A Year in Review

Well. It’s mid-December, the month and year are waning, and as seems traditional, everyone is dutifully filing their What I Did This Year reports. I will add mine to the stack.

The list of things I meant to but didn’t do this year is longer by far than the list of things I did. But 2017 was Like That, I guess, for a lot of us.

The most important thing I did this year is that I did not die. (I’m not being flip.) So that’s cool. I have an amazing new professional on my side and she’s gotten me on some medications that have done amazing things for my psyche, and some days I wake up and am just super happy, full of ebullience, ready for the world. So that’s real cool.

Professionally, I became a full member of SFWA after languishing indifferently at associate status for … five years? And I published two stories, both of which I’m pretty proud of.

The first was “The Storyteller’s Sleight,” in the anthology No Shit, There I Was. It’s unfortunately not available to read online, but the anthology also contains the likes of E. Catherine Tobler, Darcie Little Badger, Premee Mohamed, Matt Dovey, and many illustrious others, and it was edited by the one-and-only Alex Acks, so I feel it’s worth the modest investment.

The second was “After Burning,” which appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #227, back in June. I’m so proud of this story, and so grateful to everyone who read it and everyone who remarked on it, and to everyone who has put it on their various blogged or tweeted recommendation lists (and the Nebula Recommended Reading List).  The characters and world of that story mean a great deal to me, since they’re also the characters and world of The Interminable Goddamned WIP Novel.

I’ve also drafted two other short stories I’m pretty proud of, one of which is making its rounds now, and the other of which is for a prospective anthology I’m excited about. And I’ve dreamed up a whole new novel and world based on the latter, so whoops. Oh, and I also have an SF novelette finished, but I’m trying to decide what to do with it.

Insofar as the Interminable Goddamned WIP Novel (aka, Ash & Ordinary) goes — no, it’s still not done. But I still hover on that horizon feeling, that sense of oh, just past that hill! It’s a novel that began life as a fanfic I wrote for NaNoWriMo umpteen years ago (six) and then sort of inflated into this sprawling, extremely pantsed thing that involved a lot of worldbuilding-on-the-go and wait-wouldn’t-it-be-cool-if!-oh-well-now-I-have-to-rewrite-chapter-three. But this was the year I closed most of those gaps and contained the beast, and now I’m finishing a respectably plotted-and-outlined(ish) novel.

So in 2018 I’m excited to complete that one and get it out to my patient beta crew, and also to finish (fingers crossed?) the newly-planned novel, tentatively titled Empire of Wolves.

I had a brilliant time at a couple of cons this year — 4th Street Fantasy in Minneapolis, and our local Readercon — and though I had to miss the latter couple I’d planned, it was such a delight to see friendly faces and meet bright new ones. If I saw and hugged you at a con this year, thank you for making my con experiences great! And if I didn’t, well, God willing I will see and hug you at a con next year.

And I offer real, genuine, heartfelt love too big to fit into words to all my friends both in personspace and internetspace for all their love and support and good humor (and terrible humor) and righteous anger, and all the ways they’ve held each other and me up during a dark and trying year.

2017 was rough for a lot of us in a lot of ways. But we’re still here, friends, we stayed the course, and now we’re in the season of lighting candles and waiting faithfully for the sun to climb back out of its winter sleep, while seeds and bulbs wait under the soil for the snow to melt.

And it will. The snow will melt, the sun will return, faith and patience will be rewarded and we will still be here, lighting our lights, staying the course.

Happy end of year. Happy new year.

Teacups and Thaws

teacupMy writing teacup lives on my desk. Not because I drink tea from it while I’m writing — not often, anyway, I’m usually facedown in a bucket of coffee — but because it’s a sort of story-talisman, I suppose? When I saw it for sale I thought, That is exactly the sort of teacup Farin would have, and so I bought it. It is a concrete Farin Thing that lives in my world.

Farin is the sixtysomething widow who runs the tea house in Nishar. My alpha reader calls her Tea Grandma and summed her up in a comment thusly:


You will meet her first of anyone in the book (well, if you’ve read “After Burning,” you’ve already met Vulo — the Wolf — but Farin is the first book-POV you meet in the book), and I love her to bits, but she’s also been a character I’ve struggled with and for a while I was tangled in the question of whether or not I should excise her entirely. But after I spent this last miserable weekend running stupidly into walls, I managed to break through a wall, and what was waiting on the other side of it was the Answer to Farin.

When I hit a story-wall or get tangled in a story-problem, I tend to want to stare at it, sweating blood, until I solve it or die trying. But I’ve also found (often enough that I really should know it by now) that solutions will almost always come to me when I walk away from the story and let my brain wander around something else for a while — a book, a TV show, a video game.

So we’ve entered the foothills of Readercon and I will definitely not have this draft finished by then, but — I’m going to WorldCon in Helsinki next month, and I do think I can have it ready and readable by then.

New goal! Don’t look at the old goal!

Writing things: Morning pages, yesterday and today, check and check. No new or side projects, all focus is on the novel, but that’s flowing again at least (for a given definition of the word flowing).

Life things: I will send in my passport renewal forms tomorrow, I will, I will. Making butter chicken in the slow cooker for dinner tonight; last night was a homemade pizza night (broccoli and béchamel; caramelized onions and thyme). Many walks have been had.

Reading: Just embarked on A Darker Shade of Magic.

Watching: Witnesses on Netflix.

Today’s novel-relevant research: Many YouTube videos of thawing river ice flows. The growing range and seasonal cycle of Hamamelis mollis.

Today’s novel-working song:

Farther Down the Path, No Nearer Its End

PathThis picture is of the path at the end of the road that goes through the woods into the meadow behind the cemetery. W used to like to take it on our walks together — climbing up the steep and secret little cut through the trees at the meadow’s edge to slip into the back of the cemetery was always some kind of adventure — but once after we’d made the climb I found a tick on her leg so she refuses to have anything to do with the place now and insists we go in decently through the cemetery’s front gates.

I’ve been walking with her in the cemetery for so long — since I was pregnant with her, in fact — that it had never occurred to me she didn’t really know what a cemetery was. It was only a couple of months ago that she learned there are actual dead people buried in it, and she was thrilled. She wanted to know whether we could dig some of them up sometime to look at them.

My four-year-old goth.

Writing things: I have two days to report on, I didn’t update yesterday and promised I’d include it, so — the news is that on the one hand things are gelling really well and I’ve produced a few thousand words all told in the last couple of days. On the other hand, I am in serious doubt now of this Readercon deadline. I do think I have an honest shot at the end of July, but I’m still going to aim at Readercon just to keep myself hurtling forward.

My disorganized brain makes such a massive undertaking (note that this book is intended to be the first of three, so there’s a lot of road down this road) hard to hold onto all at once. At this point I’ve sprawled across four Scrivener projects (they are called Ash working draft.scrivAsh beta draft.scrivAsh Ordinary.scriv and Ash notes.scriv, and if you can guess which is the actual and current manuscript I will give you a sticker), an assortment of unhelpfully-titled Google docs, the several Evernote text jottings I’ve made on my phone when awakened in the night by an idea, and various pages of various notebooks. (I keep finding notebooks squirreled away in my office or bedroom, and within those notebooks, random flurries of book-notes.) Members of my writingfriends Slack suggested using a wiki for a story bible, and I begin to think I’m going to have to do just that or at this rate I’ll inadvertently change the protagonists’ names between books or something.

Daily things: Speaking of unhelpfully forgetting things! I need to renew my passport! So that I can go to Finland! In August! Which is soon! I also need to fill out W’s application to the Montessori school, which I told the head teacher I’d probably get to her today, and then absolutely did not! Also I just remembered that I have some towels in the washer which I need to move to the dryer, which may sound like an ordinary enough problem except that these same towels have been in the washer for the last three days and every day I have remembered, and washed them again (because eugh, mildewy smell), and then forgetfully abandoned them again.


On the bright side, I caught a Pikachu this morning and when I picked W up from day camp and told her she was so ecstatically delighted she laughed half the way home. So, I mean, achievement unlocked.

I really should go see about those towels.

Fireworks and Excerpts

Writing things: No morning pages today, because it’s a holiday and I do what I want. (Or because I slept lazily late and then got ambushed by life-already-underway.) I did, however, get approximately as far as I’d hoped in the novel-draft. We’ve sent unhappy Sirin off after Dire Forebodings; Vulo has in very strange fashion learned some things he probably oughtn’t know, and now we’re out of the tower and back to our fugitives.

An excerpt for you! It is a sort of summy-uppy bit before Action Happens and so requires no special knowledge. It’s also alpha draft, so think gently of it:

Esmat no longer knows whose country they cross. The river is a dark thread of memory behind and below them; the river-plain fell away two days ago, and they traverse a hill-ridge through pale corridors of poplars veiled in spring catkins and a green mist of new leaves.

They haven’t seen an ash-barren in a day and a half, but nor have they seen any human sign. The plague-markers had continued to appear at regular intervals for many more versts than Esmat liked to think about, but they had stopped — died, she’d thought irresistibly — long before they reached the foothills.

She doesn’t like the height of this place, and she doesn’t like the trees. They hem her in, obscuring her view. At night when they make camp, she lies sleepless within the ring of makeshift ward-light, one hand on the rifle like a lover beside her, and imagines what things lurk behind and between those silent pillars. Sometimes she thinks she hears voices in the leaf-whisper.

The only monsters they’ve seen since entering the hill-country have been a handful of shy leshii, slipping watchfully behind trees. One of them had beckoned to her, but that was the most malice any of the creatures offered. Luka barely paid them heed, only whistling sharply at the beckoner to startle it back into shadow. His growing confidence in their surroundings offsets Esmat’s increasing unease.

Some childish part of her has always imagined that if she ever returned to the country of her birth, it would feel like homecoming: the familiar embrace of something natural, long-lost. Instead she finds herself climbing into a world more and more alien.

Beyond the novel-stuff, nothing to report.

Daily things: Walks — one very early and hot, and on which I forgot to wear my Fitbit thingummy, and one late in the smoky twilight with fireworks pop-popping distantly. Baked hamburger buns and pineapple upside-down cake, and marinated zucchini which husband grilled with hamburgers. Re-watched Austenland, and maybe it’s just the gin and pineapples talking, but I’m fairly sure it was somehow funnier this time. (I’d forgotten Ricky Whittle is in it, for one thing, and completely lost it when he appeared.)

Hoping to catch up on the season finale of Doctor Who tonight. I hear it’s a good’un?

Reading: Wolfhound Century. Comps, comps every where, nor any book to query.

Going to leave you with this loveliness from Holcombe Waller, because I’m in that kind of a mood:

Lazy July Monday

IMG_20170703_092429_869Writing things: Morning page. Should have been pages, but was interrupted so often and so clamorously by kiddo that I gave it up as a bad business after a page-plus. Or maybe I’m making excuses for my distractible brain. Some good brainstorms and notes for book-things though, and oh God, what if I put in another romance subplot at this late hour? Someone stop me before I romance again.

Made it nearly through the rest of the tower, post-bog-mud. Tomorrow I may finish off Nishar intrigues and then we can return to our fugitives’ flight across the steppe and rumors of plague.

Finished Ratri-and-Shrike revision and sent it back out again. Fly, little story, fly.


Daily things: More language review. Three long walks in this morbid heat. There are golden foxgloves growing along the tree-shadowed corridor of Crook Street, but there is also a brutal fog of gnats there in the afternoon. The cemetery was full of moth-gangs whirring frantically around every tree. I accomplished zero things around the house, except to help move a sheet of plywood at one point, and to make dinner at another. (Lemony chicken over pearl couscous and veg.) I didn’t even make the coffee myself this morning. Tomorrow I’ll attempt more industry.

Some Slack writer-gang discussion about social media and its perils (of stress, of time-eating, etc.). Twitter, I wish I knew how to quit you.

Oh, the across-the-street people are setting off fireworks.

Green and Growing


This is the kitchen windowsill at present: from L to R, it’s parsley, Thai basil, lavender and sage together in the white pot, my daughter’s sproutling sunflowers in a kit she got for Easter in the green tray, a pair of anonymous succulents (Tatiana could name them, I’m sure), an olive tree, Genovese basil, and rosemary. I’m not doing much with the garden out back this year — which currently consists of strawberries (or “rabbit food,” per the local rabbit community), a dwarf apple tree, and a few perennial herbs, all choked by morning glory — but I’ve planted tomatoes (plum and cherry) in containers with more basil. We’ll manage happily through most of the summer with our CSA veg, but we can never have too many tomatoes or too much basil. I’d grow sweet corn here too, for the same reason, if only we had the space and sun for it. Alas.


This is this week’s CSA haul. June is still basically springtime as far as Massachusetts’ growing season is concerned, so still lots of early greenstuff: lettuce, kale, escarole, cabbage, hakurei turnips, green onions, peas. The zucchini are a nice nod to summer’s entrance, and the kohlrabi — well. I never have any idea what to do with kohlrabi. The internet always suggests I just serve it raw as sticks or slaw or in salads, but that is because the internet has not met my family. There may be four-year-olds out there who will eat kohlrabi slaw or sticks of raw kohlrabi, but my own child is side-eyeing those kids pretty hard from behind her box of Cheez-its.

Writing: Did morning pages. Took a walk through the cemetery and had some useful thoughts from inside Sirin’s head; came home and remembered to jot them down. Reworked Vulo’s first novel-scene (I know, I know …) to introduce a crucial plot element sooner and to establish his condition better. Read K’s story for Sunday crit group. Reconsidered the opening of Ratri and Shrike’s story per a kind Shimmer rejection.

Cryptic index card note-to-self from last night: Whales vs. angels

Daily things: Made blueberry jam and two loaves of bread.


I promise not to bombard you with as much in future, but it’s a solid start, no?



On Burning and Ash

After Burning” is out today, friends, available for free at Beneath Ceaseless Skies. (If you like it, though, and stories like it, may I recommend a BCS subscription? Scott Andrews is a tremendous editor, and I’ve discovered many of my own favorite writers through the magazine.)

If you enjoy the story (I hope you enjoy it!), then you might be interested to know that it is directly connected with my WIP novel, Ash and Ordinary. The short story, set in a border settlement of the theocratic Marethi Ordinary, takes place about six months before the opening of the novel. The novel’s primary POV character is none other than the Wolf himself, but he is surrounded by a trio of badass ladies.

Grandmother and widow Farin Lais only wants the quiet retirement of running a village tea house; wasteland scavenger and river-pilot Esmat Ahuja is trying to smuggle a man home from a war zone. And the Wolf’s new and dubiously-loyal undead comrade, Sirin, is keeping secrets that may spell the end of the Ordinary itself — or its salvation. When the four of them collide, the Wolf — still coming to terms with his own crippling injury and trauma — will have to decide whether saving the empire he serves from the traitors in its shadow requires him to betray it first.

The story is rooted in the legend of Prester John, but also contains elements of Joan of Arc, the Tunguska event, Cossacks, various medieval heresies, and zombies.

Season and Story

Spring is drizzling all around us once again.

I haven’t posted anything since January — January! — and here we are four months into the year so I guess we all know how I did with my resolution to blog more often. Ha ha. Ha. I am happy to report, however, that I’ve managed to keep up fairly well with my determination to read a book a week, and I do indeed have a second novel-thing sketched out (werewolves, my friends), and I did get those two stories submitted.

I’ve also sold one of those two stories, I’m even happier to report: “After Burning” will be appearing in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. It is a story set in the Marethi Ordinary, the world of my novel, and if you’re curious about the novel, I can tell you that the story is a direct prologue of sorts, and the novel’s protagonist and chief POV character puts in a significant appearance.

I’m really delighted to work with the estimable Scott Andrews again, and BCS will always be my secret favorite (shh, don’t tell anyone) because they were my first-ever pro sale — of the first-ever Marethi story, no less.

Other near-future happenings in these parts will include pea-planting and archery. My husband and I are also each trying to make the other one talk us into getting a little flock of laying hens, while both pretending to be the reluctant party. We will see whether both or neither of us wins.


Well friends, here is the plan. It’s good to have a plan.

On Sunday, I’m going to go to Meeting. I haven’t been to Meeting in a long time, but I feel a mighty need right now.

And then This Goddamned Book: If you’re not familiar, this book I’m writing is a book about an apocalyptic totalitarian regime, an empire ruling the remnant of a world that is very literally decaying to ash around them. It is a book about how people can learn to remake the world even when it looks its grimdarkest. It is a book about what happens when women get angry. It is a book about the phrase I have typed in all caps at the beginning of the draft, and taped across the top of my monitor: Hope at the end of the world. So tomorrow I’m going to get up and I’m going to resume writing the hell out of the rest of this goddamned book.

Tomorrow is coming, and there is work to be done. And some of that work is the stories we tell each other, the stories that will shape us. So let’s get up, and let’s get to work, and let’s tell good stories.

And friends, if you need a hug right now or a shoulder, if you are feeling real small and scared, I am here, and I will hold your hand.

I love you, friends. I’ll see you tomorrow.


Deep breath; I can do this.

Today the Impostor Syndrome is rocketing around the room yowling and tearing at the drapes like a mad cat, and it’s pretty hard to ignore. I’m going to ignore it a little bit by laying out my plans here like a person who is capable of making plans and sticking to them, and then you, friends, can hold me accountable.

November is upon us, and that means NaNoWriMo. I’ve done it for years; it’s a seasonal reflex at this point. But this year I have so many already-in-progress projects on my plate that I’m going to use the month a little differently.

I have two (three?) shorts I want to revise; at least one of those, I am solemnly sworn to begin submitting before month’s end, so. But mostly, mostly, this month will be about The Goddamned Novel.

I’m optimistic about the shape of it since Viable Paradise — or, well, on good days I am. Today I’m pretending to be. What I have right now is the serviceable first slightly-more-than-half a novel. What I will have by the end of November is the whole thing, at least in skeleton. What I will have by the end of December (happy new year!) will be a clean, beta-ready draft. So November 2016 will be my Personal Novel Finishing Month, and I expect to be held to that.

This book actually began, lo these … six? seven? years ago, as a NaNoWriMo project. It was the first NNWM I ever “won,” 54,000+ words later. Though that ugly lump of words bears almost zero resemblance to what it has since become, it was definitely the nut that hatched this weird little tree.

Deep breath; here I go.