Perfections Finally in Print … and a Launch!

Perfections by Kirstyn McDermottMy second novel, Perfections, was originally published in the dying days of 2012 by a fledging digital publisher and was made available only as an ebook. Surprisingly for me — as books published in the dying days of years are easily overlooked for awards — it still managed to pick up a couple of significant honours: the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Novel and the Australian Shadows Award for Best Novel. It also received some wonderful reviews at the time, for which I remain exceedingly grateful. But for various reasons — catch me in a bar sometime and ply me with gin and tonics — it seemed to slide beneath the notice of most readers and earlier this year the rights quietly reverted to me and it was withdrawn from sale by the publisher. I was, also quietly, very sad.

Look, I’ll be honest: I hated this book for a long time. During the bulk of the writing process, which is not entirely unusual for me, but afterwards as well. I joke with friends that it’s the book that tried to kill me, but it’s only half a joke and, to be fair, I tried to kill it just as ruthlessly. For a long time, it felt like Perfections was refusing to be the book I wanted to write. Willfully refusing. I wanted to write a dark, nightmarish tale full of blood and murder and magical mayhem and Perfections wanted to be this girlie story about sisters and relationships and love and sacrifice. Which, of course, couldn’t be real horror. Because girlie stuff.

Want to experience a severe sense of self-dislocation? Try being a feminist and having all that crap running through your head on a daily basis. It makes you finally sit down and interrogate yourself about matters of gender and genre and skewed cultural values, about how you love and will defend to the death unapologetically female horror fiction, and about exactly why it is you seem unable to apply these same principles to your own work. It makes you grow the hell up. I’m a better feminist because of Perfections.

(Want to experience an even more severe sense of self-dislocation? Try writing the last 18,000 words of your novel in one nightmarish week, taking off only three nights to sleep during that time, and then have beta readers tell you that they cannot tell the difference between those words and the rest of the book. It makes you reconsider all the things you think about yourself as a writer and your stupid, slow, careful process. It makes you grow the hell up. I’m a better writer because of Perfections.)

In any case, Perfections IS a dark, nightmarish tale full of blood and murder and magical mayhem and it is ALSO an unashamedly female story, about sisters and mothers and the strange, powerful, twisted relationships that can sometimes be wrought within families. AND it is a damned good horror novel, if I do say so myself. 🙂

So we’ve come to terms at last, the novel and myself, and I can finally say that I truly am proud of it. Which is why I’m so excited that Twelfth Planet Press will be republishing Perfections and bringing it into print for the very first time. You don’t know how many people I’ve had over the past 18 months beg to know when a “real” version of the book was going to be available. Or maybe you do. Maybe you’re even one of them! If so, you’ll be delighted to hear that it is available for pre-order right now via the Twelfth Planet Press website — the new ebook will be available soon as well.

We are also launching Perfections this weekend at Continuum X in Melbourne, along with the latest installment in the Twelve Planets series, The Secret Lives of Books by Rosaleen Love. If you’ll be at the convention, we’d love you to come along:

Date: Sunday, 9 June 2014

Time: 11.00am – 11.30am

Venue: Continuum X : Carnival of Lost Souls
InterContinental Melbourne The Rialto
495 Collins St, Melbourne

Finally, I’d like to thank Alisa Krasnostein and all the team at Twelfth Planet from the bottom of my heart for their genuinely amazing efforts in getting Perfections to print so quickly. Seriously, I approached Alisa on 19 April about the possibility of publishing Perfections and here we are, less than two months later, the book all set to go out into the world with a gorgeous new cover by Amanda Rainey. Astonishing speed — Alisa has some dark magical abilities of her own when it comes to squeezing every last drop of time out of the day.

And now for some requisite blurbage:

PERFECTIONS

Two sisters. One wish. Unimaginable consequences.

Not all fairy tales are for children.

Antoinette and Jacqueline have little in common beyond a mutual antipathy for their paranoid, domineering mother, a bond which has united them since childhood. In the aftermath of a savage betrayal, Antoinette lands on her sister’s doorstep bearing a suitcase and a broken heart.

But Jacqueline, the ambitious would-be manager of a trendy Melbourne art gallery, has her own problems – chasing down a delinquent painter in the sweltering heat of a Brisbane summer. Abandoned, armed with a bottle of vodka and her own grief-spun desires, Antoinette weaves a dark and desperate magic that can never, ever be undone.

Their lives swiftly unravelling, the two sisters find themselves drawn into a tangle of lies, manipulations and the most terrible of family secrets.

Perfections sings from the page.
It is dark, compelling and monstrously beautiful.’.
Alison Goodman, New York Times bestselling author of Eon and Eona

‘Kirstyn McDermott’s prose is darkly magical, insidious and insistent. Once her words get under your skin, they are there to stay.’.
Angela Slatter, British Fantasy Award-winning author of Sourdough and Other Stories

‘Perfections is a sharp, creepy and deeply discomfiting novel full of awkward truths and raw emotions.’
Tansy Rayner Roberts, author of the Creature Court Trilogy and Love and Romanpunk.

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Caution: Contains Small Parts – A Cover and a Launch!

Caution Contains Small Parts by Kirstyn McDermottVery exciting news today! My Twelve Planets collection is finally done, dusted and off to the printers. It’s called Caution: Contains Small Parts and will feature two short stories and two novellas. As she has done with the rest of the series, Amanda Rainey has produced a brilliant cover that manages to capture the feel of the whole collection, while specifically illustrating the titular story. I love it so much!

The collection will be launched at Continuum 9 in Melbourne, so if you’ll be at the convention, please come along and help me celebrate :

When: 6pm – Sunday, 9 June 2013

Where: Continuum 9 @ Ether – lower level, 285 Little Bourke Street, Melbourne (check con program for the room)

Naturally, if you can’t make it to the launch, you can always purchase the book direct from Twelfth Planet Press. It’s available right now for individual pre-order or as part of the Twelve Planets subscription. I cannot recommend this series more highly and am delighted to note that Kaaron Warren and Margo Lanagan both just won Aurealis Awards for stories in their particular volumes.

As part of the lead up to the launch, I’m planning a series of “Story Notes” type posts in which I’ll talk about each of the four pieces in the collection. These will mostly focus on the background to the stories, with anecdotal discussion of inspiration, process, and so on — no actual spoilers, I promise!  They’ll go up every few days over the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned.

Caution: Contains Small Parts is an intimate, unsettling collection from award-winning author Kirstyn McDermott.

A creepy wooden dog that refuses to play dead.

A gifted crisis counsellor and the mysterious, melancholy girl she cannot seem to reach.

A once-successful fantasy author whose life has become a horror story – now with added unicorns.

An isolated woman whose obsession with sex dolls takes a harrowing, unexpected turn.

Four stories that will haunt you long after their final pages are turned.

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Twelfth Planet Press at the Melbourne Writers Festival

Somehow, it’s already August and that means the Melbourne Writers Festival is just around the corner. Twelfth Planet Press is hosting a fun little shindig this this year so, if you’ll be in Melbourne later this month, please come along. As well as being a general showcase of TPP’s exciting adventures in publishing thus far, the event will highlight the acclaimed Twelve Planets series of story collections and launch the two latest releases: Through Splintered Walls by Kaaron Warren and Cracklescape by Margo Lanagan. There’ll be drinks and nibblies and lots of clever, witty writers. We’d all love to see you!

When: Sunday, 26 August — 5.30pm sharp
Where: Yarra Building, Federation Square, Melbourne
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Twelfth Planet Press Showcase

click to enlarge

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Interim: Twelve Planets Podcast at Embiggen Books

I’ve been very remiss in reporting back about the fabulous Continuum 8 last weekend, and I hope to rectify that very soon, but here’s a little podcast I wanted to get up ASAP. Because of the convention, a whole bunch of normally interstate folks were in Melbourne and so it was deemed an appropriate opportunity for most of the Twelve Planet authors to get together and record an interview. There were nine of us altogether, as well as our indomitable publisher, Alisa Krasnostein, and Ian Mond very kindly volunteered to host and ask questions. The podcast was recorded at Embiggen Books, which I am ashamed to say I had not previously visited, and which I am somewhat fearful to say I will now visit a little too often … It was great fun to catch up with everyone, if somewhat daunting to be in the same room as all these tremendously talented women!

Anyway, the podcast is now available for direct download and streaming from the website or via subscription from iTunes. Hope you enjoy it!

Here are the show notes:

In collaboration with Twelfth Planet Press and recorded live at the beautiful Embiggen Books in Melbourne, The Writer and the Critic is delighted to present a special podcast dedicated to the critically acclaimed Twelve Planets series of short story collections.

Twelfth Planet Press

Join host Ian Mond as he interviews Twelve Planet authors Deborah Biancotti, Narrelle M. Harris, Deborah Kalin, Margo Lanagan, Rosaleen Love, Kirstyn McDermott, Tansy Rayner Roberts, Lucy Sussex and Kaaron Warren, along with publisher Alisa Krasnostein. It’s a fun, informal conversation which — and this is how you know it’s not an official Writer and Critic episode — goes for less than 50 minutes! You’re welcome.

Twelve Planets at Embiggen Books

Photographs by Jason Nahrung

The Twelve Planets are twelve boutique collections by some of Australia’s finest short story writers. Varied across genre and style, each collection will offer four short stories and a unique glimpse into worlds fashioned by some of our favourite storytellers. Each author has taken the brief of 4 stories and up to 40 000 words in their own direction. Some are quartet suites of linked stories. Others are tasters of the range and style of the writer. Each release will bring something unexpected to our subscriber’s mailboxes.

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A Study in Blue: Salvage by Jason Nahrung

Because if you can’t plug the soon-to-be-published books of your beloved, what on earth can you plug?

Salvage by Jason Nahrung

I love this cover for Salvage so very much. It captures the feel and mood of the novella perfectly — the team over at Twelfth Planet Press have done a splendid job as usual, and I’m looking forward to seeing this little book in the flesh at last. It’s a beautiful, creepy, melancholy story … somewhat different from the kind of fiction Jason usually writes; more restrained, but no less emotionally heightened for all that. It might be my favourite piece of his. For now anyway.

Salvage is being launched at Continuum 8 in June but if you won’t be there, it’s also available for pre-order from Twelfth Planet Press for $15.00 (plus shipping).

Seeking to salvage their foundering marriage, Melanie and Richard retreat to an isolated beach house on a remote Queensland island.

Intrigued by a chance encounter with a stranger, Melanie begins to drift away from her husband and towards Helena, only to discover that Helena has her own demons, ageless and steeped in blood.

As Richard’s world and Helena’s collide, Melanie must choose which future she wants, before the dark tide pulls her under … forever.

My ‘Meet the Writer’ Interview at Read Horror

It’s been quiet around here lately, mainly because I’ve been a) wrestling with a new computer, and b) wrestling with my novel. More of the former this past week, unfortunately! But I am getting the words down and I expect a massive boost from Rabbit Hole this weekend. I’m not insane enough to set myself the 30,000 words target, but I am trying for 10,000 over three days — which is near warp speed for me considering my obsessive, stitch-in-time, edit-as-I-g0 process. I’ll report back next week on how I did. See, accountability!

In the meantime, here’s an interview I did for Michael Wilson for Read Horror. I enjoyed answering the questions, even though I did find the one asking why people should read my work to be a particular challenge. Obviously, I need to get better at the whole self-promotion thing. You know, being able to publicly acknowledge that my writing is actually good and that people might actually enjoy reading it. I’m pretty crap at that. Of course, “enjoy” is such a relative term . . .

Right, back to the words.

Ditmars Awards and Myth-Information

This is the first of two posts I plan to write about the latest Ditmar Awards controversy which ran rampant in certain corners of the internet over the past couple of days. I’m not going to name names or list a series of links. If you don’t already know what’s been happening — and you really care — it’s easy enough to dig around and find out. I’m writing this post first, because it’s the easy one.  Tomorrow I’m going to talk about the perceived problems surrounding the Ditmar Awards and hopefully contribute to finding solutions. But first, today.

As a lot of you will no doubt be aware, there has been some very heated discussion (to use the word loosely) over the results of this year’s Ditmar and Tin Duck Awards. If you’ve not yet seen the results, they are listed in full at the Locus website. A bunch of folks won multiple awards on the night and one small press publisher, Twelfth Planet Press (to be referred to herein as TPP), was very well represented indeed. The fact that Alisa Krasnostein (TPP owner and publisher) was also convener of SwanCon36/NatCon50 was pointed out as a possible conflict of interest and accusations of lobbying and unfair advantage were made. Some people defended the awards and the winners, others sided with those who felt the results were “embarrassing” and did not provide a true representation of the Australian spec fic community. I participated in the discussion on one forum and see little worth in hashing through it all it again here.

However, an aspect that I find particularly troubling is the grouping of a whole bunch of individual award winners into one homogeneous TPP mass, a grouping which has served as the basis of a lot of the recent argument and debate. The phrases “16 out of 18” (as a ratio of TPP wins to total awards) and “clean sweep” were repeated in various forums, and the concept seems to have become a slippery “fact” that even folks who were defending TPP from various insinuations no longer dispute. Twelfth Planet Press sweeped the 2011 Ditmar Awards; what remained to be discussed was how.

But let’s take a closer look:

Between the Ditmars (including the Atheling) and the Tin Ducks, there were a total of 20 awards given out over eighteen categories (two categories resulted in ties with joint winners).

Twelfth Planet Press was the publisher associated with a total of 10 awards. (Ditmars: Novella/Novelette, Short Story, Collected Work, Fan Writer, Fan Publication; Tin Ducks: Written Short Form, Professional Art, Professional Production, Fan Written, Fan Production.)

An astounding achievement, certainly, but hardly a “clean sweep”. So where does that phrase, and the 16/18 ratio, come from? The “18” part is easy — you discount the fact that two categories (one Ditmar, one Tin Duck) had joint winners and simply elect to count the categories rather than the actual awards given. But how does 10 awards turn into 16?

Watch closely kids, here’s some stellar prestidigitation for you:

  • The Ditmar Best Achievement was awarded to Alisa Krasnostein, Kathryn Linge, Rachel Holkner, Alexandra Pierce, Tansy Rayner Roberts & Tehani Wessely for the “Snapshot 2010”. This was not a TPP production but because Alisa was involved, you can count it as one anyway. So were her fellow Galactic Suburbanites, Tansy and Alex, for that matter. Plus Tehani reviews for ASiF (and won a Tin Duck for her work). Both Galactic Suburbia and ASiF are TPP productions. Doesn’t matter that the Snapshot wasn’t — you can definitely count it. That’s 1.
  • Now, Tansy Rayner Roberts also won Ditmar Best Novel and the Atheling Award. Power and Majesty was published by HarperVoyager and  “A Modern Woman’s Guide to Classic Who” appeared her own website. But it doesn’t matter, because she does work with Alisa and TPP as well, so these are obviously defacto wins for TPP. That makes 3 so far.
  • Then there’s Amanda Rainey, who won both a Ditmar (Fan Artist) and a Tin Duck (Fan Art) for her SwanCon36 logo. Nothing to do with TPP? No, but she has designed a lot of TPP book covers over the years. Sure, she’s also done covers for other small presses such as Ticonderoga and Fablecroft, but we’ll count these two awards for TPP anyway because Amanda does contract work for Alisa. There, now we have 5.
  • We can easily grab number 6 from the Ditmar Best New Talent, because Thoraiya Dyer has been published by TPP. Not exclusively, but enough that we can count her as part of the TPP conglomerate. That’s an extra 6 awards we can credit for TPP, which brings us to the magic number of 16. As in 16 out of 18.

And let’s take one last look at the number 18, shall we? As mentioned above, this was derived from counting categories rather than awards. In the Ditmar Short Story category, I tied with Cat Sparks. My story came from a Morrigan Books anthology, Cat’s from a TPP book. In the Tin Duck Fan Art category, Amanda Rainey’s SwanCon36 logo (designated TPP as above) tied with an artwork by Christina Lorenz. But if you’re making the case for a “clean sweep” then you simply use the number of categories for your total while counting any tied category with one TPP winner as win wholly for TPP. Sure, it’s not entirely accurate but does get rid of a couple of troubling non-TPP award winners when it comes to crunching numbers, and leaves only the winners of Ditmar Best Artwork (Shaun Tan) and Tin Duck Written Long Form (Juliet Marillier) standing apart from the Twelfth Planet Press crowd.

Quite a feat isn’t it? Of course Shaun Tan did supply cover artwork for Fablecroft, which is run by Tehani Wessely who won a Tin Duck for her ASiF reviews (a TPP publication) so perhaps we can count him as part of TPP as well. Then it would be 17 out of 18. I wonder if Julia has any connections with Alisa . . .

See how ridiculous it all gets? The Australian spec fic community is incredibly small, especially when you consider the wealth of creative talent and productivity to be found within its ranks. As I said somewhere yesterday, the famous rule about six degrees of separation is overkill when it comes to Aussie spec fic — two or three degrees would be enough to put you in touch with just about everyone else. To lump individuals, and their individual achievements, together in order to belabour a point or bolster an argument — just because they’re friends or have worked together on other projects —  is both unfair and unwarranted. It belittles the awards, it belittles individual achievement, and it belittles those who make such generalisations in the first place.

Regardless of which side you stand on the Great Ditmar Debate of 2011, and what outcomes you’d like to see in terms of rule changes or future voter encouragement (more on this tomorrow), I hope that at least you agree that care needs to be taken when talking about such potentially sensitive issues. Facts need to be correct, especially when you’re relying on said facts to argue a particular case. Moreover, I really do hope that the myth of the “TPP Clean Sweep” or the “16/18 ratio” gets put to bed. It’s not accurate, it’s not fair, and it’s not helpful.

And I thought this was the easy post.

[Disclaimer: Although I have not worked with Alisa Krasnostein or Twelfth Planet Press previously, I will be publishing a collection as part of the Twelve Planets series in 2012. I don’t believe this has any bearing on my opinions expressed either in this post or elsewhere over the past couple of days, but I’m happy to acknowledge the relationship.]