will be co-hosting a book launch party on Saturday night with Michael J. Martineck on Saturday night from 9PM to midnight. Please join us in celebrating the launch of…

ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction


The Milkman

We’d love it if you would RSVP via the Facebook Events page. Come for the cake, stay for the fun!

My other panels at the con are:

Saturday, Apr 5 10:00-11:00 AM The Writing Life, Ada Hoffman, Julie Czerneda, Karina Sumner-Smith, Stephanie Bedwell-Grime, Suzanne Church (Newmarket)

Saturday, Apr 5 12:00-1:00 PM READING – Writing in the ‘Loo, Marcy Italiano, Sarah Tolmie, Suzanne Church (Markham A)

Saturday, Apr 5 2:00-4:00 PM GoH + Many Other Authors Signing A mass autograph session. Bring your copies of ELEMENTS (available at the Bakka Phoenix Books table in the Dealers’ Room) to be signed (Richmond A)

Saturday, Apr 5 4:00-5:00 PM READING – Stop-Watch Gang, Ian Donald Keeling, Mike Rimar, Pippa Wysong, Stephen Kotowych, Suzanne Church (Oakridges)

I hope to see you at the party and around the convention.

The Final Story “Soul-Hungry”

Below, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

The last story in the Table of Contents is: Soul-Hungry

The last story in ELEMENTS  was written specifically for the collection.

Near the beginning of January of 2013, my publisher sent me three different cover art possibilities for the collection. I studied them carefully, but none of them spoke to me. I selected the one that I felt was the best of the three. He agreed that my choice was adequate and he also felt somewhat uninspired.

Fast forward to January 30th when he sent me an email that read…

I was not happy with the way the cover design was heading, so I’ve switched things up. What do you think of this cover mockup?

For the other cover options I had sent emails to my “peeps” asking them which cover they liked. But for THIS cover by Neil Jackson I immediately responded…

I love this cover. The font, the shadows in the background, all of it!

Elements-5.5x8.5-100dpi-c8And so, the cover of ELEMENTS  was chosen. Release the doves!

From the moment that I saw the cover, I was inspired to write a story. At that point in the editorial process, we had pretty much decided on the stories and the order they would appear in the collection, except for one story that we were debating replacing.

So I suggested that I write a story based on the cover. The publisher agreed.

On the 13th of February I sent him Soul-Hungry  and after a minor edit, it became the last story in the collection.

Fun Fact

I’ve always loved the word “posse” which I believe resonates more than words like “friends” or “peeps” and I tend to use it liberally in conversation.

I’d already submitted the Acknowledgements page before I even considered writing Soul-Hungry. In retrospect, I’m glad that I had thanked Sandra Kasturi and Marcy Italiano as my “girl-posse” because after writing Soul-Hungry, the term had that much more meaning to me.

It really does take a posse to put a book together. I can’t possibly list everyone here, but the people who come to mind first are:

My publisher at EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing: Brian Hades. And the rest of the remarkable people at EDGE including Ella Beaumont, Aviva Bel’Harold, Anita Hades, and Janice Shoults. And a big WOW to Neil Jackson for the fantastic cover.

My DC2K writers’ group: Eugie Foster, Lisa Guilfoil, Scott Hancock, Amy Herring, Teresa Howard, Alan Koslow, Aaron Longoria, Jenna Lundeen, Linda Pickett, Gwen Veazey, and Debbie Yutko.

My Stop-Watch Gang writers’ group: Richard Baldwin, Bard Carson, Costi Gurgu, Ian Donald Keeling, Stephen Kotowych, Tony Pi, Mike Rimar, and Pippa Wysong.

My Writing in the ‘Loo writers’ group: Suzanne Carter, Stella Congi, Rick Hipson, Marcy Italiano, Danielle Lowry, Nick Matthews, Sarah Tolmie, and Catherine Warren.

The authors who graciously read early ARCs of ELEMENTS  and “blurbed” the collection: Kelley Armstrong, Ed Greenwood, Kij Johnson, Nancy Kilpatrick, David Morrell, and Robert J. Sawyer.

Fellow EDGE author Michael J. Martineck who’s generously donated his time and expertise to help organize the best double-book-launch of all time at Ad Astra this coming April 5th.

The group of attendees at the Clarion South 2005 workshop in Brisbane, Australia, and especially tutors Ellen Datlow, Ian Irvine, Margo Lanagan, Michael Swanwick, Scott Westerfeld, and Sean Williams.

The 2004 group of attendees at the two-week short fiction workshop at the Center for the Study of Science Fiction, and especially teachers James Gunn, Kij Johnson, and Chris McKitterick.

My friends and family…you know who you are!

Cue the curtain and turn up the house lights. That’s a wrap.

And so ends the month-long adventure of blogging the stories behind the stories in ELEMENTS. I hope that you — dear readers — enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy sharing this journey.

See you on the book tour.

Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

ELEMENTS of Me in “Muffy and the Belfry”

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 20th slot in the Table of Contents is: Muffy and the Belfry

I’ve written several stories about ghosts. Probably because I believe in ghosts.

Most writers include ELEMENTS  of themselves in their stories. It’s part of how we speak our truths. How fitting that this story, new to the collection, has so many pieces of the young version of Suzanne.

Christmas Suzanne 1974 miniThe young protagonist in Muffy and the Belfrynbsp; is named “Penny.” (For those of you who think I named her after the character in the television show Big Bang Theory  you’re wrong.) I chose her name because of the ways that Russell-the-bully teases her.

Penny is built of many pieces of me, including…

She anthropomorphises her stuffed animals, as I do to this very day.

Elise and Suzanne Christmas 1974 miniShe lives in an apartment above a store, as I did growing up.Her mom works long hours and comes home hungry and weary, so Penny has dinner on the table for her when she arrives.

She’s afraid of the dark. Like most kids, I was also terrified of the dark, especially if I woke up when my mom and sister were asleep.

And because it’s fun to humiliate ourselves online, here are a couple of photos from Christmas in 1974. My older sister and I are wearing our special holiday outfits that our mother sewed for us.

Fun Fact

The creepy skylight in Muffy and the Belfry  was a real part of my life.

From when I was three until I was about thirteen, we lived in an apartment above a store on Pape Avenue in Toronto. The creepy skylight was in the bathroom.

Many, many times while sitting in that room, I would look up and see …

…four crinkly glass panes shaped like triangles. A big crack zigzags along the one closest to me. The black wood posts holding it together meet at a point and an old piece of rope with a knot at the end hangs down from the center. A bunch of spider webs cling to the knot, and on windy nights, like tonight, it sways back and forth.

Boo Bear miniThat description is from memory. I don’t have any pictures of the skylight, and I haven’t seen it in over thirty years. But I swear it looked just like that description and used to scare the bejeebers out of me at night.

I spent a long time this morning trying to find a picture of a skylight that comes close. I came up empty. Sure, there are photos of skylights online, but none of them looked creepy enough. They were all very pedestrian.

Instead, I give you one of the many stuffed bears from my collection. His name is Boo Bear or Boo for short. Because, hey, he’s blue. He was a gift from a high school friend. To use a stuffed animal term, he’s “well loved” AKA old-and-scruffy, just like Muffy in the story.

Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

Exploring Gender Issues in “The Flower Gathering”

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 19th slot in the Table of Contents is: The Flower Gathering

As a woman writing genre fiction, I’ve heard the “equality” debates and “gender” discussions enough to understand my position in the mix.

I’m a woman. (go figure)

I write Fantasy (so do plenty of other women). I also write Science Fiction and Horror. So do…oh, wait a minute.

tiptreeawardSearch on “gender” on any speculative fiction blog/website and you’ll have plenty of reading material. There’s so much dialogue on the topic that there’s even an award specifically designed to initiate the gender conversation in speculative fiction.

From the Wikipedia entry,

The James Tiptree, Jr. Award is an annual literary prize for works of science fiction or fantasy that expand or explore one’s understanding of gender.

I wrote The Flower Gathering  as a way of exploring the gender topic. I wanted to ask the question, “What if a colony was designed, populated, and governed entirely by women?”

Tecmessa is the Prime Minister of the Pyleia  colony on Titan. She describes the colony’s origins in her own words:

On Titan, our settlement, named after the Greek Amazon Telepyleia, had been populated only with women. To escape the war-ravaged turmoil of Earth, our foremothers organized the evacuation, built the transport ships, and gathered supplies, all with minimal male assistance. Radical lesbians, the original colonists believed men were a threat to a sustainable civilization. They sought a place to build a new culture.

All sociological arguments aside, a single-gender population can’t biologically sustain itself. So the colonists in my story had to build rules to be able to procreate and sustain their population.

carnationThe Flower Gathering  takes place more than a generation after the fictional colony is established. The frozen sperm samples show signs of deterioration and need to be replenished with carefully bred donors.

But if they allow men to be born into their population, they need to ensure that they will always remain a minority in the population, so they pass the “law of the fourths.”

All pregnancies occur via in vitro fertilization, selectively breeding girls. If a woman wants to bear a son, she can only choose a male embryo after she’s successfully delivered three healthy girls.

Fun Fact

With a title like, The Flower Gathering  several types of flowers are mentioned in the story.

fabric carnationI garden. I wouldn’t say I’m good — more like competent. This story provided an opportunity for me to share my love of flowers and the feeling I get when something I’ve planted and nurtured blossoms. I haven’t had much success with carnations, but they are one of my favourite flowers.

Since the story takes place inside a domed colony on Titan, I had to be careful about what plants the colonists would have brought with them and what they would spend valuable resources growing and nurturing. They wouldn’t bother with ornamental plants like roses and carnations, so Tecmessa has to create her own carnations with fabric scraps and glue.

220px-Okie_0102The colonists would need to eat, so they’d bring harvest seeds. But what about coffee?

Coffee is too hard to grow in a domed environment, but I wanted the characters to have a tolerable substitute. After some research, I discovered that okra is easier to grow and you can roast its seeds as a coffee substitute AND eat it as a nutritious vegetable.

The blooms, seen in this photo, are white with a dark center.

Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.

The Origins of Rentiniapox

Elements LJ sizeBelow, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.

This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.

Sitting in the 18th slot in the Table of Contents is: The Needle’s Eye, winner of the Aurora Award for Short Fiction (English) in 2012.

I became fascinated by the global effort to eradicate Smallpox from Earth after reading Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox. That research inspired me to write a story where scientists used components of the Smallpox virus to generate a biological weapon that caused blindness.

And so Retiniapox was born.

ChillingTales_cover110I’m still not certain if scientists have made the right decision to maintain Smallpox samples at various Biosafety Level 4 Laboratories. But if I spend too much time thinking about BSL4 protocols, I’ll never sleep again.

Originally published in Chilling Tales: Evil Did I Dwell; Lewd I Did Live, The Needle’s Eye  imagines a world where a genetically engineered virus has been used in a Middle Eastern skirmish…

A biological weapon of war, the virus had been designed to blind its victims, rendering an opposing army helpless. Nature, in its random cruelty had mutated the pathogen to a deadly cousin of Smallpox since its introduction in the battle of Baqa el Gharbiyye.

I don’t come right out and name the medical organization that Lise and Rideau work for in the story, but in my mind they work for Medecins Sans Frontiers / Doctors Without Borders (MSF/DWB).

MSF/DWB does great work. If you’re searching for place to share your charity cash, check out their site to learn about the countries where they’ve made a difference.

MSF/DWB was established by a group of French Doctors and their French name is always listed before their English name. That’s why I decided to make my two protagonists Francophone doctors from MontrĂ©al.

Fun Fact

The Needle’s Eye  plays homage to my paternal grandparents (who were Francophone) and my maternal grandparents (who were blind).

Nanny and G Tommy miniMy paternal grandmother Dorothy and her second partner Tommy were both Francophone (one from Quebec and the other from Northern Ontario). I have many fond memories of hearing them speak French whenever they didn’t want us grandkids to understand what they were talking about.

I still remember one time, right around my 10th birthday, when I heard them say a word that sounded like either “cadeau” (present) or “gateau” (cake).

I piped up and said, “Hey! You guys are talking about my birthday, aren’t you?”

They looked at each other in frustration and then laughed.

Rea and Ella Wedding miniMy maternal grandparents (Rea and Ella Beacock) were both blind. They met at the Ontario School for the Blind (now called the W. Ross Macdonald School). At that time (late 1920s) the students were not permitted to fraternize since back then, two blind people were considered to be “incapable” of looking after children. They snuck around, as teenagers will do, and their clandestine tomfoolery blossomed into marriage.

Ella was an accomplished pianist. When she passed away, Rea established a memorial fund to help pay to have sheet music translated into Braille. While the fund has moved around, it’s currently housed at the Glenn Gould School, Royal Conservatory of Music, Toronto.

Read more about the Rea and Ella Beacock Memorial Fund (scroll down to page 6), another good place to share your charity cash.

Elements LJ sizeELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction is available in Canada and the USA from EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing.