Tag Archives: novels

here are my stories what are award-eligible

If you care; I always feel weird about making these, but here we go.

I had a pretty good year, short-story wise. Had a pretty good year novel-wise, in swordandstar_1200x1800hrthat I had one come out – the (VERY LONG AWAITED, AT LEAST BY ME) follow-up to my debut Line and Orbit, Fall and Rising. Publisher’s Weekly called it “a satisfying and provocative hybrid”, and said the relationships were “honest and engaging”, which is very nice.

There’s also the final book in the trilogy, Sword and Star, coming December 21 (and available now for presale) – juuuuuuust in time for Christmas.

In short storydom:

  • “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained” in Uncanny Magazine kicked things off for me this year. Story about a woman who finds herself fitted with a prosthetic limb after an accident, and the limb doesn’t fit well – psychologically and emotionally, not physically. I wanted to write a story about human relationship with intimate forms of technology, and where the line between “real” and “artifical” lies, as well as the value judgments we make when we draw those distinctions.
  • “A Shadow on the Sky” in Mythic Delirium. This is in many ways yet another installment in what’s becoming a series of what I’ll call “drone fiction” on my part – explorations of the relationship between humans and unmanned aeriel vehicles. A woman suffers tragedy when her home is destroyed and becomes a kind of goddess of vengeance, capturing enemy combat drones and making them into an army of which she’s the queen. Some people make a pilgrimage into the desert to find her and hijinks ensue. Bad, dark hijinks.
  • “Come My Love and I’ll Tell You a Tale” in Shimmer. Probably one of the most relentlessly dark things I’ve ever written (a huge amount of what I write at present is very dark, in fact). A slow-burn and somewhat chaotic second-person narrative set in an unspecified post-disaster world, desperately yearning for the world that was while being forced to confront the world that is and the unimaginably terrible thing the character is contemplating doing in order to survive.
  • “It is Healing, it is Never Whole” in Apex Magazine. Written after a family member committed suicide, and I think part of an attempt to process. In a strange and vaguely industrial afterlife, spirits collect the souls of suicides and transfer them to a train that takes them on to points unknown. But one worker finds a soul that connects with them on an entirely new level, and wonders what it all means.
  • And finally: “Dispatches from a Hole in the World” in the Queers Destory Horror! edition of Nightmare. This is the other story I’m most in love with, and it rivals “eyes I dare not” in terms of my Nightmare_37_October_2015estimation of quality. I think it might be one of the best things I ever wrote, in fact. It’s certainly incredibly personal. It’s about graduate school, mental illness, connection and disconnection, technology, and hope battling hopelessness. It’s incredibly dark, and very triggery for anyone who has issues with graphic depictions of suicide. Really it’s kind of a snapshot of a particular mental state. A graduate student finds themselves being consumed by their dissertation in ways that go far beyond the norm, as they immerse themselves in the history of a year of an epidemic of documented suicides – a year they lived through.

So yeah. Them’s my stuff. If you read, if you consider for any awards, if you just like the damn things, thanking you kindly. Again, I think this was a pretty good year in this respect. A hugely difficult one, but good. Hope the next one is also good sans at least some of the difficulty.

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.

One Foot After the Other: writing when things are generally shitty

from here

from here

I posted a couple of quotes on writing the other day, to accompany a Difficult Writing Time. I think everyone can sympathize with this, regardless of whether or not they consider themselves “writers”, because although too many writers like to get misty-eyed and emotional about how very differently important writing is from everything else, when you get right down to it, it’s work, and everyone reaches points with work wherein they just cannot even anymore, where everything is going wrong and nothing is easy and it all just seems unbearably crappy, and motivation has been eaten by a sullen cloud of horrible. But in those moments you don’t actually have much in the way of real options besides the simple task of dragging yourself onward, one foot after the other – not in front of, because that implies more momentum than you actually have – and trusting in spite of all the evidence to the contrary that things will get better, that they will somehow maneuver themselves back into where you vaguely remember them being.

Yeah, that’s me right now.

I should say at this point that I honestly haven’t once suffered from writer’s block in the half decade I’ve spent trying to write for money. I have not yet been locked into a period where I wasn’t producing anything at all. But I do go through long periods where I’m convinced that none of what I’m producing is very good, and often that feeling is actually correct, though it’s still something to be regarded with healthy skepticism. Interestingly, these periods often also coincide with the completion of large, long-running projects – usually novels – and I think that makes a degree of sense.

I used to think I would feel a sense of accomplishment upon finishing a novel, but as it turns out, at least for me, that’s not true at all. What I feel after typing the end is instead a kind of exhausted hollowness, an utter lack of any sense about what to do next. To be sure, there is a bit of YAY I’M DONE, but it never lasts more than a day or so, and then the blankness asserts itself. I had no idea what to make of that, until I took – and passed – my doctoral qualifying exams, and suddenly it all made sense. When you’ve spent months doing something very difficult – maybe doing it every day, maybe for hours – your brain, on a fundamental level, has no idea how to deal with the prospect of not doing it anymore. It panics and shuts down. It’s so burned out that continuing is more than it can deal with, but it’s forgotten how to function without that daily energy suck around which to orient itself.

I fell apart after my qualifying exams. It took me a few months – mostly because I had a semester of teaching to provide structure – but once that was gone, I broke down. We’re talking nearly-paralyzing-anxiety-with-sensory-triggers-trip-to-the-ER-back-on-meds-after-15-years level of breakdown. The point is that we need to be ready – as writers, as workers, as human beings – for our brains to be assholes, and for that assholishness to bleed into all aspects of our work, as well as to come from the work itself. Sometimes even from what looks, on the surface, like major productivity.

I don’t think that’s exactly what I’m going through now – though I did just finish not only a novel but the final novel in a trilogy – but I recognize something similar. Thanks to the loss of my departmental funding and some other things that fell through, I’m not teaching this semester. Next semester is also doubtful. I remain uncertain regarding whether I can finish my doctoral dissertation. I’m very angry at my department, my university, and academia in general, because I think that last is devouring itself and I hate being in a position to watch it happen. I’m now unemployed, and so far the job hunt is less than encouraging. On paper a lot of my life is still pretty good, but almost everything on which I’ve relied for structure and momentum and security – for nearly a decade, counting college – is going away.

That’s not a comfortable place in which to find oneself.

It can be very difficult to write when you’re wrestling with emotional and mental issues – I think many people find it almost impossible when things are at their worst – and it’s certainly true that it can be so much harder to produce your best work when your head and heart are not at their best. But I’ve also found that writing can be a refuge when everything else is difficult, because at least writing is something over which I can exert almost complete control. I may not feel like I’m doing it as well as I can, but I can still create a world of my own populated by people I’ve made; I can invent my own escapism and retreat there, tell myself a story and – upon emerging – have something concrete to show for it. It helps. Sometimes it’s almost the only thing that does. Sometimes it’s what you need.

But then sometimes even what you create doesn’t feel like the right kind of escape. The joy fades and it just feels like work again, and it doesn’t feel like work you’re doing well enough to take real pleasure in.

And that’s where I am now: this thing on which I rely to keep myself together isn’t doing what I need it to, which means it’s just one more thing that feels like it’s slipping away, and that is so, so terrifying. Everything else I’ve accomplished in the last months and years – the books sold, the short stories published, the good reviews, the people who have said nice things, even the goddamn money – all fades into the background and provides no comfort at all, because none of it makes the words work any better.

So what do you do?

If you’re a writer – if you’re a person – you have two options: a) go fetal and cry, and b) suck it up and, to the extent that you can do so and still take care of yourself, keep going. One foot after the other. Drag drag drag.

I’m writing another novel right now – one of three currently waiting to be written. I have no idea if it’s working; I thought it was but now I’m really not sure. None of the prose feels like it’s smooth. None of the pacing feels sharp. The direction is hazy. I’m hoping that this – finally – will be my Agent Book, but I’ve also written less than stellar novels before, and I’m filled with dread that this might be one of those. But what else is there to do? I’m 41k words into it; I can’t really stop now. Drag drag drag.

I was talking to my friend and Long Hidden ToC-mate David Jon Fuller about this on Twitter the other day, and we were commiserating about the feeling that nothing is going right and none of what we produce is good. I said something to the effect of why the hell did we ever start doing this, and he said something that isn’t necessarily a big secret but is therefore one of those fundamental truths so obvious that it doesn’t hurt to be reminded of it now and then:

He’s right. Nothing beats it, when it’s really happening. When it’s happening, it feels like the most amazing thing in the world. Get a taste of it once and you’ll never stop wanting it; call us addicts chasing the next high if you want, because that probably isn’t very far off. And maybe it does have some kind of deeper, broader significance as an act, maybe it has some kind of grand universal meaning, and maybe it really is something worth getting misty-eyed and emotional over, but me, I think it’s ultimately about healing, about getting well, about being alive. It’s about you, and me, and really no one else, not at its core. It’s about being reminded that there’s something good about existing, and that you can find that again, no matter how shitty things are, because your head is a house of treasures.

And that doesn’t make you special. It just makes you human.

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

July news, because there’s a lot of it

Okay, so somehow July ended up being the month where everything is happening. Here’s what’s on deck:

So wow, yeah. August should be more sedate, except for all the writing I’ll be doing. Rookwar will be finished by the end of this month, but then I have the as-yet untitled book I’m writing about Kae from Line and Orbit, and I have an idea for another tropey-as-fuck Big Gay SF novel (not Line and Orbit-related) that I hope to begin work on in the fall.

And I’m teaching an intensive three-week course and looking for a job. And I’ve decided to retool my entire doctoral dissertation.

Wheeee summer.

I finished A Thing

The mostly-from-scratch rewrite of my fantasy novel Wordsinger is done, at just over 93k words. I think I may add a wee bit more in my editing pass but probably not much if anything; it feels pretty complete to me. Complete enough, anyway, until an proper external editor gets their claws into it.

This remains my Get An Agent Book. We’ll see what happens there.

I seriously need a break.

On the completion of large things

I’m never sure what to do with myself after I finish a book. There used to be this huge sense of accomplishment and GO ME I’M AWESOME and I still do get sorta cocky about it because I wrote a book and it’s a thing I get to do, but mostly my internal sense is one of well thank Christ THAT’S over. This is true even if I’ve really been enjoying myself. I don’t know if I’m jaded or what, but that’s what seems to happen now.

So with Labyrinthian. I finished the primary editing pass yesterday and I think it’s pretty much ready to go off to the publisher, and I really love it as a book, but I look back over the 88k+ words I wrote and I just feel sort of tired, more than anything. Maybe it also comes from the now-distant discovery that finishing a novel isn’t the ticket to writerly success that I think a lot of us sort of subconsciously think it might be, even if we intellectually know it isn’t. You finish a novel and then… You have a novel. You have a bunch of words. Whoop-de-doo.

I’ve written stuff along these lines before, about how the anxiety and self-doubt don’t appear to go away regardless of how much you publish in however many great places – though it’s also true that I’m pretty much finished doubting my own raw ability – but this isn’t even anxiety and self-doubt so much as it is a crushing ennui. I feel sort of disengaged from a lot of things. I’m getting back on the horse regarding a lot of other things I neglected over the course of this whole process, and that’s great, but in terms of creative stuff, I feel so blah.

And of course I have another two books to write in the next few months. So there’s that.

Here are all my Nebula-eligible things

I guess it’s that time again: Here are all the stories I published in 2013, for consideration for award noms. Not all of them are available for free, but I’m happy to provide copies for people who are nominating and would like to give them a look.

Short Fiction

Novels

If you put any of these forward, thanks a whole bunch!