Authors in Quarantine – Mark Leslie Lefebvre

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: I’ve actually been re-discovering a creative exercise that I used to formerly use as a writing warm up. Writing parody lyrics to songs and poems. I have always enjoyed the way that such a bit of work forces you to fit something into a forced structure but take the meaning in a new direction. It becomes something with a familiar pattern and sound, but something new. And often, something humorous.

Early on during Covid-19 isolation, my partner Liz and I started creating parody music videos. I’d write the lyrics, then we’d workshop them into something, record the song, and then make a video. We put out “Stuck In This House Here With You” a parody of the old Steelers Wheel classic. But it’s not just a spoof, there’s a ‘story’ in the tale of two people forced into isolation with one another, initially finding the annoying things about it, and one another, then coming to realize how fortunate they both are to be stuck with THAT special other person.

Our second parody video was a compilation of short parodies of Rogers and Parton’s “Islands in the Stream” (Sharing Broadband Streams), Patsy Cline’s “Walking” (I Go Shoppin’), The Carpenters’ “There’s a Kind of Hush” (You Just Need to Hush), and others, done in the style of an old K-Tel commercial.

I then did short dad jokes converted into short films, and a Cheers-parody of me drinking alone in isolation called Mark’s Tavern.

Those exercises helped keep my creative juices flowing, satisfied the part of my soul that yearns to be a storyteller, but then helped re-clear the path to get back into the prose writing that I had initially been having trouble with when the lockdown and isolation from the pandemic first started.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Prior to the social distancing, I spent about 60% of my time working from home anyway, as a writer and a book industry representative. Just under half of my time was spent on the road, traveling to writer conferences, etc. So a lot of that time was spent in airports and hotels.

I do miss the fun of interacting with people in person, with the pleasures that come from exploring different locals, discovering great local micro and craft breweries, etc. So that has been a bit difficult. But I’ve doubled-down on doing virtual interviews with authors, both for my podcast, as well as the regular Draft2Digital live author spotlight interviews I’ve done. I’ve also done live readings and live beer and scotch tastings on my various social media outlets, as well as ongoing dad jokes. Just trying to do my job as a storyteller and entertainer – but that work also, as I mentioned already, reward me intrinsically.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Mark Leslie Lefebvre: Initially, it was stifling. I was feeling blocked and having difficulty focusing on the writing that I figured I would now have time to do – particularly with the cancelation of all the time-consuming travel. But, as I mentioned, I channeled that creativity into lyrics, music, videos, and that helped path the path to get back into writing.

I also looked at a series I had started and planned on working on a while back, my “Canadian Werewolf” novels, and decided it was time to make some forward progress on it. I had the previous two titles, THIS TIME AROUND (a short story), A CANADIAN WEREWOLF IN NEW YORK (a novel), re-branded with a cover designer I’d had, in time for the launch of the next book in that series STOWE AWAY (novella), as well as two other works in that series. I also invested in getting audiobooks out for them. That exercise has re-inspired me to dig back into the writing of those books.

I have also committed to writing another non-fiction book about the business of writing and publishing (WIDE FOR THE WIN in my Stark Publishing Solutions series to join THE 7 P’S OF PUBLISHING SUCCESS, KILLING IT ON KOBO, and AN AUTHOR’S GUIDE TO WORKING WITH LIBRARIES AND BOOKSTORES is slated for release in early 2021), as well as a couple of non-fiction ghost story books that have been on the back-burner for a while.

And I’m sure that the pandemic, in general, will also inform and inspire more works as time goes on. I think that most writers will agree that a good part of what we do is we absorb things around us, re-adapt the things we experience, see, hear, and feel into fiction, into poetry, into other forms of creativity. I look forward to both writing about, and reading what other writers and artists create from this.

Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille, MA, PhD ABD (They/Them)

Mark Leslie Lefebvre is the author of more than twenty books that include fiction and thrillers, and paranormal non-fiction explorations. He has also edited numerous anthologies. With three decades of experience in bookselling and publishing, Mark is a seasoned and trusted book industry professional who embraces both traditional and indie publishing options. His website is: http://www.markleslie.ca.

Prix Aurora Awards 2020

Congratulations to all of the winners of the 2020 Prix Aurora Awards.

As many of you know, Speculating Canada was nominated again this year for the Best Fan Related Work Category, and congratulations everyone, we won! Speculating Canada started as a way for me to give back to the Canadian SF community and it has been exciting to see it grow and change. It was meant to be a way of creating community and opening up conversations about Canadian Speculative Fiction, and I have been honoured to be part of so many important conversations with all of you authors, fans, publishers, artists, and academics. I am so lucky that we have been able to have the conversations we have and that we have been able to work together toward social change. Although officially my name is listed on this award, it is an award that should reflect all of you as members of this community and reflect all of the work we do together to ask deep questions about SF. I am honoured to have been able to be on this journey with all of you and to continue that journey as we move forward.

The nominees this year were:

Best Novel

Best YA Novel

Best Short Fiction

  • This Is How You Lose the Time War, Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone (Saga)
  • “Clear as Quartz, Sharp as Flint”, Maria Haskins (Augur 2.1)
  • Alice Payne Rides, Kate Heartfield (Tor.com Publishing)
  • “Little Inn on the Jianghu”, Y.M. Pang (F&SF 9/19)
  • “Modigliani Paints the World”, Hayden Trenholm (Neo-Opsis 30)
  • “Blindside”, Liz Westbrook-Trenholm (Amazing Stories Fall ’19)

Best Graphic Novel

Best Related Work

  • PodCastle, Jen R. Albert & Cherae Clark, eds.
  • Nothing Without Us, Cait Gordon & Talia C. Johnson (Renaissance)
  • Neo-opsis, Karl Johanson, ed.
  • Lackington’s, Ranylt Richildis, ed.
  • “Dave Duncan’s Legacy”, Robert Runté (On Spec 111)
  • Augur, Kerrie Seljak-Byrne, ed.

Best Poem/Song

  • “The Girl Who Loved Birds”, Clara Blackwood (Amazing Stories Spring ’19)
  • “At the Edge of Space and Time”, Swati Chavda (Love at the Speed of Light)
  • “Steampunk Christmas”, David Clink (Star*Line Fall ’19)
  • “The Day the Animals Turned to Sand”, Tyler Hagemann (Amazing Stories Spring ’19)
  • “Totemic Ants”, Francine P. Lewis (Amazing Stories Fall ’19)
  • “Beauty, Sleeping”, Lynne Sargent (Augur Magazine 2.2)
  • “Bursts of Fire”, Sora (theme song for book trailers)

Best Artist

  • Samantha M. Beiko, cover for Bursts of Fire
  • James F. Beveridge, cover for Fata Morgana and cover for On Spec 112
  • Lynne Taylor Fahnestalk, “A Rivet of Robots” in On Spec and cartoons in Amazing Stories
  • Nathan Fréchette, covers for Renaissance Press
  • Dan O’Driscoll, covers for Bundoran Press and cover for On Spec 110

Best Visual Presentation

  • The Umbrella Academy
  • V Wars, Season 1
  • Killjoys, Season 5
  • Murdoch Mysteries, Episodes 10-18 in Season 12 and Episodes 1-9 in Season 13
  • Van Helsing, Season 4

Best Fan Writing and Publications

Best Fan Organizational

  • KT Bryski and Jen R. Albert, ephemera reading series, Toronto
  • Brent Jans, Pure Speculation Science Fiction and Fantasy Festival, Edmonton
  • Derek Künsken and Marie Bilodeau, co-chairs, Can-Con, Ottawa
  • Randy McCharles, chair, When Words Collide, Calgary
  • Sandra Wickham, Creative Ink Festival, Burnaby, BC

Best Fan Related Work

 

The winners this year were: 

Inductees into the Canadian Science Fiction and Fantasy Hall of Fame:

  • Heather Dale
  • Cory Doctorow
  • Matthew Hughes

Best Novel:

  • Julie Czerneda for The Gossamer Mage

Best Young Adult Novel:

  • Susan Forest for Bursts of Fire

Best Short Fiction:

  • Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone for This Is How You Lose The Time War

Best Graphic Novel:

  • S.M. Beiko for Krampus is my Boyfriend

Best Poem/Song:

  • Tie between Swati Chavda for At The Edge of Space and Time
  • and Sora for Bursts of Fire

Best Related Work:

  • Diane Walton for On Spec Magazine

Best Visual Presentation:

  • The Umbrella Academia

Best Artist:

  • Dan O’Driscoll for covers for Bundoran Press and cover for On Spec 110

Best Fan Writing and Publications:

  • R. Graeme Cameron

Best Fan Organizational

  • Marie Bilodeau and Derek Kunsken for Can Con

Best Fan Related Work

  • Derek Newman-Stille for Speculating Canada

 

To watch the Prix Aurora Awards ceremonies, hosted this year by When Worlds Collide, click on the link below:

 

In order to check out the award category for Best Fan Related Work, which Speculating Canada won, click on the link below and see my acceptance speech. 

 

Thank you all for your support and for the support of Canadian Speculative Fiction. Thank you to the folks at When Worlds Collide for hosting the Aurora Awards and thank the Prix Aurora Awards organizational committee for their work. Thank you also to Mark Leslie Lefebvre for being an incredible host for the awards.

I also want to thank the Frost Centre for Canadian Studies and Indigenous Studies at Trent University for their continuing support and encouragement.