Since 1997, Canadian author and former biologist Julie E. Czerneda has shared her love and curiosity about living things through her science fiction, published by DAW Books, NY. Recently, she began her first fantasy series: Night’s Edge with A Turn of Light, which won the 2014 Aurora Award for Best English Novel. A Play of Shadow followed, winning the 2015 Aurora. While there’ll be more fantasy, Julie’s back in science fiction to complete her Clan Chronicles series. Reunification #1: This Gulf of Time and Stars, was released Nov 2015, with #2: The Gate to Futures Past out this September. For more, visit www.czerneda.com, or find Julie on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.
Roger Czerneda’s love of photography began when he worked at his uncle’s camera store while going to high school. After obtaining a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Waterloo, Roger worked as an environmental chemist and computer programmer, all the while continuing to develop his photographic skills. By 1986, Roger grabbed his camera and also began life as a professional photographer, first in film and now totally digital. He’s made the leap from commercial and industrial photography to express himself as a visual artist. Roger is drawn to subjects in the real world that inspire the imagination or that tell a story.
I’d like to start with three cheers for SF Signal. Wonder why so many of us show up here? It’s all due to the generosity and enthusiasm of John and Kristin and all the folks behind this wonderful site, who love genre fiction as much as we do. Thank you yet again!
“No Place Like Home” is, right now, my only science fiction novella. I wrote it ten years ago for Marvin Kaye’s anthology Forbidden Planets in 2006, a SFBC special publication. (If you have a chance to grab a copy, it’s a fantastic book, from cover to the stellar company inside.)
If not? Well, that’s why I’m here, in part. I’ve noticed friends and colleagues publishing ebook versions of their backlist, novels and stories, as well as to add new short works to existing series. Check out Lois McMaster Bujold, Michelle West, Doranna Durgin, Kristine Smith, Jim C. Hines, and Beth Cato, to name a few.
Great idea, thought I, putting it firmly aside. Maybe next year. Or the one after.
Then a dear friend who knows all about books and readers pointed out another advantage: keeping readers happy.
Readers, you see, have this dismaying habit. They read faster than anyone could write. So quickly, in fact, do they gobble up a new book that one a year does not satisfy them! Fiends! (You know who you are.) While impatient anticipation is flattering and has its plusses, every so often I’d feel as though eyeballs were in my ceiling, watching me type, willing me to type faster. Or worse, following me around the office when I wasn’t typing, willing me to get back to work.
What if, between books, I could provide something more substantial than snippets and hints?
Maybe next year. Or the one after.
I mentioned all this to my best friend, business partner, and spouse of approaching 40 years, Roger Czerneda.
Who said, “Leave that with me.”
So I did.
Roger and I owned a non-fiction publishing company back in the days of blues and plates and printing houses. Czerneda Publishing Inc. had clients ranging from other publishers to Tim Hortons. I did the editorial side, Roger did the graphic design, including any required photography. We ended the company when I began writing fiction full-time and he started a computer IT company, and we never thought to be publishers again. (Other than a brief flirtation with my own imprint, a story for a quiet moment in a bar if you like.)
One of my strengths as an anthology editor was knowing the process from manuscript to book—trust me, computers and software aside, it hasn’t changed. What you may not know is that when computers and software loomed on our horizon, I’d taken exactly ½ credit in computer science, enough to use a keypunch machine and know non-biological bugs were bad. In 1985, when I signed my first pro contract as an author, Roger whisked away my typewriter and introduced me to personal computing. Whoa!
Fast forward thirty years. He’d returned to his first love, photography, while I kept writing. Roger produced my promotional materials, took my amazing author photos, and designed www.czerneda.com (and so much more, but suffice to say we’re a team). Sufficient yes?
Oh no. I walked away from his “Leave that with me,” dropped the story file into a shared folder, and had no idea what was about to happen.
A hush fell over the house.
Let me assure you, it’s very distracting when someone’s reading your stuff with such intensity you’re afraid to cough in the same room.
Finished, he disappeared.
Reappearing some hours later with the pencil sketch of the cover you see here. Just to check if he was close.
Close? It was perfect. Here’s the excerpt he later admitted had caught his artist’s eye.
Drewe squinted as lights came on from every direction. The brightness obliterated all but curiosity. Quills relaxed, she released her death’s grip on the rim, already sore fingers complaining this added abuse, and let herself drift forward. “Nevarr–what is this place?”
“This? Just another storeroom. Come along, Drewe.”
It resembled no storeroom Drewe had ever seen. The light curved over gleaming bronze orbs larger than her body. They packed the available space, clumped in no discernable pattern, as if when left unwatched they came free and jostled for position. Specimen containers, Drewe realized with awe as she neared the first floating cluster, used to the knuckle-sized version she controlled when collecting genetic samples for return to the ship. She hadn’t realized they could be made this large.
She brushed her hands along those she passed, half to be sure they were real, half to keep moving to where Nevarr waited. Their polished surfaces stole the warmth from her skin.
“What are these?” she asked when she reached Nevarr. He glanced at the orbs as if only noticing them because of her question. “What’s inside?” she amended.
“Phenotypes,” he said, as if it should be obvious, then beckoned her to follow. “This way. Come on.”
“Phenotypes of what?”
Nevarr halted his motion and turned to face her. For the first time in a long while, Drewe hated being unable to read his expression. Worse, she felt her quills fluttering again, her apprehension plain for him to see.
Sure enough, he smiled as he pointed to a dense clump of orbs overhead. “Those are of you.”
It took a bit for me to convince Roger that yes, his first stab at a concept was exactly what I’d love to have, and that I didn’t need more. (File under the heading of “nice problem.”)
While I dove back into my work-in-progress, Roger entered the world of ebook self-publishing. Already familiar with how to obtain ISBNs and supplying the requisite copy to the Canadian National Archives, etc, he reviewed international tax regulations, format requirements, and went through online hoops I didn’t have to see. Oh, and he created the wonderful digital art you see here. My contribution? I had him sign it. Can you spot his initials?
We kept this secret. Kept it safe. Mostly because it was fun having a new collaboration brewing. When the day came, we sat together to upload the file and cover, then celebrated with music and wine. As one should.
Roger admits he’s had a blast flexing his design skills, especially for the cover, and we’ve the necessary information ready to go into more formats. From my side? I didn’t lose a day from writing my novel, yet have what I wanted, something for my readers between books. If the result proves worthwhile, I’m sure we’ll do more of this.
More for you, dear readers. More celebrating for us.
Is it any wonder I love my life?