Under the Poppy wins the Gaylactic Spectrum Award!

Mon 28 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Under the Poppy cover - click to view full sizePossibly the best news we’ll get this week? We are delighted to see that Kathe Koja’s novel Under the Poppy is the recipient of the 2011 Best Novel Gaylactic Spectrum Award!

Note: the ebook is 50% off until Dec. 1.

Here’s the Gaylactic Spectrum Award 2011 handout with the shortlist and what the judges had to say about the book:

If Charles Dickens had written an alternate reality novel about war, love, sex, death and very strange puppets you would have this year’s Gaylactic Spectrum Award winner, Under the Poppy, an amazing novel by Kathe Koja. The novel offers a rich, evocative alternate reality that is close but not quite our world, an exploration of the demimonde of the theatre and the brothel, and the tale of two lovers, Rupert and Istvan, and their tortured relationship.

Decca and Rupert own The Poppy, a brothel with a reputation for the unique and sometimes bizarre. At the core of the story is a love triangle: Decca loves Rupert but Rupert is deeply in love with Decca’s brother Istvan, a puppeteer whose marionettes know more than a thing or two about decadence. The story is set against the backdrop of war and turmoil in one of the Victorian era’s most sophisticated cities. Rupert and Istvan try to escape from the seedy underworld into high society only to find themselves embroiled in another complicated relationship. Like actors in a play or marionettes, their fate seems to be determined by others who hold the power and strings.

Under the Poppy breaks a lot of rules: point-of-view shifts, convoluted mysterious plots full of violence and decadence, relationships that run the gamut from accepted to beyond forbidden, and witty graphic language. In Koja’s skillful hands, the novel engages the reader from the start, provides a way to taste and smell the world through brilliantly-crafted prose, and presents a heart-wrenching romance. A mature love story that doesn’t flinch from revealing the truth about life in the demi-monde, Under the Poppy is well worth the read

Victorian opulence

Mon 28 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

A Guest Post from Kathe Koja:

An evening of Victorian opulence with an air of genteel decay: it was Under the Poppy‘s natural terrain, and we staged the second of our on-the-road performances at District VII Detroit last Saturday evening. “Love Is a Puppet” finds Istvan closer to his destination if no closer to his goal, and in desirous company, with a young man who calls himself “Gabriel the Angel.” Our audience watched from the curtained, secluded “backroom,” they watched from the stairway above . . .

Writing these shows and their scripts—episodes not found in the novel itself, but not hard to imagine: how many nights must Istvan have spent alone, on the long road back to Rupert?—and extending the story that way, is a new way of seeing that story, as well as a great pleasure for me as a writer. And then engaging in the ongoing act of collaboration, planning the show with my co-producer, Julanne Jacobs, watching the actors give gesture and breadth—and breath!—to the words, embody them, literally—watching the audience react, laugh, flinch and gasp—oh BOY, that is fun. The intersection of the fictional and the real becomes so vivid and acute, you can practically smell the lamp oil and brandy, the reek of the mud outside . . . And aided, on this night, by the raw brick of the warehouse, the scent of the river, the very old streets just past the doors; Detroit is a city that dates to the 1700s, after all. And with our audience dressed in Victorian finery, too, it was as if the story was doubled, and the event doubly theatrical. And amazing.

So the road continues; the journey continues, on the page as on the stage. THE MERCURY WALTZ, sequel to UNDER THE POPPY, will be published in 2013, wherein Istvan and Rupert operate their own theatre, the Mercury, a nucleus of subtle insurrections and the passions and rivalries that play-acting always seems to arouse, aided by two very different acolytes, Haden St.-Mary and Frédéric Blum, and a remarkably ferocious young lady named Tilde. And our next Poppy performance will take place early in 2012, in a venue that might seem surprising . . . The puppets lead, the story goes on, and we make our own fun in the dark.

Ebook sale: 50% off!

Fri 25 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

We’re having an ebook sale! Here’s the why of it and here’s the what:

Small = 50% off all Small Beer Press and Big Mouth House titles!


Engines = 50% off Livia Llewellyn’s Engines of Desire: Tales of Love & Other Horrors

Enter the coupon exactly as above once you’ve filled your cart and you will receive your lovely discount!

The Freedom Maze After the Apocalypse A Slepyng Hound to Wake Paradise Tales

The Monkey’s Wedding and Other StoriesRedemption in IndigoMeeksWhat I Didn’t See and Other StoriesStories of Your Life and OthersThe Fires Beneath the SeaUnder the Poppy

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thu 24 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Astronaut melts humans

Plaid Friday

Wed 23 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

What with holiday shipping deadlines approaching and all the fuss about Friday, I wanted to put in a word for a fun thing the folks at the Odyssey Books in South Hadley told us about when we did our Steampunk! event there a couple of weeks ago. Apparently this Friday is being relabeled from Black Friday to Plaid Friday!


Plaid Friday celebrates the diversity and creativity of independent businesses. Plaid Friday is the fun and enjoyable alternative to the big box store “Black Friday”, and is designed to promote both local and independently owned businesses during the holidays.”

And what are Odyssey Books doing?

“This year Pioneer Valley Local First members are volunteering a portion of their sales to CISA’s Emergency Farm Fund that offers loans to local farmers affected by Hurricane Irene.”

I always recommend going to an indie store—if possible—for your books. We have links to Powell’s on our site and our book pages have links to the Broadside Bookstore here in Northampton. Last year they came to us with the idea of having a Small Beer Press section in their store where we could keep all our titles, including all the backlist, in front of readers: how awesome is that?

Why do we bother fighting the tide of huge big box stores and online behemoths? Because they’re intent on being everything to everyone and shutting down all other voices.


I think so, yes. They’d like us to buy one of their machines and then read, listen, and watch everything we want on it. And of course buy everything (from books to washing machines) using it. Just jack me into the mainframe now, thanks.

Every time each of us buys anything we have a choice. Sometimes that’s too much to think about. Sometimes it’s worth thinking about once and making a decision. We print all our books in the US—or occasionally Canada—on 30% post-consumer recycled paper using one of a few smaller printing firms, often C-M Books or Thomson-Shore. It was an easy decision to print domestically as we can’t be sure of the treatment the workers receive nor the environmental standards the companies are kept to abroad. Also, if we want to keep decent jobs available here, it seems worth printing books here.

This Saturday in our hometown, Northampton, was “Bag Day”—a surprisingly fun event where the town distributes a paper shopping bag in the local newspaper (shout out to the Daily Hampshire Gazette*!) and then just about every store in town gives you 20% off one item (or many items . . .). The streets were heaving, there were even more street musicians than usual, people were out doing public art, there was street food, it’s great fun as well as getting people in to shop at the local stores and keep the downtown vibrant.

Sure, we all shop at bigger stores and shops in other towns but I buy books at Broadside so that in five years time they will still be there. It’s selfish as much as altruistic. (Broadside also have a frequent buyer card which gives you a 10% discount on everything.)

I hope you’ll consider doing the same. Thanks for your time.

* Any local reader want a free subscription? I have one available!

Small Beer Podcast 4: Benjamin Parzybok’s Couch

Thu 17 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Julie

Couch cover - click to view full sizeFiction. We love it. And this week’s Small Beer podcast is over thirty minutes of nothing but imagined words.

Benjamin Parzybok’s Couch is damned funny. Well, his novel Couch is anyway.

To celebrate the release of the audiobook version of Couch, we’re running an excerpt in this week’s podcast. Don’t worry. Though we hope you’ll love it as we do and want to hear more, this section of the novel was actually published as a stand-alone story in the journal Eleven Eleven. In fact, while I was editing this podcast, my family gathered around my computer to listen in. Yes, sometimes it can be strange days at the Day-Davidson household.

Ben and his wife, the artist Laura Moulton, are both quite fascinating people. You can check out Ben’s various art projects at ideacog.net. Laura is behind the amazing streetbooks.org — a bicycle-powered mobile library in Portland, Oregon, serving people who live outside.

Episode 4: An excerpt from Benjamin Parzybok’s novel Couch.

The audiobook is available for purchase at iambik.com.

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An excerpt from The Liminal People

Tue 15 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Free Stuff to Read, Novel Excerpts | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

From The Liminal People, by Ayize Jama-Everett.

Chapter One

The Liminal People cover - click to view full sizeNordeen was right to send me. I feel three heartbeats at the ridges of the ancient crater we’re resting in. Snipers. I don’t know for sure, but their hearts are tense and their trigger fingers twitchy. As soon as I got out of the car their right eyes all zoomed in on something. If they’re not snipers then they’re one-eyed caffeine freaks with muscular dystrophy in their fingers. At least they’re smart enough to know not to shoot me right away. Their boy, my date, Omar, wants what we have. If it’s not in the car and they shoot us, they’re shit out of luck.

“Stay in the car, no matter what,” I say, leaning into the passenger side of the twelve-year-old Mercedes-Benz that has dragged me to this ancient and massive hole in the ground. The meteor that crashed here centuries ago is as cold as Fou-Fou’s response to my command. His steady sub-Saharan heartbeat is the only answer I get from the 240-pound menace. He’ll play it smart. Always does. The kid in the back is who I’m really speaking to. Nineteen, can’t pee straight, and ready to scrap, the native Moroccan looks more spooked than ready. “Understand?” I bark at him in his native Berber instead of the usual French patois we play with. Read more

The Freedom Maze

Tue 15 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Big Mouth House, Books, Delia Sherman | 11 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

The Freedom MazeNovember 15, 2011 · 9781931520300 / 9781931520409 · $16.95 · 272 pp · trade cloth (out of print)/ebook/audio
January 7, 2014 · Paperback and new ebook edition published by Candlewick Press

Norton Award winner
Prometheus Award winner
Mythopoeic Award winner

ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults
Kirkus Reviews Best of 2011
Tiptree Award Honor List

Set against the burgeoning Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and then just before the outbreak of the Civil War, The Freedom Maze explores both political and personal liberation, and how the two intertwine.

In 1960, thirteen-year-old Sophie isn’t happy about spending summer at her grandmother’s old house in the Bayou. But the house has a maze Sophie can’t resist exploring once she finds it has a secretive and playful inhabitant.

When Sophie, bored and lonely, makes an impulsive wish inspired by her reading, hoping for a fantasy adventure of her own, she slips one hundred years into the past, to the year 1860. On her arrival she makes her way, bedraggled and tanned, to what will one day be her grandmother’s house, where she is at once mistaken for a slave.

“Forced to spend her summer at her grandmother’s Southern house in the 1960’s, Sophie unwittingly finds herself transported to the Civil War era as a slave of her ancestors.”
ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults

“Ensnares the reader with mysteries and conundrums of many varieties: social, historical, and magical. Adroit, sympathetic, both clever and smart, The Freedom Maze will entrap young readers and deliver them, at the story’s end, that little bit older and wiser.”
—Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Out of Oz

The Freedom Maze is, frankly, a stunning book on every level.”

“Ambitious . . . vividly evokes two historical settings, turning a glaring light on the uncomfortable attitudes and practices of earlier eras.”
—Jonathan Hunt, The Horn Book

“Delia Sherman riffs on Edward Eager’s classic The Time Garden in her deeply affecting time travel and coming-of-age novel The Freedom Maze. . . . Realistic, compelling, and not the slightest bit condescending, The Freedom Maze is all about changing your world. Well done, Ms. Sherman.”
—Colleen Mondor, Bookslut

“There are books you just know will stay with you forever. This is one of them. Rating: 10: Perfect.”
Book Smugglers

“It’s 1960, but on the decayed Fairchild sugar plantation in rural Louisiana, vestiges of a grimmer past remain—the old cottage, overgrown garden maze, relations between white and black races.
“Stuck for the summer in the family ancestral home under the thumb of her cranky, imperious grandmother, Sophie, 13, makes a reckless wish that lands her in 1860, enslaved—by her own ancestors. Sophie’s fair skin and marked resemblance to the Fairchilds earn her “easy” employment in the big house and the resentment of her peers, whose loyalty she’ll need to survive. Plantation life for whites and blacks unfolds in compelling, often excruciating detail. A departure from Sherman’s light fantasy Changeling (2006), this is a powerfully unsettling, intertextual take on historical time-travel fantasy, especially Edward Eager’s Time Garden (1958), in which white children help a grateful enslaved family to freedom. Sophie’s problems aren’t that easily resolved: While acknowledging their shared kinship, her white ancestors refuse to see her as equally human. The framing of Sophie’s adventures within 1960 social realities prompts readers to consider what has changed since 1860, what has not—for Sophie and for readers half a century later—and at what cost.
“Multilayered, compassionate and thought-provoking, a timely read on the sesquicentennial of America’s Civil War.”
Kirkus Reviews (*starred review*)

“Halfway through the narrative, I thought a tale like this could be improved if we can see how the transformation has changed the character—more than a glimpse given the amount of time spent developing the opening. This was exactly what Sherman did…. This is a novel worth checking out: a fine exemplar of a well-written children’s book, or of the fantastic for fans of history and especially of the Civil War, reminiscent in ways of Octavia Butler’s Kindred.”
—Trent Walters, SF Site

“While heartache thrums throughout the book–children have been sold away from their parents, bodies are worked like machines and beaten liberally, living conditions are despicable–there is the clear bell of hope, that sound in children’s literature that is too tough to destroy.”
The Pirate Tree

“Sherman has created a finely honed work of art, a novel that deals eloquently with complex and intersecting issues of race, womanhood, class and age. In transporting the reader so fully into another time, The Freedom Maze becomes timeless. This is true magic.”
—Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of Moonshine

“A seamless blending of wondrous American myth with harsh American reality, as befits young Sophie’s coming-of-age. I think younger readers and adults alike will be completely riveted by her magical journey into her own family’s double-edged past.”
—N. K. Jemisin, author of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

“This is an absolutely fascinating story. The Freedom Maze draws you into a world of danger and mystery, of daring and change, at the dawning of the Civil War. Sophie’s adventures in the history of her family’s Louisiana plantation feel real, and lead her to a real understanding of racial truths she would never have caught a glimpse of without magic. Beautifully imagined and told with satisfyingly matter-of-fact detail: pot liquor and spoon bread, whips and Spanish Moss, corset covers and vévés and bitter, healing herbs.  The Freedom Maze is deep, meaningful fun.”
—Nisi Shawl, author of Filter House

“Sherman’s antebellum story exposes a wide sweep through a narrow aperture, where the arbitrary nature of race and ownership, kindred and love, are illuminated in the harsh seeking glare of an adolescent’s coming of age.”
Cory Doctorow, BoingBoing

“A bold and sensitively-written novel about a supposed-white child, Sophie Fairchild returned magically to a time of her ancestors who were slavemaster and slaves in the old South. This book puts the lie to those today making loose political statements about happy, comfortable slave families of that brutal era while telling a strong story that will not let the young reader stop turning pages to see how things will work out for Sophie and her fellow slaves, especially the cook Africa, and house slaves Antigua and Canada. I was mesmerized.”
—Jane Yolen, author of The Devil’s Arithmetic

“A riveting, fearless, and masterful novel. I loved Sophie completely.”
—Nancy Werlin, author of Extraordinary

“A subtle and haunting book that examines what it means to be who we are.”
—Holly Black, co-author of The Spiderwick Chronicles

The Freedom Maze is destined to become a classic of time-travel fantasy alongside Edward Eager’s Time Garden and Elizabeth Marie Pope’s The Sherwood Ring. Yes, it is thatgood. But it’s also something more: a novel that slides skillfully past all the usual stereotypes about plantation life in the ante-bellum South, encouraging young readers to look at race, gender, and American history in a deeper, more nuanced way. It is, quite simply, one of the very best books I’ve read in years. Now I want everyone to read it.”
—Terri Windling

“Vividly realized and saturated with feeling.”
—Elizabeth Knox, author of DreamHunter

“An entertaining, cracking adventure yarn, The Freedom Maze elegantly unravels many myths of the antebellum South, highlighting the resistance of the enslaved, and showing how even the kind hearted are corrupted by their exploitation of their fellow human beings.”
—Justine Larbalestier, author of Liar

“A story that says what no story has quite said before, and says it perfectly. Stuck on her family’s Louisiana plantation in 1960, adolescent Sophie Fairchild wishes for adventure—and travels magically from the beginning of Civil Rights to the beginning of the Civil War. Enslaved by her own ancestors, Sophie finds kinship among the other people secretly traveling tangled paths toward freedom and home. No matter what age you are, this is a book for the permanent shelf.”
—Sarah Smith, author of the Agatha-winning The Other Side of Dark

“A dramatic yet sensitively-written coming-of-age story that succeeds both as classic fantasy and issue-oriented children’s literature. When Sophie Martineau travels back in time from 1960 to 1860, she discovers the painful complexity of her own heritage as a descendant of both Louisiana planters and the slave women who were forced to bear their children. Sherman offers a non-sugarcoated portrayal of life for black women under slavery, and she never falls into the trap of reducing them to simple stereotypes. Instead, Sophie’s adventure becomes a window into the daily lives of the women who manage the Martineau family’s plantation, work their fields, cook their food, and even raise their children–all while their own reality as thinking, feeling human beings remains strangely invisible to their white owners. Young readers will stay up late to find out if there’s a happy ending for Sophie and Antigua. And by the time they turn the last page, they will have gained a deeper appreciation of the real human cost of slavery–and of the intelligence and resourcefulness with which generations of women struggled to protect their families under a system that denied their most basic rights as human beings.”
—Chris Moriarty

“Vivid and compelling, The Freedom Maze will transport you completely to another time.”
—Sarah Beth Durst

Small Beer Press: In your nearly twenty years of working on this book, what was the most surprising thing you found?

Delia Sherman: “The most surprising thing, really, was finding an advertisement for a runaway slave in the library of Loyola University in New Orleans that read more or less as follows: “Wanted, [name], a woman of [however many] years. Blond and blue-eyed, could pass as white.” That was the most dramatic example, but once I’d seen it, I began to notice others, for “fair-skinned” or “red-haired” slaves escaping with darker companions as slave and master or mistress. It really made me think about how race was constructed in the ante-bellum South.”

Delia Sherman was born in Japan and raised in New York City, but spent vacations between her mother’s relatives in Texas and Louisiana and her father’s relatives in South Carolina. With a PhD in Renaissance Studies, she proceeded to teach until she realized she’d rather edit and write instead. But retaining her love of history, she has set novels and short stories for children and adults in many times and places. Her work has appeared most recently in the YA anthologies The Beastly Bride, Steampunk!, and Teeth.  Her “New York Between” novels for younger readers are Changeling and The Magic Mirror of the Mermaid Queen. Delia still enjoys teaching writing workshops, most recently at the Hollins University Masters Degree Program in Children’s Literature. After many years in Boston, she once again lives in New York City, but travels at the drop of a hat.

Delia Sherman, The Freedom Maze: a novel


Fri 11 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal. | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Small Beer Podcast 3: Michael J. DeLuca, Head Brewer and CTO

Thu 10 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , , , , | 3 Comments| Posted by: Julie

I’m thrilled to be back from wilds of Western Connecticut where I was billeted after the recent Nor’easter. Small Beer headquarters feels like a book-filled Shangri-La. I can’t believe I’ve returned.

In Episode Three of our Small Beer podcast, Michael J. DeLuca and I talk about yarrow-infused beer, medieval brewing, his fiction and why Small Beer’s ebook portal, Weightless Books, is a bibliophile’s dream. Not content to leave it at that, in part two of the podcast Michael reads “The Hour of the Fireflies” by Karen Chacek. It’s part of our upcoming Three Messages and a Warning anthology and I don’t know how you couldn’t love it. It comes out in December.

Episode 3: Michael J. DeLuca, Head Brewer and CTO along with Julie Day and Three Messages and a Warning.

Oh, and if you’d like, go listen to Michael’s story, “The Eater,” on Pseudopod.

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Monday afternoon listening

Mon 7 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , | Leave a Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Couch CoverLook, a new audiobook! We love Ben Parzybok’s novel Couch and are very happy that it’s now available in audio. You can listen to a sample here:

Listen to first chapter

and we will have a sample coming up at some point soon in our podcast, too.

We’re working with Iambik on a bunch of audio books so look for more of these announcements in upcoming months.

Maureen McHugh in PW’s Top 10!

Fri 4 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., | 2 Comments| Posted by: Gavin

After the Apocalypse coverMaureen F. McHugh’s second collection After the Apocalypse is one of PW‘s Top Ten books of the year! The book has two starred reviews and her first collection was a Story Prize finalist. McHugh shares the Top 10 with Jeffrey Eugenides, Ann Patchett, Tina Fey, Chistopher Hitchens, et al.

There will now be a small dance of joy!

You can get a taste of the book here: “The Naturalist.”

No power, no feast, no podcast!

Wed 2 Nov 2011 - Filed under: Not a Journal., , , , , | 1 Comment| Posted by: Gavin

Wow, did we get snowed under. The early snowstorm here in New England means that Julie is off doing sekrit real (saving the) world work for peeps without power which means we won’t have a podcast this week. Besides, we’re not even sure if the power will be on at the office tomorrow!

That also means all orders are a bit delayed—including pre-orders of The Freedom Maze, which should have shipped out Monday. My apologies!

It’s been pretty incredible here over the last few days and we know a lot of people without power. But everyone really is hanging together.

If all goes well, Kelly and I and Cassandra Clare will be reading and signing from Steampunk! tomorrow night at the Odyssey Bookstore in South Hadley:

Thursday, Nov. 3, 7 PM
The Odyssey Bookshop
9 College St.
S. Hadley, MA 01075

The Odyssey, one of our excellent local indie bookstores, never charges for kids’ events, so the reading & Q&A will be open to anyone who would like to attend. However, they do require that attendees purchase Steampunk! from them in order to get into the signing line. The good news is that you can bring as many other books from home as you like to have signed but you do need to purchase the new book from the bookstore.

Also! While supplies last they will be giving a free YA ARC to attendees in Steampunk attire.