Christopher M. Cevasco, Author

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Old and New

With 2011 winding down, I thought I’d spew a few thoughts before entering the new year…

Inhuman #5Back at the end of October, I attended the World Fantasy Convention in San Diego, where I was very happy to receive contributor copies of Allen K’s Inhuman Magazine #5.  The issue contains my story “The Lion of Orkahaugr,” which is about a marauding band of Norsemen on 12th-century Orkney who stir up something sinister when they break into a prehistoric chambered tomb. I actually sold the story to Allen Koszowski six years ago, but the issue was much delayed owing to Allen’s poor health; happily he’s recovered now, and the magazine is up and running again via Centipede Press. The lag time brought an interesting phenomenon into sharp focus for me: it afforded me a window into my own growth as a writer, something that’s often very difficult to measure. Even veteran writers with dozens of best-sellers under their belts will tell you they’re always honing their craft, trying to improve with each new project. But when one is writing, one is so close to the words and the craft that it can be hard to get a measurable sense of growth and change.

As a father of two young children, it struck me as similar to watching my children grow. Other people are always commenting on how much bigger they’ve gotten and how much older they look, but for my wife and I who are with them every day, we really don’t notice those changes until we go back and look at photos of our kids from three months or six months or a year or two ago; then we’re astounded at how much they’ve magically transformed without our even noticing! Old stories are the writer’s equivalent of old snapshots of the kids. Looking at that “Orkahaugr” story which is 6+ years old and re-reading it for the first time in quite a while was eye-opening. I’m still happy with how the story turned out, but there were also quite a number of moments during the re-read in which I found myself thinking such things as: “Oh, how clumsy. Too much exposition. Needs more foreshadowing. Oh, I would do that differently now!” Etc. And this is a good thing. Even an inspiring thing! It reminded me I’m not simply stuck in a holding pattern, churning out words and stories in a static vacuum, but rather that every word I write and every experience I have in life does change me as a writer, hopefully for the better, even when it’s hard to notice that change on a day-to-day basis.

Smilla's Sense of SnowOne resolution I’ll be making for the new year is to get back to reading more books–something that tapered off for me toward the busy end of 2011. That being said, I did manage to read some excellent books this past year, most notably the long awaited A Dance With Dragons by George R.R. Martin, which was more than worth the wait and which I read after re-reading the first four books in his Song of Ice and Fire series. All I can say is that I’m truly in awe of the man’s craft. The series ranks among the very best works of fiction in any genre by any author living or dead I’ve had the pleasure to read–pure genius. I also read Peter Høeg’s Smilla’s Sense of Snow, which was unusual, disturbing and beautiful–absolutely great. Some of my other favorite reads of the year included Connie Willis’s Blackout and C.C. Humphrey’s Vlad: The Last Confession. I just started reading Inés of My Soul, by Isabel Allende, which will carry me over into 2012…

Soundtrack CoverWith our tree still up and Christmas cookies still being consumed, I thought I’d also mention a few of the gifts I received that made me giddily happy Santa knows me so well: four obscure texts on Anglo-Saxon England (three for researching various writing projects, one just to read for pleasure); the latest Tolkien calendar (I’ve received one for Christmas every year since 1985 and still have them all); and the soundtrack to my favorite movie–A Lion in Winter (the 1968 original with Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn rather than the more recent remake with Patrick Stewart and Glenn Close–even the appealing prospect of seeing Capt. Picard as Henry II isn’t enough to make me actually watch the remake, the very existence of which I consider blasphemy).

On the writing front, while I continue to seek representation for my first novel, Dreaming the North, I’ve put the writing of the second and third books in that trilogy on hold while I work on an entirely new standalone novel that will return the Lady Godiva legend to its proper historical context. The end result will be a thriller set in 11th-century England. I anticipate having a draft of that novel done by the end of March. I’m also about halfway through writing a short story that will be my first attempt at an historical mystery–set among the indigenous Sami people of northern Norway, also in the 11th-century. I’m excited to finish that up and begin shopping it around! I’m also very excited that I’ll be attending the Wellspring Writing Workshop/Retreat in lovely Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, in August, organized by my friend and fellow-writer Brad Beaulieu. The workshop will be for purposes of novel critiquing and is modeled on the Blue Heaven workshop started by another writer friend, Charles Coleman Finlay. More details on that as the workshop nears.

In terms of conventions, I know for sure that I’ll be attending the Historical Novel Society’s conference in London at the end of September. I’ve been to every one of the society’s North American conferences since they started holding them every two years back in 2005, but I’ve never been to one of the UK ones (which now also seem to be held every other year in between the the North American ones), so I’m very much looking forward to it. There’s also a very good chance I’ll be attending both Readercon in Massachusetts in May and World Fantasy in Toronto at the beginning of November. I’d also love to be able to make it to either WisCon or CapClave, but for now I’m unsure whether time and budget constraints will permit that.

And that’s pretty much where things stand. Here’s hoping for a happy, healthy, and productive New Year for me and you, mine and yours, and all and sundry!

Onward…

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5 Responses »

  1. Chris, belated congrats on the story publication and on the insight into the progress of your writing.

    It sounds as if you’ve got a great conference schedule planned for 2012. I don’t know whether I’ll see you at any or not. HNS is far away, and WFC will be very, very cold (although I very much would like to see Liz Hand, who was one of my Clarion teachers). I hope you have a wonderful time at them all and a wonderful 2012 overall.

  2. Sounds like you had a good year, with another good one on the way. The Godiva novel–cool project, and something that should pique some interest. Success to you.

    And I did NOT know that The Lion in Winter had been remade. Arrrrggh.

  3. Ooh, I love the Lion in Winter! I also didn’t know there was a remake, but I will follow your excellent example in eschewing it.

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