Claudie Arseneault was actually the first person to introduce me to the term solarpunk (a genre I've been rambling non-stop about ever since), through the call for submissions to her solarpunk dragons anthology Wings of Renewal. I've been following her career ever since, and it turns out she's just an all-around good person and awesome writer whom I'm glad to have encountered.
Today, I've invited Claudie onto my blog to talk about her new fantasy novel Baker Thief.
Here's what the book is about:
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
In a nutshell, what was the path from idea to publication for BAKER THIEF?
I started Baker Thief as a project that would be as fun and tropy as I wanted it to be, a story in which I’d allow myself to write Whatever I Wanted. The first glimpse of the project involved an investigator looking for a thief at a masked ball and a f/f romance—that changed quite a bit, but I was already aiming for The Good Tropes.
I hadn’t even put the first word down before I knew one of the MCs would be bigender and aromantic, and that I didn’t want romance, but a queerplatonic relationship. These stories were near impossible to find (they still are hard, but it got better), and I felt drawn to them. Turns out that was because I was aromantic myself, but I didn’t know at the time. I also… jumped in with as much French as I wanted to, and to have my language in there quickly became incredibly meaningful and important to me.
It took me quite a few drafts to get the ending right, then it made the typical rounds of dev editing through writer friends, sensitivity readers, beta readers, and copyediting. I started the first draft in February 2016, and here we are, about a year and a half later.
What’s your typical writing routine? Do you write at a certain time of day, have word count goals, a particular playlist you listen to, etc.?
It really depends on what part of the process I’m at. If I’m creating new words, typically for first drafts, I will write nearly every day and set word count goals (usually around 700-1,000 for weekdays, and 1,500-2,000 for weekends). As a writer, I do a lot better if my progress is constant. My full-time job makes this rather difficult, however, which means that I will write whenever I can. At least half of Baker Thief has been written on my cellphone during transit, and a good chunk of the other half was over my lunch break.
I don’t have playlists as much as I have artists I’ll put on and listen on loop. And I don’t mean many of them. Most of my previous novels were written and edited on a background of Mumford and Sons. For Baker Thief, though, I stuck to artists from Québec, either Karkwa or Dumas. It felt right to listen to local music for a WIP that drew so intensely from my roots.
What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a fantasy novel?
The first and most important for me is… don’t give up. Get to the end. Writing the end will teach you so much about the craft, about your story. Even if you end up trashing the story, it will be worthwhile (and you will have finished a draft!). That doesn’t mean you have to power through unquestioningly, though. Different writers need different things to get to the end. I handle unclear drafts very well, so I write start to finish without ever revising what’s behind, even if I decided halfway through I need to make a major change. I just take a note, act like the change is done, and move on. I know writers who couldn’t do that—no chance in hell—so they revise as they go, and their first drafts take longer but are a lot cleaner.
So I guess my biggest piece of advice is experiment. Try things out! See what works for you, what allows you to progress and what just makes you hyper-anxious and unproductive. We all work differently, and sometimes our process even changes from one story to another. But if you find yourself never finishing anything? Find a way to get to that end; you’re limiting your growth otherwise.
You’re very invested in the topic of asexual/aromantic representation. Do you remember the first time you saw this type of character represented well in fiction? What are some other published books that get it right?
My first time was for a sex-repulsed asexual character, Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. Nadin struggles a lot with her sex-repulsion and there are scenes throughout the novel that felt like someone had spied on my life. One in particular made me set the book down, because I needed time to take it all in.
That was my first time, but by actively seeking representation over the course of the last 2-3 years, I’ve found so many more. I couldn’t even begin to list them all here. I recommend picking up the Chameleon Moon series, as it has an alloromantic asexual MC in the first book, and an aromantic asexual one in the second (and a whole lot more queer disabled diversity). If you’re more a contemporary person, then Let’s Talk About Love is about a biromantic asexual black girl. For aromantic characters, Darcie Little Badger has a wonderful short story, “Nkásht íí”, that is online for free and is all about friendship. I also thoroughly enjoyed A Promise Broken, from Lynn E. O’Connacht—a low-stakes fantasy of manners about a girl grieving and her aroace uncle.
As I said, there are many more out there! You can check out Penny Stirling’s list of aromantic or asexual fiction that’s free online, Queer Books for Teens recommendations for aromantic and asexual, or even access my database which has a record of all the aro or ace fiction I could find, with tags and filters to make it easier to narrow down on what you really want.
How have your own baking adventures informed the development of BAKER THIEF?
Not in major ways. I was already well into the novel by the time I got really into baking, and I’d done my fair share of research before. It did change the way I described it—the details, basically. It’s just not the same until you have both of your hands in the dough and your lower back kinda hurts from all the kneading and you got flour over your clothes again because you keep forgetting an apron.
Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you, online or off?
I don’t have a lot of in-person stuff coming up, but I attend Can*Con every year, and I expect to be at Sirens Con this year, too! October is my convention month, haha. I am much easier to find online, however. I tweet at ClH2OArs and my website is at claudiearseneault.com. You can also support me more directly on Patreon.
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailfing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017. Her next book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.
Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!
I've been reading through submissions for my anthology Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers, which closes to submissions on November 15, 2017, and I'm loving a lot of the stories I'm seeing there. If you have something that fits the theme, or can write it by November 15th, please send it to me!
A couple of months ago, I posted 10 Markets for Solarpunk Stories. Some of those deadlines are coming up, and I've come across even more projects that would be great for solarpunk writers to submit to. Most of these don't explicitly ask for solarpunk, but many of them have environmental or social justice themes that are absolutely compatible with solarpunk. Okay, and the last two are a little different—rather than anthologies or magazines, it's a publisher's unagented open door (they say they're looking for utopian and cli-fi!) and a call for academic papers on utopian and dystopian literature of the 21st century.
I'm not affiliated with any of these projects, so please follow links/guidelines/etc. But if you do get a solarpunk story accepted by any of these markets, please come back and leave a comment to let me know!
New to submitting short stories? Check out my blog about that here.
1. Economic Security Project
Contest, Stories Published by Gizmodo’s io9
Submission Window: Submissions are due November 1st, 2017
Length: up to 5,000 words
Payment: $12,000 over 2018 in $1,000 per month payments beginning 2/1/2018, as well as airfare and accommodations to attend an awards dinner in San Francisco, date tbd (the “Grand Prize”). Short list winners will receive $1,000 upon publication.
What might a world look like where all of our most basic needs are met? In 5,000 words or less, we want you to explore the impacts of a basic income on individual lives and on society at large. To be clear, we are not expecting you to draft economic policy, but hope to ignite debate around new economies with stories that offer nuanced critique and evidence of impact. Writers may want to address how this economic policy could shift relationships of power, or if economic liberation is even possible without first addressing racial and gender justice. Writers may consider universality (i.e., whether this benefit applies to everyone), investigate the community impact, and even give this economic idea a new name.
Full Guidelines: https://medium.com/economicsecproj/into-the-black-a-short-fiction-contest-with-a-big-prize-f91cd6553967
2. Indigenous Futurisms & Imagining The Decolonial
Anthology or Themed Issue, Published by Anomaly
Submission Window: November 1, 2017 - March 1, 2018
Work should relate or respond to indigenous futurisms, indigenous futures, and/or imagining the decolonial (future, present, or past). Speculative and non-speculative work are both welcome. Imagine the future, re-imagine the past or present. Let’s talk about what future we’re fighting for. What lives we’re living, now.
Note: They accept work in Spanish, Tagalog, and other languages, as well as bilingual work, with or without translations.
Full Guidelines: https://medium.com/anomalyblog/call-for-submissions-indigenous-futurisms-imagining-the-decolonial-7a556a70404f
3. TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue
Anthology, Published by Rosarium Publishing
Submission Window: ends November 1, 2017
Length: 2500 – 7000 words
Payment: $0.06 per word
TROUBLE THE WATERS: Tales from the Deep Blue will be a new anthology of water-themed speculative short stories that explore all kinds of water lore and deities, ancient and new as well as unimagined tales. We want stories with memorable, engaging characters, great and small, epic tales and quieter stories of personal and communal growth. Science fiction, fantasy, horror, interstitial, and unclassifiable works are welcome. We are seeking original stories in English (2500 – 7000 words; pays 6 cents per word) from writers of all walks of life from this beautiful planet and will accept some select reprints (pays 2 cents per word).
Note: Unable to accept simultaneous or multiple submissions.
Full Guidelines: http://rosariumpublishing.com/trouble-the-waters-submissions.html
4. The Golden Key
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: October 1 and November 30, 2017
Length: under 3,000 words
Payment: flat fee of $10
The past year has thrown into sharp relief the surreal terrain of our contemporary landscape, and here at The Golden Key, we have watched this rising social and political upheaval with a contradictory, heart-rending mixture of despair and awe. While the world is facing unconscionable violence and pervasive attacks on human rights, there has been an extraordinary response to these systematic injustices and abuses of power. People have taken to the streets in defense of the rights of women and immigrants, to protest political corruption, to reject white supremacy. And even in the midst of our rage and grief and heartbreak, there has been such beautiful strangeness and joy. More than anything, this past year has shown us we must create radical change, through our words and through our deeds.
With this in mind, The Golden Key has decided to devote our upcoming issue to the theme of revolutionary things. We’re looking for stories and poems that subvert, that upend the old order, that wheel and circle, that present novel modes of belief or being.
Note: Also accepts poetry up to 100 lines.
Full Guidelines: http://www.whatwonderfulthings.net/main/submissions/
5. Broken Metropolis: Queer Tales of a City That Never Was
Anthology, Published by Mason Jar Press
Submission Window: ends December 7, 2017
Length: up to 6,000 words
Payment: $.02/word plus a contributor’s copy
Metropolitan tales of city-focused fantasy with queer perspectives. Squalid flats, glittering spires, and alchemical trolleys. Manipulative heirs, handsome swordswomen and noble automatons. Write us something built with borrowed Bordertown DNA, purloined echoes of House Tremontaine society and stolen grit from the dark of London Below. Be inspired by Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany, China Mieville’s Perdido Street Station, or “The City Born Great” by N.K. Jemisin.
We are looking for stories that explore the edges of urban fantasy through queer stories. While the city these stories are set in should be vast and unnamed, highly specific neighborhoods and landmarks are encouraged and sought after. We welcome a broad interpretation of the genre that is inclusive of postmodern folk tales, future/ancient noir, and stories that happen both behind closed doors and in plain sight. Throughout, we’re looking for rich, varied and nuanced understandings of gender, family and ethnicity.
Full Guidelines: https://masonjarpress.submittable.com/submit
6. The Maleficarum
Magazine, Themed Issue
Submission Window: closes November 15th, 2017
Length: 1,000 to 8,000 words
The Maleficarum is looking for stories about nature. Whether it be the earth taking back what it rightfully belongs, or simple observations of what goes on in life, send me your wonderful works. From these submissions, I will choose 10-15 works to go into the first issue!
Note: Debut issue.
Full Guidelines: https://rosettemaleficarum.wordpress.com/submission-guidelines/
7. After the Orange
Anthology, Published by B-Cubed Press
Submission Window: closes December 15, 2017
Length: 500-5000 words
Payment: $0.02 cent a word paid on publication + shared royalties
We are looking for near- or farther-future stories, society as it is AFTER 2032 – at least two presidential election cycles after Donald Tr*mp’s last eligibility. Show us America or the world in a new era, or look at world politics changed by the actions of US policies and people. Or go beyond.
Stories may present an optimistic or pessimistic, utopian or apocalyptic visions of the future, with some clear connection to current events and the world as it is in 2017. Political shenanigans would be interesting, as well as romance, spooks, robots and evil overlords, satire or parodies. But remember, the world has moved on. The editors generally favor character- and/or plot-driven stories.
Full Guidelines: https://bcubedpress.com/open-for-submissions/after-the-orange/
8. Alien Dimensions
Submission Window: ongoing, see theme deadlines
Length: 3000 to 5000 words
Payment: $10 per story
The goal is to release stories with mind-numbing ideas, brain expanding concepts, or just to get a reader to say WTF? There isn’t enough SF out there that really makes you think about the universe, so, that’s what I’m looking for – something that at least includes SOME hard science. The definition for Alien Dimensions is that science fiction contains real or extrapolated scientific ideas or concepts, and I need more of those. So, I have many fantasy stories ready to go for the rest of the year, but not enough hard core science fiction stories containing real science or non-anthropomorphic aliens. Alien Dimensions is a predominantly positive series about the future.
Full Guidelines: https://aliendimensions.com/submission-guidelines/
9. Angry Robot Open Door 2017
Publisher, Full Length Only
Submission Window: opens November 1, 2017
Length: 70,000 to 130,000 words
Payment: Advance + royalties
We publish Science Fiction and Fantasy. These are wide genres with many, many subgenres, so to be clear: we want anything broadly in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. This includes: alternate history, military SF, space opera, epic fantasy, steampunk, cyberpunk, dieselpunk, silkpunk, anypunk, grimdark, utopian fiction, modern fantasy, cli-fi, unclassifiable SF/fantasy mash-ups, and so on.
We do like getting submissions that are hard to classify, especially if they’re innovative blends of various genres. It’s the Angry Robot way. So if you’ve written a science fiction novel set in an unexpected location – the Stone Age, or Urban Outfitters, say – great. Maybe you’ve found a way to write a novel that combines your interests in cryogenics, social media, and the Third Reich. In short, don’t be afraid to send us your extremely unusual science fiction or fantasy novel – as long as it would sit in that section of the bookshop.
Note: Full book-length manuscripts only
Full Guidelines: https://www.angryrobotbooks.com/open-door-2017-guides-faq/
10. Utopia and Dystopia in the Age of Tr*mp
James Doan and Barbara Brodman, editors
Submission Window: abstracts due by February 1, 2018, finals due September 15, 2018
Length: 5,000-7,000 words (abstracts 300 words)
Editors Barbara Brodman and James Doan are seeking original essays for the fifth in a series of books on images of the supernatural and the futuristic in film, literature and visual arts. This volume and its predecessor, Apocalyptic Chic: Visions of the Apocalypse and Post-Apocalypse in Literature and Visual Arts (Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2017), take the reader into the futuristic realm of apocalypse and post-apocalypse, utopias and dystopias.
Note: This is a call for non-fiction critical essays, not fiction.
Full Guidelines: https://call-for-papers.sas.upenn.edu/cfp/2017/09/05/utopia-and-dystopia-in-the-age-of-trump
This week, I'm wrapping up my reviews for the stories in the anthology Wings of Renewal: A Solarpunk Dragon Anthology.
Did you see parts 1 and 2 of my Wings of Renewal solarpunk book review? You can click here and here to see my reviews of the first 15 stories.
I definitely have favorites, and I definitely have criticisms, but overall, this book has been an enjoyable read. With so few options out there for books and stories that identify as solarpunk, this is a good place to start, and to gather ideas for your own solarpunk stories.
Morelle and Vina by Sam Martin
A couple of kids find an old airplane in the off-limit ruins, and, through some salvage work and genetic engineering, build it into a living dragon. The imagery of this story is absolutely gorgeous: elevated bike paths made from sea shells and shaded by solar panels, a central vertical garden draped in greenery; streets designed with colorful mosaic tile. This is also the best example in the book of a co-operative, post-capitalist society. It seems like a lovely world to live in, but it doesn't feel like a static utopia—things are not perfect, and there are consequences for pushing boundaries the way our main characters do. Unfortunately, we never actually get to see those consequences, because the story ends so abruptly. It lacks resolution, ending right at the climax, and on quite a negative note. One of the key things people are looking for in solarpunk is optimism. Does that mean solarpunk stories have to have happy endings? If not happy, I think, then at least hopeful. This story, though it had many beautiful moments and ideas, ultimately left me on a sour and unsatisfied note.
Wings of the Guiding Suns by M. Pax
One of the few stories in this book told from the point of view of a dragon, this a galactic guardian sent to rescue the last remaining humans from Earth before the sun is destroyed—if only the humans will agree to be rescued. Overall, the writing is strong and the imagery is great. The premise is intriguing, though I think vastly oversimplified. Still, it's a nice tale of the complexity of human nature and perseverance against great odds.
Seven Years Among Dragons by Lyssa Chiavari
Mixing fantasy and science fiction can work, but the rules and limitations of the world need to be established and consistent. (Have you noticed my primary criticism of stories in this anthology is usually worldbuilding?) This one does not feel consistent at all. The sci-fi and solarpunk aspects seem tacked on to what would otherwise be a coherent fantasy story, and could be extracted and replaced with lower-level fantasy tech or magic—both of which already exist in this world, though there's little explanation for why one is used rather than another for any given reference. Still, there are a lot of things to like about this story. It's a unique twisting of Snow White. The writing is vivid and engaging, and the author has an excellent knack for tension and pacing. I would have liked this one a lot better just as a fantasy story. The solarpunk themes feel forced, and the technology is unexplored.
One Last Sweet by Claudie Arseneault
A sweet story (no pun intended) about a boy who wants to do something nice for a dying dragon that helped his village become self-sufficient. There's not a lot at stake, and there's a lot of "telling" exposition, but overall it's a nice story with interesting tech, likeable characters, and good disability representation. The final scene is vividly rendered and memorable.
Community Outreach with Reluctant Neighbors by Kat Lerner
If we accept solarpunk as an aesthetic or a mode rather than a genre (as I suggested in my Part 2 review), then this is a solid example of solarpunk fantasy. On the tech and setting level, it's light, but it's there. Two important scenes directly involve solar panels, and there are several mentions of algae lamps. But in terms of solarpunk themes—environmental balance, community and cooperation, accepting others, hope and optimism, etc.—it has those in droves. This is one of the better written stories in this anthology. A Leslie Knope-type community organizer makes it her personal mission to get the anti-social witch on the hill involved with community activities. It's a lovely story of mutual redemption, and really, the anthology is worth buying just for this story alone.
Wanderer's Dream by Maura Lydon
To be honest, I didn't entirely understand the plot of this story, but it has something to do with a couple of "Wanderers" (which seems akin to the aboriginal "walkabout") who help a dragon and a dragon-lady. The stakes are high—humans and dragons are not allowed any contact, on penalty of death—but seem arbitrary. The background and logic of this law are never explained or explored. Though, maybe that's part of the point. Maybe, like much paranormal romance, it's a metaphor for "forbidden" types of love (i.e. queer relationships or kink). I'm not sure. But while the plot didn't hold together for me, the characters and interpersonal relationships were well drawn and kept me engaged. This is another fantasy story with a solarpunk overlay, and while nothing is lost from that overlay, I don't think much is gained from it either.
The Last Guardians by J. Lee Ellorris
This is a wonderful story, and a perfect end to this anthology. I may have teared up a little bit... In a world where dragons have come to Earth to be caretakers and guide humans back to the right path, the last two guardian dragons have reached the end of their lives. But as her partner prepares for death, the last one seeks a miracle that will ensure they are not actually the last. As solarpunk continues to develop, I'd love to see it focus on how humans can save ourselves, without aliens or magic or divine intervention, but even though dragons save us in this story, the themes of environmental stewardship and cooperative responsibility are crystal clear. And if we must be saved, then I can think of no better saviors than gorgeous, kind, queer dragons. This is a world I would definitely love to live in.
Today, I'm excited to participate in the cover reveal for Julia Ember's new YA Fantasy TIGER'S WATCH, coming August 2017 from Harmony Ink Press. I'm totally bummed that this is a full year away from being on my shelf, because it sounds amazing. Julia Ember is one of the amazing authors who has really heeded the call of "We Need Diverse Books" by writing compelling and beautiful fantasy with LGBT+ characters in settings that draw from cultural sources other than Medieval Europe. If you haven't picked up her first novel UNICORN TRACKS yet, I highly recommend it.
Sixteen-year-old Tashi has spent their life training as an inhabiter, a soldier who spies and kills using a bonded animal. When the capital falls after a brutal siege, Tashi flees to a remote monastery to hide. But when the invading army turns the monastery into a hospital, Tashi catches the eye of Xian, the regiment’s fearless young commander.
About the Author
Originally from the Windy City, Julia Ember now resides in Sunny Scotland where she learned to enjoy both haggis and black pudding. She spends her days working as a professional Book Nerd for a large book distribution firm, and her nights writing YA Romantic Fantasy novels.
A world traveler since childhood, Julia has now visited over 60 countries. Her travels inspire the fictional worlds she writes about and she populates those worlds with magic and monsters.
Find her online at julia-ember.com or @jules_chronicle.