Tag Archives: fantasy

Here be my 2014 awards post, yarr

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2014 was a decently productive year for me, publication-wise. It was also a year full of awkward, jerky stops and starts and a bunch of things ended up being way bigger and way more exhausting than I thought they would (and the year isn’t over yet), but overall I’m pleased with things. I’ll be doing a year round-up post around New Year’s, but for now here are the things by me that are award-eligible this year. Most of them are free to read online. If you’re reading for awards and you want copies of any of the stuff that isn’t, feel free to get in touch with me and I’ll shoot it your way.

Short stories

  • “So Sharp That Blood Must Flow” – Lightspeed – February 2014. I’ve been referring to this as my Misandrist Little Mermaid story, and so it is. It’s a violent, vengeful take on the fairy tale, and it was somewhat cathartic to write. I would actually consider it horror more than fantasy. I’m very proud of how uninterested it is in taking any prisoners.
  • “To Increase His Wondrous Greatnesse More” – Apex Magazine – March 2014. In some ways this can be read as a companion piece to the above. It’s not necessarily a take on any one fairy tale as it is an attack on tropes common to many of them. A maiden, a dragon, and a queer meditation on storytelling and the monstrous feminine.
  • “Across the Seam” – Long Hidden: Speculative Fiction from the Margins of History. An extremely personal story about Baba Yaga, a Slavic immigrant coal miner who’s also trans, and a massacre that ended a miner’s strike in Lattimer, Pennsylvania. You can read more about it here.
  • “Cold as the Moon” – Strange Horizons – August 2014. Got a “recommended” from Lois Tilton at Locus. This one came from the image of the very first line and became a story about neglectful/abusive parents and children who have to grow up far too early. It’s an angry story. A lot of the stuff I published this year was angry, actually.
  • “Singing With All My Skin and Bone” – Nightmare – September 2014. If there’s a single story I’m most proud of in 2014, this is it. It’s by far the most personal thing I’ve ever written. It’s basically autobiography with a speculative veil. Writing it was an incredibly raw, visceral experience – appropriately so, given the subject matter. Which, speaking of, you should be aware of if you have any self-injury triggers.
  • “What Glistens Back” – Lightspeed – November 2014. This is the other one I’m most proud of. I’ve taken to saying that it’s a first contact story and a last contact story; it’s about discovery but it’s also about saying goodbye to a loved one in the moments before death. Apparently it made a bunch of people cry. Good.

Novels

So that’s it. If you’re reading for awards, I hugely appreciate you giving them a look. If you’re not, hey, give ’em a look anyway. I mean, I think they’re all right.

LABYRINTHIAN: why I stopped giving fucks and started writing porn again

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My first paid sale ever was in 2009, a piece of flash erotica to Circlet Press for $5. It was a revelation: I could write stuff and people would pay me. More, I could write smut – something I enjoyed (and enjoy) doing and had been doing for years as part of the fanfic I was producing – and people would pay me. Everything that’s happened since – the novels, the short story sales, the best-ofs and joining SFWA and getting drunk at cons – is probably due to that one little $5 bit of porn.

(It’s been collected in a Circlet microfiction anthology, which will be out soon, so watch for that).

So for a while after that pretty much everything I wrote and sold was erotica, specifically erotica with a speculative element. Usually I was publishing through Circlet’s (fantastic) themed anthologies. My first non-erotic short fiction publication was months later, in January 2010, and it was to a little non-paying zine called The Absent Willow Review, which has since folded. In the fall of 2009 I and my co-author Lisa began the massive undertaking that would eventually become Line and Orbit, which is very solidly in space opera/science fantasy territory, so it wasn’t all porn. But that was a lot of it, and for a long time after, even once I branched out a bit, it remained the backbone of my writing.

Then I drifted away from it. There were a number of reasons for that, mostly to do with ambition. I beheld the big name SFWA-qualifying zines and I wanted to crack them more than anything, so I battered at them with my stories until, one by one, I broke through. I continued to write erotica here and there – especially when friends put out calls for specific projects – but for the most part my energy was going elsewhere.

But I honestly think there was something else going on, and that thing was a subtle sense that if I wanted to make a career in this genre, erotica wasn’t the “right kind” of writing for me to be doing.

Never mind that some of the best stuff I’ve ever read has had loads of sex in it. Never mind that I’m pretty damn good at it. Never mind that I owe it a huge amount – writing about sex taught me to write about people, about emotion, about the intensity and even the violence of intimacy. It taught me to write about ecstasy and transformation, and therefore ultimately taught me to write about death, which is something I keep returning to in my stuff.

Erotica gets a bad rap. I think some of it is that there’s a huge amount of it and it’s very commercial, which (somewhat correctly, in my opinion) leads one to the belief that a lot of it isn’t very good. But that’s true of almost any commercial writing. But I think some of it is that it’s often if not usually people who identify as women writing, buying, and reading it, and that’s obviously a point worth a degree of attention.

I think I came to believe that I shouldn’t spend my time on porn. That I shouldn’t put it in my short fiction (though thankfully I didn’t completely buy into that) and I shouldn’t put it in my novels. Not if I wanted to be taken seriously. Which I do.

Then I had a rough fucking couple of years.

I took and passed my PhD qualifying exams, which a few months later led to an emotional and mental crisis point that kicked me back into therapy and back on a fun array of medications. I wrote and defended a dissertation proposal which led, through the course of the next year, into months and months of anxiety and internal conflict regarding my advising situation and my relationship with my department. I began to question whether I wanted to work in academia, whether I wanted to finish my dissertation, whether I wanted to do any of this at all. In the middle of it I began a trilogy of fantasy novels (Casting the Bones) that’s been both rewarding and exhausting to write, in part because it’s been an arena for the exorcism of some demons. I was also dealing with some very painful and frustrating business surrounding the (still homeless) Line and Orbit sequel, and I wrote and then rewrote another book which I ultimately had to give up and shelve.

14794919024_73b09979e4_cAnd then, last fall, I just fucking had it. I was a thousand percent done. I threw up my hands, dug into the bottom of my Idea Sack, and wrote Labyrinthian in about a month.

I wanted to write something fun. Something silly and pulpy. Something wherein I abandoned the idea of Being Taken Seriously, where I allowed myself to get tropey as all hell, wherein I could play. And particularly, I wanted to write something with a lot of sex. Part of this was because books with lots of sex often sell decently and I happen to like money, but it was also because I like writing sex and goddammit, I’m GOOD AT IT. And I had no more fucks to give. My box of fucks was empty. The field in which I grow my fucks? You know the state it was in.

Labyrinthian is about a lot more than sex. It’s the story of two broken people learning how to be together physically and emotionally, but it’s also a story about trying to go home when you’ve lost all certainty of what home even is, and about trying to find family and simultaneously to find independence from the same. It’s about confronting death gracefully and about trying to discover meaning in life when your life is about to be cut short. It’s about rage and letting rage go, and all of these are things with which I wrestle every day.

But there’s also a lotta porn in it, boy howdy.

I’ve done a lot of talking in 2014 about how I’m trying to write about the stuff that scares me, the stuff I’m not sure I should be writing about at all. I’ve made it my mission to take anger and fear and ugliness and make something beautiful out of it, for myself more than for anyone else. So here’s what I want to do in 2015. Here’s my Writer Resolution, such as it is.

I’m going to write about whatever I fucking want.

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(and here are preorder links for Labyrinthian if that’s something you’re into.)

A few things

Doing a run-by because I have a million stuffs to take care of and it’s already noon.

  • I’ll be at WFC tomorrow and Saturday. No, not officially, because I couldn’t afford to go because WFC frankly needs to do some soul-searching. But I’ll be hanging out in the bar and going to dinner with people and such, and I hope very much to see old friends and make new ones.
  • My story “What Glistens Back” is out in Lightspeed. I read it at Capclave, where it got a pretty good reception, and I’m immensely proud of it. It’s probably one of my favorite things that I’ve ever written.
  • I thought I was gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I’m not gonna finish a book by the end of this week. I really think I’ll be done in the next week or so, though.
  • I’ve sold my story “The Horse Latitudes” (originally appeared last year in Ideomancer and can be read here) to Michael Matheson’s anthology The Humanity of Monsters, which will be out from ChiZine Publications in November 2015. The ToC is amazing so far – check it out here.
  • Three of my stories were in Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror #6 (2013) Honorable Mentions (“Love in the Time of Vivisection”Shimmer #17, “The Horse Latitudes” – Ideomancer, “Event Horizon”Strange Horizons). Pretty chuffed, especially given the company I’m in.
  • Rookwar, the final book in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is a month away from release. Labyrinthian is a little over two months. Watch for more stuff regarding them, including stuff that is free.
  • I’m finishing up an edit job for a client, so I have an editing slot open. If you have an SFF manuscript that you need help on, or you know someone who does, I’m your individual. And to be frank, any work in that area really helps us out right now, so I appreciate anyone spreading the word.

Okay, back to work.

RAVENFALL is out!

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I’ve been yelling about this in various places already, but here’s the official author-blog announcement: Ravenfall, the second novel in the Casting the Bones trilogy, is now available to purchase here.

While I of course hugely appreciate it whenever anyone spends their hard-earned cash on my stuff, you can also win copies of both it and Crowflight (book 1) over here. I’ll be giving out four rounds of copies in total, so your chances are pretty damn good.

YAY BOOK

RAVENFALL: win free books and handmade jewelry by me

Ravenfall comes out this week on the 6th, so I want to celebrate by giving things away, because it pleases me to do so. Starting on the 10th and running through the 16th, I’ll be drawing a name every other day; that person will win free copies of Crowflight and Ravenfall in your choice of ebook formats, and the bracelet (made by me) marked below.

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all together now!

“Blood and Moonlight” – August 10

“The Lady’s Silver” – August 12

“Wing and Bone” – August 14

“Flight to the Stars” – August 16

Enter below! Promise I will not use your contact info for any sinister demon-summoning rituals.

Here’s the RAVENFALL cover and I love it

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LOOK AT IT

When we last left Turn, Psychopomp-in-training and now exile from the Crows, she was living among the mysterious Ravens, a people steeped in magic and forgotten history. For a time there’s been peace, but Turn is restless and struggling to find her place, as well as confronting her feelings for her friend and companion Ava, which are both changing and intensifying. And of course, peace can’t last. An old friend appears unexpectedly with bad tidings, and the Ravens are faced with a choice between fight or flight. But the choice may not be as clear as it appears, and Turn suspects it may be informed by an influence that means to destroy them.

The lost tribe of the Moravici, supposedly stripped of power, are not as dead as they seemed, and are extending tentacles of control and dark coercion into places Turn didn’t believe possible. The Crows, convinced that the Ravens pose a lethal threat, are preparing to make war. In Sol, the world of the living, the dead are rising, and they have an appetite for flesh. The Ravens are arguing among themselves, unable to take action. Turn faces despair everywhere she looks, and little hope of saving anyone.

In short, everything kind of sucks. But of course, help can come from the unlikeliest places. The question is what price it’ll demand.

This thing gets released in July. As you see above, it’s the second book in the Casting the Bones trilogy; the third book is coming this fall. Naturally I’ll be giving away free stuff, so watch for that. Might make some jewelry; haven’t decided. In the meantime, while you wait, Crowflight is available, and I hope you check it out and enjoy.

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And it goes without saying that if you do, reviews – positive or negative – are massively, massively appreciated.

 

You can’t have history without violence

amazing art by John Jennings

Let’s talk about “historical accuracy”.

A few days ago I saw some stuff on Twitter by Long Hidden co-editor Rose Fox about someone upset/offended to find violence in the anthology. Rose noted that it’s possible the person in question just couldn’t handle violence/horror, which is okay and to be respected, but Rose thought and I agree that it’s a strange thing to not go into an collection of stories like this ready to see.

Marginalized history is violent history. Marginalization is itself a form of violence. If you’re going to tell these stories, each one will, in its way, be a story of violence.

“Historical accuracy” is so often employed by writers as a defense against people pointing out that stories that use rape to add shock value or to motivate male characters or as the sole defining feature of the characters hurt in that way, or that stories that focus on primarily white cisgender straight ablebodied male characters are ignoring a huge proportion of the population of the entire world and are sorta kinda racist/cissexist/homophobic/ableist/sexist (also fucking lazy, dig?). THESE THINGS HAPPENED IN OLDEN TIMES OR WHATEVER, they cry, or THESE THINGS HAPPEN WHEN THERE’S WAR AND STUFF, or IN MY INVENTED UNIVERSE ONLY THIS ONE GROUP OF PEOPLE IS IMPORTANT SO IT’S NOT MY FAULT. As if these are objective facts of some history – whether of the past or future – instead of real choices being made by an author with total control over the shape and content of their story.

And then there are voices clamoring for authors to not be “forced” to make their stories “artificially” diverse, as if it was some kind of hardship, as if it would make the story bad instead of richer and more interesting.

When used in this way, “historical accuracy” is an excuse for not writing well. And it’s one that – I think and hope – fewer and fewer people are accepting as legitimate.

But historical accuracy requires violence.

The history of humanity is a history of violence. It’s a history of oppression, of subjugation, of mass-murder, of the erasure of voices and stories and cultures and entire peoples. Violence is woven through history like a blood-soaked thread, staining everything it touches. History shapes the present and the future; everything it means is inextricably bound to the world in which we live and move. Stories of marginalized people, forgotten people, are necessarily violent. They must be violent, if they’re going to be true.

Those of us in the category of the oppressor, whether or not we want to be there, can either face that violence or turn away. And if we don’t want to be there, if we don’t want to hurt anyone anymore, we can’t turn away. We can’t afford to. This is the truth.

If you can’t take violence of the kind I think this person meant, that is, again, something that has to be respected. People need to be able to make safe spaces for themselves. But one shouldn’t go into Long Hidden expecting to see anything but violence. These stories are true in the way that the best fiction is. They’re “historically accurate” in a way that is not a defense and needs no defense.

And it’s the kind of historical accuracy we actually need.