Eating Authors: Kate Heartfield

No Comments » Written on May 14th, 2018 by
Categories: News
Kate Heartfield

I’m in full on packing mode. The Nebula Awards Conference is this week. I’m actually heading there tomorrow because the SFWA Board has two full days of meetings to get through and so we’re starting a day early, and in order to start that bright and early Wednesday morning I need to drive there (Pittsburgh) on Tuesday. It should be a great week of planning for the next year, welcoming new members to the Board, seeing lots of old friends, meeting lots of new people, sneaking in time for some professional development, and celebrating some great fiction. And a few fortunate people will go home with lovely paperweights.

Out of deference to the Nebs, I won’t even pretend to offer you a segue to this week’s EATING AUTHORS guest and simply tell you that it’s the remarkable Kate Heartfield. She lives in rural Ottawa, teaches journalism at Carleton University, and has been a newspaper editor.

Kate’s first novel, Armed in Her Fashion, comes out in paperback tomorrow (the ebook came out last month). She’s also written an interactive novel, The Road to Canterbury for Choice of Games, and she has two time-travel novellas coming out soon from No stranger to history herself, she’s now on her way to making some.

LMS: Welcome, Kate. What was your most memorable meal?

KH: I don’t really remember what was in the soup. But eight years later, I can still see the covered dish it was in, on the light layer of snow on my front porch. I remember how it allowed me to believe that everything might be OK.

It was early February, in Ottawa, Canada. My partner and I had just come home from the hospital with our newborn boy.

The labour was long and difficult but without incident – until about an hour after the birth, when I complained about continued abdominal pain. My midwife’s smile vanished, and she said something along the lines of, “That’s not right.”

It quickly became apparent how not-right it was. The pain got worse. My pulse went wild and I became very cold.

Armed in Her Fashion

Post-partum hemorrhage is the leading cause of maternal mortality worldwide. I was lucky; I was in a very good hospital, where a surgeon saved my life.

But I’d lost two litres of blood, and had to stay in the hospital for a few days while the doctors monitored me and decided whether to give me a transfusion. They decided against the transfusion, but the blood loss left me severely anemic.

We humans use the iron in our food to make hemoglobin, which transports the oxygen from our lungs. Normal hemoglobin levels for someone with my body type are between 120 g/L and 160 g/L. Blood loss temporarily reduces hemoglobin, and it can take a while for our bodies to build it back up. Canadian Blood Services won’t take donations from people with levels lower than 125 g/L, because even that much of a drop from those levels could be dangerous.

As a long-time vegetarian, I was already aware of the importance of dietary iron. When I went into the hospital, my hemoglobin level was a healthy 157 g/L.

My hemoglobin level when I left the hospital with my newborn was 72 g/L.

In addition to the standard recovery issues after childbirth, the paucity of oxygen reaching my cells made me weak and confused. I had a few hallucinations, and could barely get out of bed at first. The worst of it, from my perspective, was that the hemorrhage delayed the onset of breast milk. I desperately wanted to nurse my baby, and I did, but it was a long, difficult and painful process to make it work.

When we arrived home to see that covered dish in the snow, with a little note about its origins, it was a sign that I had more support than I realized. I had friends who cared. Friends who lived in the city, but who made the 45-minute drive out to our rural home in February just to leave some soup on our porch.

The Course of True Love

We brought it into the kitchen, and lifted the lid. I wish I could remember the ingredients, but all I remember was realizing that (a) it was vegetarian and (b) it was full of iron-rich foods, like spinach, lentils, beans and chickpeas. My friends were thoughtful enough both to respect my vegetarianism and to make me food that would bring up my hemoglobin.

I ate it eagerly over the next few days. With the help of iron supplements and good food, my hemoglobin levels recovered in a few weeks – faster than my doctors had expected.

That humble vegetarian soup has stuck in my memory because it meant life for me (and for the hungry baby at my breast). My friends (who were then new parents themselves) left it for me in such a kind, quiet way that wouldn’t impose on me for anything, not even thanks or small talk. It was food without fuss. Food as offering. Food as help.

We writers who draw on medieval Europe for our settings often use a pottage of vegetables or perpetual stew — the pot sitting on the fire for days, with new scraps going in as needed — to signal humble surroundings. We might not think about the fact that humble or not, those nutrients allow our characters to fight, talk or think.

The main character in my novel Armed in Her Fashion is a wetnurse in medieval Bruges. In the opening scene, she sneaks out of a city under siege because she’s desperate to gather herbs she thinks might help her maintain her milk supply. I know exactly how she feels.

Thanks, Kate. What a generous and perfect gift. Soup is a miracle and a marvel in so many ways. And, by total coincidence, I just finished a novella about it. 🙂

Next Monday: Another author and another meal!

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Semi-Obligatory and Late-Arriving Award Eligibility Post

1 Comment » Written on January 13th, 2018 by
Categories: News
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Barry's Deal

I’m deep in the throes of reading, reading, reading so much brilliant fiction from 2017, and making recommendations and notes in preparation for turning in my nominations for the Nebula Awards (including the Norton) and the Hugo Awards (including the Campbell). Along the way, I somehow failed until now to put up a post of which among my own fiction in 2017 I’d hope you might consider as you go through your own process.

I’ll keep it simple, just one thing: My novella, Barry’s Deal.

So here’s there thing. I’m uncomfortable with posts like this. While I like nominations as much as any author (and maybe more than many), and the occasional win too, I don’t want to campaign for them. That’s not my job. My job — and I’d argue, every author’s job — is to write the best fiction that I can, and moreover to write better fiction each year than I did the year before. Also to challenge myself, to try new things, to grow as an author, but yeah, all of that is in service to the main thing: writing the best fiction that I can.

But the world isn’t that simple any more (and maybe it never was), and more and more every author also has to do publicity and marketing. Which is why, I believe, you see more and more posts like this, year after year. And now, here’s mine.

In that light, I’m a bit more comfortable with it because, let me be clear, I’m not asking for your vote or even your nomination. I’m asking you to read my work. Anything beyond that, well, the work itself will either inspire your action or it won’t. That’s as it should be.

Which brings us back to Barry’s Deal. Here’s the irony: while my novels have the backing and distribution of a major press, my shorter fiction continues to come out from a small press. Barry’s Deal, is only the fifth book from NobleFusion Press. It was published in late, in the second week of November. Both of these facts mean you’re unlikely to have heard about it, let alone seen a copy. And yet, I have the audacity to think that if you only read it you’ll like it quite a bit, so I’ve been persuaded to put up this post.

Barry’s Deal is the fourth novella in my ongoing series about the Amazing Conroy and Reggie, a stage hypnotist turned corporate CEO and his alien companion animal that can eat anything and farts oxygen. The novella stands on its own, though if you’ve read some of the other stories you’ll likely recognize returning characters. I’ve been writing about Conroy for 17 years. It appears that writing the more serious Barsk novels has taught me a thing or two, and the early reviews have described this novella as the best thing in the series so far.

Anyway, I hope you’ll read it. And if you do, post a review and let me know what you thought. Thanks.


No Comments » Written on December 23rd, 2017 by
Categories: News

As has been chronicled elsewhere, I started writing Barsk: The Elephants’ Graveyard back in the late 80’s. Fresh out graduate school, ink still wet on my doctorate, I was 27. A few months later I had my first teaching gig. I was “the boy professor,” teaching psychology, beginning Japanese, and home (dorm) winemaking. Naturally, I decided to write my first novel.


The result was Barsk (no subtitle back then) and I had no clue what I was doing. Worse still, I had no clue that I had no clue. The result was horrible. The story was good, the underlying concepts worked, but back then I lacked the skills to do any of that justice and made use of of a lot trite stuff. Among other clunkers, I used a painful exposition device at the start of each and every one of the book’s fifty chapters (as well as the prologue and epilogue). I reasoned that since my protagonist was a scholar, it’d be cool to include excerpts from his various papers and peer-reviewed journal articles (remember, I was the boy professor?). In hindsight, I was probably inspired by Frank Herbert’s excerpts from The Encyclopedia Galactica in Dune. But let’s be clear, I’m not Frank Herbert (and I certainly wasn’t back then either). The result? Epic failure. Eventually I tucked the manuscript away in a drawer and put it out of my mind, focusing instead on learning to be a better writer.


Decades (and several hundreds of thousands of words later) an editor put me on the spot, asking me to pitch some book ideas to him. One of those was Barsk and he said “That one!” and here we are several years later with the first book having received critical acclaim, award nominations, and even a win, and the sequel slated for a release this summer.

Readers of the book that actually came out on the penultimate date of 2015 will know that there are no excerpts introducing the chapters. In a couple cases I did find ways to work the exposition into actual chapters, but though the experience of writing them did wonders to solidify Jorl’s voice in my head, for the most part the dozens and dozens of bits were abandoned completely.

Until now.

I’ll be going through them, tidying up the writing here and there, and releasing them as bonus material to those folks who subscribe to my newsletter.

And who knows, perhaps if The Moons of Barsk is some kind of runaway hit, the good folks at Tor will ask me to gather up all these “Barsk Bits” and publish them as a chapbook. After all, stranger things have already happened or you’d never have seen that first book.

Oh, and if you’re now eager to sign up for my newsletter, just click this link.

My 2017 SFContario Schedule

1 Comment » Written on November 4th, 2017 by
Categories: News

In a little over two weeks, I’ll be heading across the border to Toronto, Cananda where I will have the privilege of reading at the Merril Collection, as well as being the GoH at SFContario.

The library reading occurs at 7pm, on Thursday, November 16th, on the 3rd floor of the Lillian H. Smith branch of the Toronto Public Library, 239 College Street.

Friday through Sunday, I’ll be at the convention, taking place at the Ramada Plaza, 300 Jarvis Street, Toronto. Naturally they have me doing programming. Here’s what and where it is:

Friday, Novemeber 17th
6:00 p.m. | Solarium | Opening Ceremonies
Although I’ve previously attended SFContario, I’ve never been to their opening ceremonies. I’m hoping it involves me wielding a pair of giant scissors (I promise not to run with them).

Saturday, Novemeber 18th
10:00 a.m. | Solarium | Creating Languages
Many SF/F worlds have their own languages, Elvish and Klingon being two examples. From etymology to grammar to culture, there are many characteristics to consider. How do you craft languages that make sense? How does a language reflect the identities of its speakers? How do we make our languages and vocabularies believable?
with Alyx Dellamonica, and Sephora Hosein (M)

11:00 a.m. | Solarium | Eating and Ethics
What is the ethical scope of our food choices? Is buying local really better than buying imported food? Are Vegans better for the environment? How do things like socioeconomic status, mental health, and disability intersect with the ethics of food consumption?
with Charlotte Ashley (M), Alyx Dellamonica, and Gunnar Wentz

2:00 p.m. | Gardenview | How to Remember EVERYTHING
Mnemonics and You! Come listen as I explain what makes memory work and how you can enhance yours.

Sunday, Novemeber 19th
12:00 p.m. | Solarium | Where do we go from here?
Speculative fiction speculates, it’s all there in the name. In today’s rapidly changing climate – cultural, political, and scientific – where should we be pointing next? How can current SFF keep pace with the current developments, and still prepare the way to the future?
with Matt Mayr, Kelly Robson, Clare Wall (M)

1:00 p.m. | Gardenview | Star Trek: The Next Iteration: How about them Klingons?
Does Star Trek Discovery feel like a lead-in to classic Star Trek? Are new gadgets and technologies too new? Is a little retcon good for us? Are they trying too hard? Will fans be loyal to the new series? Is anybody not a fan? Let’s discuss where the series is boldly going, and where we think the first season might end up.
with David Clink and Marah Searle-Kovacevic

2:00 p.m. | Parkview | Reading
My new novella, Barry’s Deal, just came out. It’s light and amusing and has fart jokes (though Amazon won’t let us say “fart” in the description). Meanwhile, my next novel, The Moons of Barsk, has been turned in and comes out next August. The convention’s given me 30 minutes to read, so come by and pick which you’d like to hear.

This will be my second convention in Canada this year, a new personal best. I hope you’ll come out and help me celebrate.

More Than Just A Cover Reveal: Barry’s Deal

1 Comment » Written on October 9th, 2017 by
Categories: News

Barry's Deal

Next month, the fine folks at NobleFusion Press will be publishing Barry’s Deal, the fourth novella-length adventure in the ongoing tales of my galaxy-traveling stage hypnotist, the Amazing Conroy, and Reggie, his alien companion animal, a “buffalo dog” who can eat anything and farts oxygen.

This latest story features Conroy traveling to Triton, to a casino hotel with old friend LeftJohn Mocker, a professional gambler with a double Coltrane rating. Why Triton? Well, there’s an illegal auction scheduled there where Conroy hopes to win a bottle of Stonefish liqueur, and the Mocker was on his way there anyway at the request of the Probability Guild to investigate allegations of cheating. It looks like everyone will get what they want except… the cheater turns out to be a Angela Colson, an eleven-year old girl of incredible power! Conroy saved her life five years earlier (back in the Nebula-finalist Barry’s Tale). That’s her pictured on the cover of Buffalito Buffet at the bottom of this page. Somehow she’s back, somehow appears to be in her late teens, and somehow has taken the casino for over ten million bucks!

Throw in an evil psychometrist portmaster with a grudge against LeftJohn Mocker, a stinky alien with a secret, and a terrorist with a suitcase-sized nuke, and the stage is set for hypnotic hijinks and some fine dining as only the Amazing Conroy can command.

NobleFusion Press will be releasing the novella as a Trade Paperback on Thursday, November 9th.

However, they’re giving away a limited number of digital Advanced Reader Copy (ARCs) to readers who pledge to post a review to on the novella’s release day.

If you’d like to jump the queue and get the book for free, all you have to do is click this link.

cover art by Rebecca Wang


My Tentative Capclave 2017 Schedule

No Comments » Written on September 27th, 2017 by
Categories: News
Tags: , , , , , ,

It’s nearly time once again for one of my favorite small conventions, Capclave.

Even though I was just in Maryland over the weekend (for the awesome Baltimore Book Festival!), I’m very excited to be going back, and not just because it means another stop off at the Elkton Waffle House along the way (though, seriously, that is a huge draw).

For me, Capclave is always a welcome combination of connecting with old friends and enjoying serious conversations with people who want to talk about books. And hey, if the books they’re talking about include one or more of mine, so much the better.

This year’s ConChair has just sent out the schedules. You’ll find mine below (the better to stalk me).

Friday, October 6th
3:00 p.m. | Frederick | “Holy Shuftik!” He Cried.
How does an author create a distinctive language for characters in the future or in a different world and keep it understandable to the reader? What’s the right balance between creating language and making sure the reader can figure it out without a dictionary appendix to the story?
with Jeanne Adams (M) and John Skovron

4:00 p.m. | Seneca | Hypnotism: Reality vs. Fiction
If you’re getting sleeeepy, don’t come to this item. I’ll give a talk on how hypnotism really works vs. how it is portrayed in fiction and on screen.

Saturday, October 7th
12:00 p.m. | Bethesda | Reading
I’ve been paired with the incredible James Morrow for an hour of reading. He’ll start at noon, and hand off to me at 12:30pm. I have no idea what Jim will be reading, but I expect to read to you from the new Amazing Conroy novella, Barry’s Deal (coming out from NobleFusion Press at the end of October).
with James Morrow

4:00 p.m. | Frederick | Anthology Builder
So you want to edit and publish an anthology. How do the stories get picked? How do you come up with a theme? What sells and what doesn’t? How do authors produce readable fiction in the straitjacket of an original themed anthology? How do you properly curate your anthology?
with Neil Clarke, Ron Garner, Joshua Palmatier (M), and Darrell Schweitzer

7:30 p.m. | Rockville/Potomac | Mass Signing and Awards
For many, the highlight of Capclave is the mass autographing session, followed by the awards ceremony to award the WSFA Small Press Award and the BSFS Amateur Writers Contest winners. This is a great chance to get all the things signed and to celebrate some of the best of small press short fiction.
with everyone!

Sunday, October 8th
10:00 a.m. | Rockville/Potomac | Abusing Authors
Panelists answer whatever questions the audience has on writing, editing, character development, agents, and others. Includes many non-writer-parts-of-being-a-writer, such as being your own boss, setting schedules, and so on.
with Sarah Avery, Scott Edelman, Will McIntosh (M), Ian Randal Strock, and Michael Ventrella

If you’ve never been to Capclave, you owe it to yourself to come and experience its glory. And if you have, you’ve probably already booked your hotel room and paid your registration. Either way, I look forward to seeing you there.

My Worldcon 75 Probably Final Schedule

No Comments » Written on July 17th, 2017 by
Categories: News
Tags: , , , , , ,
Worldcon 75

In August I’ll be flying off to Finland (by way of Iceland) for the 75th annual World Science Fiction Convention (aka Worldcon 75).

In mid-June the organizers were kind enough to send me a tentative schedule, but asked me to wait before posting it as they wanted to firm up some items. We’ve had some back and forth on things (owing in part to my plans to leave Helsinki on Sunday morning and miss the last partial day of the convention), but they have been great to work with.

Today I got the green light to share the schedule. Things could still change, but I’m liking what I see.

Thursday, August 10th
5:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. | 103 Messukeskus | Reading
Reading slots are apparently hard to come by at this convention. I am one of two authors in this hour (the other being the awesome Scott Lynch!). Depending on what people want, I”ll either read the opening chapter from next summer’s BARSquel, or the opening to the next month’s Amazing Conroy novella.

Friday, August 11th
9:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m. | Courtyard Messukeskus | Strolls with Stars
I’m a big fan of the Worldcon strolls. It’s a great opportunity to chat with authors and fans while also taking in some local sights. Plus, I get some of my steps in!
with Eva Elasigue, Walter Jon Williams, and lots of other folks!

3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. | 215 Messukeskus | SF & Education
Science Fiction and Fantasy are interrelated with education in many ways. From the earliest years SF was thought of as a way of sugar coating science – and many young readers have in fact been inspired to go on to study the sciences by their early enthusiasm for SF. But it also goes the other way – many reluctant readers are motivated to learn by the pleasures of genre books. Then there are all the imagined schools – Hogwarts is only one. As well, SF and Fantasy serve as ideal forums for imagining how education could be different – even wildly different – think brain implants or babel fish! This panel will delve into the links between SF and Education – as is only appropriate in a country whose schooling leads the world in the education league tables!
with Charlie (M), Nick Falkner, Diana ben-Aaron, Aidan Doyle

6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. | 208 Messukeskus | Alien Language in Science Fiction
As easy as a Babel Fish is, usually alien languages are handled differently in science fiction. The panelists discuss various alien languages and how they are understood. I’ll be moderating.
with David J. Peterson, Stephen W. Potts, Cora Buhlert, Heather Rose Jones

Saturday, August 12th
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. | Signing Area Messukeskus | Autographing
I’ve been given a slot for signing all the things. So, even if you don’t have a copy of Barsk on hand, or a back issue of Spin with one of my Finnish translations, do stop by anyway and I’ll sign one of my new Historical Science Fiction Trading Cards (I’m #158).

4:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. | 205 Messukeskus | Coping strategies for publishing in small markets
Sometimes the publishing markets aren’t that big – perhaps because language reasons. There are different ways writers from smaller countries can and do use to reach a wider audience, however. Getting famous in your own country first, writing in a foreign language, selling straight into translation and other strategies are discussed. And again, I’m moderator.
with Tom Crosshill, Teodor Reljic, Raita Jauhiainen

While it’s possible that some portion of the above will change prior to the start of the Worldcon, it’s unlikely I’ll be in a position to post an update. So, either go with the above or consult the program schedule in Grenadine.

My REALLY-I-MEAN-IT Final NorthAmeriCon’17 Schedule

No Comments » Written on July 1st, 2017 by
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I’ll be spending Independence Day packing for my trip to NorthAmeriCon’17, aka the 2017 North American Science Fiction Convention (NASFiC).

Now, I know what you’re thinking: didn’t I already post my final schedule a month ago? Well, you’re right, I did. But the Powers That Be decided to move a couple things around and so I’m posting the *new and improved* final schedule, because I’d hate for you to be looking for me at a particular time and place and not be able to find me.

That said, while I have been assured that the times and dates shown below are spot on, the location of things may be wrong. In fact, I’ve noticed that according to the online programming list, the same room has been allocated to different items at the same time. Oops! My advice, ignore the locations listed here and double-check once you’ve arrived on-site.

Friday, July 7th
12:30 p.m. – 12:55 p.m. | Sol | Reading
I’ll read a bit from the sequel to BARSK (aka, the BARSquel), specifically a scene set on an island. Seems appropriate.

5:00 p.m. – 5:50 p.m. | San Cristobal | What’s so Funny?
Humor is a coping mechanism, but it’s also a vital mechanic of fiction. Our panelists talk about humor, and it’s sure to be a lark.
with Mel White, Mike Substelny

Saturday, July 8th
3:00 p.m. – 3:50 p.m. | San Cristobal | World Building as more than Background
How does an author create a well developed world? Cultures, government, biospheres, religion, social equity, et cetera must be explored.
with Lee French, James Dorr, Ctein

4:00 p.m. – 4:50 p.m. | San Cristobal | Translation in Space
Understanding alien language is at the heart of the 2016 Hugo-nominated moview Arrival. Our panelists discuss the challenges of talking with aliens in fiction and (potentially) reality.
with Chris Rose, Jonathan Brazee

It looks like I’m not going on the Thursday tour of Arecibo Observatory with Brother Guy Consolmagno. I didn’t win that ticket lottery. If you did, and cannot go, and want me to go in your place, hey, why haven’t you told me yet? C’mon, pick up the phone!

Other places I expect to be are Thursday night’s Meet the GoHs Ice Cream Social (8-?). Then on Friday, Tobias Buckell’s and Brother Guy Consolmagno’s readings in the morning (10-10:55), the panel on English Language Caribbean SF (3-3:50), and the Science Fiction Historical Trading Cards presentation (4-4:50). On Saturday I hope to attend the panel on Making the International Move (11-11:50), because hey, you never know.

Elsewise, you’ll likely find me just hanging out around the convention. Come up and say hello.

On Monday, after the convention is over, I’ll be taking advantage of an excursion to visit El Yunque (via Spoon Food tours). Maybe you’ll join me? I’ve written two novels set in rainforests, it seemed like a great time to actually walk around in one.

And I’ve been practicing my Spanish (courtesy of Duolingo), so I’m sure to embarrass myself over and over. If you’re a user of this amazing (and free!) language learning service, feel free to follow me.