Category Archives: Uncategorized

Words and scar tissue

IMG_0787This past Wednesday, my story “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” came out in this month’s issue of Nightmare. I’ve written before about the place out of which that story came – my experiences as a child with a mental illness that manifests in compulsive self-injury and the bullying that resulted from it. I’ve also written about the process of digging into that old pain and finding a way to turn it into a story, how one takes something so ugly and humiliating and shows it to the world.

A few people have told me that it resonated powerfully with them, that it touched a similar kind of pain in them. Which I’m… I don’t know that I want to say I’m happy, but there’s a part of me that’s glad, because you know you’ve written something true when people connect to it on a deeper level. And I know that reading something like that can make one feel less alone.

But I’ve been thinking about something else, in part in connection with an article my mother sent me a while ago about the fear inherent in putting your writing out into the world. It’s a generally accepted idea that the more personal the story, the more frightening it is to have it out in public.

And I didn’t feel that. Having it published wasn’t frightening for me. Submitting it to editors wasn’t even all that frightening. Once it was written, it was done, and in a lot of ways I didn’t think much about it anymore, except in as much as I took satisfaction in the feeling that I had written it well.

For me, the writing is the more frightening thing, in the fear of not doing something justice and – even more – in the fear of opening old wounds in the first place. We’re told we shouldn’t make ourselves vulnerable, and having such a personal story published is a kind of profound vulnerability, but for some reason, for me, the vulnerability of writing helped. It was a stretch. It made me more flexible, and it made stretching again less painful.

Brené Brown has a wonderful talk on the power and strength of vulnerability, how it has the ability to make one feel joy and peace and a deeper connection to others. To feel more of everything. I think that in order to write true things you have to find a way to feel things truly, and that can be terrifying and painful, but what you find under the terror and the pain is something that goes beyond writing a good story.

I’m happy with how my story turned out. I think it’s a good story. But ultimately, for me, the story is incidental. It was the process of writing it that was the most powerful.

I hope I can find a way to keep that process going.

I finished writing a book

8870200266_3104ed4d7f_o-220x330More specifically, I finished writing Rookwar, which also means I’m done with Casting the Bones. This is the first trilogy I’ve ever completed. It’s also the tenth book I’ve written, and it will be my fourth published (since Labyrinthian doesn’t come out until January). At the moment it’s a little over 110,000 words long. That’s hefty. It’s about 20,000 words longer than I expected it to be, but none of it feels like filler. I think it’s about as long as it should be.

It feels very strange to finish a trilogy. I’m not sure exactly how it’s different from finishing a book, or finishing the second book in a series. But it’s different. I suppose part of it is that – although there will be editing and such – I’m truly RavenfallCoversaying goodbye to these characters and this world. I probably won’t see them again, at least not for a long time. There are a lot of other places to go and a lot of other books to be written, and for now we’re parting ways.

So goodbye, Mica and Mori and Yavon and Sene. Goodbye, Ava and goodbye, Turn. Thank you for letting me spend some time with you, and thank you for letting me tell your stories. This feels like a good ending. Which is about the best you can ever hope for.

For those who care about such things, I was listening to this on repeat for the last few hundred words, and it is the perfect piece of music for the end of the book. Eerily so.

LABYRINTHIAN: Ten things to know about it

14794919024_73b09979e4_cWelcome to September, everyone. I’m pretty much entirely losing my cool over the last few thousand (PLEASE ONLY A FEW THOUSAND, I CAN’T TAKE MUCH MORE OF THIS OH GOD) words of Rookwar, so let’s take a break from that and from my broken sobbing on Twitter and instead look forward to January, which will bring Labyrinthian.

I’ve already talked about it a little, just in terms of its outline and general elements, and I’ve posted the first chapter here, but there’s obviously more to it, and I figure a little bit of a FAQ probably wouldn’t be out of line. So here it is.

  1. It’s a queer retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Minotaur in spaaaaaaaaaace. Because why the hell not. Myths are cool, space is cool, queer fiction is cool, stick ’em all in a blender and hit puree.
  2. I had the idea years ago. Actually right around the time Lisa and I finished up Line and Orbit, I think. It was only the vaguest of concepts – myth in space, dudes kissing – but it grabbed me. The timing wasn’t right, however, so it got shelved until this past fall, when it grabbed me with a vengeance. I had just finished a couple of very, very difficult novels and I wanted to do something fun. Then things got a little out of hand and:
  3. I wrote the first draft in less than a month. That’s not to brag – okay, maybe a little to brag – but to indicate how hard this idea took hold of my brain. For a while it was actually very difficult to stop working on it. The resulting draft was quite complete and not a whole lot has substantially changed between it and the final product, but I don’t think I’ll write a book at that speed again. In retrospect it was pretty draining. Like more than usual.
  4. It’s set in the Line and Orbit universe. I didn’t actually intend it to be when I first had the idea, but that ‘verse has a way of pulling me back into itself, and once I started actually teasing out some details, it seemed like a natural fit just in terms of the feel of the thing. It’s a somewhat goofy space adventure-type deal with a more serious underside, which is pretty much exactly what Line and Orbit was.
  5. It does not feature any of the same characters as Line and Orbit, nor is it a sequel. It does, however, take place somewhat concurrently with the end of Line and Orbit and the beginning of its vaporware sequel Fall and Rising. So reading L&O first, while not at all necessary, will add some depth to some aspects of the worldbuilding. If you care about that kind of thing also buy my books.
  6. It takes place on the frontier of human-explored space. Unlike most of the locations in Line and Orbit, in Labyrinthian the Terran Protectorate has a very limited presence – more symbolic than anything – and the part of space in which the book happens is somewhat chaotic. The humans there are either essentially nomadic or confined to small colonies. There’s no central authority, and nothing much in the way of law or policing. Bounty hunters and mercenaries like Theseus fill the gap in that they provide an incentive for people to deal fairly with one another – step out of line or screw someone in a deal and you can expect a hunter to come after you – and the hunters maintain a loose, unofficial guild that also keeps a kind of order. That context of chaos was a lot of fun to write within, because it allowed for a background of political dynamics that’s very different from what we did in Line and Orbit.
  7. It’s totally romance, but the romantic plotline is not the only one or even the central one. Theseus and Taur’s weird, uncomfortable journey toward each other coincides with another much more dangerous journey, and the fundamental story is how those two journeys intertwine and give each other meaning.
  8. It’s got a lot of sex. Very explicit sex. It’s the most smut-heavy thing I’ve written that isn’t actually erotica. If that’s not your thing, I think you can skip those scenes for the most part and still have no trouble getting into the larger plot. There’s a lot of character building in my porn, though, so it’s not just there for the sake of porn.
  9. It’s quite violent. Again, be aware. It’s a good bit more violent than Line and Orbit was, though the body count is lower. There’s a fair amount of gore.
  10. But it’s fun. Or that’s my opinion. Writing it, it had a very Firefly feel to me, so if you like that kind of SF I’d imagine you’d enjoy this. Hope so, anyway.

Not sure when it’ll go up for pre-sale, but you can add it to your Goodreads shelves here. And of course I’ll be giving stuff away. Yay stuff.

Addendum to video game soundtrack post from a while ago

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I’m not sure how I forgot this one, but I was just out for a walk and ended up listening to this while doing so and oh my god I love this song (I also love the game embarrassingly much). It’s not instrumental, it’s a goddamn ballad, and it’s the best. Enjoy.

Writerly Roundup – August 2014

Here we go, the second in a series. August was a seriously mixed bag; a fair amount happened but I also didn’t feel nearly as productive as I would have liked. Let’s face it, August just kind of sucked anyway. Hopefully September will suck less for everyone overall.

As usual, fandom RP/Darrow stuff is under the cut.

  • Ravenfall gRavenfallCoverot released. Slightly later than anticipated, but it’s out there and you can pay money for it, which is always appreciated. What’s appreciated even more are reviews if you do pay money for it. You can also read chapter 1 for free here.
  • Labyrinthian promo started. Technically this started on July 31st, but whatever. Cover art got revealed here, and I posted the first chapter here. Be watching for a lot more about that in the next few 14794919024_73b09979e4_cmonths: freebies, giveaways, etc. I’m so excited about this book.
  • I had a story in Strange Horizons. “Cold as the Moon”. It’s weird and sad, which seems to be a lot of what I do these days. It’s my third story in that market, which is awesome.
  • I sold a story to Shimmer. “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale”. Elise tells me they’re full up on bleak at the moment so it’ll probably come out sometime later in 2015, but yaaaaay. That will also be my third story in that mag.
  • I kept working on novels. I’m behind on Rookwar (Casting the Bones book 3), mostly because it keeps getting longer. I think it’s going to be by far the strongest book in the trilogy, which is good because it’s also the last, but it’s becoming a monster. There is a lot going on in it. I still hope to be ready to send it off to my editor in the next few days. I also continued work on Untitled Book About How Kae d’Bideshi Met His Wife and They Had Adventures and Saved Everyone and Dealt With Relationship Stuff in an Awkward Fashion ( UBAHKBMHWaTHAaSEaDWRSiaAF), though that’s going a good bit slower because it’s not first priority at the moment.
  • I wrote a short story. Just one, but it’s the first one I’ve written in a while, and it was comforting as evidence that it’s something I can still do. Novels have been taking up almost all of my energy lately.
  • I submitted a couple of other short stories. Got a no on one of them, haven’t heard back yet about the other.
  • I wrote a fic for a friend’s birthday. It’s set in Darrow-verse and is actually a crossover with another RP verse, so it will make sense to probably almost no one, but it’s a thing I wrote and I’m proud of it so I’m linking it anyway: “Gravitation”.
  • Coming up in September: I have a story coming out in Nightmare next week – “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” – and I’ll be at the Baltimore Book Festival toward the end of the month. I’ll be on a couple of SFWA panels, I’ll have books for purchase at the SFWA vendor’s table, I’ll be at the SFWA reception, and I may be doing a reading. If you’re in the area, stop by. The programming looks awesome. I also will hopefully have finished Rookwar and I’m potentially slated to start work on a new book that I can’t talk about yet.

Okay, RP SOTP. If you’re one of the Darrow crowd, come in under the shadow of the cut.

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RAVENFALL giveaway: (Final) Day 4

RavenfallCover

omg IT’S THE END

Yes, the final Thematic Hand-Made By Me Bracelet and the final copies of Crowflight and Ravenfall. It’s been quite a week of giving away free things, and thank you so much to everyone who entered and/or spread the word.

The final round’s bracelet is “Flight to the Stars”:

"Flight to the Stars" - August 16

“Flight to the Stars” – August 16

AND THE FINAL ROUND’S WINNER IS: Manali! *CONFETTI*

If you didn’t win books and you desire them, you can actually pay money for them here and here. Thanks again to everyone who entered. Shiny things will be on the way to their lucky recipients as soon as I can package them up and run them down to the post office.

RAVENFALL giveaway: Day 3!

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The idea that I’m going to be doing this on specific days is sort of funny at this point. >_> This has been a fairly ridiculous week. But HEY. Free stuff. Just a recap: I am giving away four sets of Crowflight and Ravenfallthe first two books in the Casting the Bones trilogy – as well as four separate thematic bracelets.

TODAY’S YESTERDAY’S WINNER IS: Cathy! Awright Cathy!

This round’s bracelet is “Wing and Bone”.

"Wing and Bone" - August 14

“Wing and Bone” – August 14

As before, if you didn’t win this time around, you’ll get two more chances before the final drawing on the 16th. And entries are still open! (scroll to the bottom for the entry form).

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So say we all.

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RAVENFALL giveaway: Day 2!

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So once again I’m late with this – very sorry, the last few days have gotten pretty rough for a number of reasons. But! Giving things away makes everything feel nicer, so welcome to Day 2 of the Great Ravenfall giveaway, wherein I’ll be giving away four sets of Crowflight and Ravenfall – the first two books in the Casting the Bones trilogy – as well as four separate thematic bracelets.

This round’s bracelet is “The Lady’s Silver”:

"The Lady's Silver"

“The Lady’s Silver” – August 12

AND THIS ROUND’S WINNER IS: Jenelle! Woooooooo Jenelle!

Remember, if you didn’t win this time around, you’ll get two more chances before the final drawing on the 16th. And you can still enter! (scroll to the bottom for the entry form).

If you’re a straight cisgender woman writing m/m romance, sorry, you are not striking a blow for equality

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[Dear people reading this in the Year of Our Lord 2017: I don’t know where you’re all coming from, or why you’re coming here now, but I wrote this literally years ago and don’t give a shit anymore, so please be aware that when you feel the need to register your disagreement with me, all you’re doing is clogging up my inbox with opinions I don’t care about regarding a thing I don’t care about. Which annoys me. Given that, I’m locking the comments. Thanks and enjoy your stay.]

Just to get my argument clear in the headline.

A lot of things have prompted this, and nothing in particular has. The truth is that this is something I’ve been feeling for a while. It’s something I’ve wrestled with a bit, given that two of the novels and two of the novellas I’ve sold have been marketed as m/m romance, though I’m not cisgender, nor am I straight. It’s something I’ve gotten shades of since I started really being aware of m/m romance as a genre, and since I started understanding the uglier side of it, it’s something I’ve come to understand features heavily in a lot of parts of the slashy areas of fandom. In fact, if something in particular prompted this little tantrum – aside from some very self-congratulatory stuff I’ve seen recently about standard m/m romance doing exactly what I said it isn’t doing up there in the headline –  it’s a good recent piece by Jim Hines about the times when something just isn’t your thing to make a story out of.

So when a reader says they don’t want white people writing about their culture, and that they don’t want me specifically to do so, I find myself struggling. And I think it’s good for me to struggle with it. I refuse to write books where I pretend other cultures don’t exist. But I also recognize that there are stories I’m simply not qualified to write well, that no matter how respectful I might try to be, my story wouldn’t be true. (An odd thing to say about fiction, but I hope you understand what I mean.) And I know that sometimes I’m going to screw up.

Here’s something you have to do if you’re in a position of privilege and you’re writing about people who aren’t: ask yourself if it’s your story to tell. Ask yourself every single time. You may not arrive at an easy answer. You may not arrive at an answer at all. But storytelling is very fucking political, and you owe it to you, your story, your characters, and everyone who might ever read it to ask the question.

You may want to tell the story. No one can stop you from telling the story. But at least be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why. And I cannot escape the feeling – not least while so many publishers of “LGBT” romance almost entirely ignore the L, the T, and frequently shove the B into the whole “menage” category – that the reasons why a lot of m/m romance exists are not tasteful.  To borrow from Hannibal/Thomas Harris, they are not tasty.

Then I found this.

Amy began by saying that “love is redemptive” and if any group needs the redemptive qualities of love, it’s gay men.

are you seriously

Writing about two men falling in love is completely different than the traditional romance. For one thing, both characters are equals, each with his own power.

are you seriously

“In fact, in many ways, I feel like a man,” Josephine stated in her British accent. This realization makes it easier for her to bypass all the traditional tropes found in mainstream romances.

“I’m tired of women’s nasty, mean games, and don’t want to write about them,” Amy added. Backbiting and undermining of friends’ goals and aspirations aren’t often found in gay romance since men are more direct in their interactions.

oh my god

Mary echoed this thought by saying, “I don’t want to write about bitchy women.”

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I should be clear that I don’t know what the sexual orientations or gender identities of these people are. But just. Meoskop at Love in the Margins has a way more coherent takedown of this abomination and I recommend you read it. Regardless, I’ve seen this before, I see it a lot, and it’s this attitude that actually keeps me away from most m/m romance. I write it sometimes, sure. But for the most part I don’t wanna read it.

Look, I know about all the arguments that transformative works – out of which a lot of this springs – allow for queer readings/reimaginings of existing canon and that’s great. I buy that argument, because what I’m buying into is the possibility of it. But in practice, no, and that extends to m/m romance in general. In practice what we have is a tremendous amount of stroke material featuring white cisgender traditionally attractive mostly able-bodied gay men, written by and for the consumption of straight cisgender women. And you can’t claim to me that this is all striking a blow for queer equality and have me take you seriously.

“Redeeming” gay romantic relationships is patronizing. Focusing on cisgender male erotic relationships to the exclusion of other queer identities because you find that stuff hot is erasure. Reducing the significance of characters to gender and sexuality – especially in the interest of depicting erotic sexual activity – is fetishizing. I’m not the first person to say this, but now I’m gonna be another one. And sure, you can do the whole #NOTALLGAYROMANCE thing and you’d be technically correct, but when one of the largest m/m romance review sites clutches their collective pearls over any depiction of sexual activity that isn’t entirely cisgender male dudes with other cisgender male dudes, that’s at once gross and majorly indicative of some deep problems that have direct connections to not only ugly misogyny but to some very toxic homophobia:

The reduction of complex human identities to sex acts is essentializing. It’s dehumanizing. I’m guessing that most of us have heard someone at some point say something like “I have nothing against those gays. I just don’t want them flaunting it or anything.” Which really means I want them invisible. I don’t want to have to confront the fact that they exist because they threaten me.

I get that a lot of us like some porn, and I get that sometimes we just want our porn and we want to not have to perform sociocultural analysis of it before we make use of it. But that’s why I said what I said above. Write what you want. Read what you want. Just please, please be honest with yourself about what you’re doing.

And don’t you dare claim that you’re doing something progressive on behalf of populations to which you don’t belong. Because you aren’t. It’s not your progress to make. And I’m getting really tired of seeing straight cisgender women congratulate themselves for it.

[ETA] Read Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl and Cynthia Ward. I mean, pretty much every writer should.